My Submission, My Confession

My submission is my confession.

There is no other place I can unload this.

And I desperately need to extract these painful pieces out of me before they infect the rest of me.

Although I do appreciate the fusion of both Eastern and Western values within me, it has left me rather disintegrated. For the longest time, I could not find a way to peacefully reconcile the two.

The Eastern values have taught me humility, filial piety, accountability but they have also instilled a strong sense of guilt over my sexuality. The Western values have given me the courage to find my own voice, fight for my freedom and even chided me to stand firm on being true to myself. But sometimes the lines get blurred along the Western front, and I did lose myself on many occasions. Hence, I have had to rely on my Eastern values to reel me back. By default, my Eastern values have a way of suppressing my Western valour with its own brand of emotional blackmail.

I am supposed to be a good Asian girl, you see. And good Asian girls do not give herself easily over to men. She would be chastised if she dared display a carefree sexual attitude. It would be a bad reflection on her character, her upbringing, and above all, it would dishonour her entire family. God forbid that she would even fantasize about having sex with men, or women. She should not be thinking about sex, period. What she should always feel is shame. Yes, ashamed of her body’s innate natural instincts or needs. She is simply not entitled.

Good Asian girls do not allow desire to rule over us. Even if we could  feel it, no matter how remote or slight, we would not acknowledge it. We must immediately spit it out like venom. Thereby, making us all feel like we are toxic to begin with.

Our sensuality is not something beautiful or wonderful. It is definitely not to be celebrated. Therefore, we must shun it. It is not respectable for Asian girls to exhibit her sensuousness in any manner or form. Because these elicit immoral behaviour and thoughts from men. From the very clothes we wear to the way we speak, we must project the image of modesty and yes, purity. By all means, we must never run around like those American girls – braless and having sex with just about anyone they like. We must have some decorum and self-respect.

What decorum teaches us to hate ourselves, and our bodies? What kind of self-respect would we end up having in reality?

These are the voices that plague my mind for as long as I can remember. They sound like my sisters, my mother, my father, my grandmother and the whole Asian social structure weighing down on me like a dreaded tombstone. I feel certain they would accompany me even in death. I’d lie in that coffin, feeling as dead as I have always been. And I’d hear those very same words screaming through six feet under. They would become my “casket muzak”.

The words carved on my epitaph would read – “Here lies the Asian girl who was always too afraid of sex, and especially her sex. She hated her body as much as she abhors her sensuality. Her breasts became an inconvenience and her vagina, a mental asylum.”

The truth is, I did not arrive into this world all messed up. That was not how I began when I took my first breath of life. When I was 4, I was molested by an uncle/family friend. At 7, I witnessed a rape. Then, everything else just made the whole process of “growing up” less normal than most.

So, I asked myself at one point, “Is this all I want to remember? Is this how the rest of my life would play out?”

The “dash” that separates the date of my birth, and my death is the sum of my life and who I am.

And I wanted my “dash” to carry the richness and fullness of my life. Even if no one else would ever come to know. But I’d know, you see.

It took decades for me to figure out who I am, and what I am all about.

It took me even longer to sieve through the murkiness of both Eastern and Western values to find what’s of real meaning and relevance to me. No doubt their influences will never leave me in its entirety. I do not want them to either. Good or bad, they have helped mould me into the person I am today. Over the years, I have learnt to embrace what works for me from both of these priceless value systems, and have discarded (with much agony) those which only impaired me as an individual.

After over 43 years and counting, I can finally stand before everyone and say this with conviction –

When my number comes up, as I am sure it will some day, the inscription of my epitaph will reflect an authentic sexual journey that was uniquely mine. There would be no shame, no guilt or apology.

It shall simply read – “She lived, she came and she loved it. The End.”

Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

25 Comments
  • GK Adams
    April 25, 2013

    Wow. This post has left me virtually speechless. It was well written and I could honestly feel your inner struggle in your quest for answers. Even though you state at the end that you have accepted your “journey,” I wonder if you truly believe it. Forgive me for stating that, but it seems like you are trying to convince yourself. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      April 25, 2013

      GK, you didn’t offend me and I am touched that you have shown so much care and consideration in all this time. Honestly, it was tough and I had to work through a hell of crap to figure “me” out. I meant what I wrote at the end, with all my heart Hence, the post is now done. Writing it was a big deal in itself. Thank you for your comments 🙂

  • denmother
    April 25, 2013

    A most excellent epitaph. I read this post with interest as I struggle not with East/West but with sorting out my parents values (very religious and instilled in us kids from the get-go) with my own values. Theirs often overshadow mine as I’m supposed to be the “good Catholic girl.” I totally understand your struggle. Having things further confused by a horrible uncle is brutal. The silver lining is that at least we’re conscious of the struggle and not just blindly following where we were led.
    Denmother

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      April 25, 2013

      Thank you for sharing your story here! Means a lot to me. At the end of the day, we are our own saviours and we will become the heroes/heroines of our life story 🙂 Hugs x

  • Christine
    April 26, 2013

    Wow I enjoyed your thoughts! You are Eastern in your upbringing, Latino in your zest for life, Italian in your pursuit of lifestyle and American in your pursuit of happiness, liberty and justice . Yes enjoy life and dance to your own tune. If possible, contribute constructively to a your favorite cause and leave a footprint. Xx

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      April 26, 2013

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Christine. And it is interesting how you have managed to identify the different facets of me with different countries! haha. Yes, you are right. Contributing to my favourite cause would fulfill me deeply. Although it would not be about leaving a footprint for me, it would be great just to be able to do something or just give back. That said, I have yet to find a cause which could excite me and feel totally committed to, like you with saving dogs and your work with SPCA. I will keep searching…in the meantime, I will continue to help out the various NGOs that I have been supporting.

