Archive for November, 2015

To belabor the point … on emotional labor, that is.

I was thinking as I walked home today and I had an idea – we should simply make up boardgames that traded in emotional labor as teaching tools!

It actually started out as an intent to come up with something to explain emotional labor. I originally thought that I’d just run through all the thought processes that go through my head at night “after work” but I thought that might get unwieldy. So, flowcharts. Everyone loves a flowchart, right? But if we’re doing flowcharts, why not just go ahead and design a board game? Do this, spend three points of EL, gain some peace and quiet in the house. Don’t do this, save the EL points, but toggle your strife meter higher. Choose to outsource the problem: lose money, gain temporary peace and quiet, but “underlying tension” goes up. It’d be like some unholy combination between Settlers of Catan, Arkham Horror and Power Grid.

Seriously. Any takers? Because this might need to be a thing now.

There’d be a million moving pieces, ten thousand things to track, and toggle-y things galore.

But in the meantime, a view into what goes on behind my eyes when it’s just “dinner”.

Dinner:  What is there in the fridge? What can I put together? What will ex eat? What will ex eat that can also go into a lunchbox and reheat well? What do I want to eat? How much energy do I have versus what needs to be done? What absolutely needs to be cooked or will go bad? Do I need to run out to pick up some ingredients that we have unexpectedly run short of? Have I seen our friends recently? Should I invite one or more of them over? If I do, do I have the energy to play hostess? Will we have enough food? If I cook that roast I was saving, will that be too much food? Do I have the basics of a balanced, nominally healthy meal? Veg, starch, protein? Dessert? Am I doing dessert?

If I’m inviting guests, then play the “who won’t eat what” game. K can’t eat anything spicy. Meg won’t eat anything with ground meat, including burgers. M and C loathe mushrooms. M likes fruit with his meat. I despise fruit with my meat. Thene won’t eat anything smushy like stuffing or raw cheese. Joseph won’t eat anything too weird or anything with mustard. CA is vegetarian. N is allergic to ginger. E went gluten free.

(yes, I can recite all this from memory. I defy any of the guys to do so.)

I go look in the fridge and make sure my memory isn’t faulty about what’s in there and come up with a menu to accommodate everyone eating. I start food prep.

And that’s the mental gymnastics just for what is for dinner and who is eating it. Add in cats that need to be corralled and it becomes even more painful. E is never on time. Thene will show up directly after work with C. Iddt will show up slightly later. Joseph will decide if he wants to eat or not once he gets home and looks at the dinner, no confirmation before because he won’t know until he sees the food. How to time the food so people are not starving while also making sure we wait for everyone to more or less be in place. Appetizers are key here, but not enough appetizers to put people off dinner. Then time the main course and all the cooking and prep and stuff. Anticipate who will eat how much of what and plan portions accordingly.

The whole thing is a mess of math and politics and psychology.

Then we come to clean up.

I load the dishwasher. I’m exhausted and I feel grimy from airborne oil from cooking and I just want to collapse, but the kitchen needs to be clean. I would really love it if boyfriend helped, but then the question arises: is it worth trying to “nag” him into doing it and having him be pissy or should I just do it myself?

We’ll have the following conversation:

Me: Hey, can you wash the pots and do some cleanup?

Boyfriend (while playing video games, not to make this more of a cliche than ever): Yeah, sure, later.

Me, later: Hey, pots?

BF, impatient: Yeah, sure, later

…repeat until a raging fight breaks out, or I’ll bite my tongue and leave them in the sink until I get to them.

Underlying tension goes up and it gets brought up later when I start shouting about “you don’t care about me to do shit!”:

BF: I do! I do everything you tell me to!

Me: I don’t want to have to tell you! It’s your home too and I cooked and you’re not a three year old and seriously!

BF: What more do you want from me? I do it eventually and so what if I’m pissy about being nagged and I only go after we get into a minor tiff about the number of times I’ve said “later”? The point is that it gets done, right?

Me: NO, because usually I end up doing it so I don’t get sucked into fights like this!

The emotional labor then becomes: um, is he in a good mood? Can I get him to unload the dishwasher?  If I ask and then he puts it off, can I wait, or do I really need to empty the sink a couple more times and it needs to happen now? If I ask him to unload the dishwasher and then he doesn’t do it in a timely fashion, will he be paying attention and start a fight out of guilt when I start doing it instead? Do I want him to unload the dishwasher twice, or do I want to save on the fight that will happen if I ask him to do it twice in one day instead of one?

In the end, I usually end up doing more work than my share in addition to all the mental gymnastics in trying to keep the peace.

