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Vanessa ♥: June 2011

13 Jun

The theme for this week is FAVORITES, and to celebrate the month of June, which just HAPPENS to be my favorite month, I’m sharing my favorite things about it.

Ever since graduating high school a year ago, one of the hardest things has been seeing my close friends move away for college. (I am that friend who stayed home… and complained about it… and complained… but had my own reasons to staying.) However, in a way, distance makes the heart grow fonder (what a true cliché), and it’s so exciting when friends return for summer. I even have a special song for this occassion:

The opening lyrics sing: Come home in the summer. Live a life that you miss. It’s alright. I’ll fill you in. Don’t you wait for me to call your name again.

I’ve already had some very awesome memorable summer moments with my prodigal sons friends (?), such as going to Yelle’s show and meeting her (super sweet, and she wore a really cool pretzel necklace), taking teen witch-inspired photos in the park, and having my friend accidentally burn me. Oh wait. Maybe not that last part. It was memorable, at least.

I find that I become so sleepy during the winter, and it’s such an intense mode of sleepiness/feeling down in the dumps that it takes all spring for me to wake up, and finally in June I spring back alive. I finally feel busy again. It has to do with finally finishing up projects which have been in the works for months, the (slightly) better weather, planning summer trips, and seeing friends again. Overall, June is a month of change for me and halfway through 2011, I really need the refreshment.

I’ll admit that I don’t feel as excited as usual for Pride weekend, but I feel that my mentality overall has become more relaxed. This year I just want to chill, meet new people, and have a good time. And I definitely want to KEEP IT CUTE. That’s very important to me, to not go overboard and regret a bunch of things I did the week after Pride weekend. I also have a couple of friends coming to visit San Francisco and I really want to show them around. I love playing tour guide. It makes me feel useful as a San Fran native. Because, you know, my status as a SF native is usually just good for complaining about muni. And for justifying my weirdness.

Overall, June just feels like a month of hope, excitement, and good vibes (ugh no, I don’t mean the store, as awesome as it is.) I’m also going to Southern California right at the end of June, so it’ll be exciting. I think this month will change the entire shape of 2011 for me. I can hope.



Coming Out

30 May

By my favorite artist, Keith Haring, 1988

I feel lucky that I’ve had support around being queer from the beginning. My best friend came out in 8th grade, and I didn’t start questioning my sexuality until I was a sophomore or junior in high school. By then, I had a circle of 3-4 close friends.. most of whom were queer.. and were totally supportive when queer Vanessa busted out. That summer, I was in training for my first job at a community organization, and my co-workers (other youth and my supervisors) were super supportive too. It was nice.

There are people I’m still not out to, like most of my family (my sister knows and is cool with it.) My parents… kinda know… I think. We haven’t openly talked about it or acknowledged it. I think it’ll eventually happen, I mean I will talk about it with them eventually, but it’s not the first thing on my mind right now.

When I first came out as a lesbian (I don’t identify as such anymore) I felt a strong need to prove to others that I was, in fact, a lesbian. I would dress in what I thought would make me “look” queer and have some rainbow trinket on me so that people could “tell.” For me, that was all part of the process of experimenting and figuring out what feels right. Nowadays I identify as queer/pansexual and I find that I come out to a lot of people in different ways. I come out to non-queer people as queer and I come out to queer people as like.. sometimes dating straight cis guys. And maybe I would be a little more worried about coming out if I wasn’t so used to doing it all the time already. And I’m finally at a place where I’ve accepted the fluidity in my identity. So like, if I like guys more at a certain time… and don’t really care the next moment… it’s all good.

The last thing I want to write about is how coming out is political.
Okay, I think that everything is political, whether or not people want to acknowledge it. It just depends on what light you see it in. But coming out is really political, even in the smallest ways…

I was at a conference earlier this year and in one of the workshops, we broke up into groups of 4-5 people and shared personal stories. Note: this was not a queer-specific conference. Someone in my group shared something about having to “accept gay people” and pretty much said it in a way that told me they assumed no one in our group is queer. So when it was my turn to share, I came out. And in my head I was like, “YEAH check your assumptions.” I’m guessing if I looked like what they thought queer people look like, they wouldn’t have shared what they did. But because I “pass” as straight, they felt OK in saying that. So I showed that queer people who look like me exist.

You never know, something as little as that could blow someone’s mind.

