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Asian Americans

It is Thursday (and actually soon will be Friday…) Yes, I am cheating again by backdating my post. But it IS Wednesday somewhere in the world, right? Oh. Who cares. It is a WTF post by me when I’ve got my WTF glasses on. (Yeah, this line is for you my Wicked Kitchen Lady…) So WTF ANYTIME… FTW!

We received a Christmas card from a high school friend of my husband’s. The address label on the envelop was one of those personalized family labels with the faces that are supposed to represent each member in the family.

Get your family labels here! Personalized to fit your family!

Our friends are of Asian descent, and therefore the figures on the address label all have black hair, and it does remind us of them: with the appropriate hair styles. To my surprise, my husband was interested in getting a set for us.

“Maybe for next Christmas?” He emailed me with the link.

Don’t you just love how they add things to your list with a nice question like that?

Fine. I thought. It could be cute. Naturally I was already wondering how we were going to represent our multiracial family. Perhaps I could get some message out with each letter I mail. Represent! I thought. Things could get very interesting. I thought. Little did I know that it was going to be VERY INTERESTING alright.

I browsed through the site, looked at the samples, and clicked on ORDER:

Choose your head and hair style here: Male and female heads

They do have a wide selection for heads/hair styles. At this point, my kids became curious in this project and they were getting excited, impatiently waiting for their turn to choose their own faces.

“Oh oh oh. Choose this one!”

“No. Mom looks more like this one!”

Finally we (i.e. the kids) settled on a hair style for me.

So many heads, so little time... to make my decision I mean...

By selecting the head style, we were then shown a variety (i.e. THREE) of different skin tones and many hair colors to choose from.

So many hair colors to choose from! Should I go with my natural color or my highlighted color?

“Mom, pick the Dark Brown Hair. That looks more like you.” My oldest said.

“Mom, I am not sure what you should choose for your skin color. That one is too light, and that one is too dark.” My youngest said. He is a man of 100% honesty.

I was relieved that the instruction gave me the permission to select “Fair Skin” for myself, since I consider my complexion to be “tan”. I thought I’d go with Black Hair and Tan Skin because I did not want people to mistake me for a non-Asian person. However, my hair has not been BLACK BLACK for almost a decade: I discovered highlights many years ago and baby, let me tell you: I ain’t gonna go back. Fine. She looks too happy anyway. What I need really is a scowling face. I went with the kids’ suggestions.

Here comes the WTF moment. The first WTF moment…

(The following is a “dramatized” version of the screen I saw at the initial WTF moment. I went through the ordering process just so I could grab a screenshot to show you, my friends. You are welcome)

My jaw dropped. Add-on Features. “Asian eyes” is one of the 3 add-on features offered by the company. Along with Glasses and Santa Hat.

Asian Eyes. One of the only 3 add-on features. Me so honored.

“What the…?!” I stopped myself short. The kids looked at me, then looked at each other.

“Mom. You should check ‘Asian Eyes’ because you are Asian.” Mr. Monk, my youngest, said. With all honesty.

“Shut up.” My oldest chastised his brother.

“Hmmm. Honey, do you know that they offer ‘Asian Eyes’ as an Add-On Feature?! Next to Santa Hat and Glasses?!” I hollered at husband.

“Mom. What do the, eh, Asian Eyes look like?” My oldest asked. Now fully invested in this new development as well.

So we searched high and low on the website, and we finally found it. Ta da!

WTF Moment Numéro deux

Seriously. Do those eyes even belong to a human?

“What the heck is this? Voldemort?!” I was so startled by the unreality of it I burst out laughing.

My oldest was indignant. “That is so racist!”

“What is racist?” My youngest asked. But fortunately, immediately, “Those don’t look like your eyes. You should just use the black dots.”

I laughed even harder when I saw the labels for kids: “Have your kids feel special!”

Asian eyes, what? for the straight A kids? (Yes yes, I know, yet another stereotype...)

Oh, little Jennifer is going to feel special alright… When she is shown to be some evil spirit, creepy imbecile, or wicked mastermind with no pupils.

CODA: I am not trying to read too much into this. I am sure the company does this out of good intentions. What kind of idiot would want to set out to offend paying customers, right? They are trying so hard to operate in this multi-cultural, multi-racial, complex and wonderful world that the United States of America has become. But seriously, dude? Those “Asian Eyes” are beyond creepy. They gave me nightmares. I was wondering why you stopped there? Why didn’t you include an Add-on feature for Coolie Hat? (Ok. Ok. I can’t help it!…)

Asian eyes? Take that!

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Unknown Mami over at well, Unknown Mami, struck gold with this great idea of creating yet another Internet Meme:

I comment therefore I am.

