Tag Archives: Being Asian

Pretty Lame

You’re pretty funny for a girl.

You’re pretty tall for an Asian girl.

You’re pretty outspoken for an Asian girl.

You’re pretty for a doctor.

You’re pretty for an Asian.

I’m never sure how to respond to such statements. Usually I just bite my tongue and say thanks with a tiny pinch of sarcasm thrown in. Unless I am slightly inebriated, in which case: good luck to you, sir.

I dated a guy in college who told me that while I wasn’t the prettiest girl he could date, he picked me anyway because I was the “best overall.” As he told me this, his face lit up excitedly like a Golden Retriever puppy, as though I would be equally excited to hear this.

My most recent ex confessed to me one day (looking back, it was the beginnings of the end) that he had really been looking to date someone 5-8 years younger than me (presumably because of my waning window of fertility) but that because I was “super awesome” (he speaks surfer) he thought what-the-hell and decided to be with me anyway. Actually, what he said, verbatim:

Ex: But because you are super awesome, I thought I’d snatch you up…or you might not get the chance!!! (referring to my chances of procreating)

Me: …

I did not see that coming. Silly me, I had expected, oh, I don’t know, something to the tune of: “…I thought I’d snatch you up…before someone else did!!!” In the moment, I had no response because I was sort of dumbfounded. The next day, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that on some level, he really did feel he was doing me a favor. That’s not a great feeling.

I don’t like to generalize, but these types of compliments are almost always from men. I know that they don’t mean any harm, but the extent to which they think a lady would be thrilled to hear these declarations might actually be more disappointing (watch this video). Ladies, for example, do not give backhanded compliments accidentally—when they are handed out, it’s usually with claws out, hoops off, and a side of death stare. You know where you stand. (“OMG! Love your bangs. They totally make your face look smaller!!!”)

My advice? If you are about to compliment a lady (or anyone for that matter) but your compliment contains a clause of any sort…just keep it to yourself. Because I’d rather be “average in general” than be “best of the…meh.” Nor do I feel like deciphering what your comment really says about you or about me.

Besides, if I really need an ego boost, I can call up my mom or my BFF to hear them tell me the truth: that I am super awesome :)

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I Love Hot Water

I'm S'well, thanks. How are You?

I’m S’well, thanks. How are you?

I am just full of love these days, apparently. But in all seriousness, I love hot water. I hate ice water: room temperature and higher only please. Even in high school, my friends would tease me about being an eighty year-old Asian lady when I would ask for hot water in restaurants. To be fair, it is pretty comical to see a seventeen year-old asking for a cup of hot water at TGI Fridays. (Hot water? Yes, hot water. Tea? No, just hot water please. Would you like lemon with that? No thanks, just hot water.) What can I say? I was raised with the idea that ice water is bad for digestion and I have sensitive gums. I swear I am not actually eighty.

I like to bring my own water to work, partly because I am too lazy busy to walk down the hall all day to get refills and partly in an effort to be environmentally conscious. I already feel quite guilty about using my fair share of non-latex gloves (mind out of the gutters…I work in a hospital) that probably take about a hundred years to degrade. Enter the S’well Bottle. Its website promised: “Drinks stay cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 without any condensation on the outside, ever.” I was intrigued, but skeptical. Plus, my inner FOB balked at the thought of paying $35.00 for a thermos. But they came in such pretty colors and textures (they have “Glitter” and “Shimmer” lines–I love sparkly things!) that I caved. I love my S’well Bottle! It really is awesome. I have actually burned my tongue at 4pm because it really does keep stuff f***ing hot for 12 hours, as promised. And they donate to various charities like the Unicef Tap Project, helping to provide clean drinking water to children in third-world countries. What’s not to love? I swear I do not work for them either, nor do I own their stock (but only because they are still privately-held, damn it), although the FOB in me would not refuse if they wanted to send me a gift bottle for my product-crush gushing. That’d be S’well :)

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Out of This World

I wonder if E.T. ever got his green card.

I wonder if E.T. ever got his green card.