At the end of the day, if you’re queer or trans, it is not your job to educate people or to come out in order to prove something. I’m just one of those people who have decided to do so as much as I feel comfortable. But I would never ask everyone to do the same.



16 May

Please click to see the images more clearly!



25 Apr

This is a picture of my mom and my aunt at afternoon tea… fancy! Cute! So Alice in Wonderland!

Everyone has that one friend who can’t cook anything… and I am that friend.

I want to learn, but I’ve never gotten around to doing it. Of course I can make ramen noodles, but so can my 8 year old cousin. So I probably shouldn’t be too proud of that.

I’m just going to share some of my favorite things to eat that you should try at least once.

SOBA (not soda) is one of my favorite things in the world. It is a buckwheat noodle and you can eat it cold or hot. I think a lot of people have heard of udon, but soba isn’t as popular for some reason. I think it’s supposed to be really healthy, too. I constantly get soba cravings, like this 9 am this morning on the train… I wanted soba sooo bad… but I don’t think they serve it for breakfast anywhere. I would recommend going around Japantown looking for a place to get soba. There are a few good ones, including one I went to 3x last week (I ordered the same thing every single time. I think pretty soon they will just call me ‘zaru soba girl.’)

Macarons from my favorite macaron place in Hayes Valley

MACARONS are commonly confused with/misspelled as “macaroons”, which are different things. I’m talking about that fancy French pastry that you probably saw in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I’m one of those people who take pictures of my food (well, sometimes) and for some reason, a lot of people commented that macarons look like little colored hamburgers. I mean, really? I guess. The texture doesn’t really look similar at all… Anyway, my favorite macaron place is in Hayes Valley and it’s called Paulette. They’re pretty expensive, so if you’re like me, you’ll only buy a box for yourself when you wanna treat yourself to something really nice. Like, I bought myself a box for Christmas, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s okay. You can also buy just one, but the box is sooo pretty. I think if you’re going to buy only a few, go to La Boulange. Theirs are good too.

A bowl of my dad’s handmade wonton (no noodles)

I think lastly, I will have to write about WONTON NOODLES! Sadly, I cannot recommend any good wonton noodle places to you, because I get the best homemade by my dad. (He doesn’t make the noodles, but he makes the wonton from scratch.) It’s like, the best soup, the best wonton, and the best noodles = the best bowl of wonton noodles. Back in Hong Kong, my dad and my uncle learned how to make wonton the good ol’ fashioned way (which I know nothing about, but I appreciate the outcome) and when my dad’s side of the family moved to San Francisco, they had a restaurant in Chinatown. I vaguely remember watching My Neighbor Totoro in the basement of the restaurant many times. I think the best wonton to be had, outside of my house, is in Hong Kong. Even their mall wonton noodles are good! I don’t know what the restaurants here are doing wrong. A lot of them make the wonton too big.. they are no good big. You can’t even eat them that way if they’re too hot, they just fall apart.

Anyway, end wonton rant… Please get something to eat! Enjoy !!


The Myth of Distrust

11 Apr

I want to get into this idea of the “Myth of Distrust.” What this basically means is that a group of people (e.g. girls/women, queer men) cannot trust each other because we all are in a contest to be the most beautiful, intelligent, popular, etc. The Myth of Distrust causes people in that group to gang up against each other, and it also causes hostility and feelings of inferiority.

I’ve seen how this myth affects how people treat and see each other in many different communities I identify with. I want to write about a larger picture, of how this affects girls, and more specifically girls who are femme or identify as feminine, such as myself.

Under sexism, women are subject to dealing with double standards. This is the most obvious one that I’ve been taught: as a girl, no matter how intelligent, creative, or _fill in the blank_ you are, you must be physically attractive for it to matter. And, if you are beautiful, you’re probably stupid.

When girls internalize this (sexist) message, inferiority automatically reigns. If a girl believes that she is worthless unless she is beautiful, she will believe that all girls are worthless unless they are beautiful. And she becomes obsessed with being the most beautiful so that others will like her–and like this, an internal contest has been created. Any girl who she perceives as more beautiful than her is either a b**ch or becomes her source of depression, and any girl she perceives as “ugly” gives her a false sense of pride and victory.

