Getting Older and Liking It (Probably Too Much)

I know I don’t look a day over 21. That’s what all the birthday* cards say, so it must be accurate. But the truth is: I’m getting older — laugh lines, early bedtime, the whole nine yards.

I miss being younger at times. I miss being able to do, drink, eat whatever. If I eat a basket of cheesy fries now… well, I’ve never had an enema, but I imagine it would produce similar results.

Youth is awesome. There’s no doubt about that. But apparently so is aging… and here’s why:

Wisdom is a real thing.
You know more simply by existing longer. As a result, you fear less. The world stops being some unknown, scary place. You’ve probably been there and you’ve definitely done that — or at least something very similar. So when a problem arises, it’s less “OMG” and more “alcohol can fix that.”

You can bask in your awesomenesss.
You’ve worked the long hours, pulled the all-nighters, came in on weekends. You struggled — even cried at your desk here and there — and it’s paying off. You’re no longer someone’s lowly intern. No more fetching coffee in the hopes of being hired. No more settling for job that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled.

You finally have a career, not just a job. And it’s glorious. So go ahead girl, flip your hair one time.

Your friends get old, too.
Everyone around you is officially an adult — adults with babies or bags under their eyes (or both). Dancing in the Lower East Side is now a distant memory. The heels have retired. Clubs now refer to sandwiches.

My friends cannot handle life after 10 p.m. And I could not love them more for it. I hope we’ll all start a knitting club soon, because sitting down is always a good idea.

Aging uses up all your fucks.
The number of fucks you can give become very limited.

She thinks your skirt is too short. Nada fucks. He thinks you’re rude. The give-a-fuck flight has been cancelled. They think you have a drinking problem. You would love to spare a fuck, but you just spent the last one on antacids.

Either you’ve become much bolder. Or caring just takes too much effort. Either way, you don’t have enough fucks to examine your life like that.

*Uyensday is 44 days away. There is a countdown in progress, of course.


Things I Wish I Knew Sooner

I wish I knew at 18 that love doesn’t get easier. You’ll love different people, and for very different reasons. Each relationship will have its own set of complications. At 18, you’ll break up because you’re going to different colleges. At 25, you’ll break up because you’re chasing different life goals. It hurts all the same. Love is a riddle that you’ll never fully figure out.

I wish I knew at 15 to treasure my parents. The mortality or your parents will become increasingly clear with each passing year. You’ll start to notice your father’s raspy voice and your mom’s graying hair. All those mean and spiteful comments you made as a teenager will resurface in your mind. You’ll regret being such a dick.

I wish I knew at 20 not to play it safe. To travel more. To love more openly. To risk it all. Young ones, there are no mistakes, just life lessons.

I wish I knew at 17 to embrace the weirdness. I spent so much time chasing homogeny — buying the same Aeropostale shirts and American Eagle jeans as my peers. Trying my very best to fit in. Now, it’s your uniqueness that gives you an advantage in business. In love, it’s your quirkiness that makes you lovable. Weird is a wonderful thing to be.

I wish I knew at 21 about sunscreen. Nothing is hot about looking older than you are. Also, that whole cancer thing.

I wish I knew at 23 to love my body. There will always be someone with bigger breasts, perkier cheeks, or lengthier legs. You will never be physically ideal. That’s okay. To the person that will one day matter most, you are perfect as is. They’re right.

Five Instances of My Mom Being Epically Badass

I don’t appreciate my mom enough. I don’t think any of us really do. We forget to call. We rarely visit. We pray that our mothers don’t find us on Facebook.

Most us act like ungrateful brats 364 days out of the year (365 on a leap year). But when Mother’s Day comes around, we remember again. We remember their sacrifice, their unconditional love, their bottomless pool of patience. We remember how amazing our mothers are. And we remember how cherished they should be.

For me, Mother’s Day is also a reminder of my mom’s epic badassness — the reasons for which I will share with you:

Five instances of my mom refusing to be anything less than epic:

Gave birth. Repeated three times.
I don’t even think I need to continue past this point. But I will. Only because I do love me a good list.

