Category: Lao people

Oh boy…

Warning: since I have not updated my blog in over 4 months, my verbal diarrhea is in full motion and this post is long, obnoxiously long.

So what happened to me and my crew? It is not an over statement to say this: not ever before have we dug so deep in our resources as a family and that includes when I had to run the London 10K with no prior training whatsoever (do not snicker, i still have a dizzy head thinking about it!) AND when DH had a eye surgery making him blind for 48 hours, 3 weeks after the twins were born. Yeah I am letting you picture the situation…

Anyway, the last 6 months of my life have tested our resolve, who I am as a woman, who we are as a family and what life long commitment truly means.

Let’s back track to a few years ago, when on a London double decker bus I told DH that the main reason I did not want children was my utter fear of having to stay put even when the shit hits the fan. I told him ‘if you and I fuck up, I can and will leave it all behind to rebuild. I am survivor and that’s what I do. But I know that a child would be the one person I could never leave behind. It is the one relationship that if even it fucks me up I have to stay put. I will have to be IN it, FOREVER. And this is damn too fucking scary to me.’

That’s what I was feeling then and obviously me being me I got preggers twice in 2 years after that. Because I changed my mind and when I do, I cannot do things half-way.

We are now in 2015. My being a mother is no longer something I question. It is hard work, infuriating, blissful, challenging, self-revealing, physical, joyful and all that jazz. That is why I decided to have a fourth one: Another Garde. It is my curated online boutique for emerging brands which I have just launched a few days ago.

The gestation period was long – almost two years – although not as long as with L who at 3 year and a half still thinks he belongs inside my tummy (more about this in another blog post).

Every day, I felt my heart racing and pumping, often on the verge of bursting out of laughter or cry. Like when I was raided by freaking pregnancy hormones. Sleepless nights. Everyone asking when it is coming out and how you feel.  Sleepless nights.

And you are tired, so tired, and emotionally fucked up, and you look like shit but you cannot look shit because you have just launched a Fashion venture so you try to look shit-ish instead.

And then it comes out and you look at it and you know the hardest part starts then: growth and nurturing. And you dig deep, deeper and deeper. And you know you are IN it and you cannot leave this one behind either. Because maybe for once in your life, you feel that this is what you are meant to be doing. I can say it out loud: most people think I am mental and insecure (friends: it’s ok. I know about it and I still love you) because my career path looks worse than a Paris subway map written in Mandarin and covered in pigeon’s poop.  And they are right to think so: I am absolutely schizophrenic.

But as I wake up every morning, I cannot help but feel possessed: I HAVE to keep on and on. Despite the madness. Despite the sheer exhaustion. Despite that little snarky voice in my head that says:‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’

I keep on.  I want to make women feel emotion, beauty, inner confidence when they come onto Another Garde. I want to support emerging brands to connect with these smart and confident women. I want to build connections, conversations. To be honest, I don’t give much shit about Fashion. Doing Fashion week is at the bottom of my priority list. However, I do believe that well curated and designed pieces can celebrate a woman’s inner kick-ass awesomeness. In the last 5 years I ballooned up and down through and between my various pregnancies; I have sometimes cried over how a bad cut just made me feel worse than I was. Oh yeah, fucking pregnancy hormones were not helping either 🙂

So that is why I do what I do.

In the meantime, my daughter P asks why their mom has to work all the time and probably wonders if I am exploring my pseudo-lesbian tendencies because I keep checking out beautiful women online – I am mainly trying to fix some html code, very poorly I must admit.

DH is becoming the SOLID ROCK that I – in the past – doubted he could be. Watching the kids, working hard in the office, signing checks to my company and just believing in me like no other. DH: I am so sorry you married such a bitch but she takes back every single word she said on that boat AND double decker bus. Random note to self: I probably should just shut up while in public transport as a general rule.

G is being G: trying to seduce my interns. And succeeding too.

L. recovered from a flesh eating bacterial infection. L. was lost in Central Park (within 1 minute of not watching him) and found 600m away from the picnic we were attending. I almost died that afternoon. L. is receiving 10 hours of Special Education support at school since the beginning of the week. I will write more soon about this because I am still trying to process all this.

Voila!

