on childhood bereavement

another toast - samglorious - on childhood bereavement - grief - succulents - adidas

Two weeks ago, I wrote (and later deleted) a disjointed blog post about re-grieving, and how my eldest uncle’s death set off an emotional breakdown that spiraled out of control to a degree that I haven’t experienced since my paternal grandfather died.

I learned of my paternal grandfather’s death at the doctor’s office, during my first visit with a non-pediatrician physician, at the end of my freshman year of college. I remember being unreasonably nervous about the appointment, to the point where I couldn’t make eye contact with the doctor, a youngish white woman with a ponytail. It didn’t help that she seemed both annoyed and skeptical when I told her I wasn’t sexually active, like she thought I was either lying or a total loser. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to give an answer she found acceptable.

My mom was with me, and when I was asked about my family’s medical history, I was surprised to hear my mom tell the doctor that my paternal grandfather was deceased. I panicked and wondered when he’d died and why I hadn’t known, given that I’d seen him the month before, but I didn’t have much of an immediate outward reaction. (I later found out my mom had refrained from telling me until then because it happened during my finals week, and she didn’t want it to interfere with my studies.)

When my mom left the room so the doctor could repeat her questions about my sex life and drug and alcohol use, I was also asked to repeat the details about my father’s death, for reasons I still don’t really understand. My mom had already mentioned that he died in a non-alcohol-related car accident, and when I tried to repeat this fact, I burst into tears and cried for so long that the doctor left to deal with the next patient without completing the rest of the standard checkup procedures, but not before telling me that “this isn’t normal” and “don’t you see there’s something wrong with you” and “you shouldn’t be crying like this anymore” over something that “happened such a long time ago.”

Unfortunately, I believed her.

For a long while, I’d been at peace with the thought that I would always be carrying a piece of darkness inside me. It was painful and very, very heavy, but over time, I’d gotten tired of trying to rip it out of me and had learned to live with it.

But that visit to the doctor’s office convinced me that once again, I wasn’t grieving “correctly,” because I hadn’t gotten over my father’s death yet.

After my dad died when I was seven, my mom put me in grief counseling with a woman whose name I think was Laurie. I remember feeling very, very annoyed during our sessions, and whenever Laurie asked how I was feeling, I would point to the face on the chart that said “bored” until she gave up and handed me crayons and paper for me to draw on. Her questions always made me feel like I wasn’t grieving adequately, like I wasn’t being sad enough. She once asked how my Christmas was, and I told her it was fun because I got to see my cousins, and she asked something like “But weren’t you sad that your dad wasn’t there to celebrate with you?” and I felt guilty, because I hadn’t thought of him once over the holidays, so I said that I was sad, even though I hadn’t been.

I’ve spent my entire life suspecting that something in me was fundamentally broken as a result of experiencing childhood bereavement, that I was damaged in some irreversible way because my father died when I was too young to be able to handle the intensity of my grief.

Two weeks ago, I (somehow for the first time in my life) decided to spend my Saturday night looking up books and research papers on the effects of bereavement on children’s development.

What I found felt personally damning and yet also incredibly relieving, because it confirms what I’ve thought all along: There is something specific about losing a caretaker during childhood that is different from any other relationship and any other period in your life.

I guess it might be alarming for a child to express virtually no sadness at the death of their parent, but it turns out my behavior was absolutely normal, just as it was and is absolutely normal – textbook, even – for someone who experienced childhood bereavement to repeatedly re-experience their grief with new perspectives as they mature and develop deeper emotional capacities.

Some choice quotes from Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care (1984), which I wish I could shove into that idiot doctor’s face for telling me something was not normal about still having tears to spare, over a decade after my father died (emphasis my own):

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lately (05.16.19)

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

panda express fortune cookie - your zest for life is unparalleled

lmao

Hello, friends.

I’m writing this while curled up on the living room couch with tissues shoved up my nose like nostril tampons. I’m slowly filling a Panda Express takeout bag with snotty tissues, my voice is shot, and my cough is inexplicably both wet and dry. I’ve somehow caught a cold again, which isn’t very sexy of me.

This is going to be another very K-pop filled post, so buckle up.

Since my last life update, I’ve been…

 

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lately (04.09.19)

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

It surprised me to write this, but here is the truth:

In the words of BTS… I’m feeling just fine (fine fine).

In the depths of depression, it never feels like I’m going to return to any kind of sustainable equilibrium. It feels impossible, and pointless to try at all.

But here I am.

