Dim Sum With Carlos

You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together._  Anthony Bourdain.png

A death in the family brought me home to suburbia for a brief time. But despite the mourning and family obligation, I made time to have brunch with Carlos. It was a much needed break to decompress and after very little planning, we settled on where we would go. We decided on Kirin Court, a place that is utterly mythological for the two of us.

The legend goes a little something like this. A few conventions ago Carlos, myself and my then partner were staying in a hotel room. We were hungry after watching an anime that emotionally scarred me and we were each tasked with looking for a restaurant that would feed all of us. I pulled up a few places on my laptop and I remember things as clear as day. I looked to my associates and said: I think I found the perfect place.

I gave them no context, nothing.

When I turned my laptop around across the webpage slithered dragons in the corners. Soft music played in the background. It felt like all the yakuza animes I’ve ever loved.

We went there, the three of us, and enjoyed a meal that we didn’t feel deserving of. We ordered too much and shirked the greatness of the dim sum in our attempts to fill our stomachs with rice and candy-coated chickens and nearly mostly naked chickens.

I was afraid that when my then partner and I broke up, I’d never be able to return to Kirin again. It did help that the restaurant is in my ancestral homeland but Carlos was persistent and I really wanted dim sum so we did Kirin Court again: just the two of us.

Kirin Court has become an important part of our friend mythology and now when I am home, we go to Kirin; hell, we’re already planning on our yearly visit for Christmas to exchange gifts.

We talked a lot. We talked about what we’re watching and how work is. We shared stories and do all the things we usually do when we catch up. And while we were there, we started with things that we usually order. I start with tea and water and entirely too much sugar. I got Carlos the barbeque pork buns he loves. I started with my Hong Kong egg waffle and Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. We laughed and talked, chopsticks moving in and around each other like a fun little dance we’ve learned over the years.

But this time, things were different. They’ve added things to the menu!

It started with sausage rolls that made me let out a noise that sounded like a mix between a soft contented sigh and a shrill squeal. Next up was the salt and pepper calamari which I practically snatched off the cart before the plate could be placed on our table. Carlos picked up fried shrimp from the same cart and I was thrilled with the first bite of calamari. Coating pieces of fried squid in chili oil was a great idea and requesting hot mustard for the sausage rolls was worth it as well. I don’t think Carlos has seen me eat with such gusto in a while. It’s a bit of a joke but most of my friends are always worried I don’t eat enough (as I am writing this, my dinner has been mostly made of water and biscoff cookies) and even though my start at Kirin was heavy with mango pudding with milk, egg waffle and pineapple buns; he was happy to see me eat something that wasn’t a dessert (listen, I have an anime boy reputation to uphold, that means I consume sugar, angst and the fear I have instilled into my enemies).

I lost track of how many times I poured myself tea. I lost track of time even though I had to get back on the road. I simply lost track in time as carts flew by and plates stacked up and chatter filled the space that looked like every 90s anime version of a host club is hidden in the back of a restaurant.

I get asked a lot about if I’d ever move back home. I get these questions especially after visiting family which is…well, it’s visiting family. You can’t ever go home again and now Dallas/Ft. Worth despite being my homeland is no longer my home. Going to Kirin Court means I am visiting and thus means I will leave.

And while Carlos and I caught up since we do only see each other a few times a year I said something that I think encapsulates my feelings on the whole “going home again” thing.

I’d never want this place to be something we do every Sunday.

There. I said it. I said the thing I never thought I would. I admitted to missing my home and missing the great food and the shopping (oh the shopping) but I would never want this to be a place I could in theory go anywhere I want. I have a restaurant like that here in San Antonio: MiTierra. It’s a restaurant that meant a lot to my family and I tend to only go there during special occasions or when family and/or company is in town.

It’s a special place and merits a special occasion even though I could in theory go there and embrace technicolor culture any time I want.

And what’s amazing is that out of all the places Carlos could frequent without me, he doesn’t. He’s even said a few times that going to these places without me feels a little like an infidelity.