Yes, for anyone who still doesn’t see how terrifyingly grinding this can be on a person, it’s all the small things. It’s all. the. small. things.

But this is where the quantum of solace comes in. Do you care enough for someone that their well-being hovers on the peripheries of your mind? Do you think of them and try to find ways to cherish them and make their lives better?

When I pause and am reminded of C when I see peanut butter anything desserts and think to bring him something, just to brighten his day – emotional labor.

When I try to balance what I cook so it’s healthy and there’s fiber because he’s troubled by hemorrhoids and try to make sure he has a blueberry yogurt smoothie daily – emotional labor.

When I try to arrange our social gatherings to accommodate both his need for company and his inherent cave-troll-hermity tendencies – emotional labor.

When I take care to think of his daily life and consider what might benefit him and help him as gifts – emotional labor.

Forget about roses and diamonds and even cash – this is what love looks like. Love is made up of endless small fragments of emotional labor.

And it is what the lack of love looks like.

Lack of true and abiding love is when:

- the boyfriend goes out to a party and leaves the sick girlfriend home alone with no clear plans for dinner except take-out

- the boyfriend doesn’t bother to text or call or anything about when he’s getting home and it’s already midnight

- the boyfriend never has a “oh, hey, girlfriend would love that” moment because, well, really, she might as well be furniture

And so on and so forth.

Right now? It’s not about how much you make or how tall you are or how handsome or how good in bed. It’s definitely 100% about how much fucking EL you’re willing to perform (willingly! happily!) without being prompted.



If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you’d give a younger self?

The glaring one is “go the hell to NYU instead of to the College of Wooster”, but that’s the easy answer.

I think, in the wake of everything that’s happened, I would say to a younger self, “Get thee some shoes and walk out away from the hearth of emotional labor; abort the child of love if that’s what you need to do to leave, but get thee gone and get thee gone yesterday.”

Thene linked me a MeFi thread on emotional labor and it’s just …eye-opening. All of these women talking about these men who they say are “really, truly, actually very good men, very nice husbands, very…etc”… except they’re glaringly bad at emotional labor.

Except, pray tell, what is there that binds this world except emotional labor?

I’m fucking exhausted because I’m a frail, fragile, hothouse flower and I was stressed over the TOEFL and then I took it yesterday (two hours and 40 min of almost non-stop hell) and then I came home and instead of being allowed to pass out and unwind, my aunt was in my bed.

Of course.

Every time there’s guests over and every time someone’s tired, they go and take over my room without telling me about it beforehand. Not only does that mean I can’t go into my own damn room to unwind and get away from people, but it means I need to hustle to wash my sheets and blankets and wait for them to air dry (no dryer) before I can go to sleep.

Yes, I do need to wash everything fully. Know why? Because I sleep naked and my immune system hates me and I get UTIs at the drop of a hat, so bedding down in stuff that’s been wallowed in by someone who isn’t clean is a terrible idea. Yes, I can sleep not-naked, but why would I when I don’t sleep well when constricted in clothing?

So I ended up sleeping at 2am yesterday when I was too wiped out to even read at around 5pm and so fatigued I wanted to throw up around 2pm.

That’s emotional labor too. Biting your tongue when you really want to dance a jig of rage and question just what is so magical about your bed that everyone must needs wallow in it. Oh, and discussing it is out of the question or even joking about it because god forbid that you ever make someone even vaguely uncomfortable — even when that fucking means that every. single. fucking. time someone comes over, someone plops down on my bed and means I need to do the fucking laundry.

And more emotional labor today, the delicate dance of feelings and whether or not a woman’s feelings really matter without a man to stand behind them.

I’m going to visit the US for about 4 months in 2016. I asked my prior housemates, three guys, one of whom is my ex, if I could crash at their place sometimes because it would be more convenient for me to visit with friends and hang out than if I were stuck 45 min out from the city without a car.

Ex hemmed and hawwed because he didn’t think his current squeeze would like it.

I pointed out that I’d heard tell that he didn’t even spend most of his weekends at home but with her, but to no avail.

I was very much reminded of the other Dear Jane letter I got before, the other instance in which my fucking opinion was never solicited. No one cares, of course, that I have no interest in hooking my ex back. No one cares, of course, to champion me either, because I am a woman without a man and gods know that a woman’s feelings don’t matter except if she has someone to fight for them for her.

I even offered to sign a waiver where I wouldn’t fuck him, suck him, and would promise that my pussy wouldn’t accidentally fall onto his cock. No dice. Oh well.

The other housemates, also my friends, seem disinterested in rocking the boat for my sake.