Sure, I’m still eyebrows-deep in my obsession with EXO (now with other K-Pop artists in the mix, as well), but this particular fixation’s purpose in my life has evolved. Instead of being pure escapism, a survival mechanism to keep myself from fixating on the futility of existence – instead of being a way to induce positive emotions in my broken brain, it’s now just… soothing, and sometimes exciting. A nice thing to look forward to. Some brain candy to reward myself.

It’s good. It’s sustainable.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately, in the form of an extremely (ᴇxᴛʀᴇᴍᴇʟʏ) long blog post:

 

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lately (12.11.18)

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

OKAY, PALS!!! Let’s set the scene.

I’m… crouched(?) on the floor of my bedroom (kind of in catloaf form but with sphinx arms; it’s very cute and sexy of me) blasting a playlist of EXO’s slow songs with my Frostbeard Rainy Day Reads candle burning atop my dresser.

The main development since my last life update is that I’ve gone whole-ass into K-Pop fandom, specifically the EXO fandom. I am now an EXO-L/Eri. (You can witness my thirsty descent over on Tumblr, assuming I haven’t been banned for reblogging this screencap of Sehun and Chanyeol from the “We Young” music video, which was flagged, possibly because Sehun is wearing a suit that’s too close to his skintone. 🙄)

I’ve casually enjoyed K-Pop since high school, and I started getting into specific K-Pop groups around 2013 (namely SHINee and EXO, to the extent that I learned the members’ names and picked out specific songs (and faces) I liked), but it wasn’t until recently that I became obsessed.

It started when I was scrolling through this post by Tracy at fanserviced-b and decided to watch the “Love Me Right” music video. Incredibly, I’d already seen and enjoyed the “Call Me Baby” MV, which was released just 2 months prior to “Love Me Right” and which is also a visual stunner and a big ol’ bop, and I’d seen and reblogged “Love Me Right” pics and GIFs (#sad defeated asian boys in athletic wear), but somehow I never actually watched the music video itself.

And then I did.

And it was just… shot after shot after shot of practically everything I find aesthetically pleasing on men. Tailored suits! Above-the-knee shorts! T-shirts tucked into tight jeans! Exposed legs and ankles! Men in pink! Suspenders! Floppy hair! Beautiful faces in ugly glasses! Sports uniforms feat. shoulder pads! Dirt smeared on their faces!

It was overwhelming. It was like the first time I watched the “Growl” MV and lost my goddamn mind over SO many dancing boys looking like hooligans in dress code-violating school uniforms. (Please keep in mind I first watched this five years ago, when I was five years younger. I was and still am younger than EXO’s oldest member.)

The difference was that this time, when I lost my mind over an EXO music video, it was mere days before their comeback single, “Tempo”, was released, which was simply too much good content for my small decrepit body to handle in such swift succession.

“Tempo” involves leather jackets, ripped skinny jeans, military-inspired jackets, decorative chains, and Kai in a DISTRESSED CROPPED SWEATER, SUSPENDERS, AND LEATHER SKINNIES, and yet! It was a mere ten seconds of Baekhyun in an unbearably smoldery smoky eye singing and dancing (from 3:08 – 3:18, see the clipped video below) that BROKE ME!!!

So now I’m here, awaiting packages from AliExpress, for an unlicensed cropped EXO hoodie with cat ears, and Snapfish, for 25 glossy 4×6 photos made from HQ images I found online of Baekhyun, Sehun, Chanyeol, and Kai.

(For the record, I was briefly interested in BTS in 2015 when they were mostly still going by Bangtan Boys, but while I like their music and dancing from an artistic perspective (not to mention this A+ cover of the Biebz’s “Mistletoe” c/o @keisha_pl), I’ve always preferred EXO’s musical aesthetic, which leans more pop/R&B. I also prefer their vocal line (here’s a cover of the Biebz’s “Boyfriend” by D.O., who may just have the smoothest voice in current K-Pop) as well as their faces (I am deeply biased for many reasons, but the biggest one is that Baekhyun has really pretty hands and looks absolutely unreal in makeup), but both groups have their charms. For example, BTS has a stronger rap line (EXO’s is solid and has good technique like pretty much all artists under SM Entertainment, but BTS’s rap line is really good) and is waaay more “knowable” in terms of social media and general media presence, thanks to Big Hit’s marketing. Anyway, they’re both great, but EXO came into my life first.)

