November 2006


Today is Thanksgiving.

I am writing here on the Starbucks right across my sister’s apt. I just had a muffin (after skipping dinner last night) and am still enjoying my Pumpkin Spice lattte.

What am I thankful for?

I am thankful for family. As much as I hate to admit it, I am grateful for the family I was born into. Living an immigrant’s life in a first-world city, sometimes I wish I was born differently, maybe white, maybe hapa [localspeak for half-white, half-asian] already here in the US. Maybe it would have turned a world’s difference if that were the case. But, at the same time, I was born into a middle-class Filipino family in Manila, most of whom have since moved on to different places. That presents in itself a unique case all its own. We are tri-coastal in our dysfunction. Manila, NY and Honolulu are all worlds apart but we bind them all together. My family may wish it were a lot closer, a lot more intimate towards each other. We don’t talk to each other as much as we should but that does not make it any less than we would want to. We were raised to not scratch the surface and respect the status quo. We are a holiday people and enjoy the imposed intimacy borne from a more thoughtful private reflection that a public celebration invites. Our mode of speech is money and the time is usually Christmas. We talk by giving expensive gifts and elaborately-written cards. (To write, it seems, no matter how much more intimate it may be, is easier than to say out loud.) We drift apart into our separate lives after these days (as I know I will be when I leave Honolulu.) But I like it like this. Maybe it is out of habit. But I like my mother not being intrusive and my father not being commandeering. I am independent but not cut-off. I know I can easily call them (and ask for what I need when I do need to) and not be denied. Maybe things will change. Maybe I will learn to appreciate them more and express this renewed sentiment more often. What matters now though is that my family indulges me in its own unique way at this time; it allows for the continuity of our dysfunctional yet constant relationship enough to sustain the hope for a better and, yes, different future. I am grateful for that.

I am thankful for friends. Being an immigrant allows me to enjoy the best of two worlds. I have all the good friends left behind in Manila as well as all the newfound friends I have in NY and Honolulu. The friends back in Manila have given me a core that values the good and the just and the righteous. My friends here in NY (as well as the new ones I’ve made in Honolulu) have shown me a new and fresh frontier; how it is to live a life that is good and fun and worthwhile, all true to who I am. Life is too short to not make the most out of any moment. To have fun, reflected upon and instantly indulged, is paramount and having friends around is integral to its realization.

I am thankful for a boyfriend. I have been single for over 2 years now. I always tell myself that I am already over Carter. But it seems his memory has been creeping up recently: in conversations, in random thoughts, even in dreams. I don’t think it’s because I still want him. I know I’m already over him. But I think it’s because his ghosts have begun creeping out, seemingly exorcised, by my growing relationship with Tim. Tim, 41-years old, stable and drama-free, is quite the exact opposite of Carter, 26, unstable and psychotic. I think being in a healthy relationship flushes an unhealthy one out of the system, no matter how hidden the poison has buried itself. He wrote me a really sweet email 2 days ago about how he misses me. I miss him too.

I am thankful for my job. I can’t believe I’m saying this. Where I am has always been a constant source of aggravation. But, at the same time, all that stress comes with a cost. What I do allows me to do as I please. I love to indulge myself. I love to shop and travel and watch theater. Being a corporate whore isn’t all that bad as long as I live the good life when I leave the office.

I am thankful for NYC. I can’t help but blush every time I feel like Carrie gushing over her affair with NY. It’s still interesting how fate dropped me off in America’s Babylon. I could’ve stayed here in Honolulu. (Maybe I would have already gotten over my phobia of getting mangled by reef and learned surfing.) Or insisted on remaining in Manila (especially after going back twice during my first year of migration.) (There, I know I’d still be in the closet, teaching poetry to high school kids.) But I moved to NY to initially be with my spinster aunts. After some growing pains, I have to grown to embrace it and now am loving all that it has to offer. The power and the pageantry; the sleaze and the solitude; the culture and cute boys; competition and career. I like my cities to be like my cable tv; a thousand and one options at every click-of a moment. NYC delivers all at once and I am happy to be in the middle, (and not remotely) pressing the buttons.