Kirin Court is one of the most special places in the world to me. It means I am home, it means I get to spend time with one of my best friends and it means I get to fill my stomach with food that I know is good and that even my anxiety will accept. I always leave full and happy and in these trying times, it’s remarkable and wonderful to have a place that still feels sacred.

With Friends Like These

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” ― Roxa

I’ve been one of the guys since as long as I could remember. High school was full of mostly platonic guy friends and the occasional male suitor; not to say I didn’t have female friends, I had many three that were close but the rest were simply rivals to non-existent potential relationships. College was some female friends which is especially funny considering that my alma mater was overwhelmingly female. But like many things patriarchal, it was never encouraged for me to make friends with females. Female friends would only steal your man and waste your time with duplicitous lies and incessant neediness. This is what society taught me. That to be friends with females was to be in a Mean Girls-style girl gang full of cackling she-devils.

It took me well into my 20s to learn that I couldn’t be more wrong.

The shift did technically start in college. I was surrounded by my anime club members (who were mostly female) and other close friends that helped support me from my high points to my low. It was my girl friends who kept me sane and my senpais (who are all female) that gave me someone to look up to and aspire to be like.

It was post-grad that I separated from many of my female friends. We tried to stay in touch and the ones that still matter to me, did. But post-grad I fell more into the folds of the LGBT community and to put it bluntly, there’s a fair amount of misogyny in the gay community and the most important show to me during that time was RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is essentially (at least for most seasons) 10 or so gay men ranting about how awful biological females are while trying to be better women than biological females with just a hint of casual racism and transphobia sprinkled in for good measure.

Pop culture is also full of vapid female groupings that emphasize a very specific type of female friendship. The Ashleys from Recess (yes, I’m old) come to mind of just a gaggle of gossipy gals. Additionally, because of the patriarchy, it was always an asset for me to be “one of the guys”. The fact that I “wasn’t like most girls” made it easier for guys to relate to me since all the things synonymous with being part of a girl gang were negative like being chatty, manipulative or excessively emotional.

When I first moved back to San Antonio, my friend group stayed small. It was mostly the ones I had kept from college and if anything I went through a similar friend purge that most mid to late 20-somethings go through. I lost people that I thought I’d have in my life until I decide to return to the swamp that birthed me.

But I have some people in my life now that are ride-or-die. And I’ve never really experienced this from friends of any kind. I have people in my life willing to fight for me when I am not willing to fight for myself (which, let’s be honest, is most of the time). I have folks that empower me, inspire me, challenge me and think that I am worth something (which is, let’s be honest, not something I feel all the time). I didn’t think this was possible from friendships, I didn’t think this was even conceivable from female friends. I’m not one to fight for myself and I hate conflict (thanks, trauma) so I’m willing to stay close to people who hurt me. I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice anything with these ladies and I feel supported (genuinely), lifted up (expertly) and empowered (sometimes too much).

So I wanted to take some time out to thank some of the members of my Girl Gang.

Amanda: Literally, this is a girl I met at LUSH (she thought I was a secret shopper because I caught one of the most obscure references in a commercial retailer ever) and we said we were both going to the same con. During that con at one of my panels I mentioned that I had one right after the other and that I needed food. LIKE A CHAMPION, this girl brought me chicken nuggets right in the middle of my set and it’s been a friendship made in anime series history ever since then.

Victoria: She’s the best mom-friend I never thought I needed. Fellow Slytherin, fellow feminist, fellow person filled with ennui but just so much endless love and support. I’m emotional even thinking about it. I’m so lucky to have her in my life and every part of her life is just magical.

Amber: The current longest running member of the Girl Gang. I have known her since college. She was my treasurer in the anime club I ran in college and helped keep me sane with my Vice President resigned suddenly. Amber is a frequent figure mentioned on my blog: she is my travel companion and close friend and I’m so fortunate to still have her in my life 10 years nearly on (I’m so old…).