But slipping down a fandom hole isn’t the only thing I’ve done lately. Since my last life update, I…

  • had various nose and throat problems for about a month and a half. I legit only started being able to breathe through my nose again around Thanksgiving. The smoke from the Camp Fire certainly didn’t help, but my boyfriend had surprised me with a Coway air purifier a week or two prior, since I’m allergic to the cat with whom we live, and it’s helped a lot. Now I’m just dealing with what seems like neverending post-nasal drip.
  • read some books and fanfiction that I will detail in a follow-up post
  • watched some movies and television that I will detail in a follow-up post
  • cooked some new things. Sometimes I enjoy cooking, but mostly I just cook out of necessity. Weeknights are especially tiring (or at least they were when I was working 9 to 5 with an hour-long commute each way), so I’m always curious what other people cook during the workweek. I’m aware of meal prepping as a concept, but throw in food allergies, specific nutritional diets, and a bit of environmentalism, and the appetizing options narrow significantly. Anyway, here’s some of the stuff I’ve made recently:

crispy oven baked honey garlic tofu (i am a food blog) - roast eggplant with yogurt and tomato relish (smitten kitchen) - crispy fried eggs (smitten kitchen) - spicy vegan jackfruit tacos (minimalist baker)

Left to right, top to bottom:

Crispy oven-baked honey garlic tofu, using this recipe from I am a Food Blog. I tried making this like 5 times in a row and I’ve decided that medium-firm tofu works best, as long as you press out almost all of the moisture. I also foolishly used aluminum foil instead of parchment paper at first, which just made the tofu stick to the pan. IMO, this is a really tasty way to make tofu, but it takes a while to cook, and it gets chewy unless you eat it right away. (Did I overdo it on the green onion? The answer is no.)

Roasted eggplant with yogurt and tomato relish, using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve only eaten this with rice, not the suggested couscous, but the flavors are strong (and delicious!!!), so it’s a good idea to serve this with a plain starch. This is hella good, but it involves a lot of cutting.

Crispy fried eggs, using this recipe/guide from Smitten Kitchen. I don’t know how you can make this without a splatter guard, because it’s VERY dramatic, but these are fantastic over fried rice or with chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Barbecue jackfruit taco filling, using this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I made this exactly once, and it took SO long to prepare the jackfruit that I will never do it again. Does it looks arrestingly similar to meat and have an appealing texture and tangy flavor? Yes. Is it worth the ridiculous amount of time it takes to deseed and cut/shred the canned jackfruit? No. Plus, jackfruit isn’t a good source of protein, so while I’ll gladly eat jackfruit tacos at a restaurant, I don’t think it’s worth having to prepare both the jackfruit and a protein (e.g. beans) for a nutritious vegetarian meal.

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Rachael from Blade Runner: Replicant Halloween Costume

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

blade runner 1982 rachael replicant sean young halloween costume - anothertoast - samglorious - 1940s victory rolls black skirt suit

Left photo of Sean Young as Rachael the replicant in Blade Runner (1982) from Pret-a-Reporter

Last October, I decided 11 days before Halloween that I wanted to dress as Rachael, the android/replicant and love interest played by Sean Young in Blade Runner (1982), for the office costume contest at work. I was trying to be hip and topical, given the release of Blade Runner 2049 earlier in the month. It took a lot of last-minute scrambling to assemble a reasonably convincing outfit, but I’m pretty proud of the end result.

As was the case when I was putting together a Halloween costume for Mathilda, as played by Natalie Portman in Léon: The Professional, I had trouble finding good, accessible resources for how to put together a Rachael costume, so I decided to write a blog post about it, so that you, too, can dress like a sexy sad robot.

Three notes in advance:

  1. Rachael has a few looks in the film, but the most recognizable one is from her introduction scene with Deckard, where she takes the Voight-Kampff test to determine if she’s a replicant or a human. This guide tackles the costume from that scene.
  2. Screencaps are from movie-screencaps.com. Polaroids are originally from Sean Young’s personal website, reposted to this Weebly site, and discovered through Dangerous Minds. All other reference images are captioned and link to their sources.
  3. This is NOT a cosplay guide. This is a Halloween costume guide for enthusiastic amateurs.

