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VLOG OF THE THURSDAY IN WHICH YOU GET YOUR U.S. PASSPORT PHOTO TAKEN



Thursday, 05:30 AM

Sleep through Alarm 1, and Alarm 2, and Alarm 3. / The bed is warm. / Dream about living in a house where every mirror shows nothing & kissing everyone you love on the mouth.


Thursday, 05:45 AM

Wake up to Alarm 4. / Can’t remember any of your dreams. / Put on lipstick, because you saw an Instagram Reel of a Beautiful Girl talking about the importance of a beautiful morning routine. / But most days you’re too sad to remember to brush your teeth. / So instead you carefully line your lips in 535 Rum Raisin. 


Thursday, 06:00 AM

The window is still open from last night. / It’s almost winter, so the sky is a gleaming grey in early mornings, quicksilver or the innards of a massive factory machine. Want to capture it, want to outline the lens-flare of early December with charcoal. End up just watching the sharp blade of the moon against dark grey. 


Thursday, 06:30 AM

The sun’s biting her way awake. These days, your finsta is only a slideshow of half-blurry photos of the horizon. Telephone poles arching in dark swathes. Leaves endless like geese. Clouds going, going, gone. / Don't know what you’d do if the sky wasn't there.


Thursday, 07:00 AM

Awake for Alarm 5. / Phone says, BIG DAY!! GET READY ASAP!!! / Stand in front of your closet, cold & shivering. / This is the routine Beautiful Girl means. / The Beautiful Morning Routine  of selecting a Romanticism-Soft-Decay-Core outfit & dabbing on Maybelline-Fit-Me-Powder-Blush in 30-Rose & taming Windblown-Heroin-Chic-NYC hair down. / You’re closer than ever now. / Almost there. / Consider your plethora of skirts-thrown-on-ground and balled-up-wool-socks.


Thursday, 7:15 AM

Decide on New-England-Small-Town-Rory-Gilmore-core. / Maroon lipstick, sheer black tights, corduroy skirt, leather jacket. / You love Gilmore Girls. / Everyone loves Gilmore Girls. / Old money leather jackets. / Small town safety net. / Lane Kim & how she is one of the only Asian-girl-characters in the range of certified Beautiful Girl TV shows, wants rock-and-roll, to kiss boys, I-don’t-want-to-be-a-doctor-or-your-wedding-Hangbok-Ma. 


Thursday, 7:30 AM

Sit criss-crossed in the beige sink, preparing to trim your bangs half an inch. / How pretty Rory Gilmore was with curtain bangs, season 6. / Lana Del Rey crooning in the background of Instagram Reels. / Ma tuts disapprovingly, says, 今天冷死了。穿那短的裙子干什么鬼?


Thursday, 7:40 AM

Scarf down a breakfast of Costco-Cranberry-Walnut-Round-Bread in the car. / 42 minute drive to the nearest passport office.


Thursday, 8:00 AM

The passport office lady eyes your Ma like a dead fish. / My name is Mary, she says. Or maybe Mabel, or Madeline. / She says you forgot to bill the right check, doesn’t know why you are here. / Ma tries to hand over the folders. / You can feel your Revlon-Super-Lustrous-Lipstick in 535 Rum Raisin smudging. / She raises an eyebrow, says I can’t read documentation in a foreign language. / It’s English, fuckass. / It’s English, you say. / Fidget with the crook in your sock, the hair dangling limply in front of your face, the minute rip in your stockings. / Not a Beautiful Girl. / Not at all.


Thursday, 8:15 AM

They’ve made an agreement, where Ma will go back home & fetch the correct documents. / You are to stay here & wait. 


Thursday, 9:00 AM

Sit & scroll. / Instagram Reels says that being seventeen is slow-motion flickers of Beautiful Girls. / Rose from Titanic. / Alyssa from The End of the F***ing World. / Sydney from I Am Not Okay With This. / Bella from Twilight. / Enola Holmes from, well, Enola Holmes. / Therese Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides. / Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You. / And always, always, Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls.


