insecurity

Nobody Likes You When You’re (Not) Taylor Swift

It’s the 1,000,000,000th time *those photos* (You know which I mean. You also know, after reading this post, just who I’m a fan of.) have popped up on my feed.

This morning, I was devastated.

Right now, I feel nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the “Internet’s Boyfriend” is dating the “Internet’s Most Famous (Ex-)Girlfriend”. It’s another day in what Demi Lovato (to drop another boldface name) once called “The La-La Land Machine.” We could read into this and talk about how it’s always the pretty and popular girls who win, or how the ethics of dating are nebulous, or how celebrity culture brings out the internalised patriarchal instincts in us, or whatever…but let’s be honest: whatever these two rich and famous people do with their lives will have absolutely nothing to say about ours. 

About mine.

I started disliking Taylor for a very elemental reason, and I’m not going to be be afraid to admit it, because if we’re going to talk about “shaming” here I think we shame girls too much for opening up about their demons. For even having demons. So here goes: I started disliking Taylor because I was (am!) jealous. She is everything I will never be: pretty and popular, well-loved and successful. She is impossibly long legs and skinny waist and hit songs on the radio that I will only ever cover (shameless plug!). She and her model-squad of curated gal-pals stand as stark contrast from me, a girl who is constantly counting her few friends on her fingers, bending over backwards wearing masks to keep them, and, after everything, never truly trusting if they’ll stay.

I hate(d) her because she makes me feel like all the worst parts of who I am: unpretty, unsuccessful, unlovable, unimportant. She was (is) the visual representation of all my insecurities, and that slight veneer of production that permeates her every move does not help things. In Ms. Swift’s own words, “She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” 

(I wonder, when she was writing that line, if she ever saw herself as becoming that girl who wears high heels and short skirts while her fans wear the sneakers and t-shirts.)

On the flip side, I loved (past-tense; after the backlash, I’ve decided that being a rabid celebrity fangirl makes me too vulnerable) Tom Hiddleston for a very elemental reason: he seemed to be everything I wanted. Smart. Articulate. Funny. Gentlemanly. Cultured. I’m a reluctant romantic, but when I’m hit I’m helpless, and I was helpless to the scrunched-up laugh and modulated voice and almost-inhuman charm blended with a perfect awkwardness. 

(Funny how, now that I’m describing him, I realise how much of a male Taylor Swift Tom Hiddleston is. Hmm. Maybe they are perfect for each other.)

I loved him because he gave me hope in high ideals. He was (is?) a visual representation of all my, to drop another Swift lyric, “Wildest Dreams,” because obviously a “wild” Frankie envisions hand-holding and cups of tea (I am a terribly boring, grandmotherly millennial, and not in the twee Swifty way either.) and reading poetry aloud and awkward laughing and bad dancing. How can a girl who has never been in a relationship resist this almost-perfect fantasy, especially when, where she is, she feels terribly alone?

I hated (yes, past tense; I’m done caring) them together because, well, you can do the math, right? The issue was never Tom and Taylor themselves—I don’t know either of them well enough to actually care if they’re in love or not—but what they symbolised: the perfect boy getting scooped up by the perfect girl I’ll never be. 

When I first saw the news, flipped through the pictures, and felt that strange stab of pain twisting in my chest, I wondered at my reaction. I tried to justify it as just fangirl grief. But the truth is, the problem is less of my grasping, delusional, fangirl self (a self that often laughs at how crazy I am, like attempting to steal the cutout of Hiddleston from the Coriolanus showing) and more of my raw, broken, inner self. A self that doesn’t feel beautiful, no matter how many times I take to the mirror to try and “self-care.” A self that, even after three months of teaching her face to read “I’m fine,” still feels the familiar burning behind her eyes when she holds back tears she promised not to cry at work, staring at the people she thought forgave her mistakes still snub her. 

A self that constantly feels she will never be good enough. 

Maybe—probably; I know I’m being a bad feminist—I am wrong about caring so much (though, in my defence, I never called out Ms. Swift’s boyfriend record or so-called “serial dating”). The truth is, though, caring about Tom and Taylor hurt a sight less than ripping myself open like this, examining the why and wondering if it ever gets better.

