Tag Archives: Childhood

The joy Luck club..

The Joy Luck Club is the first book which made me cry, or I should say, sob with ugly abandon. Mostly because I really connected with the stories in it, and one thread in particular, that of June.
I grew up with similar pressures, my mother wanted me to be a prodigy, like my cousins. I lived through that story-the crushing disappointment emanating from my mother upon the realisation that I was no prodigy, I wasn’t even above average, I was just average. Unlike the book, I did not have the moment of clarity when June realises she could make her own choices and be strong/good in her own way. I grew up knowing I was average and knowing that it was the worst disappointment I would ever inflict on my mother.
Or was it all in my head? Was I transposing my own disappointment onto my mother? Had I wanted to be a prodigy more than my mother had wanted me to be one? Do I still want to be a prodigy of some sort? 
For so many years, I was bitter and angry about failing. I developed a severe fear of failure which resulted in me never aiming for more than low hanging fruit. I had no idea about my own future, what I wanted; no dreams beyond just having a ‘nice life’. I had no ambition, zero passion for anything. I always took the easy way out…
Taking the easy way out meant that I would never have to try. Taking the road more often travelled meant that I would always be good enough to succeed. It meant never having to disappoint myself or anyone else. It meant never having to think about what my heart desired.
There is no shame in being average, as long as you know your own worth. That’s not me.. I am one of those average people who yearn to be outstanding and yet will do nothing but stamp their feet and complain about how nobody gives them a chance. Because as I’ve said, not giving something a go means I don’t ever have to go through that crushing misery that comes with failure.
Two years ago, I embarked on a career transition. Which has so far, failed to pay any dividends. I thought I would be one of those corporate people, marching along with the besuited crowds in our matching black/blue suits along the road to corporate success (whatever that means). The reality is I am still lost, still have no idea what kind of ‘corporate’ I want to be (again naive me thinking that there was only one kind of corporate) and having to subsist on handouts from my parents and the occasional cleaning work. 
If I knew my own worth, would my story have ended differently? If I accepted my worth, swallowed the fact that I would be nothing more than ordinary, would I be happier? 

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Lessons from a cup of Milo..

When we were kids, I looked up to my eldest cousin a lot. She was tiny, petite she would say, yet she had the confident nature of a white man twice her size. She was the kind of person who would never back down, especially if she believed her rights had been encroached. And she was always not afraid to ask for things, be it an additional free sample, or a free appetiser at a restaurant. 

To some, it might appear that my cousin is demanding. She’s that type of customer which wait staff dread. To me though, her conduct demands respect, even if at times I think she goes to far and that respect turns into condescension. 
My cousin was not always this way-this unafraid to ask for things, this fearless in pursuing her rights. Family lore has it that she was rather timid as a pre-adolescent. The kind who waited for things to be offered instead of asking for them. Rather much like I have been and still am. 
Where did the confidence she had come from? How had she learnt to seize things instead of just waiting for things to blow her way?
There is an apocryphal story in our family lore-about how the shy, timid girl was obliterated and in her place stood the strong woman. 
Once, when she was a young girl, there was a van offering free samples of Milo. What child could resist that? But my cousin was too timid to go and ask for a sample and just stood around, waiting for the nice man to offer her one. Her mother, my aunt was incensed by her behaviour. My aunt then insisted that my cousin go and ask for a sample, if she wanted one. Because nobody was going to give her a free sample if she just waited around. In fact, that went for life as well, my aunt said, “nobody will ever give you anything. If you want something, you have to ask for it! Just waiting around for things to happen is futile.”
It is a life lesson which I wished I’d learnt a lot earlier. But till this day, I still wait for things to happen, I still wait around for the winds of change to buffet me around. I cannot bring myself to ask for things. When will my Milo moment happen? 

The long and winding road…

I did not claim my sexuality until fairly late; I wasn’t one of those gay men who, from the time they first felt the initial stirrings of same sex lust, felt free enough to proclaim themselves for what they were and claim their sexuality. That is not my story.

My story is not of the overtly feminine boy bullied for being different and not doing a good enough job of adopting masculine traits to fit in. That is not my story.

Where does it begin for me, my gay life?

They say that mothers play a large role in every gay man’s life. The classical thinking was that a domineering mother was the key cause of turning a boy gay. Was my mother domineering? In her own way, yes. But as asians, aren’t our mothers always the dominant force within the nuclear family? So to attribute my gayness to that would be farcical.

