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.


Every evening, after dinner and the dishes, I will round up the dog and head for the front door. I squat down onto the old grey ottoman that now serves as our entry bench and slip into my walking shoes (technically they are running shoes, but I rarely run in them so I can’t really call them my running shoes). After strapping the dog into his harness, clipping the clean-up bag dispenser onto my belt loop and checking that my hair isn’t too disheveled, I carefully wrap the leather leash around my wrist and we are on our way.

Sometimes we walk briskly, with a purpose, and other times we stroll leisurely, me deep in non-philosophical thought and the dog deep in the landscaped bushes.

One by one the houses pass us by. I set the pace, but might be abruptly stopped by the dog, who sporadically decides to leave his mark on a lawn corner. Or, I might be pulled along suddenly if there’s something particularly aromatic on the curb ahead. This ebb and flow of our walk faintly mimics the unpredictability of life: we are all trying to go somewhere, but none of us know exactly how long it will take. There might be pit stops along the way. Detours. We might choose to take the scenic route or decide the shortcut would be better. Unexpected or not, there will be deviations. We just need to believe that we will get there, and keep walking.

One by one the houses pass us by. I never see any people inside the houses. There’s always a house with dad or big brother out in the front, watering the lawn or washing the car, and occasionally a group of moms (PTA, I presume) chattering about something insignificant. And people lounging on beach chairs in their garages, but that doesn’t count. Usually I hear dishes clattering or music drifting through a window, or I’ll see a TV illuminating a living room, and I’ll even smell a family’s dinner cooking. But all the times I’ve subtly stolen glances through open windows and open front doors, or elongated my strides in front of opaque curtains and unlatched side gates – no one. No faces. No evidence that there are actually people cooking the food or watching the TV or picking the playlist. They don’t know I am walking by (well, their dogs do), and I’m not sure they really exist. And, when the dog picks which lawn to receive his business, I sort of revel in the fact that they trust me to leave their house the way I approached it. Strangers trusting strangers. I like that.

One by one the houses pass us by. We don’t walk the exact same route each day, but the houses don’t look too different. Little differences and minor variations remind me that suburbia can still have personality. This house has the prettiest rose bushes. That house has the yellow Jeep in the driveway. There’s a pianist living in this one. A future DJ in that one. I don’t think anyone lives in this place. Ah, they finally hired a landscaper here. I particularly enjoy walking past the house with the dogs that run barking from one side of the backyard to the other, following us. And the house with lifelike sitting German shepherd statue on its porch. There’s also some places I don’t enjoy walking by. This house’s sprinklers have so much runoff that the entire span of sidewalk in front of it is wet. Parked on the street over there is an old white van that I always feel a person is going to jump out of, at me. Once, I saw this cute guy giving his dogs a bath. His chihuahua ran after us, but I never saw him again. Another time, a nice lady waved hi to us and said, How do you do? She lives in the house that just put out pumpkins on a garden rack for the upcoming holiday. And I always try to smile as I walk, walking through the neighborhood, a microecosystem in the biome that is our World.

People are skeptics. Until we can see it with our own eyes, or feel it with our own bodies, we are reluctant to truly believe. I’m not just referring to God Himself or faith in a religious context — we are skeptical about everything big or small. From Sasquatch to organic supermarkets, from the great dinosaurs (though I don’t see how anyone could believe that they DON’T exist) to true love.

Love is patient. Love is kind.
Love is fickle. Love is blind.

Love is strange. Because it is all, some and none of the above. We can’t necessarily use video footage to prove the existence of love; you can’t always see it. There is no mission statement for love. There are no guaranteed gains for the work you put in. It cannot be grasped – if we are all unique, then we must have infinite ways of loving. It is fleeting – a culmination of the right people and the right feelings and the right timing. Because of love’s abstractness (as opposed to hunger or lust for example, which are feelings just as poignant but much more easily quelled), we are quick to dismiss it unless we are firmly planted in it ourselves.

When people say that they have met “the girl of my dreams”, or “my Prince Charming”, they are usually met with immediate apprehension. We all become detractors, pointing to the age difference, financial dependency, the way he treats her, the way she dresses, the cultural backgrounds, the long distance…
Rarely are they met with a congratulatory “I’m happy for you” or a kind inquiry of “are you happy together”. Frankly, I think that most of us haven’t been hit by love – by the unselfish, constant desire for another’s presence – and that is why we like to judge. We like to underestimate, undermine because we are underwhelmed in our own lives. They can’t quite possibly have found that thing called love, this thing conceptualized in Disney movies and romance novels, commercialized by Hallmark and online dating companies. Nope, they couldn’t have actually realized it. 