Lived through the Vietnam War.
I’m spending my youth in New York City during the hipster war on hygiene. My mom spent her youth in Vietnam during an actual war.

I once (probably underestimating this number) stumbled home at dawn after an evening of alcohol-fueled festivities. My mom was once abducted from her home at dawn by Vietcong soldiers, blindfolded, and dragged away to a public execution.

Married at 33.
My mom was a single 33-year-old female in Asia, where 25 is considered past your peak of desirability and 30 is basically RIP-uterus time.

She could have married any of her suitors to guarantee financial stability. Society was screaming at her to do so. She yelled back. She gave societal expectations the middle finger and refused to settle down until she met my dad. He wasn’t rich and he certainly wasn’t handsome back then — being a POW for six years is really harsh on your skin, fyi. But, he had pride and intelligence. He looked like a man with goals, she once told me. (I think that’s the equivalent of swagger.)

Dropped out of school.
My grandfather passed away when my mom was just a little girl. Her newly widowed mom struggled to take care of seven children. To make matters worse: they were poor — not “my rent check might be late” poor, but third-world-country poor. So, my mom dropped out of the fourth grade to take care of her younger siblings. She tended to the rice fields. She worked at the market. And she made sure her younger brothers and sisters all graduated from high school, even if it meant that she never would.

Left my father.
I love my dad. I do. But he wasn’t a great husband once upon a time. Great father, yes. I could fill a book recounting all the times my father put his children first. We were his everything. This love, unfortunately, wasn’t transferred to my mother.

Maybe in a patriarchal society, all men take their wives for granted. Maybe my father couldn’t grow to love the object of an arranged marriage. Whatever the reason, he was very cruel to my mom during the early years of their marriage. He used to drink, gamble, lose it all, and then take his rage out on her.

One day, she left him.

She had no money, no job, no education — really, no way to survive on her own. Still, she left. She said she deserved better. And she fucking meant it. My mom didn’t come back until Dad showed up at my grandma’s house three months later as a sober, gamble-free, humbled, and much better man.

One day — a very distant day from now — I will be a mother. And when that day comes, I hope to only be half as epic as my mom.

Adults Shouldn’t Have Dreams

I don’t have a dream.

(That first sentence was a lie concocted to get you to read this one. HA, tricked you!) I’ve actually had many dreams. The best one involved Orlando Bloom — Legolas form, obviously.

But as far as a life dream that outlines the ultimate version of myself? Nothing.

I have goals, of course. Small, conquerable goals. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to live in NYC. I wanted to marry George Clooney. (Some of my goals will need to be recalculated.)

Goals can be accomplished. You divide, work your ass off, and then conquer. Bit by bit, you slowly become a better, fuller version of yourself.

Dreams set you up for failure.

If my dream was to become an Award-winning journalist, then I’m clearly failing. Anything short of becoming that international news correspondent would equal the abandonment of my dream.

Dreams narrow your options. They force you to predict, then map out a linear path to your destiny. All roads in life should lead to that dream. No detours.

If journalism was my dream, being a copywriter at Macy’s wouldn’t have happened. Managing content at Sprinklr wouldn’t have followed suit. The last four years of my life would be irrelevant. There’s no way that’s true.

Life isn’t linear. Life moves and meanders, and then takes a hard right out of nowhere. Try to plan it out and it laughs in your face. Just ask every bumper sticker and misquoted Facebook status. Life doesn’t want to be mapped out.

So back to my first blasphemous sentence… adults shouldn’t dream.

Adults set goals. Sometimes, they leap over those goals. Other times, they fall short. They set new goals. They repeat. With each goal, they realize their potential and grow.

Adults don’t dream. They just do.

My First Horrible (and Humbling) First Date

Four years of dating in NYC and not a single bad date. First dates are especially enjoyable. Two hours of Yelp-curated funtimes with yourself — what’s not to love?

I got too cocky. I thought I perfected the art of first dates. I felt invincible. Karma decided to feed me some humble pie. By feed, I mean smash my face into.


7:08: Why is he calling me? I told him I was a few blocks away.

