How My Fashion Crisis Was a Metaphor for Being a Foreigner

If it were solely up to me, I would dress like this everyday:

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However, this picture was taken on Halloween, and I wouldn’t dare wear all of these pieces at the same time in Paris. Why? Everyone here wears one of three colors: black, grey, or tan. Sometimes navy blue when they’re feeling adventurous. Don’t get me wrong, Parisians are an incredibly stylish bunch. Both men and women always look very chic yet effortless- like, “Oh, this old thing that I just threw on this morning?” However, it’s as if everyone wants to match the sky, and the autumn sky here is hovered by a constant mass of grey clouds. In that sense, Parisian fashion is not particularly concerned with individual style; there is no such thing as choosing between being punk, boho, girly, preppy, minimalist, just straight up weird, etc. There is one look that both women and men share without fail, and it tends to be: a nice peacoat, a cashmere scarf, slim fit pants or, for women, a skirt with black tights, and tan, leather boots. While this look is very stylish, there is one problem: it’s not me.

At all.

I like to match the sky on a sunny day, not a cloudy day. I like to match gardens, the ocean water in Hawaii, Bordeaux wine, Jamaican flags, Indian saris! I like vibrant prints, white eyelet, dramatic earrings, head scarves, large and unique rings that I’ve received as gifts over the years, long skirts! I like clothes that express life, love, happiness, femininity, sensuality. I want to brighten the world and express my spirit through my outfits.

But how do I do that in Paris when I so desperately want to fit in?

I live in a city that generally dislikes the country from which I come; as so many loud, obnoxious, Republican, entitled American tourists who don’t speak a word of another language besides English have filled Parisian tour buses over the years, I don’t want to be viewed in that same light. I want people to mistake me for a Parisian as opposed to being “That American.” In fact, I am flattered when, from my accent whilst speaking in French with someone, he or she asks if I am British- because, thank God, he or she does not think that I’m American!

In that regard, to what extent must I abandon my identity in order to assimilate into French culture? I would like to think that I am not loud or obnoxious, I generally do not feel entitled as a traveler, I am not a Republican, and I do speak French. However, must I go as far as to dress exactly like the general French public as well?

One night, while getting ready to go to an open mic night at a café, this inner conflict reached its climax, and I had a Fashion Crisis. It took me nearly two hours of changing my clothes to realize that, ultimately, I really wanted to wear this bright turquoise tunic of mine with orange and cork wedges. I knew that it was not a Parisian look at all, but my inner self was feeling turquoise and orange and had to express itself as such. Trying on neutral colored clothes with neutral colored boots just felt wrong; I felt off; I didn’t feel like myself. At that moment, I realized that being true to myself was more important than trying to entirely blend into another culture- for there is a difference between respecting another culture and denying one’s own identity.

Therefore, I wore the turquoise tunic with the orange and cork wedges. I added black tights and a black leather jacket because it was cold outside, and I also threw on a pile of bangles that I have collected from various friends, places in the world, and Forever 21. My life felt right again.

(This article was posted originally here: http://alisabee.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/how-my-fashion-crisis-was-a-metaphor-for-being-a-foreigner/)

12 Fun Things to Do at Night Besides Drinking

Sometimes, drinking is a fun way to let loose or to celebrate something. Other times, it takes a toll on the body, mind, and soul. To give your dear self a break, I have provided you with a list of nighttime activities to do that don’t require alcohol. Furthermore, by doing these activities, you can sound like a more “interesting” person to that boy or girl whom you are trying to impress (no more, “So, what do you do for fun?” “Um, get drunk?”).

1. Go Out Dancing

This one is my fave! I love dancing. This can include dropping it low in tha club, but social dancing is also super fun and a welcome throwback to a time when dancing didn’t mean dry-humping. I love Latin dances, such as salsa, merengue, bachata, and cha cha cha, but I am also a recent convert to swing. It’s amazing how many people in, well, the world are familiar with and love these dances; I once went to a packed salsa club in Nice, France. Social dancing is, thus, a great way to always have something fun to do, learn something new, and meet new people. You could take a class, and oftentimes clubs will have a dance lesson before the social dancing begins.

2. Do Artsy Things

See a dance show, a play, an opera, the symphony! Go to a gallery or museum. If you are a student, you can see if any of the arts venues in your city offer student discounts.

3. Go to a Concert

Live music is the best. Furthermore, concerts don’t have to involve paying $100 to see Kanye or whatever; if you go to a smaller venue, you can see bands from $0-$20. You will also be in a more intimate setting, without having to watch the artist from a giant screen in your nosebleed seats. It is also really cool to familiarize yourself with and support local artists!

4. Go to an Open Mic Night

Share your inner poet or musician with the world. If that scares you, open mics are still a great way to discover and be awed by local talent as well as to have a wonderful cup of coffee.

