Boy, do I have some Tales to Tell...
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I'm 37 years-old.

For a large part of my life, I struggled with being Asian. Everything about it bothered me. I cringed at inviting my friends into being a part of my family. Not my nuclear one. Actually, never my nuclear one. But definitely the rest. I remember being both embarrassed and resentful of what my Asian relatives thought, believed, and said. I always felt that my relatives perpetuated a stereotype that I hated. Not that I was not brought up to fit that stereotype. I just hated that they had to basically throw it in my face. Or at least, I felt like they were.

Speaking of my face, I really did not like the way I looked. As a youth, I was overweight. I had this pudgy Asian look that I could not accept. I knew I wanted to do something about it. I wasn't sure what but I had to do something. Maybe get my nose done.

When I went college, I ended up living in the International Dorm. Which was populated mostly by Asians. I also majored in Electrical Engineering. Which was populated by Asians. And I belonged to the South East Asian Student Association. Which was populated by... Asians. I think part of me was trying to find an alternative to what my relatives represented. I did. But I still felt that there was this underlying mentality that I could not escape. Unless...

When I got out of college (with my Electrical Engineering Degree, pleasing my Asian relatives), I basically removed myself from being around mostly Asians. I felt that I needed to be around others with different ways of thinking. I kept in touch with a few college friends. Mostly the non-Asians. Actually, only two were Asian. And now they are married to each other. I actually set them up, inadvertently. But, I digress...

Anyway, out of college, I hung out with everyone else except Asians. I did my best to be around non-Asians. I look back now and find it silly. Silly that I would put so much effort into being that way. There were times when I would be the only Asian in the group. Actually, I remember many times when I would be the only non-Caucasian. That's what happens when you become part of the circuit party... um, circuit. Thankfully, I no longer am.

I am not sure where I turned the corner. Maybe it is all part of becoming a mature person. Maybe as you get older you can't be bothered by all the limitations or expectations you placed on yourself as a youth. Maybe it's because I have been in a nurturing relationship with a man who has taught me to enjoy people for who and what they are. I still find some of my relatives expectations ridiculous. But I no longer associate those expectations with being Asian. Because, according to my friend, Jews are the same way. But I digress again.

The other day, I was shaving. As I looked in the mirror, this different feeling came over me. I realized that I have not felt resentment for being Asian. I have not resented the slanted eyes or the non-pointed nose. I don't even remember the last time I felt "embarrassed" about being Asian. I felt proud of what I looked like. I felt proud of what I felt like. I felt proud of being Asian. Okay. Proud may be a strong word. But, I did feel good about what I saw in the mirror. A mature Asian man who no longer feels less for being that. Not bad, eh? Later.
Growing up, I never realized I was "Asian". I was just a kid first, ethnicity was much further down the line. I also thought of everyone else the same way. I hung out with the Asian kids by default, but realized the hard way that others didn't think the same way as I did, when my group of friends ostracised me for being "too white" and for talking to other non-Asian kids. Now, at 40, I'm shocked when someone on the street calls me a "chink" or a "chinaman" or when at work someone asks me where I'm "from." It seems as outdated as "nigger" or calling a woman "honey" but it still happens.

There aren't many Asians in this town, and of those that do, few work in the field that I do. So I don't have any Asian friends. I don't feel "different" until I look in the mirror.

I get frequent comments on how small I am, or that I am "too skinny" and I know when I look in the mirror that I don't look anything like the hunks in the movies or the models (even though few people do, many have the nose, or the jaw, or the eyes, or at least the skin tone).

I still hate the way I look, sometimes with a passion. But it's not because of being Asian. I just wish I were one of the studly alpha's who can walk around with no fear of taking their shirts off.

So for you, "not bad" is actually "quite great." I'm happy for you.
so does that mean today is your birthday? how come you didn't tell me? :-)
I'm so pleased that you are proud when you look in that mirror. I think we all strive to be something different in life and i guess that that is part of being human. As long as we are essentially happy then that is a good thing.

Is it your birthday? If it is Happy happy birthday. If not, i send you a hug anyway.

I hope all is well with you over in NY.

Kev in NZ
i would bet there's a lot out there who could relate to, and hopefully learn from your post. i don't have much of an issue about being embarassed (for being asian.

my issue is that i actually felt i'm being discriminated or looked down by, surprisingly, asians!
everytime i go out and see asians, i try to be friendly to them. but i felt i was pushed away several times by them, maybe for the same reason why you chose to hang-out with non asians.

i still can't pinpoint the reason why. but perhaps it is what kevin said. we strive to be different and being with the same kind doesn't let us do that.

good post!
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Eating up the City before it eats me up. I'm a freelance cook who spends his free time working out, cooking for "my man", and wondering why the Right is so concerned about my bedroom.

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