Lisa: Lisa is honestly one of the most spectacular women I have ever met. There’s a reason I continue to work with her over and over again. I have never had someone so in my corner. She’s brilliant and the world sorely needs more people as empathetic, enthusiastic and kind as Lisa.

I’ve spent a lot of time valuing others more than myself but it’s amazing and frankly, relieving to have these wonderful women in my life that support me so much. Society tells us that when girls get together it’s nothing but incessant chatter and back-handed compliments. When we get together it’s talks about philosophy and art. It’s support that is genuine and real. It’s a love that is unselfish and kind. It’s listening and caring and telling you when your skirt doesn’t match your top. It’s telling you that your boyfriend’s behavior is scary and making a family when your own is a hot trash pile.

It’s a type of friendship I didn’t think that was possible or that I deserved but I’m so happy to have it.

Worth Having and Working For

I picked up Persona 5 not too long ago. For those who know me, this is a small surprise. I love the light novel aspects of the game but the dungeon crawling parts make me nauseous. But there’s lots of things about the game that I do enjoy. The mood and tone are straight up things I love and the jazz reminds me of Lupin III and Cowboy Bebop which is keeping me going right now. But Persona 5 is a very traditional JRPG and that means managing relationships. MC-kun has a lot of work to do keeping everyone happy and keeping his friends happy means that he can achieve his main goal. It’s a key feature of most RPGs and similar games to keep relationships solid to achieve certain tasks.

We’ve talked about how shonen anime kept me motivated about working towards friendship but today we’re going to talk about how video games remind me to continue to maintain those bonds.

2017 was rocky for me when it comes to personal relationships. I lost some connections that I thought would last a lifetime. The early part of 2018 continued that theme of me losing people that I assumed would be with me for the long run. But it means that I went on into the year with a core of people that I now feel like I can trust with my life. But it isn’t enough to add friends to the party or just keep old ones on the back burner, you have to maintain each friendship. I’m lucky enough that I get to talk to my friends regularly. There are very few I’ve lost touch with over time and if I have, there’s always been more than one factor. But there are people I’ve lost contact with and I miss them dearly. But I’m huge on the “phones work both ways” model, if I lost contact with someone while it’s easy to wait for them, I can also easily reach out: if it fails, that’s on them and it can be reassessed at a later date.

It’s easy to take long-time friends for granted. There’s this low-key assumption that they will always be there but your friends aren’t meant to replace a therapist but often times they do. I rely so much on my friends during the good and the bad times and I agonize over whether I do enough for them in return.

That brings us back to Persona 5 and another game I’m playing right now Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Mystery in both games there’s a huge importance on not just making new friends but also keeping the ones that matter to you content and satisfied with your friendship. These are the people that are going to bat for you and in both examples are often risking their lives for you (your character) and they deserve to be treated well considering. A Hogwarts Mystery focuses a lot on you comforting your friends after hardship: hell, I’m just about done with Year 2 and I’ve spent more time consoling friends than I have flying on brooms and being yelled at by Snape. Persona 5 is similar, you spend a great deal of time providing answers that you think people want to hear. They’re all somewhat aligned with what the main character would say or think but you can choose to be a jerk or be accommodating and being accommodating has its benefits: it raises the stats of the people and personas they use to better suit your will.

Now, that’s still a very cynical way to look at friendship. That you’re boosting stats and being friendly just because friends are tools but I don’t think of it that way despite being the proudest Slytherin around. I think of it more as a good reminder to check in on my friends. I rely on them so much that it only makes sense to support them as well. I find myself almost incessantly checking in on my friends and how they are doing and also because many of my friends have much more interesting days than I do. I’m known as being a great gift-giver and I often leave houses cleaner than when I arrived. Little things are great ways to maintain and keep friendships going. And they don’t have to be expensive, I love just a good phone call or playing a game together (as long as I’m good at the game).

