Fairy Kei – Alternative Black Girl

First of all, I apologize profusely because it’s been ages since I last wrote a blog post. Needless to say, a lot has happened. Let me condense the last five months super quickly so I can get on with my topic for today:

Ahem.

Old best friend became new boyfriend. JET didn’t work out. New bf moved in. Newer better job. Better job was bad for my mental and physical health. So I got an even BETTER job as a “job coach” and will continue substitute teaching in the fall. (Oh, did I mention I’m a substitute teacher now?) I threw a book launch party in June for my fantasy novel, The Adventures and Shenanigans of Bastien Falco — that was FABULOUS. Sold like 30 books that month. Also, my birthday was July 5th and I’m 24 now. Yay.

Now. On to the topic at hand. See that dork with the purple hair in this post’s featured picture? That’s me.

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Yep. This is me. When you weren’t looking, I turned into a fairy.

Yes. I’ve done it. I’m a fairy. By that, I mean that I’ve recently gotten really into this style, this lovely slice of Japanese street fashion, called Fairy Kei. As soon as I saw this style, I fell in love immediately. My first thought was: MY PEOPLE! All these pastel rainbow dreamy fairies and unicorns roaming the Earth! I made it my mission to become one of them.

fairy 2

fairy 1

I’m well aware that they’re Japanese, and that Fairy Kei is a Japanese street fashion thing, but stuff like that has never bothered me. I’ve always been an alternative black girl, searching for my own style. I spent my angsty teenage years dabbling in Goth, Scene, and Punk. I even tried Gothic Lolita, but that was simply to expensive. I never could have afforded it. I’d bought one dress from Hot Topic, and some cute black chokers, but that was just about it.

But then I got to college and realized that I actually look pretty cool in light colors and that wearing all that black wasn’t really flattering on me.

And then, just five months ago, I discovered Fairy Kei, and I realized that this was what I’ve been trying to be. I mean, who cares that I’d be the only black girl I know dressing this way? That had never stopped me before. I’d been teased so many times before, since junior high (when I loved wearing MCR and Green Day t-shirts), so I’ve become numb to it. Why should I feel bad about myself when people who wear nothing but t-shirts and jeans — BORING CLOTHES — all the time make fun of what I wear?

Summer of 2013 started my own personal era of fashion. Forever 21 was my best friend. Then, I went to Japan and lost my mind, shopping in Shibuya, Tokyo. I was drunk on compliments in both Japan and the U.S. But see, even though I was stylish back then, I was still sort of conventionally stylish. I wore bows and stuff and dressed up — I looked like a doll going to class — but it was nothing compared to trying to imitate Japanese street fashion.

Street. Fashion.

You know, like those Harajuku Girls that Gwen Stephani was so crazy about.

Gwen Stefani Visits MTV's ''TRL'' - December 10, 2004

Gwen Stephani and her Harajuku Girls

Except now, Harajuku has pushed street fashion to its limits. We’re talking going beyond Fairy Kei. The fashion style in the photo below, my friends, is called Decora:

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It’s a bit too much for me, but I can respect it.

But back to Fairy Kei.

My family and friends are pretty much used to me by now, dressing the way I do. No one bots an eye. I get compliments on how cute I am — even from strangers. Thankfully, I surround myself with loving and open-minded people, so I never really have to worry too much about feeling weird about the way I dress. Fairy Kei makes me feel girly. It makes me feel good.

However, some alternative black girls aren’t so lucky. It doesn’t matter if they’re Goth or Fairy Kei or anything in between (Pastel Goth is literally smack dab in the middle). They are dressing in a way that makes them happy, but for some reason, dressing “out of the norm” is not widely celebrated in the black community. To more fully understand what I mean, consider reading this article, The Issue with the Perceived “Whiteness” of Being an Alternative Black Girl.

When I go on YouTube and watch videos by Fairy Kei vloggers, they are almost exclusively white and Asian. And when I dared to post fairy videos of my own, I will admit that I felt a little self-conscious.