When I was eleven, I found my grandma’s green card sitting on her dresser. It looked like a driver’s license except it said “Resident Alien” across the top. I ran excitedly to my parents, half-intrigued, half-freaked out: was I actually 3/4 Chinese and 1/4 extraterrestrial? They had a good laugh. In her late eighties, my grandma actually became a US citizen. She told my dad that she wanted to be a citizen of the country that had welcomed her as a grieving 64 year-old widow. If you are over 55 and have lived in the US for over 15 years, you can take the Naturalization test in your native tongue with a translator. One night, I overheard my grandma reviewing her study materials. She kept repeating “Bill Kuh-Linton” and “San Quai Man Tou” (my dad had taught her to say “three pieces of steamed buns” –which sounds remarkably similar to “Sacramento”– in response to “What is the state capital of California?”). It was one of the most touching things I have ever seen.

This weekend, I was talking to my new friend, O, and discovered he does not have a green card. He has lived in this country for almost 20 years, attended college here, works here, contributes to taxes and his community here. I was shocked. The average Chinese waiter’s 2nd cousin thrice-removed who doesn’t speak English has a green card. Apparently, it is more difficult when you come from a European country and don’t have an extended family or job that will agree to be your sponsor. Curious about this process that has allowed me to be a US citizen (I was born here, but my parents emigrated as students in the 1960s), I looked up the government website. And I found this little gem above. An Alien with Extraordinary Abilities? Like if you have frickin’ laser beams shooting out of your head? I don’t know about these criteria. Obama, I think we need some revisions here.

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Best Medicine

Lost in Translation?

Lost in Translation?

This reminds me of the clothes my relatives used to send me from Taiwan when I was in grade school. My mother didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to wear perfectly nice tees with pictures of cute animals. That were also emblazoned with pithy sayings such as “Love Me Beautiful Dog Friend” or “Tea Time is Nice for Rainbow Day.” This was way before hipster irony would make these even remotely cool.

Happy Friday! Or for fellow working-through-the-weekenders, Happy Hump Day!

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Not for the Faint of Heart

Yes, this is a real sign.

Yes, this is a real sign.

Yesterday, I found myself driving in the crowded parking lot of an Asian (not so) mini-mall. On Saturday night. There should be signs clearly stating: “ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.” It was every person for themselves while looking for a parking space and trying to dodge pedestrians crossing willy-nilly. There was an Asian woman in a white sedan who kept making last-minute changes in the direction she was turning: left, no, right, no, left, while waving a hand and mouthing “Sorry!” Okay, that might have been me. Regardless, as I turned back onto the main road, unscathed, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It occurred to me right then that this would make for a good video game. Like Frogger but more PETA-friendly, if a little politically incorrect. I’m just sayin’.

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You look like a nice Oriental lady. What country are you from?  My thoughts, in logical order:

  1. USA
  2. Umm, which part of my profile did you find to be grammatically incorrect?
  3. USA, jackass.
  4. Crap. Do I look like a FOB in my profile pic?
  5. I need a snack. And I hate online dating.

Then again, who am I to judge? It wasn’t until freshman year of college when I learned that Oriental should only be used to describe rugs, rice crackers or certain species of flora and fauna. Granted, my freshman year was so last century. Literally.

Where are you from? No, where are you FROM? No, what are you?

When I am in Asia, my dress, demeanor and accent get me labeled as “the American.”  Here, my Asian-ness is a defining characteristic-neither good nor bad, but as obvious as the color of my hair or the color and shape of my eyes. I’ve been called an ABC (American Born Chinese), a Twinkie or banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), Korean, Japanese, chink (not in the last two decades, thankfully) but I usually just prefer to be called by my first name. And I’m more interested in someone who wants to know who I am rather than what I am.  And that someone starts with me. For various reasons, the past year and a half gave me a shake-down to the core. I lost myself for a time and I’m still getting my bearings back.  I’m not sure where this is all going, but it is a beginning. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…or a single post. And maybe a few recipes and a cup of hot water. Ready or not, here we go!

Update: 6/13/15

My friend A recently sent me this hilarious video from Ken Tanaka. Hilarious because this has happened to me and most of my friends too many times to count.

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