A Conversation About White Privilege and Why it Exists

The title may be misleading because I’m neither an anthropologist nor a sociologist, so I actually have no real scientific or societal basis as to why White privilege began and why it’s still in existence. I have some pretty good ideas, but not founded enough to write an entire blog post about them — this is about how it DOES exist despite what some people may say.

First off, being a minority in America is a weird thing, especially belonging to the “elite” minority group, the one white people don’t really mind all that much except when it comes to penny pinching and a lack of understanding at nail salons. Have major strides been made since the beginning of American time? Absolutely. But why is it that not that long ago (less than a century, even) that it was illegal for me to marry a white man, to own land or a home, to even vote? Why were fellow Asians (the Japanese to be specific just in case you’ve been living under a rock and literally know nothing) forced into internment camps a mere 70 some years ago? Babies born in internment camps are still very much alive, which means it wasn’t long ago enough (of course it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but it did, and nothing I can do or say will change that).

And to add to the confusion (for me and probably everyone else), I’m an international adoptee, which has garnered such comments as, “Well, you’re not a real Asian” or “So you’re basically White.” Have I said these things about myself? Totally. But there’s a difference between what a person can say about themselves and what other people can say, sorry if it bothers you and feels unjust. And I’m working on curbing comments like that anyhow so as to not add to the unfortunate race problem we have here in the old US of A. (And just as an aside, I recognize there are some major race issues in other countries, but I don’t live in those countries, probably you don’t either, and that doesn’t really affect how America acts. If it does, it most certainly shouldn’t — “Well, as long as there’s a group of people more racist, then we’re fine.”) But back to the issue at hand — I am most certainly a real Asian (my facial features prove that quite readily), and I’m not basically White since I am, last time I checked, full Asian. Also I’m not basic at all *snaps*. It would appropriate to say, under these circumstances, “Well, you’re ethnically Asian but culturally American, which is a predominately White culture even though White people can’t seem to get enough of Taco Tuesdays.”


If you’re a White person reading this, fuming and foaming at the mouth that I am declaring that White privilege exists, well … sorry, but I don’t make the rules. Does it appear that White people in America have some unearned social advantages because of the color of their skin? Absolutely. Does it mean I expect all White people to sit around feeling bad about themselves because of the color of their skin? No. That would be racist. (And just to clear things up, we all say or do racist things from time to time, and those instances do not make us Racists. They make us humans who say and do dumb crap. When a minority says to you (should you be White), “That’s kind of racist,” don’t get all up in arms about it. Accept the feedback and reevaluate what you’ve done and then probably stop that particular behavior. Recently I got into a rather heated argument with someone over Facebook (which I most certainly did NOT want, by the way — I hate Facebook arguments quite thoroughly and don’t ever go to other peoples’ pages to disagree with them, even if I feel confident I can be diplomatic about it) in regards to whether “South Pacific” is racist. First of all, it totally 100% is, and I don’t give a hoot about in what decade it was written or what the original intent was. People are unintentionally racist all the time, and that doesn’t make it any less offensive. It just makes it steeped in ignorance. Plus, things age out. Let’s all agree to retire “South Pacific” because it’s 2016 and no one should be producing it anyhow. And rather unfortunately, the White person with whom I was trying to discuss the matter did NOT take my feedback well and then downgraded my distaste for racism to mere offense. I wish a more productive conversation could have ensued from the whole thing and that the other person could have begun to understand that when two Asian people are saying, “This thing is racist against Asians,” it very well may be. For a much better explanation of the ultimately too negative connotations to the words racist and racism, plus several good ways White people can overcome their White fragility (y’all are SUPER fragile) and occasionally swallow that uncomfortable pill of being wrong, check out this post here.)

“But what about reverse discrimination? White men can’t get anything these days because of all the benefits the minorities are getting.” HAHAHAHAHAHA shut up and go away, first off. No one wants to hear about how hard it is to be a White man in America. But that does bring me to my next point about The Problem with Affirmative Action, and Why it Needs to Go Away. It’s been proven time and time again that the government probably needs to stop making sweeping generalizations about groups of people and offering handouts to those they consider less fortunate — there’s actually very little that bothers me more than White altruism (I’m looking straight at you, Brangelina).

Story time. When I was in college, one of the organizations held Affirmative Action Day in the student union, where they sold food at different costs depending upon the buyer’s ethnicity. Spoiler alert: that didn’t go over well and no one thought it was a good idea. I mean, I guess it was cool that for just some pocket change I could buy a burger (or was it candy? Too old, can’t remember), and I think at the time I took part in it just because it was so cheap (cheaper for Black students, cheapest for Native Americans, which … the offensiveness runs deep with that one, kids.) Here’s my beef with Affirmative Action: it was created by White people, for starters, and appears to be a handout to POC (people of color) because apparently we can’t achieve anything without the assistance of our White superiors. Is it reverse discrimination, however? Absolutely not. It is, unfortunately, hiring employees or accepting college students for all the wrong reasons. Accept Black students into your student body because of their GPA, their motivation, their drive, their extracurriculars — not because you have a percentage you need to fulfill to appear diverse. They’re out there, they exist, and they don’t need your help. We don’t need your help. But ultimately till that goes away, when someone says, “I want you because of the color of your skin,” that is not in any way similar to, “I do not want you because you are White.”

