4/5 Cat’s out of the bag: The subtle art of being evil

Until last Thursday, I never had a reason for self-cannibalism.

Yes, my dearie, you read that correctly.

Essentially, that Slow-as-a-Slug Sally was walking so darn slow in front of me, I had to gnaw on my own vocal chords and digest ‘em, or else I’d have let fly a scream of irritability hibernating in my lungs, a mad howl to be heard round the world.

Reincarnated as a human, Sally (anonymous identity for the sake of her undeserved safety) was certainly a bumbling, lethargic sheep in her past life and thus incapable of brisk walking. She sported pearly white Converse — an unmarked and unblemished “shoe version” of what I wished my bloodied-by-red-pen math tests could attain — and walked ever so slowly, plodding one shoe in front of the other.

At her rate of walking, I, the poor schmuck stuck behind her, would arrive at school approximately nine years late.

It became the sole desire of my life to bungee jump on her shoes like the cannibalistic hooligan I was — I mean, I am — and dirty ‘em to a mud brown.

I did not.

Effectively, I was hyper-effective at being ineffective — on the outside, that is. I had smiled at her quite enthusiastically and happily, trotting off on my merry way.

Yet being the high-functioning sociopath I am, I lurked under the eaves of the D building, biding my time … and am still biding my time to this very day, having done absolutely nothing to her. I have not confronted her. I have not trashed her shoes. In fact, I have been a smiling, civilized and cultured lady. However, in reality, the inside of me still churns with the cannibalistic insanity and anger — a controlled, oppressed evilness which never has and will hopefully never bubble to the surface.

Still, that girl had better watch out.

To most, I am not a terribly obnoxious or vile person, although specific people on the El Estoque staff refer to me as “Spawn of the Devil” or “Loan Shark.” I do not have the slightest inkling why.

To those who knew of me in middle school, I say, with enough conviction to bash the stronghold that is the Great Wall of China, I must have been a — no, good reader, not a sheep, I have always walked at a respectable, considerate speed — cat in my past life, claws unsheathed 24/7 and tail up in indignation.

An all-around prissy ditch! Oh, my bad. Apparently, “b” has reflected itself to a “d” for a day.

I despise emotion-wrought confessions and reliving horrendous memories, which is why I’ll boil it down to the basics: As a middle schooler, I was the so-called “mean girl” of my class; I delighted in interrupting people, embracing the ideas they volunteered and promptly pushing said ideas off a cliff — you scallywag, we’re outlining the title in Sharpie, not pen, capiche? — and into Oblivion, a pithole of rejection. As I grew older, the disgustingness of my behavior grew apparent to myself, and as I’ve mentioned many a column, I morphed into a reserved, more polite girl.

Illustration by Michelle Wong

Here’s the cat-ch.

Unfortunately, I’m still half a ditch. Again, the “b” has decided to be a “d” for the time being. I say “half,” because I still have a fondness for ordering people to walk the plank. Luckily, the splishin’ and splashin’ of the victim is mental, the “evilness” confined to my imagination (although it occasionally trickles into my writing) and expressed solely through a tight-lipped smile.

Trust me, if I were still in middle school, I’d be screeching my insults like a boiling kettle if you so much as shook your head at me, instead of containing them to my consciousness. I’ve simply improved in on-the-surface anger management; under the surface, I’m evil, with a heart like a muddy ditch.

My fellow adolescents often grapple with becoming so-called “good” and responsible adults. I say “so-called,” because the adults we look up to may appear composed and polite, but they certainly aren’t wholly “good” or completely inline with their moral compasses.

They’ve just got a tad more self-control, a little more skill at hiding their emotions and a tidbit more composure in plastering on a fake smile. Yes, they may only utter a quiet, exasperated cough or simply grit their teeth when children mouth off to them or some barbaric brute cuts them off in traffic. But, my dear reader, adults are just as “bad” and “evil” as us.

They simply swear themselves hoarse and unleash their insanity or temper behind closed doors — out of our sight. Or like me, a half-adult, instead of physically swearing at someone to their face, they may quarantine their evilness and mentally curse the person to a thousand lifetimes of extreme dandruff. And then imagine flinging the person into a nearby trashcan, who is hungry for trash.

And if that’s not the case, well, consider this. Why am I, a supposed half-adult, also a secret devil child?


3/8 Cat’s out of the bag: Holiday Hatin’

Valentine’s Day has long passed.

The only leftovers we’re savoring are bags of Hershey’s Kisses slashed with “50 percent off!” in black Sharpie.

