Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category


As I proud paraded around the apartment last night wearing a pair of brand new jeans from Express, I realized that this is only the second time in my life I have ever paid for jeans. This thought made me nostalgic so I’ve decided to dedicate an entry to the history of my jeans. Yes, you heard me. I’m gonna write a long-ass post about pants. And YOU’RE GONNA READ THE WHOLE DAMN THING.

The first memory of jeans I have is in 5th grade. Big bell bottoms (figure 1) and tear-away-pants were “the thing” back then. I told my mom about this trend, so she went out to Value Village (a big thrift store chain in Canada) and bought me a pair of dark purple jeans that flared out dramatically at the bottom. I was ecstatic and wore them all the time. But then I overheard some people talking about me behind my back.

Figure 1: bell bottom jeans

“oh my gawd, Shanying has been wearing those pants for days already! Who wears purple jeans?”
“Yeah, and they’re way too short. I bet she got them at Value Village!”

From then on, those jeans were never the same again in my eyes. Every time I sat down, I would notice how the pants rode up my legs, showing up to the tops of my socks. I was so embarrassed of wearing them, but I didn’t have anything better to replace them with.

Not too long after this, one of the more popular/pretty/well-dressed girls in my class came up to me one day. In her hand she had this pair of beautiful, new, dark-wash jeans that she said her mom got in China, but in a size too small. She couldn’t fit into them and I was the only person she could think of who was skinnier, so did I want to take them off her hands? I nearly cried from happiness. My own pair of BRAND NEW jeans that dragged to the floor even when I sat down! It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me.

That night my mom and I went out and bought her a thank-you present: a cute stuffed animal. The next day, I gave her the present while thanking her profusely again. However later that day, while lining up to get lunch, I heard her and he group of friends whispering:

“Ew, I think I saw that on the window sill at Value Village. I can’t believe she’d give that to you.”
“Grooooss!! I bet it’s got her cooties all over it! Eewwwwwww!”

Those words devastated me. I would never buy a present for someone else at Value Village! Not to mention they don’t really have a window sill. Also, I don’t have cooties. But that’s not the point. All I was trying to do was sincerely thank her for being considerate and thinking of me with what I thought was a nice gift.

That’s when I decided to go out with my friends and go shopping. My mom, who didn’t approve of shopping as a hobby/past time activity, was finally out of town. She had given me $100 for the week to spend on some food, etc. I took the chance and splurged with my friends. We went to Mariposa, a hip store for youngsters, and bought me my first pair of real jeans: a pair of bell bottoms that flared enough to cover my feet entirely. It cost me $40, which I knew was more than anyone in my family had ever spent on clothes. I justified it by buying them a size too big so I could wear them even as I grow older and fatter. I did end up wearing them for almost 8 years, until around sophomore year of college. I eventually threw them away when they no longer fit. Also…bell bottoms that swallow up your feet? It became a little too unfashionable, even for me.

Figure 2: Observe the mommy jeans and their effect of diminishing all sexy appeal

The rest isn’t quite as exciting. In high school, my friend gave me an old pair of Old Navy’s that she couldn’t fit into anymore. Loved those jeans until I got too fat for those in college too. After I threw them out, I picked up two pairs of jeans that were just lying on the floor in the basement of Senior House (my dorm). I still wear one of those jeans frequently, even though it makes my ass look saggy and it has a hole in the pant leg. Then a year or two ago, my mom got three pairs of hand-me-down jeans from her coworker’s daughter that I’ve been wearing ever since. And even though one of them is most definitely a mommy jean (figure 2).

Hence I decided yesterday, to splurge on a few pair of jeans for the first time in 11 years. Today, I am proudly wearing a pair of brand new, possibly fashionable, definitely not bell-bottomed jeans! (I bought them for $20; originally priced for $60. I am a bargain QUEEN!)

Okay, I just realized that I lied a little. A year ago I bought skinny jeans at H&M. But they were cheap and they look terrible on me. I don’t like them, so I’m going to say that doesn’t count.


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Smarter than me

When I was in the 6th grade, my teacher made us write in a journal every week (remember Ms. Yamamoto, Jillian??). One of the topics was something like “What do you think life will be like in 20 years?” I kind of wish I kept the notebook, because I’d be curious to see what I wrote. I do remember writing about having a family and specifying that my husband had to be smarter than me. A few days after handing in the notebook, my teacher pulled me aside and asked me why I felt my husband needed to be smarter. What a silly question!, I thought. How could I ever marry someone who was dumber than me? Men were supposed to be smarter and more successful than their wives. That’s just how it works.