Let me know what you all think!!! You are probably among the first ones to have supported my ambitions by all your nice comments on my ‘Mood of the Day’ series.  If you like what you see, I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word! We only ship in the US at the moment but if I see some love coming from an overseas ‘Garde of Women’, I will get to you quicker than planned 🙂

Some snippets. Photography by Carolina Palmgren. Models: Kailah NG and Giannina Oteto

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Knit vest by Foxx + Walsh

 

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Hand made leather backpack by Moses Nadel

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Black Cupro dress by H.Fredriksson

Shit that Lao people (or at least my folks) like to say

I have dropped some breadcrumbs, post after post, about how crazy my extended family is and how their madness may very likely be connected to the fact that they are Lao. I am aware that it is a racist statement but still…I let you be the judge after you finish reading this post. Also everything written here is actually 100% true and if people do recognize themselves, well it is exactly how you sound. I still love you. Most times 🙂

On the topic of your physical appearance

‘Her husband is so handsome; you should see him grand ma. She is meh but he is GORGEOUS.’ Because it is deemed important to assess whom outta of a couple got the better end of the bargain when it comes to the beauty department. And by the way, you are not supposed to get offended because it is the TRUTH.

So yeah, they tell it like it is. The other day, my dad was staring at a friend of mine who very likely leans towards the democratic vote ( he is Canadian after all). After some intense staring, he had an epiphany and proudly stated: ‘Ha!!! I know who you look like! George W Bush!!!’
Fits of embarrassing laughter ensued; and my friend’s wife tried to save the day: ‘maybe a mix of Bush and Clinton ?’ to no avail… My dad cooly replied serious like a stone: ‘No, just Bush. In fact, he looks like Bush father and son, both of them.’
Most embarrassing/WTF moment since my dad did the duck dance with my mother in law at my wedding.

But all this is nothing compared to Lao women’s obsession with other women’s weight. Typically, things start like below.

‘Wow. You have gained so much weight I did not recognize you.’

The conversation usually then unfolds in 2 possible ways:

Option 1: you are trying to explain.

– ‘I did have 3 kids’.

– ‘So did I but look at me, still the same face and body. ‘

To which your evil bitchy self is dying to reply: ‘Yes you are lucky. Getting knocked up at 18  by the local suburbian boy does indeed make wonder in terms of getting your pre pregnancy weight back. When you are in your late 30s (like me), have travelled and tasted amazing world cuisine…well yeah pounds are a bitch to drop. It’s true but who can resist a NY steak right?’

But in reality you are shamefully replying: ‘Yes, you are SO lucky. Hmm, where’s the bar?’ And are thinking: ‘See you in 20 years. Bitch.’

Option 2: you stand on your ground.

‘No, I actually lost 4 pounds.’

To which they stop talking and start pinching and pulling (key word here) your double chin while grinning up to their ears.

You can NEVER win. Seriously.

On the topic of sibling rivalry

‘Ha, I see…that’s the ugly one. Where is the pretty one?’. Always indeed useful to quickly identify who is whom in a pack of mutts.

‘She is a good student but you should check out her sister’s test scores. Much better.’ Just in case your sister did not already  hate your guts.

He is the grand father’s favorite grand child; he does not like the others much. I, for myself, struggle with my son’s temperament; my younger daughter is the one I prefer’. 

All these being part of a fairly typical casual chat with friends as THE kids themselves are trying to eat (and fail to digest) their Pho Bo.

It is so bad that when a few months ago I read in the New York Times and Le Monde different articles addressing the modern times taboo of the ‘favorite’ child I was at loss. What taboo?

On the topic of gender equality and general marital advice

Of course she was going to leave him. It’s because she has a higher degree; that’s not how it works. To make it work, men must have higher education than their wives.’ No.It is not taken from a Mad Men script. I swear.

Another time, my grand ma told me over the phone that she had been hearing rumors about my temper and that I was being too tough on my husband (???) and that I should really be more lenient and understanding (god knows about what). I wondered if my brother gets the same type of call. Hmmm. Very unlikely if I believe the wedding good wishes DH and I got at our very own Soukhouane ceremony. The soukhouane is a ceremony that calls upon your spirits/energy so that they are tied back to you and you can be in your prime in different key moments of your life (birth, move, accidents, marriage, death etc.). It is beautiful and emotional. The ceremony is then followed by your family and friends wishing you well tying threads of cotton around your wrists. As grannies (‘meh tao’) ,wished me good health and financial prosperity they wished/implored DH to be faithful to me and never take a ‘second wife’ also more commonly called in western cultures ‘mistress’ or ‘lover’. The poor guy had no benefit of the doubt.

