Hair extremes

Over the years, I’ve gotten all kinds of compliments (and passive aggressive comments) about my hair. I’ve had countless friends, colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances marvel over how low-maintenance my hair is, how “you probably wake up with your hair looking like that, huh?”, how envious they are that I don’t have to straighten my hair or use any type of texturing cream or gel to get it to look the way it does every day. Up until recently, I have been lucky enough to “wake up like this.” My hair is naturally straight and fine, though with fine hair comes issues like flatness and lack of volume.

Well, once I started highlighting my hair in the middle of 2017, that changed a bit. Highlighting or bleaching fine hair never really does anything good for you, and if anything, it tends to result in easier breakage, more split ends, and thus, a larger need for more careful maintenance. The amazing thing that has happened since dyeing my hair is that I actually need to shampoo LESS. Once upon a time, with daily weekday morning gym workouts, I washed my hair five times a week straight. I hated that process but didn’t want to go to work smelling like sweat and oil, so I sucked it up. Then, I reduced it to every other day with just a rinse after a sweaty workout every other day after my friend insisted a rinse would get rid of the funk. But finally, I realized my hair wasn’t as oily and was getting drier. Since late last year, I wash my hair only twice a week, which has been a dream because I truly hate the process of washing my hair and combing it out.

That has come with some hair extremes. I wash my hair, even with moisturizing shampoo or an all-natural shampoo bar, and it’s a bit dry right after. Three days later, it becomes extremely oily and looks as though I’ve added oil to my hair. It hasn’t been fun, but it’s what I have dealt with. I even have to use a hair mask or deep conditioner every other week now to keep my hair from breaking so much and feeling so brittle.

This is what it’s like to have “haircare,” huh?

Teeth shifting?

One of the recurring nightmares I’ve had pretty much my entire life is that my teeth are shifting, breaking, or falling out. I’m not sure what gives me this much subconscious anxiety about my teeth. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had two oral surgeries, two coats of braces, and two different sets of retainers in my life. Perhaps it’s because my mom constantly told me how grateful I should be to have had the privilege of having dental care at all growing up since she came from Vietnam to this country with teeth so rotten that every single one of them needed to be pulled out and replaced with fake implants. Or perhaps this is just my internalized anxiety about life, just culminating into terrorizing dreams about my teeth being destroyed?

I’ve been grinding my teeth during the night ever since high school. I can’t really control what I do with my teeth when I am sleeping, so I wasn’t even really aware of it until multiple dentists called it out, not to mention I started developing sensitivities everywhere in my mouth. And stupidly, it wasn’t until maybe six years ago when I finally started wearing a mouth guard at night to prevent grinding during my sleep. But the problem with wearing a mouth guard (which goes on my upper set of teeth) at night is that this prevents me from wearing my top retainer, which then means… uh oh. My top teeth are more likely to shift.

I’ve tended to neglect my retainer in favor of my mouth guard, and when I looked in the mirror this morning, I was annoyed to see that in reality, one of my top front teeth appears to have shifted, and this teeny tiny gap has formed between two of my teeth. I immediately felt frustrated and realized I need to start wearing my top retainer more. I popped it in, and felt right away that it felt snug and tight in that area of my mouth.

Need to wear retainer to retain smile. No more teeth shifting. No more braces. No more retainers made for me. Need to wear retainer to retain smile. Need to wear retainer to be grateful to my mom for providing me dental care until age 22. Need to wear retainer.

Travel envy but anger

On Instagram and Facebook, I can see friends and colleagues who are traveling in Europe, and I cannot help but have massive envy that their countries are seemingly doing the right thing and getting their virus rates down, and I am still stuck here in a total mess. Colleagues of mine in England are traveling to Italy. Friends from The Netherlands are traveling to Portugal or Spain. They are posting their videos and photos of their hikes and museum visits. On the one hand, I am envious, but on the other hand, I’m not sure if they really should be traveling at all. Is it even responsible for anyone to travel to other countries now? Are they being selfish? I personally think that here within the U.S., to cross state lines is pretty selfish. I’ve read and heard that national parks across the country have been overcrowded, primarily from out-of-state visitors who think that since they are outdoors, they must be safe. But what inevitably happens is that the most popular trails still remain the most popular trails, which means they become overcrowded, and there goes any chance of social distancing, right? Now, if you were to leave New York state and come back, you’d be required to quarantine yourself for 14 days. I don’t want to be part of the problem. So outside of the U.S., every time I see these pictures and videos, I wonder if these people are part of the problem or are they actually being responsible at all? My default is to think that they, too, are being selfish, just like the people here who are crossing state lines.

