Mirror, mirror

I was not irked. I was disgusted. Still, I steeled myself to nod and smile in her direction. She mirrored my movement. No more. No less. 

She wriggled towards me and dared to sit her ass down on my right as I leafed through the document, feigning my busyness, showcasing my importance being on the filmmaking competition’s final jury panel, while she was just there for make-believe photoshoots which would be used when she presents her case later for the US immigration board.

“Get the fuck out, you shameless opportunist” A voice in my head screamed at her. The truth is, since I got myself out of the 9-to-5 system, I also opted out on bullshitting and faking. I got so rusty that I could hear the squeak in between my facial muscles. Fortunately, I was ushered to a different room since I had to share my side of air with her for some 300 seconds.

But wait, why do I detest this woman in the first place? What has she done to deserve my berating?

The first time I met her, I was dragged home from my boyfriend’s just because the woman got to LA earlier than expected and her Airbnb got canceled. 

Our mutual friend gave me her keys before she went on vacation, “She’ll contact you one or two days before she’s in town.” Instead, I got a two-hour notice at best and a total of 20+ missed calls and numerous texts. 

“Shit, I had to go back.”
“What’s the matter?” My boyfriend asked. 
“This girl and her family would have nowhere to sleep if I don’t give her the keys tonight.”

“I’m here.” Finally, I got her text. It was 12:15 am. I struggled to stay awake for someone who’s not my boyfriend, whom I hadn’t even met yet. Honoring my word to my friend, I shivered downstairs in my baseball cap (LA summer evening can be brutally cold) and handed the woman a ring of keys. 

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” She battered her lashes and thanked me in her husky voice from the long drive. Her Chinese relatives crouched in the back, all wide awake. None uttered a word of thank you in Mandarin back to me. 

Since then, the woman and I met at couple of group functions. I learned that she loves bar-hopping, which I had zero interest, or passion, or means, or time to do since I arrived in LA. Now with only weeks left, I wouldn’t start something I never started here in the first place, for the wrong reason, with a dubious person whom I still barely know…

From our mutual friend, I learned that the woman has a wealthy father who spoils his daughter with unlimited monthly allowance. Like, when his daughter crashed a brand new BMW, he rewarded her with an Audi… 

Meanwhile, I cleaned, ditched, wrapped, and packed things up, hugged and said goodbyes to dear friends I grew close to in the last three years.  Worst of all, I had to cut my heart open, bleeding it dry as I left my love behind when I left my LA life behind, just because I had no more left to persist without a legit visa. I ran out of time; I ran out of faith; I ran out of means. I had no other options but to come back home, or the Place of Birth as identified on my passport.

But I know I would go back to LA, again, by crawling, digging, diving, flying, whatever. I just don’t know when I’d be back. One thing I do know is, the day I left LA, I felt like I was attending my own funeral. My love was the only one present. I’d never seen him cry. Now, tears were brimming in his deep eyes. With TSA as our priest, we exchanged no rings or vows. But I would say yes to anything just so he’d ask. I grew up in a culture where crying was shameful, but loving him helped me unlearn that doctrine. Tears washed down on my cheeks. I was a total mess. I wore no makeup or disguise. I refused to and I didn’t give a fuck… My savage heartbeats reminded me that time was running out. Our lips touched for one last time. He nudged me away. Seconds later, the elevator lifted my soulless body up and away from him, the love of my life.

That day, I died.

Later I would I console my patched-up shell that now I know how to describe a soldier leaving his newly-wed behind for war. But if I could just stay in his embrace, I’d rather I keep typing shallow words just so I could un-wrinkle the lines in my weary heart.

But that woman, who’d spent all her life partying, could renew her visa indefinitely until probably she gets tired of the U.S. or she gets married to some American boy. Or her daddy buys her a green card…

Her mere existence enraged me. That I had to end with a screeching halt and she was handed a hall pass from birth… How unfair! The voice bellowed through the bounds of my skull. When I started teaching at her alma mater in Shanghai, a student who’s only a couple of years her junior commented that the woman is well-disliked by peers but well-liked by professors. So she’s a suck-up. A sneer creeped up at the corner of my lips. Probably she picked that up from her filthy rich daddy.