No, my sexuality was always inbuilt. There was no particular trigger. I didn’t get sexually abused by a male relative or by a male figure in my life. My homosexuality does not have a root cause, it just is. There doesn’t need to be a reason for it, it’s just a part of me.

When I was 7, I discovered the joys of masturbation. But it wasn’t the usual stimulators kind of masturbation that is familiar, it was more a clenching; I discovered that if I clenched my thighs together hard enough, I could get a nice feeling. But even then, I knew that feeling was wrong, dirty; nobody told me, I just knew. Funny what we inherently know, even as children.

In high school, I was popular enough. Not so popular as to arouse envy, but popular enough to be known around school as a heartbreaker. In high school, I was known for my looks. And for a long time after, that is how I saw myself, as nothing beyond a face and a body. I never thought myself particularly accomplished… And I never believed in my own ability to do things. I was just a face, a body. Nothing more.

My popularity was commensurate with me being able to get away by doing ‘outrageous’ things like hold a boy’s hand out of jest of course. It allowed me to say ‘outré’ things like how I felt bisexual, again in jest and not fully meaning it. I use air quotes there because, really, how truly outrageous or outré are those things? I could get away with doing those things, without getting bullied and getting ostracised because of my good looks. Most thought that I was too good looking to be gay, hence all this was my way of acting out, of trying to be the centre of attention. Little did they know what I truly was.

The one thing I could not have done was act on my same sex attraction. There was no question of that; as long as I remained in school, I would never be able to kiss another man or be sexually intimate with a man, not that there was any question of there being any possibility of being sexually active anyway. Only the ‘bad’ teens were sexually active…

I left my home country when I was 19 and I never looked back. I moved to a country with liberal views, whose laws explicitly protected my right to be a gay man and whose culture, in the metropolitan areas at least, encouraged an openness of homosexuality. I was within my rights to embrace who I was as soon as I entered the country and yet, I waited almost 5 years before doing so.

Why I waited so long is a mystery to me. Was it because I felt that I had a responsibility to achieve good grades and fucking around with men was going to affect that? Of course not, seeing as during that time, I was a closet alcoholic who drank bottles of liquor on a weekly basis. If that didn’t affect my grades, then surely fucking around with men was never going to.

Was it that I wasn’t as accepting of my own sexuality as I thought I was? Again most probably untrue seeing as I already knew I liked men from the age of 13 and was already well versed with gay pornography by then. I also knew I was a bottom fairly early on, although I forget how I knew…

It was probably because I had no idea how to go about jumping into the gay scene. Where to go, what to do? I was never a club person.. I’d never stepped foot into a club until I was 18. And whilst I was a huge drinker, most of my drinking was done alone and in secret. And even if I did manage to get the courage to go to a club, I didn’t know of any gay clubs. Of course Google would have helped me but I think the reality was that I was too afraid..

I remember when I first thought I could do this gay thing. I was in borders reading DNA magazine, there was an ad for an online dating site for gay men. That was something I could do… So I did.

I bring up my looks in high school to illustrate a point; the point being that when I first started my profile, I thought I was hot shit. I thought my pictures alone would allow me to pull men in, to the extent that I’d be fighting them off with a stick. Of course the inverse was true, that despite what I thought of my looks, the ‘being Asian’ bit immediately negated everything good about myself, as though my one defining feature was my ethnicity.

It amazes me that in the 6 years I have been open with myself over my sexuality, I have had all these experiences. I have had a relationship, I have felt the liberation and downright emptiness of random sex, I have gay friends who I can talk to about men and love and sex, I have this blog where I can detail my heartbreak and triumphs.. In a sense, I’ve come a long way from that repressed 24 year old at the start of this journey.. But I still have a long way to go.. The journey towards complete self acceptance is an arduous one and I feel that after all the false starts and slip ups, I am finally getting somewhere…

Brains vs being thin: A journey through a disordered life

Working out is something that I’ve done religiously for.. Close to a decade now. Sure there were periods when I stopped visiting the gym, but mostly, exercise has been the one steady, unchanging component of my life.

Even when it causes me tremendous pain.. Today I found myself almost unable to get out of bed. My legs didn’t seem to work and when I finally, through great mental will accompanied with some sobbing, every movement was accompanied by searing throbbing pain, reminding me that I really do not like leg workouts.. The pain was so bad that I had to constantly tell myself to put one foot in front of the other to walk. And yes, I still dragged my sad sorry ass to the gym.

