Sunday, July 03, 2016

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Hong Kong girl

It's been a while since I wrote here, to a certain extent because I worry about the Great Firewall of China, but seeing other people mention me makes me feel like I should check in.  Part of it is that I really want to do something in fucking English - as much as my Cantonese now kicks ass and my Mandarin is just disappointing (it's a damn difficult language to pick up, but a girl with Yuan-wei's background is expected to be fluent), a couple of months in Hong Kong had me sometimes losing touch with the American half of my Chinese-American upbringing.  There are plenty of Hollywood movies to see, but I'm always seeing them with friends, and any salve they may be top my homesickness ends add soon as the credits roll and we're talking about them as outsiders.  Not completely, as even young HK folks feel a connection with the West as well as China, but whenever I start talking about New York or Boston as places I'm familiar with, I get a few odd looks.

I should probably start off by mentioning that the spring semester was kind of bumpy, academically, but productively so. I was in another play, not quite so tiny a part, but small enough with what my advisor told me was an "undistinguished" performance. It was no fun, not nearly as much as the short we made earlier, and it really crystallized for me that, while my first school-year as Yuan-Wei has shown me that I do enjoy creating stuff, I hate and fucking suck at pretending to be someone I'm not.

It's not exactly a ground-shaking discovery, but it does sort of run counter to my feelings at the start of all this, that since us folks who've been to the Inn are pretending to be someone else all the time, acting should be a snap. But that initial assumption was way the fuck off. We're all at our best when we just be ourselves, and the trick is knowing that what we define as "ourselves" has changed. We're not just minds riding in our bodies; the meat matters, and it affects how the "mind" makes its decisions. I was miserable as Deirdre in part because I had a hard time accepting that I was a petite heterosexual white girl with this sort of metabolism and that kind of physical endurance. Knowing that Yuan-wei's form isn't something I'm in but what I am hasn't made periods suck less, but does give me the right outlook toward them.

Being onstage is just doubling up on that. I'm not this character, and I'm not the person who wanted to play characters so much that she decided to make a life out of it.  I'm glad she did, because it gave me a chance to discover that making movies is fun and rewarding even if it is a lot of hard work. It stimulates both sides of my brain in ways just writing code didn't. So, while I'm still going to be studying film and television, it's going to be in the area of direction, production, and visual effects rather than being in front of the camera.

Or on stage. Fuck the stage.

My advisor probably hasn't heard somebody planning to stay in this program say ''fuck the stage" very often, but given that my core grades are pretty good and I'm doing well in the classes that will transfer to my new major (and I'm not on any sort of scholarship), the fact that he spent most of his pre-academic career there couldn't exert enough influence to kick my perfect ass out, especially when I pointed out that the short I made with Ernesto and his friends got into a big damn film festival.

The news that I was changing focus got some interesting reactions when I got back "home" to Hong Kong. I'd kind of worried about breaking it to "Grandmother" Yu-ling, since she had been the inspiration for the original Yuan-wei to pursue a career in acting, but it turned out not to be a big deal. She had, after all, retired without a lot of regrets when she married, and though she admitted that she had been looking forward to following my career, she could still do that, though she worried that she couldn't name a lot of female A-list directors, whether in Hong Kong, China, or Hollywood.

Chen-ai, my inherited mother, was a little bit more pointed about that. Acting, she pointed out, may not be the most respectable career, but they needed to hire women for roughly half the jobs, and maybe I didn't quite realize that this wasn't the case most of the time. That did sting a bit; as much as I had noticed it was kind of a sausage party, I've got what I figure is an understandable tendency to think of myself as one of the guys in that sort of group.  Once most of the guys who are going to hit on me get shot down and we start doing what we got together to accomplish, I tend not to think about being the only girl there, though I should probably start.

Bingbing was probably the most surprised, saying it's a pretty long-haul decision to drop something you've been talking about since childhood.  I actually had a little trouble figuring out the right way to put it; I may not be that much older than the real Yuan-wei in reality, but I kind of wondered if a twenty-year-old kid would have the wisdom to recognize that things can stop being fun when you have to be really good at them, so maybe you should pivot to something similar which you find satisfying. I tried saying that while really saying "I'm a rich kid who has never had to push through something I didn't enjoy so I quit", but who knows what sort of performance I gave to the person who maybe knew the original Yuan-wei best. Acting. Ugh.