To prove my vicious self wrong, I texted the woman weeks ago asking when she would be in Shanghai. She replied ever so slowly, ever so apathetically, so unlike the cheeky gurl she advertised on social and only fuckable to the bunch she wants to please. 

I had a pair of sunglasses that I left in LA. I asked her for a favor. I asked her for her address and her date of departure. But she simply ignored my texts. It got me. I blacklisted her for good. 

It was hard enough for me not to roll my eyes out when I saw her coming towards me and sat down beside me. It was harder to act friendly. It was impossible to make chitchat. Hell no. I couldn’t. I’m not big enough. And I don’t care if her presence proved that I’m not big enough. I refused to engage. 

But Silly – it’s not about my sunglasses. It’s not about her. It’s not about anybody else. 

It’s about me, my love, my loss, my rage, my issues.

The presence of that woman is a sour reminder of my moment of impotence, my lack of fund, my naive dream…

But most of all, my love whom I had to let go because he has since moved on and asked me to grow where I’m planted. That was three four months ago. So do you get now why I couldn’t blog for two three months without getting any more personal?

Yours truly,

Chinese women + dating

When I came back to China, I thought of only one thing: how to get back to LA a’sap. For six months I rang myself in just for writing and teaching, I felt like a nun. I was a nun. Every once in a while, I missed apps like Tinder. Then I thought it must be blocked in China. Only a month ago, I found it wasn’t — much to my surprise.

So the hunting began. Sometimes I’d schedule two dates back to back. After I had seen enough men, I felt I was ready to share my findings with my single girlfriends. 

Much to my surprise, most of them weren’t taking any advantage of online dating even though all were complaining about their singleness. And most of these Western-educated financially-independent women associate Tinder with ONS (aka. One Night Stand). They didn’t have to tell me. I got the hostile vibe by studying the change in their facial expression when I mentioned I had been using Tinder and Bumble, both of which I offloaded from my phone a few weeks ago.  I think these dating apps are nice tools to discover new interesting people. That is, if you have the awareness to offload the apps once you have connected with enough candidates to be turned into potential dates. As a writer, I try to cut off unnecessary time-sucking addictive apps. Tinder and Bumble can be powerfully addictive.

And yet, you can still use the dating apps for good. It just depends on how you use it. Like many of my female friends, women tend to equate Tinder with ONS. I find the assumption too black-and-white. Truth is, if ONS happens, it means YOU let it happen. Otherwise, it’d be fucking date rape. And only if you do it and decide not to pursue any further. Hence, one NIGHT. When men and I talked about the ‘taboo’ around Tinder and ONS, their replies were unsurprisingly the same, “In the end, it’s up to the woman (to green light or not).” *Gurls, know your power.

A date even added, “I call out to all my mates’ bullshits. ‘She slept with me on our first date.’ ‘But you also slept with her on your first date. It’s NOT a one-way street, man.’ Being a man doesn’t get you the hall pass even though we live in the double standard society.” By the look on my date’s face, I felt his sincerity and I found it refreshing.  *So gurls, stop shaming yourself. Embrace your femininity. And gents, brag it when you bag a strong woman for who she is, not for how you bagged her for what you assume she is.  

Good looks is rarely enough to get me to swipe right (*But it does get me to pause. I’m only human. Can we agree on it?). The job title and education won’t be the deciding factor to a meetup. For me, a sense of humor is key. Appreciation in strong women gets a meeting. Understanding the creative process is cherry on top. 

At a friend’s insistence, I showed her a date’s photo. She stared at me in horror. “Did you somehow go blind? He’s fat, short and ugly.” I realized that the same convo must be happening when guys are discussing their female dates. Such is how we become commodities when the products are free. 