I think my obsession with working out stems from my relatively poor body image. It’s another lingering, festering scar from childhood. You see, as an eight year old, my weight suddenly ballooned thanks to an exuberant maid who loved baking and my lack of self control when it comes to sweets. Ooohh, poor little rich fat boy, I hear you say. What utter first world problems.. In my defence, it was customary to have a maid back in my home country, it wasn’t really something reserved for the elite, most middle class households had a maid. If you were truly rich, you had multiple maids. Ok, culture lesson over..

Prior to my fat phase, I was a severely underweight child, mostly skin and bones really. So it was a shock that I got fat so suddenly and so rapidly. My family didn’t help matters by calling me ‘fatty fatty boom boom’ and to not sit on our family’s old antique wooden chairs for fear I would break a priceless relic with my weight.

But at that age, as a pre- adolescent it didn’t matter. Because I would tell myself that it didn’t matter if I was fat, because I was smart. And in an Asian family, being smart trumps everything. You could be a drug addled 12 year old and it would be ok because you were smart. Being brainy meant that you were valued, loved, meant something.

When I left the safe confines of primary school where I was undoubtedly one of the smartest kids for the big pool that was high school, things changed. I was no longer the smartest, I wasn’t anywhere near that. And that smug-ness that I had from being smart evaporated overnight. For when you’ve spent years of your life basing your self image, your sense of self on being the smart one, the loss of that is shattering. I was no longer smart, no longer special, I was just a fat 13 year old.

I had to be like madonna, reinvent myself, and fortunately, or unfortunately, I fixated on my body. If I couldn’t be smart, then at least I could be well built, thin and taut, like the male models I saw in magazines; or the celebrities. They were special… If I could be more like them then I didn’t need to be smart anymore.

So I developed an eating disorder, pretty hard to do if you are Asian because food is everywhere. And particularly in my family where the only way my parents knew how to show they loved me was to pile on the food. I couldn’t stop eating altogether so I would take smaller and smaller portions. I would leave food behind, I even resorted to dropping food on the floor and hiding it in my t-shirt and the pockets of my trousers. Which I would then throw out of my bedroom window onto the roof. No wonder there were so many stray cats attracted to my house…

My parents initially failed to notice my ploy. They were so tired after working all day that they barely noticed my reduced food consumption. And the fact that after dinner, I would work out in my room, trying to burn of the food I had consumed. I would also overdose on laxatives in the mistaken belief that it would help me on my battle against fat. Let me tell you, overdosing on laxatives when you don’t need to is no fun. I had more than a few accidents which required a mad dash for the nearest toilet. And if you know Malaysian public toilets, you’d know that they are definitely places of last resort..

I didn’t lose weight immediately, the first thing to go was any energy I had. I was tired all the time, lethargic although I never missed a workout. I was often pale and cold even though I lived in a tropical country. I had terrible headaches and became very withdrawn. I stopped going for after school activities because I just could not muster up the energy to do it. My grades suffered because I could never concentrate in class.

But because I was in my teenage phase, and teenagers are supposed to be sullen and withdrawn, my parents left me to my own devices. Plus it is not the Asian way to confront your kids directly.

Eventually I lost weight, a lot of it. As a 5’10” fifteen year old, I weighed 48 kilos. Which when you think about it is what an average female model weighs. But it wasn’t enough for me. Even though I was so thin, my ribs showed, even though I probably didn’t have much body fat left, it still wasn’t enough. My own perception of my body had become so warped, that I thought I was still a fat lump. That I was a failure because I hadn’t lost all my fat. It’s heart breaking really when I think of it now, the scenes where I would look in the mirror and only see a fat person, even if the image staring back at me was of an emaciated, gaunt boy who was slowly killing himself.

My parents finally got concerned enough to tell me that I was putting my own future in jeopardy. I had important exams coming up, see, and if i failed because of health reasons, I would lose any chance of a future. It wasn’t the weight loss they were worried about.. Just my lack of focus which would ensure I failed the exam… It seemed like I could be anorexic as long as I wanted to, if I didn’t fail my exams.

Now in hindsight and with the wisdom that comes with age, I can see that my parents didn’t mean it that way. Of course they were concerned, they just didn’t know how to broach the topic with me. And they showed their concern by sending me to lots of remedial classes and by very closely monitoring my food intake. And I resisted of course, but eventually, even at my most self delusional, I still had enough presence of mind to realise that my parents were right; those exams would determine the course of my life and if I wanted to get out of the country, to finally live freely as a gay individual, then I’d better buck up.