Beautiful uterus

I went to see my doctor today because for the last three months, I’ve been having really painful periods. Occasionally here and there over the years, I’ve had cramps on the day of my period, but the last three months have seemed a lot more intense on the first day. It’s so bad that if I don’t have a heating pad on my stomach that I can’t really concentrate on anything. I did some quick Google searches on it, and it seemed to vary with age; some women get more painful periods as they get older, while others have less painful cramps. I asked my doctor last week, and she suggested I come in to check it out.

After discussing the general feelings and symptoms, she suggested she perform an ultrasound. So she took a look inside my uterus for any strange growths, fibroids, or cysts. She found nothing. Instead, she marveled over my uterus and exclaimed, “what a beautiful uterus! It’s so attractive! Everything is so perfectly shaped!”

I have a beautiful uterus, huh? Well, there’s a compliment I never thought I’d receive.

When it doesn’t taste like home

On Friday, I went down to Chinatown to do some grocery shopping and pick up some baked goods from local bakeries I wanted to try out and support. While I picked up many goodies and things that we enjoyed, I was still a little disappointed in the cha siu bao, or Chinese baked barbecue pork buns I purchased from the locally loved Mei Li Wah Bakery on Bayard Street. Everyone I know in New York who has a cha siu bao recommendation always recommends Mei Li Wah as the best bakery to go to, yet in the handful of times I’ve gotten these there, I’ve never quite been satisfied with them. They’re a little too much on the sweet side for me, and the cha siu, or barbecued pork that is used, tends to be more fatty rather than meaty. I still have yet to try a cha siu bao in New York that comes close to the ones that my parents would buy from a very specific bakery in Oakland Chinatown that they’d occasionally go to when visiting the East Bay.

Even though I’ve lived in New York for about 12 years now, I still haven’t found reliable spots for cha siu bao, zongzi (Chinese rice tamales), or Cantonese-style crab or lobster at a reasonable price. Those are still the things I tend to get and eat when I am back home in San Francisco. It just doesn’t taste like home here for these specific items, sadly.

Social media followers

I feel like my YouTube channel and Instagram followers for Yvonne meets Food are stagnating. I was able to get a good chunk of my Instagram followers from my personal handle to follow my new food and travel handle, but that’s actually not what I want most: I want new people who have no idea who I am in real life to follow me. This hasn’t been faring so well on either platform in the last few weeks.

I spent some time reading and even doing free courses on how to build up my social media presence, and none of that seems to be helping. How do people do this for a living, anyway? How do you convince a total stranger that you, a no-name, non-celebrity, are worth following?

Then, there’s my friend who has a Tahitian dance handle, and she’s managed to get up to 5,000+ followers in a matter of two weeks. She said she hasn’t done anything differently than she normally does, but she consistently posts dance videos and has started creating content on TikTok.

TikTok. Ugh. I created an account on that platform a couple months ago, but I feel like I am just old. I don’t “get” how to use it, and I’m probably going to need to take some time to figure all this out. Short form cooking videos, anyone?

40th

Today, Ed would have turned 40. It’s crazy to think that over six years have passed since he died, and each year around the time of his death anniversary and birthday, I can feel pain in my body when I think about how he’s gone.

