What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.

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I Was a Mean Girl

On Saturday, I went to a high school choir reunion with a few friends. As we were checking out the new cafeteria (well, new since 2008 anyway), I saw all these anti-bullying posters on the wall and got super annoyed. Since when has a person ever stopped doing something because of a PSA poster on the wall? In fact, these posters in their cheerful teenage girl script and their stupid blue ribbons made me WANT to go out and bully someone just because I could.

I am a bad person.

But it got me thinking. No one ever thinks they are the bully. (At least, I don’t think they do.) I mean, look at me. I’m a nerdy Chinese girl who went to a high school with mostly white people and I was definitely not popular (or unpopular, really), so in my memories, I was always cast as the underdog. But was I, really?

I recall being part of a group of girls on the color guard (we called it the drill team) and we basically threw a coup d’état and got our tall flags team captain (we’ll just call her Captain Girl) demoted to a regular member and somehow got me to be the captain instead. My friends were the co-captains of the entire color guard and had convinced me that I should be the one to do this.

Here’s the thing though. Captain Girl was a good team captain. I never had any particular problem with her. She had solid routines and was very organized and talented. (She eventually was good enough to teach at USA Spirit Camp or whatever it was called. You don’t get to do that if you suck.) I also didn’t particularly want to be captain. But I went along with the plan to overthrow Captain Girl anyway because, hey, being captain would be good for my college applications! Also, I was too cowardly to disagree with my friends.

Well, I ended up being team captain, sucking at it, and hating every second of it. In fact, to this day, one of my recurring stress dreams is being at a band competition/football game/parade and not knowing the routine. (This is a close cousin of the taking a final for a class I didn’t even know I was enrolled in type of stress dream.) Captain Girl was very gracious, never made a big stink about it, and was kind and helpful. More than I ever deserved.

I bet Captain Girl thought I was mean for targeting her and systematically taking away her captaincy. And then, to rub salt in the wound, I wasn’t very good at it. But because my friends were the co-captains of the entire color guard, I got away with the coup. I’ll bet you that my friends didn’t think they were being mean, either. They were just as nerdy and dorky as I was.

This incident is one of my biggest regrets from high school. You know, I think I’ll find her on Facebook, message her, and apologize (if that’s not too creepy). *heads off to google then message*

Ok, I’m back.

Another incident that I look back upon with immense shame is from elementary school. I was in the third grade and thought this boy, Crush, was SO CUTE! I liked him SO MUCH that whenever possible, I would sneak up behind him and then kick him in the balls. I thought it was hilarious. I did this to this poor boy at least once a day. He eventually moved. I hope he can still have children.

When I think back on this, I feel so awful. Poor Crush! Can you imagine being kicked in the balls daily by this tiny Chinese girl with Coke-bottle glasses? Not only would you be kicked in the balls every day, it would be by a girl. A TINY, little Asian girl. Can you imagine having to tell your dad this? POOR Crush!!!

Anyhow, my whole point, I guess, is that even though I thought I was this poor victim in high school and elementary school, I was actually a perpetrator. I was a bully! I find this mind-boggling and totally at odds with my self-perception, but it is completely true.

I was a mean girl.

Sometimes, I still am. I regret to say that I often take delight in being a complete and utter bitch. Hapa Papa will tell you how I am the Queen of All That is Petty and Small. I used to think I was a nice person. It took being married to Hapa Papa and him actually seeing the truth of who I am for me to realize that I am NOT nice at all! *sigh*

Now, before everyone protests, (Anyone? Hello?) I am capable of being a civil and polite person. I am also capable of being a good person to my friends and people I like. Big deal. Anyone can be nice to people who are nice to them or people they want to like them!

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” (Matthew 5:47 NLT)

I must say, the broken part of me enjoys the notoriety of being a mean person. And truth be told, I’m not sure I want to be a nice person. I would rather I be a good and kind person. However, we are living in the realm of Reality, so don’t hold your breath, people.

Let’s hope the kids take after Hapa Papa. Although, come to think of it, he’s not really very nice, either.

My kids are screwed.

Just Call Me a Late Adopter

I know I may be the only one, but I really don’t get Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. (Now, get off my lawn!) I mean, I understand the theory behind them; I just can’t see myself using them. I remember I used to beg my younger brother to send me invitations to the latest internet crazes (eg: Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, etc.) and took pride in being, if not the earliest adopter, at least an early-ish adopter. No more. 

Let me air my grievances.

I am annoyed, TO THIS DAY, that Hapa Papa convinced me to sign up for Twitter. He said it would help promote my blog. I suppose it would if I tweeted anything other than my blog posts. Or, had conversations with people back and forth. Here’s the thing, though. Why would I have a public conversation? If I wanted to talk to someone, I would just text/email/IM (does anyone still do this?) them IN REAL LIFE. Oh, I don’t really know them? THEN WHY AM I HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH THEM?