Here’s what you’ll need to dress as Rachael the replicant, as played by Sean Young in Blade Runner (1982):

blade runner rachael halloween costume - sean young replicant - hair makeup props skirt suit jacket lipstick guide - anothertoast - samglorious

»» — — — ¤ — — — ««

Halloween Costume Cheat Sheet:

RACHAEL, THE REPLICANT

FROM BLADE RUNNER

»» — — — ¤ — — — ««

CLOTHING:

  • black blazer with exaggerated shoulders and nipped waist
  • black below-the-knee pencil skirt
  • black closed-toe pumps
  • black snakeskin-textured craft felt, fabric glue

HAIR & MAKEUP:

  • long black/dark brown hair OR long black/dark brown wig that can be styled, OR a black/dark brown wig with pre-styled bumper bangs and victory rolls (it probably won’t look quite right unless you DIY the styling, though)
  • hairspray, hair rat (or hair donut and minor sewing skills), lots and lots of bobby pins (skip all of these if using a pre-styled wig)
  • true red nail polish
  • black eyeliner that can be smudged
  • matte or satin-finish eyeshadow (dark gray, mid-gray, & light gray), eyeshadow brushes
  • false eyelashes, eyelash glue
  • dark eyebrow pencil/powder, dark brow gel
  • matte or satin-finish red blush, blush brush
  • silver- or gold-toned highlighter
  • true red lipstick, true red or clear lip gloss

PROPS & ACCESSORIES:

  • cigarette (optional)
  • feathered brown horned owl (optional)

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Here’s the look from the movie we’re trying to recreate:

blade runner - rachael replicant sean young - costume 1940s suit - movie screencap

blade runner - rachael replicant sean young - costume 1940s suit - movie screencap

Here they are zoomed in a bit:

blade runner - rachael replicant sean young - costume 1940s suit - movie screencap

blade runner - rachael replicant sean young - costume 1940s suit - movie screencap

Essentially, we’re going for a 1940s-inspired silhouette with 1940s-inspired hair and makeup, but with 1980s contour and Brooke Shields eyebrows.

Let’s start with Rachael’s clothing.

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book, movie, and fic reviews (10.11.18)

As promised, this post is dedicated to books, movies, and fanfiction I’ve consumed recently (and not so recently). I’ve got 23 books, 16 movies, and 6 fics in this post, so I’ve put most of it under a cut. Let’s get started.

BOOKS I READ

chaotic good - whitney gardner - princess academy - shannon hale - daughters of the dragon - william andrews - anothertoast book reviews

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner (Amazon | Goodreads) –  I was kind of disappointed the main character turned out to be cis and straight considering how important crossdressing is to the plot, but this book does a good job of exploring sexism and gatekeeping in fandom and geek culture, cyberbullying, costume design and construction, and the magic of Dungeons & Dragons. Also the illustrations are used really well.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Amazon | Goodreads) – This is a middle grade book that’s cute, fun, low-key feminist, and a little bit magical.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews (Amazon | Goodreads) – This is a good book that was really hard to read and which I never want to read again. It’s about the Korean “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery and repeatedly raped by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. The Japanese government refused to acknowledge it happened at all until 1993 and continues to downplay this horrific part of Japan’s history.

beauty queens - libba bray - the secret history - donna tartt - rich people problems - kevin kwan - anothertoast book reviews

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Amazon | Goodreads) – A bit heavy-handed and clumsily written, but the premise is so damn good: Lord of the Flies but the plane that crashes is carrying beauty pageant contestants.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Amazon | Goodreads) – This was my first Donna Tartt book and my GOD it did not disappoint. I loved the prose, especially the physical descriptions of people and the environment. Francis “Asparagus is in season” Abernathy is a precious gemstone, and I was so into this book that I read it between sets while crushed in the pit at a Dua Lipa concert.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (Amazon | Goodreads) The 3rd and final installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. Trashy, entertaining fun.

room - emma donoghue - ship it - britta lundin - the raven king - maggie stiefvater - anothertoast book reviews

Room by Emma Donoghue (Amazon | Goodreads) – Honestly this was kind of excruciating to read because it’s written from a 5-year-old’s point of view, but once you get used to it, WHAT A STORY! It is about abduction and abuse but also hope and resilience and adaptability.

Ship It by Britta Lundin (Amazon | Goodreads) – I loved this book. I love that the main character is afraid of and confused by her own queerness, I love that she falls for someone who is so sure of her own queerness that she doesn’t leave room for those who are questioning, I love that there’s a bi character who’s not 100% sure about her sexuality despite being comfortable with herself, and I love that the main character gets called out for not caring about minority representation that doesn’t directly affect herself. A+

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Amazon | Goodreads) – I was loath to read this because I wanted The Raven Cycle series to go on forever, but I was in such a bad headspace re: work that I gave myself permission to escape to Cabeswater. It was super effective, and as soon as I finished reading, I immediately started looking for fic because I love all of my nightmare children so much!!!

the gentlemans guide to vice and virtue - mackenzi lee - sophia of silicon valley - anna yen - circe - madeline miller - anothertoast book reviews

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Amazon | Goodreads) – This book really needs a trigger warning for physical abuse and period racism, but if you love gay-ass Victorians, sass, and character development, you’ll have a good time with this one.

