Body language

When I'm on the subway train, I sometimes like to look at other passengers and figure out what their insecurities are. It's a little something to pass the time (I guess a little something to make me feel in control), and it's good exercise for reading facial expressions and body language. There was this woman sitting across from me, vibrant with expression as she spoke. Her hand gestures were wild as she acted out stories she took part in. It was as if she spoke without breathing. Occasionally her eyes would bulge as she exasperated, "ohmygah!" I wondered what someone could say that would hurt her.
Was this big personality of hers a defense mechanism to hide something she's insecure of? Does she try too hard to impress her friend because she wants to be the center of attention? Does she hug her bag tightly because she doesn't like the way her stomach looks in her t-shirt?

And sometimes there would be a guy on the train that just knows he is good looking. It's charming to exude confidence, but oozing narcissism is disgusting. Sometimes I imagine scenarios where some tough guy tries to hit on me and I'd turn him down. Every time.
I think I may have control issues.
It was a little subway game I devised. I guess it all started when my friend and I were riding the train back when attending Columbia summer school was popular. There was a Mexican gentleman standing in front of us on the R train, and I whispered to Katerina, "What do you think he's thinking of?" She whispered back, "Taco Bell."
It made me realize the fact that everyone is born with stereotypes assigned to them, and how these labels shape first impressions. It's sometimes unfair, sometimes unjustified. Just because you've grown up in Harlem, you're associated with "the ghetto," or from the way you talk, you sound "uneducated." Or if you're a Jew from Long Island and carry a Louis Vuitton bag for your school books you're somehow a "princess." There are all these social and economic forces molding the way we see other people. It's like everyone is on their own sled, riding down a path on a hill that was already created for them.
I remember first moving to Hong Kong, not knowing how to say a complete sentence of Mandarin or Cantonese. I remember telling my mother I hated Chinese people, that everyone looked the same and they were all ugly. I remember telling her our apartment smelled like a Chinatown fish market. I was 10.
I would walk into stores and sales associates would ask me questions in Cantonese, and I would smile politely and tell them I couldn't speak. They would raise their eyebrows and curl their lips upwards in embarrassment. Embarrassment for me. For most of my time in Hong Kong, and even now, I would feel like a disgrace to my Chinese heritage for not knowing this certain Chinese poet or singer, or not knowing famous Mandarin phrases.
You hear all these experiences of Chinese Americans not completely fitting in with pure Chinese people and feeling slight discomfort with Americans who don't know the world outside the United States. It's hard to find a place where I can just be myself without any judgment or criticism. I know a lot of people think I'm lost and I'm trying to find myself by doing so many things without a day of rest. But I think through all these different experiences I'll learn what I like and dislike. And I guess it's another step to understanding who I can be. Who I can be professionally, who I can be for someone else, and most importantly, who I can be for myself.


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