Body Ritual Among the Nacirema Tribe

[ By Sir Horatio Galbraith ]

Nacirema culture spends a considerable portion of the days in ritual activity.  The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people.  While such a concern is certainly not unusual, its ceremonial aspects and associated philosophy are unique.

The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease.  Incarnated in such a body, man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony.  Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose.

While each family has at least one such shrine, the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies but are private and secret.  The rites are normally only discussed with children and then only during the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries.  I was able, however, to establish sufficient rapport with the natives to examine these shrines and to have the rituals described to me.

The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest.  In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live.  These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners.  The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts.  However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language.  This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalist who, for another gift, provides the required charm.

The charm is not disposed of after it has served its purpose but is placed in the charm–box of the household shrine.  As these magical materials are specific for certain ills, and the real or imagined maladies of the people are many, the charm–box is usually overflowing.  The magical packets are so numerous that people forget what their purposes were and fear to use them again.  We can only assume that the idea in retaining all the old magical materials is that their presence in the charm–box, before which the body rituals are conducted, will in some way protect the worshipper.

In the hierarchy of magical practitioners, and below the medicine men in prestige, are specialists whose designation is best translated “holy–mouth–men.”  The Nacirema have an almost pathological horror of and fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships.  Were it not for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers reject them.

In addition to the private mouth–rite, people seek out a holy–mouth–man once or twice a year.  These practitioners have an impressive set ofparaphernalia, consisting of a variety of augers, awls, probes, and prods.  The use of these objects in the exorcism of the evils of the mouth involves almost unbelievable ritual torture of the client.  The holy–mouth–man opens the clients mouth and, using the above mentioned tools, enlarges any holes which decay may have created in the teeth.  Magical materials are put into these holes.  If there are no naturally occurring holes in the teeth, large sections of one or more teeth are gouged out so that the supernatural substance can be applied.  In the client’s view, the purpose of these ministrations is to arrest decay and to draw friends.  The extremely sacred  and traditional character of the rite is evident in the fact that the natives return to the holy–mouth–men year after year, despite the fact that their teeth continue to decay.

It is to be hoped that, when a thorough study of the Nacirema is made, there will be careful inquiry into the personality structure of these people.  One has but to watch the gleam in the eye of a holy–mouth–man, as he jabs an awl into an exposed nerve, to suspect that a certain amount of sadism is involved.  If this can be established, a very interesting pattern emerges, for most of the population shows definite masochistic tendencies.  It was to these that Professor Linton referred in discussing a distinctive part of the daily body ritual which is performed only by men.  This part of the rite involves scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument.  Special women’s rites are performed only four times during each lunar month, but what they lack in frequency is made up in barbarity.  As part of this ceremony, women bake their heads in small ovens for about an hour.  The theoretically interesting point is that what seems to be a preponderantly masochistic people have developed sadistic specialists.

The medicine men have an imposing temple, or latipso, in every community of any size.  The more elaborate ceremonies required to treat very sick patients can only be performed at this temple.  The supplicant entering the temple is first stripped of all his or her clothes.  In every–day life the Nacirema avoids exposure of his body and its natural functions.  Bathing and excretory acts are performed only in secrecy where they are ritualized as part of the body–rites.  Psychological shock results from the fact that body secrecy is suddenly lost upon entry into the latipso.  A man, whose own wife have never seen him in an excretory act, suddenly finds himself naked while he performs his natural functions into a sacred vessel.  This sort of ceremonial treatment is necessitated by the fact that the excreta are used by a diviner to ascertain the course and nature of the client’s sickness.  Female clients, on the other hand, find their naked bodies are subjected to the scrutiny, manipulation and prodding of the medicine men.

In conclusion, mention must be made of certain practices which have their base in native esthetics but which depend upon the pervasive aversion to the natural body and its functions. There are ritual fasts to make fat people thin and ceremonial feasts to make thin people fat.  Still other rites are used to make women’s breasts larger if they are small, and smaller if they are large.  General dissatisfaction with breast shape is symbolized in the fact that the ideal form is virtually outside the range of human variation.  A few women afflicted with almost inhuman hypermamary development are so idolized that they make a handsome living by simply permitting the natives to stare at them for a fee.