I don’t think the answer is abolishing the notion that race exists at all. I’ve heard that argument, and it just ultimately sounds like something a White person would say. I’m proud to be Asian, to be a little different from other people, to have unique traits that no one else can have. I think there are dozens and dozens of cultures that shouldn’t be downgraded in the name of fighting racism under the guise of “But we’re all humans.” I DO think we need to open up the conversation about White privilege, what White people can do about it, how they can take responsibility for it, how they can learn valuable lessons from POC. And I think POC need to recognize that the majority of White people are inherently good, that they have good intentions, and that there’s a lot they (and we) don’t know. When someone says something racist, don’t be rude about it. Let it be a learning experience, and if they react negatively to that feedback, don’t engage in argument. You’ve offered up knowledge, and what they do with it is up to them. I’ve been told almost my entire marriage that the key to success is good communication, and that translates VERY well to all interpersonal relationships. When you take the time to listen and understand, that’s when growth occurs. That’s how we get rid of the race problem in America.



Viral Things Become Obsolete

A friend recently reposted that old video of Beyonce dancing to The Chicken Dance Song — an incredible mashup that works well on so many levels, I could probably expound upon that for the remainder of this blog post. That video, once viral (viewed over 1 million times on YouTube alone, which doesn’t include all the clicks generated from Facebook or other social media (it’s probably been viewed a billion times on Instagram if for no other reason than videos automatically load as you’re scrolling, and then of course you have to watch that video six times in a row).

[As a completely unrelated side note: I’m watching a movie that just used the phrase “jot and tittle,” and I think we all need to use that more frequently in our everyday conversations.]

Anyhow, I got to thinking about this funny Beyonce Chicken Dance video and how I only think about it when I’ve recently viewed it or discussed it (which is usually only prompted by my viewing it). How this once very viral video became — sort of — obsolete. In fact, this could be said about nearly every viral video that’s hit social media in the last few years; I’m sure we’re not thinking about them particularly often, although our memories are jogged when they’re reposted and we’re reminded of their existence.


Image from YouTube.com

And that got me thinking about He Who Shall Not Be Named (no, not the actual one — the other one who’s running for president, whose name will never be uttered on my blog because I do not want to give him the satisfaction that I’ve assisted in his notoriety). In the past several months, I’ve seen nothing but bad press about him, and nearly every single one of my Facebook friends has uttered his name in the same breath as “is terrible” “is racist/sexist/too conservative/evil” “shouldn’t be president”, etc. And his name becomes more and more viral by the second — every single time someone mentions his name, even in passing, his notoriety soars. He’s the virus we didn’t see coming.

I’m going to go ahead and say it right now: if he does, in fact, become president, (which I do not believe is statistically possible because the assumption is that literally every voter who does not vote for, say, Rubio or Cruz will vote for him and that literally every voter who does not vote for, I’m going to say Clinton because Sanders doesn’t stand a chance after the Primaries, will vote for him as well. Because of write-ins and the Independent party, I don’t see that happening. I mean, maybe it might, but it seems highly improbable.)  well, I BLAME YOU ALL. At this point, the people who vehemently spew forth his name with the same vitriol as they do towards Hitler or other evil dictators will be entirely to blame for his rise to success. I suppose I associate myself with only others with the same level of intellect as myself (or similar), but these large factions of supporters do not exist in my world, and I imagine Super Tuesday’s wins were primarily due to his name trending so much. I mean, there’s entirely the possibility that people voted for him because they just wanted to troll us.

We’re treating this presidential election like a reality TV show. We’re watching it, with bated breath, waiting to phone in or for someone to get their rose, and we’ve forgotten the chief purpose of a presidential election is to actually elect an electable official and place him/her in a rather important office. He’s bigger than the Kardashians (which I am certain irritates Kris Jenner to no end because no one should be bigger than them). (And again, might I remind all of you who despise the Kardashians’ rise to incredible fame, that is also your fault because you were talking about them more than, say, Jersey Shore or Lindsay Lohan, just enough to help them become a household name so even our grandparents somehow know who these people are, despite their not actually doing anything significant for society.)

We love to complain. It’s a lot more fun than talking about stuff we love (for a lot of people. Certainly not my mother.) because we get to whine and say awful things and know that our friends all agree with us entirely, and it’s great because we all hate it. Being more vulnerable and having real talk moments make us uncomfortable, so we head right back into the world of E! and TMZ because it’s safe. The problem with enough people complaining about the same thing is that it almost always does NOT lead to the end result of said thing disappearing. Because, you know, we’re talking about it. It can’t disappear if it’s still relevant.

