On Calling In vs. Calling Out, Growing Up & Being An Emerging Writer

So I have been saying this to friends: I don’t believe in public apologies.

Because I don’t. The entire ritual always feels like some kind of sham; person says something hurtful or distasteful or just morally suspect, the pitchforks come out, there is a lot of blustering and arm waving on both sides, and then the person appears with a metaphorical shaved head to show their contrition, and proceeds to announce that they are donating their chopped off hair to charity. Or announce some tangential inner pain or suffering that they have been going through. Or the apology is either so insincere or tone deaf that it just makes things worse.

So no, I will not do a theatrical performance because I have already done what I needed to do in private channels. So this is not an apology. This is just to say: I fucked up.

Ten years ago I dated a transman. Only he didn’t identify as that at that point in time, and he was what I thought was just my senior when we were studying in an all-girls school. After finding out recently that he has transitioned, I have used his gender as a punchline to a tasteless joke, and not even a funny one at that – no I don’t dare date another girl because I’m so straight they’ll change their gender after dating me. And that’s something I should have known better not to do, given my interests and access to literature. I admit that I should do so much more to read up on trans issues, and I will. Continue reading “On Calling In vs. Calling Out, Growing Up & Being An Emerging Writer”

On Calling In vs. Calling Out, Growing Up & Being An Emerging Writer

Exciting Updates

It’s been three months since my last update so I feel like I should do a new one.

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Photograph by Rai – check out her Instagram because her work is so good

My Book 

So uh. Book sales aren’t doing as well as I hoped that I would, but at the same time, I’ve received reviews from both friends as well as total strangers (who should have no incentive to lie) saying that they really really enjoyed it.

If you did like it I would really appreciate if you could share about it with friends or review it on its Goodreads page. Or buy copies to give friends. None of these being mutually exclusive options hehe.

Also, you can purchase the The Woman Who Turned Into a Vending Machine at 40% off this weekend (ends 23 September) at BooksActually’s online store! There’s also free local shipping in Singapore so yes now is the perfect time to go for it if you still have been on the fence on buying the book. Just key in the code MPP40 at the checkout. This applies to all other Math Paper Press books so yes, perfect excuse time to go wild and fill your shelves with Sing lit.

Upcoming events

I’m going to be a featured poet in October’s Spoke & Bird session! If these words mean nothing to you, Spoke & Bird is a monthly open mic session organised by the indomitable Stephanie Dogfoot which has got great poets featured each time. I’ve really enjoyed the sessions since I started attending them semi-regularly this year and I’m really excited to be part of this one, and not just on the open mic. I’ll have a 15-20 minute set, so come down on 3 October if you’re in Clarke Quay area and say hi.

I’m actually going to be at the Singapore Writer’s Festival with an actual Festival pass for the first time ever this year – when I was a student it always clashed with exam season and debate tournaments and while I would go for the SingPoWriMo I would always skip everything else, and of course I was working at the festival bookstore last year. But this year, I’ll not just be attending, but I’m also a featured writer and will be involved in some panels! Which is incredibly exciting! ! ! And yes I might have squealed a bit when I saw the emails. More details on these up soon.  Continue reading “Exciting Updates”

Exciting Updates

In Which My Mother Regrets Supporting All My Co-Curriculars And Tells Me To Stop Being A Drama Queen

If you asked me which was easier, to think that the only wrong one was myself, or to finally give a name to the worms that buried themselves in my gut, I could not give you an answer. At least when you think you are the one who has to change, you can do that, until the day you pull the bloating worms from your body and realise that you have been feeding them while they bled you inside out.

Today I block the trash before it can invade my insides. I can say rape culture. I can say gas lighting. Today I can say, fuck off. Sometimes.

I still cannot say bully. It is a word that lives in American sitcoms where people are tossed into dumpsters. It means cuts running down the length of my limbs, a therapist I cannot afford. In my head it slides away from the company of other words or silence, no matter how many hooks they are lined with. It is not people treating your sex life as the dinner’s entertainment. It is not someone telling you that it will be your fault if your ex kills himself. It is not someone telling you that the world hates you but he still is your only friend. It is not a boy saying he has to punish you because you didn’t choose him. I tell myself it cannot be bullying if I deserved it.

Over dinner I tell my mother how I had sat the boys from the high school and managed to shove the b word from my mouth. Said locker room talk. Stared them down until they couldn’t look me in the eye and mumbled an apology. I didn’t know if it was a victory because the weight of those years still would not lift even as every word fell over my tongue.

My mother said, why do you do these things. I said I was so tired of sandwich jokes. That’s what she said jokes. That I shouldn’t have to explain that a girl wasn’t a fucking goalpost.

My mother says, don’t swear at me. My mother thinks that she should have never sent me to theatre classes because now she has a drama queen for a daughter. On some days I regret it too. Wonder if it would be easier to laugh along and tell myself off for overthinking. Easier to keep saying yes to things I do not want, or to keep my tongue still, because it is so much harder to say no. Easier to think rape only ever happens when you are on your back and screaming. That the friends around you with open lips and flashing teeth were only joking.
In Which My Mother Regrets Supporting All My Co-Curriculars And Tells Me To Stop Being A Drama Queen

THIS IS ME FAILING TO WRITE A LOVE POEM

When I tell a boy “I love you”, he might say “Yeah me too”. Or “Thanks”. Or “I know”. Because I know how to pick them. Or he might just go very still, look at me and give me The Talk on how we weren’t going to work out.
When I tell a boy “I love you”, what I mean is “I would move to another country for you”. And maybe this wouldn’t have meant much ten years ago, when I was convinced that this was the most boring country in the world and I still believed the lie that freedom meant America. But now that I am no longer as young but perhaps still as stupid, this country is home. I know it, from the way I hear myself snap at people who say that there’s nothing to do here. I tell them about the art galleries, the bookstores, the live bands, the open mic nights where people pay money just to listen to a bunch of people read “poetry” on stage. And how I mean it when I say I would give up all this for him.
Maybe this is why boys are so frightened to hear me say it.
When I say “I love you” I always tell myself that I mean it as a gift because I don’t expect it to be returned.
When I say “I love you”, it means that I will take a taxi, a plane, if I know you need me. And I am the kind of person who packs for vacations two weeks in advance and hates spontaneity. It means that my tiny brain can only handle three priorities at a time and while you might not always be my top priority, it takes very little for you to get there and you will always be in that top three. It means that I will work. It means sacrifice.
It is why I very rarely say it.
A boy told me once that I needed to stop. That this definition of love wasn’t healthy. I said, okay then you tell me what it is. He said he didn’t know but he just knew that wasn’t it. And I said I don’t know any other definition. Hollywood says it is a feeling. Shoujo manga says it is wanting to see all the expressions the other person would make. I can’t feel it unless I see it, I say. The way I see the shadows under my mother’s eyes grow darker and deeper over the years. If love was just about doing the things you wanted for the other person how would you know it was real?
So I measure it in the things given up, to make someone else happy. Time. Money. Sleep. Friends. Family. A country. A life. There is a line drawn somewhere where I know it becomes unhealthy but I do not know where that is.
The next time I tell a boy that I love him, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer at the end: that it is a goddamned privilege to be loved by me. And if he doesn’t remember that, at least I will.
THIS IS ME FAILING TO WRITE A LOVE POEM