Does it ever get better? I hope so, but honestly? I don’t know. All I know is, you girls in the sneakers and t-shirts, if your reasons are, deep down, the same as mine, know you’re not alone, and that I don’t judge you for the violence of your reactions, or the fear that you’re trying to push down with every all-caps reiteration of old gossip. We will never be the girls brave enough to flirt and dance, to flutter and glitter and shine. But the world needs us just as much as it needs Taylor Swift. 

I don’t know how not to hate myself. Not yet. But one day, I’ll learn. One day, I’ll look at my body and I won’t see Taylor’s ghost. One day, I’ll bump into real love and forget Tom Hiddleston ever existed. Or that will never happen but I won’t care because I will have been able to let go of all these unreasonable expectations, and just be me.

Maybe instead of tearing each other apart, we can actually build each other up. Heaven knows, I need a hand to hold, and I’m not afraid to hold someone else’s. Maybe if we can just tell each other it doesn’t matter if we’re not the perfect girl—say it loud and enough times—we can drown out the demons that make this madness possible. Maybe.

Anyway, at the end of the day, just know that Tom and Taylor being with each other says nothing about you or your life or your prospects.  There’s no reason to cry.  You can leave them alone.  You’ll be okay.

~aRT~

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I Feel Pretty/Unpretty: #NoFilter thoughts from the #DontJudgeChallenge

I probably should blog this for #TheFridayCurrently (which is late, I know) but I already have another topic, so…

   Photo on 7-25-15 at 9.44 PM 

This is what I look like.

Note, I said “This is what I look like.”  I did not say “I woke up like this.”  Like a lot of girls my age, I’ve achieved this look with a little help. Specifically, eyebrow gel, cheek tint, and lipstick. My hair’s currently dyed a shade lighter than its actual dark red-brown. I’ve just had a haircut. I’m looking like a lightly-enhanced version of myself, and I should feel great about that but instead I’m thinking about how I have a constellation of pimples on the edges of my face. Whiteheads on my back. A developing double chin. My thighs and upper arms are jiggly. I have a “spare tire” around my waist. My butt’s not toned or taut. My chest is, well, small

My work-mates and friends say I’m not fat, tell me I have a great sense of style. A few of my crushes have even called me a “pretty girl” or, in the case of one less-articulate fellow, “mukhang chicks” (the kind of comment you build a dream on). Empirically, I know that for all of my physical flaws I’m aesthetically pleasing enough to turn the occasional head.

But I’m not perfect. Society tells me that. The media tells me that. 

 The freaking stupid #dontjudgechallenge tells me that. 

 My skin breaks out periodically. I don’t really have eyebrows. My face is *big*. My eyes are small, and my glasses grade so high I might as well be legally blind.  I’m short but big boned, with the broad shoulders of a teenage boy. These are things I can’t really change: I was born this way, and I shouldn’t have to feel bad about that fact. 

But I do. 

 I’m so tired of having to feel like I’m not measuring up to a standard I never had a say in.  I’m so tired of feeling inadequate because of factors I can’t change.  Sure, okay, I can lose weight, but even then I’d still be a small-breasted, stockily-built, pimply “nerd” who has more in common with the “before” faces in those stupid videos than the afters.  And I’m tired of feeling like it’s somehow my fault, like I’m somehow worth less because of that fact. 

 No one benefits from the “Don’t Judge Challenge.”  The “ugly” become an internet-wide punchline, while the “beautiful” end up looking like the jerks  that most them actually aren’t.  Heck, the fact that classifications of ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ exist, based on such arbitrary factors as eyebrow proliferation, sebum production, weak vision, compromised dental hygiene, and a “nerdy” fashion sense (as I’ve seen reflected in some of the clips), is ridiculous in itself: such a diverse specimen pool as the human race could not possibly be subcategorized so simply into two buckets.  What is the basis? 

 What is the point? 