It’s hard to connect with feeling down on the 6th day of my vacation out here in Honolulu. (Lists of things to be thankful for always come up along with suicidal tendencies.) Life has certainly moved on a slower, overtly manageable pace. Sleeping in and lounging out on the beach and leisurely walking all over have proved relaxing. “You look so content,” Kalani, one of the local boys I’ve been friends with, said as he watched me watch him play volleyball in a grassy park by the beach on a Wednesday afternoon. (This would have been hard to conceive in NY where the homos play vball on a weekend. Everyone has a weekday-grinding job. Also, the ‘mos in NYC would have been really catty, unlike the gay guys out here who are simply enjoying the game.) It didn’t even sink into me until he mentioned it. I just smiled back. The sun and the surf in the background; shirtless boys playing ball; me sitting on a bench in shorts and slippers sipping my macadamia nut coffee from a cup covered in designs of hibiscus. It was too much in a singular scene to not be content, inevitably and helplessly. It was another moment to be grateful for.

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I almost quit my job last week. I had been offered a job by another bank as well as was seriously considering a really exciting prospect at another firm (after what I thought to be a good interview last Monday.) I felt that I was being undervalued at my firm and was looking for a fresh start at a new one with a markedly different ethic. The situation — the ruthless competition, the insanity of top management — was most stressful these past few weeks (since it was, after all, the end of the fiscal year and, at this time of raises and bonuses, everything else gets to be heightened to a notch over crazy) that I felt convinced (if not pushed) enough to leave. But, in a bizaare twist of fate, I was offered a big promotion last Tuesday. This news came after I learned that I was outed last week to the Managing Director by this woman whom I was up against for the post. I was offended not by the fact that the MD knew (although that fact really was none of his business) but by the fact that this woman decided to volunteer this private info to him. It was a most inappropriate (if not vile) way to receive secondhand info given the context. (I felt like Lance Bass being outed by a third party. At least, Neil Patrick Harris was given the decency of outing himself.) As I look back now at this rollercoaster of a workweek, I know that I am happy with this reassuring news and am relieved given my renewed sense of self-worth from this recognition and yet, am still quite shocked about it. Of course, I know that I undoubtedly deserve it (more than that bitch did) but I am also quite aware of all the negatives stacked up on my card — gay and minority and not-a-kiss-ass — that I knew it was an uphill battle. I’m also quite perplexed now about my exit plan. (That firm never fails to mindfuck with me.) Should I leave now or should I stay? I realize that it has always been either sink or swim in any corporate environment and this department I’m in is just a sea of sheer suit-and-tie insanity.

But as much as I gripe about my firm, it is this company that allows me to pay for my many indulgences including netporn subscriptions and Broadway shows. (I’m still deciding whether a bf is a necessity or luxury.) Tim, my bf, and I saw John Doyle’s restaging of Stephen Sondheim’s Company last Thursday.

Company is the story of Bobby, a single male on the cusp of 35, struggling if not simply dealing with his bachelorhood in stark contrast to his friends, all married couples, as told against the backdrop of his surprise birthday party at a NY apartment. This conceptual Sondheim show fit quite seamlessly with Doyle’s directorial vision and Mary Mitchell Campbell’s refreshingly masterful musical orchestration. The former who ably directed Patti LuPone to play a tuba as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd last season excels in a similar feat with Company’s brilliant cast. (I thought getting all the actors to play all the instruments needed on stage, thus, dispensing with the need for a separate orchestra, was a stroke of genius. Besides, who else could get Barbara Walsh to make music out of a martini glass?!) Notably, Raul Esparza, as Bobby, captures the sensitivity of a bachelor torn between the burden of societal expectations of attachment/marriage and his own personal reflection on a genuine notion of companionship. (I have since had a crush on him after seeing him sooooo many years ago in tick tick Boom, Jonathan Larson’s other piece on the angst of 20something NYers. Now that he portrays a character in his mid30s, I find him even sexier.) Also, Barbara Walsh, as Joanne in the role immortalized by the one-and-only Elaine Stritch, is most riveting as the vodka-guzzling matron. Stritch is one tought act to follow but Walsh delivers her own stamp on the role with her portrayal of a woman oozing with worldly wisdom. She delivers a show-stopping effort with the song, The Ladies Who Lunch. I wish the director had allowed her pause after the song so the audience could grant her a much-deserved long applause (as was given Judy Pfitsh as Amy after her take on the runaway bride’s anthem, Getting Married Today.) Sondheim’s music carries one through the highs and lows of urban relationships but I believe it is the final song, Being Alive, that bears the crux of his message. Company, an integral part of one’s living, isn’t just needing to be with someone but is ultimately fulfilled when that someone, who is not just anyone, is desired.

Socrates says that the unexamined life is not worth living. George Furth, in his book for Company, essays that the unlived life is not worth examining. In hindsight, I realize that, suddenly, I am renewed in waking up to go to work. Smilingly, I know that I am growing in my relationship with Tim. What I need to do and who I need to be with are leveling with what I want to do and who I want to be with. Isn’t that the measure of happiness?