Where are you from?
I’m from Los Angeles –- born and raised.
Like a lot of American girls who passed their childhood in the 90s, I grew up on a healthy staple of Saturday night cartoons, Barbie dolls and Easy Bake Ovens.
Like everyone else, on Halloweens, I would dress up in my favorite Disney princess costume and solicit my cul-de-sac for candy. Like everyone else, I reserved my fat pants for Thanksgiving dinner and like everyone else, a big part of my childhood after-school meals consisted of McDonald Happy Meals and sundaes from Baskin Robbins.
I didn’t see how I was different from anyone else in school, but other people clearly did.
In preschool, a blonde by the name of Brittney went up to me, slanted her eyes and laughed in my face. All throughout elementary and parts of middle school, I felt alienated because I was a minority. At last, my family moved from the Valley to a predominantly Chinese town in the eastern portion of Los Angeles just so I would fit in.
But the taunts continue today.
Often times when I walk down the streets by myself, I get catcalls in the form of “Ni hao ma?” and “Konnichiwa.” Whenever I bust out my camera to take pictures of my food (I’m a food writer by the way), people roll their eyes and comment on how that’s so Asian. And whenever I drive aggressively –- it gets dismissed as, “Wow what an Asian thing to do.”
Yo. Maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles and am sick and tired of the traffic here. I don’t see how race has anything to do with my driving.
Don’t be a dick. Here’s how:
Don’t ask me where I’m from.
I’ll say Los Angeles, and you’ll say: “Where’s your family from?” I’ll say Taiwan and you’ll rattle on about that one fact you know about Taiwan and though I’m nodding my head in politeness I’m really thinking, “What a douche.” Sometimes I’ll return the favor and ask where you’re from.
“Michigan, but I spent a good majority of my childhood in Ohio,” you’ll say.
“Where are your ancestors from?” I’ll clarify, giving you a taste of your own medicine.
At this point you’ll look confused. Newsflash –- you and I grew up in the same country.
Don’t tell me about that one Chinese restaurant you’ve been to and how much you loved it.
I can’t count the number of times a guy has used this as a basis for flirting and conversation. I’m not impressed! Guess what? I ate a hamburger with grilled onions from In-N-Out for lunch and well, it was fantastic. Did you care? I didn’t think so.
Though I will take you out to good Chinese food if you’re genuinely interested.
Don’t ask me to teach you to swear in Mandarin.
Yes, I’m semi-trilingual (English, Mandarin and I can understand Taiwanese) but I’m not fucking Siri.
Do not ask me if I’ve eaten dogs.
Because I will laugh in your face. Yes, dog-eating is a thing in China and Korea but it’s really not as pervasive as you probably think. In case you were wondering, the meat is usually served in hot pots (the Chinese version of fondue), but believe me when I say most Asians don’t eat dogs. And hey –- people in Louisiana and New Orleans eat gators. I don’t go around asking people from around there whether or not they’ve eaten an alligator. So don’t ask me if I’ve eaten a dog. And even if I have, I won’t go into your backyard, murder your precious Chihuahua and boil him in broth.
Sure we have our share of “bizarre foods” but what’s weird is in the eye of the beholder right? At the very least, we’re resourceful. Pig intestines are delicious, by the way.
Chinese cuisine may be different from yours, but that doesn’t make it any less developed. As a Chinese food writer, I’ve had so many people tell me, “Sorry but your food kind of looks like throw-up to me.”
So what if we eat chicken feet? It’s called being resourceful.
To those haters. A) You’re probably still soliciting your local Americanized-Chinese food vendor whose menu consists of chop-suey and moo shu pork which is why your food looks like a big glob of MSG and starch B) Go to a highly-acclaimed Chinese restaurant and try the real stuff. Order something other than dumplings, fried rice, stir-fry chicken and noodles. I swear there’s more to Chinese food than that.
Take a bite. How about an order of Peking duck or an oyster omelet? Get rid of your prejudices and pre-conceived notions that Asian food is bizarre and you’ll begin to realize why half the world eats this type of food.
If you’re in Los Angeles –- hit me up. I will personally show you just how awesome my people’s food can be.
Don’t be surprised when you realize I’m bad at math and the sciences.
I got a D in Geometry, I never got higher than a B in high school math. There’s a good reason I write for a living. I can’t count the number of times I get the bill pushed to me after a group dinner because people automatically assume I can calculate all the digits in my head. My fellow Asian people tend to be the worst offenders.
“Why are you so bad at math? You’re Asian.”
Yes, given the amount of money spent on my education, I should be at least proficient at math. (Sorry Mom and Dad.) I was enrolled in intensive math boot camps beginning in elementary school. In middle school, I was forced to take college-level math classes at a local college and in high school, I took four AP-level math and science classes at the urging of my parents.
I did horribly.
My peers and teachers in my predominately Asian-American town constantly belittled me for not being good at what they were awesome at. I was judged constantly because of my grades and afterschool-tutoring centers looked me straight in the eye and told me I would not get accepted into a prestigious university because I sucked at math. Fuck you guys, by the way.
At one point I decided enough was enough. I packed my bags for New York City and started a career in journalism. My mother cried for weeks.
Don’t ask me if I can tell the difference between Asians.
Can you tell the difference between white people?
Don’t assume I can’t gain weight.
Because I can and I do. I struggle with my weight like with anyone else. I used to count the calories religiously, I hated and still hate my awkward stomach fat and there’s a constant internal battling waging within my subconscious about portion size. It’s especially difficult given that I eat out for a living. My secret? Weekly hiking sessions.
For your information, eating disorders are just as pervasive within the Asian-American community and for people with more traditional Chinese parents like myself, scrutiny when it comes to physical appearances is intense.
“Why are you so fat?” “Why are you so tan?” “Why do you still have pimples?”
These are questions my parents bombard me with on a weekly basis. They don’t do it out of ill will. It’s a cultural thing. Their parents did it to them and they have and always will continue doing it to me.
God forbid I pass that practice down to my children.
Don’t ask me if Asian guys indeed have small penises.
I get a lot of inappropriate questions about the anatomy of Asians and that’s just not okay. And no our vaginas are not sideways. We’re the same fucking species.
And lastly, don’t call me your token Asian friend.
Because we sure as hell won’t be friends if you’re still a dick.
Treat me as an equal and we’ll be friends. I promise.