A Salute to the Sisterfriends Who Sustain Us

I looked down at my phone to see a whatsapp message from a woman I had not seen in person for more than six months.

Do you remember that gorgeous man we saw at the Ghana Embassy in Kigali?

Although we had been keeping in touch since we had both left Rwanda – she moving back to London as I headed for Shanghai – we hadn’t had a lengthy text conversation since The New Edition Story aired and we debated whether Fake Ralph was cuter than Real Ralph at Fake Ralph’s age.

Uhm…yeah…I remember that statue of a man who looked like he had been chiseled from stone before being casually placed among all those regular-looking dudes?

I excitedly wondered what inspired this as her first message to me weeks after our in-depth analysis of Fake New Edition’s portrayal of the trials and tribulations of Real New Edition.

Wait…did that painfully gorgeous man end up in London? Are you about to tell me you just happened to cross paths and are now whatsapping me from his bed?

I got the slightly disappointing response of: No…I just thought about what a superb specimen of man he was. And had to share it with someone who would understand.

And then I didn’t hear from this friend again for another month.

In The Crunked Feminists’ Collection, Brittney C. Cooper dedicates a portion of one of her essays to what is often overlooked when the trite conversation about black women’s singleness comes up – normally brought up by a person of any race or gender who has more issues with the singleness of black women than these single black women have themselves. She writes about the blessing of having time. Time for herself, of course. But, most of all, time for the female friendships she has cultivated over decades worth of shared triumphs and failures. Cooper vocalizes something I have always felt when this social media need to write and discuss “think” pieces about everything finds itself regurgitating the same statistic about the unmarried every few years or so.

I spend no time bemoaning my lack of a husband. I am only mildly bothered when I do not have a Bae in my life. (And truth be told, the thing that mostly bothers me when there is no steady Bae is the long stretches of celibacy I am forced to endure since repeated indulgences in casual sex have never truly appealed to me.) While I am aware that being partnered presents multiple advantages as a person grows older, I do not tremble at the thought of common dangers impacting me greater because I will encounter them without a husband.

However, the thought of waking up one day when I am 70 years old and not having at least one of my good girlfriends still in my life terrifies the shit out of me.

I had just finished reading Cooper’s insight into female friendships when my homegirl sent me the random message about that Ghanaian Adonis for no other reason than she thought of me. I giggled and for weeks after, smiled when I remembered her random tribute to a beautiful man she knew I would appreciate.

Since moving to Shanghai, I have gotten several texts from a male friend who could have been Bae (or at the very least, a good enough placeholder for Bae) the entire two years I was in Kigali. I do not remember what those messages contained and while I was glad to hear from him, I was mostly indifferent when he hit me up to “see how Shanghai is treating you so far.” Another man with whom I shared dinner a few times has also sent me one or two texts since I left Kigali. I do not remember what they were about or if I responded to them. Though this dinner companion was as random as my homegirl, my response to him was not as immediate. His messages were sporadic like several of my girlfriends’ communication have been since I left. I have always responded to my girlfriends’ messages as soon as I have seen them. The guy I went out to dinner with a few times…well, I cannot say (with certainty) he always received a prompt response. Or a response at all. For those two months when I was in the United States after leaving Rwanda, I kept my whatsapp connected to my Kigali number so my girlfriends could communicate with me as easily as they had for the past two years. Wanting to keep lines open for potential suitors or past suitors never occurred to me. I still have the Kigali whatsapp number for that same reason.

I have written before about the persistence of loneliness and how it exhibits itself abroad (See, The Thing About Living Abroad Is…). Although I am still fairly new to this Ex Pat life, I can say with absolute assurance it is my formation of female friendships that has made this life livable the last three years and not the time I have devoted to dating men. My dedication to doing the work of connecting with other black women has helped assuage my loneliness more so than doing the work of sifting through online dating profiles to find a man who I am attracted to and who is my intellectual and financial equal. To be clear: I devote the appropriate amount of time to both my life as a friend to other women and my life as a lover to men. But when I think about how I prioritize the two, I am reminded of Cooper’s argument. We continue to flatten the emotional fullness of women’s humanity by making the story of the modern-day single lady all about her quest to cure herself of the illness of singlehood. We write story after story of women’s honest depiction of what it’s like to date and never marry, how dating has changed for the worse since the explosion of Tinder, how women manage to find ways to pass the time as they wait for their husbands to find them.