It gets worse.

My very own first cousin whom I was meeting for the first time asked : ‘Are you saying that of his own free will your husband will not come with me and check out escort girls?

‘What about you ask him?’

Cousin actually asked DH using me as the translator. Not awkward at all. DH at that point was scared of saying anything really and wondered what kind of sick games we were playing and what kind of weapons I was hiding in my purse.

Cousin concluded:‘yeah, it is not possible. It’s because you are standing here.’  What???

On the topic of  the LGBT community

To start with, I shall say that my family is relatively very open minded about gays and lesbians (and I love them for that!) but they also have the weirdest way to express their support and acceptance. They have come a long way though.

First step was denial.

My first gay centric conversation with my folks went like this.

‘Mom, where is your cousin staying?’

‘At a friend’s.’

‘You mean at his boyfriend’s

‘No, how dare you? It’s his friend’.

‘He’s gay, mom.’

‘Who said this?’

‘He did. And you saw his gay porn collection all over his bedroom’.

‘Hmmmm (frozen face, red face )…i don’t think I did (and Asian stoic face). ‘

I was probably as confused as my gay childhood friend who came out to his parents in his early 20s…

Your friend is nice.’

‘He is my boyfriend.’

‘It will be lovely when I meet your girlfriend.’

‘Mom, he is my BOYfriend.’

‘I hope you decide to have children and…’

Intervention by the father: ‘Mama your son is trying to tell you that he likes boys’.

The mom: ‘Your kids will look pretty’.

Second step was curiosity.

So, ok I understand that they are in love and live together so now can you tell me who is the wife and who is the husband?’

‘Pop, that is not how it works!’

‘What do you mean? What’s the point if there is no wife and no husband?’

I still haven’t gathered the courage to ask further what my dad meant by that; scared shitless that he was being ‘graphic’ about it…oh dear…

Third step was full on support and approval 🙂

Three years ago, I overheard my mom tell her friends:

‘My daughter only has gay friends. She has been like this since she was a child. Gays tend to come to her. It makes sense though: they are gorgeous, very cultured, very funny, have good manners. Do you remember Archibald from her wedding? Yes he is one of ‘them’. I am telling you; they have it all. Her friends look like men too, you know. You would not have guessed. Yes, hell I do want them as friends too. I have to admit it; I do have gay friends too..’

There are so many wrong things in that last paragraph that I cannot even start breaking it down. But it does not change the fact that at the core of it is tolerance and love… or least a damn good attempt at it. And on days when news around the world about hatred and fear of each other just depress me, I do take some comfort in thinking that my folks are trying. Their own way. With some kind of twisted love. It can make you and break you. But they do try.

Lao readers, what is your most ‘what the fuck?’ moment triggered by a fellow Lao? Non Lao readers, what is your most ‘what the fuck’ moment triggered by a countryman/woman? 

Wedding soukhouane

Wedding soukhouane

The (little) girl next door

‘Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading
But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
Wouldn’t you
What it feels like for a girl’
Madonna

Since I started redlipstickmama, there is something I managed to do rather well: not censuring myself. And this for many reasons:
– freedom of thought helps my writing. I spent the last 10 years of my career getting my words edited with a red pencil, or with CAPS or worst with shrewd cutting out of entire paragraphs. And although it was very often deserved (tendency to ramble is second nature to me), it always crippled me a little.
– commitment to authenticity is key to my own sanity and to the enjoyment (I hope) of my 300 or so readers (note: I look like I am bragging but considering 2/3 are friends and family…)

Anyway, there is one subject that I have started to write about and kept deleting over and over again: my own daughter. It all started innocently enough. I was looking at my Facebook page insights and noticed how my blog posts about my boy G. are usually quite popular. I then realized with sheer horror that I to date have written at least 2 blog posts about him and 0 about my daughter, P.

