Life story

Cosmetic beauty standards, street harassment, etc.

Merrily hopping from one live music concert to the next, I biked toward my friend’s apartment to end my Friday night on a mellow note. While I swerved past drunk pedestrians and even passing a street corner blocked off by fire trucks and an ambulance (godspeed to those people), I overheard a group of five or six men calling out to two women across the street.

The one man closest to the women, walking in the opposite direction, yelled “You! Too much makeup!”

And then he carried on with his debauchery as though he didn’t say anything. In fact, he laughed with his friends who didn’t seem to have a problem.

Since I was behind the two women as I witnessed this whole thing, I couldn’t see the women’s facial expressions. But I could tell that they were offended by his statement from their body language facing each other, as if to say, “What the hell did he say to us?”

When I biked past the two women, I took a glance at their faces. As a make-up noob who can only work with eyeliner, mascara, and eyebrow pencils, I thought their make-up was on point and fabulous. Contoured cheeks highlighting their cheekbones, multiple shades of dark eyeshadow bringing out their eyes, black liquid eyeliner so sharp that it could have cut that asshole–they got it down to a T.

When I biked past the two women, I shouted to them, “Your makeup looks good!”

I could have added an extra statement of affirmation, like “Screw that guy who said otherwise,” but I think my compliment was enough for their mood to change a bit for the better as they thanked me. I could have yelled at the man who made the comment, but reasoning with drunk men is nearly impossible.

Regardless of the reason for putting on makeup, street harassment* hurts the self-esteem and well being of women, especially when we’re always judged and shaped by the opinions of others based on our physical appearances. Why can’t women be free to beautify themselves as they wish without the negative comments by men (or women)? Let them flaunt their beauty, makeup or none.

*I consider this scenario as street harassment since those women received unwanted attention and comments from a male stranger.

Come to think of it, I recall being checked by my close friends who apply makeup more often than I do. One time, on a cloudy Thursday afternoon in December, we were getting ready to go on a hike near our neighborhood. My friend came out of her room, eyebrows filled in a dark brown shade and red lipstick accentuating the curves of her lips. She exclaimed, “I just did my makeup!”

Without much thought, I said, “Wait, why are you wearing so much makeup? We’re just going on a hike.”

“I just wanna look good!” She answered.

Another close friend, who usually puts more effort in makeup than I do, chimed in her defense: “Yeah, let her wear makeup if she wants!”

It was a very small moment in our day, but it took me long enough to realize that the criticism toward women and makeup has been internalized in me throughout my life. I’m the kind of person who never wears makeup when doing physical activities since I don’t like the idea of my makeup smearing all over my face. I started playing with makeup in middle school, and reserved it for special occasions because I always thought that natural, naked beauty on a normal day is best. I thought that I didn’t need makeup to feel good about myself, and I felt compelled to resist the social standards that often praise and glorify cosmetic beauty for women.

My close friends, who dedicate so much time to perfect the liquid eyeliner in one stroke after already applying a layer of eyeshadow, reminded me that not all women follow my outlook on when and how makeup should be applied. And that should be respected. We all build self-confidence in our own ways; we shape our ideas of beauty based on standards influenced and instilled in our own cultures, families, friends, and media.

Criticizing someone for wearing makeup simply because I didn’t think it fit the occasion is quite disrespectful. Though my friend forgave me after I felt the need to apologize for what I said before, that check was necessary to remind me that I still have so much to deconstruct and learn about the ways I navigate beauty standards in my life and among my interactions with people.

If it weren’t for that moment, I would have taken a look at those two women, agreed with the man who thought they wore too much makeup, and carried on with my night. But who knows, maybe those women didn’t take it as personally as I assumed. On the flip side, maybe they felt more insecure than before about their physical appearance because a random stranger thought it was “too much” in his male gaze.

Women must look out for each other because we don’t have anyone but ourselves to change the conversation around beauty standards and street harassment. I’m blessed to be surrounded by strong-willed women who I call my friends, who affirm each other, and encourage each other to do what makes us look good and feel good.