Why aren’t we giving as much time to painting the picture of single women that many of us can identify with most  – regardless of where we stand on marriage and the desire to end our single status? The time we have to connect with and cherish each other. To support and encourage each other. Hell, just the time we have to SEE each other. When I was in Kigali, one of the women in my circle of girlfriends was married with three kids. We tried to include her as much as we could in our impromptu trips to Giseyni and last minute dinners in Kimihurura. But, like many wives and mothers, she just couldn’t make it out to many of our get togethers. Her husband and children could only fill so much of her emotional needs. Before she took on domestic life, she had fully reveled in her ability to SEE her girlfriends whenever she needed them or they needed her. I sensed in her repeated requests to factor her circumstances into our planning that she had underestimated the value of the time her unmarried self had devoted to bonding with her female friends.

Three years ago, I left my beloved New York City and a country I was not sure I liked. I ended a serious relationship with a man I loved because he was not called to Ex Pat life as I was. I also left behind three women who I had spent most of my adult life with. The first year of my new life, the ex-boyfriend and I were still in communication. Every few months, I would find him in my DM on Facebook talking about nothing in particular, which led to us both chatting about how our lives were going. Somewhere around the 12th month, the DMs stopped coming. I felt a momentary pang of sadness. He had moved on and the likelihood of our ever being in each other’s online or offline lives again was slim. The pang dissipated, though, and when I do have thoughts of him now, they are fleeting moments of hoping that he has met someone who will take care of him. That he is working toward his goals. I don’t miss his DMs. I assumed they would end.

There is a much longer thread in my DM on Facebook that I started with three girlfriends shortly after leaving my beloved New York. In it, we talk about nothing in particular and everything that matters. For three years, the thread has been active, getting bumped after weeks of silence with a period rant or a hearty throwing of shade toward a celebrity, co worker, or commuter.

If that thread ended. If I bumped it with an observation that no matter how much money I spend on bras, they never seem to fully satisfy my boobs’ needs and these women never responded. Not just didn’t say anything in regards to this particular message, but really…just removed themselves from the thread, never to add to it again…

You would find me in the fetal position on my living room floor. I would be in tears questioning my life choices.

Dear China: So Sorry, but Ms. Kendrick Does Not Accept Bribes

“I told this man in plain English not to send me this jacket.” The jacket is still wrapped in its plastic casing and sitting in the opened shipping box. The rip in the packaging tape shows it was sent to Ms. Ketu Kendrick. I am way pass irritated and not yet solidly livid when I present this “gift” to my boss at the private school where I teach super rich Chinese children whose parents apparently don’t read or understand English enough to fully comprehend the clause in the student handbook that says, “teachers cannot accept gifts” or the words coming out of a teacher’s mouth that say, “No, thank you; please don’t send me a gift.”

“And he still sent it to you?” The principal who has worked in and around China for 15 years actually seems as surprised as I am. “Well, this is a first,” he chuckles. He ponders his reaction for a moment and then realizes he has lied. “Naw, it isn’t. This is China.” He thanks me for informing him of this gift giver’s aggressive campaign to get me to write favorable recommendation letters for his daughter and advises me to return the jacket with as much humility as I can. “Just remember, they think something is wrong with us for not accepting gifts so frame it like you really want to take it, but because of the school policy…”

I consider myself a woman of great integrity and I am also of the firm belief that students, generally, have already shown themselves worthy of a satisfactory recommendation letter when they ask me to write one for them. Although teenagers are not as equipped with the skills for honest introspection as adults (in theory), they can sense when a teacher is pleased with their performance and they know what their report cards show. Only students who do well in my class and have been rewarded with verbal accolades – both in private and in public – from me have asked me to write them recommendation letters. There is absolutely no need for parents to “sweeten the deal” for me. If their child were truly a waste of a seat in my class, I would politely decline their recommendation request and suggest they ask a teacher in whose class they have shown greater promise.  What could possibly be the point of accepting a bribe from a parent whose B+ student works harder than me in my class?

I need someone to tell China I believe in its children. Without qualifiers or disclaimers. They are young people so why wouldn’t I believe in them? I would like for someone to tell my students’ parents I am not any greater or lesser impressed with their children than the children I taught in Rwanda or the ones I taught in the United States. The Chinese versions of student work ethic and academic achievement look no different than the work ethic and achievement of every teenager in every school in every corner of this world. Can someone please ask these parents to stop sending Ms. Kendrick “gifts” with notes that remind her “only two more recommendation letters to send!”

