Though I forget to mention it, I had a whole posse of Chinese friends growing up. We just didn’t see each other very regularly after my parents moved to the suburbs. We’d play every few weeks, occasionally more during my brief stint at Chinese school. But when we did get together, we raised hell building forts, playing dress up and generally tearing the house apart.
I was always the largest among my Chinese girlfriends, and for some reason, my dearest bffs were always the thinnest girls of the pack. They would eat tons of candy, ruin their appetite, and race around the apartment while their parents chased them begging them to eat a bite of dinner. Meanwhile, I’d sit at the table, hungrier after the candy appetizer, hoping no one saw how many dumplings I was eating.
Aside from the comments, diets, feeling like a ogre and repelling boys, being fat for a Chinese girl brought with it a lot of little annoyances. It’s not until I stop to relive them that I realize how the label affected little parts of my day:
– Getting a carrot cake for my birthday because my parents thought it was healthier.
– Having the frosting scraped off every year.
– Unwritten rule that I was the husband or Ken whenever we played make-believe.
– Being told I look older than my friends.
– Or mistaken for a boy.
– Not being allowed to wear white, light colors or horizontal stripes (particularly hard in the 90s).
They’ve left indelible marks on me, affecting my thoughts and actions to this day. Sometimes cake makes me nervous and I feel wrong being “girly” and I’ll never wear white in a million years…But the self-awareness that comes with age brings some relief. These worries don’t carry the same weight they used to–I see them as wee neuroses that might mess with my head but can’t do any real damage.
It’s human right? Our minds want to connect the same dots each time. On good days we try to break the pattern. On others, just noticing is enough, especially considering how slowly it takes to break/form a habit. Noticing is not nothing.