And I think we also find immense fear in negative press — heaven forbid other people say they don’t like us for whatever reason (and seriously, it’s ok if other people don’t like you — admit it, you don’t like everyone with whom you’ve come in contact either). That’s the worst thing that could ever happen, right?


The worst thing that could happen is that we leave no legacy. That at the end of the day, no one actually cares about us at all. I don’t need a lot of friends — less than 10 suits me fine — but if I hit a point in my life when no one cared for me (that would take both of my parents and my husband being dead, but let’s pretend for the time being that it wouldn’t because of course that would be awful in its own right), I’d be steeped in some pretty intense depression. We want to be loved and valued, of course, but mostly we want to be heard. We need a witness.

Of course, I could say this over and over again till my face turned blue, and it wouldn’t stop anyone from assisting in his continuous rise to becoming the most powerful man on earth (and I don’t just mean that in a presidential way — seriously, he’s consumed our lives, so he honestly IS the most powerful human I can think of right now. I can’t think of anyone else because my brain is simply filled with his name and stupid face.). I wish it would. I wish we could declare tomorrow an indefinite holiday to never speak of him again, and I assure you it wouldn’t take very long before he got cataloged away with “BEST REACTION EVER!”, “Cat Gets Caught Stealing!”, and “Johanna Channeling Arethra Franklin!” Did you know there are kids these days who have no clue who N Sync is? Didn’t even know it ever existed, that Justin Timberlake’s origins are more embarrassing than they could ever know? Imagine a world where those same kids also didn’t know about … well, you know. That guy.

I’ve posted about him twice on Facebook, both times fraught with embarrassment and shame and in one, attempting to avoid name usage so he wouldn’t know I was one of the millions who talk about him more than Jesus. It was two times too many, but in my defense, the second was about this whole issue right here.

We have, as a collective worldwide group of individuals, all of the power to make someone or something disappear. We just do (sorry, Andrew Keegan). So why aren’t we using that power yet?

The Problem with Physical > Mental

This morning, Husband’s alarm went off an hour before mine needed to, which is a curious thing since he’s still sleeping and had no reason to wake either of us up at a specific time. Bless his heart. 

First, I started stewing over how people must snow themselves into thinking their OBGYNs/hospitals are not performing abortions, and how the high cost of healthcare is probably covering overhead, so more of each patient’s money is going toward that than their tax dollars to Planned Parenthood abortions (which would be zero since federal tax dollars can’t be used for PP abortions). My assumption is they’ve never thought about it, so here I am thinking about it for them (and to recap, I firmly support Planned Parenthood). 

This led me straight to adoption (which is my preferred choice when it comes to an infant one cannot care for for whatever reason, but certainly I do not govern anyone’s choices but my own). And then to: most people want healthy, perfect babies. And then to: but not everyone — some people will adopt babies with disabilities or deformities. And then to: which is more preferable to them than adopting foster care children in their own backyard, a child for whom they do not need to wait, a child who will be less expensive. And then to: which must mean physical deformities trump behavioral problems in preferability. And then to: why?

People don’t tend to hide their fear of behavioral problems or mental disabilities. After all, look at all the anti-vaxxers who’d rather their children die from or infect others with mumps or measles all to avoid the (zero) possibility of the autism spectrum.  I could really go on all day about THIS hot button topic, but let’s not and say we did. And while most of society says, “No no — this small group of people isn’t representational of how we view things,” I fear that it may be. We’d rather our children have an outward, physical problem than an inward, mental one. 

Which brings me back to adoption. 

It’s speculation on my part, certainly, but it seems to me that’s the underlying fear of adopting local foster children. They might have mental disorders, problems with addiction, learning disabilities, or something that requires them to go to therapy and take medication. (And I’m specifically talking about individuals who are open to and willing to adopt babies or children with physical deformities here — I know most people want perfect newborns, unblemished from the world’s tragedies, particularly those of the Asian variety, who carry with them an often 7+ year long wait. What must it be like to be wanted for that long. Foster children certainly don’t know.) Years of medical tests? A lifetime of procedures? Catheters or surgeries or wheelchairs or physical scars left on their small faces? This we can handle as a family. We will come together, bolster each other up, and we will conquer the world together. 

Somehow forgetting all the while that these physical scars, these outward signs of being different, will without question lead to psychiatrists or psychologists, to speech therapists, because this child could very easily be traumatized. I am in no way saying these children should not be adopted — on the contrary, more should be because one doesn’t really risk more by adopting an imperfect child than the plausibility of giving birth to one (medical histories only go so far back I imagine, though I’m an adoptee, so mine consists of nothing). 

I’m just saying children with physical deformities or scars may be as emotionally and mentally broken as a child without them, who was, however, born to a mother with addiction or who lost his parents to the prison system or who has no other family to care for him. 

Furthermore, you may, as my parents did, adopt a healthy, seemingly perfect infant who will eventually go on to be diagnosed with a slew of mental illnesses, who takes medications that on occasion make her physically sick, who some mornings simply cannot get out of bed, not even to eat. (I don’t even have the luxury of saying, “But at least I’m physically perfect!” because I have adult-onset acne and back problems and a torn labrum in my right hip.)


