“Are your parents okay with it?” That’s the first thing many people ask me when they hear that I am dating someone white. Most of those asking were other Asian girls, who struggle with their parental preferences on their dating life. Asian American girls often hear about what it means to date white to our Asian American peers (male and female) on blogs, but less about our parents. Continue reading
When I was seven or eight, I remember sitting at the dinner table, glowering at the food in front of me. As my family got ready to eat, I accused my parents of neglecting me and my brother. You’re never around! And other such accusations flew out of my mouth. The moment they were uttered, I could see the raw hurt flash in my father’s eyes.
My parents have loved me and my brother more than anything else in the world. They weren’t home until dinnertime because they were working all the time. Growing up, my mom worked in a clothing factory, her back hunched over a sewing machine from dawn to dusk. Her eyes would go bleary as they watched the needle endlessly pierce cloth under harsh lights. My dad worked as a construction worker and contractor. He often came home with paint, dirt, or wood dust on his shirt and between his nails. He did everything from tearing out walls to reconstructing roofs. My parents were paid probably lower than minimum wage, and this was during the nineties. They slowly chipped away at a mortgage for a house in San Francisco while supporting my grandmother, my brother, and me. Their lives weren’t glamorous and they could barely afford the two gifts I got each year. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but the only reason they came to America was to give me and my brother a better life than they had in China – they had grown up during the communist era, starving through the Great Famine and lacking education beyond middle school.
So why did I think my parents didn’t love us back then, when they so clearly did?
When I took my photography class last year, I felt drawn to taking photos of Asian Americans, perhaps because there is such a lack of representation of Asians in our media. While pursuing a photobook on Chinatown, I found myself with some great photos of children. Here are a couple of the most striking children I met. Continue reading
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” It’s a phrase commonly known today. But I never realized how significant food was to my heart – a woman’s heart – until last year.
“Did you eat yet?” – I grew up hearing this greeting from almost every Chinese adult I met. The tradition came from surviving difficult periods of poverty in China, when food of any kind was scarce. It became a habit of asking each other if someone has eaten yet as a phrase of endearment. You asked in the past, hoping your friend has eaten already, and if they haven’t, you offer what you can. Today, it’s just a greeting, but signifies how you care about the person. There’s a popular t-shirt I once saw that said, “‘Did you eat’ means ‘I love you.’”
Asian masculinity has been a long standing issue in American culture, particularly with all the detrimental stereotypes and yellow fever, where Asian males see white males “stealing their women.” For example, in response to Jenny An’s article where she declares she would never date an Asian male, Clarissa Wei wrote “I Am an Asian Woman and I Think Asian Boyfriends Are Superior (Well, Mine is Anyway),” where Wei embraces the model minority rather than rejects it. “Hard-working, humble, unwavering loyal to the family? …Why the hell would you say no to that?” she declares. But does she miss the point?
I was reading a good friend’s blog when I fell across the words “I was Chinese, which is like the boring brand of Asian.” These words struck me. I remember freshman year of college, there was a meeting of my dorm’s entryway. We were all in a circle, playing one of those annoying ice breaker games, where you had to say three (fun and fascinating) things about yourself. A lot included their ethnicity as a fact. “I’m Greek”, “I’m Japanese”, “I’m Italian.” All of these elicited an “ooo” or an “ahh.” That week, I began to notice that among the major Asian ethnicities, there is a hierarchy in American perception: Japanese, Korean, and last, Chinese. There’s an “ooo” factor to the first two, but there’s an “eh, ok” response to the last in America.