“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?
Uh-oh, does dating this white guy make me more American and racist against myself?
The taboo topic of Asian American women dating outside their racial circle was reignited recently by Jenny An’s “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man,” where she bluntly announced that she’s a racist because dates white males to make herself more American. Certainly I understand An’s internal angst about feeling like an Other in a white America, but does dating someone white validate my the “American” in “Asian American?” As an Asian American female dating a white male, I couldn’t disagree more with An’s philosophy.
If Jenny An wished for a white man to reaffirm her Americanness, I find it to produce an opposite effect. Going to predominately white communities with my boyfriend, I wonder if people look or treat me differently than they do him sometimes. Having a white boyfriend isn’t a “get out of jail free” card in America. People still say racist things, including “Your English is so good” or “Where are you really from?” Like most Asian Americans (and likely any other Americans who aren’t white), regardless of gender, we’ve had to negotiate these feelings of being treated as an outsider. Having a body-guard works as well as putting a Band-Aid over a fracture. Jenny An should probably start with figuring out how to be okay with her own skin rather than using her boyfriend’s as a shield.