“I find him sweet, gentle and has a sense of humor.” I heard myself defending my date. My friend shook her head, “Dump him, quick. Or just don’t get serious.” Knowing that all the men that passed my screening are non-Chinese, she added, “You know, them foreigners can be fun to hang out with, but they don’t have any savings. Let alone real estate. They are not marriage material.” I did a double take at her while she continued, “I have a friend who’s seen foreigners come and go here in Shanghai. She said that their quality is decreasing over the years. Every once in a while she met someone she wants to date, then the man turns out to be out of her league…”

Wow. Wow. Wow. Zing. Zing. Zing.

I had been away from China for three years. Three years later, Chinese women still prioritize marriage-worthiness over personality compatibility even in the earliest stage of dating. When we turn ourselves into the ultimate utilitarians, what joy can we get out of life apart from pure business transactions?

Then, using my friend’s friend as an example:
Gurl, if you still don’t realize the name of the game, how will you find out what kind of people suit you — the unique you? And just how on earth would you become better at dating by strategizing sans doing?

When men ask me what I want out of this, I’d say, “I want to make new friends to have balance from my solitary writing life.  And if it leads to something, I’d be open to give it a try.” (Rule of thumb: don’t give chance to those who say they are just looking for “something casual.” Style can be casual. Human connection is for real, bruh. If men rule out that possibility from the get-go, then it’s on me if I ever try to persuade them otherwise. Just walk away. He’s not worth your time, darling.)

And here, for the majority of the Chinese single women:
Don’t wait till some White Knight checking all the boxes to begin dating.  Nobody wants to be with a salivating Pavlov’s Dog except for the sake of science.

Just be yourself. But it’s gonna be hard if you don’t know who you are yet. 

Yours truly,

And… she’s back

Hi guys,

I’m back, stronger, healthier, and more balanced.

For awhile I couldn’t see myself back. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t see the point of coming back, ever again. That voice was taking hold: You don’t matter. Nor does your voice. So shut up and piss off.

So I did. For two months.

During the period of my cock blocking my own blog, a dear friend asked when I would update again. I said I was busy. Truth is, I was. But I still found time to watch Colbert, follow the US politics shitshow, and binge HBO’s Barry and Insecure, Hulu’s PEN15 and Ramy… so what kind of lame excuse was that, right?

A few things to update here:

  1. One of the films I wrote just won Best of Fest, first of hopefully many awards during the festival season;
  2. I’ve almost finished my first ever comedy spec pilot script after tons of rewrite… I’m already nervous AF about the feedbacks.
  3. My teaching at the arts college has been going well. My students seem to like my class and I have a steady stream of followers who sit in for my class;
  4. Because of this teaching gig, I would very likely land another teaching gig for the fall semester at an institute whose values I share. Things would likely to unfold in a matter of a fortnight;
  5. I’m now collaborating with three people on three separate creative projects. It’s a lovely change for someone who used to work alone;
  6. My negotiation skills are now officially next level:
    a) I set boundaries with a bloodsucker (*see definition in the footnote) by upholding my dignity, telling him to fuck off without actually dropping the F-bomb.
    b) When a wannabe writer asked me for rewrite service, I told her my fees, which in turn shocked her the shitless. “I didn’t know screenwriting can cost this much.” My OS: Well, bitch, now you know. You don’t question the lawyer when she charges you by the hour.  Or your therapist.  Or your dentist.  Just because you vomitted 100 pages doesn’t make them un-stink… It went on like this for a bit in my own head.  I was caught off guard by my epic animosity towards this stranger who I had never met and possibly would never meet.  I took a Sorkin-esque walk-and-talk.  Then something hit me: when someone doesn’t see the value I provide, I get frustrated. My ego screams, “They don’t see what I see, and thus I don’t value what I think I’m worth.” It was all fear talking…  Sure in the end, I scared away a potential client, but I got in touch with my own psyche.
  7. I threw myself back into the dating pool. Quite a cliche move ‘cuz I felt I was in a rut with my writing projects. Now I wanted to seek validation from elsewhere. Bingo: men.  Regardless of all the debates why I should focus on my work and my work alone, my strongest inner voice fought on, “Bitch , I need to live. I need to feel like an actual natural woman. I need to feel that I’ve got game. Just fuckin’ do it already!” Without getting into too much detail, I’m pleased to report that I’m doing quite okay. I’ve learned that I’m beautiful just the way I am (Yo, Bruno Mars).   And here’s the list of key findings from my dating adventure:
    a) I’m a good listener.
    b) I’m a fun conversationalist.
    c) I’m told that I’m a pair of bossy fancy pants – which 99% of the Chinese men don’t dig but fine by me. #theirloss
    d) Could flirtation actually be my mother tongue? Hmm…
    e) Even though I’m a feminist who doesn’t wear it on her sleeves, I enjoy being pampered and seeing men pick up the tabs without making it weird or a big fucking deal.
    f) Trial and error also works in dating. Gurls and gents, don’t quit on your first unsuccessful date. Assess why it didn’t go well and charge the fuck on.
    g) More often than I’d like to admit, I sometimes have out of body experience that I would start writing scenes at an imaginary desk. Beware, #pervertwriter aboard…
    h) I’ll have to save more for later for now.