What are the problems we have, as a society, with neurological and mental disorders? Why are they worse and more daunting than physical? And what can we do to fix that?

Utah, the Oversexualization of the Body, and Why I’m Wearing Booty Shorts

Theatre in Utah is weird. I mean, it’s really weird. It can be easily said that theatre worldwide is an oddity — after all, it’s a group of individuals, some introverted, some extroverted, some straight, some gay, some religious, some not, who all get together and pretend to be other people for a brief period of time and bond over it in an “I’ll braid your hair at our next sleepover if you braid mine” sort of way.

Weird stuff.

But in the heart of Mormonland, in a place where religion tends to trump all, things get kind of tricky. [Before I get too much further, for those of you who haven’t been reading this blog the past few years, I am a Mormon (not begrudgingly, I go to church when the Spirit moves me to get out of bed, which as of late has been less frequently, so maybe I need to work on that, but my testimony is otherwise intact)]. A quite liberal art gets watered down, it’s more conservative, rehearsals and performances don’t fall on Sundays because of the whole keeping of the holy Sabbath day. I’ve found the last part of that to be pretty helpful since I am, as aforementioned a sentence ago, a Mormon who keeps her Sabbath as holy as she might.

But a semi-conservative liberal art is, well … weird. And while our Sundays are holy, the desire to pay respect to songwriter and playwright words certainly is NOT (one of my biggest Utah pet peeves, if we’re going to be frank with each other — if it’s too offensive for your theatre, then don’t perform it, or better yet, find audience members who are more chill). MTI fees be damned — we’ll take the risk of being fined for breaking the law because religion. (And yes, the contradiction of this is absolutely not lost on me.) And for the record, the language they’re editing out for the sake of their audiences (who really should be more familiar with how theatre works) isn’t even particularly offensive in the first place. Except that maybe it might be to someone, somewhere. So. Laws are broken.


Backstage is even a weirder place because that’s where we have to change our clothes. And, of course, heaven forbid we actually see each others’ bodies.

Look. I understand the basic principle of modesty. I adhere to it, I trust it, I find it to be an important part of my life. In society’s terms, I am probably a real prude when it comes to modesty because of the whole conservatism of this aspect of my religion (note that I did not say the entire religion is conservative, but we are just not going to open that can of worms today or probably ever). Do I believe women should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want without risk of being assaulted? Well absolutely. But do I also believe the body is sacred and modesty is a key factor to that? Yes. My religion, however, is not for everyone, so I live life pretty judgment-free. Wear what you like, just know that I probably won’t be wearing it too.


Photo courtesy My Trendy Clothe

But — of course there is a but — there comes a point when the oversexualization of the body (and I need to say right here that I don’t believe modesty is necessarily indicative of that, but it can lead to it) goes too far. At the end of the day, our bodies are just bodies, all pretty similar, with muscle and fat and bones and organs and skin and hair that maybe grows in places we’d rather it not. There’s a reason why locker rooms/dressing rooms in gyms are wide open spaces where we’re all naked together. Because it’s kind of not a huge deal. If you need a place to change your clothes, that’s where you do it. And certainly if you were to start ogling a stranger while there, then we’d have a major problem, but if you’re a couple feet away and braless at the same time, but also not paying attention to each other, then it just is what it is.

At no point during any show have I ever needed to be fully naked in front of anyone, and it’s safe to say I would not be participating in a show that had that sort of requirement. But underwear? Hosiery? Sure. Quick changes are just that — they’re a change of costume in a quick manner because you’re short on time and need to drop trou right then and there to replace them with something else.

I’m not an exhibitionist — I like people seeing me without clothing about as much as they do, which is not very much I’M SURE, but I’m also not going to go out of my way to uncomfortably get out of one costume and into another in a brief space of time like a contortionist so no one sees my back skin. I’m going to take my costume off and put another one on like a normal person THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and I think that really doesn’t need to bother you one bit. Because it’s an inherent part of theatre, it comes with the territory, and you signed up for it in the first place. Don’t like it? Don’t do theatre anywhere else ever for the rest of your life.

In Oregon, where I grew up, people would often forego the separate men’s/women’s dressing rooms and change in the common space, or they’d leave doors open, and costume changes were a non-issue. In Utah, it is an enormous issue — the sort that I imagine most Utah actors (in particular I’m thinking the conservative Mormon crew) wish could be done away with once and for all. Why can’t we simply do an entire show in just one costume? After all it works for the Simpsons, Arthur, and Kim Possible (is that still on? Do kids still watch that? They should.)