Truth be told, the managing of relationships was always one of my least favorite parts of most RPGs and Dating Games. I had one route I wanted to pursue and like an Ayn Rand fever dream, I forged ahead. Just look at the games I play, they focus on one character that you can sort of self-insert to and relationships with NPCs be damned (except for N in Pokemon Black/White and the date you get to go on with him [regardless of the player’s gender choice] on the Ferris Wheel, that was magical and it will not be taken from me). And I rarely play cooperatively as an adult. As a teen I did play some co-op arcade games but it was mostly me being very bad at The House of the Dead II. I’m an only child. I play single player games or I play against others so fostering relationships with characters always seemed a little silly to me in some games.

But in my personal life, I just didn’t have the luxury of neglecting my friends. In college, I ended up moving away and I lost many of the people that meant the world to me as a youth. Growing up, that happens. There’s an entire social phenomena of people losing their friends in their 20s and 30s. However, the friends that do survive this battle royale are ones that are likely to be with you for the rest of your life. Not all the time, but very likely.

When my mother died, it was my friends that surrounded me with support. When I was struggling running my anime club, it was my friends that kept me motivated. When I was stressed out about work, it was my friends that had fried food and drinks to keep me sane.

And in return, I had to put in work. I gave money, gave time, gave energy and resources. I shared sofas and answered long phone calls and comforted people during loss. I’ve sent pies and flowers and been the a surrogate child and another sibling.

I gave my heart because I was already in the hearts and minds of those that matter most to me.

 

A “True” Introvert

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. Carl Jung.png

I’m always surprised by what the internet thinks an introvert is. Listicle after listicle will say that an introvert is someone who shuns plans with friends, ignores humanity from days on in and lives in some sort of Frodo Baggins book-filled Hobbit Hole.

Well, folks. Sit down. Today, we’re gonna talk about introversion, being a crappy friend and what it means to get power from the self or power from the crowd.

Here’s a good time to discuss the difference between introversion and extroversion. An introvert as described by the Myer-Briggs Personality Test of Magic and Mostly Nonsense is a person who generally sounds like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

And extrovert is someone who looks a little like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

The main differences between the two is that an introvert gets power from within while an extrovert gets power from the crowd or others.

In the made up land of Myers & Briggs (and I only say made up because it is reductive to say you can fit all of a person into literally 4 letters but like astrology, when it’s right, it’s right) I am an INFP. That is the archetype of the “idealist” and this is what that looks like:

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves.

INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP’s value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same – the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. (source)

I am an introvert and that surprises a lot of people. Many know me from paneling, podcasting, cosplaying, running organizations or generally being the center of attention. None of my friends would describe me as having a small personality and no one I work with has ever been able to claim that I don’t leave an impression.

So when do I have time to curl up in a cocoon of manga panels and mainline Mr. Pibb and ignore humanity in a sea of books I can’t afford and will never finish? The truth is that the Internet Introvert just isn’t real. Introverts aren’t just hermits. They aren’t hobgoblins that shirk away from sunlight and ignore humanity just to read and write fanfiction and sure there are introverts that do that but not every introvert is like that. And the continual perpetuation that an introvert is some sort of silkworm pupae that nestles in and ignores plans and calls from friends to binge watch Netflix is just immature.

If a friend needs me, I’m the first to hop in my car and be with them. If a friend cancels plans, am I sometimes happy? Sure sometimes. Am I also sometimes really disappointed that I’m wasting a full face of makeup and cute outfit? Absolutely and I will occasionally go out anyways if that happens. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t command an audience. Doesn’t mean I hate going out. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like other people. It just means I don’t get a lot of power from those actions. If you’ve seen me panel I’m energetic and vibrant. I adapt to the changes of crowds and answer questions gracefully and with charm. After the panel? Oh, after the show is a whole different story. In the Whataburger at 2 AM after a panel is a very different Amanda. And even after convention I am usually exhausted emotionally for days after. The crowd takes my energy. And sure, sometimes I get perked up from the crowd. Carlos has noted many times that he can see the sparkle in my eye when I’m on stage but the power I get is not equal to the power I give.