After two fucking months of blog drought, I’ll close this post with something my dear friend Barbara shared in our recent Zoom call:

Nobody else is the source of ​change​ to our destiny.  The bread actually sits right on our heads, but most of us look everywhere else just for crumbs…  Don’t ever minimize the purpose of your life.  

We get to live just once. So live it well. Make it count.

That’s it for today.  #illbebacktmr

Yours truly,

*Bloodsucker: one powerful individual who wants to pick your brains and suck your blood dry but doesn’t value or respect your time.  Let alone consider the $$$$$ it fucking entails.

*A reader of my blog reached out asking for some English writing advice. I was touched by the sincerity between the lines.  To rw: Thank you for getting in touch. You’re a Messenger sent by Higher Power who commands my presence in the blog sphere.  Thank you, dear.

A million things

To do before my departure on October 14.

Today is September 21. Already?!

People start to text me for the final meet-ups.

“We haven’t seen each other for ages” is usually the icebreaker line, the way-in for the lost connection.

“Yes, indeed.” I took the bait.

“Let’s meet for [coffee / lunch / dinner, depends on the other side’s perception of our relationship.]”

“Sure.” I’d say.

Sometimes I wonder if people would ever meet if they don’t make an effort and meet on a regular basis until something’s up. For instance, the person is leaving, like me.

Usually people just drift apart. Life happens. [Translation: You’re not my priority. Right now.]

I look at my schedule next week. The most interesting one is this: I have a dinner with my former company.

What shall I wear? What shall I say?

I’ve decided that I’m grateful for all the attention I’m showered.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who picks up the tab. Or how much is the tab. But the person makes the effort and shows up.

Come to think of it, doesn’t everyone, at any given moment, have a million of things to do, to worry?

Here is the script I’ll stick to:

Thank you for your time.

And I mean it.


Yours truly,

What’s wrong with the latest SK-II China Campaign?

Yes, it is about #LeftoverWomen. Surprise!

Yes, it went viral. Surprise!

Yes, it’s a tear jerker. Surprise!

No, I don’t understand #ChangeDestiny — the hashtag at the end of the video. All the 30-something female interviewees talked about their parents’ aspirations to see them married to good men. In tears, these career women reveal the humiliation from their overbearing relatives on their being still single at such an (appallingly old) age at the family gathering.

But back to the hashtag, who is to change their destiny? These women themselves? The country, the society? Or their up-in-the-air Superhero boyfriends too busy saving the world?

