It’s important to me that things like race and gender and sex are important to me and I feel these things so strongly now that it actually physically hurts
but I look at what’s on my plate at the moment: two interviews to transcribe and three exams for which I need to study. Numbers and fragments. Diagrams of an industry in a flux that no one quite understands. Teeth bared, then rescinded, theory without understanding. I listen to my questions and I read my notes and it’s nothing but static, white noise between the ears, and there is nothing, nothing in there, about race and gender and sex and every interaction in between, every otherness in definition. Words and thoughts that seem as genuine as the smile on my graduation portrait. I have fangs, but they’re pointed inward, and my mouth’s begun to bleed.
Between taking five classes, working three jobs, and fretting over any and every iteration of my “professional future,” I’ve managed to maintain a fairly regular diet, slept before 1 a.m. most nights, and generally kept it together this past semester. My friends are well. My sister is well. The G.S. is well. My parents aren’t disowning me yet. My grades have generally been steady and my work has been…
This is when I start to wonder, and wander, and the guilt of only partly enjoying what it is that I do clings to me, wraps itself around my limbs and begins to break me. I love going to live shows and speaking to musicians because it takes so much to do the things that maybe I wish I were doing myself, because people get extraordinarily lucky breaks but it’s built on the back of hard work that’s invisible to the outside eye but clear in the tremors of their voices when they think about how things started, or maybe I’m just hearing the earthquake in my head shaking out into what others say.
The hardest part of doing anything isn’t necessarily starting something, or ending something — it’s the drag between those two points, the fatigue that kicks in when you realize that the thing has to be fed, but it’s so easy to slide it onto the back burner when there are deadlines to be met and schedules to keep up. I lost my planner at Coachella and almost cried when I realized that I would have to recreate my appointments and assignments from scratch. HA! “I lost my planner at Coachella” — who the fuck is the person with this problem, but oh wait, it’s me.
I’m not stupid: I know I’m in an enviable position in a lot of ways because of where I am, and perhaps I should clutch my blessings to my chest and herald my achievements and my gratefulness. Thank you, thank you, thank you, this means the world to me, to peek behind the curtains of the global entertainment charade, to shake hands with ghosts and get goosebumps at their nothingness. This is everything, the razzle dazzle, the limelight turned all the way up, listening to applause that never ends and that’s never really for you.
I started seriously working in music journalism by accident — she tossed the opportunity into my hands so easily that even now I wonder if she really knew what she was doing. But even though perhaps I don’t reeeeeeally, truuuuuly belong here, I have gotten used to fighting to be there just because otherwise, no one like me would be there. I literally see that most of the pit photographers are, practically, tall (to which I concede that there is reason for that), and inexplicably, white and male — for an industry with no common code or supposed barriers to entry, there sure appears to be a silent consensus about who gets in. So I’ve gotten used to having to wait, silently but studiously, wait and watch what others do and I’ve definitely learned on the job, on this job I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been an afterthought to someone else’s day,
but what have I done with this opportunity? Something, sure, but it could be so much more, and I can feel the possibility dangling just beyond the reach of my teeth, and if I stretched just a little bit more, I could bite in,
but I can’t, or rather, I don’t, and it’s on to the next thing.
I used to hate the idea that I had to carry on me at all times my one-sided hyphenation and the biological indicators that I am not, and will never be, one of the boys. But now I try to see it as a challenge — sure, an unfair one, but one that matters deeply to me and for which I’ve geared myself as best as I can.
But there’s no real way to combat the insidious idea that my hard work will never exist independent from my social/cultural/biological identity. A white boy from Princeton builds an argument that he actually has no privilege because he’s worked hard to get where he is, and okay, that’s cool, but it’s hard to keep your cool when you remember being cat-called as you walked home from work and the streetlights were flickering and you wondered if this is how it all ended, or about that time a stranger kept trying to press his hands against your thighs and your first instinct was not to call him out but instead to pull your skirt down, or the endless stream of “Ni hao”s and “Ann-yong han-say-oh”s that have seared themselves into your lexicon as mispronunciations and mockeries.
I see bindis and headdresses and sombreros and kimonos and I used to try and ignore it all, disengage myself from the discussion about these obviously! clearly! bullshit PC concerns. Like, gosh, Asia girl’s too loud and too sensitive, isn’t she supposed to be smart, just keep quiet forever and make nice with the world as it is — even though the men next door holler and shout deep into the night and the things they say make me want to burn them down. They’re just boys being boys, so why don’t you just be a girl. Anyway, women have come so far. Let’s aim for unity, gals. Gender equality for everyone!!!
I’ve had four years to try and figure out what it is I want and where it is that I want to go and in the end, I still feel bad for wanting the things that I want, for going where I’ve been, for having opinions that make people uncomfortable and laugh with a nervous tic. “Ha ha ha, yeah that sure sucks.” No shit. I go to tag “feminism” on Tumblr and the second most popular hit is “feminazi” and it kills me that people still think that it’s us vs. them, except it actually is but in the completely opposite dynamic, and there’s so many more of us than them so why is it that the world’s tilted in their favor? I’m not asking to rip out existing power structures… but no, I am, and yeah, it’s gonna suck for some people, but it’s gonna be so much better for so many more, and shouldn’t that matter? Shouldn’t it matter that people look at me and see weakness and meekness as my natural state of being? Shouldn’t it matter that my friends can’t dress for the searing L.A. summer without getting groped and gawked at? Shouldn’t it matter that people can’t be and aren’t judged by what they can do and who they are instead of artificial and superficial standards? Don’t tell me it’s not personal when it’s literally nothing but — and on the flip side, don’t tell me that I’m being selfish??? When clearly??? This is about something greater than just me??? But of course I’d personally want to live in a world that doesn’t treat??? My identity as a handicap??? In a world that doesn’t treat anybody’s departure from the able-bodied Joe Everyman norm??? As something to overcome????????
I used to want to shut this all out but it kept swirling up, so this is where I begin to let it in. And surprise, surprise — it feels pretty fucking fantastic, but even as I wrap this up, I find myself wondering if I’ve said too much.