Asian Girl Problem #115: White Fever

If I was white, I would go live in China right now and ca$h in that ivory skin. I’d learn some Chinese, memorize a folk song or two and become famous, then marry the most eligible bachelor out there.

We talk about yellow fever a lot. The subtle suspicions about Asian women being docile and domestic and petite, everywhere. Or Asian men being loyal and hardworking and—wait, never mind—if anyone knows a case of the fever (I mean straight up ignorant fetishization) for Asian men, let me know because I’ve yet to see it.

Yellow fever disgusts me because it’s rooted in the sexual subordination of an already weaker minority. White fever disgusts me in a different way. It doesn’t pertain to only one gender, or one area of prejudice. It’s much bigger; it’s a deification of everything from the Western hemisphere.

The obsession with pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes, height, and other features Hitler would be proud of.
The money and power associated with the country someone’s from, even if s/he earns minimum wage.
The automatic assumption s/he is more cultured, worldly and intelligent.
The instant validity someone white brings to the table, whether you’re engaging in business or politics or entertainment.
The deep desire and pressure to earn their respect and appreciation, no matter what it costs.

This last one is especially gut-wrenching because I see it everywhere in ways large and small.

I see it at the salon in China when my aunt proudly tells my hairdresser that I’m from America, something I usually keep to myself. I don’t need people to know. I don’t need them to see me in a different light, suddenly more serious and reverent, but also more distant. Wanting to ask questions, but scared at the same time. I don’t need him to “treat me well” by spending over two damn hours just blow-drying my hair. I’m not even white, but I ignite the fever by association.

You see it in European/American male ex-pats who go to Asia intending to stay for a year to teach English, and get trapped by cheap living, easy women and constant ego-massage by everyone from their bosses to kids to police.

I see it in a girl on Craigslist who applies to be my housemate, who spent the past few years in China and is still “homesick” for it, wandering around in Chinatown bars to make herself feel better. Everyone was so nice and treated her special there, she said. Back home in America, she feels like a nobody.

You see it in how the government immediately shuts down the country right before the APEC summit so foreigners can enjoy decent air. How millions are poured into banquets and gifts for visitors, while their own people are forced to stay at home for two weeks so they don’t increase pollution. How the government cancelled school, weddings, milk deliveries, taxis—basically put off educating, feeding, acknowledging civilians—to make a good impression on the rest of the world.

It’s can be a good thing, looking up to another country, especially one that’s much farther along in human rights. It’s no doubt beneficial for the country to be seen in a positive light, under blue skies. Even the ex-pat who goes home telling his buddies about the primo pu$$y is probably doing the economy a favor.

But sometimes I’d wonder how a person can begin to wish they were someone else. How they can accommodate others to the point where their own self-respect is compromised. How they willingly give over more power and validity to someone who speaks or looks English. Then you get a whole bunch of people who act this way. And they try to earn affection through sheer adulation, which anyone over six years old can tell you doesn’t work—the more you do it, the less you’re respected.

Most Chinese people are proud. They have a lot to boast about, and they do it a lot. But ultimately, the government’s like, shut up for a minute. We’re going to put your collective feet in your mouths to make the rest of the world recognize us. But actually, the rest of the world is laughing at China, not with it. That’s the part that I hate. And I don’t know what I’m getting at anymore but I’m pretty sure this is all connected to the root of this evil.

Asian Girl Problem #101: The Bright Side to Yellow Fever

Over the weekend, I hung out with a girl who is totally chill with being fetishized for being Asian. Granted, she is from the East Coast and only 21 years old, so perhaps she hasn’t had enough negative experiences to have the same reaction I do when I hear those two dingy words: yellow fever.

Back story: our dads were best friends and college roommates for four years, and we spent several childhood years together when our families lived in Ohio. We’ve always gotten along despite being complete opposites (she’s the first person I’ve met to be my complete Myers-Briggs opposite). 15 years later, she’s still the bubbly, flirtatious, attention-loving and highly confident girl I knew. Still obsessed with boys and talking about sex too loudly in public (or in our parent’s car at seven years old). After re-meeting each other during the holidays last year, we exchanged numbers. I promised to show her around the city sometime. Since she was living with her parents and didn’t want them to know about her online dating life, I agreed to be her alibi. I’ve always wanted to be an older sister–even if it was to a girl who had twice the amount of sexual partners I’ve had.

So when we finally got together for reals so I could make good on my promise, the evening naturally turned into a gabfest about her relationships. Having never lived in a city with a large Asian population, she’s been overwhelmed with the amount of racially-charged attention she’s getting, and loving it. She recently started dating a college senior who’s in a fraternity, and swears that every attractive guy in his house has an Asian girlfriend. She insisted that every race has a thing for Asians, while I tried to argue against it–partly to deny her the satisfaction, and partly because I refuse to believe in a world like that.

She busted out this chart:

Image

 

Did I vomit a little? Sure. But after living in an area that ‘s hyper-aware of interracial dating, it was useful to be reminded that people can still have different interpretations of heated issues like yellow fever.

