John Nguyen

In times of struggle, we each have our own ways of coping. Some of us cry with a small group of friends, others with a larger group of friends. Community becomes paramount, helping us tackle shared issues. Together. 

Bonding Over Queer Struggles

I’m visiting one of my bisexual friends in her room. She tells me to go into her closet to fetch her her favorite hoodie. 

My other queer friend then asks, “Didn’t we just come out of the closet? Why are we going back in?”

How insensitive of my bisexual friend. She should’ve asked our straight friend to get the hoodie. To go in the closet. 

We all ugly-laugh.

Finding Community When Unable to Find Much Love

Chad asked Suzie out to the spring fling? Adorable. #couplegoals. 

Those cute middle-school love stories that many straight kids have experienced are, unfortunately, not as prevalent for LGBTQ-identifying individuals. 

Have you ever fallen in love with a man, forgetting that straight people exist? Oh, yeah, that’s me. Some of my queer friends can also relate. Deprived of those sweet, romantic anecdotes our entire lives, we’ve grown to be enchanted by basic human decency. 

Open the door for me? In love. 

Pick up my aqua 0.5mm Paper Mate InkJoy gel pen that I dropped on the floor? What a man.

Then I realize: Oh wait, you’re of the heterosexual species. Abort mission. My queer friends cry on the inside with me. 

Scrambling to Finish and Submit the Problem Set Together

The math pset is due at 11:59 p.m., and at 10:30 p.m., you and your procrastinating buddies are still trying to figure out the first question in the assignment. You keep complaining about the class, but have we dropped it yet? No. Instead, you expand the complaining circle. You don’t even know if you 100% want to major in anything STEM related. You’re just in this class because you think that since you excelled in high-school math, you’ll thrive in college-level math. Or maybe you’re here to please mommy and daddy with your calculus and chemistry skills. Or you’re forcing yourself to like math because STEM careers are the only way to make money in this world. Or maybe you have a superiority complex, like many STEM students do. Darn those pre-meds.

Pre-Med Struggle Buddies

They always say that they’re gonna fail all of their STEM courses. They sometimes huddle in groups. #premedgang. They complain about their workloads more than everyone else. So why don’t they just quit their pre-med paths to becoming doctors and surgeons? Well, then they’d be incapable of making you feel bad about both yourself and what you’re doing with your life. Don’t fall for their guilt tricks, though. Half of them will turn to public health.

The Poor Friends

At the Yale Bookstore, my low-income friends and my low-income self glance at various items for sale. My friend glances at an $80 cotton sweater, forgetting to look at the price tag. 

“This is so cute, I’m gonna buy it!” my friend exclaims.

I glare at him and say, “Last time I checked, we’re each living paycheck to paycheck. Keep it moving, honey. I know those pockets aren’t deep.”

Bonding Over Being Done with Men

One good-for-nothing heterosexual man — who’s only obsessed with hookups — can break many hearts. One of my girlfriends (one of my friends who happens to be female — I’m a gay man, and I’m not a player) happened to be heartbroken by the same guy as my other girlfriend. And guess what? They’re besties now.

“Bitch fuck him.” (“Fuck” is used here in order to express resentment, NOT to advise sexual activities with this insensitive, 18-year-old man-boy who’s burdened with overwhelming amounts of testosterone.) “You — no, we — deserve so much better than that.”

I’m proud of them. #empowerment.

Connecting Over Shared Cultural Practices

In many households, the best, most-effective way to discipline your child is through physical means. If this previous sentence scared you, then you don’t understand. And don’t be alarmed. (I’m speaking to you, Child Protection Services.)

On TikTok, for instance, you can see videos of Latinx children imitating their mothers, clutching the famous sandal known as the chancla. Or an Asian kid mimicking their parents, holding a ruler. Or simply using their naked hands. (I’m referencing all Asians, not just those with pale skin and of East Asian descent. Asia is not a monolith.) Different cultures. Different objects. Same idea.

The Directed-Studies Community

Whenever a student introduces themselves as a DS kid, others often respond, “How brave.” These students often form little pods to complain about how much they have to read: Plato, Aristotle, Homer or any other books of the Western canon. They grumble about how many essays they have to write, without actually doing any of the reading and writing. The assignments end up getting finished, though. Somehow. How is Sparknotes free? I have no clue. 

Co-Workers Bonding Over Difficulties with Their Manager

There’s always that one manager that has to make both your and your coworkers’ lives that much more difficult, especially if you’re working in customer service. 

Susan, how about you mind your own business and stop telling me how to do my job? Yes, I know I shouldn’t be drinking my caramel frappuccino during my shift, but can’t you see I’m thirsty? And exhausted? And please stop staring at me to make sure I’m on task. That’s kind of creepy. I’m flattered you’re enthralled by this otherworldly beauty. But don’t you know I’m gay

Being fed up with that one strict, lifeless manager bound my coworkers and me together.

Vietnamese Mothers Connect Over Their Exhaustive Work and Husbands

Many Vietnamese moms living in the United States make a living using their hands, whether it be cooking in restaurants, working on the assembly line or, of course, doing manicures and painting Barbara’s nails. These long working hours that many of them share glue them together. 

The Vietnamese women usually cook for their husbands at friendly gatherings. The women laugh, gossip and tell stories alongside one another. Community. I can’t tell if it’s natural friendship, or if they’re bonding over how their husbands are lazy. Either way, bonding. 

And be kind to your nail technicians. Please don’t have stinky feet when you arrive for your appointment. The nail salon workers have a close-knit community. They’re able to smile while talking about you negatively in their mother tongue. Remember that the chihuahua can be deadly when provoked. (No, I’m not comparing the nail ladies to dogs. That’s demeaning.)

Painfully Long Religious Ceremonies with Friends

Whenever my parents force me and my sisters to go to the temple with them and listen to the monk chant various Buddhist mantras, I’m always clueless. For six hours, my sisters and I sit on the rug criss-cross applesauce. Our booty bones ache the entire time. I have no idea what the monk is saying, but surely it’s something beautifully positive. Or as the monk would say: enlightening. My fellow Buddhist friends and I groan together. 

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In the end, I guess we don’t need any professional therapy. We just need each other.

John Nguyen | john.nguyen@yale.edu