DH and I are obsessed about fairness when it comes to raising our kids. DH, because it is one of the things his folks did very well -always giving equivalent time, money, gifts etc. to him and his sisters – and Me, because it is one of the things my folks fucked up big time. It is popular knowledge in my family that one out of us 5 got more financial support, or more praise, or more demands, more criticisms from my mom and my dad. Thank god, it was not always the same kid who got it all. It’s a miracle the 5 of us actually love each other 🙂

Indeed, when I started my blog, one of my goals was to document our family life. I hoped that my kids one day will read all my entries when the time for them comes to forgive me for the obnoxious way I proclaim that ‘I know them better than they know themselves’ or when they start criticizing my style and maybe understand that back then I had no time nor the inclination to comb my hair or  wear anything but sweat pants.  And we all know that old habits die hard, right? I especially hope that they will read the blog when it is time to decide which retirement home they will put us in when we loose our brain and can no longer make any decisions and read this: RESORT, GOLF, DANCE CLUB, FLO-RI-DA.

I felt horribly bad about not having written about P so I was adamant to amend this immediately. But then, I started to do the unthinkable: censoring myself. I kept deleting words wondering: ‘what is she going to feel when she reads this? Will she think I prefer her brothers?’

The truth is that I have very complex emotions when it comes to P. It started way before she was even born. It started way before I was told I was pregnant with twin boy and girl. As far as I can remember I have always been nervous about raising a daughter perhaps because:

  • I have my own up and down and ‘come to a full circle’ relationship with my mom.
  • I often had intense passive aggressive friendships with girls; so much that for a very long time half my family thought I had lesbian affairs
  • I was raised to be competitive with my almost twin sister. I mean, our very own grandparents used to bet on whom would win a Mano a Mano wrestling fight. I was 4. Who does this? I swear Lao people are mental.
  • I felt I already had a daughter in the shape of my 14 year younger sister to whom I already taught what I think every girl should know: not to cry over boys, love other girls, how to pluck their eyebrows and how one should always avoid, unless your name is Rihanna, combining micro skirts and high heels.

Thus since P was born, I cannot for the life of myself understand why I am tougher on her than on her brothers. I cringe when she flirts her way through things, when she bawls her eyes out when G & L barely push her, when she is obsessing about lip balms or constantly demands to wear dresses. She is so precocious that she thinks my girlfriends are her girlfriends. She protests about anything and everything. Maybe I cannot handle how ‘girly’ she is. Or maybe I cannot handle how she basically trashed a whole life conviction that gender neutral upbringing would help girls not to fall into the ‘traps’ societies build for them such as the expectations to be cute, sweet and pretty or to love nursing their baby doll. But here I am with my twin boy and girl doing exactly the same thing to no avail; she is all about sparkles and making adults fall in love with her.

I grew up thinking that I had to be one of the boys to make it. And for now, she makes it clear that the last thing she wants to do is ‘act like a boy’.  The world she is growing into is different, I guess, and hopefully offers more narratives about what a strong woman truly is. I don’t know. While Beyoncé sings ‘girls rule the world’  and Sheryl Sandberg has been officially decreed a billionaire, institutional, social and political deficiencies continue to stymie the potential of girls and women. I am talking about glass ceiling, oversexualization of girls and women bodies, governments’ inability to articulate the value of childcare into sound long-term economic policies, reproductive rights that continuously need to be defended (Spain, I am talking to you and Shame on you!), or how parental leave actually still means ‘maternal leave’.

So yeah, maybe I am tougher because I worry more (that, plus the fact that she will eventually steal all my designer shoes collection). But does me being harder on her is actually telling her that I expect her to fail by being herself? Am I tough because I am sometimes disappointed by the woman I am? It is not fair and P,  I make you this promise: I will try harder to be the woman I wish you would grow into. Also you are already very awesome because you just cracked me up two days ago when you strutted towards me in my UGG boots applying some balm on your lips and firmly demanded: ‘Mom, I want a wrench and a fast car. Can you buy me that?’

You made me remember this kick ass quote from Sarah Silverman: ‘Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t, but because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn’t.’

Point taken.

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My black son

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’  

Martin Luther King Jr.

Something that has been happening with G in the last few weeks got me thinking about self-identification and got me to revisit my own past struggle with my diverse identities. Basically (not) G thinks he is a black boy. And not in the cheesy Vanilla ice ice baby but as a boy with ebony skin and curly hair…My Manga faced boy sees himself as the 6th member of the Jacksons Five. Indeed, in all the books, IPad games, etc. if there is an illustration of a black boy, G points at the little boy and assertively claims: ‘it’s me, it’s G!!!‘ Every single time!

