Asian Girl Problem #133: Growing Apart

Hello! Bet you didn’t expect me to pop up today–I sure wasn’t planning on it. I’ve been feeling the itch to write and am trying everything to cultivate that. I’m sitting in a pile of goose feathers and cat fur and kiwi peels–that’s how committed I am to keeping this itch strong.

This post goes out to my very first boyfriend, who dropped into my ‘hood from the Philippines. Not surprisingly, he got the dates wrong and what was supposed to be a 24 hour stay is actually 48 hours. Which, I’m beginning to realize now on this 24th hour,  is 24 hours more than I’m happy with. (Does that math make sense?)

First I want to say he is a fine person and was a fine first boyfriend. He hasn’t asked me to change plans or required much entertaining, being the true embodiment of a cat and having lots of work to do on his laptop every day. (Although today its vital signs are failing–it better not croak on us before he leaves.)

Now I can bitch. This guy, who we’ll call E, has been living in Manila for the last year, and traveling all around before then. He’s an awkward introverted type–good for losing your virginity to but not someone I’d want to host a talkshow with. When you’re 21 and in the college bubble, it’s not hard to find things in common. Six years later, it’s apparent how different we really are, and unfortunate to discover that we are not compatible as friends. I’m not saying I regret agreeing to his visit, but I should’ve expected less from it.

I feel myself straying into the myriad reasons we don’t get along, but the main AGP pebble in my shoe that I can’t get over is that I can see him slipping away into gross white ex-pat land. He has no connections and very few friends in the Philippines, but intends to go back after the holidays, probably for many years. Now, he’s a highly educated kid from an upper middle class family, and smart enough to know what distinguishes him from a typical womanizing, culture-blind, retiree ex-pat (which makes for 90% of them, he tells me). He knows about the poverty there, the power imbalance, and the colonialist history mirrored in some of the modern-day relations between white men and local women.

But he isn’t worried about it enough to convince me he’s not gross. And it doesn’t sit well with me and I’m increasingly irked by him because of it, on top of all the little things that already annoy me. Sure, he is smart enough and spent enough time in America to realize he’s physically average, and it’s a race/power/demand issue that projects him to Ryan Gosling status in Asia. But I’m still annoyed when I listen to him describing all the Tinder dates he’s been on. Sure, he is helping out the local economy by hiring people to help him with his company and paying them ample wages. But I’m again annoyed by his new year plans to bring all the “luxuries of America” there, which includes hiring a personal chef. Sure, all wealthy Filipinos have personal cleaners and chefs, but there’s something still annoying about the fact he’s dropping into this country and immediately doing the same thing.

Annoying.

Because you didn’t earn your stripes. You didn’t learn the language, weren’t welcomed by a local friend or family member, and don’t need to struggle at all to get all the girls and Ubers and personal chefs in the country.

Maybe I wouldn’t care if my parents immigrated into the exact opposite climate, where they were mocked for not knowing the language, lived hand to mouth, are lost and derailed in a tangle of cultures daily, and will always be second-class even if they made a million. Where are their girls and Ubers and chefs?

I expressed this to E, in softer terms, this morning. Damn me for being a softie, but I let it drop when it became obvious we weren’t going to get deep into it. All he did was feebly defend himself a little bit and has since tried to share other ways he’s wanted to help the community and his employees. But again, he’s not worried enough. I want him to feel guilty constantly reevaluate his actions and desires. As much as I’ve grappled with being an Asian in America, I want him to struggle and lose sleep over being an American in the Philippines. Because I’m kinda selfish and expect a lot from people.

But no, he will continue to ramble on about his travels and screenplay ideas and dates…without reciprocating when I ask polite follow-up questions and try to find some thread of common interest and connection between us. But that time is over. College was dumb. And I don’t have to spend time with anyone who doesn’t interest me. So I’m off to go make soup with my best friends and he can fend for himself tonight.

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