Which, you know, in lines of more emotional labor, I wouldn’t agitate for them to do so. I no longer live there, or even in the US for that matter, so I suppose it’s only a mere matter of courtesy, supposed friendship, and rules of hospitality that stands in their way of doing the wrong thing. Not like those paltry things would matter to men though, most likely because they aren’t used to the whole emotional labor bullshit.

I would like to submit for the record that it isn’t that I want my mind read and I get angry when people don’t – I often only expect people to act as common decency and courtesy would indicate. Too bad that people all too often fall down on that job.

So. No emotional labor for me in that arena anymore.

If Iddt doesn’t care enough to agitate for me, then he can deal with seeing me at my convenience. I won’t have a car, so it’s very much going to be dependent on my energy and willingness to deal with the shitty commuter rail system.

If the ex is going to go ahead with this “my GF won’t like it” stuff, then I’m not just going to delete his name from my gchat list, I’m going to block it. I don’t have time to play at friendship anymore. Either you’re in or you’re out.

By the way? If you’re in a fucking relationship with someone who’s crazy possessive, I would just like to let you know that isn’t love. Love is wanting a full life for your beloved, is support and warmth and caring and nurturing growth. To shut something down just because of your own insecurities and take something away from your supposed beloved is the completely antithesis of love. “They’re so jealous, they must really love me” is bullshit that should have been dumped onto the compost pile way back in high school and no one should put up with it.

But in general, no unreciprocated emotional labor any more, period. I actually don’t care if this renders me into more of a raging bitch than before — I’m sick and tired of being shat upon just because I’m female and I don’t have a male who cares enough to stand up for me and I resent the fact that it’s even necessary.

No, I would not like to hear for the ten millionth time about how you hate your work. If what you have to say is just like all the hundreds of things that you’ve said before, then save it. If you simply must, then I really must insist that you treat me to dinner and a drink first. I’ll need the fortifying.

No, I would not like to hear about your endless dating woes and offer hugs and unheeded advice and so forth. If you’re single, there’s a fucking reason for it (yes, same goes for me) and let’s all fucking move on, shall we? Or, you can buy me three stiff drinks and we can sob together into our whiskey.

No, I do not want to hear you wax on and on and on and on about this thing that only you’re interested in. I do not give a shit. And I really can’t give a shit. And actually, I still wouldn’t give a shit if you gave me a drink but I might be willing to sit through it.

Are we seeing a trend here? This is no subtle hint, people.

If I took all the time, money, and energy I expended toward making people happy, smoothing things over, doing all the ten million and one things a woman does to build community and goodwill, I would be much richer and much more content now.

If I’d taken all the time I spent cooking and cleaning and hand-holding and put it toward a goal of my choosing, I would have mastered it ten times over by now.

Fuck the emotional labor. Fuck it.

If there is any single piece of advice that I think would make a huge difference in my life, most likely even greater than the NYU flub, it would be this.

Just fuck it.

The sheer amount of resources that I’ve poured into midwifing a relationship, a community, and in the end I have ludicrously little to show for it.

Mmm. I have the frenemy E. Thene, in moderation and with much rope. The most dubious Iddt. An ex who is coming perilously close to making me regret everything I ever shared of myself. A “best friend” and “platonic life partner” who dumped me the moment I refused to keep throwing out my back to keep her emotional shit contained. Countless others who have drifted drifted drifted because they didn’t care enough and I didn’t keep a firmer hold. Oh wait, yeah, because I didn’t do sufficient emotional labor to keep connected. You know, those people who don’t give a fuck or don’t even know that I moved toTaiwan/ broke up a domestic partnership of ten years.

(this is an astonishingly fuck-laden post)

I’m done. Done done done done done and the Pope of Nope says fuck yeah to burning it all to the ground.

What you want and what I want

…is to be seen.

shadowscapes kings 1


I drew the King of Wands today as my daily card. Fitting, really, because I’d just been talking to my mother about husbands and so such and I like the KoW best out of all the kings.

Golden. Charismatic. Warm. Fearless and all encompassing. Creative, with a flair for life.

Thene prefers the King of Cups and said that she knew one. “A kid who knew what he was doing.”

I consider him. Wise. Patient. A listener. Calm arbiter of justice and mercy. Quiet.

Her husband, M, has many of those qualities, in fact.

We both don’t like the King of Pentacles as much. I wonder how much of that is our experience with a man as the sole source of bounty? Thene comments, “I guess I am just not that interested in what the King of Pentacles is selling. Personally.”

I think him both too inflexible and sweet, too single-minded.

