Asian Girl Problem #76: Why I Like Jerks

I hate assholes but I date assholes.

I broke a personal record by going out with a guy I met online for the fifth time. I liked him a lot because he was interesting and witty and “got me.” He is also immature and broke and entitled and vain and unaware of others and not particularly attentive to what goes on in my life. He likes conflict and control and one of the ways he gets his kicks is by negging people. Why is he still in my life? I’ve dated other versions of him before. At 22, it was understandable. But 26? Way too old for that shit.

I wonder why I wasn’t 100% inclined to break it off. (Not to worry, I have. I’m too proud and principled to ignore the fact I feel disrespected.) And as usual, I look to my father to shed light on my preference for jerks. He negs all the time and can rarely be described as “agreeable.” Whether it’s schooling us or playing devil’s advocate, he’s always interested in posing an alternate view, which a lot of people (like my mother) see as a fundamental need to argue.

Now bear with me as a make a gross generalization and stretch between my family/culture and love life.

A lot of men I know who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China are the same way. For them it wasn’t called negging or about getting a girl interested,  it was just being normal in a landscape that demanded it. Chinese marriage used to be based on obligation, sacrifice and survival. Headstrong refusal to accept defeat, even if it means sleeping in separate bedrooms and having a relationship that, at best, is just platonic. Instead of romance and emotions, my parents valued efficiency and honesty. If a girl was too fat or a guy came from too poor of a family, you’d just come out with it and move on to the next person. As unhealthy as it is, I admire the strength and restraint behind it. There were less feelings to avoid hurting. My childhood was absent of heart to hearts, crying or coddling, and that’s kind of how my romantic relationships tend to be. Doesn’t mean I have to date someone who is a bad boyfriend–but there is an understandably wide overlap between the two.

Give me a few days to get over it. But in the meantime, I am telling myself: I do not have to be my parents. Nor are they necessarily related to all my issues with dating.

Asian Girl Problem #70: My Ugliest Feelings about Interracial Dating

Ever since I became more sensitive and proud of being Chinese-American (about four years ago), I’ve developed a lot of issues with interracial dating. It never comes into play when other couples are concerned, but it affects my own dating M.O. in many negative ways. I hate that I feel these things and don’t think they reflect well on my personality or enhance my life in any way. But I can’t control them any more than I can control my skin and hair. Just a sampler:

– I want to “represent” by dating someone Asian. I think we look better aesthetically and probably have more in common culturally, but I rarely meet an Asian guy who’s a good match for me.
– If not Asian, dating a person of color means something similar to me. That I didn’t bow down to the white man.
– I don’t want to perpetrate the played-out Asian girl/white guy combo that is rampant everywhere in California. The times I feel this strongest is expressing PDA with a white guy.
– If a white guy says he likes Asian food or has taken any sort of college course on an Asian language or history, I want to run away.
– I can’t help but think white guys who have had a majority of Asian girlfriends are the worst.

“I can’t really control who I find attractive–it’s like being gay.”

A white guy I think I could really like said this on our second date last night, after we had made out on my couch, when I asked him if he had an “Asian thing.” He had a pretty good explanation for it, but this was the part that annoyed me. I know we were keeping the tone casual and he was being jocular, but the comparison unearthed a lot of my anger. All I wanted to do was write out a list of reasons why accepting a strong predilection for people of a certain race is not like accepting the decision to like someone of the same gender, and why you can’t ignore that this issue brings legitmized pain to communities.

I don’t know if I can ever wonder if part of why he likes me is for political/cultural/inborn reasons that I have no control over. Or feel like I’m in competition with every other Asian girl. Or what happened in childhood in his 90% white neighborhood led him here.

But what is he supposed to do to repent? Learn everything he can about an Asian country to understand more? Racist. Only date within his race? Racist. Claim he doesn’t see color? Ignorant.

It’s not hard for me to like white men, at least before. For lack of variety, I had crushes on only white guys up until high school. When I went through a day without seeing my reflection, I felt like I was just as white as my classmates. But somewhere during my re-Asianification I consciously tried to program myself to like people of color, and it worked. Nowadays, 8 out of 10 guys I “like” on OkCupid are at least half-Asian and 100% are POC.

