Ao Dai

I am loved by this dress.

She graces me with a special, irreplaceable variety of joy.

Her satin body runs across my skin as I adorn her.

She is kind and delicate.

She wishes to do nothing but empower.

She flows in the wind and ignores my flaws.

Her fabric is forgiving and demands very little from me.

She makes me feel beautiful, no matter what.
She is my own blood.

Who she is.

She is a part of me.

I cannot be myself without her.

Even on her bad days

I think she is beautiful.
Fashion is not my reason to love this dress.

Color is not my reason to love this dress.
It is a special occasion.

A moment to celebrate in the clothes that our ancestors wore.

A time to revel in our heritage instead of hiding it.

My sister is the reason I love this color.

My family is the reason I wear my pride.

I love this dress because I feel beautiful in it.

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Breakup Confessions

You tell me you love me

And I want to believe it.

I don’t think I can see it.

I don’t think it’s even there.

When you tell me I’m beautiful

Is that really true?

 

With my heart broken so many times

How can I trust myself to love?

How will I know that the safety I feel isn’t going to dissolve?

How do I know what real love feels like if I every time I’ve said it

I’ve gotten nothing in return?

As that love has gone on unreciprocated

I begin to question if love is even worth chasing.

I begin to wonder if I can really love at all

Since I can’t really quantify my ability to love with decimals.

I’ve never seen the impact of that love

I’ve never been told that my love has done something right.

So what was event the point when

Everything simply culminated into a fight?

When that love disappeared with the wind?

I let those seeds scatter

But I’m still left with nothing.

Nothing grew from them.

They just fell to the ground.

Nothing grew from them.

So you can imagine my reaction

When I said I wouldn’t try that again.

Where did all that love go?

What was it all worth?

I still feel empty-handed.

It’s hard to think back on it

Without still feeling hurt.

 

So how can I love someone else if I can’t love myself?

How can I love him if I don’t see what he sees?

Because in my experience with men

Love changes so easily.

I’ve fallen in love with guys who don’t show it back.

Yeah, I would break up with them.

I can justify myself all day,

But at the end of it all

I’m the one who’s feeling like crap.

Am I just trying to have someone fill the hole I’ve dug myself?

Because it just feels like I’m trying to cover something up.

 

My thoughts are sporadic

And I question myself so much

That it’s hard to come to a decision.

I don’t think I’m ready.

Because it feels way too good to be true.

Nothing feels right

Because I’ve done nothing to deserve this.

I really can’t believe he’s mine.

And I really don’t want to lose my place in line.

So sometimes I want to ask

If I can take a number

Because I need to process what is going on

Before I can say, “I’m ready to order.”

I know I sound ridiculous

But hear me out.

I just have to make sure

You know what you’re getting yourself into

If you ask me to a date.

Because if you break up with me

Everything is fair game.

Because if you break up with me

I will berate you in the most elegant way I can.

That’s one part of me I don’t question

Because that’s just who I am.

UAG

Romance: A Family Affair

“This time I’m gonna break out and be free/Stop needin’ what I want and start wantin’ what I need.”

—Clara C

I have learned that our romantic preferences are socially constructed, and when we ask ourselves why we like someone with a certain skin color, hair, eyes, etc. couldn’t we all find some possible, albeit obscure, answer to those questions that point to outside influences? The very meaning of beauty is socially constructed, we know that. Some years, big hips and hourglasses are hot; others, it’s Twiggy. The socializing source can be anything from societal norms to our own parents, but the growing counterculture tells us to marry whomever we love, regardless of appearance.

It’s unpopular of me to say, then, that I am purposefully selecting a partner based on physical appearance.

As I grow older, I have physically grown apart from my parents, and I have had time to rationalize the crazy things that they say and do. The weight of their survival and selflessness began to set in when I learned about the dangers of escaping Vietnam in 1975 and my parents’ journey to America as refugees. My parents may live the “American Dream” but they have never enjoyed life the way my brother, my sister, and I undeservingly have. They never go on vacations if the purpose is not to see family. They never go to fancy restaurants. They never do anything “fun.” For them, the primary purpose of their existence has always been to provide for not only us, but our family members who struggle for money either here or in Vietnam. That is why I carry this guilt on my shoulders: my existence would be nothing without the courage, sacrifice, and wellbeing of my parents. So when people tell me to live my life for myself and myself only, I think, Isn’t that selfish?

Had my parents taken that advice, they would have separated years ago; I would not have had the means to go to a prestigious university; I would never see my mom and dad in the same room again; I would lose the home I grew up in; I would become family with strangers if my parents remarried. But that didn’t happen because my parents live by a different set of values that are uncommon—unpopular, even—in America.

They chose a life that they thought was better for their children. It’s still far from perfect (and sometimes I wish they would just take a day off work without complaining about the money they would lose), but in theory, what they did was selfless.

So when I arrive at the question of who to date, I have been socialized by this guilt, but whether that is right or wrong is a question of morality. My parents set constraints to whom I can date/marry, and although it contradicts popular meanings of liberation, obliging my parents along these lines also frees me from the burden of choice. Choice is often paralyzing in this era of unlimited option, and to know that respecting my parents with a choice that makes them happy ultimately makes my life easier and is worth more to me than preserving my “God-given freedom.” Freedom may be entitled to everyone, but not every one is blessed to live in it. In fact, I should be grateful for even having the privilege of choice at all and not have my choices revoked from me simply because I was labeled by society as undesirable by my skin color, a stigma that many Black women must live with. My American lineage is but two generations old, so it’s easier for me than for others to see where I came from. Many of us, at one point or another, lose sight of that. Maybe that’s why many Millenials feel so entitled to everything.

UAG