But I mean. Pastels look good with my skin tone, too.

And it helps, that, from what I’ve seen, the Fairy Kei community seems to be very inclusive and warm. It welcome fairies who are trans or gender-queer without question. There are plus-sized fairies running around.

And, of course, there are us, black fairies. ❤

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I don’t know who this girl is, but I seriously need to get on her level.

So, if you’re a secret (or not-so-secret) alternative black girl, wear whatever the hell you want to wear! If Fairy Kei looks appealing to you, I encourage you to try it out! There may be people out there who will call you names and make fun of you, but those idiots aren’t worth your time. Life it too short for boring clothes. And life it too short not too wear what you want to wear. (I mean, depending on where you work, you may not want to wear Decora/Fairy Kei/Goth/Lolita/Punk/Metal-type stuff to your job. But, you know. Compromise.)

So, long story short: If you want to do the thing, THEN DO THE THING! ❤ I promise you, it’ll feel great.

 

Also, if you’re interested in my super new YouTube channel (it’s really silly and dumb — don’t check it out), it’s called Star Blush Universe. As of today there are two really boring videos. You’re better off just scrolling through my tumblr.

Until next time~!

 

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Adulting as an Adult in the Adult World

Woooah, it’s been a whopping three months or so since I posted in this dusty ol’ blog of mine. Let me tell you, though, that between November and now, my life has been figuratively going off the wheels on a crazy train.

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Random: I also like Bullet For My Valentine’s cover of the song…

So, listen up — if you’re a post-college twentysomething on the adulting struggle bus (or the adulting crazy train) and are about to spin out of control, trust me, you are not alone in this. Just when you think you’re getting your shit together, some evil villain with a ridiculous mustache sneaks in and blows up your train tracks with a few sticks of dynamite.

(Or, if you’re a George Saunders fan and have read “Winky,” someone is shitting in your oatmeal.)

It was in November that I began the long journey of preparing to teach English in Japan via the JET Program. I made it through the first screening quite easily and was scheduled for an interview in the first week of February. As qualified as I am for the position, I felt like I bombed the interview… Maybe that was my anxiety kicking in. Everyone assured me that I likely did just fine. But either way, the wait would be agonizing. I won’t know if I made it or not until April. (It’s the end of February, and this year’s a leap year. So I have to wait a whole extra day for March to come!)

But I still planned accordingly. My boyfriend (now my ex), and I have this cute house in a nice, quiet neighborhood with my two cats, and he was going to hold down the fort while I went away to Japan for a year. And then I would come back with lots of money and work as an ESL instructor. Not exactly my dream job, but it’s not too far away from my college studies, and it’s a stable career. It’s pretty much the natural progression after teaching for JET.

But just a couple days after my interview, shit really hit the fan. Two years’ worth of the non-communicative boyfriend’s simmering resentment had built up, and, long story short, we broke up. And though he had me believe that things were still fine and that he’d still support me me until I could stand on my own two feet, things apparently weren’t fine.

So then, here I am, working a part-time job in food service that pays peanuts, trying to schedule driving lessons and get my license as soon as possible, worrying over the fact that neither of my prescription meds are available in Japan, and then one morning I wake up to find that my emotionally abusive ex had taken to Facebook to slander my name and spread lies about me. And also tagged my family and friends.

Now that was a shit show.

I’m dealing with enough crap of my own without my personal business (and a smearing campaign against me) being put out on the web for the world to see. There is a reason why I don’t announce breakups over Facebook…

So then he decided he wanted to kick me out of the house, which meant I needed to find somewhere to live, and I also needed to find a better-paying job, AND I needed to find a reliable way to get to said job. And a roommate who doesn’t mind two cats.

But I decided I wanted to keep the house, which means speeding up my learning how to drive and applying to full-time jobs like crazy. In the past three days, I have applied to nine. And though I’ve never had to take the bus before (before moving to this house, living on and near campus meant I could pretty much walk anywhere I wanted), I started looking up bus routes and schedules.