Christmas is already an impervious oil stain on a paper bag, which was previously bloated with red and green sprinkle donuts. Thanksgiving? The turkey’s spirit is at rest in heaven, all chummy with the deceased mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

A disclaimer before I begin upchucking my words: I do not hate Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Thanksgiving. I-I just-don’t exactly-well, I feel like it’s rather excessive. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

And here’s how it went down, in my plumb-tuckered-out mind’s eye. (If the following paragraphs are rather incoherent, blame the 2:00 a.m. black coffee jitters. According to this wannabe coffee connoisseur, “caramel lattes” and “PSL’s” are wolves in sheep’s coffee-stained clothing.)  As per usual, the phone alarm was yowling its charger off at 6:00 a.m.

As a no-owl (I am productive neither during the morning, night, breaking dawn, eclipse, or any title of the “Twilight” Saga, because all I aspire to do is sleep, nap or try to sleep), I blurted permutations — or is it combinations? — of swear words, pulling out my hair until my alarm wondered if I’d developed epileptic shock and retreated into a respectful silence.


Visual by Michelle Wong 

(Anything after the pulling-out hair is purely imagination, actually. And yes, I do swear quite vibrantly and melodically, inside my head of course, because I’d never be so uncultured as to blurt “schist” aloud.) When Valentine’s Day concluded, it wasn’t any different from Christmas, Thanksgiving or a regular school day. Here goes the cat.

Just as I boycotted New Year’s Day and every single holiday with an emphasis on “loudness” and “togetherness,” I sat out on Valentine’s Day. Oh, I’m not a hater, I’ll have you know. I’ve just always impeached the necessity of Valentine’s Day. Simply stated, isn’t it a tad bit loud? And so touchy-feely and extroverted?

Every holiday, I feel claustrophobic from an overdose of “fuzzy-and-warm” emotions. The Christmas carols. Thanksgiving thankfulness and the counting of “blessings.”

It’s 2:00 p.m. on a lazy Tuesday, and I’ve huffily regressed into a rant instead of a column.  You’re reading “salty” cat out of the bag, as the hip kids on the block with their Skechers light-up shoes say. Or Adidas. I’m not quite clear myself.

Perhaps, my extreme introversion has spurned my dislike — or lack of endurance — for holidays and social gatherings in general.

I’ve always had a fondness for doing absolutely nothing “productive” and just be by myself, to simply sit and dream of the miscellaneous: the most creative metaphor possible, me as the heroine of the never-to-exist fifth season of “Sherlock,” and whether or not there is actually an afterlife or just a black hole of nothingness.

There’s something magical about sinking into the embrace of a misshapen, lumpish sofa, lulled to half-sleep by the aroma of coffee and whittling the Sunday afternoon away — with a pair of headphones for company — that so entices me.

Alone, mind you. That is my kind of holiday.

And no, I’m not spinning some haphazard argument to defend my laziness. I am not lazy. I am merely a daydreamer, and again, no, not in the sense of dreaming for a cause or an unattainable goal of being a Kpop idol.

My dear cat owners,

I’ve entrusted a total of four secrets to you. By now, you can dissect my style of writing.

I love to dream through 90 percent of the column in flowery word throw-up, and for a scant 10 percent, I “reflect” upon my secret. Unwillingly and stoically, I dissect the secret from head to toe according to the “Guidelines of Reflection.”

First, please summarize your secret. Be concise and detailed (a paradox in itself).

Second, please provide evidence and quotes by a dependable source to prove this secret.

Lastly, tie the first and second steps above with some universal, relatable aspect of human nature.

Reflection, or the “under-the-surface” thinking literature teachers so adore is … inescapable.

And for a dreamer like me, “reflecting” and dwelling upon my daydreams is pure torture. It’s an extra step, an extra two minutes that toughens the filet mignon, a succulent secret or daydream, from medium rare to well done.

As you can see, I’ve happily and unintentionally “dreamed” off the beaten path and ventured into nonsense again, much like the introduction of this column.

Where was I again? Oh, my boycotting of holidays. Holidays are a reflection, are they not? A reflection, an attempt to solidify our meant-to-be-messy-ball-of-yarn feelings of family, love and all that good stuff through tangible gifts and Valentine’s Day chocolate.

There I go again, forcing myself to analyze.

Except for the paragraph above, this column was really just an excuse for me to daydream. And if you’ll pardon me, I must leave before I’m impounded for “lack of evidence” in my daydreaming.

I’ll catch you later.