7:12: Dude, just go inside the bar. It. Will. Be. Okay.

7:16: Well technically, I said 7-ish. So I’m still on time-ish. No? We’re still upset about the lateness? Okay, my bad.

7:17: Really glad I get to witness him argue with the bartender over the coloration of mezcal. Just order a drink, you prick.

7:18: Oh shit, he saw the eye-rolls. Look away!!

7:22: For the third time, nothing has been new in my life.

7:25: Nope, still nothing new in my life since you last asked me.

7:26: “Come on, tell me something exciting! Tell me about your life. Tell me about you. What’s new?”

7:27: Please give me the alcohol. Give it.

7:28: Really excited to partake in this questionnaire game he’s invented for first dates. I mean, why let conversation flow naturally when you can force it? Force talking is way more fun.

7:31: Fun fact #1: He’s on multiple dating sites, and he hates all of them.

7:32: Fun fact #2: He also hates NYC women. We’re all flakey and superficial and stuck up. Yes, I agree. But in our defense, pimpin’ ain’t easy.

7:33: NYC women are also ugly. Excuse you…?

7:34: Fun fact #3: He’s very passionate about people being flakey. Rainchecks are the devil.

7:35: Oh, that’s right. I did “raincheck” on him last month. I mean, it was an opportunity to eat tacos in bed. I know I made the right choice.

7:37: Fun fact #4: He doesn’t like silence. Conversations should never have breaks. Breaks are awkward. I like to call that breathing. To-ma-to. To-mah-to.

7:39: Question game is torturing my soul. I’m learning things I can’t unknow.

7:40: Can I leave? Is that rude?

7:41: Maybe I can do the emergency call thing.

7:42: Fun fact #5: Many women have flaked on him. He is very upset toward these women. I’m upset at these women, too. Lucky bitches.

7:43: Recounting all the instances where women from online dating sites have turned him down is attractive. I hope this is part of his first-date repertoire.

7:45: Fun fact #6: His favorite place in NYC is… I should get new shoes… dammit, what did he say? Fuck. I could’ve used a new Yelp bookmark.

7:46: Dammit, Uyen. Just leave. It’s still not too late to say you forgot to feed the cat.

7:46: Fine, you fool. Stay and suffer.

7:46: It’s my turn now. Ugh. I should’ve left.

7:47: What happened in my last relationship? I don’t know, dude… it expired?

7:48: My proudest moment ever? This question was definitely on one of my college applications. “Learning to speak english in the third grade.”

7:49: “Seriously? Third grade? So you peaked in the third grade? Haha.”

7:50: DIE.

7:50: “What? You don’t like sarcasm?”

7:51: If you don’t die right now, I will be livid with the world.

7:53: “How would your exes describe you?”

7:54: “Crazy.”

7:55: “What do you like to do on first dates?”

7:56: “Drink.”

7:56 — 8:03: Should I shop the J.Crew sale? It’s an extra 30% off. I could really use a new oxford.

8:04: The check!! FREEDOM!!!!!!!

8:05: “You’re welcome for the drink.”

8:05: You’re welcome for not stabbing you in your mouth with broken glass.

Give Up Mode: Your Body After 25

My body has officially entered “give up mode.”

I’ve had suspicions for a while. Like that one time my heart felt funny after eating a double bacon cheeseburger. Or that other time when my chub-rub felt a little chubbier than normal. I just didn’t want to believe.

Even when I got my first two-day hangover, I refused to believe. I still watch children’s cartoons. My body should take that into consideration and give me some sort of raincheck on the whole “aging” thing.

But alas, I’m an adult. And to celebrate, my body will begin giving up on life and continue indefinitely.

Don’t get me wrong. There are certain aspects of “give up mode” I enthusiastically enjoy. Take for example, a Saturday night in NYC.

Twenty-one-year-old me would feel obligated to go out. She’d put on her painful dancing shoes. She’d take an hour-long train ride into downtown, Manhattan, then walk 20 blocks because there’s a bar in Alphabet City where a girl she somewhat knows knows the bartender. He inconveniently would not be working that night.