I need time to save up money so that he can finally move out. And my cousin could move in with me after she’s saved up enough.

But see, there’s another problem. If I get to go to Japan, she wouldn’t be able to pay for the house by herself, and I wouldn’t have anyone who could watch my cats for me for a whole year.

And say I end up landing a job as a success coach on the university campus (which I SO hope to get) which would pay $3,000 a month. It wouldn’t look good for me to be there for only five to nine months until I have to up and leave for Japan.

This went from the perfect time to time to do JET! to the worst time ever to do JET.

I’ve done a lot of growing up these past few days, and I guess learning that sometimes your huge plans just don’t work out is a part of adulting.

Although I was careful not to go into much detail, this is probably the most personal post I’ve ever published on this blog. I want young adults struggling out there to know that where you are right now isn’t necessarily where you’re always going to be. Some days are more difficult than others, and some days I have to power through the anxiety and depression, but keeping a positive outlook in the back of your mind is way more important than you might think (believe me, as someone who takes meds for depression). We’re all still learning, and we’ve still got a ways to go.

I’d spent two years with someone who would tell me the opposite of what he felt and would place all the blame on me when things went wrong, taking none of the blame for the things he’d done wrong. (And my apologies were never good enough.) Someone who saw me as a mentally fragile child and treated me as such, even though I’m strong enough to handle many of the issues he’d withheld from me. (So imagine my shock when I saw he’d resorted to high school-level spitefulness on social media.) After I finished grad school, I’d worked on writing and marketing my novel while he worked to support us both, and that was where we both fucked up. My development into adulthood was stunted by this major mistake — one that we had both naively agreed to do — but I was 22 and he was 23, and we didn’t know any better. Now we do.

I’m 23 now. Just when I start to think I’m getting old, shit like this happens and I realize:

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So what have I learned? No matter how well you prepare for a huge plan in your life, something can always mess it up. And people don’t deserve to be in serious relationships — let alone live together — unless they have their shit together and are at least a little established. And joining the full-time adult world of 8am to 5pm means that I’ll need to survive on coffee (yuck) or energy drinks (also yuck). And romantic love is the messiest abstract thing in the world.

Awkward Sex Dream is Awkward

‘Kay so.

A while ago, I saw some Facebook post that said, “When you have a sex dream about someone and you’re a little in love with them for a couple days.”

Is that really true for some people? That’s cute. Sadly, that’s not how it works for me. With me, it’s always the same damn guy. Typically, he doesn’t even enter my mind, but after these dreams, I hate him with a passion all over again. ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

I’m not going to describe him because our mutual friends will pick up on it right away — and gods FORBID that asshole winds up seeing this and realizes that he STILL gets my panties in a bunch. After all these years. ALL. THESE. YEARS. (Let’s get this straight — I don’t get to choose what I dream about, mister sir. In reality, I don’t want anything to do with your dick. Like. At all.)

Actually, yesterday, I saw him comment on a friend’s post (he and I aren’t FB friends), soooo I was a little petty and commented, too. Not in response to him or anything. But, ya know. My Facebook profile pic is super effing cute and I wanted to make sure he saw.

But back to sex dreams. I just woke up from one. And I’ve literally been lying in bed for an hour thinking, “Aw what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what in the actual fuck WHYYYY.”

It was a long, vivid, plot-driven dream, sprinkled with scenes of our little escapades. Ugh. What made it worse is that the orgasms… were fucking amazing. And the kisses too.

This is truly scumbag brain at work.

Seriously.

Seriously.

“That’s Because You’re Black”

So once, when I was in 3rd grade, I was on a bus driving back from a field trip. It was super fun! We’d gone to an archaeological dig, and I’d found some cool fossils. It was great.

