I called out from group therapy two weeks ago, which would’ve been my second time there, so I had to come in an hour earlier for last week’s session (July 1st) so I could make-up the lost hour, in addition to being present for the third therapy session. I did not expect another girl from the group to also be there to do a make-up too as she had been sick with a fever for the session she missed. We chatted for a bit before the therapy facilitator arrived.
My head ached mildly that morning when I hopped on the subway, and I knew there was a chance it would develop into a migraine later in the day, but I couldn’t bear to imagine how many therapy sessions I would have to make-up if I canceled again. I bought a small bottle of ibuprofen tablets from the dollar store some days ago and stored it in one of my bag pockets. I could’ve taken a dose or two that morning but decided not to. Pills are an unnecessary hassle since I never learned to swallow them whole. The last time I tried to crush some aspirin and quickly down the bitter powder with mouthfuls of water, it did nothing, leaving me to spend the rest of the day (and night) with a miserably painful headache. I don’t have much faith in pills. For now, the bottle is like an imaginary talisman I carry with me as self-assurance of having a pretend backup plan for a bone crushing headache, although I’ll likely never use them. Just the fear of the pills once again having zero effect with diminishing the pain is enough to deter me from trying.
Sunday, July 2nd was a day I spent at Jones Beach with my parents and brother. I didn’t really want to go. Not sure if it was my anxiety talking, but I definitely have resentment (at times) over what feels like an obligation to spend time with my immediate family and/or to keep up with appearances by “giving face”. Not to be confused with a slang term of the same name that has a vastly more explicit (and unrelated) definition, what I understand to be “giving face” in the Chinese culture is to present oneself in a way that helps to increase and/or maintain one’s own public prestige or reputation. My explanation of the concept itself is based on my own perception of it, though I’m sure in other Chinese families elsewhere and overseas, “giving face” is used or interpreted differently. I don’t have a high opinion of “giving face” since it feels like a farce to act a certain way that attracts positive feedback from other Chinese people, and I often don’t trust that those people are being truthful or honest when they say nice things. For my parents, I perceive they are still very much stuck to their Chinese values and only associating with their select group of Chinese friends or acquaintances. So while my brother’s suggestion that we hang out altogether at Jones Beach as an early July 4th celebration was probably just an innocuous plan to have quality family time, I was feeling grumpy out of the awareness that this get-together would be another thing for people in my parents’ lives to publicly coo about. What I can’t stand is perceived fakery, and I hate seeing the same old comments that friends or associates of my parents post on Facebook under our family photos about “how happy we look as a family”. Or maybe I’m uncomfortable with those kinds of comments, especially coming from people who practice “giving face”, because I believe they are saying that more out of politeness than actual, genuine interest. I also feel like those photos, while they give snapshots of good moments, they do not an accurate reflection of how my family and I interact with each other most of the time. Now that I’m at the end of this paragraph, it has hit me that perhaps “giving face” is just another form of status anxiety.
The trip to Jones Beach was not unpleasant. My brother borrowed my phone to map the destination and use it for GPS. He had mentioned to me beforehand that he might need me to turn on my phone’s hotspot once we got to the beach so he could use the internet on his iPad, but I had no idea until I got into the car that he needed my phone right then and there. I had just replied to a group chat and didn’t have time to turn off the chat notifications before he asked me to map the beach location for him. He was already backing the car out of the driveway at this point, so I wanted to hurry and give him the directions. My phone ended up clipped to a mobile grip holder so my brother could see the car’s current location as he drove, and also to hear the map voice navigation. I was so anxious sitting in the back of the car wondering if he’d see an incoming reply from one of my friends in the group chat. It wasn’t like I was discussing something personal or of a sensitive nature, but I’m iffy in general about anyone seeing my stuff. I got distracted when he requested for me to use our mother’s phone to verify that the address for the beach was correct. Then he had me text his friend to ask about which section of the beach would be better to go to. My phone chimed when a reply came in from the group chat. The dread that followed felt like a giant stone being dropped into my stomach. I think my worst fear was if my brother asked who I was texting with. Instead, he mistook the chime to be coming from our mother’s phone and thought his friend had responded to me. When his friend did reply to my texts, I paraphrased her words to him. I felt awkward as hell speaking out loud over the buzzing of the a.c., too. Motion sickness slowly overtook me during this, in part because I had to keep checking my mother’s phone for replies. Thankfully, we got to the beach before I felt too ill.
This may be TMI, but since I was on the rag and I use pads instead of tampons, I only soaked my feet in the waves as I walked along the shoreline collecting shell pieces. Anyone who has been on their period probably knows how I felt in this moment: gross, bloated, and moody. However, I got enjoyment from watching the waves come in and at times knock me with a bigger splash than I expected. I bent down a few times to wash my sand covered shells.
I never meant to start fishing for shells, but after getting used to the feel of the ice cold water slapping my ankles, my gaze fell on the sand around me. I saw what looked like a partially buried circular coin, but it was actually a teeny piece of a white shell, eroded into a near perfect circle. Later I arranged my shells to resemble a flower, which is the same image seen in this post’s featured image. I guess I was meant to find those shells. My hat kept my face from being overheated but was also a welcome shield from the sun since I was unable to put sunscreen on my face, which breaks out in an allergic reaction if I do. I was surprised to get a glimpse of some of the lifeguards in action when a whistle sounded and about four of them sprinted off into the water to rescue someone. That was the closest thing to Baywatch I’ve seen in real life, lol. Standing on the beach, it was like getting lost in a dreamy, otherworldly realm.
By the time I made it back to where my family’s umbrella and towels were set up, I met my brother’s female friend, the same one I was texting earlier in the car. I didn’t say anything to her beyond a greeting. She and my brother seemed comfortable talking amongst themselves anyway as they were suntanning. I wish I could have befriended her but in these type of situations, it feels like I’m more in love with the idea of holding a conversation and saying all the right things rather than having a genuine interest in wanting to know someone and spontaneously playing things by ear.
I was not home on July 4th. I was glad not to be since my brother was hosting a barbecue with a number of his friends. In the past around this holiday, I would have probably sequestered myself in another room. Or, want to go out but not know where I could go. I had plans on the 4th to meet people for lunch at a diner. Naturally, I tried to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be the only one there who would be nervous about meeting new people for the first time. I failed with this challenge since I didn’t go in.
As I walked away, a man with a European accent asked me for subway directions to the South Ferry. I offered help to him after looking things up on my phone. Out of nowhere, he asked me out, suggesting we could meet and share a meal if I gave him my number. He looked to be in his early 40’s. Even if he had been younger and/or in my age range, I can’t be sure if I would have had a more receptive response, simply because I have doubts about whether a person could like me beyond physical attraction. I really had a hard time being assertive while not sounding rude by turning him down. I admit part of me felt some revulsion that he was coming onto me and I thought it was weird how he sprung the question on me. Maybe I perceived this because, judging from his accent and speech pattern, he wasn’t a native English speaker and so the way he phrased his question came off as awkward sounding.
Anytime someone of the opposite gender shows interest in me, I don’t know how to react. I would have been reluctant to give my number even if the guy was more to my liking. Most of the time I just want to bury my head in the sand when it comes to this terrain. I like the idea of romance but I have no clue if that’s something I want in the future. I think I’m too wrapped up in my anxiety and trying to care for myself to open myself to a significant other.