A side note to your entertainment—

In 2007, China’s Women’s Federation (中国妇联)coined the term “Leftover Women” for those highly educated, urban, professional women over twenty-seven who are still unmarried.

Yes, the Women’s Federation.

What interest me more is these women’s lifelong passions, what their typical day is like, how they become who they are now. Shockingly, the creative director gave us another tear-jerker making them the victims of social bully.

At the Nick Vujicic event last week, one thing he said that I will never forget happens to be this—

If you are not happy single, chances are that you won’t be happy married.

These single women must be quite successful doing what they do. Or why would SK-II select them for the taping? But from the campaign’s perspective, we fail to see that side, at all. I don’t know the vocations of these posh talking heads as they wipe tears away from their weepy eyes.

The end of the video lingers on the shot at the Shanghai People’s Square’s Marriage Corner. They set up installations with these women’s glamor shots captioned with touchy-feely quotes like, “I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake. I will not be happy.

SK-II China Commercial — ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’

Gosh, I cried. I pity these women. I feel sorry for myself. I miss my parents. I feel awful. I need my ice-cream.

I even composed a letter to the SK-II executives —

Dear SK-II,

You see, I had plans to buy your exquisite products. But I regret to inform you that after carefully studying your powerful video, I decide not to.

As a leftover woman, I feel guilty. You make it perfectly clear that I should let go of my pride and beg for people’s sympathy because I’m socially disabled.

Well, pride is all I had. Now I have nothing. I’d better think ahead and plan my spinster life.

As a single woman with no foreseeable love interest, I retain a sharp memory. Allow me refresh yours.

Wasn’t it Tang Wei who proudly claimed that—

“If I didn’t start using the Magic Water in my 20s, I won’t have the skin I have now.”

Wait a sec, how old is she? 40?

“The earlier you start using the Magic Water, the more profound changes you’ll notice later.”

How ‘later’ is later?

“560 RMB for a FOURTEEN-day treatment.”

Do you know the salary of an average single leftover woman? Of course you have all the stats from your CFO.

With the staggering inflation rate and unstable economy, I don’t think spending my hard-earned leftover woman money on your deluxe products is a wise investment after all. Now I am freed from putting on cream for the sake of pleasing a potential husband. Plenty options out there, like Vaseline, or any CVS lines.

Please hold your laugh till I leave. Show some dignity, will ya?

So long. SK-II. And please send my best regards to your siblings, SK-I & III.

Sincerely yours,
A leftover woman who has to watch her wallet

PS. From the storytelling point of view, having the audience pity the hero is as expensive as chicken shit, which hurts SK-II as a high-end skincare product.

Water under the Bridge

Definition: Something in the past that cannot be controlled or undone, but must be accepted, forgiven, or forgotten. 
via Wiki

Picture Credit: Luc Coiffait

What are you waiting for?
You never seem to make it through the door
And who are you hiding from?
It ain’t no life to live like you’re on the run
Have I ever asked for much?
The only thing that I want is your love

If you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently
Don’t pretend that you don’t want me
Our love ain’t water under the bridge

It’s the one song I’ve been looping lately, which sort of summarizes my shitty arse relationships.

In their own heads, the following dialogues play this way—

Guy: Uh-huh, but I ain’t gonna say it. I smell trouble.
Gal: Ye bastard, you ain’t say it, huh? I ain’t say it either. Fuck off. 
Guy: Told ye, woman. I wasn’t serious. 
Gal: Always let the lady do the DTR (Define the Relationship) Talk. Fuck you. Ye ain’t gonna trick me to do that.
Guy: Let me be utterly honest with ye, woman. I’m just having too much fun right now. Can we just keep it at that?
Gal: Ye lowlife arsehole.
Guy: Ye started it. You wrestled me. Boy were you strong. 
Gal: Ye kiddin’, eh? Comparing to ye, I’m literally a midget. Ye lying bastard. I’m glad us didn’t work.