The difference between introversion and extroversion is what gives you power and I do not get a ton of power from people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other people or that I don’t like going out. I also do get lonely and don’t like being by myself for too long.  And the idea that introverts are strange magical bat creatures diminishes all the good that introverts who have to be public do.

You know what real introversion is? Sitting down after convention at Mozart Bakery with Carlos over aloe vera tea and rainbow cake. Introversion is sewing while watching Deadliest Warrior. Introversion is still comforting a friend after a long day. Introversion is late night phone calls despite being tired and firing up an audience only to sit in your hotel bedroom while watching 5 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

That’s what being an introvert is. And it certainly doesn’t involve being a garbage person who just likes to flake out on friends and shun commitments.

So is now the time that I ask for my book fort, obnoxious blanket pile and general disdain for humanity?

You Are My Friend, You Are My Dream

Today, and even tomorrow and the day after, we'll keep laughing togetherWe're all tied to the same fateToday, and even tomorrow and the day after, we'll walk togetherWhatever happens now, is meant to be.Thank you, Th.png

Why wouldn’t I be into shonen anime? What about a good standard shonen series wouldn’t apply to someone like me? I didn’t click with shojo girls and their mostly small problems. And from an early age I fit much more easily into the narratives of young men against the world. We discussed in an earlier post how some series can grow with you while others get lost in the dust: I wanted to talk about an anime that itself may have been outgrown by me and my current life but has one theme that still holds true to my day to day existence and has been a nearly ever-present constant in my heart: friendship.

Naruto the anime and I have an interesting relationship. I started out as a high school student loving the story of a 12 year old Naruto Uzumaki trying to make his way through Ninja School to become Hokage. But the series did ebb and flow with some high points in the narrative and others that were…well, The Curry of Life arc comes to mind. But one radical notion did always stick with Naruto and my life with that series: how much Naruto went through for his friends. Now, we aren’t going to talk about…”dedicated” Naruto is to Sasuke but we are going to talk about friendship, sacrifice and effort.

Naruto is constantly fighting for Sasuke’s friendship. He is always trying to prove to Sasuke and to the others around him that they are important and that theme is so important to the series that most of the music in Naruto centers around it even before it centers around the romantic love the series tried to push later on in its run. This theme of friendship is so important to most shonen series that it is often more compelling of a story than the one between the main male and the main female.

Sasuke and Naruto have such great chemistry( And I use chemistry platonically. I have great chemistry with people I am not trying to date but that because we’re both compelling and engaging humans.) because they are constantly trying to prove something to the other while Sakura and Hinata are just sort of existing in the world.  Naruto speaks highly of friendship and is willing to do anything anything to prove his worth to Sasuke and then later to Gaara and to an extent to Shikamaru.

Friendship means collaboration, friendship means showing those you care about just how much you care but it also means regardless of where you are or what you are that hardship doesn’t simply  mean that anyone will being your friend.

One of my favorite scenes from Naruto is probably towards the end of the main anime that features Sasuke and Naruto as kids. Sasuke is underwater, he’s drowning in a sea of anger and darkness and a hand sinks below the water. Naruto literally pulls his friend up and is trying to save him. That’s what Naruto is willing to do, that’s how far he’s willing to go and to me that’s beautiful. Even though their backgrounds are similar, their experience shaped how they view the world and that’s what has the potential to make them close or to break them apart.

The same can be said for most shonen main males and their antagonists like Ichigo and Uryu of Bleach or even Goku and Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z. Their narratives together are much stronger because each one of those groups of men are proving themselves to those they care about all the time. Losing a friend is probably at times a more difficult and tragic part of a shonen anime than the main character dying for the 5th time or when the villain gets the magical McGuffin device. Think back to any episode of One Piece. The issue seldom is “Hey, let’s actually find the treasure.” and is usually Luffy trying to keep his crew together. He’s far more invested in keeping Sanji, Zolo, Robin, Nami and Usopp together than his is actually doing anything? And to go back to Naruto, the series only doubles down on the pain Naruto feels having lost Sasuke’s friendship. Shippuden is a giant road trip to find a lost friend and then the sequel Boruto (a show following everyone’s kids for some reason) continues to echo that sentiment. Everyone is still looking for Sasuke. Everyone still wants their lost friend back. 20 some odd years later and we’re all still held hostage while we look for one angsty raven-haired man in the woods.