So I may have managed to start eating again, but my warped perception of what my body actually looks like remains. Looking into a mirror, I zoom in on my flaws; the layer of fat around my abdomen, my lack of abs. I don’t see that I have a sculpted upper body, I don’t see that my calves are bigger than average, I certainly don’t see the fact that nobody in their right mind would call me fat. Somedays, all I see is the fat child that I was looking back at me.

Me and porn: a love affair

I remember when I first discovered porn. It was in the 90’s and I was a 13 year old boy growing up in an Asian country. Back in those days of yore, we only had dial up Internet so the only porn available was in picture format. And sometimes extremely grainy videos which took forever to load.

Porn was a dangerous hobby because my family only had a single computer which was in a common room with no privacy whatsoever. The computer was placed in an alcove right outside my parents room which really precluded what one could do using the computer. Watching porn was thus a dangerously, deliciously illicit thing to do.

I’d always known I was more into men than women right from the age of 8. It was not something one advertised in that country. Being gay was never something I could imagine being. Because there was no precedent, there weren’t any gay people to look up to, I knew no gay people. And if the government was to be believed, there was no such thing as homosexuality in the country.

And so I learnt to repress those feelings, the funny feelings which arose when I saw bare chested men on TV. Or the lust I felt for the muscly naked men in the porn I used to consume. Sure there was almost always a busty chick in the frame (there was a dearth of gay porn) but my focus was always on the man.

From the time I started my porn viewing, I was attracted to well muscled men. Naked well muscled men that is. It’s funny, but pictures of shirtless muscled men don’t do it for me. So maybe it’s the other engorged part of their anatomy that I am interested in…

I mention this because at the age of 14, I bought my first muscle mag. Not for ogling purposes, but for the work out routines. I swear. The first magazine I bought had an article about Manhunt, who were a crew of Australian male strippers back in the day, sort of like the Aussie answer to Chippendale’s I guess. And as I read the accompanying article (yes there was an article accompanying the pictorial) I found it strange how it didn’t seem to connect from page to page. Then I realised that several pages had been ripped out of the magazine, pages which probably had pictures of muscly men in g-strings. I say this because upon closed examination of one of the pictures which escaped being ripped out, someone had colored what had obviously been exposed male buttocks with a black sharpie, so much so that it appeared that the man was wearing black trunks. I have no idea if it was the government who did it or the bookseller…

All through my teenage years, porn was a great release for me, especially when I finally discovered gay porn. Not just in the sense of slaking my growing lusty feelings but also because it allowed me to peer into a world where being gay was neither illegal not shameful. This was a world where it was ok for men to have sex with men and to enjoy it. There was no shame, no dire consequences. There was no need to repress ones identity, it’s just accepted for what it is, no explanations required.

This is probably the reason why I left the country as soon as I could. For if I had stayed, I would not have had the freedom to go and sleep with different men just because I felt like it. I would never have had the experience of dating another man. Or known the exquisite joy of butt sex and the feeling of cum gushing on my face and in my arse. Too graphic? Moving on…

In counting my blessings for having left my home country, I think about one of my closest high school friends, he was deeply religious, one of those evangelical Christians and we were perhaps drawn to each other because we could sense each other’s homosexual tendencies without having to ever admit to being gay. He confessed to masturbating to gay porn once which was as close to him admitting he was gay. In a different country, we probably would have had a relationship, but in that country, there was no chance of that ever happening. He stayed in the country with no hope of ever being free to express himself. I left. I think I was the luckier one.

I am always deeply grateful that my parents gave me the opportunity to leave that country. I am always thankful for that. Because here I do not need to hide. Here I can go out with a man and nobody shoots me accusatory stares. Here I can even have a relationship with a man and nobody bats an eyelid. Here I am free to be me. And I can watch all the gay porn I want….

A stitch in time or reminiscences of a childhood.

To understand why I am the way I am, I need to return to my past. The past after all, holds the keys to the present. According to some new age jargon I read when I was bored at work.

When I was born, 29 years ago, my mother upon first seeing me exclaimed in surprise. My skin was yellow and wrinkly from some kind of infant jaundice, I was skin and bones with eyes the size of saucers, eyes which were obviously too big for my face. In short, I was not the kind of baby who wins infant beauty pageants. Early pictures of me at this stage of my life reveal a baby, eyes wide open in perpetual surprise cheerfully going about doing infant things; namely gurgling, spitting and laughing. I was a good baby according to my mother, very quiet.