 I know full well what makes me truly unattractive: my insecurity.  My tendency for self-deprecation and all-out pessimism is what pushes people away.  And I’m not going to blameshift: the decision to be this kind of person is totally mine.  choose to believe that I am “not good enough” for people to notice.  choose to believe that people are out of my league, that no one could find me attractive, that I am nothing.  These are my mistakes, and I am owning their consequences just as much as I am trying to correct them.  But just like it’s hard to go cold turkey from alcohol if you’re living twenty-four-seven in a wine cellar, it’s hard for me to block out the urge to belittle myself when the world’s doing such a good job of telling me I’m right

 We’re making each other unpretty, when each and every one of us has the right to feel pretty.  Or, at least, feel like we matter.  Like we’re not unfortunate souls to be parodied, judgements to be passed or passed over.  Because we do matter.  Because we are okay.  Because this is the skin we were made wear and we do not have to be judged for it.

 

Photo on 5-18-15 at 6.33 PM
 

This is what I look like.  I don’t think I’m pretty.  But I hope one day, regardless of how I look, I’ll be able to.  And, for everyone else out there who struggles with those same feelings of insecurity, invalidity, and imperfection–I hope one day we can build a better world where you can feel pretty too. 

 ~ARoamingTsinay~

Patrick Stump knows what songs I sing in the dark, or, the brutally-honest blog from the unlikely frontwoman.

So Stories Told had its first eight-song set bar-gig yesterday, and it was…not horrible.  Which is to say, it was pretty good, considering it had the makings of a potential mini-disaster that would not be of Hindenburg proportions in the slightest but, let’s face it, for a girl who has a hard time getting over things, would have come pretty close.  I won’t dwell heavy on the multiple layers of the whys–because a lot of those should remain behind metaphorical tour bus doors–but suffice it to say, there were four reasons why last night should not have gone as well as it did:

  1. My twin vampire-brother, Dan, suddenly couldn’t make it.
  2. Our “replacement” bassist, Kyle (of in-your-face-punk band Crowd Control and occasional acoustic collaboration Lost in Thought), had a grand total of four hours to learn eight songs, including three originals (two of which we actually performed).
  3. Our set included The Calling‘s Wherever You Will Go which, while an aggressively popular song, was one I did not know all the lyrics to.
  4. I was so nervous.  And anyone who knows Frankie Torres knows that nothing good can happen when Frankie freaks out.

In spite of all those reasons–and maybe because of them, I don’t know?–last night at Café Huh was okay.  Well, okay, was okay.  The band was–always is (in my opinion), really, despite the last-minute bassist substitution–great, as bands can be when they’re not counting mistakes and trying to chug past them with rock-and-roll bravado, in the face of neuroses developed after years of solo performing and dreading belt notes and sweat-through-my-shirt musical auditions (sudden mental flash of my quavery rendition of On My Own for my heartbreaking Éponine tryout).  Because–one more thing you need to know–things tend to go horribly wrong when I want something very badly.

And, to be absolutely naked with you all (metaphorically), I really want this.

Really.

Stories Told is a bolt-from-the-blue lucky strike for me, because as I mentioned in my last post I am not a rock singer–I’ve only always wanted to be one since I was thirteen.  I’ve been the frontwoman for imaginary rock band after imaginary rock band, performing in the arenas of my room, my mum’s room, or my bathroom (great for reviewing my best arch-your-back, scream-like-you-mean-it moments), but vocally speaking I’m a pop kid.  Maybe blue-eyed-soul, on a good day (though I’ll never have blue eyes).  The songs in heavy rotation on my iPod skew to acoustic-rock, acoustic-pop, or else the EDM-infused pop-rock everyone listens to these days.  I’m no hipster; I’m aggressively chart, with some indie thrown in.  And nine times out of ten when Jian or Jedd mentions a band that’s supposed to be rock “legends,” I know nothing about them except the name (par exemple, “Rage Against The Machine”).

At twenty-one, I am the awkward, redheaded stepchild of rock-and-roll turned awkward, redheaded frontwoman of a technically-amazing band, wherein I am forced to face the fact that, despite probably having more years (aggregated) in training for my instrument (that is, voice) than any of my musical “brothers,” I am the least prepared for this life…and my stupid ego, which remembers all those aggregated years under esteemed teachers (Celia Yu-Ong, Jai Sabas-Aracama, Kitchy Molina…to name just a few), won’t let me drive that reality into my thick skull.