10 years later, I have to say my views haven’t changed that much, except that I use “success” instead of “smartness” as a ruler now. Call me old-fashioned, backwards, or anti-feminist, but I want to feel “taken care of” in a relationship: mentally and financially. In other words, my husband should make enough money to be the sole breadwinner.  To be clear here, a fulfilling career is still very important to me. After all, I’m not spending 5+ years doing my Ph.D for shits and giggles. I have no desire to sit home all day as a housewife, making my family the only redeeming part of my existence. However, I do want — no, need — the option to quit my job any point to stay home and take of the kids. Hence I need a husband who is “more successful,” but still respects me.

Or maybe I just really like the idea of being filthy rich without having to lift a finger. I could just drive my kids to soccer practice with this car:

Yes, please. I’d give up science to be a trophy wife for that.

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On being Chinese

When I first entered MIT, I had my mind set to be different. I had reached a rebellious stage in my life and decided that other Chinese students are so dull. So predictable. So stereotypical. I didn’t want to be just another fob attending a tech school, majoring in economics, business, or biology. No, I was going to be better than the crowd. I was going to be An American.

So I associated myself, for the first time in my life, with a new crowd. The westerners’ crowd. And despite the fact that MIT is full of Asians, I somehow managed to make relatively few Asian friends. I have always been proud of being Chinese, and I defend my country passionately during political debates. I share my culture and its food with my non-Chinese friends. But aside from that, I was essentially becoming a Mei Guo Ren (American). And I was proud of it.

Tonight, however, I remembered what it means to be Chinese again. It should come to no surprise that this revelation is happening while I am in Vancouver (where I spent 4 years of my younger life.) I had the chance to meet up with my old Asian friends, and it was incredibly refreshing.  There is something Qing Qie (familiar, close, comforting) about being with the people who grew up with similar values, culture, and language. I am ashamed and appalled at how immature I have been, ignoring my roots and believing that I was “better” than my people.

To my (rather few) Asian readers: have you ever experienced anything similar? Can you see being a “born-again-Chinese” in your near future?

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We’ve all experienced it. Someone catches you off guard with an insult, a challenge, or perhaps just a simple question. You stumble, trying to think of a clever response, but your mind blanks. So you say something really stupid instead only to think of a perfect comeback a few minutes/hours/days/years later.

For example: when I was a senior in high school, I was making some presentation in my math class. For whatever reason, I decided to also use the chance to make some comment about being against the War on Iraq. Yeah, 17-year-old me was pretty obnoxious. That day during lunch, a group of boys who were well-known conservatives approached me. “We heard that you were complaining about the U.S. fighting the war in Calc D today. Is that true?”

May I briefly interject here and explain that these group of guys were the stars of the Speech and Debate club, and I was one of the worst debaters (though I did at one point win “Most Improved”). (Oh god just the memories of Speech and Debate makes me want to cry). I was outspoken about my political views but didn’t do much reading on stuff, where as those guys were digesting, like, 25 news sources a day. Secretly I worshiped the ground they walked on, wishing I could one day be as eloquent and politically minded as they were.

Anyways, as I was saying, they came up to me at lunch and said blah blah you’re a really stupid girl who’s way beneath us and you whined about the war on Iraq, right?

“Um. Yeah?” I responded cautiously. “War is bad!….?”

“Well,” the tall, sort of scrawny and nerdy and YET SO TERRIFYING guy said, “how do you explain that earlier today [some value] percent of the Democrats in the Senate [or House] voted in favor of fighting the war?”

I blinked. He was throwing facts at me. FACTS! How do I ever come up with a good response against this intelligent, reasonable, knowledgeable conservative? I did what any other politician would have done.

“Na uh!”

“It’s true. Check CNN.”

“Oh, well then.” Heat began radiating from my face. I quickly said “whatever, I haven’t read that report. I can’t trust your sources.” And then I ran the hell away.

That shameful memory haunted me for years and years. Finally, five years later, while unable to fall asleep in bed I’ve got my comeback. I’m very excited about this, guys. Are you for it? Are you? Okay. Here it goes.

“What do party lines have to do with anything??” BAM. In your face.

Do you guys have any time in your life you wish you could go back to now with a better comeback? I’m sure you do! Entertain me, so I don’t feel so lame. Whatever it is, your response couldn’t have been worse than “I, personally believe, that, Americans, don’t have maps.”

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