Reference has already been made to the fact that excretory functions are ritualized, routinized, and relegated to secrecy.  Natural reproductive functions are similarly distorted. Intercourse is taboo as a topic and scheduled as an act.  Efforts are made to avoid pregnancy by the use of magical materials or by limiting intercourse to certain phases of the moon. Conception is actually very infrequent.  When pregnant, women dress so as to hide their condition.  Parturition takes place in secret, without friends or relatives to assist, and majority of women do not nurse their infants.

Our review of the ritual life of the Nacirema has certainly shown them to be a magic–ridden people.  It is hard to understand how they have managed to exist so long under the burdens which they have imposed upon themselves.

 

PS. Spell Nacirema backwards. Ahaaaaaa !

More on this subject later –

I just wanted to share this, it really made me think.

 

http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/gerstg/Naciremapg3.htm

Health Services, My Ass

I hate having student insurance. I hate the FIT health clinic. I despise it with a fiery passion. I hate that I have to go to the health services to get a referral before seeking professional medical advice/help (because they don’t actually give you much of it). I hate waiting over an hour to be seen by a nurse who usually doesn’t know JACK SHIT. It’s probably this, it’s probably that, hmm I don’t know, it’s probably nothing.

Every time I go in there, I come out anywhere from semi to fully frustrated or enraged (mostly enraged). I go in with chest pains, they tell me to take Advil. I go in with stomach pains, they tell me to take Pepto. The stomach pains continued over the span of a month, and I went back every week, feeling worse. Each time, they didn’t have ANYTHING helpful to tell me, until I finally snapped and demanded that they write me a referral to see a REAL doctor. Every time I go in, it’s someone different. Every time I go in, I have to answer the same stupid questions and explain myself over and over and over and over. Can’t you just look at my fucking chart? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? It’s a thick ass chart; god knows I’ve been there enough times. The damn clinic. It’s so impersonal. It’s so useless.

Other times, they try to prescribe me something without even being sure of what I have. When I had chest pains, this lady just poked around my chest and said it’s probably a muscle thing, and tried to prescribe me some kind of muscle relaxer. I told her, no, it’s not a muscle thing. It’s internal. It feels deeper than the muscle. Well… is it hurting right now? Umm, no. Well… you should come back when it’s actually hurting. Ummmm, NO, because the clinic hours and the waiting time are absurd and it usually hurts at nighttime. Well… you should call an ambulance if it hurts that badly. NO, lady, I don’t want to wait until I’m in that much pain to figure out why I’ve been in pain all this time. What the fucking fuck?

Oh, and they always try to get me on the pill. They talk like they care about whether or not I get knocked up, but really they just want my money. It’s really cheap, they say, trying to sell me on it. NO, and I said NO more than a few times, saying that I’m a big smoker and that’s not the best idea. They say there’s no proof of smoking + taking the pill being harmful to women under the age of 35. So fucking what? If it’s harmful for women ages 35 and up to smoke and take the pill at the same time, there’s a good chance that it’s harmful for teens, even if there aren’t any studies to actually prove it. Shouldn’t you know this better than I? Shouldn’t my health be your top priority, nurse practitioner, not your profit margins? QUIT. FUCKING. PESTERING. ME.

The FIT health services completely lost my trust when they practically poisoned my roommate back in freshman year. She went in because she had the flu. They gave her medicine. A few days later, she was rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance. They had mistakenly given her Vertigo medicine. (Vertigo: a neurological symptom of a disorder involving the vestibular system – the structures of the inner ear, the vestibular nerve, brain stem, and the cerebellum). She had the fucking FLU! How does that happen? I still can’t believe she didn’t sue the shit out of the school for that. I would have.

One of these days, I’m really going to lose it and end up causing a scene at the clinic. But then again I really hope I don’t. I’ll probably end up on a blacklist or something and won’t ever receive any kind of care again (even shoddy care that I’ve been getting). Well, I got my flu shot today. At least they didn’t fuck that up… I hope 😉

Cops and Dicks

My boyfriend goes to Rutgers University in New Jersey. Naturally, I go visit him once in a while. He comes into the city 90% of the time, because, well, it’s the city. And I don’t live in a dorm. However, I do genuinely enjoy going out there. I feel like it’s the closest I’ll get to having a “real college experience.” First thing I realized was how friendly everyone was. Like I mentioned in my previous post, FIT isn’t the friendliest place. And the campuses are GINORMOUS. God knows there’s enough room for them in Joisey.