I believe that believing gets you halfway there. And it’s the easy half too. The other half is difficult – unwavering confidence in yourself. And once you’re there, you aren’t done! Love is work itself! Confidence in your partner, communication, compromise to name only a few.

We are all skeptics, but we should make more room for believing. And tyrannosaurus rexes.

P.S. I added a new photo header. It is revolving, so the picture will change when refreshed!

Have you ever felt empty?
You can feel an actual absence in your body, like something before existed there but no longer does.

Have you ever felt transparent?
The fact that life goes on regardless, that Earth continues rotating on its axis whether or not you step out of bed. The crowds of negligent people that will maneuver around you or walk a straighter path if you’re not there.

Have you ever felt hopeless?
When you are looking for someone who truly understands you, but maybe that person does not exist. Maybe everyday you work, only to realize you are working towards a goal you are not sure why you seek to accomplish or even if you want it.

Have you ever felt lost?
Tomorrow keeps coming, though it is not guaranteed, and you forget what you are doing here in the first place. Fond, familiar faces become only that because the lives behind them are now strange and unknown.

Have you ever felt alone?
So alone that you find comfort in your reflection staring back at you. So alone that you believe you must forever face what is and what is to come by yourself, and the weight of that thought perpetually bearing down on your shoulders, overwhelming any other thoughts you could have. So alone that your ears hear a heavy,defeaning silence – when you are finally able to ignore the insistent thumping of your heart.

This my econometrics professor’s philosophy on the pronounciation of the Greek letter : “Phee, not phyewe’re in Economics here, not pumping a keg.”

Professor is a straightforward man. He holds office hours by appointment only, follows the Chicago Cubs, is not afraid to divulge class feedback calling him “rude” and “downright obnoxious” and holds much concern for our learning. He knows that we want the grade, he wants us to learn. We’ll meet each other in the middle, he says.

College is a funny place. We were still reviewing conditional probabilities in an upper division class – didn’t we have those problems on the SATs? People are so glued to their computers that it’s hard to imagine life back then when we weren’t perpetually sitting in front of the monitor. What did we do back then? Actually go outside and see our friends instead of i-chatting and Facebook stalking, I guess. We drink to get drunk, shit goes down and we all talk about it the next day. College would be boring without laptops and booze, not to mention non-existent. Thank you Dell. Thank you Popov.

(Haha, since when did you drink for taste anyway? Hence coke backs and jungle juice.)

The theme of this quarter has been “Take Home Exams”. I’ve only had one so far and that was all the way back during fall quarter of freshmen year. Now I have two! I don’t hate them or like them. Between a take-home and an in-class, I wouldn’t be able to pick. I dislike all exams.

This is my first post without a picture. To me, it’s looks like it’s missing something but I wanted to focus the attention on the title.

Well I’m off the shower now, and moisturize. Oh that’s another theme of this quarter: Eat less, moisturize more. Not that the two are correlated. It’s better than writing your goals as “lose 10 pounds” and “get perfect skin”. Start with the little tasks. A therapist told me that.

BTW, I can’t get over how cute “Chi Cubs” looks. Then you see thick men in cleats spitting sunflower seeds everywhere. Why does everything look better on paper?

It never fails to amaze me how long Asian couples manage to last. Their relationships are always so committed and full of devotion, i.e. it seems like they can never get enough of each other. Even in college freshmen dorms, couples are springing up everywhere – people don’t even need to get acquainted with campus first! Maybe someone should ask them the secret to staying together, not Dr. Phil.

But I’m not writing to comment on the relationship turnover velocity of those boys and girls. Thinking about life and its trivialities (as I frequently do!), I came across a familiar question of mine:

How is it possible that two people really like each other?

I mean, simultaneously. Does it really take two to tango? Does the feeling really have to be mutual? What are the chances that someone actually feels the same way, right then and there?

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I really don’t mean to brag, but if I had a nickel for every time someone complimented my hair, I’d have a lot of nickels!

Well, let me give something back: my favorite hairsprays are Dove Extra Hold (scented or unscented) and Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Anti-Humidity Hairspray. The only way to go is aerosol (sorry, Environment) and these have fine mists that don’t leave hair stiff – always remember to spray with your arm extended.

I should compliment people more.