Now, this was at a program for gifted students called Horizons. Every Thursday, I was excused from class all day to go to Horizons, and I loved it. I learned Russian, more advanced songs on violin, and all  sorts of cool things. The projects were always awesome. It was kind of program where, if the teacher told you you were going to do a project, you didn’t groan – you jumped for joy.

Group of multi-ethnic kids jumping together

Yep. Just like this.

Back to the story.

We were on the bus, and the radio was on. “Superwoman” by Lil’ Mo came on. (Yep. Year 2001. Feel old yet?) Except for like, two other kids from my school, all the students in my Horizons class were white. But, I mean… that didn’t matter to me. And I really thought it didn’t matter to them, either.

There were these sisters whom I considered my friends, Karen and Rose, and so I sat by them. And Rose said, “Man, I hate this song!”

I said, “Really? I love this song.”

And Rose said. “That’s because you’re black.”

At at moment, it felt like I should have been hurt by her comment, and I was, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on why. Yes, I was black. And yes, Lil’ Mo was black. But that didn’t necessarily mean I would automatically like her music. I just thought “Superwoman” was a cool song.

If you’re unfamiliar, or if you’re up for a dose of nostalgia, here’s the song:

What’s funny is that the black kids would also make fun of me for listening to bands like Green Day and Evanescence.

Isn’t it interesting that no matter what music I listened to, it was always subject to scrutiny?

Don’t get me started on people’s reactions when they heard my favorite Japanese songs, or Celtic metal songs, or 8bit/Chiptune songs.

Ugh. -.-

But you know what? I listen to whatever I want, and I’ve since learned not to give two shits about what people think about it. If I want to listen to Tame Impala, damn it, I will. If I want to listen to enka music, then damn it, I will.

If I want to listen to Gackt, The Tontons, Lamb of God, Ice Cube, Nujabes, Mos Def, Wonder Girls, Polysics, DBSK, THE PILLOWS, THE PIXIES, NOVEMBER’S DOOM, ELUVEITIE, OR THE ROLLING STONES

THEN DAMN IT

I WILL.

And if you don’t like it:

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Adventures in Japan, Part 3: Stupid gaijin ordered too much rice

Sorry it took so long! I’ve been focusing on too many things are once. But here is a third tale of my adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Of the three weeks my friends and I spent in Japan, we spent the whole first week in wonderful, beautiful Tokyo – my favorite city in the whole wide world. But because so many people there assume you only want to communicate in English, it doesn’t always offer the best opportunities for practicing Japanese.

When they spoke to me in English, and I replied in Japanese, many were impressed and delighted. Some, however, just kind of replied to me in English anyway, which was kind of annoying.

But let me assure you, my good friends. Tokyo isn’t full of English-speakers. There were times when we came across Tokyoites who blushed and insisted that their English was terrible. We couldn’t always understand each other. And, while my Japanese was pretty good, I wasn’t 100% fluent. I could get around, order things, ask questions, have conversations, but there were small gaps in my knowledge…. such as how to say, “I’d like this bowl of rice, but split in four, please.”

Three of my friends and I went out to eat at this restaurant, and our server, however adorable, couldn’t not understand English very well. That was fine with us, because we knew how to order food in Japanese. The problem was, when we asked how big the bowls of rice were, he showed us with his hands that the bowls were pretty huge.

So, we thought, okay cool – we can just split that in four. But see… we couldn’t figure out how to say that in a way that our server could understand.

But he eventually nodded as if knowing what we were talking about, and things were pretty great… until he arrived with our meals and four gargantuan bowls of rice. He was smiling until he saw our collective looks of horror, and so he looked worried, too. When he asked what the matter was, we tried to explain the issue…

Meanwhile, the able next to us had a group of drunk Japanese friends around our age. God, they were cracking up. They must have thought we couldn’t understand them, but we knew they were talking about us. The things they were saying pretty much summed up to lol look at those stupid foreigners, ordered all that rice, hahaha!