Another thing I love about the campus is the cafeteria. It is also huge. The buffet is amazing compared to the shitty little food court that FIT calls a cafeteria. I love that I don’t have to feel self-conscious walking around looking like a hobo (sweats and hoodie). At FIT, girls go to class in 9-inch heels looking like they’re walking down the fucking runway. Why? I don’t know. They like looking good. Sometimes feel like I have to force myself to get dressed up just to go to class.

As much as I like to hate on FIT, I like living in the city. I could never survive out there. I love my 24/7 existence. I could never give it up. Plus, college towns have their big drawbacks. Getting into bars without a proper fake ID? Forget it. There are dicky campus cops who’re just out to catch people drinking and doing other illicit activities.

Speaking of cops, I had my first “real” encounter with them a few weeks ago. We were all drinking in my boyfriend’s dorm room, drinking beers and tequila shots. I passed out early. I was woken up at around 4 in the morning by the bright light and two cops standing in the doorway. What a rude fucking awakening. I looked around the room, and my boyfriend was nowhere around. His roommate was also waking up in his bed, looking as confused as I was. What’s going on? Where’s my boyfriend? I asked, rubbing my eyes. Your boyfriend’s at the hospital, one of them said. I instantly snapped awake. What?! Is he okay? They didn’t answer. They asked us questions about how old we were and how much we’ve had to drink (the room was trashed with beer and liquor bottles). When they realized we were underage, they lectured us on how we’re not supposed to do drink, blah blah fucking blah. No shit, Sherlock. We showed them our IDs, and they took our information. I just wanted to know if my boyfriend was okay. They left without telling us what had happened to him.

My boyfriend had left his phone and wallet in the room. Until noon the next day, I had no idea what happened to him. I asked around all over the place, trying to find out what the deal was. Nobody seemed to know. I knew it couldn’t have been alcohol poisoning. There wasn’t even enough alcohol in the room to cause alcohol poisoning – I know his tolerance very well. I was just hoping he didn’t get in a fight or seriously hurt himself somehow. He finally called from the hospital phone and told me that he was on his way home and that he’ll explain everything once he got back.

When he told me what happened, I was shocked. He was downstairs having a cigarette, clearly intoxicated, sure, but minding his own business. An ambulance arrived for someone else (probably for alcohol poisoning), and they took him as well. Okay, correction – forced him. They MADE him get into the ambulance even though he didn’t want to and clearly expressed that he didn’t want to. As far as I know, it is not a crime to be intoxicated, especially if you’re of age (he’s 21). He said they treated him like shit, not listening to him just because he was drunk. He caused a ruckus, fighting the EMTs off. At the hospital, he wasn’t even treated for anything. They cuffed him to the bed because he was being “belligerent.” He wouldn’t have been fucking belligerent if they hadn’t forced him to get in the ambulance in the first place. What a fucking joke. I cringe thinking about waking up cuffed to a hospital bed, feeling completely powerless. The next morning, he refused to sign the papers that would ultimately charge him for the ambulance fee. Smart move. Those bastards don’t deserve a cent.

This really made me think. I’ve heard and read (and seen on TV) plenty of cases where intoxicated people were treated like shit just for being drunk. Accounts of police brutality. Accounts of unjust treatment. Just because statements made by someone who was drunk don’t hold up in court. Well, you were drunk at the time. We can’t trust anything you say, even if you’re sober now. You’ve lost your credibility. Is this really what we’ve come to? Come on. What is it with this country and alcohol? Honestly. So fucking retarded.

Queens and Bitches

Someone I vaguely knew from Shanghai contacted me via Facebook the other day, asking me about FIT. She asked about the school, classes, people and the general environment. Hooooo… Where to start?

Fashion Institute of Technology is a special place. At first it can be a little overwhelming. Well, I thought so anyway. Not only was I new to America, I was new to New York, new to college, new to bitchy fashionistas, and yes I’m going to say it – new to being around gays. I only knew one gay guy back in Shanghai, and he didn’t even come out while I was there. So, basically, I never really knew anyone who was gay. Obviously, I have NOTHING against gays. I have a few close gay friends now, and I love them. It was just hard to adjust to being surrounded by them… ALL the time. I’m not even that feminine. I guess I can be pretty tomboyish sometimes. Most of my friends are dudes.