The first time it happened, I naively took it for what it was supposed to be: an appreciation of the extra time it would take me to write a thoughtful letter highlighting the student’s strengths and weaknesses. A student, who in all honesty, was quite mediocre, but still showed promise shyly hovered near my desk after I had dismissed her class. I saw she had a form in her hand that she periodically glanced at before looking toward me and then quickly averting her eyes when they met mine. “Do you need something, Sweetie,” I helped her initiate the conversation. When she sheepishly explained she was applying to a high school in the United States and she was sorry for bothering me, but the school needed a recommendation letter from her English teacher, I told her I would be happy to write her one. I took the form out of her shaky hand and said, “I will try to get it done within the next week or so, okay?”

When I turned to pack up my bag and leave the room, the student pulled out a Chanel box from somewhere and then grinned at me, “Uhm…my mom helped me pick this out for you.” For about two seconds, I hesitated because the timing seemed…convenient to say the least. But, why would this sweet child who I had previously acknowledged in class for improving in her analytical skills have any ulterior motives? “Aww, thank you, Sweetie,” I patted her on the shoulder as I took the box.

And then she gave me this look. I do not have adequate words to describe what I saw in her eyes. Just my gut told me, Ms. Kendrick, this is not what you think it is. When I brought the most fly, perfectly designed sunglasses to my supervisor, my gut was confirmed. “Yeah, this is supposed to influence what you put in the letter,” the Head of the English Department said nonchalantly as she agreed to gently break it to the student on my behalf that this gift had to be returned to her mother. “The girl and her mother have good taste, though; these glasses are so you.” She complained all she had been offered in the past was thoughtless cash. And the parent hadn’t even bothered to make her feel like a lady when he offered it. “Literally, he slid an envelope across the table as he suggested his son be moved up to the honors class even though he was barely cracking a C in the regular class.” She proceeded to regale me with outrageous stories that explained why the school finally had to write a clear policy in the handbook so it would curb the thinly veiled attempts of privileged parents to give their child an extra edge in the competitive world of studying abroad.

“As you can see, even with the policy there are still parents who continue to do what they think works.” The Head of the English Department sighed. “I am not so sure everyone on our staff actually follows the policy themselves.  So, there’s that.”

I get it. There are 23 million people in Shanghai alone. Has the population of China itself exceeded a billion yet? A student being good enough is not enough even within China. If you factor into the equation students who seek to leave the isolated bubble of China and enter a culture and curriculum that, in many ways, is the polar opposite of their homeland’s, well…yeah…what conscientious parent wouldn’t see the need to “sweeten the deal” for his kid who is good enough but may not be as good as the 1000+ other applicants he has heard is applying to the same schools in America as his daughter?

But, I still need one of y’all to tell these people with words and in a tone more convincing than mine that I don’t want their damn “gifts.” I am growing annoyed at being forced to discreetly whisper to a student that I need to see her in the hall and then play like I am flattered and torn as I say, “Your father is very kind and I know he doesn’t mean anything by this, but the school has a policy, so…”

Save Yourself From Pictures of Strangers’ Penises

I am one of the lucky ones. I, an attractive, heterosexual single woman who has been dating attractive heterosexual single men for upwards of two decades, have never received a photo of a man’s penis without explicitly asking for one. (And that is neither your business nor the central thesis of this post so focus, please.)

And yes, I am in the lucky minority.

It seems like in the last five or six years, good girlfriends, close acquaintances, a stray co worker here and there have casually mentioned having to avoid a man in real life or block him in internet/smart phone life, because “this fool sent me a picture of his peen…and it was such a sad picture…and peen, none the less.” Each time some perturbed woman has shared this with me, I have wondered the same thing she was wondering, “Who sends unsolicited pictures of their special place to people they don’t really know?” After that question goes unanswered, I have usually moved on to the one that has inspired these words you are now reading: “Why have I been spared this pervasive tom foolery?” Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful to the universe for its compassion, but I do wonder how this trend in 21st century courting has managed to bypass my screen.

Mr. Monkey, the unofficial cab driver of the faculty at the boarding school where I teach, has caused me to reflect on the subconscious strategy I have employed to inadvertently shield me from ugly, ill shaped private parts greeting me at 7 o’ clock in the morning. He has made me realize I am acutely aware of how dick-pic-sending men vet their victims.