What she doesn’t know is that every “victory” she feels only keeps her down. There is no real contest. The point is that boys and men can continue doing whatever the hell they want because girls are too busy hating each other to notice the sexism at work. (Which means that boys benefit without struggle!)
Also, this keeps women from succeeding in life–career wise, and other aspects of life as well. Like I said earlier, this contest means that a woman’s achievements can be overlooked by her lack of physical attractiveness.

Contrary to what we’ve been taught, life really isn’t a contest. I’d rather build sisterhood by offering a shoulder for other girls to learn on. We all have shared experiences and unique experiences–imagine what could happen if we came together. We would be so much stronger. I know I still have a lot of work to do. My internal monologue still compares myself to other girls I see–it’s just a natural thing at this point. But it’s important to challenge that voice because it’s not doing anything good for me.

One last thought on internalized sexism
I can’t stand other girls. I can only be friends with guys.
Throughout my lifetime I’ve heard girls say this (or some variation of it) SO MANY times. I’ve probably said it before, too. This is a perfect example of internalized sexism. The usual explanation is that ALL girls are dramatic, fussy, and all around a pain to be around, so why would you want to be friends with them?
I mean, I wonder what would happen if we had all the girls who said this meet each other. After all, they’re the ones who only hang out with the boys and they might as well be one of the guys, right? So that makes them the only exception–they supposedly aren’t like “most” girls–they don’t consider themselves fake or judgemental. But they will perpetuate sexist ideas through false generalized statements and see it as separate from being dramatic.

Under sexism, we’re taught that men/masculinity is more important and admirable. For girls, I think most of us have at least ONE girl friend who we’re close to. And for many, it’s like “I hate girls… but she’s different, she’s cool, we’re like sisters.” The truth is, no matter who you are, there are hella girls out there like you. And assuming what a girl is like (and that you won’t like her) just because she’s a girl is internalized sexism rearing it’s ugly head.


Fashion and Politics

28 Mar

This is an internet meme called Elitist Fashionista. It is really funny. They feature model Sasha Pivovarova, this one with my pre-bedtime ritual: BRUSH TEETH, REMOVE MAKEUP, PRAY TO REI KAWAKUBO. (Rei is the creator and designer of COMME DES GARCONS.)

“You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity.” –Sofia Coppola

I think there’s a certain shame attached to caring about fashion. At least, I know that people have tried to make me feel bad for caring. And I think that a lot of “fashion people” purposely push themselves to fit into the snobby, superficial “fashionista” stereotype because others assume they’ll be that way.

I’ve thought about this for a while. What I’ve come to understand is that fashion/the fashion “world” can be intimidating, so some people don’t even try to be a part of it because they can’t identify with it. (What people don’t know that there is something for everyone in that world. And what those designers create affect what everyone wears in our first world/capitalist society, down to the clothes that are sold at second-hand stores and Walmart.)

Of course, I don’t think that everyone should be interested in fashion, the same way I’m not interested in sports. But I do think that because we all wear clothes (with the exception of some folks) we all are related to the fashion world somehow.

More importantly, appearance is tied to identity. I have always been conscious of the fact that my appearance communicates to the world about who I am. At least, others will make assumptions about who I am based on what I look like, and let’s be honest–we ALL make assumptions about others based on appearance every day. And an interest in someone’s appearance makes me all the more interested in them as an individual. This can also be analyzed through the lens of gender or the lens of culture.

For people who care about social justice issues: do not write fashion off as being “too superficial” and unworthy of attention. There are a ton of issues that need to be addressed, most obviously fatphobia (or sizeism?), racism, and classism. I think some activists have tried to address the issues in the fashion world, but what’s been wrong is that most of them are not interested in fashion and don’t know anything about it. I mean, why should anyone care about what they say if they don’t even know our references, our culture, the history? Similar to how queer folks should be the ones leading the queer rights movement, folks who are interested in fashion should be the ones leading the changes in the industry.

For people who are interested in fashion: do not see fashion as separate from politics. It is not. First of all, I believe that everything is political, whether or not we want or intend it to be. And in general, I’m sick of political apathy. It’s lazy and it doesn’t help anyone. There is an endless amount of things we can address in the industry, from getting designers to hire more models who are people of color to the unsustainability of fast fashion.