Anyways. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. I was pretty blown away by how people acted at FIT, especially at the freshmen dorms. They were so… mean. It seemed like all the people I met had an agenda of bringing others down to make themselves feel better. Even around people who I considered my “new friends,” I noticed that my self-confidence was constantly under attack – subtly at times, but bluntly at other times. Divas and queens would drop snide remarks, hitting you where it hurts while disguised as a joke. I don’t joke at others’ expense (on second thought, yes I do, but never like that). I can be funny without hurting someone’s feelings, thank you very much.

I was used to friendly people. In Shanghai, international kids were always coming and going. That’s what we got for being expats. We were used to meeting new people all the time, as well as saying goodbye to our friends. We felt a strong bond as a group, like a little community. Actually, no. It wasn’t that little.

So FIT gave me a bad first impression of “American” colleges. It wasn’t until I had visited some other “normal” colleges (more on that later) I realized that college wasn’t such a hostile place. Plus, I’ve met a lot of chill (and perfectly pleasant) people at FIT over the last two years. FIT is not a “real” college. We don’t get a campus experience (because we don’t fucking have one) or a sense of real community. It not only is a university in middle one of the most competitive cities in the world, but it’s filled with viciously competitive people… those who are perfectly willing to walk over someone to get ahead.

Yeah, I was spiteful. I was depressed. I was nostalgic. I felt out of place. It wasn’t until I started meeting people from outside of FIT I truly broke out of my shell and began to act like myself again (I had put on a different persona to fit in).

I’m used to FIT bitches now (both the mean ones and the stupid ones). Which reminds me – the other day, I was in front of an FIT building trying to have a cigarette. I couldn’t find my lighter anywhere. I approached the nearest chick who was smoking, and asked if I could please use her lighter. Her eyes darted up (she didn’t even lift her head), and she stared up at me like I had two heads, looking almost disgusted. What the fuck? It was as if she was saying “how DARE you ask me for my lighter.” I stood there, lifting an eyebrow. “I don’t have one,” she said. How the fuck did your cigarette get lit, then? Classic. Bitch.

In conclusion – if you’re weak hearted or weak willed, FIT is probably not the place for you. People will walk all over your ass. You’ve got to be driven, assertive. Show them bitches who’s boss.

Tax Guide for Aliens

I want a job. A proper one. I don’t want to work under the table like some kind of illegal alien. I don’t want to work at the school’s library or tutoring center, either. A lot of my American friends keep forgetting that I am, indeed, an “alien.” Whenever I voice concerns about getting a job, they can’t seem to comprehend that it is a much more complicated process than they think.

I’ve been offered jobs before. A few of them were modeling jobs. I would love to look pretty for money. I’m not saying that modeling is an easy job, but I much rather endure the pain of high heels than the pain of being ordered around the office making copies and coffee as somebody’s bitch… or the pain of waiting on rude customers (I would despise being a waitress. I’d get fired on my first week, I’m too clumsy to be a waitress). Anyways, that’s besides the point. The job conversation flows smoothly until I mention that I’m here on a student visa. The dreaded “OH” response. They say it’s fine, as long as you have a guardian to sign with you. Umm, that’s another thing. Both my parents live in Asia. “Ohhhhhhhhhh… Hmm.”

When I attended the international student meeting regarding employment and OPT (ç† before employment), I was taken back by how complicated everything was. Applying for OPT. Applying for employment visa. Applying for this and that. We, as a group, have to go through multiple steps that citizens generally don’t even think about.

We have to file a ton of paperwork to Immigrations. We then have to pay to have Immigrations go through the paperwork. Whoever hires you is required to file paperwork to Immigrations (who the hell wants to do that when you can just hire a good ol’ American citizen instead?). We have to refer to the “Tax Guide for Aliens” packet when we have a question (when I picked it up, I couldn’t help but laugh. Paying taxes. And being called an alien. Awesome). We have to do this and that. We can’t do this, we can’t do that, we most definitely can’t do this, we will be deported if we do that. Taxes really confuse the shit out of me. I still don’t have a social security number. There’s a whole bunch of rules for applying for that as well. So, I don’t have it yet. I don’t have a proper state ID. I don’t have credit. Is that bad? That’s probably bad. Do I care? Probably not.

