As a kid, I was used to standing out for lots of reasons, like my “Star Wars” obsession or the black eyeliner and vampire chic that made up my high school wardrobe.
I never expected my race to be one of those reasons.
I grew up as an Asian-American among Asian-Americans, so I certainly wasn’t used to being viewed as what we English Lit majors call “the exotic other.” Even when I went to college in St. Louis, it wasn’t that much of a problem. I did go on a date with a guy who went on about his trip to Japan and the extreme “femininity” of its women, but that was about it.
It wasn’t until I moved to the UK that it kicked in: men – and it was always men – shouting “NEE HOW MA” or “KOH-NEE-CHEE-WAAAH” or even “Me love you long time!” as I walked down the street; starting conversations with “Soooo … are you from … China?” before they’d even asked my name; playing up their supposed interest in Asian culture while going on about how “feminine” and beautiful Asian women are. Keep reading »
It was a workday of minor annoyances. Everything at my temp job had gone normally, except for a snippy email from IT and a laminator malfunction that forced me to dig out a half-laminated page with a fork.
So why was I crouched in a bathroom stall, hyperventilating, sobbing, and trying not to scream?
A coworker insisted I see a doctor, who said my meltdown was probably due to anxiety and depression. I was shaken – but not entirely surprised.
I was born and raised in a majority-Asian community in Hawaii, where mental health issues are not discussed. Granted, since most of the people in that community are second- to fourth-generation Asians, there are some exceptions, although these exceptions are determined by an unspoken code. (It has to be an unspoken code. If you can’t discuss mental health, you can’t discuss discussing mental health, either.) As far as I can figure, you get a pass if you’ve tried to kill yourself or at least been hospitalized. Anything else is something that you just get over eventually. Don’t dwell on your emotions all the time. We must endure. That was the message. Keep reading »
Me: I’m sorry! It’s just not going in!
Him: Don’t worry – we can always try later…
Me: I’m really sorry! I’m just so scared! (Sobbing. Tearful search for bra.) What if this never works?
That was me and my now-fiancé during one of many abortive attempts to have sex for the first time.
For years, I viewed sex as something like the Ark of the Covenant in “Indiana Jones”: immensely powerful and great beyond belief, but if you tried to use it in an unrighteous way the wrath of God would melt your face off.
I grew up in a church which, like many churches, taught us that sex before marriage was Wrong with a capital W. To their credit, they also taught us that sex within marriage was brilliant, but still. This was a church where one of the pastors hadn’t even kissed his wife until their wedding day. We also learned that in courting situations (we were discouraged from the secular institution of dating; “courting” was the spiritually safe alternative) girls should also dress modestly because men’s thoughts so easily fall into temptation. Although a heated moment could seduce us into wanting sex ourselves, the message was that boys wanted sex and girls shouldn’t give it to them until the wedding night. A quick scan through my own experience, however – especially late at night – would have revealed that girls could feel the pull of temptation just as much as boys.The nature of that temptation was never really discussed. The few teenagers in the church were too embarrassed to ask about it; I know I was. It also didn’t help that this was a church full of middle-aged and elderly Asian people who did not talk about sex. Keep reading »