At the same time, I also get pretty angry at our parents and how little they did to help and encourage him. It tends to manifest itself in a series of dreams, usually where I am screaming, yelling, kicking, and hitting one or both of them. This past week, I had two dreams, one night after the other, in which I am screaming at my mom and threatening to never see her again. I just don’t want to deal with her constant drama, negativity, and hatred anymore. I’m sick of her constantly victimizing herself, blaming others around her for her pain and suffering. I am fed up with her lack of ownership over her own life. I cannot deal with her laziness in getting things done around the house that would make her life easier. She constantly complains that she needs my dad’s help for “everything, even “just to take a bath.” A couple of solutions that I’ve suggested which have gotten shot down: change the faucet head so that it can switch between being a hand-held shower nozzle and a regular faucet. What prevents this? Cheapness to pay for a new nozzle and to get the plumbing adjusted, in addition to sheer laziness. What about how to reach awkward spots of her back? Use the extra-long shower brush I got for her that she refuses to use. Wow, what solutions! And even more amazing, what complete rejections of said solutions that would solve the problems being presented!

On my dad’s side, there’s just the complete lack of recognition of the fact that he ever had a son. He never recognized Ed’s birthday or even his mere presence in a room before Ed died. Occasionally now, he will say they should visit Ed’s niche. I’m always tempted to say, “well, why do you acknowledge Ed now that he’s dead, but you never wanted to acknowledge Ed when he was actually alive and right in front of you?” He continues to act like a child, think like a child, behave like a child. It’s amazing that once a man has a regular steady job, gets married and has children, all those checkboxes become a semblance of a “mature functioning adult” when they actually are not in reality.

My parents could have a much better life for themselves if they just made things happened. But they don’t. Their inaction angers and frustrates me, but there’s nothing I can really do for them to help. As awful as it sounds, it’s probably a good thing Ed isn’t here to witness this and endure their constant verbal abuse and contempt.

This is life today without Ed. He’s not missing out on much with this family.

How to pronounce and spell my name

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I say my name, but it is always invariably always a) mispronounced, or b) misspelled… and pretty egregiously. When I’d go to a place that needed my name for an order, whether it was for a coffee/tea drink or a food order, I would rarely say my own name after a while and instead would say my friend’s/colleague’s/Chris’s name because I hated seeing “Evon,” “Ivan,” “Evonne, “Ivon” written out.

Once, I was at Argo Tea with my mentee, and I knew for a fact that the person who took my order spelled my name “Evan.” They called out my exact drink order at a quiet time when no one else was there, but the person making the drink insisted (and seemed really rude) that it was for Evan, NOT Yvonne. Fifteen minutes passed, and this mysterious “Evan” never appeared. I looked the server in the eye at the counter and said, “So, are you sure this is for Evan, or me?” She sheepishly said it was for me and gave me a half apology.

When I was eating at the Orlando airport on my own Thursday night, I was shocked when I got my bill, which actually had my name spelled correctly. When the server took my order, he asked for my name and typed it onto my bill. I told him I was a huge fan of him just for spelling my name correctly. He looked at me puzzled and said, “Isn’t that the way you are supposed to spell it?”

I explained to him all the variations above that I usually get when I say my name. This guy working behind him was listening to our conversation, and he said in his thick Russian accented English, “Wait, you spell your name y-v-o-n-n-e? That’s a European name… shouldn’t it be spelled “I-v-a-n”?”

This is the type of attitude that is absolutely the worst to me. “You’re supposed to” or “you should” be spelling it or pronouncing it.. No. No, no, and no. This is my name.

“‘Yvonne’ is a French name,” I said to him, pointedly. “This is a French spelling. And the last time I checked, France is a part of Europe.” Yes, it was snippy. Yes, it wasn’t very polite. But I’m 33 years old, dealing with people misspelling and mispronouncing my name for 33 years, and then worse, trying to justify it. Cut me some slack.

This reminded me of a conversation I’d had the previous night with two colleagues at dinner. One of them called me “Ya-vonne.” I didn’t correct it because I’m so exhausted by correcting people. But my second colleague chimed in and said, “Wait, is that actually how you pronounce your name? I’ve always called you ‘e-VONNE’ and you’ve never said anything.”

