1. I’m 15 and for the first time in my life, a teacher calls me out on sleeping in class when I’ve been awake the whole time. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened earlier, because kids have made fun of my eyes since preschool. Times are a-changing I guess. I’m the only Asian in my class, one of three in my entire high school, and people bring it up all the time for the rest of the year. I get it. It’s funny, that time our old, kinda-racist teacher thought I was sleeping because my eyes are small. My eyes aren’t even that small!
2. I’m 12 and my mom is teaching me how to smile so that my eyes don’t disappear. No one likes a squint. I’m 0 percent invested, so I don’t learn. I do know that the word for squint in Mandarin is mī, and it forms your mouth in a squint when you pronounce it, like a lyrical “me,” lips tight for the ‘m’ and barely parted for the ‘ī’. I don’t read much into that. It’s just a happy coincidence, like how “groovy” ends on a smile.
3. I’m 20 and sometimes my friend points out that my eyes disappear when I smile really hard. I think — I know — I think she doesn’t mean it in a shitty way (“I always forget that you’re Asian,” she’s also said), but every time I hear it, it burns red hot in my brain for the rest of the day. I’ve learned enough to know that when I was 15 and people said, “It’s funny because your eyes aren’t even that small,” they were also saying, “You don’t look that Asian.” I suspect this is the same kind of thing. Then I suspect that I’m doing a lot of introspection for a hang sesh with my friends. Keep reading »
I am biracial, borne of a Taiwanese mother and American father. My features are decidedly not Caucasian, but hard to pin down to one specific category, a tiny frustration that gets at the heart of humans, because subconsciously, we all live to categorize. I deal with a host of questions pertaining to my background from “What you mixed with, girl?” to the timid “What … background are you?” I will entertain these questions, my response varying on the scale from begrudging to enthusiastic. It’s a conversation that I have a lot, and I’ve come to just suck it up and deal because people do not deal well with ambiguity. To categorize, to separate, to push things into clearly labeled boxes soothes the mind. It sets expectations, dictates how to behave, and prevents you from making statements like the ones I’m about to discuss. Keep reading »
In case my last name doesn’t make it obvious enough, I’m Asian. At the same time, as some of my friends have noticed, my last few girlfriends have all been decidedly not Asian.
To their mock-raised eyebrows, my response is, “I’m sorry. It’s not my fault.”
Okay, okay, I know what they’re thinking: As an Asian, I’m supposed to like “my own kind,” right?
Sure. And eat rice … and love math … and know just how much starch to add to your laundry … and all those other uncomfortable, racial stereotypes we’re not supposed to talk about.
Not surprisingly, I’ve often been slapped with the “Twinkie” label. In case you aren’t hip on your semi-offensive urban speak, a Twinkie is an Asian who acts white—that is, yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.
But, here’s a secret: My preference for dating non-Asian women wasn’t a conscious choice. Keep reading »