September 16, 2011

Things I’ve Learned From Being White In The Presence Of Asians

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What is the issue?

As a fairly normal American white dude who has spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out with my girlfriend’s high school crowd from Singapore, I have observed a few things, some pretty interesting, others that make me question if  I’ve been doing everything wrong my entire life.

Take, for example, the ‘Asian Squat’, a position where an individual can rest in an upright squatting position, feet flat, that is a mostly unattainable and borderline spiritual mystery for large, Western individuals such as myself. They find this comfortable. I played catcher in Little League and found that squatting should not be maintained. Their position of comfort is something I need to rest from in order to be comfortable. An informal study participated in by three young, white men in a subway station confirmed a 33% success rate, as opposed to the 100% seen among the group’s five individuals of Asian descent. Evidence, purely anecdotal, confirms the consistency of these results.

Then there is ‘Yellow Fever,’ the phenomenon where white guys are said to have a disproportionate interest in Asian girls. I’ve discovered it may be a misnomer, coined as a term of jealous derision by other white bros who weren’t lucky enough to score an Asian girl. I checked my facts and noted that all the Asian girls who white guys dated were generally also attracted to those white guys in return, and that we had performed no kind of magical ritual to make this possible. Why isn’t that called White Fever? I get harassed by my friends when an Asian girl walks by–they ask if I think she’s hot–while my girlfriend is free to befriend the entire white population of America without incident.

I’ve observed that the so-called ‘Asian Glow’ is very real, as in flushed, red faces that actually emanate heat to the touch. However, to assume this is in any way indicative of anyone being a ‘light weight’ when it comes to drinking, is to fall into a very deadly trap that results in you, the overconfident white guy, vomiting in a cab while the rest of your red-faced group continues partying.

There also seems to be this universal rule that if you are indoors, your shoes need to be off, no matter what. This one especially makes me feel like I’m on another planet. A fifth-floor walkup in the West Village and I need to remove my Converse to sit on the couch? My shoes generally come off when the day is over, not when a roof appears over my head. Also: see the opposite of this, like when my girlfriend was the only one barefoot at Thanksgiving dinner.

It hasn’t been productive to get all cute with the cultural nuances. My girlfriend, who is of Taiwanese descent and speaks Mandarin, finds it pretty annoying when I try to practice mine with her. She says it’s the language she gets yelled at by her parents in and I’m only reminding her of that. Sometimes she says it’s like talking to a slow child. I’m actually not sure if she’s referring to me or my Mandarin, to be honest. Though, the old Chinese women I worked with at a cafeteria seemed to find my shallow grasp of tones and eagerness to learn adorable. Know your audience, I guess.

I actually thought Asian parents would be terrifying but that’s not really the case. I haven’t met any ‘Tiger Moms’ but they do seem to have high expectations and differing parenting methods than what I’m used to. Their families actually expect them to pursue careers and life choices that are profitable and will bring them respect and success. This seems reasonable, but my experience with white parents has been the opposite. I am firmly convinced they don’t care about us. I majored in History and write for a blog occasionally. I have a feeling this shit wouldn’t fly otherwise. TC mark

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