Wasting food is a big no-no in Japan. But somehow, we were able to get out of being charged a fee for all the uneaten rice. One of us even drew him a little picture of Batman and wrote him a little thank you. On our way out, he sort of laughed and placed it to his heart saying, “It will be my treasure!”

So, all’s well that ends well, I guess.

(Still wonder what they did with all that rice, tho.)

Adventures in Programming

‘Kay so. This stuff is great. It’s fun. I was put on this Earth to create, and that’s what coding allows me to do….. It’s also “practical.”

Look. I’m a writer and a dancer – there’s nothing “practical” about that. No one’s going to hire me to teach them ballroom or to write them a novel.

I know Japanese and Swedish, but let’s be honest – it’s not Mandarin or Spanish.

I love book-binding for crying out lout.

I am pretty much the queen of all things impractical.

Luckily for me, all I have is time. It’s beautiful. When I’m not writing or reading books, I can learn anything I want about the universe. I can teach myself languages and research things for fun. Lately, I’ve been sticking my nose in various sciences that have always interested me – sciences that I never went into in depth because math is big, huge, scary, hairy monster. I mean, I can do it. But. My attitude was that I’d just rather not. All throughout college – both undergrad and grad – I put my all into foreign language, English, creative writing, art, and dance. That’s my shit. That’s what I do best.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t love and appreciate science. There were so many times when I thought about going into astrophysics, believe it or not. Or, physics in general. I like to know what makes this universe tick.

I’ve also been fascinated by robotics. I spent hours researching and taking notes on robotics and automatons – how they work, what they did, what they do, and what they could do. I’m most interested in A.I. Like this little guy here:

But the thing that got me was computer programming. Coding. There’s so much to learn and so much you can do with it. I learned HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) in a couple hours. I started teaching myself programming about a week ago (about a week ago!!!), and I’ve already made several simple apps using Java. But let me back up a bit.

After I was proud of myself for making super retro webpage designs (like, think early 2000s, late 90s?), I was ready to move on to an actual programming language, one that adds functionality. Like Javascript.

But let me tell you something.

Javascript is not – repeat not – a beginner’s code.

I literally sat at my computer during the tutorial like:

O M G.

W T F  I S  T H I S.

H E L P  M E.

H E L P.

M E.

comp rage

So then. One of my programming friends swooped in to the rescue and was basically like, Yeahhh that’s a bad idea you should start with C++ or Java. (Btw, I learned that Java and Javascript are not the same language.)

Thus began my journey to Java Land! 😀 It was pretty great at first. I downloaded Eclipse and spent hours, days working on tutorials.

Then another programming friend said, Oh hey it’s so cool that you’re coding now I want to be your professor come over so we can build something together.

Yay! A mentor!

The first thing about programming is knowing what you want to build. What do you want to create? I mean, I guess you can start building something without a clear plan in mind… but from what I’ve learned, it’s better to have a plan first. It’s funny because when I write short fiction, I just start writing and go wherever the story takes me. When I write novels, I have a loose outline in mind, but I usually end up deviating from it anyway.

I digress.

So, my friend and I picked a little beginner project for me to work on and for him to help me through.

I thought it would be cute to do a little Mad Libs type of thing. Unfortunately for me, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was using syntaxes I hadn’t even learned yet. And to top it all off, when we thought we finished the program, it was buggy as hell.

AND THEN I LEARNED THE HELLISH NIGHTMARE THAT IS BUGS.

FUCK BUGS.

And that’s the end of Jasmine’s Happy Coding Story Part 1. 😀

Because believe me.

This story will continue. >_____>

Until next time, lovely people!!

Relationships: Flirting and Celeb Crushes

Hello all once again~!