  • AL
    April 26, 2013

    Beautiful writing Shirley, thanks to Kels for sharing on FB! Coffee one of these days perhaps, i’m happy to share my thoughts on our sexual desires. For sure, no one will pat us on the back if we remain an angel, we only lose out in time for not fulfilling it! 😉

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      April 26, 2013

      Thanks for your comments, AL. It is a fine line between angelic and devilish. And I am not advocating for either 🙂 To me, it is about finding a balance that works for me. We each find our way to fulfill our own so-called “destiny”. Have a great day! 🙂

  • Jimmy
    May 15, 2013

    As an essay, very bland. But the content, I am gobsmacked. You do have a very interesting way to express your thoughts and as well the mixed up (confused perhaps?) feelings of your sexuality and emotions. I have never met or read of such intense feelings coming from an Asian lady. I do empathise with you. Do hope you find your peace long before you meet your maker. God Bless.

  • Joanna
    May 15, 2013

    Dear Shirley, your piece came at the right time for me! I’ve been trying to look within myself, wondering if I should hide this sexual being that I am for longer or let it out of its cage to stretch its legs, and explore the world around it. I am Asian, with Asian values that are becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to in an Asia that wants to climb out of its shell of Eastern values and join its Western cousin in standing tall and proud without shame of its sexuality. I am hardly an experienced wench when it comes to sex because I’ve been holding on to all that I was raised believing about it – the mostly bad and not at all good.

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      May 15, 2013

      Hi Joanna, thanks for taking the time to write and share. I appreciate it very much. We are not alone. I believe, there are many women in Asia and some are even in the West who feel constricted within their own social code of conduct, or family upbringing. That said, I believe that we can each design the kind of relationship we desire with our own sexuality and be accountable for it. There is really so much more to life, love and living. Also, do read my interview with Cindy Gallop. She shares her personal empowering message with women of all ages. Here is the link – http://shirleymaya.com/2013/04/28/no-holds-barred-with-cindy-gallop-of-makelovenotporn/
      I wish you all the very best and much joy in discovering your own brand of sexuality.

  • Anthony Alphonse
    May 16, 2013

    To be blunt you had a shocking start with the 2 unacceptable events but a positive note is that you have survived but still tarnished with those possibly vivid memories so I applaud you. As a confused UK Expat with an Asian Heritage now living in Malaysia I am still trying to get to get to grips with the archaic mentality of my brothers and sisters here. Discrimination both Gender & Racial, Bigotry which most countries have long left behind. Not all but lots need to wake up to the 21st Century and accept everyone for who they are regardless of colour creed or denomination!!

    • SHIRLEY MAYA TAN
      May 16, 2013

      Well said! Everyone should try their best to accept one another as they are. No one is perfect. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • N.POOLOHGASINGAM Huang Poh Lo
    June 13, 2013

    “She lived, she came and she loved it. The End.”..what a lovely summary. I am glad I stumbled upon you Maya, your stories are food for the mind.

    • shirleymaya
      June 13, 2013

      Thank you and please share what you like from my blog with as many friends as possible. It helps me too 🙂

  • busymindthinking
    July 31, 2013

    I knew before reading this post, just based on your message to me, I would see a person of great courage and conviction. I was right. You took two horrible circumstances and navigated through life to find the things you believe most, discarding the rest. This is no easy task under the best of circumstances. Your post was tender and full of impact. You are an insightful and beautiful individual. Many blessings as you continue to share and inspire others to find their own strength. Gentle hugs, Belinda

    • shirleymaya
      August 1, 2013

      Thank you for your very kind words. Means a lot. Love all your blog posts, Belinda. Inspiring to say the least! Hugs back!

  • Tracesofthesoul
    January 12, 2014

    Why had I never read this? My goodness, Shirley, you are the meaning of fearless and what makes a hero. Bless you for who you are…I can say it took me a few more years to accept my sexuality but I am proud…I have stories to share with a grand-daughter some day…hehe…and I’m still kickin’ {grins} my hero, hugs, Oliana xx

    • shirleymaya
      January 12, 2014

      Thank you for your very kind and supportive words. I feel the same about you, Oliana. You have been through so much, and you do so much for those less fortunate in more ways than I ever could. You are more than kickin’ it, you are fabulous rocking it! Hugs back x

  • scottishmomus
    January 18, 2014

    There is such apparent mystery attached to sensuality and sexuality. Everyone struggling to reconcile what is innate with cultural and religious upbringings that either seek to let go of everything or to fill with guilt for what is inherent to all humanity.
    To have it distorted at so young an age when true innocence should reign and ‘normal’ discoveries take place as life unfolds is so sad. ‘Normal’, of course, never really being normal for we all carry those cultural and religious perceptions that veil who we may truly be in regard to so many aspects of ourselves. Sexuality being only one.
    Your journey, Shirley, echoes so many including mine. Sensuality is in the mind and expressed in words and actions hopefully through feelings that are real and true.
    Your epitaph will say so much more. For in your sharing of self and your journey to self-discovery all are helped and learn to seek the same. Messages shared and received.
    Reaching out and touching. Many blessings. Soul sisters across the West and East. Every direction encompassed in love and discovery. x

    • shirleymaya
      April 19, 2015

      My dearest SS/AM, how did I ever miss replying to this comment of yours! Please do forgive me. It is a gift to read your words here today. Actually, it is always a gift and pleasure to read your words. Thank you for the email, by the way. I am so glad that you like the book. Your heart roars just like the book. In fact, you rock and roar, period!
      As always, it is a privieldge and joy in reading your wisdom and kind words. Some day, we must meet up in real life and have a real personal sharing between two soul sisters. In the meantime, I shall raise a glass of Scotch in your honour. On the rocks, of course. Big hugs and love x

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