2013-06-11_Mama Said  Reconciling Generations   Être The Girls


A friend of mine recently started a fashion and beauty blog, Etre The Girls. She is a California transplant now living in New York and working for Birchbox. How she finds time to survive in the Big Apple and maintain a website, I’m not sure, but luckily for me, she had time to reach out and ask me to write a guest post for ETG!

For her Mama Said series, I wrote a bit about my mother and how our relationship has affected who I am. While exploring cultural differences and maternal relations may not be all that related to fashion or beauty, the confidence that our mothers inspire us to have definitely makes us prettier people.

Check out the guest post.


On my birthday, the parents took me out for lunch at a sushi buffet. At night my mother made me steak. The day after my birthday I missed a Black Keys concert. During the following weekend, I went to a spa and relaxed in a private tub room. I ate Brazilian barbecue, a Peruvian pork sandwich, Kettle chips for the first time in months, and delicious dulce de leche cookies. It suffices to say that the highlight of becoming another year older this time around was food – not people, not the event itself (never), not the activities (what activities?).

This year marked the first birthday with no cake. No pastry, no cupcake, no muffin, not even a scoop of ice cream or pudding on which a candle was presented to me for the traditional birthday wish. I don’t say this with regret or disappointment. I don’t say it with indifference, or even matter-of-factly. Truth is, I’m not sure how I feel. Underneath all this emotional ambiguity I do know there is a tinge of sadness.

I know, it might strike as strange that I seem to be obsessing over a birthday candle. First world problems. Petty. Childish. Call it what you might, but I feel almost as if it was a harbinger of adulthood. As adults (of the 99% at least), we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Sometimes, we can’t even have cake. We’re supposed to be dealing with real adult problems and not old-fashioned superstitious traditions.

But if we can’t celebrate ourselves adequately, how do we expect to live happy lives?

I think I might have found the answer. I think I might be using food to replace fulfilling personal relationships.

I also had cheesecake eggrolls.

Photo from

At my old job, a student once asked me, “Why are you so grumpy today?”

I immediately smiled – not as a defiant reply to her question, but as a private acknowledgment of the sentiment behind it.

Call me naive, but I believed that it was a genuine inquiry. People do have a disposition to create small talk, and younger people have a particular inclination to poke fun at their elders. Still, I believed that her question was more than a superficial comment.  I think she really cared. That’s why I smiled.

Lately, I’ve realized that I spend a lot of my time trying to make other people happy. I value my personal relationships a lot because I like to have meaningful interactions with people. This trait manifests itself in various ways: little gifts, random text messages, a thoughtful question about your current interests, small acts of kindness to ease your workload…

In doing all these things, I can’t help but think how nice it would be if the situation were turned around, and I was the recipient of these good fortunes. Of course, I’m not a Good Samaritan because I expect to be rewarded. But hey – can’t a girl dream? How nice would it be to not have to think about what’s for dinner? How nice would it be to have someone plan a whole day of festivities for you? How nice would it be to hear from a long lost friend? How nice would it be to find fresh baked goods on your desk after your lunch break? How nice would it be to be greeted with a hot cup of coffee in the morning, instead of an “I’m going to be late”? How nice is it to know that somewhere, someone is thinking of you?

It would be very nice, and that’s why I like to do them for you guys. But if you’ve forgotten, I like to be happy too!

Yeah, it’s good to be back.

Well not really I guess. Not on these terms. I got my parents on me all the time, bedtime restrictions, TV and Internet restrictions – you’d never know I was turning 20! I’m behind so many episodes on Mad Men, Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives – you name it, I watch it. I’ve said good bye to going out on week nights and reveling in those last minute school night outings that come just in time for exams and papers. I’m losing followers on Twitter now that I hardly use the computer and use an old flip phone to replace the one with a full keyboard that I broke. Facebook? What’s that?

Alright, just kidding about that last one. But now that I’m here, it’s like they always say: It’s good to be home. Now I have more time for leisure reading from my favorite library here: Cupertino Library. They have lots of new books (I saw a used copy of Outliers in mint, just-like-new condition for sale on the Friends of the Library shelf for only $2!) and a huge fish tank wall. Not to mention it’s spacious, airy, quiet and comfortable. Now I can spend more time with my siblings too. We’ve already watched two movies together, all three of us: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which we all loved, and Where the Wild Things Are, that one not so much. We’ve played Monopoly, run to 7-Eleven to get “coffee in a Domo cup” and planned to carve vomiting pumpkins for the upcoming holiday.