Twenty-five-year-old me, however, puts on her stretchy pants. No need to lie about having conflicting engagements. No need to make up an excuse about working late. Just “NO.” Or if she feels like being descriptive, “I’ve already called my pizza delivery guy.”

Other parts (like 97%) of “give up mode” are not that sexy.

They mostly involve lamenting the loss of your metabolism and wondering things like, “will I gain weight by eating that cupcake?” and “well… what if I just licked it?”

After 25, you spend your days craving food. Not just “oh, I love food.” I mean all-consuming obsession. It becomes the cure-all for life.

Had a bad day? Pizza.
Stressed at work? Cookies.
Experiencing a feeling? Everything.

To combat your infatuation with food, your body will become slower and more prone to lethargy.

Fitness becomes the equivalent of calculus. Some people are naturally born to excel. They’ll run 10 miles with the grace of a gazelle — their tight skin glistening against the radiant morning sun. Most of us will struggle. We know how it works, we just can’t. Every effort looks awkward and painful. It is.

In your mid-twenties, you finally begin to understand why people around you talk about fitness incessantly. It’s a triumph of human nature. It’s telling every molecule in your body, “put down the donut and do this incredibly unenjoyable thing that might produce results after six-to-eight weeks, but only if you do it all the time and never show food your weakness.”

I would blog about fitness, too, if I could. I’d call my blog “Conquering the World With Sweat” and include GIFs of things exploding magnificently. Maybe I will do this once I manage to run 10 blocks without wanting to throw up.

So there you have it, folks — my scientifically valid description of the aging process.

If you’re my age and reading this, hopefully you’ll walk away knowing you’re not alone. Our thighs can jiggle as one.

If you’re 21 and reading this: go eat all the fried chicken, you lucky SOB.

Memories From My Childhood: A Little White Lie

We didn’t have a TV. We didn’t have many things, but indoor plumbing seemed like minutiae compared to the glories of a polychromatic screen.

My neighbor had a TV. I don’t remember ever meeting my neighbor. I do, however, remember screaming matches between the man and his prostitute of a wife — my dad’s words, not mine — and my parents. In retrospect, this alone should’ve deterred me from pursuing the TV situation. Family pride and all. But, I was four and my neighbor had a TV.

My sister and I heard about this Holy Grail through the grapevine. Naturally, our curiosities were piqued.

We asked Dad to go play at the neighbor’s house, just this one time. He said no. We asked again — pure saccharine oozing from our semi-toothless smiles. He said no again… much less politely this time. We retreated and re-strategized.

We (okay, I was the instigator) devised an ingenious plan: to tell a harmless white lie.

White lies come so easy now… “no, you don’t look fat,” “yeah, this was a totally fun date,” “of course I didn’t eat the entire pizza by myself”… but back then, it felt defiant. It was the first time my sister got sucked into one of my plots. It was also the first time we really lied to Dad.

We told him we were going outside to play. Brilliant, right? He’ll never be the wiser, I thought triumphantly.

Once away from the house, my sister and I maneuvered like Navy Seal trainees. We looped around coconut trees, behind walls of cacti and through various shrubbery as we made our way. Some tripping might have occurred, but otherwise, it was totally incognito.

By the time we got to our neighbor’s house, a crowd had already gathered. Dozens of heads (much, much taller heads) stood before us. It was a wall of bodies that no amount of standing on tippy toes could surmount. I could hear laughter caused by whatever programming was on at the time. But alas, no visual contact.

Unsatisfied, my sister and I walked home. At least we tried, I consoled myself.

Dad was waiting for us at the gate. He wasn’t happy. By “wasn’t happy,” I mean: He set his inner happiness on fire and replaced it with unadulterated rage.

How long were you there?
Did you go into the house?
Did the neighbor touch you?
Did anyone hurt you?

The Spanish Inquisition seemed a bit unnecessary for a TV we didn’t even get to see. But, we just figured Dad was crazy. Silly Daddy.

Years later, my mom told me our neighbor was a rapist. His type: little girls.

I told my first harmless white lie at the age of four. It was the first time I defied my dad. And the first time I saw him vulnerable.