To finish this off, I want to highlight something that a lot of people forget: fashion should be fun. It should not be intimidating, scary, strict, or boring. And even if you have no intention of exploring designers or what’s going on in the industry, don’t try to shame others for being interested. One of the most influential designers in my life, Yves Saint Laurent, once said, “dressing is a way of life.” And no matter who you are, I think that reigns true.


Because we are your friends, you’ll never be alone again

19 Mar

This is my friendship song. It’s lasted as an anthem for my friends and I since it was released. This song = music of our youth

In life there aren’t many things better than having a true friend. Even if it’s only one person I can really count on, that person becomes part of my family.

I have two people I consider my best friends. One of them I’ve known since I was 11. The other I met when I was 14 or 15. I really can’t imagine what my life would be like without them because they know me so well and have helped me through countless existential crises (I tend to have those a lot.)

It’s pretty powerful to have someone I can lean on. I often hear others say that all humans live and die alone. And it’s true to a certain extent, because we are in our own bodies and minds and have individual experiences, but the idea that we are always alone and cannot share things with others is absurd. We would not live to be 20 years old, or even 10 years old, if that were truly the case.

Life is not a popularity contest… that would be so devoid of meaning. I can’t stand when people make “friends” for the sake of having another person as a number to add. Generally I keep to my same 3-4 close friends to avoid those who aren’t interested in being real friends and are only thinking about themselves. But now I’m finding that it’s cool to have friends around who aren’t that close to me so long as they don’t try to use me for stuff. If you are someone who uses your “friends”… stop it. Have a heart. It’s not cool. And karma will come back and get you when you least expect it.

I think one of the best things is just sitting in a cafe or restaurant with a best friend and having a great conversation with them. Or just sitting there, enjoying each other’s company. I don’t have to say anything because the silence isn’t awkward. Then we look at each other and burst out laughing for no reason. Best Friends Forever.


♫♫ sunday ♫♫

13 Mar

Recipe for a lazy sunday at home:
♥ Hot chocolate
♥ Blankets
♥ A good film
♥ Turning off your phone

Click here to listen to this playlist!
♫ AIR Alone in Kyoto
♫ AIR Playground Love
♫ BON IVER Creature Fear
♫ CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG Time of the Assassins
♫ NICO These Days
♫ PHOENIX Fences
♫ TORO Y MOI How I Know
♫ TORO Y MOI Talamak
♫ THE XX Intro

Basically, really chill music that makes you even sleepier than you already are (it is Sunday, after all.) Also, this is more or less all I’ve been listening to lately.

I think that the phrase “music is life” is a bit of a cliche, and I don’t really believe in it, but I do believe that life never happens without music… if that makes sense. I mean, I can tie all moments and phases in my life to certain songs, and I can relate all of my feelings to music. And music is just so good. I will never understand people who are not “into” it. I mean, really?

And after all, who I am has been shaped by cultural movements that revolve around music. When I was really little, I wanted to be punk (I was not. I was more like… someone who just wore a lot of black. And wrote song lyrics on my converses.) In freshman year, I really wanted to move to London to party with all the “nu-rave” club kids (re: Klaxons, shiny leggings, neon Wayfarers) and I did not. I was stuck in high school drawing pictures of chairs for my art class (but I did have shiny leggings, so I guess I was halfway there.)

And now, music is a way for me to share and connect with my friends. Going to shows is a way to have fun (dancing) and meet new people. And you know, sometimes music becomes part of me. I don’t think a good song ever really gets old…

It’s better to dance than to march through life…


Manifesto 3.11

6 Mar

I believe that people should do what makes them happy.
However, that does not mean we should ignore taking responsibility for our actions and hurt other people. I also believe in karma. And people who don’t treat others right are just hurting themselves in the end. Empathy is everything.

I believe everybody should have the right to do whatever they want with their own bodies.
I’m happier when I wear what I want to wear and present myself however I feel like. I appreciate everyone who is dedicated to their drags. For me, this means that I do my hair and makeup everyday–and I can stop whenever it doesn’t feel right anymore.

I believe in being open and honest about sex education and talking about vaginas and periods even when other people in the room are saying “eww.” I believe in being positive about everyone’s bodies. I hope everyone knows that bragging about considering certain body parts (mainly genitalia) disgusting doesn’t make them more queer, or funny, or whatever–it only makes them misogynistic or immature. Bodies are bodies, people are people. Embrace it.