Overheard at UCSB

This past Friday, I attended a career workshop for students who returned from studying abroad. When the workshop first started, there was only me and two other guys in the audience. A representative from UCSB Career Services asked if any of us attended the quarterly Career Fair that took place the day before.

Keep in mind that a coalition of students protested against the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), one of the participating entities attempting to recruit students for post-grad work experience. CBP has an extended recorded (and probably unrecorded) history of human rights violation under the pursuit of “protecting America’s borders.” Reaching out to a college campus stirs an intense level of anxiety and stress for undocumented students. Many have directly experienced the uncertainty of being able to live in the U.S. and the trauma of border authorities forcibly separating families.

Protesters shouted “Fuck your borders! Fuck your walls!” among many other chants aimed toward the unwanted presence of the CBP. Inside the Career Fair, protesters in professional attire camouflaged among the job-seeking students and distracted the CBP representatives from reaching out to other students. Though I don’t know the effectiveness of that tactic, the message was already loud and clear outside for anyone passing by the Career Fair.

With that context said, a guy sitting on my right raised his hand and went off on a rant:

Ugh the stupid protesters pissed me off so much!!! They were so loud that I had a hard time talking to the people there. I mean I was able to exchange some contact information. But, like, I just came back from studying abroad and then there’s a protest. They can take their protest somewhere else.

Talk about ignorance at its finest. I was so appalled by the string of words that came out of his mouth that I couldn’t shoot back at him with a rebuttal right away. He left before I could sit his ass down and teach him a lesson about the current situation with undocumented folks.

To that guy who was so upset by the protest for hindering his chance at a career that he’d probably leave in a few years anyway (because nothing is set for life in this new millenium, let’s be real):

Do you remember how racial integration became legal in American schools?

Thank the organizers who gave up their time and put their bodies on the line to protest nonviolently on the streets. Without their call for desegregation not only in schools and everywhere across the country, people of color would not have the same access and opportunity for (higher) education as white people, who have always lived comfortably in their privilege within the white-dominant system.

Besides, taking the “protest somewhere else” as you wished would defeat the very purpose of a protest. These students carefully planned this action because of the news that CBP would be present at the Career Fair. Plus, a protest helps bring attention to an issue that the mainstream media does not regularly cover, and deserves to be heard in the local community. The protesters clearly caused you annoyance for a few hours, but that’s little compared to the very real and painful experiences for those who live with uncertainty on a daily basis due to their undocumented status. Assuming that you are documented, you and I have the privilege of living comfortably without the triggering level of stress that undocumented folks must deal with–all on top of being a full-time student at the same university.

No one ever asked nicely to the higher-ups for better changes in their lives…

Anyway, just had to get that off my chest because I have friends who have been affected by the CBP and they deserve to feel safe on campus. As a child of immigrants who moved to the states for a better life than in their home country, I am in solidarity with the undocumented community.


“It was seeing me my own face that comforted me. I began to worship myself. My black eyes, the shape of half-moons, were alluring to me; my nose, half flat, half not as if painstakingly made that way, I found so beautiful that I saw in it a standard which the noses of the people I did not like failed to meet. I loved my mouth; my lips were thick and wide, and when I opened my mouth I could take it in volumes, pleasure and pain, awake and asleep. It was this picture of myself–my eyes, my nose, my mouth set in the seamless,unwrinkled, unblemished skin which was my face–that I willed before me. My own face was a comfort to me, my own body was a comfort to me, and no matter how swept away I would become by anyone or anything, in the end I allowed nothing to replace my own mind in my own being.” 

– Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of My Mother


Patterns on Patterns

Lately I’ve been wearing comfy clothes as often as possible. I can’t remember the last time I wore a pair of denim jeans. Those are too stiff for my thick, muscular legs. At least tights and skirts embrace every step, every movement, every bend and twist in my body…


Throwback Thursday


Around this time last year–a frigidly cold Friday night in Tokyo–I saw Jamie xx spin discs and work his magic in front of my eyes. I often look back at this night as one of those “moments” that I did something for myself and slightly changed for the better.