If I leave the country without getting my I-20 (a document that validates my F-1 visa) signed, I can’t come back in. I lost my I-20 once. I left it in a copy machine at a Staples store. The copy just wouldn’t do. The copy meant nothing. I needed the real thing to travel. Thankfully, the international student department mailed me a new I-20 to my address in China. A piece of paper. With it, I’m good. Without it, I’m barred. I’ve been here for over two years now, and there are still so many fucking things that I don’t understand. I just… don’t… understand. I don’t really want to, either.

Sometimes I wish I was an illegal alien. But then again, no I don’t. Legal or not, I just don’t want to be an alien at all. Being treated differently makes me feel… alienated 😥 sob sob. America has a great way of making everyone feel included while excluding people at the same time. It’s hard to describe or understand. For those of you who are citizens of this peculiar country, congratu-fuckin-lations. I envy you.

Your Call is Very Important to Us

I hate 1-800 numbers. I hate calling customer service. I hate being on hold. I hate listening to the stupid elevator music and the automated message that says “Please stay on the line, your call is very important to us.” If my call was indeed that important to you, you wouldn’t have me waiting on the line for fucking 30 minutes, robot bitch.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to lock down an apartment. The bank was (obviously) closed, and I needed to get a grand out of my account to put down for deposit. I went to the ATM, and tried to withdraw $1000. I had plenty of money in my account; I just needed to access it. It didn’t let me. I withdrew 500. When I tried to withdraw another 500, I was barred from my own damn account. Fuck you very much, Bank of America.

Then the dreaded process of calling customer service began. First time around, I waited patiently. I stayed on hold for around 10 minutes, and got through to somebody. I explained my situation, and she asked me the usual crap, name and birthday and blahblahblah. She then asked what she could do for me. For the second time, I explained my situation. She then said that she doesn’t handle these types of calls; she’ll need to transfer me to another department. Why couldn’t she have transferred me earlier? I bit my tongue, and said okay. When she tried to transfer me, the line went dead. Confused, I looked at my phone. The phone call had ended. Are you fucking serious?

I called again. Another 10 minutes of piano music and stupid robot bitch. When I got through, I hastily went through the name birthday process and asked to be transferred. The dude transferred me, and I successfully got through to someone else (who, of course, asked for my information all over again). I explained my situation, and the woman said she’ll see what she can do about it. A long pause. More questions. Another long pause. I was pacing outside the bank, chain-smoking. The pause had gone on for a little too long. Hello? HELLO? WHAT THE FUCK? I checked my phone. The call had ended. By this point, I was screaming into my hands, about to tear my hair out.

The third time, the call was dropped again. Over 30 minutes had passed. I was done. Passerbys were looking at me like I was crazy. I had no idea why the call kept dropping, and that probably wasn’t Bank of America’s fault (I blame AT&T), but I had had enough. I couldn’t believe I was going through so much stress in order to get my own money out of my own account. I gave the landlord the 500, and gave him the other 500 the next morning.

Another time that comes to mind was when I was trying to book a plane ticket to Australia. I couldn’t purchase the tickets online for some reason (United Airways), and I reluctantly called in to see what was wrong. I hated the irony of the robot bitch telling me to go visit their website – I was on the damn website, miss robot bitch, it doesn’t work. Now put me through.

When I got through, this lady took forever looking for the flight I was looking at on the screen. I told her – round trip from JFK to Melbourne, date and time of the flights. She still couldn’t find it. After a few minutes, she realized I was talking about Melbourne in Australia, not in Florida. She then said she needed to transfer me, because she only handles domestic flights. TYPICAL.

The international flight lady couldn’t find the flights either. What the hell was I looking at on my screen, then? Mysterious flights that can only be seen by certain people? She then went on to explain that the website may be delayed, because it shows that the flights I’m looking at are completely booked. I was puffing steam out my nostrils. That is it, United Airways, I’m going to Delta. You not only just lost $2400, but lost a customer FOREVER.

