Dress, eShakti | Sweater, mom's | Boots, Target kids | Earrings, Claire's
Photos by Lumi
Disclaimer: eShakti sent me this dress in exchange for blog exposure. All opinions are my own.
The package arrived in 1.5 weeks from DHL, just in time for Chinese New Year (now several weeks back). The dress was a lovely cut, though I wish I'd gone a size up (I sit awkwardly between size 2 and 4 for their pieces). It also wouldn't have been a bad idea to take advantage of their custom sizing. I always customize the dress length and collar, if applicable, but for the purpose of wardrobe fluidity, I opted for a standard size (easier to donate or sell later). While this dress is now sold out, you can find similar styles and colors on their site.
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Before this dress, I didn't have any classic red in my study abroad closet.
It was the week of Chinese New Year (Jan. 28th this year), and I was wondering what I'd wear for the holiday. As a first generation Chinese-American, I couldn't guiltlessly deviate from the custom of sporting the warm color during the new year--that would surely result in bad luck for me and my entire family.
Typical celebrations boast vibrant shades of red, like the festive lanterns strung across every Chinatown, or the silky traditional dresses. The only red to grace my limited wardrobe, however, was maroon--or bordeaux, if you will. And there was lots of it.
Perhaps it was only a matter of coincidence or taste, but the conspicuous absence of "Chinese red" and the strong presence of "French bordeaux" felt rather symbolic to me.
Being abroad, I've never felt less Chinese. Despite the stark contrast between my very-Asian appearance and more-homogenous European crowds, despite the physical distance from my American roots, I feel weaker and weaker ties to my family's cultural heritage.
My French language skills have long surpassed my Mandarin abilities. I rarely cook Chinese cuisine, my neglected bottle of soy sauce becoming almost-ceremonious. I clash more and more fiercely with my family's conservative ideals.
I find it extraordinarily difficult to understand how a wild spirit like me could've come from such a moderate, reserved family. I dream of valiant endurance races. I become restless and miserable in standard office jobs. I dabble in a potpourri of fields and hobbies, though the creative truly holds my heart. I yearn to one day call a foreign country home.
I crave unwavering familial support, but am instead met with: you're too rebellious for wanting to do marathons and triathlons (when most families would meet such goals with enthusiasm). You have to find a practical job so that you can contribute to your brother's college funds (what if standard work just isn't me? And whose college funds will my brother contribute to? This is completely unfair). You have to decide on a specific career path, and you'd better decide now (but even my college advisor told me not to dive into any huge commitments too soon). You don't need to apply to jobs and internships abroad. We want you home in the summer since you spent this year abroad and you need to prepare for your graduate exams (wait, who asked you to dictate my internship search, and who said I was even applying to grad school?).
And the very worst: we don't want to raise a daughter in the US who spends all her time in Europe.
Hold on, didn't you leave China to go to the US? And just because I forge divergent path from the one you envisioned--one that is still respectable--you'll regret having raised me?
My parents have provided me with much, but I cannot be their puppet. They assure me that they'll ultimately support my decisions, whatever they may be. But their "occasional suggestions," as they so call them, are often suffocating. They are the ambivalent gusts of wind that hinder my takeoff from the nest.
It's tough to be torn between cultures, and even tougher to toss other contenders in the mix. Instead, I prefer to be rootless--to live and grow in a country that isn't supposed to be mine. It is my middle ground, my space in-between--where I can be both Chinese and American and neither Chinese nor American.
I'm not sure what's ahead. But I do know how I feel, and I'm determined: it's time to ruffle my feathers and take flight.