Photo courtesy Merrick’s Art

I’m rambling now. The bottom line is, the body has been oversexualized here, and it annoys me to no end, and sometimes when I’m backstage and I need to change my costume, I’m not going to get awkward about it because I will still be wearing underwear, thus making the private parts of me still private. Also I assume none of my fellow actors are actually paying that much attention to my body because there are certainly far better things happening in the world that deserve more. I’ve been cast in shows here in Utah in which that has proven to be a problem for some people — my lack of what they consider modesty, my liberalism with my body, the fact that I don’t feel the need to hide it under a safety layer of skintight nude colored tank tops that, at the end of the day, are certainly no more modest. So I had to resign myself to, at the very least, booty shorts. Again, not really any more coverage than regular underwear, but it soothes the masses, so … whatever helps them sleep at night I guess.

God grant me the serenity

I remember the night I realized NYE was a total farce (for me at least). I’d attended my umpteenth Mormon NYE dance (yeah, that’s an actual thing, and they’re for teenagers and young single adults and single adults and they’re all as non-productive for each age group), and I hadn’t been kissed at midnight, and I probably hadn’t even been asked to dance the final slow number before midnight, which meant I was standing off to the side, awkwardly, in the dark of a Church gymnasium, watching my friends dance with charismatic young men (as per ushe), and I thought, “Why am I even doing this to myself.” So I never celebrated it again.

When you don’t really party or drink or believe the signaling of a new year is anything other than COMPLETELY ARBITRARY, New Year’s Eve almost immediately becomes a non-thing. Other people go out and celebrate it and feel like it’s significant, while you stay at home, doing what you do every night, knowing that the following morning will be exactly the same as all the mornings you’ve had your entire life, and that the only difference between 2016 and 2015 will be a new iPhone.

I don’t mean to be a fuddy-duddy or bah-humbug about the whole thing. I think most of it is that I’m a realist, and tomorrow morning will be Friday, just like last week and the week before that and the week before that. And I can feel compelled to change myself and improve starting tonight/tomorrow morning, forcing myself to resolve all my faults and set goals that will, without question, become failures before January is even finished, OR I can just decide at some random date that enough is enough and I need to make some life changes.

A friend asked me how I’ve been the other night, and I responded “self-helpy” because my life has become the poster child of self-help awareness. It is entirely coincidental that this has occurred at the tail end of one year and the beginning of another. The way it happened was that I finally found a psychologist who takes my health insurance, and the first week she was able to see me was in mid-December. And therapy is much more motivating than a new year to change oneself, if for no other reason than you and your insurance company are paying A LOT OF MONEY to make life better. To be honest, I wish all this had gone down at a completely different time of year because I hate feeling like a cliche.

There’s been this social trend — a paradigm shift, a current leading us to a certain direction — that kind of drives me crazy, and I’m trying to fight against it as much as I can. It seems that as a society we’re JUST NOW starting to realize we need to love ourselves, to accept ourselves, to not shame ourselves (or other people) for the way we live (eat, look, work, etc.), and that’s all fine and good (no, it’s great, and I realize that), but now it seems to me that it’s starting to go a little too far into the zone of NON-PRODUCTIVITY (read in an announcer’s voice. If you didn’t the first time around, go ahead and re-read that sentence.)

I get it. Self-love is easier than exercising, eating right, and being productive beyond Netflix and Facebook. It’s easier than forcing yourself to become motivated to do the things you don’t like but need to do. It’s easier than pretty much anything proactive. I can look in the mirror every day and say, “I love myself and am okay with the body shape I am, despite having gained all the weight back I worked so diligently to lose a few years ago,” and at some point I’d probably even start to believe it.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to go, I’m pretty sure. I’ve come to realize in the past couple of weeks that there’s a balance between loving the parts of yourself that you cannot change (I have OCD, which is incurable, and I am Asian*, which, even after years of plastic surgery, would still remain a fact, sorry about that, Michael Jackson) and pushing yourself to do the stuff  that will make you love yourself more fully. I CAN change the way I view my OCD, the way I sometimes may allow it to debilitate me, the way I cope with it on a daily basis.

I love myself, I do. I’m cute, I’m funny, I’m intelligent, I’m a good writer (you’re welcome), I have a fantastic sense of humor (self-deprecating though it may be at times), I’m talented, and I’m lovable. But I do not love the parts of me that have become lazy and too accepting of things I should not accept. I will never ever have to love the part of me that overeats and works out too little, resulting in weight gain. I don’t have to — it’s not my prerogative, it doesn’t make me any less loving of myself as a human. In fact, not loving that part of myself is what motivates me to change.

And change is an awesome thing.

So on this eve of a new year, I am still feeling introspective and am challenging myself to be better, do better. COINCIDENTALLY. And I think 2016 might actually be really awesome.

*I’m not actually bothered that I’m Asian. I used to be, but I’ve moved past that. It’s just a good example of something about myself I’ll literally never be able to change.

Things You Don’t Know about OCD

I mean, at this point if anyone who reads my blog doesn’t realize I suffer from mental illness, then you’re not reading hard enough. And if you’re reading this because you saw the link on my FB page and decided to give it a go, and you somehow are remarkably unfamiliar with me, then here’s the short version: I suffer from mental illness.