As you can probably tell, I have a lot of pent up anger about this subject. These are only two accounts out of I don’t know how many. Nobody wants to take responsibility anymore. Oh I can’t help you, I don’t handle those calls. Oh I must transfer you, you’ve called the wrong department. In China, if you have a problem, you call and yell at them until they get the job done. Or you just go and yell at them. They’re not too nice about it, but that’s okay, because you’re not being nice about it either and they get the job done. None of this fake niceness, fake apologies, fake phrases like “your call is very important to us.” Enough already. Not another word out of you, robot bitch. Enough.

Get Your Drugs Here

I remember the first time I walked into an American drug store (a Duane Reade in Herald Square). My mind was blown. It was like a miniature super store… or a corner store on steroids. Everything you could possibly need displayed neatly in shiny aisles – food, cleaning products, gift cards, beauty stuff…and of course, meds. Where I come from, we had grocery stores for food, beauty stores for lipstick, and pharmacies for meds. The one thing that completely blew my mind was how HUGE the “DRUGS” sign was. I was standing on the escalator, staring at the blinking, neon, red white & blue sign that read “GET YOUR DRUGS HERE” with 5 arrows pointing downwards. My jaw dropped. Was all that flashiness really necessary? It might as well have said, “Welcome to America.”

It’s the change of the season. It’s sad, really, because I barely got to enjoy fall. Spring and fall barely exist in this city. Every time there is a drastic change in climate, I get sick. I’m in the process of moving, so I couldn’t locate my meds amongst the boxes. I couldn’t even remember if I have any meds left that isn’t Nyquil (I realized that it’s a devil drug that gives me nightmares and turns me into a zombie the next morning). This means one thing… the dreaded trip to the drug store. I hate going to the drug store to buy meds. I feel like every time I do, I spend a good solid half an hour staring at the aisle-ful of meds, wondering which one I should get.

I feel like every single fucking box of OTC cold medicine I pick up, it’s either missing a symptom I have or has one too many. So I’m standing there, trying to either compensate or overdrug myself for a symptom I don’t have. And honestly, why does there have to be so many choices? I understand the whole American view of “having too many choices is better than having too little,” even though they’re all basically the same (i.e. the soda aisle – 98% equivalent ingredients – high fructose corn syrup + flavoring). Why, oh why, does one company need to make 5 different kinds of pills for one drug? Same ingredients, different format. Tablets? Cherry flavored? Gel capsules? Easy-to-swallow? Daytime? Nighttime? Not to mention syrups, powders, nasal shots, balms, blah fucking blah. Each company makes over 5 different kinds, and there are well over 5 companies that make the same thing. THEN, on top of that, the drug store you’re at makes copies of those drugs and sells them for cheaper (“compare ingredients with Tylenol!”)

So many minutes, so many hours… wasted. From staring at damn aisles full of drugs that don’t even address my problems. I’m used to natural meds that address the underlying causes of symptoms, not synthetic meds that temporarily relieve symptoms. All I’m saying is, well… it’s stupid. And I’m tired of it.

Cold, Hard, Shiny New Yorkers

I understand that New York is a “cold, hard place.” People here are known for being insensitive and selfish. But seriously? I didn’t think it’d be this bad. I was blown away by the callousness of New Yorkers a few days ago.

I was waiting for a train at W 4th station around 8 PM. I had my headphones in, jamming to some Queen classics. In the corner of my eye, I saw an old lady get off a local train (I was waiting for the express train). Halfway through a song, I saw that the lady was still at the foot of the stairs. What is she doing? I thought, and took off my headphones. I realized that she was asking for help getting up the stairs. The poor thing, she had a cast on one arm and two bulky bags on the other. She was asking in the most pitiful voice, like a helpless child croaking for help after hurting itself. Several broad shouldered, healthy young men just walked right past her, ignoring her completely. I shot a disdainful look at the people sitting on the bench nearby, just looking over like it’s some kind of damn entertainment. At that moment, my train pulled in. I was already running late to dinner with a friend (who is never happy about my constant tardiness) I looked at the train, then at the old lady. Train, old lady. Train? Old lady? Ah, fuck it. I went over to her, click clacking in my stilettos (why today of all days? I thought).

