Asian Girl Problem #99: Get Dat Glow

I know healthy habits and the right regime are the foundation for all good skin, but I wouldn’t trade my Asian skin type for any other. Commonly known traits include:

-Thicker and denser dermal layer with more collagen, which makes it harder to damage/age.
-Darker color (“caramel, if you will) that tans easier than it burns.
-Less likely to get skin cancer/diseases, because of the darker pigmentation.
-Retains darker scars after minor injuries. Still waiting for two bug bites from last summer to show some sign of fading.

Another reason I think we maintain dat glow is by drinking plain hot water, an unspoken and mostly unconscious habit passed down from our moms and grannies. In China, cold water that’s safe to drink only comes bottled, but you can find places to fill up your thermos with free boiled water almost anywhere. But now in America, where hot water no cleaner than iced and probably annoys servers, we still ask for it whenever we can.

My Asian girlfriends know what I’m talking about–when we roll up to a restaurant, we get hot waters all around. A spot of tea or squeeze of lemon is great, but can sometimes sullies the pure experience–steeping our face in the steam and inhaling the warmth has a magical effect. As it cools enough to drink, tastes different too–almost thicker and more mineral-y, like the heat enhances every flavor nuance.

Far more crucial than a blender or food processor in our family.

I forget how uncommon it is in American culture until I’m the only one doing it in the presence of non-Asians. Happened yesterday at a bar, after one too many whiskeys. (Which, for those of you who underestimate my alcohol sensitivity, is one whiskey.)

“You just got hot water?” they asked, followed by a long pause while trying to decide if I’m cheap or weird.

“It’s an Asian thing.” So probably both.

For all that’s great about Asian skin, we pay our dues in social chagrin: Asian glow*. I saw an exceptionally bad case the other day– a fellow yellow turned Crayola red within ten minutes of entering the bar. So red we couldn’t be sure if it was alcohol-induced or rosacea. But unless people are genuinely wondering if they need to be calling 911, I don’t see why it’s embarrassing. Maybe it’s compounded by coming from a culture that values self-control and reticence and being in the one situation where you can’t maintain a poker face.

*for an antidote, Pepcid AC 30 minutes before drinking has always worked for me.


Asian Girl Problem #85: The Fight Against Age

A couple months ago, right before I turned 26, a switch turned on. I started worrying about my perceived age, my actual age, my dating life (as affected by my age) and ultimately how I can dodge mortality. The battle has officially begun.

When this chart first made the internet rounds, I was in college, and thought it was hilarious. It was like reading a novel about married people having affairs–interesting and possibly relevant one day, but too farfetched from my life to consider as more than entertainment. I also couldn’t take it totally seriously because never have I looked like the 18-50yo woman–maybe the 60-7yo during more unfortunate phases of my life (i.e. sixth grade).

I know I have a lot ahead of me, and that my genes will probably keep my age ambiguous for another good decade. But whereas age used to be a non-factor, I now brush against it all the time. I’m suddenly sensitive to the effects of food and diet on my skin. A coworker who guesses my age to be “mid-to-late 20s” irks me. Dating 30-something guys because they’re looking for 20-somethings is a concept I can understand, but hesitant to experience.

Feminist inclinations be damned, my primordial urges are like, “All I want to do is eat, make out, reproduce and eat some more. Get it before it’s too late. Where are these dudes? I’ve actually been trying to date for six months, more than I can say at any other point in my life. What do you mean it takes time and luck? I’m entitled to popping out children and I will not be denied. My skin ain’t getting tighter.”

I know the underlying problem is that we put too much worth into looks. Not saying I’m all that–I can only imagine how much harder it is for gorgeous ladies who have been praised and assessed solely on their looks throughout their youth. It was common in my parents’ household too. They never valued inner beauty more than outer–both were important–and they always commented on physical characteristics of people, whether that was my fat body, “pretty face,” my friends’ skin colors, or a stranger’s limp. Of course, they wouldn’t talk about it publicly, but all positive and negative features (mostly these) were up for discussion in the privacy of our home.

If nothing else, it was ingrained in me that looks are one of the most important factors in a person’s chance of success. And age is a direct enemy of them, so here we are today. Always equipped with sunscreen, cutting out refined carbs, and wearing that crop top like it’s my last chance (which it should be). I’ll keep fighting the battle I’ll inevitably lose by taking care of my health. But there may be ways to reduce it from a battle to something lesser, like domestic strife. And to quell the fears by writing them away.