I like the King of Swords fine. “Be wise, be just, do what needs must and crush some skulls if necessary”, but then again, I’ve always identified with the Queen of Swords myself.

Even as I would prefer to be the Queen of Wands.

I like the QoS, but I fear that she can just as easily be an obstacle to happiness as for. Thene: “I have never got the impression that the queen of swords perceives happiness as a reasonable or even attainable goal. she is Not About That.”

I don’t know as I agree. I just think that the QoS’s idea of happiness might be a bit cold for most. Perfect justice. Perfect logic. Perfect black and white. Perfect knowledge.

I think that’s why I like the KoW, myself. The QoS needs the KoW to draw her into the sunshine and have fun. The KoC might just sink into mutual angst-fury with the QoS if they’re not careful.




Mommy issues – or, who doesn’t have ‘em?

I’m not going to kill myself, because if I did, that would mean hate and apathy win and I’ve never been a gracious loser.

I nearly had a complete mental breakdown a couple of years back when I realized just how much trauma I’d been carrying around without realizing.

Somehow, I didn’t realize it until something  I said to the therapist triggered in my own ears and I realized I was sounding completely insane.

“It was a punishment. I deserved it.”

But I didn’t.

I didn’t deserve to be punished for who I was. I didn’t deserve to be whipped with a bamboo cane until I had to go to school with knee high socks in the tropical summer heat because I had bruises all over my legs. I didn’t deserve to be told that the reason I was being ripped away from the only world I knew was because I was disobedient. I didn’t deserve to be told over and over that I wasn’t the ideal child, that I should remake myself so I was more like my sweeter, demure, obedient cousin. I didn’t deserve to be dragged out of the car and left behind on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t deserve to have my mother feign death on me. I didn’t deserve to have my grandmother tell me that she’d never forgive me if I made my mother sick from anger and die (and that I was doing it just by existing as me). I didn’t deserve to be slapped in the face as a two year old just for fretting. I didn’t deserve to be told that the reason I’d been taken out of the good school and put in a terrible one for rejects was because I didn’t have good enough grades when the truth was that we couldn’t afford it anymore. I didn’t deserve to be told that if I got less than a B in any course in college I would get yanked out and brought back to China when I explicitly said that I’d throw myself off a building if I had to stay in China for college. I didn’t deserve to be told not to smile because it made my cheeks puff up more and therefore looked fatter. I didn’t deserve to be told not to laugh because I didn’t laugh in a suitable fashion.

I didn’t deserve lots of things, but I’ve been taught over and over that I did. That I do deserve it when people disappoint and hurt me. That being hurt means I was being entitled, that nothing is guaranteed and nothing on this earth is truly yours.

Be grateful that you aren’t suffering more. Be grateful that we’re just negligent and slightly emotionally abusive rather than physically abusive drunks who try to sell your virginity. Be grateful for the things you do have and don’t mention what you don’t.

Lately the refrain is that I should just get over things. Get over my aversion to people. Get over my inability to be flexible. Get over my anxiety. Get over the hyper-sensitivity that makes me ill when people are upset around me. Get over my sadness. Get over all of the broken things in my life.

Thene said something, and I realized that the reason I’m like a radar endlessly trying to pick up unhappy vibes is because I had no security as a child.

My mother was capricious in how she doled out punishments. I likened her to a volcano when I was eight, citing the fact that she would just blow up out of nowhere and something that was perfectly all right two days ago would suddenly be the reason for an all out screaming scold. She would come home, vibing strangely, and then deliberately go and open my room door so she could have a good excuse to scream at me. Other days, she’d just put up with my room and its messiness.

My father is shit at communicating. He simply doesn’t convey disapproval or upset. He just gets quieter and quieter and then does things like suddenly storming into your room and smashing the CD player that he bought for you into pieces because the fact that your room is a perpetual mess must mean that you don’t care about your things and he’s therefore justified in breaking them right in front of you. This when you always thought that your mom was the crazy one about tidiness.

So essentially they broke me. And now they complain that I’m broken, that I can’t help but be on edge, that I can’t help but always be looking for danger, always knowing that I’m not enough, always aware that I could be sacrificed upon the altar of their lives without a second thought.

So maybe I don’t have avoidant personality disorder. Yes, Thene and I totally had a looong “discussion” about this. Maybe I don’t have it, but if I did… If I did, it would likely be because of my parents.

Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
Self-imposed social isolation
Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
Feelings of inadequacy
Severe low self-esteem 
Mistrust of others
Emotional distancing related to intimacy
Highly self-conscious
Self-critical about their problems relating to others
Problems in occupational functioning
Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
Feeling inferior to others
In some extreme cases, agoraphobia
Uses fantasy as a form of escapism to interrupt painful thoughts

Maybe I don’t have a disorder, but I do have issues. And how.