Ok, I guess I have “conversations” with people I don’t know already when I participate in forums or comment on articles, but there usually is a huge separation in time. Versus in my mind, Twitter is more like a real time conversation. I don’t know, people. I don’t really use it correctly.

What also annoys me is that Hapa Papa is all proud of the fact that he has amassed a decent Twitter following. He has goals for how many followers he gets and how many tweets he tweets/twits/twitters. This would be great if not for the fact that OMG HIS TWEETS ARE SO FUCKING BORING. He even admits it. They are 99.9% work related and that means he’s tweeting or re-tweeting articles on web testing and optimization. OMG I KNOW THIS IS HIS JOB BUT WHY? I WANT TO STAB MY EYES OUT THEY ARE SO BORED BY HIS TWEETS. Sorry. My capslock got stuck.

I mean, it’s great that he’s got all these followers, but unless one of these “followers” makes him a sandwich, I’m not impressed.

Furthermore, I really can’t imagine anyone wanting to read what I tweet/twit/twitter. Hapa Papa‘s tweets may be boring, but at least they serve a purpose and are useful. Who in their right mind is going to want to read drivel such as, “Gamera just peed in the potty! YAY! #pottytraining #nocharts #barebottom #iliveontheedge.”

Granted, I post such drivel on Facebook, but that’s only blasted out to 557 of my closest friends. (Ok, the actual number is much smaller than that since most of the people on my Friends list are shunted into Acquaintances and therefore cannot see most of my posts. But you get my drift.) It isn’t blasted across the interwebz so that any schmuck can read it for all of posterity. Plus, this 140 character count would require too much thinking, clarity and lack of wordiness – all of which I try to avoid in my life. I very much enjoy my non-thinking, opaque verbosity, thank you.

As for Pinterest, when I first got on Pinterest, I pinned quite a few things on boards and stuff, but after a day or two of that, I just stopped caring. I have no desire to see endless pictures of people who organize, cook, dress, DIY, craft, and EVERYTHING better than I could ever possibly on my best day. I suppose since I never cared for physical magazines in these genres, it makes sense that I don’t care about them in their online forms.

And Instagram? I don’t get it. How is it different than posting a pic to Facebook? Or Flikr? Or Picasa? And now, because I just typed that sentence, I actually went to Instagram’s site to read what it was about. (How mortifying. Not the seeking out knowledge part. Just the fact that I really didn’t know what Instagram was but still don’t care and insulted it.) Bah. Even after reading what Instagram does, I don’t care.

Clearly, because I don’t care about these products, they’re not geared towards me. I’m sure you’ll all tell me in the comments what an idiot I am for not doing XYZ and that I totally don’t understand social media or puppies or ANYTHING THAT IS AWESOME AND GOOD. I accept. I am totally OK with this. What I am MORE interested in, however, is what things everyone you know likes and uses but you think is just dumber than a bag of hammers. Don’t be shy now.

The Power of Unfriending

When I first joined Facebook, I fully admit I tried to get as many friends as possible. I liberally friended people – even if they were people I didn’t know but somehow, were included on a mass Gmail mailing list once upon a time. In fact, there are a few of my friends on Facebook that I don’t actually remembering meeting in college but because they post so much and we know so many of the same people, I consider them my friends. Then, there are the many people I friended because we went to high school or middle school or even elementary school together. I friended everyone.

However, after the novelty of Facebook wore off and I started having children, I began to regret having so many people as friends. The more I thought of it, the more I realized that just because I recognized their names from school didn’t mean I knew these people. They were mostly strangers and could be crazy serial killers. So I started unfriending people or putting them in “acquaintance” categories.

The problem is that Facebook makes it really hard to unfriend a lot of people at the same time. Any time you unfriend someone, Facebook reloads all your friends but in a different order than before. It becomes really frustrating. (I realize that the mobile app for Facebook makes it easier, but I didn’t know that until recently.)

So, what I decided to do sounds really mean, but is very useful. Every day, Facebook tells me which people have birthdays that day. On their birthday, I take a good look at these people and decide one of several things:

1) Keep as a friend/status quo

2) Unfriend

3) Move to “Acquaintance” category

It seems mean because I’m making this judgment on their birthday. Whatever. I’m assuming they will be so inundated with happy birthday wishes that if I do happen to unfriend them, they won’t even notice. If I move them to “Acquaintance,” they won’t really notice either (since Facebook thankfully doesn’t inform them of this) and will likely just think I stopped posting as much in general. (Most of my posts are “Friend only except Acquaintances.”)