My initial reaction was: ‘Oh fuck, he is really really color blind’ (Note: he is struggling to identify primary colors). But as I started to study his big smile while proclaiming his ‘blackness’, I realized that his odd thinking was more complex and actually more beautiful than simple color blindness. The kid may flunk his public school ‘Gifted and Talented’ program entry test but he made me proud – a lot –  in the last few weeks.

He reminded me that for a long time, I could never identify myself as Asian because I grew in a predominantly white neighborhood and thought I was just the same as my then fair skinned best friend Mariel. I remember studying for hours my face in the mirror of my parents’ old wardrobe and would not ‘see’ that my eyes were slanted, my hair was blacker and thicker than anyone else in my class (bar my sister), that I did not have any nose bridge (despite pulling my nose for an hour every night in bed and if you want details: yes it hurt and yes I felt stupid doing it…crazy girl) and that there were many reasons why my name could not be Stephanie or Adele. I would not ‘see’ but I knew I was different.

He reminded me that it took me almost 2 decades to reconcile my various cultural and ethnic identities and a lot of resilience to overcome the abuse from French kids calling me ‘Chinetoque’ (French racist slur for Chinese people) and from the Lao people calling me out for being a ‘banana‘ (no comment).

Because of all this, I wanted my kids to grow up in a place like Harlem so they can see and understand things such as:
– people of different colors besides your parents can fall in love and have kids together
– or white women are not necessarily the adoptive mothers of dark skinned children but can be the nannies paid by dark skinned parents
It became a kind of obsession to promote diversity in our family life; obsession obviously rooted in my own childhood insecurities.

But my kids seem to have taken their very own journey about their understanding and experience of race and class.  G showed me something really new to me. He showed me that a boy with a caucasian dad and an Asian mom sees himself as a proud and happy black boy. And I will blast anyone who try to correct him and force him into boxes. I will blast them – Manga style.

What do you see when you look yourself in the mirror?

PS: meanwhile my daughter P is adamant she lives in the ‘Park’, I am at loss about what she means by this…I shall investigate and report to you soon 🙂

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Working Mama: how many is really a crowd?

Last week I was very busy with different non-baby related projects (hence no blogging).  I cannot go into details about these projects for the moment but let’s just say that I have my fingers in too many pies and by the end of the year either scenario could take place:

–       I will be able to lick the stuffing from most pies out of my fingers, have a busy 2014 year and pocket my first real dollars since 2010

–       One pie will prove tastier, I will jump into it recklessly with the philosophy of ‘no risks, no gains’ and thus drag my whole family into a full-blown entrepreneur drama.

–       All the pies will rot and explode in my face because of the high level of Hydrogen Sulfide and I’ll only have my tears to clean the crust out of my face.

Does this sound cryptic to you? Believe me, it is probably even more confusing in my head right now. Anyway, let’s not play Nostradamus and just get on with it for now, I guess. I don’t know what next year will be but I can tell you what today feels like: Multiple Personality Disorder.

I have always had 2 or 3 people cohabiting in my head since I was ten: Good Me (Little Miss Straight As student), Bad Me (Little Miss I am going to punch everyone in the face) and Plain Crazy Me (Little Miss ‘My whole world is a freaking live Musical’). Nowadays, it feels more like 10 people failing to cohabit and fighting all the time for breadcrumbs. And as for the musical in my head, it sounds more like surreal ‘Jerry Springer Show: The Opera’ than say cute ‘Grease’.

I am aware that it is probably a very common plight among (working and stay at home) moms but I thought the following snapshot may amuse you.

– I have always checked my work emails in the middle of the night and when I was waking up so I knew what my workday would be like. I have never given up on this bad habit even though lately most messages were WordPress notifications about comments or likes on my blog. To these, I now get emails from collaborators on my different projects, from the teachers of the kids’ weekly activities groups, from DH to reminder about this and that (since I am a human Blackberry too apparently), and from myself to remind me about this and that (I do need to work better with that Calendar apps PRONTO). Don’t get me wrong I do LOVE the excitement. However, I am getting increasingly disturbed by the fact that I am on my IPhone emailing or texting away my eyes barely open, with DH snoring near me, L pinching my nipple, G sleeping by my feet and kicking my crotch with his leg and P standing by my bed watching me and making her best impersonation of a  ‘I see DEAD people’ toddler…