Giving someone less credit because they’re white feels really wrong on my part. So does giving someone more of a chance because they’re Asian. So I guess this week is all about feeling kind of wrong, because I eagerly accepted a first date with an Asian guy this morning, as if it would wash away my guilty feelings of dating a white guy with “the problem.”

I’m going to keep dating guy #1 because he has been awesome so far in almost every other way. But if it’s to go anywhere, I’ll need to change something inside.

Asian Girl Problem #57: The Best and Only Valentines Day

Back in Ohio on February 12th, 1999…

“Will you be my Valentine?” he asked, taking my hand.

“Okay.” I said. I wanted to GTFO. My whole relationship with Kaleb was about idolization–the fact he could like me more than a friend was impossible to me, and thus also in reality.

For the next two days leading up to Valentine’s, I couldn’t eat, sleep, work or be near Kaleb. That didn’t leave many other options. The one issue I couldn’t avoid was my gift–all around me, kids were planning what they’d get their Valentines–flowers, chocolate, stuffed animals, and even CDs for lucky ones like my friend Marissa.

I weighed my options: steal, make furtively, or lie. After much rehearsing, I told my mom that all of us kids were getting presents for our teacher, so I needed to deliver. She bought it! But instead of taking me out to buy something, she went into that closet every Chinese mom has devoted to unwanted new-ish stuff that can be re-gifted, and pulled out the goods. Jewelry, dusty picture frames, forlorn candles. I guess there aren’t many acceptable Valentines Day gifts for guys that don’t involve candy or sex…

My mom then pulled out a beautifully immaculate white teddy bear, with a little crimson heart popping out of its chest. Honestly he was too good, even for an ultimate, one-in-a-lifetime, shoot-the-moon jackpot crush. Even worse, I’m pretty sure the bear was originally from Marissa a couple years prior. It was the kind of gift you give your #1 ho, not a bro. But one crisis at a time–I could only pray she didn’t remember. The bear had to suffice. 

The next morning, the snow was coming down hard. Kids came into the building and loitered in the hallway, waiting for class to begin. The perfect time to exchange gifts. When Kaleb arrived, he handed me two roses–a chocolate one and a fresh one.

Hopefully, I thanked him. Or maybe I stood paralyzed until he went away to talk to more normal girls. Marissa wasn’t at school yet, so here was my chance to give him the bear, wrapped in a shiny bag. As he took it out, Kaleb looked genuinely surprised at the lavish gift. He gave me a huge hug and showed everyone the bear for the rest of the day. Thus concluded our Valentine duties.

I went back to knitting myself a bodysock to live in forever.

A few hours later

Marissa saw the bear and almost definitely recognized it. But she handled it with much poise.

Several hours later

I jammed my gifts into my backpack to conceal them, snapping off the flower on my rose. When I got home, I slammed it into a page of my diary, and threw that along with the chocolate rose under my bed. They’re still in a box in my garage somewhere.

Several years later

The drinking, drug use and skating caught up with Kaleb and last I heard he was hospitalized for MRSA in Texas.

Young love!

Asian Girl Problem #33: Embarrassment Builds Character

One of my favorite parts about growing up is my increasing ability to not give a fuck. Sometimes when I drive to work with a towel on my head or go to the store without a bra, I wonder if I should be embarrassed. But the more I do it, the less it matters to me, and the stronger my craving to keep pushing the envelope–I’ll start tasting candy right out of the bulk bins or arguing in Chinese in public. And maybe it’s the neighborhoods I live in, but no one ever cares.

Most kids are really sensitive about appearances when they’re young, as was I. My father reserved his wisecracks and gross bodily functions for home, but my mom couldn’t have been more embarrassing. She spat in the street, made surprise visits to my class and spied through the window, yelled “I love you!” out of the car window when she dropped me off, and never owned a bra. This video is pretty much her biography:

The thought of becoming her doesn’t really scare me anymore, which is perhaps cause for intervention. However, this video reminds me of one of my most mortifying moments with her–one which I know I’ll never afflict on my own child.

