Day 2 – On Fitting In and Female Flesh

So the segment on The Good Immigrant closed BBC Breakfast this morning and Riz’s essay in the Guardian blew up on social media. What a beautifully written piece.

I have been wondering about how much to say, reveal, write down, half-written. I am not a blogger who edits what I write very much. But when I do write something for posterity, it’s edited within an inch of its life.

It was strange to see my face on TV in a non-acting capacity, although I did talk about performing myself. Half a sentence out of context was also tricky for me, but ultimately, Nikesh said everything perfectly, and Salena has such brilliant energy and the point is, I hope it starts people buying, reading, talking, etc. It got some meanies tweeting mean things for sure.

I sounded like such a foreigner, haha. Well, I guess I am. Or really, not many people sound “English” anyway. I was listening out for foreign sounds in someone’s accent this evening. I compared my accent to his English one. I heard a woman, Welsh? Scottish? mask her accent with some sort of RP that I couldn’t work out where she was from when she spoke publicly, but in private she relaxed and revealed more of her self.

I went to a talk on China, global politics and r’ship to Brexit Britain. It was presented by by Prof. Rana Mitter. Thoughts/notes from that, in no particular order:

Apparently it’s super difficult to get news on China onto BBC News because economic news isn’t sexy.

The language he used to describe international feeling was along the lines of trust (lack of it) and how the international set reckon that China “doesn’t get it”.

He proposed that there is no big Chinese plan, but instead, improvised tactics in a certain direction e.g. domination (his word) of the Asia Pacific region.

OBOR. One Belt One Road. The creation of a new Silk Road, has begun. From Hamburg to Australia. This is quite a big thing, no? A swathe across the globe. Apparently it follows preexisting Russian-led routes so that’s tricky. But the thing about giant routes is that it leads the movement of information and people as well as products.

The number of Christians and Muslims in China combined is now higher than number of Buddhists and Taoists. I mean, if one says one is a Christian, one doesn’t necessarily discard all Buddhist teaching – this way of layering religions isn’t unusual across the world. But it’s interesting.

There was a good question about economic imperialism/colonisation e.g. China in “Africa”. Interesting response in terms of swooping in on business opportunities combined with wooing voters for pro-China leaders.

So I’m thinking about the difference between talking about “China” and using the phrase “the Chinese”. I’m uncomfortable with the latter.*

So I sat there, in a Chinese space – the venue was the China Exchange – in Chinatown, knowing it was the mid-Autumn festival outdoors, mooncakes were being sold, and a Chinese waitress this evening would explain Chinese tea to me, mistakenly thinking I was not Chinese.

I was woken up too early. I felt shame too early this morning. I tweeted: “I hate the shame I feel when I think people assume the white guy near me is my white husband/keeper.” I hate that I judge my flesh – am I pretty or sexy enough to be a kept woman? Why would a white or otherwise man want me enough to “keep me” ala a mail order bride? But I feel the assessment anyway – if I am with a white man, I MUST be his. The I get cross with my white man friend and uppity about whether I think he’s handsome or hip enough to be associated with me. And then I am furious with myself and the cycle of self-destruction turns. The thing that sticks is the feeling of shame.

This happened to me this evening, too. A comment from a white woman trying to be charming:”Oh where have you been keeping her?” she said to my pal, as though I am some sort of pet. As though we didn’t all know that we all went to a posh uni together and maybe we MIGHT JUST BE liberal and educated enough to believe in gender equality. Or that maybe a man and woman together might just be friends. (But this is a woman who reminded me of me, and was therefore not the most grounded or sensible.)

Fitting in and not fitting in. What does belonging mean? What alliances or tribes make sense? How do my friendships live in this landscape? Do I need to shift my parameters? People before the art, to paraphrase Philippe Gaulier. I have to agree. And not all of what I do is art so why risk the people?

A film I worked on didn’t invite me to the screening. I mean, dudes. Use your resources – your cast, your crew, the people who WANT the film to do well – to promote the film. That’s the business sense perspective anyway.

It’s a beautiful evening. The air is cool. I am telling this to you and not my lover. This morning’s excitement, the flutter of it all, what happens next? I am not all the yellow people in this country. East Asian – what is that? Someone said, “People who look Chinese.” What does that mean? I am not the yellow people of this country but I do feel invisible and silenced still. Strangled, gargling noises are squashed out of me.

Why don’t I want to write the “beautiful”, more accessible narratives people want to read? Because it’s not my story. Or is it? Am I resisting – what could it be? I could squeeze that into a green bottle, air-lock it. Let that sit on a windowsill as legacy.I could present myself as that kind of beauty.

Frances spoke of adapting, flowing, “like water” in order to survive. Right now, survival is a key step, but really, I want more than that. I want shimmering beauty. Life.**


If energy is finite, where does creativity go when it doesn’t manifest in material? What is that thing that art makes you feel, that transforms you for a bit or longer? Does your soul change shape? Does something grow? Where does love, if misplaced, misattached, go? I feel it either flies free or ranges inside the body. Like inspiration (cf Liz Gilbert), racing spirits call and wing their way. I feel poisoned. There’s a thorn that needs to work itself out of flesh. I do not like the way I notice female flesh at the moment.

**From an interview with Frances Ya Chu Cowhig which resonates with me (text made bold by me):

RA: You’ve spoken about how most of your plays are centered on trauma and recovery, a theme that certainly rings true for this play. Why has it become central to your work?

FC: I have spent a lot of my adult life living in California, which I view as ground zero of American New Age Cosmology—which in a way can be understood as the ultimate immigrant religion and an attempt to free oneself of intergenerational trauma. I’ve witnessed some pretty extreme versions of these rituals on a commune in the mountains of northern California, and am just so interested in all the ways we try to save, cleanse, reboot and renew ourselves in order to start over. This, coupled with the decade of my life spent in East Asia, and seeing how trauma is dealt with on a national and personal level has always fascinated me. These attempts can differ based on things like class, age and race. And then, intimately, whenever I personally experience grief or depression as the result of some trauma, I always find myself thinking, ‘Okay, what should I do? How am I going to save myself and escape these terrible feelings?’ I find the theme of trauma and recovery so fascinating because I have witnessed, in very intimate ways, how those tensions resonate and ripple at a personal, familial, national and international level in manners that are so complex, and often bizarre, that they are very visual and inherently theatrical.


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