When they finally meet, this is what actually happened —

Guy: Hey , how’s your week go?
Gal: Good.

Then either the guy or the gal comes up with an excuse and exits.

Truth is, I don’t even dig the guys that much. But in my head I want to prove something — that I’m worthy of love. If only, if only a guy falls for me. “I really like you.” Then I’ll be complete. (Sorry mate, not the Jerry Maguire ‘You complete me’ bullcrap.) I won’t be the elephant in the room. You see, I don’t even need anyone to say “I love you” (yet). It’s too heavy a word, I know. Lots of responsibilities and etc. And I know, Rome was not built in a day. But I do need to have something to start with, something to work on. Nothing, really? Nothing, again?

Let’s be clear here, I don’t want to be another love cynic to notice the torrential water under the bridge and then get cold feet to refuse crossing the bridge.

I’ll keep my faith. Because I have to.

To be, or not to be

I thought about the million possibilities of asking him out, and another million not to. Then I did — a simple text inviting him for lunch after the group rehearsal on Saturday. He simply replied, “Sure.”

What’s new? My therapist asked me the second I walked into her office.

Well, I am (sort of) seeing this new guy. Then I wanted it to stop because he said he wasn’t looking for anything serious. I told myself to stop, then I did. I moved on. But he began texting random things like how my week went etc. Well dude, I thought we were just having fun? I was not happy. I was passive aggressive. All this time he made all the initiatives.

I don’t want having-fun kinda guy in my life right now. I even give some thoughts about shaving off my hair to be so unattractive that no one would want to date me. So guys can just leave me the hell alone, save me endless trouble and headaches. And thenI can do nothing but write. How great is that!

I see your exhaustion analyzing all the possibilities. She replied. From the histories you described, I am coming to see this pattern — You never say the guy is not interested. So they are. But you always move faster than they do. When you are already up there (she made a hand gesture), they are still down here (and lower the other hand). You interpret it as “they are not interested.” What do you do then?

I deleted their contacts and moved on. I shrugged.

Does it occur to you it could be the reason why you haven’t been in serious relationships yet?

Okay. I see your point. I said.

How do you deal with friendship?

Hmm, I do have a tendency to cut off when I see things are “beyond repair.” Once I wrote a break-up letter to a girl friend who not only did not back me up but humiliated me along with the others. It was junior high. But still, it says a lot about my character.

How long does it take you to move on?

A week. Or less. I stated matter-of-factly. I do tend to get back on horse much faster than most people.

Your decisiveness is a great asset when dealing with chaos in work. But relationship is something different. It takes two to make it work. As you realize that it takes less time for you to commit and to start a relationship, it may also dawn on you that it take a bit more time for others. While they are still weighing the situation, you think they are not interested and cut them off. I want you to think about this for the following weeks before we meet again—Try to go with the flow. Try not to seek for answers too soon.

Try to balance your decisiveness with a willingness to explore possibilities.

But what if it’s just me again? I can’t invest in something that has zilch return-on-investment. I have to protect my energy and well-being. I defended.

I can’t answer that. But also know this, you plant a seed into the soil, you give it sun and water. Then you wait, for weeks maybe. Nothing is there yet on the surface. You grow impatient. Would you just pluck it out and plant something new? Give it time.

What about the guy?

Well, I’d suggest you try. Try hanging out without pressing the other to commit. Be in the moment. Enjoy his company. And decide from there.

I did. I took out my phone. Found his number in the email (already deleted it in the contact). I debated with myself for half an hour. Then finally, I sent a lunch invite. He immediately replied yes.

Simple it seems. But I wish it could be simpler.

Sometimes people do and say things that is not what their real intentions. My therapist said before our session ended.

Inhale. Exhale. Try not to overthink. I’ll try.


Yours truly,

The guy is just looking for fun. It’s an official.
You see, you can make someone lust after you, but you cannot make someone love you.
Lust is easy. Love is not. #LessonLearnt