Voice

I want to be a dolphin.

Love Letter Day 16.

There was a time when I hated hearing the sound of my recorded voice. It was succeeded by a time when I hated my photographed face, and my broadcast body. Those are the perils of living in a woman’s body in this world. But little by little, I have trained my body to become acceptable, first to the world, then to the machine, and finally, me. I know it’s cliche to say it’s been said so many times but I truly was my own greatest critic.

I have finally allowed myself to become acceptable to me, but I did take the long way here. Somewhere around 22 square feet of skin and 15 feet of intestines, a 4 inch tongue, uneven eyes that can’t see without glasses I got from my grandparents, a size 7 foot that matches the length of my forearm (scientifically), an unusual vocal range that has become adaptable to any demand, can make any command, a distinct laugh, improbably fast-growing hair. My Freudian tell is about as obvious as an exposed nipple: the pitch of my voice changes dramatically when I’m speaking to Japanese men. Pathetic. I laugh at everything you say. Lovely.

When I dote on my voice today, it relaxes all of the muscles in my throat. It has worked overtime this year to protect you. Our procedures. The duress of speaking for us all, has added a nice effect, an overtone? Undertone? You’d know which. I’m not the expert, but it’s ok that I don’t know how to describe my vocal range because I am the only one who can hear the voice in my head.

I talk to myself a lot and it’s usually when I’m driving alone. A couple nights ago, I had a lengthy debate with myself on my drive up to my drum studio. A fraught conversation about the importance of nurture in the practice of representation based on a really frustrating conversation with a colleague earlier in the day; the fake dialogue helped me get over it. And then a funny thing happened when I got to my drum set. First, I played one of the earliest syncopations I learned as a beginning drummer, really starting from zero instead of jumping to ten. I was working myself either into a trance or meditative state. Second, I started sobbing. My inner eight year old wanted to tell me something. Third, my voice came out. I never ever sing while drumming. This was wild. But it wasn’t singing either. I screamed an unholy scream until my entire body was sweating and I could feel the return on my voice from the walls of the room, like some kind of exorcist sonar, an eight year old girl who thought she’d rather see a dolphin on screen.

I adore my voice and I would love for you to hear it. I adore your voice and am in the stars whenever I hear it.


Post-script:

I’ve wondered if there’s a way I can monetize this and the answer is no. I’m not being self-deprecating. I just don’t want or need the money enough to do what I know it takes to make this lucrative. [I mean look, what I really want is to be published. If you can get me printed in any context, dude, that would be way cooler.]

Nonetheless, I sometimes get asked how one might support my work. Well that’s the thing—support is everything isn’t it. So I’m asking everyone following me to choose a way to pay forward your enthusiasm for these daily love letters. And since it’s the holidays and fundraising season is upon us, I’m now officially asking:

Won’t you please consider donating in the name of these love letters, to one of the following organizations I serve:

Asian Arts Initiative: This is my basecamp, my HQ, my body, the me you see before you is a result of this amazing place. AAI isn’t just about Asian American artists but anyone whose life is touched by our experiences, and I’m frankly fucking proud of how deeply we serve our communities as protectors of pathways to arts practice. This work will especially feel resonant for those of you who don’t live in places like LA, SF and NYC.

Asian American Writers Workshop: I’ve seen this place go through some shit, y’all. I’ve been on this board since 2011 or so and can only tell you it has gone through a massive, commendable and astonishing evolution. It’s a vital platform for writers of all types of literature—they’re so good they’ve never accepted a submission from me LOL *sigh*—and truly, representing so many parts of the Asian diaspora. This is their 30th year of existence which is ba-na-nas. Support writers! Support justice! Support the diaspora!

Vox Populi: Vox is my safe place when I’m in conversations with insufferable art snobs and hipsters. I find myself not infrequently in high art conversations and people like to pull big dick moves on me with obscure fandom or information about a major thing I’m supposed to feel bad about not having already consumed. But I have Vox Populi. I have just to think about the font of joy and inspiration and the actual ACTUAL cutting edge, nay, BLEEDING EDGE that is Vox Populi, and feel better. This is a completely non-hierarchical justice-oriented artists collective, an unfussy membership organization that happens to be populated by some of the most brave, experimental, weird and sweet and beautiful artists in the Philadelphia region. Also not gonna lie, VP is an eye-poppingly low budget organization and needs every penny you can spare. If you’re debating between the three orgs, this is the one that needs it most.