Let’s get back to the real world before I fall off this soapbox.

I’m fortunate to have some of the best friends in the world. Why do you think I talk about them so much? They’re my family when mine has been less than ideal and I spoil them the best that I can as you’ve seen in several blog posts now. But fundamentally, friendship has always been something to work for and towards. While we all have something in common, we have differing opinions. We have different schedules: some of us live in different parts of the globe. We agree, we disagree. We have varying ideas about how cute a main character is or whether Batman’s a bad guy or a hero.

But it’s also about understanding when not to press an issue. Being of the older generation of the Internet, I’m very aware of the fact that my friends may not be on the same level as I am. They may not want to hear about me trying to figure out a Kousuke Oshiba costume and I don’t always want to hear about Street Fighter.  But them being my friend means supporting them.

Remember that A-Kon I spent mostly bored as the boys played their fighting game? Sure, I complained and I regret that now. But seeing my boys on stage made me so proud that by the second round when they both advanced to the main stage, I was on the ground taking photos. They’re my friends: I celebrate their success. And then immediately after the tournament they supported me as I courted one of my biggest panel audiences ever. I ride the wave of my friend’s success and their passion motivates me: even if it’s in something I may not typically enjoy myself.

Carlos and I have had passionate one-sided conversations while I rant over military uniforms in Japanese anime. And I lovingly will sit and listen to him talk about the game mechanics of Persona 5. And we double down on the things we do have in common like comic books and YuGiOh and misanthropy.

Friendship is struggle, sacrifice and understanding. Friendship is empathy and love and making time even when you don’t want to. Friendship is coming home early, staying up late and listening regardless of  how difficult your day was. Friendship is understanding hype levels, lovingly arguing and being there if and when you need a shoulder to cry on or a stiff drink. Working towards friendship is important and being willing to go above and beyond for those that matter to you is vital.

The lyrics that this is titled from is part of the Naruto Shippuden closing theme Distance and it’s about as shonen of an ending as shonen can be.   It’s strange little song but I think it’s a good place to wrap up with a few of the lyrics.

You are my friend

You are my dream

So I’ll go the Distance 

Editor of the Past

 

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” ― Oscar Wilde, De Profundi.png

I’ve been going through old photos. You’ve probably noticed that by now. And old photos bring up a lot of fond memories but also a lot of slightly bitter memories. Time moves on and people fade in and out of your life. But the photos you took of them: what happens when a person who meant the world to you is now a stranger in your life?

Travis and I drifted apart after creative differences over the state of the anime club. Liz and I stopped talking after she started dating that one guy. Davilin and I are still friends on Facebook, aren’t we?

Old photos are so full of people I just don’t talk to anymore. So what do I do with photos that make me uncomfortable? Like the angsty edgelord I am, I delete them. I tend to remove the photos I don’t like. There’s a reason why there aren’t a lot of photos of my life between the ages of 12-16. Those years weren’t great, so why document them?

But it goes beyond just being an aggressive editor of images. I’m also a huge editor of who can see what. Why do you think it took so long to finally make a Youtube channel or why so many friends have failed to do a successful podcast with me? I’m a great podcast guest but I’m not great at running one with friends. I’m image conscious and pain averse.

This method does go perfectly fundamentally how I use Facebook, Twitter and most things digital: I use them as a simulacra of me. I’m part of the “yearbook” camp of Facebook use.  Facebook is meant to be the thing people see that can be pieced together to form one complete Amanda.