And somehow I’ve decided to take it on myself to be champion of the mentally infirm. For a long time, I was too scared to let people know. My closest friends had no clue, we didn’t tell my extended family, it was just that taboo thing between me, my parents, and a handful of psychiatrists and psychologists and therapists that didn’t get spoken of all that much. Except, you know, in therapy and whatever.

But even then, there was a ton I didn’t understand about it. Most of this was probably because I was young and in a pretty fierce state of denial over being crazy, but part of it was that my craziness hadn’t fully bloomed — I didn’t know what was to come. And, while I thought of myself as remarkably self-aware, I was not.

I am now. Perhaps to a fault, but give it several years, and I’ll learn from my mistakes.

And what I’ve come to learn over the decades of being nuts is that no one gets it. That’s fine — unless you suffer OCD yourself, then it’s this mystifying thing that you’re both puzzled by and potentially a little scared of (don’t worry, we are too). So here’s a crash course.

1. OCD is not the same as being compulsive
Look, I might not call you out on it when you say, “I’m a little bit OCD about …” but I assure you, I’m judging you to the fullest degree. I can’t help it because OCD is an all-in sort of thing. You don’t sit on the edge of the pool and dip your feet in and say, “I’m a little bit swimming” because you’re not. If you’ve ever said you were OCD over one particular thing, then you’re kidding yourself into thinking you have a real mental disorder that requires years of therapy and medication because that’s not how it works. If you really, really, really want to suffer OCD and don’t have it, then I’m sorry for your disappointment.

Maybe we should get a little more basic.

2. OCD is an acronym for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and does not mean compulsive, meticulous, anal, or imply that you’re a perfectionist
It’s like saying you have PTSD when really what you mean is you’re mega stressed. Eat a cookie or something and leave the disorders for those of us who are actually crazy.

3. Back to compulsivity and how it’s super common
We are all compulsive. Yep, you heard me: ALL OF US. Well, maybe not all. I’m sure there are people out there who go through life with so little care that they’re only one step above catatonic, but there’s probably something else going on under that surface (and this isn’t about that). If you like your movies in alphabetical order so you can find them easier or your underwear drawer to be organized or the papers on your desk to be in a neat pile, then that means you’re probably like 99% of the rest of humanity. We like order in our lives — it decreases stress and generally looks nice (I blame Pinterest and all those bloggers who stage their homes for photos before permeating the internet). If you like your kitchen appliances JUST SO, and your family gets on you about it, tell them to leave you alone and then keep doing you. If it makes you feel happy and better about your life/home, then their opinions do not matter.

OCD, in my opinion, has a lot more to do with the obsession than the compulsion.

4. Obsessions are time-consuming
We’re not talking “I’m obsessed with One Direction because I’m 15” here — we’re talking about pervasive thoughts. These are a bitch. Imagine someone started singing the song that never ends (you’re welcome), so it naturally gets stuck in your head and replays for several minutes. And it kind of drives you crazy, right? But eventually it gets replaced with other things, and you move on, and everything is all right. When you have OCD and subsequently suffer from pervasive thoughts, that song not only continues to replay in your mind, but it takes over your entire brain till it’s all you can focus on, and even when you think that somehow, perhaps, you have managed to filter it out, it comes back again. You feel like you’re about one step away from straight psychosis, your anxiety level has now skyrocketed, and that song is still never ending.

These pervasive thoughts can range anywhere from an annoying song to murdering your entire family in cold blood (I wish I were extrapolating here, but I’m really not). Everything in between is pretty fair game, too. They come from left field, they’re often thoughts we wouldn’t have if we were otherwise normal, and we recognize their irrationality.

5. Obsessions and compulsions are often not linked
So now we get to the compulsive side of the disorder. To quell the anxiety, we act out with compulsions. The most commonly portrayed in Hollywood are germ-based, meaning the OCD sufferer washes his/her hands a bazillion times, but that doesn’t mean all OCD sufferers are this way. (There was a point in my life when I would wash and dry my hands and then apply hand sanitizer, but that was extremely short-lived because my hands were fantastically dry and cracked, and I didn’t like it.) My compulsions, should you be interested, include but are not limited to:

  • typing things I hear (this can be physically or mentally typing — depends on how many people I’m around and how anxious I am)
  • picking my cuticles (manicures are pointless)
  • clenching my jaw (I’ve given myself TMJ, which has been probably the worst side effect of mental illness to date)
  • wiggling my eyebrows
  • waving my foot around (I have to be sitting, obviously, and I spell certain words out over and over again)
  • playing games on my iPhone (I’d like to say I’m trying to pay attention to you, but honestly I’m way more invested in lessening my anxiety)

The compulsions do not indicate what it is that I’m obsessing over — I feel no anxiety in regards to computers or typewriters, my molars are fine — in fact, for many OCD sufferers, they’re not related at all. If a person knocks on the doorframe three times before entering a room, I can pretty well assure you that person has no anxiety over the room or the door. Handwashing and germs are obviously related, but the level of anxiety the individual experiences is abnormally high, and chances are there’s something else going on as well.