– I try to cook the kids’ lunch every morning so I can barricade myself behind the kitchen’s safety gate to work and order baby diapers online while the chicken and veggies ragout simmers. But things got more complicated with the kids’ improved motor skills. Indeed, I am not quick enough to rush out of the kitchen to prevent L from pulling his weenie out of his diaper and spray pee across the room as if he was a freaking firefighter hosing down a fire. Not quick enough either to help G get up onto the toilet as he rushes to the bathroom diaper free…

– I very rarely get showered before 12pm these days. Partly because I am running behind every single thing I plan, and partly because I love that I can be on a Skype business call in my sweatpants. It feels dangerous 🙂 . The main problem is that I do not brush my hair in 4 days either. I thus started to avoid any conversations with my neighbors in the laundry room or in the lobby because I am self-conscious of my potentially very bad odor. They probably think I have started my metamorphosis into ‘The Fly’ or that I am a total social nutcase.

– Pre children I had a very specific routine before an important meeting: I would drink slowly my coffee gazing at the Thames river (I used to have a desk with a view…sigh), read for the thousandth time my meeting preparation notes, go to the restrooms to freshen up, and take deep breaths. These days my routine is: distract the kids, run to hide in my room, lock the door, get out of my room because they are screaming for murder asking for a hug (cute) or for me to clean the poop out of the diaper (because that’s the one thing Mama apparently does waaayyyyy better than the nanny, evil kids…), wash my hands 3 times, get a glass of water, and put a towel at the bottom of the door so they cannot put their hands through the opening like some kind of baby zombies wanting to tear my guts apart.

Things would be kind of OK if I could manage not to lash out at …my mom. Yes, among the different personas in my head, ‘Good daughter’ has been MIA for a while. To my defense, she ALWAYS decides to Skype video in the middle of mini breakdowns. I mean, EVERY time. It’s like she has a fucking sensor. She calls, and wants to see the kids. Of course it’s the middle of the night in France so the kids can only see a shadow in the darkness talking to them in Lao, which they don’t understand, and swearing to them it’s their granny… The Shadow then tells me that I should do everything in my power to prevent my kids from being sick this winter (?), comments on the level of screaming decibels in my house and promises that she really, really wants to early retire to come and help with the kids. So, of course I start yelling, hang up and then feel bad about it. I feel bad for about 1 hour…until my mom’s cousin calls me from France to apply for a position as a cook at my fictional Lao restaurant…What the fuck? As a joke, I told my mom a few weeks ago about opening a restaurant if I could not find a job and now the whole Lao community in France thinks I am planning to be the next ‘Nobu’. Insane, absolutely insane…I am schizophrenic enough as it is, I do not need a knife handling chef persona to join the crew in my head. Nope. Out of my head, you and your toque.

What about you, guys? How many people do you have in your head?

Have a nice week, everyone!

I am …

When I woke up this morning, I really felt like I had drunk 5 cosmos, smoked 20 fags and as if a body snatcher was crawling out of my limbs pulling away my bladder with its teeth… I was feeling old, basically. And then G stood in front of me wearing only his underwear, exposed, and shouted with gusto with his arms wide open: ‘Mama, I am perfect!’ . Could this just be the Botox cocktail I really needed?

To be honest, I did not know how to react to my son’s proclamation of self-love. My first thought was: ‘where did he get this from? We never use the word ‘perfect’ in this household…’ And it was quite a sobering epiphany. Where I grew up, perfection simply can never be attained. Is it because French education breeds  generations of analytical, self-aware but pessimist, overly critical and eventually gloomy adults, as suggests Patricia Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bebe, in this article for Vanity Fair.fr  (sorry this one is in French only)?

I, indeed, remembered 2 instances in high school when the goody two shoes girl I used to be thought : ‘what the fuck?’ My history teacher’s preferred saying used to irrate me. He was gloating every single freaking time he said it: ‘18 is the grade the best student deserves, 19 is the teacher’s grade and 20/20, well …is God‘. It was not even a catholic school so you’ll understand my confusion there. And then my English teacher, while giving me back my very final high school exam paper, said with deep regret: ‘Pfff….I do feel bad that I have never managed to give you a 20/20 in the 3 years that I have taught you…‘. She have me a 19.75 !!! How absurd was it? To this day, I am still not sure what I was supposed to take away from this off the cuff remark.