Mr. Monkey speaks approximately 7 phrases in English. I speak 2.5 words of Chinese. Thanks to Wechat’s super useful translate feature, he and I are able to send text messages through the app that result in my being able to use him for regular rides to the airport, metro and the bank. For some reason, Mr. Monkey has taken to sending me videos randomly. And by random, I mean…truly there is no rhyme or reason to the videos and when he sends them. Three days after we arrange my pick up from the airport, I see a video on the thread. A guy gets on a bike and runs into a tree. I assume Mr. Monkey meant to send this to a friend with whom he shares funny memes and other internet silliness and just ignore the post.

A week after that, I get a video of goats running around carefree as if they are at recess in goat primary school. Then, someone starts chasing after the goats with a machete. Mr. Monkey sends a message with the video this time. “Very funny?” It strikes me: Oh, he intends for me to engage in banter with him about these videos.

Now, here is when the strategy to not have to look at a man’s wrinkly, itty bitty johnson comes into play. There is a slight chance Mr. Monkey just thinks I am a nice teacher lady and he wants to practice his English. There is a chance he sends random ass videos about random ass things to several of his customers. There is a chance the videos are harmless.

But, I am not willing to take that chance. When I was much younger, I joked with a man about something I can not remember now. It was a typical smart ass remark that playfully mocked some trait he professed to have. He seemed to take me seriously so I quickly explained, “Oh, don’t mind me; I am just teasing you.” His response: “Oh, you like teasing people, huh?” I took his question as a literal follow up to my very literal explanation. I then found out we were having two different conversations; the one he was having was laced with delusional assumptions.

The minute or so of awkwardness that ensued taught me a valuable lesson: Men be vetting women.

I have not responded to any of the three videos that followed the one with the goats who were unaware recess would end with their slaughter. I have ridden in Mr. Monkey’s car once since the random videos started showing up on my Wechat. I made no mention of the videos and “Why don’t you say anything about my funny videos” is not one of the seven English phrases Mr. Monkey has memorized and can repeat with confidence.

My messages that only say: “Need to go to metro. Tomorrow at 4” let Mr. Monkey know my only interest in him is as a reliable driver who can get me to and fro in a timely fashion. His possible vetting of me should have left him with this conclusion: She is not one of those un-owned women who wants to engage in negotiations with potential buyers. Any possible follow up of a picture of his peen, a video of his peen or a link to a picture or video of his peen should be effectively averted.

Yes, I realize the flaws with my strategy. The not so subtle reinforcement of victim blaming it suggests. There is, also, sufficient evidence to prove my don’t-engage-with-terrorists defense is shaky. One of the first women who shared her trauma of an almost-stranger gifting her a picture of his abnormally large peen ended her story with: I really don’t know how he got my number, either. She had met him through other people and imagined that given the context of that meeting, he could have gotten her information from a mutual acquaintance who assumed this seemingly sane and civilized person was just collecting numbers to build a network of young professionals with whom he could exchange useful resources.

Flaws and hypocrisies aside, I will again state: I am in that minority of single women who have only heard about this phenomenon of adult men peddling their marked down merchandise via the smart phones of consumers who still don’t want whatever it is they think they’re selling. If you have been as fortunate as I have been, I suggest you increase your awareness and be hyper vigilant. Mr. Monkey tried to figure out where I was going the last time he drove me to the airport. I stared at him blankly and continued to look out the window.

I no longer get videos.

You’re welcome, Single Women of the World.

See, The Thing About Living Abroad Is…

If you’re not careful, this life will crack you wide open. While you are traveling to the latest country. While you are laughing at the latest miscommunication that resulted in your being in a completely different place than you thought you told the driver. While you are reveling at all the money that still remains in your savings account. If you don’t pay attention, your adventurous life laced with privilege will reveal ruptures. Not in your life itself. (No, that will still be pretty privileged and awesome) But in you. They will look like tiny abrasions at first. As if you got off the moto just a bit too quickly before checking to see if your leg was far enough away from the tail pipe. Those tiny abrasions. Barely noticeable burns. If you are not looking closely, carefully, you will be scooting around your new city with all your insides hanging out, leaving a trail of truths behind for these latest foreigners to assess in a language you do not understand.

I watched it happen in Kigali. So many sets of friends because…

So many relationships – from casual hook ups to married child rearing – that began and continued because…

The other person was just there.