And how I’ve missed the NorCal people. When I go to school it seems like everyone is friendlier and more willing to talk to you. Yeah girl, I see you in yo boots even though it’s sunny and hot outside. Yeah, they all say “hella”, so what. Yeah, I like to have my 2348935 choices for pho or bun bo hue for lunch. I feel right at home in this sea of Bay Area plaid.

Oh hay Korean guy, I see that Infiniti key hanging from your jeans. Some things never change.

Yeah, it’s good to be back.

Poet and masochist Lord Byron proclaimed that lobster salad and champagne were the only things a woman should ever be seen eating. Madame de Pompadour, mistress to the king of France, said of champagne: It is “is the only wine that leaves a woman more beautiful after drinking it”. We know it as the glamorous bubbly drink of celebrations, romance and New Year’s kisses.

I learned this stuff over Winter Break, reading the book by Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Widow Clicquot. Although I didn’t finish it, it was pretty interesting stuff – how a woman reinvented the champange empire. Reading over vacation? Yeah, my break was pretty lame. Besides little gets and meet-ups with assorted friends, it was totally eventless. Utterly boring. I spent Christmas Eve freezing my little fingers off wandering Christmas in the Park with the family and Christmas Day playing Rock Band 2! NYE was equally unexciting: drove the long commute to Union City and sipped mojito wine coolers with my cousins and their two friends. Knocked back bad Hennessy that tasted like fire water and sat lonely on the couch next to my cousin and her boyfriend for the countdown. Can someone tell the Economy to cheer up?

Back at school,  I was glad to be back in my cozy little room. After putting on my satin pillowcase with my new comforter and matching black sheets, I realized how much I was dreading classes and that I was ready to go home already. Good thing K and C are coming down to hang out with me and J! With me living on campus and J living off, I didn’t get to see much of them, but it was still fun. Finally got to hang with K more, talked to J about how “it doesn’t even take a type sometimes”, had lots but-still-not-enough jolly laughs with C and all four of us sipped margeritas on the rocks during Sin City which I always find heart-wrenching. They showed me all the pictures they took on the drive down and hanging out together, and I found myself wishing I had another margerita to wash away the sad feelings welling up in my stomach.

For the New Year, friends and I talked about the tradition of resolutions. Some confessed to haven’t had made any for the past few years, some declared personal goals, some conjured joke resolutions for each other and I just wished I could diligently attend all my classes – which will prove to be a difficult task since economics classes decided to all take place after dark this quarter. I know there will be bad habits I won’t kick but also good ones to be adopted.

So here’s to the New Year: to being a good student and a good friend; to meeting new people and making new friends; to finding something that makes me earnestly happy.

As Airport Xpress and Cloud 9 shuttles pass by on the road next to my window, I am cruelly reminded how much longer I have to hold on until my trip to San Diego International this Friday night. Hours melt into minutes, and those, into fleeting seconds that sadly but surely count down the time toward my tests.

It’s hard to believe that last year, during this time, I spent the holidays halfway around the world in Hong Kong. Everything was a walk away from the hotel – shopping, eating and every kind of entertainment. Streets were always bustling: morning rush to work, afternoon scuffle for quick lunch and the evening traffic jam when everyone would return home; always crowded: street vendors hawking wares while keeping one eye out for police raids, hungry businesspeople waiting for take-out orders on the way home from work, old ladies in orange rubber gloves pushing trash carts that occupied half the sidewalk; always interesting: looking down there was a mix of expensive leather shoes of men with loud, colorful sneakers of teenage boys, looking up you’d see the many Agnes B. and Gucci monogram purses of office ladies and inhale cigarette smoke swirled with wafting aroma of the nearest fried food stand and looking behind was the sea of Hong Kong people, yakking away on their Hello Kitty-charmed cell phones or shuffling to take out Octopus cards for the last step of their commute.

It’ll be hard not to miss the effiency of the MTR while I drive the long 20 minutes to Sanata Row for a get with my cousin to watch English Premier League soccer. It’ll be hard to beat last Christmas Eve spent in Macau, casino-hopping and enjoying authentic Portugese cuisine. Watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV (even in HD) can’t really compare to the Tsim Tsa Tsui waterfont fireworks display at the stroke of midnight during New Year’s. I’ll always remember looking longingly at the partygoers in Lan Kwai Fong, contemplating deserting my family for some liquored fun but without any companion to do it with.

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