I asked my friends around to go with me, but alas, none of them were available. The friend groupie culture in Japan is too real, to the point where you start getting anxious and a little insecure when passersby, let alone strangers, walk past you eating lunch by yourself. This made me even more nervous to go to this concert by myself, but I thought, well when will I have the chance to see Jamie xx again?

Despite an encounter with a person who turned out to be creepy as hell, I set my insecurities (and that person) aside and let the electronic music take me through the night. Side-stepping and bobbing my head to the rhythm, I looked around and saw others around me simply feeling the music, lost in their own worlds.

As if nothing mattered except the present moment.

In the middle of all the dancing and jamming, a hipster guy with thick-rimmed glasses near me was really digging the music.. I could tell with the way he moved his body with more energy than the people around him. We looked at each other and kinda started dancing in sync with our hips shaking and arms flailing.

I don’t remember much of our small talks,
but I do remember the two of us feeling the music on the same wavelength,
smiling from cheek to cheek..
jumping up and down
holding hands

And then Jamie xx finally stepped up to the stage around 2:00 am or so. With the cylindrical lights flickering in certain patterns complementing the melody so smoothly, I was in awe. As someone who started listening to The xx since the beginning of college, I suddenly got excited when my ears picked up on the  bass line of “Sunset” during a transition in between songs. Nothing compares to the part when you love a song so much that you sing along with the vocals..

Some time after his set ended, I dragged my sore feet to the train station at around 4:30 am, waiting for the first train of the day to take me home. As the night progressed and I observed the wild surroundings, I was enjoying myself.

Not having to wait on a friend (or have a friend wait on you), not having to deal with keeping all members of the group together by the end of the night… I was free of such obligations. As much as I love and care about my friends, this night got me appreciating doing things on my own.

Miraculously I found a seat amid the night owls of Tokyo scrambling for a cushion spot to rest their tired livers and bodies. Drunken salarymen, fellow concertgoers, people who missed their last trains several hours earlier — we’re all on the same train. I may have pushed my body and feet over my pain tolerance, I may have survived the cold weather, but seeing and feeling the live music of Jamie xx made those temporary pains all worthwhile.


Anapamu, Santa Barbara, CA

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Text reads:

The street name Anapamu meaning “rising place,” referred to a prominent hill upon which was situated a shrine where local Chumash Indian people gathered to worship powerful supernatural beings in the world above. The shrine was considered holy and a place where concentrated supernatural power was located. At the time of winter solstice when prayers were offered to the sun, Santa Barbara’s Indian people placed poles decorated with feathers on the summit of Anapamu. These poles were to remain for an entire year, to be renewed by village chiefs in and about Santa Barbara. Prayers for food, good health, protection from bears and rattlesnakes, and a host of other human needs and desires were conducted on the summit of such shrines. Just as the descendants of the Chumash today hold and respect the traditional beliefs of their ancestors, it is hoped that through an understanding of their culture, you will acquire an appreciation for the meaning of Anapamu.

I saw this wall out of the corner of my eye while walking down Anapamu Street in Downtown Santa Barbara. While I was slightly strapped on time so that I could make it to my 17:00 bus back to Isla Vista, I stopped and stared.

Stared at the red text that looked that it had been there for a while, clearly tagged by someone who disregarded its historical value and clearly did not read what these indigenous folks had to share with people in the present day.

Weird how I’ve been downtown too many times to count, yet not once did I ever consider the meaning behind Anapamu and street names that are named after people, groups, and culture in the area. All I ever assumed was surface-level thoughts like “Oh yeah, De La Guerra, like the DLG dining common (at UCSB) or DLG in the Jack Johnson song.”

I really appreciate that the city created this wall to educate passersby–whether they work downtown or are visiting from a foreign country–about the origins of the culture and history in Santa Barbara. But at the same time, I’m sure that the indigenous Chumash group had to really go out of their way to have their history preserved, as their physical space has been taken over by white people…..