I don’t really talk about things like love, relationships, and romance, and stuff. I don’t know why – I just don’t. I barely write it into my stories. That said, after binge-watching a few Buzzfeed videos (I have a life, I swear. I’ve just been so busy and on-the-go that I thought a little couch-potatoing wouldn’t kill me) I’ve developed a phase known as THE CELEBRITY CRUSH. And look, I love my boyfriend to bits – he’s the love of my life – but god damn, Buzzfeed’s Eugene is everything. I mean. Damn.

JUST LOOK AT HIM

JUST LOOK AT HIM

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HE’S FUNNY, HE CAN DANCE, AND HE’S STYLISH AS HELL

Can I switch places with her?

Can I switch places with her?

3

Sigh

Yeah, as you can see, I have a problem. (I’m not the only one, though. Look at the comments of literally ANY Youtube video he’s been in. This guy has an army of admirers.) But… it’s quite embarrassing for me to admit because I generally pride myself on abstaining from celebrity crushes. I mean, what’s the point? It’s so silly. It never gets anywhere. I mean, you don’t even know the person! They could be a serious asshole or an idiot or a secret serial killer. On the screen, Eugene may seem like this intelligent stylish, super funny, super hot…….. (I’m sorry, what was I saying?)

But okay, I’ll get serious now. When I’m single, I go a little boy crazy because I can. But when I’m with someone, that someone is the single object of my affection. Ideally, anyway. When I start dating someone, I generally loose interest in looking at other guys. And it’s pretty great. It feels secure. But then, there’s always that one celeb that slips through! In my last serious relationship, I discovered BBC’s Merlin and therefore discovered the perfection that is Bradley James:

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THIS VERSION OF ARTHUR AND GWEN IS MY OTP.

THIS VERSION OF ARTHUR AND GWEN IS MY OTP.

I had to stop and wonder why I felt like I needed to make his face my wallpaper and fawn over pics of him. Most importantly, I came to the realization that I wasn’t secure enough to handle that idea that maybe someone I’m dating might have these silly crushes as well. My immediate thoughts generally go:

Oh my god he thinks she’s prettier he’d rather have someone who looks like her she’s skinnier than I am I could never look like that if he ever meets her my relationship is over help

I spent so much time Googling this dilemma to see if it was common. Normally, people say, “Yeah, but you’ll never meet them. So it doesn’t matter.”

Yes! Yes, it does matter – in a way. It’s not impossible. Celebrities have dated non-celebs before. It’s not entirely impossible to meet one. What if they do meet and hit it off? So, saying “they’ll never meet” doesn’t make me feel any better whatsoever.

Before I had my anxiety issues under better control, my current boyfriend made the mistake of mentioning his attraction to Asli Omar to me:

a1 a2 a3 a4

Isn’t she positively gorgeous??!! And she’s a lovely singer; she’s the vocalist for one of our favorite bands, The Tontons. But at the time, when I still let my anxiety and depression get the best of me, I automatically assumed that I’d lost, and that she’d won. Rationally, I knew that that wasn’t the truth and that my boyfriend loved me, but… it just made me feel less than. Since then, I’d resolved to continue to pretend celebrities weren’t all that hot and that the Asli Omar incident never happened.

But it’s human, isn’t it, to have a bit of a wandering eye? That’s the only explanation I can think of. It’s very complex to think about. If I saw someone like Eugene out and about, and if situation permitted, I would flirt like hell. (Probably. I’m really shy and would probably talk myself out of it…. But I’d still daydream about flirting with him.) And I would do this knowing quite well that at the end of the day, I’m going to bed with the best bf I could ever ask for. What is this cognitive dissonance?

Do you believe that flirting is disrespectful in a relationship? Some people do. I don’t make a habit out of it. Normally, I just admire from afar. But when I ask myself questions like these, I generally flip it around to see what I would be okay with dealing with.

For example:

What if I saw the bf fawning over pics of Asli Omar or Janelle Monae?

What if I jokingly commented on a Buzzfeed vid: “Eugene = bae.” Would I be okay if the bf did something like that?

What if we were watching a movie, and he just randomly said, “Wow. She is hot.”