I’m not sure what to do with this.

I’m living with my parents right now because I have no other choice. Odd how being nearly bedridden half the time can fuck with your options. I don’t know how to insulate myself when being inattentive might mean that I could draw their ire on me. I don’t know how to shield when being less than completely compliant/agreeable might mean another huge eruption.

And I’ve lost almost all the buffers I’ve ever had. I can’t eat my feelings because I need to lose weight. Drowning myself in reading is harder with no income. I can’t escape home because this is where I live now. I can’t hide behind my friends because the only person I really trust is half a globe away and I’ve misplaced everyone else along the way.

I don’t know what to do. I can only remind myself that this is my life and I can’t let anyone other than myself win.

In further news of life’s not fair

Also known as “no one ever asks me what I want”.

I was fourteen, maybe fifteen.

Sophia was my best friend. She was pretty, popular, slender (but with tits), and she liked me. She was also just this side of worldly and cynical without being mean about it. At least not ever overtly that I can remember. She treated me a bit like a younger sister, perhaps a bit like a pet, and that was all okay because I adored her. Not the least because I’d never gotten along with other girls. I didn’t really understand them and they didn’t like me.

I was heartbroken when I was pulled out of Shanghai American School, in part because of her. She was my only friend and I’d lost her to time and space and money and all those realities.

I had another best friend, Phil, but he was a guy and there were some things that he didn’t get. Sorry, Phil. But I wasn’t about to talk to you about period pains and accidentally getting blood on my white pants or being heckled because the maxi pad I was using was visible through the too-tight/too-white/too-something pants.

So when SAS had a fair, I pleaded with my mom to let me go. The school was about an hour’s drive away from my home and I’d have to take a taxi there and I had to plead with my mom to pick me up after, but it was completely worth it to see my friends again.

When I arrived, Sophia wasn’t there yet, but Phil was. We hung out, rough-housed, talked smack, got physically violent — and ended up with me chasing him around trying to dump ice water on him.

Cue Sophia’s arrival. And she was livid. Absolutely livid. She was upset with Phil and she was furious at me for “flirting”.

The day ended poorly, with Sophia running off in anger the moment she arrived and her boyfriend Phil chasing after her to make things right and my standing alone, completely bewildered at what had just happened and sick to my stomach.

I never wanted Phil. I had never even thought of wanting Phil. I would never have come between Sophia and Phil for the world.

But it didn’t matter what I wanted. I lost two friendships that day, but I never factored into any of it.

Just as it doesn’t matter now what I want.

If someone had asked me; if someone had cared; I would have told them this:

  • I’m not a home-wrecker. I don’t wreck homes. It’s not in my nature and it’s not what I do.
  • I’m not interested. I’m also not interested in a relationship right now completely asides from not being interested in this friend that way. I need friends way more than I need another romantic experience. The latter which I need like I need a knife to the gut.
  • I don’t go for married men.
  • I don’t go for men who are nearly twenty years older than I am. I don’t even read May-December romances and I read freaking alien sex.
  • I don’t go for men who are literally halfway across the globe from me. Believe me, if I’m putting forth everything necessary to sustain a relationship, I better be getting real, physical cock out of the deal.
  • I’m almost weirdly affectionate to people I like. It doesn’t mean I want to fuck the person in question.
  • I have no TMI filter. This means that it often seems like I’m trying to create emotional intimacy when I’m not. Not in the romantic fashion anyway.

But it doesn’t matter.

And this is why I actually really loathe reading best-friends-to-lovers books and why I’ll hate them even more now. It doesn’t matter if there is or isn’t the possibility of sexy love there – the chances of a male-female friendship surviving a marriage is almost nil. So why not just go for it? It doesn’t make any sense to delay. Might as well go out with an explosion rather than wondering what if.

And no. That was not an admission of interest. That was a “well, you’re probably going to be fucked anyway if you’re het and you have a friend of the opposite gender so you might as well enjoy being fucked before you’re reamed up the ass”.

Cue Fifty Shades of Roza, she of “you can’t talk to this chick and ask her how her day is going and how she’s feeling because that’s emotional intimacy that should be reserved only for the girlfriend” beliefs.

And cue another blog post about friendships, love, what you would or wouldn’t do for those you love and how unfair and unsustainable our current paradigm of marriage is, but that’s all for another day.

Farewell, Wolfe, it was nice knowing you and I wish you nothing but the best. You’re a good man, and don’t let anyone tell you different.