5. Take a Class

Have you always wanted to learn how to cook? Paint? Do photography? Why not try something new?

6. Toilet Paper Someone’s House

Or light fireworks, go chalking, start a dance party in a parking lot, prank call people… release your inner (delinquent) child!

7. Have a Game Night

…without drinking games.

8. Go to a Sporting Event

Who am I kidding?

9. Make a Music Video or a Movie

This worked for my sisters, our neighbors, and me back in ’01.

10. Go to a Burlesque Show

Ooh la la!

11. Watch an Indie Movie

Go to an old-school theater that only plays one movie at a time and watch something different and interesting.

12. Take Over an In-n-Out with a Bunch of Swing Musicians and Dancers and Have a Gypsy Jam

Few things beat live, improvised music, dancing, and fries with spread.

How to Help a Friend Who is Grieving

We all want to be good friends to the people whom we care about, but one of the biggest challenges that can face a friendship is how to help someone who has lost a loved one. Death is a taboo topic to discuss in our culture, which has resulted in a lack of understanding about how to cope with it as well as a bunch of unhelpful myths. In this article I will first seek to dispel some of those myths so that you can understand more easily what your friend is going through. I then will offer some practical tips about how to help them out.

Understand that…

1. It can take a person years to feel “normal” again.

Your friend will not feel kind of better 3 months later, then even better 6 months later, then totally healed 1 year later. Or maybe they will. There is no timeline, no due date for normalcy. Furthermore, the notion that “time heals all wounds” is problematic- if they are not doing anything to address their grief, no amount of time will make it go away. It is not uncommon to see a person go to a grief support group whose loved one died ten years ago; during those ten years, they may have tried to stay as busy as possible to avoid their feelings, but eventually realized that the feelings were never just going to go away on their own. Thus, don’t expect that your friend will be “cured” by a certain date.

2. Grief is not a linear process.

Just as I stated above, your friend will not incrementally feel better; each day is not always easier than the last. For one day, one week, maybe one month, your friend might feel totally fine- and the next day, week, or month, they might feel horrible again. Grief is more of a roller coaster than a straight line, and that is normal. There is nothing wrong with your friend.

3. Grieving people are kind of like children.

They are a lot more sensitive and fragile than usual. They may forget to do things like shower or brush their teeth. They may get exhausted or sick easily. Handle them with care.

Now, here are some tangible ways to help your dear friend:

1. Cook or clean for them.

With grief, basic functioning can go out the window. This can happen immediately after the death or even months or years later when the person is on the low end of the roller coaster. So consumed by such heavy emotions, the last thing that a person has energy for is cooking a meal or taking out the trash. People often say, especially right after the death, “Let me know if I can help you in some way!” That enthusiasm is great, but sometimes the griever doesn’t know what they want or need, and delegating tasks can be stressful. Volunteering to do a chore or make a meal is immensely helpful- oftentimes more helpful than bringing flowers or writing a card (though those are, of course, always nice too).

2. Call them.

People oftentimes think that grievers need space. They don’t. Maybe they want a little alone time, but they definitely don’t want to be lonely. However, they frequently end up isolating themselves anyway. This can be due to a fear of being vulnerable in front of others, a lack of energy, or a general loss of interest in doing things that they typically enjoy, such as socializing. Whatever the reason, in their heart of hearts they do not want to be alone; your presence is probably the most comforting, helpful thing that they could have. Loneliness only compounds grief.

3. Ask them to do relaxing activities.

And by relaxing, I don’t mean going to a bar/night club/party/large group hangout. Ask them to watch a movie, get pedicures, or take a walk. Bars and night clubs are draining for obvious reasons, and parties can actually be the worst; what person in mourning wants to go to a house full of acquaintances or people whom they don’t know when the expected behavior of a party-goer is to be “fun?” Furthermore, constantly answering the questions, “Hey, what’s up? How have you been? What’s new?” to acquaintances or strangers is one of the most uncomfortable endeavors that your friend can encounter: do they lie? Do they tell the truth and kill the mood of the party? Hanging out with just you, doing something relaxing, is so much more helpful.

4. Don’t try to fix them.

Trying to make someone laugh can be very healing. However, remember that it’s okay and normal for your friend to feel sad, and trying to force them to be happy or feel better about it isn’t healthy for them. The only way that a person can get through grief is by feeling their feelings. Additionally, you might feel like you don’t know what to say or like you have to say something, so you throw out a cliché statement such as, “He/she is in a better place.” These statements tend to be more harmful than helpful; to your friend, maybe their loved one would be in a better place if they were here on Earth with them. Instead, just listen and reassure your friend that you love them.