Okay, present-me would be a little irked, but I’ve also learned that there’s more than one kind of attractive in the world, and that liking the looks of one person doesn’t cancel out the looks of another. I also know that he loves me and that that’s all that matters. It also helps tremendously that my bf is extremely understanding and compassionate – I mean, he’s a nurse, and he learned a thing or two from mental health courses – so he weathered this rough journey with me… from me being jealous and anxious to me just being a little irked but okay overall.

In fact, I was recently proud of myself for acquiring the guts to ask him if he ever had fantasies. Was I in them? Were other women in them? Stuff like that. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t irked or hurt at all. I guess that shows my progress.

That said, I still have a long way to go. I’m not going to go posting Eugene pics on Man Crush Monday any time soon because if the bf did anything like that on Woman Crush Wednesday, there would probably be some problems.

Or not.

Who knows? Maybe I’d surprise myself and only be a little irked.

SO! Ladies and gents – how do you feel about flirting and celeb crushes? Where do you draw the line? Do you care? Does it bother you like the dickens? Do you go a little overboard?

Let me know! 😉

Where Do I Go From Here?

I noticed that some Americans really like to ostracize other Americans. I often hear the phrase, “Well, if you hate it here so much, you should just leave.”

Yes, leaving is definitely an option. Another option is stopping to wonder why these people are so unhappy in this country.

Look, I’m American, born and raised. I love America with all its free speech and ubiquitous free wi-fi. But… I also know that America is pretty fucked up.

We were the 18th country to legalize same-sex marriage (took along enough), and people are still fighting it tooth and nail. Many people are using the same excuses that were used when interracial marriage was illegal.

On a related note, a surprising amount of people are unable to separate church and state. To some, a completely secular government would be the end of times. Fire and Brimstone!!

red guy

Apparently this is what they think a secular government would look like.

Little do they know, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, and many other nations have secular governments and are doing just fine.

And when I was in Japan for a month, I felt more like an equal and a human being than I feel here sometimes. The Japanese never made me feel self-conscious about being black (except for the three times I was asked to get my picture taken. One of them was when I was standing next to my tall, handsome, blond-haired, blue-eyed friend). Here, I’m sometimes followed around stores even though shoplifting is the last thing on my mind. People sometimes lock their cars when my dad strolls by, even though he’s a hard-working, productive member of society. And even though my boyfriend takes his profession seriously, in nursing school, he still encountered patients who refused to be treated by a black nurse.

America isn’t even among the top ten nations with the best education systems! And there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.

We’re not in the top ten for health care, either. Surprise, surprise. (Even though ours is ridiculously expensive.)

And, we also have a bit of a prison problem: “Not only does the U.S. lead the world in incarcerations per 100 thousand of population, but it is home to largest total number of prisoners. Roughly 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States. China’s estimated prison population totals to only 1.6 million people.” (Statista). We’re second only to Seychelles. This is kind of embarrassing.

Obesity is out of control. (Seriously, people threw a fit when McDonald’s first tried to sell apples, but all hell broke loose when Twinkies went out of business.)

Our cops are out of control. (Not all cops – yes, I know. But you can’t deny that we have way more bad apples than we need.)

And let me tell you, we’re on no one’s list for happiest country.

So, taking all this into account (and this isn’t even all of it), it’s natural to wonder where else I could live.

Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands have some of the happiest people.

Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.K. are among the top ten education systems.South Korea is number one, but I wouldn’t touch South Korea with a 50-foot pole. Case and point:

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(Pretty ignorant for the so-called best educated nation in the world, hm?)

The U.K., France, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, and the Netherlands are all among those in top ten healthcare.

And I also did a search for the “most tolerant” countries. And after various perusals, the Netherlands was consistently the top choice.

The Netherlands is also extremely energy efficient. (Germany is number one.)

Look, I am seriously considering learning Dutch and moving to the Netherlands. (I’m also told New Zealand is a great choice as well.)