About four months into my first international post, I realized I was friends with a woman who I did not like very much. It was not that I greatly disliked her, either. She had not done anything cruel to me nor was she a bad person at all. I just didn’t connect with her. And yet, here I was accepting invitations to go places with her. Grudgingly coming up with things for us to do so we could become even closer “friends.” Feeling bad for making up excuses for why I had to reschedule those things I did not want to do in the first place. I watched other acquaintances do this as well. Ex Pats determined to recreate the social networks they lost once they left their home countries gravitating to other English-speaking foreigners. Or paying off the locals with rounds of beer and subsidized trips to neighboring countries because “we are friends and if they could afford to return the favor, I am sure they would.”

Loneliness is not an emotion only the international globe trotter feels. It is one that every human will feel at points throughout their lives, regardless of who is or is not in that life when the emotion happens to surface. There is something that loneliness experienced abroad reveals, though. For me, I have seen it reveal how deeply delusional you can become about WHY you continue to nurture a friendship with a woman when the only common trait shared between you is you both speak English. There is a great amount of farce involved in continuing to respond to messages from a man who you only vaguely liked when you accepted a date from him and quickly decided on that date was an asshole and not a very cute one at that. There is a dogged decision to believe you are just trying to be more open. “Let me give this a chance. Isn’t that why I moved? For new experiences.”

You tell yourself that you are sitting through awkward conversations with this woman who consistently irritates you because you don’t want to rush to judgment. She is probably just as in need of friendship as you are.

In fact, she is just there. That is why you still talk to her. She is just there.

Just like the average-looking asshole. You are not still returning his messages because you are trying to figure out if the assholey things he says are just cultural idiosyncrasies that your western mind doesn’t quite understand. No, he is an asshole. An asshole who is just there. And this is why you have not told him, “Stop contacting me. I will never have time to go out with you again.” He is there. And his being there offers you comfort if you choose to take it. If offers you an out. If you choose to take it.

What Ex Pat loneliness can also reveal is that you are a damn good liar. You could easily release these people from your life. But, the lie you tell yourself is that it is nicer to lead people on, continuing to pretend you are interested in a connection, than to allow them the time to nurture a connection with someone who truly does value them in ways you do not. If Holden is a terrific liar, then you are an exceptional one. You convince yourself the lie is about the fake friend and the asshole dude. It is to spare their hurt feelings. But, see…it is really about you, Hun. You would feel kindda bad having to admit you are collecting people you don’t really want to keep anyway.

Before I left Kigali, I had strengthened my spiritual practice so Shanghai would not crack me open. If Kigali almost did, I knew this place definitely would.

I am looking around me now at the people who I encounter and observing the newbies start the delusion. Forced conversations that don’t have to become anything more than just small talk, but what if these are entry points into for real friendship? Flirtatious looks that are thought to be more significant than simply you are cute and his fiancée is still far away in London and he misses her so.

The realization that you have uprooted yourself and now have to recreate a life that had run almost by itself can cause a sense of isolation that is deeper than the loneliness one feels when she is in an unsatisfactory relationship in a country and culture that she understands. Or the loneliness felt when one has gone a long period of time without the intimacy that even a dysfunctional partnership can bring. The rebuilding of a support network can be more unclear in its design and architecture. I understand oh so well why people choose the delusion. The superficial and strained connections make them feel safe.

The unfortunate truth is, though, they are not any safer than if they just stopped lying. At some point, they will have to face the reality of what they have done. They have left their families. They have left their friends. They have left their good jobs. They have left all the distractions those families and friends and good jobs mercifully provided.

The rush to find replacements for those distractions will likely be the catalyst for their being cracked open more so than it will be the magic elixir to stop it from happening in the first place.

You’re Too Fat for Everything

Our story of obesity begins in a “medical clinic” in Shanghai’s city center. I and about 20 other teachers who are new to the faculty of this innovative international school have been bused down to get another medical check although we each had one done in whichever country we were residing when we accepted this post in order to obtain the month-long visa that would get us into China. But, we are told that the Chinese trust no medical reports but their own and so…

Off we go to this “clinic.”

It all happens quickly. The human resources manager is directing each of us quickly to the reception desk where we hand over our passport, get a number, fill out a form and then get handed a robe that we are told is “one size fits all.” I am skeptical when I go into the changing room and actually open the robe. Will the entirety of both of my breasts fit into the confines of this cotton? I share my concerns with the tiny little lady standing outside the changing room who is quite aggressively trying to quickly get me out the room and onto a scale.