I believe in mutuality and that tiny pebbles affect the whole ocean–that something done in one place will have vibrations in another place. I look at the bigger picture and know that in order to achieve my goal, I have to start with the little things. Change happens slowly. But what matters is that I’m putting some effort towards it every day and being intentional about it. I’m beginning to believe that grassroots efforts are the only hope…

I believe that insincerity is the most tiring thing in life. We would all be better off being genuine and honest. And when I say honest, I don’t only mean with other people, but also with ourselves! And let’s stop constantly putting others before ourselves… well, maybe I am just talking to myself here. I’ve held so much of others’ pain, because I know my help is appreciated. But I can’t forget to take care of myself and work towards healing myself too.

I believe in building sisterhood. I want other girls to know that they can lean on me. And that life is not a competition. I am not here to be the prettiest, smartest, funniest, most __whatever__. I never asked to join this contest that doesn’t even have prizes. I am not here to compare myself to you or have myself compared to you. I would rather stand with you.

I believe that photography is truth, and cinema is truth at 24-frames per second.

I believe in so many other things, but most of all I believe in music and art and dancing through life. What I live for is the short, unexpected moments of beauty…

Screenshots from this entry are taken from ALPHAVILLE, dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

18 Feb

Keith Haring, 1989

After reading this piece by Yoko Ono, I immediately adopted it into my dogma. She wrote:

Start your [movement] tomorrow, and you will see that it spreads and covers the world very fast and, meanwhile, makes you a Small Pebble Person.

Small Pebble People are people who know that small pebbles, when they’re dropped in the ocean, will immediately affect the ocean of the whole wide world.

Don’t throw a big stone. It scares people and creates repercussions.
Just drop a small pebble.

We’ll keep doing it. Together….
That’s how the world gets changed…by Small Pebble People.

We change, and the world changes.

Yoko Ono, 2010

When I reflect back on my life so far, I find that parts of me have really been shaped by certain artists and activists. First, with Martin Luther King, Jr. I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade when I first learned about him, and it changed my life. I was certain I wanted to be a part of some sort of movement. It was all just so inspiring to me, but I didn’t start working with community organizations until years later when I was 14, and even that was an accident (best accident of my life.)

The art we see at the top of this entry is by my favorite artist, Keith Haring. He singlehandedly convinced me to continue making art (well, not him since I’ve never met him, but his work and story.) There’s a big chance that you’ve seen his art before because it is everywhere. He passed away in the 1990s from AIDS, and spent the last few years of his life using art to educate people about HIV/AIDS and set up The Keith Haring Foundation.
When I think of Keith and when I look of his art, one word comes to mind: energy. There is so much energy in all that he did and in photographs of him… I am always sad that I never got to meet him; I was born two years after he passed away. I’m sure that he was an incredible person. His art really is just music.. visually, it looks so deceptively simple, but his strokes and lines are inimitable and the messages that come across are so deep and profound…

There is one more person I would like to highlight, and that is Yves Saint Laurent. Fashion is a really big part of my life, and one that I find hard to “integrate” into my identity as a community worker, because it is so expensive and there is a lot of bullshit in the fashion industry. Yet, I’m convinced that there is no solid line between community work and fashion; after all, fashion is linked to identity. Our appearances and clothes are one way we express who we are.
Furthermore, I believe that I can be interested in fashion and still be substantial, despite the fact that I’ve been told the opposite for years.

Yves Saint Laurent changed my life. I fell head over heels for his clothes and I wasn’t prepared for it. In 2008, the deYoung Museum held a retrospective of his work, and I had never seen anything so beautiful before. I literally cried. I didn’t know what came over me. I think it was the fact that one person could create all this beauty–it just stunned me.
To me, he is a good example of how designers can be allies in the fashion industry. He was one of the first big designers to use black models in his shows, and he once told French Vogue they could not have his clothes in their magazine if they did not put a black model on their cover. His “Le Smoking” suits caused a revolution. I remember reading a quote from him–I don’t remember exactly what he said–but he basically said that his clothes, like the Le Smoking suit, were his way of supporting the women’s rights movement.

I mean, isn’t that beautiful? Everyone has their part in supporting a movement, no matter what their work or profession is. Even those in fashion, who are often seen as superficial, snobby, stupid, self-absorbed…

There are many more artists and activists who have helped shape who I am today, and I hope to write about them in the future, because they all deserve to be talked about!

V xx