Do you need help? I asked. Yes, yes please, she replied. As I was helping her up the stairs, she told me her story. She had just been released at the hospital, and nobody had come to pick her up. They released her with all the things she had on her when she was admitted. She thanked me profusely, saying that god had sent her an angel. Her voice started to crack, as if she was fighting back the urge to cry. What a poor, lonely soul. I kept telling her that  it’s nothing, and not to worry about it.

I assisted her all the way up onto street level, although she insisted that I go and catch my train after the first set of stairs. I couldn’t just leave her there. I tried swiping my metro card again, but the turnstile beeped and displayed “just swiped.” What rejection. Is this what I get for helping someone? What the hell happened to karma… what goes around comes around? No? Exasperated, I went up to the conductor and asked to be let in. The dude shot me a dirty look, saying that I should’ve let him know before going out the station. Seriously, New York? Give me a goddamn break.

Once back in the station, I waited for what felt like forever for another train to arrive. During the train ride, I mulled over what I had experienced. Something like that would never happen in Korea. The old lady wouldn’t even had to ask. Any person going by would consider it his or her duty to help her out, and would insist on helping her up the stairs. There wouldn’t be any hesitation or negligence. If such an event occurred in China, however, it would be a completely different story… but what can you expect from people who’ve been basically brainwashed for decades? A Chinese dude would stare you down on the subway and not bother to look away when your eyes meet. He’d just keep staring. This kind of widespread mentality and general rudeness took me years to get accustomed to. Anyway, that’s besides the point. I’m just trying to point out that we’re not in some communist country here. This is America. Isn’t it supposed to be a civilized country? Alright, alright. I’m not being fair. New York is not really America. But isn’t it   a metropolis supposedly filled with the world’s brightest minds? Since when is there a correlation between intelligence and selfishness? …Something to ponder over, I guess.

What Kinda Name is Dat?

I distinctively remember my first “visit” to the States. I was in middle school, on a trip to Cancun, Mexico. Not spring break woohoo Cancun (sadly) since I was only 13. We had a short transfer in Dallas after a 15 hour plane ride from Shanghai. After landing, we had to go through security and customs.

I remember this part so clearly. After waiting in line for what felt like forever, I finally approached the person who checks your passport / boarding pass before you put your shit into a tray and whatnot. She was a big black woman. I remember her appearance simply because I wasn’t accustomed to black people. I AM NOT A RACIST. There just wasn’t (and still isn’t) a large black population in Asia. Anyway, that’s besides the point. She looked at my passport, and let out a snort. “Gurrl, what kinda name is dat? Bet dey make fun of you in skoo?” And I looked at her, baffled. No, lady, they don’t, because I live in a country where people actually have names like “dat.” Are you fucking serious? You work in an airport for crying out loud. She then took a pink highlighter and marked a big X on my boarding pass.

That big X meant that I had to go through a “special” security check. I found out later that they randomly select people who they think need extra screening. They made me go through this air blast chamber thing. For the whole time I’ve been waiting in line, I didn’t see a single person go through that machine. Yet there I was. I blame 9/11. I feel bad for anyone named Muhammad. The poor dude probably goes through so much shit every time he travels.

After the security check, we moved onto the customs lines. Most of the other kids were American so they went in the separate (and drastically shorter) line. By the time it was my turn, they had all moved ahead. I had my story prepared – I’m here to transfer to a plane to Cancun. I’m going to Cancun on a school trip. Our teacher is here somewhere. By the way, our chaperone teacher was a Mexican lady. I successfully answered all the questions asked (there were more than a few) and passed through.

By the time I met up with the rest of the group, I realized I was the last one. Wait, no. Not the last one. Where the hell is Mrs. Torres? I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. Our chaperone had just POOF! disappeared. We were growing restless. The flight to Cancun was leaving soon. After like half an hour, Mrs. Torres finally showed up. She was apparently taken to the “back room” for questioning. I don’t recall why exactly. It was probably because her English was pretty terrible and she appeared nervous, couldn’t keep her story straight. Anyway, there was no time for explanations. We had a plane to catch.