I told them that my second colleague was correct: I pronounce my name “ee-VONNE.” The technically correct pronunciation of my name is “ee-VOOHN,” though. And as side note, all the Australians in my life, including Chris, pronounce my name “uhh-VONNE.” And occasionally, I hear colleagues refer to me as “Ihh-VONNE.” I’m fine with all the above pronunciations. “Ya-VONNE” is so freaking annoying. And I always feel awkward correcting it even to this day.

What a joy, still interacting with people who can’t get this right after years of knowing me.

Questionable things to prevent a cold

Since getting sick for the third time this year really made me feel angry, I decided to start researching some things I could do while traveling to prevent myself from catching yet another cold. I really don’t know what has happened to me this year; in 2018, I didn’t get even a single cold. In 2017, I had some sort of virus and then a resulting silent reflux diagnosis, and in 2015 was my ever-memorable year of getting pertussis. The general theme seems to be that I get sick usually after coming back from a long-haul flight. And that really, really needs to stop.

I read more about vitamin C intake; the jury is still out on it, but it never hurts to eat an orange or any other fruit or vegetable with a high level of vitamin C. I realized the reason that people take Emergen-C and vitamin C supplements over just relying on eating fruit and vegetables is because Emergen-C actually has 1,000 mg of vitamin C, or 1667% of your daily value of the vitamin, so it’s almost like you are inundating your body with vitamin C, vs. eating an orange, which is only about 60% of your daily value of it. I guess it can’t hurt to pack this while traveling on top of eating the loads of fruit I normally eat when we’re traveling.

The other thing I decided I’d start taking during and between flights is echinacea, which is a herb that is native to the U.S. It’s said to have active substances that are antimicrobial that can help with fending off diseases and colds. Echinacea has phenols, which are supposed to control the activity of a range of enzymes and cell receptors; It also contains alkylamides, which have an effect on the immune system. Since herbs like this aren’t regulated by the FDA, the only way I know I am eating the real thing is if I buy the organic version of this tea. Similar to vitamin C, the studies done on this are on the fence about whether there is truly a benefit, but I rather just be safe than sorry. And, since buying it this week, it actually tastes pretty good, especially with a little honey. It’s also caffeine free in the event that I want to have a tea that doesn’t give me any buzz.

I also got these homeopathic Sambucol black elderberry zinc tablets. Honestly, they taste like candy, but they get such good reviews and weren’t that expensive, so I figured… why not?

The one thing I read about that I am absolutely not going to try is oscillococcinum, which is a homeopathic preparation made from an ingredient extracted from the heart and liver of a specific breed of duck. I read that some French physician discovered it in the early 1900s while doing some investigative work on the Spanish flu. But, just listen to how that sounds: a key ingredient that is “extracted from the heart and liver of a specific breed of duck.” Doesn’t that just sound… wrong? Why would something as random as that be able to prevent someone from catching a cold…? That’s just taking the term “homeopathic” to the next level, and a level that I do not want to go.

Stood up

My foster care mentee messaged me a few days ago asking if we could meet this Friday, so I left work early to meet her at a nearby matcha tea spot that is usually packed with crowds and has a line. This time, I luckily got there a few minutes early when there was not only available seating, but also no line. I got excited and texted her, telling her I’d get her drink and have it ready for when she arrived since I wanted to save us a table. 

So I got the drinks and sat myself down… and waited for half an hour. She never showed up. I texted her a few times, called twice. No response. I was really confused. This was really unlike her. She’s rarely even late, and most of the time, she’s even early.

Was she in trouble? Did something happen to her? She had just texted me around noon to confirm the location.

So I left, feeling half stood up, half concerned. I sat there for such a long time that I’m sure other people in the shop were wondering if I were on a blind date and just got stood up. I brought the extra matcha drink home to Chris, who drank half of it already watered down by the melted ice, and I myself had the extra half dose of matcha.

Later this evening, she finally got back to me and said that her social worker forced her to stay extra long for their session, and the room they put her in had zero reception. She apologized profusely and said she felt horrible.

As long as she’s okay and not in harm’s way, I was fine about it. It’s just always uncertain what really happens when things like this occur.