The thing is, I have the most fun, and learn the most, and maybe–maybe, I wouldn’t know–perform the best when I can admit I’m a bloody idiot and just have a go at things.  Case in point: my university life, Repertory Summer Workshop, my intern life, my thesis.  I can be incredible when I admit I am incredibly stupid.  Only I’m a little bit afraid of doing that when Stories Told is concerned because I have a little demon whispering in the back of my head going “Are you sure you can afford to be stupid right here, right now?”

The sudden bassist metacrisis of last Saturday drove home that really, none of my manic orchestra is expendable.  No one sounds quite like Dan (which is not to say Kyle isn’t freaking amazing in his own right–eight songs in four hours, people!  Including three songs with Jian’s mad scientist bass arrangements!), and to be very honest getting someone to step in for him was very nearly a lost cause.  When Jian got sick before what was supposed to be our first major gig, *poof!*, major gig opportunity disappeared (though, TBH, I was more concerned with my boss and friend getting out alive than anything else).  Likewise if Jedd was suddenly incapacitated–not only would we lose the legions of fangirls who would be drawn to our show by his youthful good looks (if you’re reading this, Jedd, no I am not hitting on you; I am old enough to be your mother), but we would lose an amazing drummer and musical arranger.

In short, if Dan, or Jian, or Jedd disappear for good, Stories Told essentially reaches “The End,” or, at least, an extended, Mettalica-esque hiatus.  But if their lead singer stops being up to snuff…

…well, how many contestants did “The Voice of The Philippines” have again?

These days I’m flip-flopping between reckless euphoria (I’m in a rock band!) and sheer terror, which is a crazy place to be for a lead singer and an even crazier place to be for a female lead singer in an otherwise all-male band (Who will rub my back and give me chocolates while I cry?).  Jian, as the band’s de facto manager, has done his best on numerous occasions (Jian, you’re a hero.) to calm his shuddering, stuttering, emotionally shaky wildcard pick (and, I am loath to admit, occasional diva), but there are only so many times the “musical theater demon seesaw ride” (see this link for the reference) can be referenced before it gets eye-rollingly cliché, and I personally think I reached that limit five rehearsals ago.

I’m nervous.  I’m scared.  I’m not even on-stage anymore but I’m still exhausted (too exhausted to think BAP, really) by the residue of stage fright (which, in all my years as an actress, I can honestly say I have never experienced).

(I’m also cringing a little bit, because there is now a video of me singing “You Wanted More” out there and I will be very, very honest: that was not my best singing ever.)

About the only thing that makes sense at this point–12:50am on May 5th when I should be decking my BAP presentation–is listening to the three tracks I’ve bought off of Save Rock and Roll, the amazing comeback album that catapulted the one-time Kings of Emo-Rock, Fall Out Boy, back into the public eye as the band-who-lived.  The story of these unlikely emo-kids/punk-rockers from Illinois is one that I both can’t relate to and can, especially the nervous stutter-start of their once-pudgy, now crushworthily-svelte frontman, Patrick Stump.  When Jian gave me the assignment to watch other frontmen “come alive” onstage, so I could learn to, I ended up watching the Live in London video of Patrick joyfully sing-howling the opening to “Young Volcanoes” to the madding crowd, marveling all the while at how happy one band could look.

(There is no other word I can use to describe these long-ago guyliner advocates as they tear through “We are wild!  We are like young volcanoes!”  Happy just about fits the bill.)