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (Amazon | Goodreads) – Amusing, but disappointingly blasé about sexism and racism in the tech industry. This book was based off the author’s own work experiences in 1990s Silicon Valley, but I feel very strongly that if a book about the tech industry published in 2018 mentions sexist and racist behavior, it should also call it what it is: a systemic problem.

Circe by Madeline Miller (Amazon | Goodreads) – I decided to read this because I loved The Song of Achilles so fucking much, and it did not disappoint. Madeline Miller’s prose has this sort of timeless cadence that works particularly well in the context of Greek mythology, and it’s so beautiful it makes me want to both weep and swoon. This story is about Circe and WITCHCRAFT and POWERFUL WOMEN and (thirsty Spongebob voice) YOU. NEEEED IT!!!

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this is progress.

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

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a pictorial dumpling recipe

Henlo, friends.

I’m writing this post with my feet propped up on a chair at the dining room table while I wait for the Chinese herbal tea simmering in the kitchen to reach its full potency. My runny nose and I are working our way through a box of tissues, the cat is using the living room as her personal racetrack while she yells continuously (a Big Mood™), and my partner is perched on the Korean War-era military footlocker trunk we use as a coffee table, playing Grand Theft Auto V.

Last week I was in New York City for only the second time in my life, tagging along on my boyfriend’s business trip. It was equal parts enthralling and exhausting to wander around Manhattan by myself, and by the fourth day, I was completely wiped out, partially because I’d spent the entire day prior wandering the Met until my soul was replenished and my feet were blistered, but mostly because my partner was working normal business hours, and it was damn tiring to be out and about and always watching my own stuff, my own drinks, my own back, always aware of how much time was left until sunset when I should stop being visibly alone in public. I admire women who travel solo. I don’t know how they do it.

But even though I spent the latter half of the trip Netflix-and-despairing in our hotel room (mainlining Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and short circuiting over the steaming pile of shit that is Brett Kavanaugh), I loved NYC in a way I haven’t ever loved anywhere but San Francisco – in a way that made me feel like I’d enjoy living there.

anal street - canal street subway - new york city mta

(insert “nyc i’m in you” joke)

(wow that was an unintended triple(?) entendre)

Granted, I haven’t traveled all that much, so there are probably plenty of diverse cities with solid public transportation systems that I’d enjoy spending my prime childbearing years in. London seems promising, for one.

But I don’t think I’d ever actually go through with it, not for anything less than the death of the people I love most and a disgustingly lucrative job. I am far too comfortable and too content and too scared to leave San Francisco any time soon.

And beyond the thicket of fear that is the prospect of uprooting my life here, of moving far enough away from my mom and my family and friends that the number of times I can expect to see them before they or I die dwindles from the hundreds into the dozens, is the insidious thought that I wouldn’t be able to survive in New York City unless I were working a high-paying tech job.

Then again, I don’t think I can survive in San Francisco unless I’m working a high-paying tech job either.

It’s too black and white to be true, the idea that I have to either have a tech job or die. (After all, why not both?)

But it feels true. I know it’s just a story I tell myself out of habit, and I’m working on finding a new angle, but it’s like every time I try to look at it directly, it goes blurry around the edges and I can’t hold it in my mind.

Every few days (or hours), I regret quitting my six-figure tech job, but I’m trying to remind myself how unequivocally awful it was to work at my previous company. Reading the wall of one-star reviews (including my own) on their Glassdoor page helps. So does repeating the words of men I’ve worked with – words like “I’m sorry” and “As I’ve heard more of the stuff that you had to deal with, I’m more and more surprised you stayed as long as you did.”

I can’t yet see a way forward that doesn’t involve either forcing myself into another tech job, or dying. I’m trying to remind myself that my emotions make sense. That my response was a reasonable one, and that if I don’t or can’t work in tech again, I’ll still be okay, somehow. That it’s possible I’ll recover my original enthusiasm for web development, given enough time and room to breathe. And that until then, my most important task is trying to not feel guilty or useless or like a waste of space. Or a human leech. Or a liability.

I’m trying, and sometimes it doesn’t work particularly well. (Especially not lately. It feels immorally self-indulgent to be contemplating my career when this country is hurtling back into the 1800s and this planet is hurtling toward total catastrophe.)

So to help myself, here’s a partial list of things I’ve done over the past month-ish that have made me feel like a productive human:

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