5. Don’t peer pressure them into going back to work or school when they are not ready.

No one (in the U.S.) likes a lazy person, and we oftentimes look down upon those who don’t fill up their schedules with demanding classes and a job and an internship and clubs and extracurriculars and so on. It is a sacred value in our culture to be “so busy.” We frequently tell grievers that staying busy will, in fact, help them. However, remember how I mentioned that grievers are like children? Having too much outside stress makes coping with a death exponentially worse. Those in mourning need more balance in their lives: they need time to feel their feelings, time to relax and self-care, as well as, eventually, time for responsibilities. Additionally, staying busy to avoid one’s feelings is an unhealthy coping mechanism.

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It might be tempting to abandon your friend because you can’t handle their emotions- or you become burdened by the fact that it takes them a long time to feel better. Don’t. Make sure to take care of yourself as well, but don’t abandon your friend during their most vulnerable time. Be patient, be loving, and remember that your friend will do the same for you when you experience a loss.

Seattle Sucks

It’s a commonly understood psychological phenomenon that people who constantly brag about themselves only do so because they actually have low self-esteem; they feel the need to prove themselves in order to achieve acceptance and feel better about themselves.

Since moving to Seattle, I have lost track of how many times the locals have vehemently, if not angrily, defended their city as being the greatest ever. If Seattle really was so awesome, wouldn’t it be self-evident? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone from Los Angeles who gave me a lecture on why yearlong sunshine is wonderful- it just is. I don’t need to be told. Here are examples of conversations that I’ve had again and again with freaky-defensive Seattleites:

“It’s so goddamn cold here!”
“You’re just a California wimp. I can go outside in a T-shirt.”

“The weather is so shitty here! There’s literally no sunshine, and it rains all the time.”
“But it’s so beautiful in the summer! We get less annual rainfall than New York City!”
“What about the fact that it’s only sunny for two months out of the year, and that there is a constant sprinkle spitting in your face?”
“But it’s so beautiful in the summer! We get less annual rainfall than New York City!”

(I pull out an umbrella when it’s raining)
Scoff! Why are you using, gasp, an umbrella? You are OBVIOUSLY not from here.”
“Um, maybe because I don’t want my clothes or my face to get wet?”
“I just wear a hood like a cool person. Only stupid people use umbrellas.”
“Wearing wet clothes and having the rain smear all your makeup off sounds pretty stupid to me…”

It’s weird! Seattleites simultaneously don’t think that their climate is shitty yet constantly need to reassure others of their amazing 6-week summers. If 45 degrees, clouds, and drizzle day after day really was so great, then why the defensiveness? I just don’t think that it’s natural for humans to live in complete darkness…

Here is a list of other things that suck about Seattle:

1. There are Too Many White People.

Seattle is 69.5% white. And no, the (white) Seattleite argument of, “But there are SO many Asians here!” doesn’t totally fly. The city is 13.8% Asian; Long Beach, my hometown, is 12.9% Asian. You’re really not that special, Seattle. Furthermore, Seattle’s small Latino and black minorities are not only socially marginalized- they’re physically/literally marginalized to South Seattle.

2. There is No Taco Tuesday.

Taco Time and Chipotle do not count.

3. The Nightlife is Shitty.

In the spirit of Seattleites being too cool for things, they are also too cool to have fun. Nightclubs don’t really exist here, as dancing isn’t too popular. Rather, the preferred activity is standing around at a bar until it closes- at 1:45 A.M.

4. Dick’s Really Isn’t As Good As In-n-Out.

Not even the dick jokes can make up for it.

5. The Boys Here Kinda Suck.

Unless you like translucently pale, underweight guys with thick glasses and beards- or their counterpart, the guy who works for Amazon/Microsoft/Boeing who wears North Face jackets and running shoes even when he’s not running. Or guys who manage the feat of being a combination of the two.

6. Speaking of North Face Jackets and Running Shoes…

People seriously don’t know how to dress here. I used to work at a performing arts center, and even people who were going to see a ballet would wear jeans and rain jackets. Come on now.

But I don’t entirely blame Seattleites for their fashion ineptitude- it’s hard for me to look cute buried beneath bulky coats and layers of sweaters. What’s worse- looking like a ridiculous ski bunny or freezing my ass off?

7. Does Regular Yoga Even Exist Here?

Yeah I get it, it’s cold outside. Sometimes, doing yoga in a sauna sounds appealing. However, once one is in the middle of hot yoga class, constantly feeling like one is about to pass out really isn’t that great.

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And that is my rant. Now, some things that I like about Seattle:

1. My friends here are awesome.
2. Thai food.
3. There are good hospitals and doctors. (Random but true. Twice recently I have had doctors scoff at the treatment that I received in Long Beach).

The moral of the story is that I’m moving all my Seattle friends down to my home of California. From there, I’m moving all of us to somewhere tropical. Okay, maybe it is a little weird that I feel most natural in humid weather…