Unknown Mami

The idea is: we express ourselves, in addition to through our own blogs, also by leaving traces of ourselves with our comments all over the interweb.  Unknown Mami decided that all of our comments are worthy enough to be turned into real posts. Because she herself is a prolific commentator, she is turning this into a weekly feature on her blog, otherwise the post would get too long… she said.

An idea that cuts down the actual writing? Esp. in the blasted month of NaBloPoMo? I am 100% down with it. I will at least try it this once. Take that NaBloPoMo! Another DAY bites the dust! Besides, I always do believe that comments are often the funniest, sometimes the scariest (i.e. on the political blogs), yet always the most revealing part of a website/blog.

I thought some of you may want to play too!  So gather up all of your stellar comments: all your humorous, ironic, sarcastic, poignant, illuminating, sincere, pontificating comments, and turn them into a post.

The following are selected evidence of my insomnia, my restlessness, when I roam the earth in search of my next victim…  Again, warning: discussions of Race and Stereotypes abound…

In response to #11 Asian Girls on the list that Stuff White People Like

Disclaimer/Explanation: The way I see it, this site, Stuff White People Like, employees a tongue-in-cheek, straight-faced, sardonic, wry humor that I recognize in myself. When I saw #11 Asian Girls, I thought it was hilariously awesome. If we cannot laugh at ourselves, we have no right to laugh at the others. That’s how I view this world. Of course, of all the “items” listed on this HUMOR site, #11 has proven to be the most controversial and incited the most comments, and heated debates. Please be warned, and I am being serious, many most of the 17,295 (as of today) comments are lewd (even by my standard) and malicious. And in case you wonder, yes, I did read through many pages of the previous comments, before I left mine on Page 454. I considered it to be Cultural Study. Or as Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without a single failure.” (I have to google this shit up too. So no, just because I am Chinese doesn’t mean I have studied the Art of War…)

p.s. Something funny: I actually “tracked down” the genius who wrote #11 Asian Girls, and he wrote, “Yes, I am the non-white guy that is part of StuffWhitePeopleLike. Please stop sending my hate mail…”

Without further delay, here is one of the finest comments I have written. A masterpiece in the art of sarcasm.

#11 Asian Girls

submom on June 10, 2009 at 9:58 am

Dear Sir, I would like to thank you for putting us #11 out of the many things that white people like. I feel truly honored. (Do NOT imagine me saying that in an accent a la Master Splinter…)

On the other hand, I have to be honest, I am rather peeved that we are not on the Top 10 List. (Wes Anderson?! Ok. Fine. I can live with that. I like him too) I am not sure whether you have had a chance to read through all 14500+ comments generated by this post. (Great job! Congrats!) Granted most of them are hate mails from all groups of males: Maybe for once they can all agree to hate Asian females and hate each other? I thought I’d leave a post to thank your readers for the new insights about ourselves that I didn’t know before.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from your ab. fab. and maddeningly funny post:

1. If you are white and male and you are looking to date a girl of Asian descent (hey, let’s be PC here, peeps!) show her to your other Asian, preferably male, friends. (If you have no other friends of Asian descent, hmmm, I think there should be another post about this situation but I digress…) As a last resort, take her to any Asian restaurant (No, Panda Express does NOT count!) Ask them whether she is HOT by their standards. Do not trust your own judgement.

2. If you are a girl of Asian descent and are fielding interest from a non-Asian male, do ask him whether he’s ever been to Asia and more importantly, whether he’s taught English there. If YES to the latter or if he has stayed there for longer than a month, RUN.

3. If he says, “I love Panda Express.” Punch him in the nose and then RUN.

4. If you think you may be suffering from Yellow Fever or Asian Fetish, you really should get it looked at. Your insurance may cover it.

In response to the question posted on BlogHer: Dating Deal Breakers: What Merits an Automatic Dismissal?

I said:

“The first two questions I asked my husband as a litmus test when he first showed signs of interest in me (or when I finally were sure that he was interested): 1. Did you belong to a fraternity? 2. Have you ever been to Asia for an extended period of time?/Have you dated a woman of Asian descent?  He answered NO to both.  I admit I based the first question on stereotypes of frat boys from the movies/TV shows.  Yes, I am a Fraternist. No apology there.  The second question was necessary because I am Asian, and I have seen enough Western men (regardless of skin colors) with “yellow fever” to be alarmed. If he were into me JUST (or even, first and foremost) because I am Asian. Then sorry, not into that.  I have also seen enough white boys being totally spoiled in Asian countries thinking they are the cat’s meow to want to weed out, or at least be super cautious towards, anybody that has spent a lot of time over there.

My other deal-breakers are more normal: RUDE to people in the service industry, e.g. waiters, doormen.  Failure to hold doors open for others.  Ok, maybe not so normal. I consider these to be telltale signs for a person’s character.”