2/8 Blobbing, blobbing, 1-2-3

I have a confession to make: I’m really half-blob, half-human. Mentally, that is. I lack definition and structure. As a high schooler, my brain is gleefully mucking around in no particular direction whatsoever, sporting fuzzy slippers and a plushy bathrobe!

I lack passion: a driving force to mold my future or “life goals” into concreteness. Honestly, where am I heading? After all, nothing strikes my fancy.  Of course, I certainly have interests! I like to write, play cello and bake cookies. However, in the jargon of a flustered pre-teen, I don’t really “like like” anything. Much less love.

What does one define as love?

Traditionalists feel electrocuted, hyper-alert: Benjamin Franklin in the roaring storm, clutching an iron key and whipping a kite. Golly gee willikers! I’m in love! How outlandish. As a post-millennial, I’m attuned to the 21st century.

What does one define as love?

If I truly loved something, I’d take the pains to exit the Netflix tab for said person or thing. That being said, I am simultaneously writing this column and streaming Season 4 of “Sherlock.” Thus, this column has taken five hours to lovingly churn out.

It’s not as if I dislike writing or cello! That isn’t the scroungy cat I intend on releasing. My interests and I, well, we’re interlocked in the first stages of an arranged marriage — awkward and grudging! Which very much irritates my parents, or it certainly seems like it.

At first, my engineer father was miffed that I was interested in the humanities, something he’d assumed from my column writing.

“To be good at math is to be good at everything!” he proclaimed, hands flailing like a tipsy conductor with a chopstick batons. He paused to inhale two-thirds of his dinner. “If you know math, your writing will have another dimension! Have a touch of clean-cut STEM reasoning!”

I haughtily turned up my nose, slurping a satisfactory ratio of ramen to beef broth.

“Well, fine,” he replied, his feathers ruffled by my obnoxious slurp. As long as you’re happy and doing what you love. At least, his daughter had a calling, a direction in life. His daughter liked English, out of all things – she wasn’t constructing mobile houses for street urchins in London – but hey, her life had some grit and substance to it.

Or so he thinks, I spluttered to myself, counting the green onions pooling in the ramen.

Bloib34 Roimen

Again, it’s not as if I have no interests. Our mutual  “affection” is simply labored.The story of my arranged marriage follows: I’m a hot-blooded youth who dilly-dallied the morning with Netflix, an endless TV show provider. At 1:00 a.m., I’m abruptly wedded to a blank Word document! It is a drastic plunge in exhilaration: from TV-binging to writing an essay.

Before my fellow writers scorn me for eternity — write a novel about a girl who works hard but dies in the end, they holler — I do enjoy writing! Writing is therapeutic and meditative. I can sulk here for hours on end, pruning flower gardens of metaphors to asphyxiate the reader with my floweriness.

I rest my case.

Of course, there’s a catch. As much as I have interest in something, I’ve never loved anything (besides Netflix) enough to approach or “propose” to it first. Also, if I truly loved — with a passion — to play cello, couldn’t I happily practice for four hours? Why, then, was finishing an hour of cello practice like completing a chore?

Writing is therapeutic and meditative. I can sulk here for hours on end, pruning flower gardens of metaphors to asphyxiate the reader with my floweriness.

My lack of passion twisted my father’s head right round, his anxiety apparent in dinner conversations.

“What do you want to do when you’re older? English? I know you’re interested.”

I’d mumble two-syllable gibberish: “Uh-huh” and “Huh? Yeah.”

That’d light his fuse. He craved clear answers and a stable train of thought. After all, he’d immigrated from Taiwan when he was 25 years old, the homely engineer who chased his American Dream. 30 years later, he had four daughters and lived in affluent Cupertino. Previously, he had lived in three states and undertaken five jobs, charging forward with a mindset to succeed. Very unblobish, if I do say so myself.

And here, his blobbish daughter, goggling at him with ramen noodles dangling from her mouth. Didn’t I understand how fortunate I was? Where was the youthfulness, the heady ambition? The hunger to warp, to bulldoze the world with my radical actions? I should be establishing my passion in such a liberal community, using Cupertino’s abundance of opportunities to feed whatever the monster of a passion.

“Because you’re going into English, right?” He asked. “You must have an idea of what you want to do in life.”

I didn’t answer. And I still can’t.

10/21 Column: Tiger daughter?

It infuriates the sensible me, the alter ego who holds chopsticks properly (“I beseech you,” my mother will say, “stop fingering it like a pencil!”), to overhear a fellow student wail, “Dood, I didn’t even study for this test,” and gush days later, in all of a flutter, “Dood, I got an A on that test!”