6. OCD shouldn’t be self-diagnosed

I’ve had friends over the years say, “Yeah I’m pretty sure I have OCD, too.” I’m not sure if they’re trying to relate to me, which I suppose I should appreciate since they’re attempting empathy, but sympathy does just fine. And, in case you feel compelled to self-diagnose yourself, refer back to #1. My diagnosis came when I was 16 years old and had picked my cuticles till all ten fingers were bloody, after a doctor referred us to a psychiatrist, and after a VERY long day of psych evals. I’d read a little about OCD and thought, “Wow that sounds a lot like me,” but I wasn’t parading around telling people I had it.

I mean, it’s not all that glamorous.

And even if you read this and think to yourself, “Much of this seems familiar,” that still doesn’t necessarily mean you have the actual disorder. I display symptoms of ADD, but I actually only have deficiencies in attention rather than the disorder (and thank goodness because seriously four is more than enough). I share some traits with people with Asperger’s, but that doesn’t mean I’m on the autism spectrum. If you feel concerned that you or a loved one may have actual OCD, then call a doctor and schedule an appointment.

7. We’re attempting normalcy through it all

Some people end up debilitated by their OCD. It can honestly take over your entire life — especially if you have dozens of compulsions or they’re not something easily hidden away. Working is nearly impossible, school isn’t an option, relationships can be hindered. But we also really like to binge-watch Netflix (like, maybe even more than you do) and drink Coke Zero (even though our doctors tell us not to because the caffeine increases anxiety, to which I say YOLO) and cry to Adele’s hauntingly beautiful, perfect voice (Hello. It’s me.) There’s no need to treat us like damaged goods.

Next up: things you don’t know about depression (because yeah, I totally suffer from that too)

Standing with Planned Parenthood

Chances are, you’re not going to like everything I have to say in this blog post.

I may even regret posting it in the first place, but earlier I trimmed my left eyebrow hair short enough that 1/3 of it is simply not visible, so the day is already shot to hell as far as I’m concerned.

When I was a little girl, I would read through the monthly magazine published by the adoption agency through which I was adopted (Holt International) like it was Teen Beat. I loved the stories, the pictures, this inextricable connection I had to the hundreds of people whose faces appeared throughout the pages. But there was this one section that I read almost as punishment — it was the train wreck from which I couldn’t look away: “Some Children Wait.”

It took me a surprisingly long time before I realized this section was specifically about children with physical or mental disabilities or were considered high risk or, knowing this will sound callous but sometimes that’s just how life is, less desirable. When people have the option to choose their baby, they want the perfect ones. The ones with good health, perfect little faces, all ten fingers and all ten toes. I vaguely recall many of the infants and small children from this section — cleft palates, enlarged hearts, Downs, delayed motor skills — but one girl stuck out to me, this girl who has been imprinted on my heart the last couple decades.

She was sixteen years old, still waiting for a family to want her as badly as she wanted them. She had a little sister, a girl who was fourteen, and they were a package deal. But sixteen was the last year she’d be eligible for adoption; upon her seventeenth birthday, she’d officially age out, having never been adopted, a little girl moved through the Korean orphanages and foster care system till she had to move out, get a job, and support herself. I went straight to my mother with the magazine, I begged her to adopt these two girls, I cried and cried at their plight. Adopting two teenagers wasn’t an option for our family for several reasons, and the logical part of me understood that, but my heart still ached. I still wonder, from time to time, if someone else was in the position to adopt these two girls, to give them a loving home, or if she aged out, and her sister was adopted alone, sent to a foreign country with foreign people speaking a foreign language. Or if she, too, aged out when she turned seventeen, her older sister waiting for her so they could live together knowing they at least had each other.

I’m religious. I believe in God and Jesus and an afterlife and eternal families and a Holy Spirit that will comfort me whenever I stand in need of it. I believe the evil will get theirs, and I believe the humble and meek will receive innumerable blessings. I believe life is fragile, sacred, and important, and I believe that we all have been given the unmistakable right to make our own decisions. And with that knowledge, this understanding that (major consequences notwithstanding) we can do whatever we’d like in the short blip we’re on this earth, I try my damnedest to not judge lest I be not judged (and trust me, there’s plenty about which to judge me on a daily basis).

But unlike many of my Christian counterparts, I find myself wanting to fervently defend and stand with Planned Parenthood. There are several reasons for this, many of which are far too private to share on the Internet for strangers (or even friends and family) to read, experiences I keep hidden away in these small, dark boxes that I occasionally open only to close them back up again and hope they get lost in a corner to collect dust. My friends who have children know I don’t understand, that if only I had a child of my own I would have an entirely different viewpoint, and perhaps that is true; I won’t deny that because if I were a parent, literally everything about my outlook on life would be altered, but a child is not in the cards for me, so this is the outlook with which I am stuck till I die. My decision to not have a child is not based upon infertility (though it occurred to me that I may actually struggle with it without knowing since we’ve never attempted to have a child), but it is based almost entirely on health-related reasons.

