November 28, 2012

On Being Half-Asian

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What is the issue?

I often get accused of having an Asian fetish. I say I’m half Asian. They say it doesn’t matter. My dad must have an Asian fetish too, then, I retort. Probably, they reply.

They’ve won. They usually win.

I don’t know how to escape the claim. I’ve tried denying it, ignoring it, going with it. Nothing really works. The problem is, I actually do like Asian women. All the women I’ve dated have been Asian. And the ones that I’ve liked who weren’t didn’t really go for me. But that doesn’t mean I have a fetish, does it? I think interracial couples are as awkward as much as the next guy. It’s not this sick, twisted thing, is it? I just happen to like Asian women.

I grew up with Asian faces my whole life. I’m half Asian. Remember?

When I was a kid, I remember frequenting the Chinese market with my mom. I was more familiar with Yan Yan than Kit Kat. Preferred instant noodles to canned soup. Ate more spam and rice than mac and cheese.

I listened to languages I could never grasp. The accent of my mother’s tongue, which once caused me to cringe, now brings a welcome sense of peace to my ears. Makes me nostalgic for my childhood. The way she pronounces her f’s and p’s, and t’s as d’s, and everything else in between. The way she loses her words as often as she finds them. When the done pants, can you put it in top of the dryer, she’ll ask. As poetic as unintended. Still I know exactly what she means.

When I was young, I’d stomp through the house with my muddy shoes. A sign on the doorpost at my aunt’s house read: This is a Filipino household run Japanese-style; please take off your shoes when you enter. She’s mixed too. Her father’s black. And so was her husband. As I grew older, I started seeing the value in taking off my shoes, in following certain traditions. Today, the sign no longer stands. I don’t know if it was the slow reemergence of anti-imperialist sentiment, or if they just thought the whole idea was silly, but my entire family — cousins, aunts, and uncles — now walk on the carpet with their shoes on.

For some reason, I can’t. I won’t. It’s not who I am anymore.

I walk in barefoot. Not enough of who I am. A confused byproduct of biracials. It’s not enough to be half me. To be half anything, really. Half Mexican, half Filipino. Half sentence, half started. An American halfhearted. And so on. As often asked what I am as who I am. I harp on my lost identity. My inability to pinpoint my motherland on a map. No simple explanations for me. No stereotype that really fits. Just a funny face, and a pair of hands, and a story — or two.

I’m mixed-handed. I eat with my left. Write with my right. I brush my teeth with the one, and throw balls with the other. I’m not ambidextrous. I can’t do the same task with the same skillfulness with either hand. I have to choose.

We never used chopsticks growing up. I guess we weren’t that Asian.

When I learned to use chopsticks, I made a choice. I decided to learn with both hands. In this, I am equally skilled with my left and with my right. I made the choice to not have to choose. Funny thing is, where my family came from they didn’t eat with forks and knives either. They ate with their hands. I think that says something about who I am. I’ve come to resent categories. I’ve come to try with all my might to reject classification. Instead of being half one thing and half another, I’m actually both at once — and more. The boy with two hearts who didn’t know what to do. He tried going to the doctor’s but ended up at the zoo. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock
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