As a child, both my parents worked and I was duly shipped off to child care by the time I was 2 and then to Kindergarten when I was 3 and a half. I was an insecure child, I never wanted to leave my mothers’ side, always clinging on to her very 80’s skirts and bawling dramatically as she desperately tried to disentangle me and leave me at kinder. I was melodramatic even as a child. Child care was run by an old lady who took care of several children, a few of them her grandchildren. I was a handful, extremely naughty probably because my parents were hardly around to discipline me. I liked nothing better than to roll around in newly laundered clothes, throwing them up in the air to make it ‘snow’. Once, myself and another boy in care locked ourselves in a room where I proceeded to play with a razor I’d found. I was the ringleader of course. I recall wanting to emulate my father’s early morning shaving ritual and of course I ended up cutting my lip pretty badly. As the blood flowed, both of us began to scream and cry at which point the panicked woman running child care began frantically trying to pry the door open. She later told my parents she didn’t want to take care of me anymore and it wasn’t until my mother practically went down on her knees and begged her to continue that she relented.

It’s not that my parents were distant, it’s just that they were so caught up in the idea of providing for my future that they worked themselves to the bone. How were they to know that the one thing I wanted was to see them more often. Or as I read in a Chicken Soup for The Soul anthology once, children spell love as time. My mother, for example, even after a full day of work would teach me to read. Every. Night. And it is thanks to her that I have an intense love of reading now.

I was always conscious of my parents’ hopes for me. They wanted me to be like my cousins, academically gifted. My father wanted me to basically be a boy with typical boyish hobbies like sports, or power tools. sadly I never was into those things, I was more into playing with my stuffed toys, imagining fantastic stories which I populated with my toys. I had a security blanket of my own though, a pillow which had lost all it’s stuffing over the years until it was basically just a piece of cloth. I called him Chippy and I brought him everywhere. The day I lost Chippy, left him behind on the last day of kinder was the day my childhood ended.

As the years rolled by, I continually failed to become the boy my parents dreamed of. I wasn’t top of my class, I didn’t excel in anything, I was dreamy, sensitive, emotional, feminine unlike the son my father had in mind. My parents never bothered to mask their disappointment with me resulting In me always wishing I was someone else. The intervening years between tween and adolescence were rough but that makes for another story.

Cut to the future and the years spent trying to be someone else means I have no conception of who I am or what I want. That is the legacy of my childhood and the main reason I never want to have children lest I damage them like my parents did me.

The notion of ambition..

One of the yearly rituals back when I was in primary school was the ambition question. You basically selected three probable ambitions and that went on your permanent record. Theoretically you could pick anything; you could say you wanted to be a beach bum, or a surfer, or a prostitute but of course since individuality was frowned upon, we all picked things our parents wanted us to be, nothing to outré. Professional jobs were clearly favoured so you would have an entire class want to be engineers for example. The most outrageous thing you could put down was an artist and even that would be greeted by a ‘oh dear, that’s not really a profession is it?’ and a head shake by the teacher who would then presumably mark you down as a dreamer and future hobo.

I was going through my permanent record from primary school recently and I kid you not, I’d put the same three ambitions of doctor, engineer and lawyer every single year. It’s not that I wanted to be any of those things, it’s just the available choices given to me by my parents.

Back then, and even now, I have no idea what I want to be. My conception of the future as a child was always one signposted by important examinations, those which all Malaysian students have to face at 12, 15 and 17. So if I were to have been honest back then, my answer would have been to get all A’s in those exams.

It really doesn’t bode well when ones concept of the future revolves around needing to do well academically. It’s a very narrow view and it certainly does not prepare you for the actual future. I found that when I was 12, I couldn’t see past being 15 and when I reached 15, I didn’t see a future past 17. And once I’d finished with school, I had even less of an idea what I wanted to do.

For the longest time, I had no ambitions. Well, I had one ambition and that was to get married and become a house husband (the kind of house husband who has a full time cleaning service and a personal chef of course). I once made the awful mistake of blurting that out to my cousin and word of course got back to my mother through a rather elaborate chain of Chinese Whispers. My mother then called and berated me for an hour saying such choice things as ‘if you only wanted to be a house husband, I should have just sent you to a finishing school.’ Which I think I would have much preferred over going through uni.

Essentially, I still have no clue what I want to do. For you see, I never believed I could do anything, be anything unlike my millenial/gen Y brethren. I knew my limits, knew that I wasn’t anything special. And I guess without that flinty conviction of my own worth, it does make trying to find myself a more arduous task. What I do have is hope, even if it’s just hoping to find a nice man who will marry me and willingly support me. Who knows, if that happens, I might willingly learn how to cook and actually do housework…