But perhaps it was not my education but it was my ‘Battle Royale’ like home. For those who have never watch this Japanese cult movie, here’s the synopsis: ‘A group of ninth-grade students from a Japanese high school have been forced by legislation to compete and kill each other in a Battle Royale‘… Of course, I am not sure there was ever a winner in my home because it seemed we were never good enough anyway. Lao style. You would say something that really makes you proud and my mom would snap out of her daydreaming and would say: ‘I think my larb (Lao meat salad) has too much fish sauce in it‘. What the fuck ???? Congratulations, compliments, and nice words in general are NOT in my family DNA. In fact, something really weird happened this week. We were on a Skype session with my mom and P was talking to her and suddenly my mom blurted out: ‘I love you P’. I think my ears must have blocked it out. But DH later said: ‘did you her what your mom said? That was touching, right? I mean, has she ever told you that she loved you?’ I laughed: ‘Nope.  Are you mad? What do you think?’

Don’t get me wrong, DH and I are all about positive reinforcement or should I say positive realignment (yeah, his family can be as fucked up as mine) and we make sure to value our kids’ good deeds and successes. But I realized on second thought that what G said this morning put the light onto something else. It was not about me saying that he was good,  it was about him having the balls and candor to say ‘I am perfect’. When was the last time you heard a grown up say something that ballsy about themselves? And say it in an unapologetical way , without caveats or a ‘hahaha I was kidding’ afterwards? Fuck that. Maybe that is why I feel so old. Maybe it’s not the wrinkles or the extra fat or the yellowing teeth. Maybe it’s the audacity for self-appreciation that is missing. So to finish off my very tiring and stressful week I am going to play G’s game and be ballsy myself. Here’s my ‘I am’ list:

I am very funny.

I am resourceful.

I am kind.

I am real.

What’s your list?

And here’s little G in all his ‘perfection’ 🙂

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Mood of the day: hand-me-down

I have been obsessed with secondhand clothing since I was a little girl. It started as a necessity because my folks could not afford brand new clothes for 5 kids. It then became an addiction to the endless possibilities that already worn garment offers: shapes, periods, styles etc. I remember that as a child, every now and then, Lao women would come to our place with huge black trash liners full of clothes collected at clothing banks or from some other Lao households. They would empty the contents in our living room and mothers and their children would dive into the pile of clothing.  It was like the Gold Rush, so exciting. I remember that I would eye scan the stash for the best cotton, the most inventive color combination, the softest knit, or the most subtle silky shine etc., and make a bet in my head that it was going to be the most valuable item of the whole supply. Only then I would pull out the fabric all the way out to finally discover my prize. It was usually a well cut blouse, a sharp skirt or something from a ‘real’ brand. My BS (Big Sister) would sometimes ask me: ‘how did you know?’

Later, I pursued my hunting obsession in Paris flea markets such as Porte de Montreuil or les Puces de Clignancourt. Back then, it was so dirty that after a day of sorting out through the crap I needed to take a shower. I am serious. In London, my fave stores were charity shops and they were everywhere, very organized and with their own target clientele. Oxfam had the trendier selection, but Help the Aged the best prices.

In New York, it got a little more complicated: cash shortage forced a more dilettante approach to shopping and secondhand clothing market is so broad. I still consider myself a shopping debutante here lurking in charity shops  in Chelsea, ‘vintage’ boutiques in Soho, Hell’s Kitchen flea markets and Williamsburg’s thrift shops. What confuses me the most is how expensive and well maintained previously worn clothes can be over here! Even weirder, some still have the original tags.

Anyway I found a faux leather jacket with cool trimmings in Williamsburg’s Monk thrift store. This jacket is fast becoming my fave item for Fall. P tagged along for the day with her very own hand-me-down corduroy dress found on Thredup , an online consignment store for like-new clothing. Online, people!!!! Boy, things have changed since the days of shuffling around old stuff on my parents’ living room floor…

Me: Therapy by Lane Crawford faux leather, knit dress from Nümph (always loved the geometrical shapes), Skip Hop diaper bag

P: Denim jacket from Du Pareil au Meme, OshKosh dress, bag from Claire’s and shoes from my friend Cameron’s daughter

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