I was in eighth grade. After school one day, two nice (Asian) guys who rode my bus asked if I wanted to hang out and watch a movie. It was the last day before spring break, my friends were all busy, and I was restless, so I accepted. I called my mom to tell her I would be at a friend’s. When the bus dropped us off, we walked to the grocery store to get soda and chips.

As soon as I entered the store, I spotted my mother. As if guided by a sixth sense, she just happened to be there. She screamed my Chinese name, shot a debilitating stare at the two guys and yanked me out the store. As we walked four blocks back home, I struggled to keep up with her as she barreled through the streets. She couldn’t believe how stupid I was, going alone with two guys to their house where they could rape or hurt me. And on top of all that, they were buying soda. Was I planning on drinking soda? She demanded.

There are tons of other instances I’d gotten caught eating junk food or telling little lies, so by this time, I wasn’t alarmed. We just didn’t talk for a few days, and it was never brought up again. When I think about these instances, I can’t stand her. But it did build up an early tolerance for disappointing my parents, which has more than paid off over the years. To my mother, junk food leads to drugs and streetwalking. Turns out it just led to an apathy for underwear and vengeful blogging.

ETA: I was decent friends with the more social boy of the two and don’t know if he remembers the incident. But I’m sure this is why I never had more than a couple good male friends in high school. And ever.

Asian Girl Problem #19: Silly Male Attempts at Dominance

I just went on the first date I’ve been on for almost a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t know it was a date for most of the night. And because this is a sorta-friend I’ve known for a long time and have no romantic interest in, I was able to get through it calmly and blissfully ignorant.

It’s weird to go into a casual hangout thinking you’ll have a jam session or walk around the town, only to find out you’ll be taken to dinner and asked to take your shirt off. And to see a different side of someone you had respect for.

I realized that, damn, this half-grown guy will say a lot of asinine things to assert his dominance. Maybe he thinks that it gets him out of the friend zone, or gets girls in the mood. Sadly it just makes him sound like he’s read a couple chapters of The Pickup Artist but haven’t gotten enough experience or confidence to genuinely understand women. For example.

“You should try that dish and experience something new.”
What I hear: Being older, more worldly and masculine, I can teach you so many things.
My reaction: Not unless you’re Aladdin on a magic fucking carpet.

“Come out here.” “Do this.” “Sit here.”
What I hear: Ordering you around will make you feel weak so I can swoop in and protect you.
My reaction: I’ll listen to you right now because whatever in ten minutes I’m out.

“…horny…”
What I hear: I’m throwing in a gratuitous sexual word to plant that seed (ew) in your mind.
My reaction: “Horny!” Then I’m going to use the word too in a perfectly casual way to neutralize any romantic tone in this conversation.

“Are you feeling ok?”
What I hear: Neither of us are really drunk but I wish we were. Maybe through the power of suggestion I will render you tipsy.
My reaction: nothing.

Plus a few other lines that I pray to God were meant ironically. (But I think the rule is if you aren’t sure, it’s a no.) For the record, I don’t think my friend was exactly thinking these things, but I do believe the overall strategy of domination is engrained in his typical mating ritual. I also think he’s a good person who wants connection, and I’m definitely coming down on him hard. If he wasn’t my friend, I’d assume he was a misguided, awkward person. But I know he is so much better outside of dates, and that’s what baffles me.

One last thought–I’m getting into dangerous territory, but I can’t help wondering. Is this tactic more common in Asian dating culture? Having gone out with only like four Asians, I’ve never experienced it to this extent before. But considering that traditionally, girls in Asia were very coy and needed to be “lured” out, and that the Western stereotype of Asian men is effeminate and non-aggressive, maybe they find it natural to adapt the caveman approach. Or, maybe, I just went on a bad date. And it’s no surprise that most of my free time is spent with lesbians.

P.S. The first guy I ever dated is coming through town and we’re getting lunch this weekend. Haven’t seen him in over three years. Though a lot of things were “off” about us, he had hands-down the greatest pickup lines ever. Proof that the right line can absolutely get you out of the friend zone.