“Uhm…yeah…Miss…this robe is too small.”

“No,” she quickly responds. “It is one size fit all.”

I look at the robe and then at my breasts. Look at the little lady. Then back at my breasts. I eye the robe one more time. “Mam, I am sure there is a robe that is one size fits all, but I don’t think it is this one.”

“Just put on robe.”

I do as I am told and proceed to walk out the room and flash my new colleagues.

The little lady rushes up to me saying something like, “It is all out. It is all out. I will help you.” As she tries to refashion the ties on the robe, I tell her that I have the breasts of a black woman from the American South and they cannot be forced into this handkerchief with string. The little lady is not a quitter; she is quite diligent. She works this robe around my impressive bosom and somehow manages to make me modest without a large piece of duct tape around the northern region of my body.

Once I get on the scale, two sets of eyes widen in shock. Mine and the little lady’s. I am thinking to myself, “Oh shit…look at me dropping these pounds like it’s nothing. Getting all sexy without sending folk a note of warning first.” The little lady’s widened eyes register something a bit different. They seem to be wondering why the numbers keep getting higher and then when they settle why I am doing a mini-twerk on the scale instead of crying.

Once we leave the medical clinic, where all of us were hoarded from room to room to get poked and prodded by gruff people who may or may not have been doctors, we are told we will be taken to look at electric scooters with the chance to purchase. “The nearest subway station is only a 10-minute scooter ride away from school…on a good traffic day,” one of the teachers on the welcoming committee informs us. “But, in general, it is a good idea to have a scooter if you don’t live in the city center because suburban life is suburban life no matter the country, ya know.”

I spot my scooter immediately. It is a cute little red number with a black basket and more importantly, a seat that can encompass a black girl’s booty. I plant my flag on this scooter by sitting on it and threatening the other teachers with, “Listen, if any of y’all sneak and buy this one, I know where you work and I can easily find out where you live.” I am just imagining myself scooting through Songjiang with fresh produce in my basket, honking at bad drivers and spouting out the few cuss words I plan on learning in Mandarin next week.

The owner of the scooter shop calls over the Chinese co-worker who is our translator on this trip. She turns away from me and says lots of words that I don’t understand to my co-worker. My co-worker uses much less words when she turns to me and says, “Uhm…she wants to know if you are sure you want this one?” She pauses and tries to find more words. “Like, will you be comfortable with this seat?”

I wiggle on the seat again and chuckle that my ass is not spilling off even a little bit and it is better than most seats on the bikes in most spin classes in New York City. She sees that I don’t get it. And for some reason, the owner of the shop who cannot speak a lick of English sees I don’t get it either. So, she turns away from me again and says more words to my co-worker, complete with hand gestures and pauses and attempts to find the right words.

“She thinks if you get this one, the ride will not be stable and you will just be back to get one of those bikes over there.”

Still clueless, I innocently ask, “Why wouldn’t the ride be stable?”

Finally, my co-worker cannot find anymore words and whispers, “Body size does matter.”

And then it hits me, this shop owner has been trying to say, “Get yo fat ass off this scooter that is not designed for an American body because if you buy it and then it breaks, you gon come waltzing your ass back up in here complaining like you Americans always do, wanting me to give you another bike that is better for your big ass…like this one over here I have been trying to direct you to for the last 30 minutes.”

I am tickled to death that there has been an entire lengthy conversation about how to deal with the problem of my obesity, particularly since I fail to even realize I am obese, given I honestly don’t see how this bike is too small. I am even allowed to take my scooter out for a test run, where it becomes clear to me and the other fat ass American who was eyeing a blue one of the same model that we are planning to buy a scooter that is really meant for a prepubescent girl.

When I return from my wobbly ride around the parking lot, I say to the shop keeper, “Yeah, I need a bigger one, don’t I?” She nods enthusiastically. She looks a little relieved that she did not have to tell me I was fat as she may have had to tell a non-Asian person this in the past and it did not go very well.

I am going to end with the beginning of another story that I am confident you can finish on your own.

Yesterday, I went to get a massage. I was led into a nicely decorated private room with a cup of tea and handed a spa uniform of shorts and a top.

“You put this on and then knock on door when done.”

I looked at the uniform and then at my body and then at the nice little man who had directed me into this nice little room.

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