Good sir, that “A” is unsubstantial and superficial, unlike my untraditional chopstick-holding. I live in America, land of the free and “be yourself,” so I can strangle chopsticks anyway I desire.
See? I have a legitimate reason for holding chopsticks differently. And you mosey along with an “A” on a test you didn’t study for. I studied for four hours, while I’m wallowing knee-deep in a “C-” pit. It baffles me.

Enflamed by your success and in an effusion of envy, I’ll write 10 interpretations of Piggy’s spectacles, in preparation for next month’s in-class essay. I’m traumatizing myself, academically, to beat you.
I’m absolutely outrageous, and one of those crazy MVHS kids.

Concerned reader, the first step to purging my competitiveness is to, well, give up! Kudos to my Matador mother for still trying, albeit failing, to corner this raging bull who sees the world in red-tinted glasses.
Oh, you’re surprised?

Kudos to my Matador mother for still trying, albeit failing, to corner this raging bull who sees the world in red-tinted glasses.

Were you under the impression that I have a so-called “tiger” mother? One who voraciously scrapbooks all the ads for PSAT and SAT prep classes? Reproves you for breathing, as it disrupts the rhythm of polynomial factoring? My mother buys me milk tea and popcorn chicken after every math test and accepts my B-minuses in stride. My father reminisces of his schoolboy life fraught with Cs and Ds, as my three sisters proclaim, self-righteously, “Some people don’t have to try. Deal with it.”
Of course, I whip off my headphones and retort, “I know,” (I don’t) and continue to marathon Khan Academy.

In eighth grade, I wrenched open the car door after school, sobbing fitfully and my mother demanded, “Who bullied you?”
And I blubbered, tasting salty tears, “I-I-I got an A-minus on my science test.”
Oh, I see that disgust, and I hear you incessantly swearing at me. Or is it the
voice inside my head, bashful, because who despairs over an “A-?” Pathetic, try-hard me.


“You try so hard. You try at everything.” Perhaps it’s my self-consciousness and over-interpretive nature, it’s as if “trying” – in this school festering with geniuses – suggests negative connotations and shoots a condescending smirk your way.

Perhaps it’s my self-consciousness and over-interpretive nature, it’s as if “trying” – in this school festering with geniuses – suggests negative connotations and shoots a condescending smirk your way.

It’s as if whatever you’re doing, whatever test you’re slaving over, is challenging for you, and that’s the reason you have to try. Or as Mindy Kaling phrases it, “That’s why I’ve never understood the compliment effortless. People love to say: “She just walked into the party, charming people with her effortless beauty.” I don’t understand that at all. What’s so wrong with effort, anyway? It means you care. What about the girl who walked into the party, her determination to please apparent on her eager face?”

Or, in Monta Vista lingo, “He walked into math and got a 110 percent without trying.” What about me? Who swaggered into math, studied five days beforehand, and left, dejected, with a “B-”? I couldn’t bear the double-whammy: I had tried. I had failed. Intriguingly, the second statement overshadowed any positivity of the first.

In a twisted way, my mind wished for a stereotypical tiger mother. If I had a tiger mother, I hypothesized, I’d be sailing through Chemistry and sleeping eight hours. Instead, I griped, I had been sentenced to  a “normal” childhood! By golly, my childhood consisted of “fun in the sun” from morn’ to noon instead of prepping for next year’s math material. And now, sophomore year, I was paying the terrible price for a slacker childhood: I was trying in school.

Never once did I consider the negatives of a tiger mother or father. Parents can helicopter their living-at-home teenagers, subjecting them to ridiculous study schedules and determining their bedtimes. Yet with their teen’s first step onto a college campus, he or she is finally independent and at a complete loss, having been babied for 18 years.

My delusion has dissipated, thankfully. Somewhere along the way, I realized my trying deserved an “A.” As long as I knew that, all was right in the world. It’s no use, I often reprimand myself. Ultimately, if the letter grade is ridiculously unreflective of the stress behind the scenes, well, that’s that. Even if I am “trained” enough to easily earn A’s, there’s no telling whether straight A’s would even meet tiger standards.

So, I’m practically off the rails these days. Whatever with all the grades, considering skull tattoos. Yeah, you know me.

I hold my chopsticks wrong.

On purpose.

9/21 Column: Kpop, My Ultimate Downfall?


Illustration by Sara Entezar, Featured Image from Big Hit Entertainment

I have got to say, I used to be proud of my individuality.