I’m crazy, for starters. I take pills that lead to birth defects. I have disorders that could harm a baby in my womb. I have physical problems that could lead to nine months of bedrest and hell. I have a depression that envelops me so deeply that some days I cannot get out of bed, I forget to feed the dog, I ignore the cats, and I have what I consider to be a founded fear that my children could potentially be taken away from me because of crazy-induced neglect. Blame that on the paranoia. Even adopting a child seems too far out of my reach because superseding all the genetic malfunctions that could occur, I’d still probably have days during which I do not want to have another human in my bubble of craziness. I am not equipped to be a mother. And I’m going to tell you right now, before you start feeling too sorry for me, that I’m entirely okay with that. Some women are supposed to be mothers, some aren’t. I make up for it by rescuing all the cats and dogs.

Should I ever accidentally get pregnant, however, I would not have an abortion. I’d spend the next eighteen years and nine months in a complete panic, and I’d probably lose my mind, and my child would be extremely lucky to make it into adulthood with even an iota of normalcy, but I’d make it through, and I’d love that child because I’m not a sociopath — aka, I’m not a child hater. I have feelings. [And just as an aside, if you ever meet other people who claim to hate children, I assure you that their feelings are rooted entirely in fear, so cut them some slack.]

But. (Of course there’s a but.)

I imagine women with unsupportive families, without spouses, without good paying career-type jobs. I imagine women who are not religious, either by choice or because they’ve lived the sort of lives that almost dictate to them that a God couldn’t possibly exist, and if He does, He doesn’t have the time to consider them. And when you strip away love, support, and an end game like spending eternity with God, when you’re left alone and scared and feel like there’s honestly nowhere to turn but Planned Parenthood, well, as much as I hate to say it and you hate to read it, sometimes abortion feels like the right choice.

It’s easy to say, when you wanted your children, when you craved them, when you wake up every morning to their sweet faces, their healthy bodies, when you attend church on a weekly basis and learn about the importance and sacred qualities of families in this life and the hereafter, that women who opt for abortion are entirely in the wrong. It’s easy to throw pamphlets in their faces about how adoption is the best choice, to tell them they’d otherwise be murderers, that their souls will be condemned to hell, etc. etc. Would I have an abortion? No. Would I understand if a woman in a similar situation to mine decided to? Well, perhaps.

And I wonder if these women who have, as of late, been vilified by the conservative right-wing branch of society, who’ve been forced (along with the rest of us, thanks ever so much, social media) to look at photos of miscarried fetuses every time they open their Facebook apps (and let’s not get me started on how I feel about the gross exploitation of miscarried fetuses in the name of religious fervor to fight the good fight against abortion. It’s absolutely sick, and shame on every person who’s perpetuated that.), who are watching their Planned Parenthood get defunded city by city so they can’t get gynecological exams or preventative screenings to save their lives … I wonder if they, too, think about that sixteen year old girl in Korea who could not find a family who wanted her, and think, “There are worse things than being dead.”

I’ve heard women all over social media talk about all these babies who could have had loving homes, who would have been adopted, whose perfect, happy lives never came to fruition, and I want to scream because there are thousands and thousands of babies who become toddlers who become children who become pre-teens who become teenagers who grow into adulthood without ever being wanted in the way they hoped for.

I get it. Adoption is expensive and difficult and there are legal hurdles to jump over and it’s not like you can walk into an orphanage and say, “I’d like that one.” You can’t drive by a foster home and grab a child from the front yard and shower him with the love he deserves. I once met a woman at an adoptee get-together who shared her personal experience of being passed through the foster care system, family after family, whose first name had been changed three times like she was a rescue pet, so don’t tell me foster homes are a great option, either. The system is flawed and governments are greedy and these precious commodities that help boost their economies come at a price. And what almost everyone fails to consider is that adoption, for the child, is nothing short of a traumatic event, especially when it’s international. Does that mean it’s bad and wrong? Certainly not. Adoption quite literally saved my life, and I was raised by the parents I was always supposed to have.

I don’t say all this to be offensive, to start a fight, to make you think I believe my opinion is the only one worth having. I say it because I feel like I need to before I burst. It’s simply not our place to tell women when abortion is right (rape, incest, the mother’s life at risk) and when it is wrong (everything else). I tell people I’m pro-life and pro-choice because the two aren’t mutually exclusive; I believe every woman should have the right to decide what is best for her, but I also believe they should opt for something other than abortion, and in the same breath I believe VERY firmly that defunding Planned Parenthood is sending us back into a world where women and their bodies and their health DO. NOT. MATTER. Shutting it down won’t stop abortions, but it will absolutely increase the likelihood of extremely dangerous abortions, not to mention all the healthcare women have fought for the right to have.

As a religious adopted woman who essentially cannot have children, I’m making a stand. And I stand with Planned Parenthood.