The reclamation of beauty

When I was four years old,
I drew (fair-skinned) mermaids
with huge breasts & light hair
that flowed down to their tiny waists.
The mermaids’ faces never looked like mine —
their eyes were larger (& not almond-shaped),
their noses were smaller (& pointed),
their mouths were fuller (& bright pink).
Every night, I’d pray that the next morning,
I’d wake up transformed into Ariel,
a beautiful (white) mermaid.

When I was fourteen years old,
I watched Gilmore girls obsessively.
While I could relate to Lane (Rory’s Korean best friend)
she never considered herself pretty,
nor was she sought after by cute boys
(the measure of a teenage girl’s beauty & self-worth).
Her first (unrequited) love was music &
her failed attempts at dating were a repetitive punchline.
The sarcastic brown girl was always the funny foil
to the doe-eyed protagonist with a porcelain complexion.
I wasn’t the heroine in my own life.

When I was twenty-four years old,
I lifted my chin defiantly & looked in the mirror.
My eyes were dark brown (& almond shaped)
my nose was wide (& round)
my mouth was small (& pale pink).
I’d never be a tall, restrained, universally liked queen,
since I was a short, loud, unapologetically honest woman.
There was a newfound freedom (& power) in being myself.
I (finally) recognized that when
my handsome man said, “You’re beautiful.”
it was the truth.

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I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

As with most kids, puberty wasn’t particularly easy for me. Angst and self-loathing plagued my middle school existence. In order to combat this, my mother and I talked constantly. She gave me formative talks on how to have self-esteem as a chubby kidthe importance of family, why religion is essential to being a good person, and how sex ruins an unmarried girl. I absorbed every word.

At the time, my mother and I were each other’s sounding boards. She discussed fights with my dad; I psychoanalyzed his motivations. I told her about petty drama at school; she insisted that friends came and went, but family was always there. We watched TV shows and movies together. We were best friends. Like Lorelai and Rory, we consulted each other on every decision. We had inside jokes. I idolized her.

When I met Andrea, I found a kindred spirit in someone my age. During high school, I made more friends of my own. My mother lashed out. She couldn’t understand why I would want to spend time with people who weren’t family. She didn’t comprehend why she wasn’t the only friend I needed.

By the time I got to college, I recognized that I had to escape this unhealthy codependency. It wasn’t fair for her to confide in me as a friend (about her and my dad’s marital woes) one moment and in the next moment, snap into mother mode, trying to dictate my every move. She always claimed she was psychic — that she would know when I was being disobedient. College proved that when I didn’t tell her anything, she had nothing to zone in on. She couldn’t interrogate me so that I’d crack and “confess.”

Though I’m the most stable and happiest I’ve ever been, my mother is always angry at me. She belittles every choice I’ve made without her. I’m the biggest disappointment of her life. These days, I’m like Lorelai (the supposed rebel) and she’s like Emily (the bourgeoisie housewife who insists that her daughter should have the best, which is her life).

We used to be like Lorelai and Rory, but I’m thankful that we haven’t been for years. It’s impossible to be friends (much less best friends) with your mother when she refuses to acknowledge you’ve grown up. It’s unlikely to get better until she realizes that we can have a relationship as adults. One day, I hope she understands that trying to control your daughter’s life isn’t the same as wanting what’s best for her.

Knowing how stubborn my mother is, though, I’m not holding my breath.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction (also known as fics).

Even before that, I wrote hilariously bad Gilmore girls fics. In my defense, it was middle school. I knew nothing about keeping characters’ voices true to themselves or what high schoolers’ lives were actually like. Rory Gilmore’s world was as foreign to me as Harry Potter’s. Despite encouraging reviews, I took the Gilmore girls fics down from my fanfiction.net profile.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic fangirl. During my Gilmore girls phase, I had a wall in my bedroom with magazine pages featuring the cast and a giant collage I made. While I began reading the Harry Potter books in fourth grade, I didn’t start writing fics until high school.

Oftentimes, fans write fics in anticipation of the next installment of a series (to predict what’s going to happen next) or to rewrite moments they found to be unsatisfactory. Typically, I wrote fics for the former reason. I never wrote the plot-driven fics; instead, I always focused on the ships I supported. In fandom terms, a “ship” is a relationship that you support (thus making you a shipper).

I wrote my first Harry Potter fic during junior year of high school, before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published. Like many fans, I was (and still am) a Ron and Hermione shipper. At lunch, I brainstormed ideas with my fellow Harry Potter fangirls (and fanboy) friends Gaby, Daniel, and Becca. I ended up writing sixteen chapters and over 65,000 words. Almost a decade later, people are still reviewing the fic and adding it to their favorites.

Any time I get discouraged about writing, I remind myself of two things:

  1. I wrote a silly Ron/Hermione fic in high school that got 854 reviews.
  2. If E.L. James could get published by rewriting a Twilight fic as Fifty Shades of Grey, I will get published by writing an awesome original book.