Exulansis

n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.

It’s not the tendency, it’s the inability to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it. I can’t explain to you why I identify as whatever it is. It’s harder than explaining to a child why she can’t a kilo of candy. Because the child has no previous experience in eating a kilo of candy. A child of that age, of that context and of that biological make up, does not understand the consequences of her instant gratification. I can’t explain to you why we need to stop discussing what I used to identify as, because I just don’t care. I don’t care that you don’t understand. Culturally, I am not expected to question you back, because you’re normal, and I’m slightly darker, slightly larger eyed and slightly frizzer haired. I can’t ask you why you wear pants when my people wear saris and kurtas. I can’t ask you to explain the cultural significance of wearing pants.

Are chinos for special occasions? Do all the women wear dresses to a wedding? What’s up with the weird pasta shaped tie men wear sometimes? Is that a religious thing? Can you eat that since it’s not organic? 

Oh, I’m sorry. Is that offensive? I didn’t mean to be offensive. I mean, I am just trying to learn and understand your culture through these questions.

And yet, you feel so comfortable asking me why women put a little sticker on their foreheads, and why we wear saris and kurtas and why we every Indian person seems to always smell like curry and whether or not we eat curry everyday and if we don’t like artichokes or asparagus or kale because of religious reasons, and where we are really from.

Let me be the millionth person to point out. Statistically, there’s more of my culture than yours. Please stop treating me like the alien, when you’re so outnumbered that you should be the statistic.

The hardest part of all this foreignness is that no one ever asked if I wanted to be the ambassador for my culture. You have always assumed that since I am slightly darker, slight larger eyed and slightly frizzier haired that I am the epitome of representation for millions and millions of people. You have never found that problematic. But god forbid, I make a generalised statement that goes something like “Americans something something something,” because then the uncultured swine that’s me is taught that all Americans are different and there’s a vast difference in culture from the East to the West to the South to the North, but you forget that the millions of other aliens that resemble me have a vast different in culture and language and food and clothes and traditions and religion and race from the East to the West to the South to the North.

So, what do we do? We don’t tell you our experiences, or if we do, we make fun of our own experiences because you found Apu funny. We become removed from our own cultures, but continue being the ambassadors, who inevitably, misrepresented themselves and the millions and millions of other people. Eventually, we feel out of place and out of sync but the fog will never lift, because we can’t seem to come to terms with ourselves.

Another dreaded question

There are many dreaded questions, spanning from your classic lover’s turmoil of “do you still love me?” to a phone call that starts off eerily silent and the receiver just asks “what happened?”

But there’s one question that came up time and time again over the last few weeks, and I have had to laugh it off, because I still have not come up with an appropriate response. Mainly because I feel any answer would create a unwanted certainty, or at best, a white lie with transformation capabilities. The question arose ever since I spread the news of my departure from London. The question generally takes the form of, “When will you be back next?” but sometimes, it is phrased as “When will we see each other again?”

I say it’s a dreaded question because I have no answer. There are perhaps a small handful of people I will see again in the next few years, but the sad truth, the majority of those people and I will never cross paths again. That was the end of an experience for both parties. With their own undecided futures, they ask so hopefully when I would be back, as if they were certain of their time in the city. The only life lesson you will never need to learn about cities like London and Hong Kong is that “staying the same” means something entirely different. The truth is, nothing is ever the same. In these cities, people glide in and out of your life like sneezes. Annoyingly present one minute… only to disappear and be forgotten in another.

Then, of course, there’s the soft call of death when older relatives ask you the same question. The reminder that all your pessimism is in fact, lethal to yourself and those around you, and that is probably why you spew bullshit about never seeing the majority of your friends in a city you could call home given different circumstances. And that is why you concoct lies about the uncertainty of the future and the vagueness of our lives and experiences, because putting in the effort to go and see someone would show that you care.

And we all know that we only start showing care on our deathbeds, when our loved ones have been misplaced from our lives for far too long at that point.

I’m brand new

Mostly to London. 

It was a big move. I hadn’t realised it would be, I felt so prepared and ready to flip open a new chapter and continue existing in my own bubble. It wasn’t the hardest move, but it wasn’t the easiest. It has certainly made me feel brand new after a very long time. Everything is fascinating. Everything is too new for me to handle. I realised how numb I had become. I realised how enclosed I was within my Hong Kong bubble. I didn’t have a set schedule, it was different, constantly, but it was the same. I realised how far I had come from wearing the skin of a closed off person. My thoughts are still mostly my own, but not much else. 

Do you ever feel like your thoughts aren’t your own? It’s a constant, nagging feeling, isn’t it? I’m essentially a product of everything I read, see and hear. I could be as critical as I want, and yet I’d still be harbouring thoughts of someone else. Someone who was definitely a lot smarter. On the bright side, I’ve never felt my feminist side be more alive. More than anything, I just want people to realise how much their actions effect others, especially women. Young women – teenagers, twentysomethings. We certainly don’t make it easy for them. As a society, we just can’t be happy for women, can we? If you’re a feminist, you’re obviously crazy and your mission in life is to castrate every man alive. If you’re women, you’re obviously going to get worked up over stupid things men have decided for you since before you were born. If you write anything even remotely supportive of women or men who support feminism, you’re obviously wrong and all of the internet will let you know that through inhumane, hateful comments which you’ll never shake off, despite what you say. How dare these critical women and men write about feminism? How dare they make you reflect on yourself for a minute or two so that you realise how all this time you’ve simply not been helping. 

Have you read this article about how we can’t tell the difference between remarks from a rape criminals and men’s magazines? Have you heard of the ridiculous arguments politicians are making over the birth control debate in the USA? Birth control. REALLY? Should I even begin on abortion? Are we really going to sit here and tell women not to have abortions? We seem to have this portrayal of women who get abortions to be that they go around looking for abortion, wanting abortion. 

I was numb to the sexist remarks I’d constantly hear in Hong Kong. I simply stopped listening. They went in one ear and out the other like there were no consequences, no problems. But now I feel all brand new, which means every remarks produces a little sting in my heart. Men casually wolf whistling. Women casually telling me they need to work out because their male lover thinks they have gained weight. Conversations about how Robin Thicke is a badass but Miley Cyrus needs to shut the fuck up and go home. It’s obviously completely okay that women are constantly barely clothed on television, but we can’t get a decent look at a barely clothed man.

How many more women and men do we need speaking out against these ridiculous ideals and stereotypes before we can all just call bullshit, go home and enjoy a non-sexist night? That’s what I really would like to research. Malcolm Gladwell famous suggestion of spending ten thousand hours on perfecting a skill is certainly not applicable to this one, is it? Slowest perfection in history. 

I will end this by saying: This is going to be labeled a “feminist rant” by most who will stumble across it. But it isn’t. It’s a rant. About everyday life. Things that matter to me. Things that effect me. And so, this is a rant. Because these things bother me. Like London’s incessant rain is starting to bother me.