Inadvertently I shared too much too candid too soon. Seriously, are you surprised? I may have also touched upon an area, race/skin color, that in general makes people hesitate, if not downright uncomfortable. The host of this discussion did not respond to my comment.

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Warning: This post should be filed under “Psychotic Ranting and Anonymous Foaming”, a category available from NaBloPoMo, (Thank you to whoever was wise enough to create this category…) in which I whine about stereotypes that caught me by surprise.  Please feel free to ignore me when I am behaving like a rabid dog.  Come back when I am normal, or normal by my standard.

The thing about reading a fiction is that a good book sucks you in, lures you to identify with the protagonist, even more so if it is from the first person point of view.  Most fictions have an underlying universal theme: family, betrayal, love, hate, loss, reunion, found happiness, redemption,  self-discovery, at least the successful ones do.

I went into the library in search of a good book to read. I do this by browsing the book shelves and see what strikes my fancy. Like many things I do in life, I trust it to chance. Serendipity. I love the sound of it, more so since I learned how to spell it correctly.

I came across a book by one Jonanthan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You.  The front flap promises a “riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind — whether we like it or not.”  Wonderful! Besides, this book apparently was being adapted into a feature film from Warner Brothers Studios. Even better! This way I can just read the book and skip the movie: since we all know, as a rule, the original books are infinitely better than the adapted films, right? (Except Marvel heroes movies of course. IMO.)

So imagine me, a universal reader, Everyman (Or, Everyperson if you want to be all PC about it…), following along the storyline. Everyperson, moi, going merrily down the road with the narrator who just lost his father and whose family is not mourning/coping properly, (Ok, so not so merrily after all. Sorry, my bad), I thought, “Dysfunctional family,” yup, we all have one of those.  But wait.  Hmm. The author could have lightened up on some of the cliché phrases and expressions, but that is not a good reason to put down a book once you started it. Or… is it?

Then on Page 11, BOOM! it came. Out of nowhere.  The Chinese showed up.

My landlords are the Lees, an inscrutable, middle-aged Chinese couple who live in a state of perpetual silence.  I have never heard them speak.  He performs acupuncture in the living room; she sweeps the sidewalk thrice daily with a handmade straw broom that looks like a theater prop. I wake up and fall asleep to the whisper of her frantic bristles on the pavement. Beyond that, they don’t seem to exist, and I often wonder why they bothered immigrating. Surely there were plenty of pinched nerves and dust in China.

Really!?!

<I am going to take a breath. In the mean time, please watch “Really with Seth and Amy” on SNL>

I am back. Here are the thoughts that went (are going) through my mushroom-cloud head:

  1. Maybe this book was written in the 1960s before the Civil Rights Movement.  Or maybe it was published in the late 20th century since you know, we were oh so unenlightened back then.  (Nope. It was published August 2009…)
  2. Maybe the narrator is what they call an “unreliable narrator”,  like John Dowell in The Good Soldier, Frederick Clegg in The Collector, and even Humbert Humbert in Lolita.
  3. I can’t really “demand” authors to start censoring themselves on the basis of Political Correctness.
  4. I guess all that “identifying with the narrator” was for naught. I am the “inscrutable” Chinese. Wow. Imagine that!

Anna May Wong in "Daughter of the Dragon"

Well, Mr. Tropper, this is where you left me befuddled and where I leave YOU! On Page 11…

Sax Rohmer published the Fu Manchu novels in 1913. Wasn’t that like, hmm, almost a century ago?

And, really? Just because someone does not talk to you, all of a sudden, they are inscrutable?  Maybe they just don’t like you because you are living in THEIR basement.

Is it because of our eyes?  So small, you can’t see “into our souls”?

Manga Eyes Real Life

Oh, and news flash: The whole inscrutable Chinese thing? MEGA TROPE! Done to death since the 1870’s.

Until you also think the French with their obsession with wine and cheese, the Italian with their obsession with impeccable fashion style even when they are just sitting inside their own house, and the Germans with their inherent love for logics and orders, and all the FOREIGN languages they speak with, are also inscrutable, don’t call ME inscrutable.

And if you are keeping the landlords in the movie, I dare you to make them inscrutable. No, seriously. More jobs for Asian (Asian American) actors.  I support my kind.  I can’t wait to see it.

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In praise of the book, “American Born Chinese”

January 5, 2009 random

Tweet For Chinese people or people in the know, American Born Chinese are known as ABC, and different from Chinese immigrants (be their parents or their distant cousins), they have to cope with a different set of tribulations, and many of these are psychological. This book, or rather, graphic novel, follows the tradition of Frank Chin's […]