I have had plentiful encounters during my lifetime that somehow ingrained in my head that “only items that are expensive are worth any form of respect”.
Not that kind of respect in the worship, coveted sense. Our minds shouldn’t be owned by our possessions. But rather, respect in the most basic form, that this is (name)’s belongings. Do not damage it because it is not yours.
When I was 12, I bought a red Mickey Mouse autograph book. I loved it a lot as it had plenty of colorful pages, and I had planned to collect messages from all my Primary School classmates before graduation. In fact, it already had a handful of messages in it.
One weekend, a kid cousin yanked at it unyieldingly when I wanted to take it back from him. The first two pages tore. I was devastated.
The aunt looked over to see what the fuss was about. When she saw the torn autograph book, she rebuked me. “Aiyah! Cry over this for what? This one so cheap, you can just buy another one lah!”
“Can just buy another one.”
Not a single thought of the messages friends had already left for me inside.
A year later, I had a favourite white GUESS t-shirt that I wore often. It also happened to be the period of time where one cousin was obsessed with markers. He drew on my t-shirt when I was not looking. The stain never came out.
Again, similar response from the aunts.
“Aiyah, your t-shirt is cheap one lah. Just get another one lor!”
“But this is my favourite t-shirt!” – my feeble protest.
“But it looks so cheap! Can get a nicer one lah!”
“This t-shirt is expensive too!” – me, by then playing on the fact that only using the “expensive” concept will work on them. (Besides, the tee cost $39.90, considered a hefty amount for a Secondary 1 student then.)
“Expensive mehhhh? Where gotttttt? Your t-shirt has no brand!”
Which again, was besides the whole point.
The point was, I am wearing my favourite t-shirt. My favourite t-shirt got ruined. I am upset because my favourite t-shirt was ruined.
I got a dressing-down because I got upset. The cousin on the other hand, never got rebuked for drawing on my t-shirt.
Here I was, getting drilled in my head that “no one cares that it is your favourite t-shirt. They will only care if your ruined t-shirt comes from a branded label with a hefty price tag to boot. Otherwise it is okay to ruin other peoples’ things if they are cheap.”
This was the message I got. And I hated that message. At the age of 13, I vowed to rebel. That I would treat people’s belongings with the same respect I gave me own. And that basic respect for people encompassed respecting their property, branded or not, expensive or not.
Throughout teenhood and until today, I continued to get slapped by contrary messages.
On another recent occasion, (family member) was sheltering me from the rain. Her handbag was within the shade of the umbrella but my haversack was getting soaked.
When I pointed out that my bag was getting wet, her response was as such. “My handbag is expensive! Your things are cheap things. Nevermind one. (Sic)”
I wasn’t expecting any other reply anyway.
I guess the past 17 years of trying to battle this mentality was a futile one.
But I’ll continue to respect other people’ belongings like I would my own anyway.
You’d never know if that bag is that person’s favourite bag. You’ll never know if that t-shirt carries a powerful personal memory. You’ll never know if that person had saved up a year’s worth of allowance just to buy that item.
(P/S: For the record, I do not bear any hatred/grudge towards any people referenced in this post. I just did not agree with their actions and the incidents I raised were significant to me questioning this particular value set.)
What were some significant events in your growing-up years that ingrained within you messages that you did not agree with?
Yesterday, Mom and I had a conversation about a cousin’s personality, about how X had become really a really quiet individual after he grew up.
“Yeah, he’s too quiet. That’s not good. He must change.” – says Mom.
For some reason, that annoyed me.
“What’s wrong with being quiet and introverted? That’s not a defect. That’s just the way he is and we should just let him be him!” I retorted.
Mum fell silent, considering my words.
Why do we live in a world where people are so obsessed with finding flaws with others and constantly trying to change other people?
Another conversation this time, where I spoke with a friend about how I was slightly struggling with my personal identity switch from being single to being part of a couple.
“Well, the single part. That was something you had to change,” she pointed out.
The fire within got re-ignited. And I suddenly recalled another conversation (more like an annoying encounter) with my dad’s acquaintence where he badgered me incessantly about “Got boyfriend or not (sic)? Where is your boyfriend?” when I’ve all but met him only five seconds ago.
Why is there so much vitrol against single people?
What is wrong with being single?
Don’t get me wrong. Although I am happily part of a couple now, I was also happy being single back then. And each time I have an encounter like this, I cannot help but still want to speak out for all the single folk out there.
I have a 60-something aunt who has been single all her life. I really respect her. She has had a fruitful career and is now happily retired and travelling the world, living life on her own terms. She’s freaking brave and I love it.
Conversely, there are couples who eventually get married and set their own terms together. Some choose to have kids and are happy. Others choose to not have kids and they are also happy, living life without any additional obligations and taking on the world together as a pair.
People are happy.
Let people live their lives on their own terms. (Within legal limits, of course. I’m not advocating extreme shit that harms other people).
More like, shall we not force people to fit into a mould?
I think people should start loving themselves more.
With the rise of photo-editing apps that allow you to instantly “correct” your face into what is “desirable” – emphasized cheekbones, clear complexion, sharper chin, larger eyes and reduced eye bags with a tap of a button, it is now easier to achieve photos of you that look like an overly-retouched version of your actual self. (Hoo-ray? Not.)
In fact, I’ve noticed an increasing trend of people deeming it a must to edit their own faces before putting photos online. Some even insist their friends edit their faces before uploading any couple, pair or group photos.
Zit on your face? It could be your hormones. It means that your body is functioning properly. Everyone has hormones. Everyone has zits on their face at some point in their lives. Nobody cares if there’s a zit on your face in your profile photo or latest group photo except you.
Eye bags? You could have pulled an all-nighter. If it was a productive one, be proud of yourself. If it wasn’t, applaud yourself for trying (but get some sleep tonight). Late night movie? You’ve spent a night relaxing and enjoying yourself. Good for you. Insomnia? We have all had that moment where we could not get into slumberland no matter how hard we try. We feel you. Nobody’s judging.
Not happy with your eyes? Chin? Cheekbones? You are born that way. Someone out there probably wishes he/she had your features, while here you are wishing you have theirs. The grass is always greener on the other side. Every feature on your face or body makes up the beautifully unique person that you are. Embrace it.
Photo apps should totally ditch that “beauty” mode already. It is not helping anyone’s self-esteem and it’s only perpetuating the preconceived notion of the so-called “perfect face”. The perfect face for you is the one you already have.
Love yourself. Because you are amazing just the way you are.