Emotionless toward boybands, whose skinny-jean tightness and adolescence are dictated by record companies.

One Direction? Meh.

Kpop? Ehh. They’re just Asian, “Ken Barbie Dolls” in unlimited edition, with phenomenally clear skin and tight jeans!

I was (and still am?) a sophisticate. I appreciated the greats, I hummed Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And now all I do is sing Kpop in the shower.

It’s your fault, BTS. The Bangtan Boys, the Bulletproof Boy Scouts, or whatever BigHit Entertainment, your Korean record label, decided to name the seven of you boys. Dangnabbit, EXO! Who am I to resist nine Asian guys with dyed hair and coordinating outfits?

Originating in South Korea, Korean pop is a genre of music in which the visual elements, theme, outfits and music videos are as important as the song itself (typically dance-pop or electro-pop). Kpop idols first begin as trainees, in binding contracts with management companies like SM Entertainment, and train for several years in vocals, dancing and foreign languages before debuting.

In the recent years, Kpop has summoned a terrifying, Roman legion of Western fangirls and fanboys. In November 2015, BTS’s album, “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2,” charted at number one on Billboard’s World Albums Chart for 11 weeks, while fangirls simultaneously sobbed happily for 11 weeks.

And while it breaks my boyband-calibrated heart and soul, the Kpop industry is often jeered at and disapproved of.

The plastic surgery, all the skinny girls who look the same and the autotuned music.

You know what I’m talking about.

As animated as I am with best friends, I’ve never been that gabby, irritating extrovert in Socratic seminars (at least, I hope). Ever since seventh grade, I’ve stopped being a hand-raising, wannabe Hermione Granger and initiating conversation with classmates. “Extroverting” is exhausting.

I interpreted my shyness akin to that of a reflective, meditating-under-a-peach-tree individual, who maintains an eerie yet superior air! I read “Jane Eyre” (Correction: I tried and failed to read “Jane Eyre”)! I was and am a reasonable girl.

I used to not be a fangirl who obsessed over some Korean idol dying his hair a darker brown. I would never fall victim to the ploys of Kpop marketing; I wasn’t going to give this plastic surgery music industry, these conglomerate companies, any more cash or Youtube views!

“I used to not be a fangirl who obsessed over some Korean idol dying his hair a darker brown.”

It’s the ole “don’t judge a book by its cover” mantra. In all honesty, if you watch a Kpop music video for the first time, you’ll shrug your shoulders disinterestedly. Nonetheless, this Korean One Direction is more bearable than “Jane Eyre,” so one tentatively watches a second music video. And watches. Sooner or later, you’ve distinguished your bias (the OH. MY. GOSH. member of the group) and set his candid as your lock screen.

Welcome to the madness.

Yes, I’m trying to enlighten the obstinate and ignorant, the non-kpoppers roaming the halls, rolling their eyes at that one Kpop-obsessed friend, saying, “Oh, they all look the same. Don’t all Kpop idols do plastic surgery? So unnatural. Why are all the guys so girly looking?”

Kpop, I mused, clashed with the reputation I had painstakingly upheld-the calm, contemplative shell I so boasted.

I still felt ashamed of my Kpop obsession. Out of my sisters, I was the sensible one. My father and mother acknowledged me as the one who blasted Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony while studying for biology, the daughter who declined to go to San Francisco with my sisters for a day because that’s tiring. And now, to speak aloud of my infatuation with boybands, to my father, who, every time I wear skinny jeans, angrily preaches how skinny jeans interrupt the blood circulation in the legs? The very idea.

“And now, to speak aloud of my infatuation with boybands, to my father, who, every time I wear skinny jeans, angrily preaches how skinny jeans interrupt the blood circulation in the legs?”

Billy says, “Oh, I like Drake! Bob and Joe say Chance the Rapper and then there’s you, infatuated with, “err, Bangta-, err, the Bangtan Boys?”

Mary Beth sings, “Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if-,” and you screech in the girls’ locker room, at the top of your lungs, “YOUR FACE IS FRESH. LIKE A SALAD.” (Actual lyrics from BTS song “Where did you come from?”)

But guess what? Whatever. Who cares. If I like Kpop, well, I like Kpop. lf some upperclassman or classical music lover jeers at this article or me when we pass through the halls, so what? I’ll be a fangirl if I want. I’ll accept the scandalous fact that I’m susceptible to guys with swooped hair. Even if my current, reserved reputation suggests the opposite.

Stop snickering, would you?