At first, I was really leery of this policy. After all, doesn’t everyone want MORE friends? But once I started doing that, I realized there was immense freedom in unfriending. Having all these people on my friend list that I either didn’t actually know or interact with was a lot like all the junk I shove in my closets or under my bed. Stuff I kept because I thought, “One day, I may need this/they may become a good friend.” Well, I rarely touch the stuff I think I need – and it is unlikely that I will deepen my friendships with people I knew briefly in high school.

Turns out, I kept a lot of people on as Facebook friends because I liked the idea of knowing what happens to people without the hassle of actually maintaining a real relationship. However, if I didn’t really know these people AND they weren’t posting on a regular basis, what benefit did I derive from having them as a friend in the first place? In addition, I would worry that too many people would know what was going on in my life or see too many pictures of my kids. (Ironic since I totally blog about way more private things but whatever.) The worry was gone if they were no longer my friend!

Furthermore, I realized that in actuality, it was the fear of missing out that was driving me to have so many friends. Missing out on pictures, updates, and gossip. In fact, this was just like my addiction to celebrity gossip except these people were not famous! They did not touch my life in any way, shape, or form! Why did I care what happened to them except on a cursory level? The truth is, I don’t care. So if I don’t care, why am I their “friend”?

It seems like such a silly thing, this “friend/unfriend” business on Facebook. But I see it more and more as becoming my more authentic self. I don’t want a massive number of “friends” online. It’s not a virtual popularity contest. What I really want are real, interactive, and meaningful relationships.

Whether it manifests in the online equivalent of “office cooler talk” about TV shows/current events or deeper conversations about articles and issues, I look forward to my daily “chats” with my Facebook friends. What I want is a community of people who are interesting to me and interested in me. Unfriending people who do not contribute to the life that I want is simply good housekeeping.

 

 

Why I No Longer Read Celebrity Gossip

As much as it is possible, I try to avoid celebrity gossip in my daily life. Which, if you’ve ever tried to do, is getting increasingly difficult. I’ll be driving along, listening to the radio or a morning show and then, BOOM! Some stupid story about some minor celebrity is teased before I have a chance to change the station.

Or, I’ll be minding my own business, trying to read the news and BLAM, a headline about some celebrity interferes and I am tempted to click and find out just what did so and so do to piss off so and so. Or even worse! I read the headline and now, I will forever know that Kimye had a kid and named her North. This will now prevent some vital information that I will need during the pending zombie apocalypse from adequately anchoring in my brain. Thanks, Huffington Post, for your hard hitting news.

This is not to criticize you if you happen to enjoy celebrity gossip. I mean, it is interesting. That’s why there is a $3 billion dollar industry built around stalking people and their poor children. Hapa Papa reads The Superficial at least once a week (he says because it’s funny, but I think he just wants to see pictures of hot women) and says he can’t help but know about celebrities because his Yahoo! homepage shows him a TON of celebrity stories. Celebrity news is practically ubiquitous, so I totally understand if a person gives in and reads it.

Besides, this post isn’t to lambaste you if you happen to read celebrity gossip. It’s about why I stopped reading it.

A few years ago, I used to read Perez Hilton and The Superficial everyday. I would read The National Enquirer, look forward to going places with lobbies so I could read their free issues of People or Us Weekly or whatever. (I refused to actually pay money for these things.) In fact, I would often refresh the gossip sites 10-15 times a day (more than I did my Facebook!). It got so bad that I decided to give up celebrity gossip for Lent. But after Lent, I immediately went back to my old ways and read ALL the back issues (starting immediately with Ash Wednesday and didn’t stop until I was all caught up through Easter). Kinda ruined the whole point of Lent, no?

One day, though, I realized that I knew more about celebrity lives than my own friends who I actually knew. And really, celebrities are more like fictional people instead of real people because half of the stuff we read is likely fabricated anyway – and no way a true reflection of their actual lives. But it was a startling and depressing revelation. How could I possibly know more about people I didn’t know, didn’t have a chance of knowing, and probably wouldn’t care for if I did know them, than my own friends? Why was I spending so much of my time and energy learning about their likes, dislikes, activities, children’s names, etc. and not spending my time on pursuits that really mattered to me?

Once I realized this, I went cold turkey. I haven’t regretted a minute of it since.

Now, this doesn’t meant that I don’t occasionally give in and click on slideshows of celebrities without makeup or see pretty pictures of Oscar dresses, but for the most part, I avoid celebrity news. (That’s why when I do see these pictures, I don’t know over half of these “actresses.”) My life has been all the better for it.

Plus, this frees up much needed time to waste on truly important things such as stalking my “real” friends and refreshing Facebook a billion times a day. I know how to live, people. Don’t be jealous.

Fakebooking

In the past few months, I’ve seen several articles on The Huffington Post (which, let’s face it, has some quality control issues and is supremely left-leaning, but for the most part, I like their stuff) about the problem of “Fakebooking,” or presenting your life on Facebook in such a way as not to reflect reality and make other people feel bad.