And before you say it: I do know that racism is everywhere and no nation is perfect. I also realize how lucky I am to have been born an American. I don’t hate this country – you won’t catch me burning flags or shitting on them – but at the same time…

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(Side note: And yes, I know “Black Pete” is a thing. But, to be fair, if a character who is Santa’s helper is the biggest racial issue in the country, I’m pretty sure I can overlook it.)

(Side-side note: Does anyone know what ballroom is like in the Netherlands?)

Wall of Shame

The nicknames my elementary-school peers gave me paint a vivid picture of what they thought of me: “Smart Girl,” “Miss Perfect,” etc. (“Teacher’s Pet” didn’t come until junior high.)

So, I was smart, and I was a good student, and I prided myself on things like good grades, perfect attendance… and never having to go on the Wall of Shame (that’s not what it was called, but that’s how I felt – shameful).

I had cheer-leading practice or something after school, but our coach didn’t show up on time, so we were left in the auditorium, waiting. And what did we do? Play on the stage LIKE NORMAL KIDS.

We got in trouble for basically being kids instead of waiting outside like the building like lost puppies.

So. We all got detention – standing against the wall. I was mortified. (“Haha, look at Jasmine, on the wall!! Ha!!)

I asked one of the older kids, “What does regret mean?”

“It means you wish something never happened.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well. I regret this day.”

Thankfully, it was but a blip in my elementary experience. Nobody cared the next day.

In junior high, I was spotless. The teachers loved me. I had the top GPA in the school both years (4.5.), perfect attendance, never got in trouble. In one class, I was teased so much that the teacher had to move my desk up next to hers (and that’s when they started calling me teacher’s pet). But, being a good student was so important to me. It was pretty much all I had.

I made friends in high school, though. The fact that I was salutatorian instead of valedictorian shows that I actually had some inkling of a social life. I had friends, crushes, and boyfriends. I cared about my weight and my looks. I wanted to be fashionable. I wanted to be all those things – plus a good student. So I was second-best in the school. Not the worst thing that could happen. Besides, if I had isolated myself from potential friends, I never would have learned guitar or joined drama club, or entered Smash Melee and Brawl tournaments. People did hurt me, yes. But not all of them. So then. This interacting with people thing started to look like it had some potential.

By college, I went from getting mostly As to a fair mix of As and Bs. I kept a steady GPA of 3.7 all throughout undergrad and grad school (how the hell I managed that, I have no idea). I didn’t use sparknotes until I was a sophomore in college. I was always early for class and never skipped… until I learned that perfect attendance doesn’t mean shit in college. By the time I reached grad school, I had learned to skip strategically by keeping track of how many absences I had before they started affecting my grade.

I learned that grades aren’t everything. I learned that I benefited more by half-assing classes I didn’t care much about so I could put my all into the classes that I loved. Even as a masters student in literature, I found time to read for fun and write my own stories. And I have friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a great sense of fashion, way too many books (and I need more), and a masters degree.

They say that you can only choose two of these three: Sleep, Good Grades, and a Social Life.

Crafty little me – I found a way to obtain all three.

Take that, Wall of Shame.

Staples

My day camp used to take trips to the JCC (Jewish Community Center). This was when I was like… 6? 7 years old?

My mom liked to braid my hair – often in cornrows. It was pretty much the norm for me and most other little girls I knew…

So one day, a girl came up to me, with face screwed up in a mix of curiosity and disgust, and said, “Are those… stapled?”

I looked at her as if she’d come from another planet.

Who the hell staples braids to their head?

Why would she even think that?

Even if she did come from another background, I mean, staples braids to one’s head would seem pretty stupid to a 6-year-old, wouldn’t it? And she see staples in my head? No.

I was shocked. Appalled.

I just sort of looked at her and said, “No,” as if she’d just asked me if the sky were red and the grass were pink.

Gosh. Even now, it makes me wonder where that question would have come from…