But in those photos, I do have a piece of me in each one. I had these people in my life. Their stories matter or at least they did as of the picture taken. And in those old photos are plenty of pictures I want to keep. Pictures of Mandy. Pictures of my mom: some of the last of her life. From my trip to Disney that I enjoyed more than my little cousin. From conventions. Of a thinner me. Of a me in power of an anime club. Of former lovers and former friends. There are traces of me in every single photograph and maybe, just maybe I shouldn’t delete them.

Or I should. No one will know. I don’t talk to these people anymore.

 

Recommended Reading for the Care and Keeping of Your Amanda

Over the past convention weekend Carlos and I were able to air a few of our grievances and we both decided to work harder on being empathetic to each other and he came up with a rather brilliant idea:

Why don’t we each watch one of our favorite shows? That way we can better understand each other.

He offered for me that I should watch [REDACTED: did you think I was going to out Carlos for a blog post?] for him and for me he said he’d watch Gravitation. And that actually gave me a lot of pause (not that his answer was wrong or anything).

What would be the things I’d ask someone to watch/read to help better understand me?

Let’s start with the example Carlos gave: Gravitation. He’s not off the mark. I did spend convention dressed as the main love interest, Yuki Eiri. And I spent the weekend talking about the series a lot. I analogized a moment between me and my ex as one of the scenes from the anime. I sang the anime’s songs. I had a great time. Gravitation is, was and probably will continue to be one of the most important series in the world to me.

But why?

Well, to put it quite simply: I connected with the characters. Yuki Eiri is a stylized blonde version of me and I saw that from a very early age. Finally, a character in a TV show who had to act in many ways the same way I did: putting on a brave face of charm while slowly but surely having to cope with a past too dark to see the light. I loved the music, the animation, the darker storylines in the manga and I could relate to almost all the characters in the series (Except for you, Shuichi, you pink-haired ball of failure and forced happiness.). I empathize with Yuki, I sympathize with Ryuichi. I want them to be free of Tohma’s tyrannical control while simultaneously wanting the same charm, tact and strength that he has. Never before had a series so casually brought up mental illness for me (Yuki Eiri suffering from bipolar II and Ryuichi Sakuma suffering from what if often said to be schizophrenia but is probably dissociative personal disorder). These characters suffered; they had dark pasts but all of them, all of them were more than their collective histories. They wrote their own destinies (some more than others) and that really stuck with me. Besides, I make for a very handsome blonde.

Another great example series for understanding me has to be the obvious: Fullmetal Alchemist. God, this series meant the world to me when it came out. Imagine me: 14 years old, having just 2 years ago buried my father, living with my far too conservative aunts. I was angry. I was sad. I felt like I had no voice. And then busts through the door of my life a short, angry 14 year old blonde boy who faced similar loss and circumstances and took his destiny into his own hands. Edward Elric was my avatar to help me cope with the grief of losing a parent. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Suddenly, I had someone who understood my pain and on top o f it, he used science, logic and pragmatism to help him solve problems both emotionally and physically. Additionally, he also wasn’t always positive. He was sad, a lot. He had to be talked up a lot. He wasn’t alone. He had so much love and support around him and that made me feel much less alone in my own life.

Let’s move on to one more example and a more recent one: Twittering Birds Never Fly is a splendid yaoi manga and for the love of all things good and holy I never bonded with a cast of characters more. Which is probably troublesome since the series follows yakuza boss, Yashiro and his gang in a painfully emotional journey that shifts between love, angst, insecurity and the pain of wanting to feel but having to keep on a mask that you sometimes have to keep on because you think that mask proves that you have strength.

Is there any required listening? You bet there is. But sorry, it isn’t all happy stuff. It’s a lot of Panic! At the DiscoGood CharlotteGreen Day and Blink 182. These bands helped give shape to the tangle of feelings I had inside during my less than ideal teen years and if you give a listen to my mp3 player on shuffle, a clear image of who I was and who I came to be starts to form between chorus lines and guitar solos.

That was a fun exercise in self-exploration.

What pieces of media help those you care about better understand you?

Leave your answers in the comments below. This is a safe place. There’s no judgement here, just acceptance.