The other day, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled, We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook, (she’s not the author of the piece) and I had enough. When I complained to Hapa Papa about the topic, he replied, “Stop. This is just too stupid. I don’t want to hear any more. People are idiots.”

Now, of course, please don’t think that I think you’re an idiot if you happen to fall prey to “Fakebooking” and its assorted ailments of envy, coveting, and feeling bad about yourself. (I may privately think you’re an idiot for other reasons, but not this reason.) In general, I think that’s symptomatic of being human and just seeing the surface of what other people want to project. I totally understand. Furthermore, I fall into this occasionally as well. Who hasn’t after seeing a particularly awesome picture of scrumptious food? Or happy, clean children? Or a beautiful beach view?

But seriously? Multiple articles on the subject? It’s a new thing now? How fucking stupid.

Who really looks at someone’s Facebook statuses and thinks that is an accurate depiction of a person’s life? I mean, the site is called Facebook. Like, saving face or putting on your face, or whatever. It’s not called Realitybook. And who wants to read Realitybook anyway? I have enough of my own reality, thank you very much. Please let me escape into the allegedly happy lives of my friends and acquaintances.

If you want to have actual, real, deep friendships, Facebook is not the place for it. It can be the place for it, (and many of my friends on FB are Real and honest and awesome and I love them the more for it) but COME ON. If that is what you want, GO MEET YOUR FRIEND IN REAL LIFE. You know, at a restaurant or bar or house or cafe or wherever people who don’t have to constantly tow around small children congregate and enjoy scintillating, interruption-free conversation. Facebook is NOT that venue so get the fuck over it.

Too harsh?

Embarrassing Confession

As much as I would like to think I am a progressive person and would just naturally know injustice when I see it, I really don’t think that is so. Since Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman case have been in the news recently, I’ll use that as an example.

Here’s my horrible confession: the MAIN reason I feel so strongly about the injustice against Trayvon Martin is because I have one really, really, really good black male friend. Like so good, I consider him to be family. Of course, it’s not the ONLY reason I am angry and sad about the verdict, but when I’m honest with myself, it is the primary reason.

Why? Because all I can think about is, “What if this happened to my friend, PH? What if this happened to his future sons (who I will consider my nephews)?” I’ll tell you what. I would be devastated. Hateful. Full of Hulk Smash. Because racism would have killed someone I consider family.

That is the crux of my confession: that I am only this angry when someone connected to ME is hurt. Yes, even in all my profession of enlightenment, blah blah blah, it boils down to selfishness – YOU FUCK WITH MINE, I WILL FUCK YOU UP.

But this post isn’t about unpacking why I (and really, most humans) tend to defend and pick up causes that affect us personally. This is, strangely enough, turning into a post about why it’s important for us to have close friends who are very different from us. I don’t mean friends in the sense that you have black co-workers or know a gay person or have an atheist neighbor. I mean DEEP friendships where you know the other person almost as well as yourself. Where you consider them a part of you and if they are absent, you miss them like an arm or a leg.

And perhaps, now that I think about it,  it isn’t even necessary to have super deep friendships. It is often enough to have friendships where at the very least, you are aware of their pain and the issues that affect them and their lives. What I mean is, regardless of the depth of friendship, you have to be able to see them as a person – an individual. And when you hear of the injustices enacted against them (and everyone, regardless of race, sex, orientation, religion, etc. experiences injustice – they just may vary in severity and frequency), you feel as if it happened to you.

Ironically, it is because of Facebook that I feel as if I identify more and more with folks who are different than I am. Not because Facebook is the place where people are Real, but because a few brave friends are honest on that forum – and I admire them and respect them all the more for it. I freely confess that prior to seeing some very personal posts on Facebook, I only read about certain issues on blogs. Though the injustices bothered me, it didn’t really affect me.

But now, because I have friends on Facebook who share about the prejudices they face living in a poly family, or being LDS and deeply religious, or choosing not to have children, or being gay, I CARE. I care now, because when I see these issues at play in society at large, I no longer think of the oppressed as a mass of faceless people. I see them as my friends. By name. Who I know and care about.

That is why it is important to have REAL friends who are completely different than you. Groups become individuals. And granted, these individual friends do not owe you anything and are not by default, a spokesperson of any sort to you. But it makes it easier to identify and humanize groups who are almost alien to you and your core beliefs.

Come to think of it, until recently, I have tried to make my Facebook page as controversy free and inoffensive as possible. Mostly because I hate arguing “facts” (I am terrible at remembering facts and details that back up my arguments) and having people think negatively of me. (It may come as a shock to some of you since I seem as if I say whatever is on my mind. But that’s because most of that stuff, I don’t care about. I have relatively little shame in many areas.) I don’t think I want that anymore.

Facebook friends, you’ve been warned.