I tried not to be too curious about her and Max, especially when we went out partying and she had zero problem flirting with guys who aren't really my brother. She said they had a lot of fun, but New York was a long ways away and as much as he wanted to be a real Chinese boy, he didn't subscribe to any of the local social networks so what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.  Besides, she says, it's not like he's going to be her forever guy; she doesn't see herself staying in America after school and while Max would probably love being an expat in Hong Kong, who knows if that will be an option? And even if he does, she figures on trying her luck in Beijing, and Max probably wouldn't be down with that.

Fair enough, I guess, although I kind of hate the idea that this girl I really enjoy hanging out with is basically waiting for the right time to break my kids brother's heart, even if he always was a pain in the ass.  And, since I do figure to find some way to stay in America after my student visa express, I wonder what that means for me and Jacky.

Yeah, I somehow managed to pick up a boyfriend, or at least something with the potential to be more than "guy I've fucked more than once".  His name is Jacky Lau, and, yes, I've told him that is a stupid Engorged name because no English-speaking man has gone by "Jackie" in at least fifty years, but, whatever.  Gotta folks were big Jackie Chan fans and I can't exactly talk, since I'm ten years, max, from being too old to go by "Missy".

We actually met in Tokyo, because I can afford weekend trips to Tokyo, which is amazing.  I've never traveled that much except for family trips, but I was having a day of being pissed off at people saying that there were things a pretty young woman shouldn't do alone, and having a gold card makes me all the more likely to go "oh yeah? fucking watch me!"

And, okay, going to a really crowded city where I don't speak the language but can read the signage well enough unless it breaks out the kana isn't the world's greatest idea, especially some of the places I wanted to visit.  But I had fun, and ended Friday night in a huge arcade, where I felt more like myself than I had in weeks or months - standing at a fighting game, mashing buttons, trash-talking, I felt like Jordan Chang, doing things that just don't fit into Lee Yuan-wei's life very often. For good reason, at times, because when she soundly defeats someone and yells "suck it, bitch!", she's not six feet tall and bulky enough that she doesn't get messed with.

Apparently, "bitch" was all the a English the guys around me knew, and they knew even less Cantonese, so the screaming would have probably gone to a physical place I couldn't handle if Jacky hadn't rub in and broke it up and coaxed apologies out of each of us.  We called it a night, he bought me an ice cream, and then we hung out together the next day.  He'd never seen baseball, and is never seen baseball like they do it in Japan, so we did that after shopping in Akihabara and checking out a few other tourist things (the game's the same, but the festivities are amazing!).  I didn't realize I was asking for it when I mentioned that at least the stadium didn't do the "kiss cam" thing they do in Shea, but apparently I was.

We were on the same plane back on Sunday, and he was kind of surprised to see me boarding with the first class passengers, since I hadn't fit his "I'll take one of everything" stereotype of trust-fund girls when shopping.  I was kind of surprised when he met a gorgeous girl at the gate (I got through Customs a lot faster than he did, probably because I didn't buy a bunch of manga with sexy teenage heroines), because he is kind of nerdy and I thought he should be pretty psyched about getting my attention, quite honestly.  So I walked off and was surprised when he texted me the next day about not being able to find me and introduce me to his sister.

It's been three weeks since then, and while we haven't been inseparable since then - he does have to work for a living between semesters, the poor bastard - we have hung out a lot.   It's been a lot of weird feeling each other out at times, because I'm kind of a weird girl as a result of the two paths that got me here.  He doesn't see how I fit in with girls like Bingbing other than hotness and social class, and while he's not bad-looking at all, their boyfriends intimidate him a bit.

Still, we have fun, and I'm going to miss him when I had back to Boston via a somewhat scenic route.  But I do wonder about the long-term thing.  Even though this summer has given me the chance to get to know the original Yuan-wei's friends for more than the novelty of seeing pictures on screens in the flesh, and I've been able develop routines and even a bit of a rapport with Chen-ai (I get the impression she was closer to her dad than her mother), I do still feel more Chinese-American than Chinese, still, and while I certainly don't need anyone to tell me how much can change in two years, I feel a little dishonest forming new attachments here, no matter how good they feel.

-Jordan/Yuan-wei

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