pan-da, /ˈpandə/, noun:
1. A large bearlike mammal with characteristic black and white markings, native to certain mountain forests of central and western China. It feeds almost entirely on bamboo and has become increasingly rare.
2. A person who is noticeably different from others. (the "brown bears")
Viewers who first got to know me on The Bachelor know where the term "panda" comes from, but if you're new to the site, let me fill you in. It all started in episode 5 when I said...
First, let me provide some behind-the-scenes intel. When I said that it was in a very long ITM and with too many Sauvignon Blancs in me. If you saw the season, you'll know that was the infamous night in Vietnam, when Clare Crawley made out with Juan Pablo in his private hot tub (they would later frolic in the ocean together). What you didn't see was the rest of us girls on the group date waiting—that hot tub jaunt alone took in ballpark of 2 hours, let alone all the 1-on-1 time he was meant to share with each of us—bored out of our wits, and thus packing back the vino. So, was I maybe a little drunk when I said the above quote? Ahem, yes. But I do stand by saying it and believe in the meaning behind it!
After the above scene aired, my online world blew up with people making fun of me. For weeks I was told on Twitter to get over myself, #vomit, "ugh, just go away", and was even accused of being slightly racist. (I'm still not sure I get how that one works.) But as the weeks wore on, viewers warmed to me and came to love the reference. Those of you who read this blog are the ones I know get the meaning. I've spent a great deal of my life feeling different, and I don't think I'm alone in that. Being a "panda" is not about looks, but a je-ne-sais-quoi that you don't know until you see. Whether in reference to yourself or someone else, it represents a differentness you perhaps can't quite put your finger on.
Now for some backstory on what it means to me. For 6 years of my life I dated a lovely man from Toronto. We met at a Toronto Film Festival party in 2003, where several times throughout the evening we caught each others' glances across a crowded room—until I finally marched up to him and gave him my number. Later, on our first date, he told me something I will never forget: "When I saw you, you were like a panda in a room full of brown bears."
It means more than just looking a certain way or being someone's type. To us it meant a certain something about someone being inexplicably different and just... fitting. And someone's panda will most certainly be the next person's brown bear, and vice versa. (For inquiring minds, to this day he and I are still very dear friends and he and Andy get along like old chums.)
A Name Is A Name Is A Name
After my season aired, I wanted to write The Bachelor recaps from the perspective of a former contestant. My goal was to create the sort of recaps that I, as a critical (yet longtime) viewer, would have wanted to read. When coming up with a title for this blog in 2014, I knew I wanted to incorporate "panda" into the name somehow because of what it represented to me and the folks who understood my unique definition of the word.
Layout photos: Kevin Tun
Blog design: Gurl Gone Social
Illustrations: Sam Johnstone
"About Sharleen" sketch: Chic Sketch