Thursday, 10:00 AM

Pull up a Google Docs & try to write. / You stopped putting Chinese characters into your poetry this summer. / Found, viciously, unexpectedly, that you couldn’t write about anything but Ma’s & cut fruit allegories & a perpetually slippery tongue moistened by a failed vocabulary. / Struck with it. / The type of shit Lane Kim would be on, if she was a poet. / Writing & written for an audience, of. 


Thursday, 10:30 AM

You tried to watch Gilmore Girls, you really did. / When your non-profit co-workers & best friend & Beautiful Girls all said it was a Certified Winter Watch. / They are small-town-Americana in 2010, and out of a massive cast of townspeople, the number of people of color can be counted on one hand. / Your best friend says you need to get over yourself, to enjoy something for once. / That all media is bound to be problematic. / You know better than this. / That’s the truth. / You read the honest books & learn the honest history & you aren’t even the same fucking ethnicity as Lane Kim. / You know you’re not supposed to try to identify with a caricature of an Asian character or become a Beautiful Girl from a singular T.V. show. / That your options surpass those. / But you’re a teenage girl. / And if you can’t find yourself in Instagram Reels, where else are you supposed to find yourself? 


Thursday, 11:00 AM

Ma pushes through the door, tired. / The documentation is all in order. 


Thursday, 11:30 AM

Sit down, Mary-or-possibly-Mabel says. Going to take three photos of you, just to get a good turnout. / Take your glasses off, shake your hair out, concave your shoulders forward. / Stick your elbows back & tilt your chin down, just a little. / Try to forget that one Instagram Reel you watched explaining how to get the 2010s-Corp-Core-Paloma-Wool facial look— keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth. / The truth is that you stopped writing poetry at all, uncertain that you could say anything, be anything that wasn’t a contradiction. / Try to forget about the possibilities of Lane Kims writing about their Ma’s hands, or the montage of Beautiful Girls kissing Beautiful Boyfriends in Beautiful small towns, your tongue up, higher— / The sun splits through the windows. Winter horizon this morning, unexpected & fucking divine. The sky, unafraid & unlike but similar to any other— 

Flash. Flash. Flash.


Thursday, 12:00 PM

When you walk out of the passport office, the sidewalks are warm & brimming with rain. The truth is that if the sky’s there, you forget about Gilmore Girls & Instagram-Reel-What-is-this-Aesthetic? & the poetry you cannot write. For now, you have the way you write about the sky. For yourself & nobody else. 


 

Author’s Note: This piece was inspired by certain conflicts between my sense of self-identity & the media’s sense of my self identity as a second-generation Chinese-American. It’s highly introspective, and by that frame, is incapable of fully recognizing the simultaneous privileges and internalized biases the narrator holds.


My most major clarification would be that the narrator makes references multiple times to a concept of a “Beautiful Girl”. This is not meant to limit or exclude non-White individuals from being perceived as physically attractive, but an emphasis on the inherent nature of beauty standards as a tool of oppression, and how the narrator has internalized that. In particular, I’d like to highlight Jessica De Fino’s Teen Vogue column in which she explores this, and especially her recent Substack article on how the beauty industry “uses war metaphors to market products”. 


As for additional reading, Urvi Kumbhat’s article and Pranay Somayajula’s Substack post cover diaspora poetry much more eloquently than I could ever hope to. Tanya Singh’s Varsity opinion article and Nancy Myers Rusts’s blog piece explore Gilmore Girls’s underlying racism in much more depth. I highly encourage you to read their researched articles that provide a larger, cultural understanding of the personal conflicts my piece was inspired by & does not fully expand upon. 


As always, thank you dearly for reading. Wishing you all tenderness & a strong winter. 


Editor(s): Alisha B., Blenda Y., Uzayer M.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

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