Not that I’m out to remake myself as a Fall Out Boy-clone versus the more popular Paramore one (because I’m not, though I borrow heavily from Save Rock and Roll’s vocal marriage of RnB and hard rock for one of our more foot-stomping originals), but there’s something about the honesty of Patrick Stump, in those half-light, half-dark years between Folie à Deux and Save Rock and Roll, the years of “We liked you better fat!” (Don’t listen, Patrick–I like you better now.) and the grossly-underappreciated Soul Punk, that makes me want to crawl into the blog posts and Rolling Stone articles and Wikipedia pages and endless, reckless, beautiful cry of “We are like young volcanoes!” and live there until 19 East on May 11.  Because by rights, Patrick Stump should be more neurotic than I–he was (nearly) a has-been at 27, whereas I am a (maybe) wannabe at 21–riding on the too-good-to-be-true-but-really-it-is-because-your-album-is-that-good success of Save Rock and Roll while simultaneously being faced with the digital paper-trail of Soul Punk and Folie à Deux‘s “failures” and the gut-wrenching tell-all blog left in its wake (deleted by Stump, but preserved here).  And maybe he is, because what happens behind Fall Out Boy’s (literal versus metaphorical) tour bus doors is a mystery, but onstage, in the floodlights, when he sings about being the lions free from the Coliseum (a lyric that will make you root for the Lannisters from the sheer beauty of the melody behind it), you can’t tell because he looks so happy.

So very, very, very happy.

I would give anything to be that happy, really.  And I think what keeps me from it is that, unlike Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz–who have very publicly admitted to Folie à Deux‘s “wreckage” and the band hiatus that came after it being results of their inflating egos–I’ve still got the ego, and I don’t think they do, anymore.  No one can have that much fun onstage and still have an ego.  That’s raw giving out there, without self-consciousness, and that only comes after years and years and years of getting your pride ground into a fine powder until all that’s left is confidence and a desire to give, even if it comes back to you as a tomato thrown at your face.

In my bathroom mirror, lip-syncing Young Volcanoes, my Lannister-gold nails throwing the horns up while another hand clutches an invisible (versus hairbrush) mic, I feel like I’m nearly there, that I am stupid and young and in poisoned places, we’re antivenom and nothing matters but the adventure, the experience, the joy of the music.  But in reality the microphone cord’s wound too tightly around the microphone (is that why pro artists use wireless?) and I can’t work the stand and each time I hit a wrong note I flinch.

I want so desperately to be worth the wild-card, but there are many times when my horrible, masochistic imagination cooks up visions, while I am mid-song, of record execs or club owners or simply indie-rock fans going “This band would be so good…if not for the lead singer.”

(Some may argue I might just be too sober.  Those who do need to understand that I can’t not be sober.)

I guess this really long ramble boils down to this: I wish I was as brave as Fall Out Boy–as Patrick Stump–to take the risk, to dive in and believe and commit to the songs, the stories, and maybe not not care but at least bother to care after all the work is done.  But I’m guilty of killing my darlings before I’ve started, of asking and asking and asking Am I good enough for this?  And no matter how many people answer that question with “good job,” I can’t find it in myself to believe them yet.

Ironically, I figure the moment I will believe is when I have that moment of pure bliss onstage when I’m not thinking of how bad a frontwoman I am but simply being a bad (pardon the self-deprecation and blame my BAP-drained, emotional state) frontwoman, unapologetically, and enjoying it.  The thing that stands in my way is because I haven’t had it yet, but to have it I have to get rid of of the thing (the doubt) that stands in my way.

The doubt and one more thing, really: that I want this band so badly.  That it’s my thirteen-year-old dreams come to life, with the possibility of them becoming more than true…and that terrifies me.  This dream gets bigger by the day, and for a girl who hates getting her hopes up, I’ve gotten my hopes up to the point that I’m afraid I can’t live up to them.

Is there a solution to all of this?  Sleep, maybe, after I crank out enough BAP slides to not feel guilty about having some.  But really, I think this whole spiel must come to an anticlimactic denouement: “This is what goes on in the mind of a music super-fangirl turned musician”–the madness of false humility mixed with insecurity mixed with an ego the size of China mixed with a desire to get rid of all that, get out of my own head, and just do.

I can’t just do, so I’ll have to do the next best thing (sorry, Master Yoda)–I’ll try.  In the meantime, I’ll have Young Volcanoes on loop, mouthing it alone in my laptop-lit half-dark, imagining the floodlights and the joy.

~A(Rock and-)RoamingTsinay~