Later, the dude I’m dating (details later, maybe) joined us and was promptly bombarded with many embarrassing affronts from my tipsy family friend, ranging from asking him for dating advice to giving him shit about not learning Mandarin because it’s “better with parents.” There is one thing she said which I didn’t mind, though–

“[Asian Girl] doesn’t usually like white guys.”*

Out of all the awkward moments from that hazy night, that moment remains the most vivid. Each time I remember it is like a nerve somewhere in me is being lanced. What she said is both true and false. I was mortified, yet satisfied. Maybe that’s how I feel about the whole thing in general, so it makes all the more sense.

*Dude’s response was a safe but genuine “I’m honored.”

Asian Girl Problem #82: Creepy Guys on OKC

Several people (including a few from OKC) have mentioned this creepy guys tumblr to me, so I figured it’s relevant enough to note here. Not a site I’d bookmark, but if nothing else, a sign of the times. Personally, I can’t complain about the quality of messages I receive, which I credit to showing very little skin in my photos and being super wholesome in my profile. But I did receive this gem recentlynjvlfklsd

Speaking of OKC,  last night I went on a second date and was caught off guard when at the end, he said “I’m not really good at this but I feel like I should kiss you.” To me, that translates to: “You’re aloof so I’m not sure if I’ll creep you out and I’m not that aggressive guy but I want this to be a date and not a hangout.” I don’t blame him because I know I gave off that “one of the guys” vibe. But our dynamic has so far been super platonic, not necessarily in a bad way. So I said we should just wait and I moved in for a hug, while he made a joke about being friend-zoned.

There must be some unspoken rule (in the same book that says you can’t call someone within 48 hours of getting their number and you can’t sleep with them before the third date) that says you should kiss a girl by the second date or get thrown into The Zone.

It kind of makes sense for those of us frosted flakey people with short attention spans. You never know if you’ll see each other again. So maybe kissing is a way to physically establish where you stand when you can’t yet express it in words (and how could you, on the second date?!) Or a way for less-than-suave guys to make up for their lack of prowess. Or an easy way to plant attachment on anyone. But for me the first kiss to me is a BIG DEAL. Everything after that is gravy. Yum. Yuck.

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 #5: Really The Ultimate Problem

If you’re ever feeling a lack of emotion and want to get riled up about something, fast, read a conversation like this one. I think it can strike a chord in anyone regardless of race or gender.

If you prefer to keep your blood pressure where it is, I’ll give you a quick summary. The Beijinger is a news/events/classifieds resource for English-readers in Beijing. A lot of users let it all hang out in the forums, and this is one of many conversations discussing the willingness of local women to jump into bed with any and every foreigner. The OP brings up that both sides are attracted to the exoticness of the other, and shows a little common sense at the end by acknowledging that it doesn’t happen the other way around, with Chinese guys in America. (Ha!  I can’t wait to represent some brothers in upcoming posts.)

One ignoramous isn’t worth getting offended by, but forums like this never fail to draw out all the other fools who would normally restrain themselves behind a paragon of modesty. Most responders call his bullshit or show some pitying disgust, but there are always a good amount of supporters. And the more validation the OP gets, the more his “kind” blurs together, forming another negative stereotype. He speaks on behalf of girls in Beijing, but by the end of the thread, readers like me have formed an image of him–pale, pudgy, $5 haircut under a fisherman’s hat, transition sunglasses, teaching English because they couldn’t get a job back home, small di–okay, maybe my imagination goes too far.

I’m not even directly angry at him–I put most of the shame on my own.

“It doesn’t matter who you are–if you look like you could be from a high status, plenty of people will kiss your ass,” my cousin told me when we were having dinner one night in Beijing. “You could be the biggest loser in your own country, but people here want you. You’re different and they want you to be their ticket out of their current situation.”

So part of why Westerners have a delusional view of China is because Chinese people perpetrate it. My dad’s coworker recently raved to us about a business trip he went on, where companies wined and dined him every night and treated his words like gospel. Coming back to America was like getting demoted. The same was true for a girl I met once to be a potential roommate–she had just moved back from five years in Beijing, and was terribly “homesick.” She spent her first week in Chinatown bars talking to old men. And she is a gorgeous girl by any standards, but the fact is, if you go to China and look like Barbie, you can get everything you want at the snap of the finger.

Even full-blooded Chinese kids like me who were raised in America have to keep their background under wraps unless we like having people  roll out the red carpet. I know some Asian guys who go to China and don’t want to leave because they get so much “model ass.” I know I’m coming from a privileged place when I gripe about this, but seriously. Worshipping the exotic is no different from fangirls thinking they’ll become a celebrity by commenting on their Instagram or getting their autograph or even sleeping with them. While that has its problems, it’s way more dangerous when you apply it to an entire race. That cycle just validates mofos like the OP of that post and every time they get an easy lay they have another personal testament to fuel their misguided view of a country. I got about a third of the way through the first page of comments before leaving.

Real people and relationships have nuances and contradictions. Those striving to fill a stereotype or fulfill a fantasy bring too little value to the table. The only way I can deal with it is to forget. Excuse myself. Click away from the forum. Put my head under a faucet. Find real people.