We were just terribly unlucky at this point, because we realized that our  gate was at another terminal – one that was on the opposite side of the airport for that matter. We were power walking at first, but eventually we were forced to break into full on sprinting. I even dropped my damn passport. Some thoughtful dude came running after me with it – he figured that I might need it. When I finally reached the gate, I saw the fast runners sitting on the floor, looking defeated. The gate had just closed. Mrs. Torres finally caught up with us a couple minutes later, gasping for breath, her face red and sweaty. What happen? What happen? We just missed it, Mrs. Torres. What are we going to do?

I hate traveling. Alright, nobody hates traveling. Nobody should, anyway. I just hate the PROCESS of traveling. I hate the waiting, the lines, the incompetent employees, the safety instructions, the never-changing chicken or fish option, the loud as hell flush in plane toilets… but most of all, I hate the fake smiles and apologies. I’m terribly sorry ma’am, but there are no other flights out to Cancun today. You’re going to have to spend a night in Dallas.

That sucked. Four people per crappy motel room. However, there was a bright side to all of this. We got to go to a REAL American mall. Well, I got to, anyway. To the other kids, it was just another run-of-the-mill mall. But for me – pheeewww! It was a unique experience. A huge box of a building, filled to the brim with everything you could possibly need… with more parking space than I’ve seen at ski resorts. And the candy store! My god, the candy store. Willy Wonka moment right there. I purchased my very first Hollister jeans. I had been dying to get a pair.

Bright and early next morning, we finally got on a plane to Cancun. Mexico was great… although Cancun was way too touristy and Americanized for my liking – there were too many McDonald’s and spring break woohoo teenagers distracting us from enjoying an authentic Mexican experience. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it now though – as long as there’s plenty of cheap liquor involved (: woohoo!

My Husband Called Me Fat

I was waiting in line by the counter at CVS to pay. A gossip magazine was yelling out at me. Kim Kardasian’s HUSBAND FROM HELL. From hearing FIT girls talk about stupid celebrity gossip, I knew that Kim just got married a few months ago. Had a huge Hollywood wedding and everything. I have no idea how many times she’s been married, but I’m guessing it’s more than once. Underneath the huge headline, it said, “he hit on other women and called Kim FAT.” Oh my GOD. IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD. Well, end of the marriage, anyway. There are plenty of wives who are physically abused and treated like absolute shit all over the country, but when Kim is called fat by her playboy husband, it makes it to the cover of every gossip magazine. It blows my fucking mind.

I swear Hollywood has ruined the sanctity of marriage in the States. Okay, I’m not being fair. There are plenty of other factors that have led to this. But Hollywood plays a big part of it. These rich beautiful people that the public “aspires” to be…  change spouses whenever they get bored. Like husbands and wives are furniture… or wallpaper. Why keep your old lackluster room when you can afford to redecorate? Why stick with a color you no longer like when you can just paint over it with a fresh new one? Why can’t you Hollywood snobs just not get married and date around like normal people?

More and more people are getting married on a whim. And getting divorced when things start to turn sour. Coming from Asia, this is hard to understand for me. If you’re not 100% sure you want to marry someone and stay committed, why the hell are you doing it? You shouldn’t do it unless you’re willing to give it your absolute best to make it work. My parents have been married for over 20 years. They’ve had problems. And I mean MAJOR problems. Some of which a lot of American couples would’ve broken up over. They feel obligated to stay married and work out their issues because marriage is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a binding contract. If you’re religious (my parents are), this is also a contract with “God.”

Another reason why I started thinking about this subject was because a few of kids my age that I know from high school are getting married (or are already married). Mind you, I’m only 19 years old. I don’t want to sound like a complete cynic, but HA. GOOD LUCK. We’ll see how happily in love you are a few years down the road. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in young love. Because I absolutely do. Be infatuated! Be in love! Enjoy your youth! Just don’t get fucking married before you’re even allowed to drink!!!

When I think of divorces, I think of bloodsucking lawyers, alimony and custody battles. Then I got to thinking about the whole society’s norm bullshit. You meet “the one,” you marry “the one,” you have children with “the one.” What if you do indeed meet “the one,” but don’t want to get married? What if you fall in love “the one,” and want to have children out of wedlock? What if you don’t meet “the one” at all, and just want to have some fucking kids? Yada yada yada. The list goes on. These lines are becoming more blurred, but they’re still there. If my future husband ever calls me FAT, I’m going to file for divorce. Ha, I’m just kidding. I don’t want to get married. Ever.