Since our favorite Angry Asian Man has decided to take a visit to the mother continent, he asked me whether I'd be interested in writing a guest post in his absence. Since Phil has always been such a great supporter of my site, MetroDad.com, I couldn't turn him down.
My own personal blog deals primarily with the subject of being a single 41-year-old Korean-American parent in New York City. This probably resonates with... hmm, none of you!
However, for some reason, I do seem to have a sizable younger Asian and Asian-American readership. At least several times a week, I'll get e-mails from younger people asking me for my advice. Some of it is serious. Some of it is frivolous. However, most tend to be like the ones below...
Dear MetroDad:Dear Michiko,
It seems like everywhere I look these days, non-Asian people are sporting Asian-motif tattoos. Usually, they're Chinese characters of some sort. How do I tell people how cliched and absurd these tattoos are?
San Francisco, CA
I feel your pain. There's a great story about a certain unnamed NBA player whom, when asked about his tattoo, replied that it meant "turbulent flow." Unfortunately, it seems the player had simply picked characters from the tattoo parlor's catalog. When the characters were put together, the tattoo was actually translated as "crazy diarrhea."
I suggest that you follow my lead. Whenever you see someone sporting Chinese character tattoos, just tap them on the shoulder and say, "Wow, I like Moo Shu Pork too but I never thought about getting it tattooed on my bicep. Awesome!"
Dear MetroDad:Dear Han,
I'm a college student turning twenty. The last girlfriend I had was in high school, and that was after three years of asking her out every summer. In college, I find it hard to meet girls with similar interests, like writing software code, podcasting or video games. Do I have to give up my obviously unsuccessful lifestyle to find available women, or is there a woman out there sedate enough for me to date?
Your numbers don't work. You're turning twenty but you spent three summers without a girlfriend but you had one in high school? Since you're Asian, I'll assume that you're good at math but bad at telling the truth.
Here's my advice. Forget about girls for now. Focus on college and being a tech nerd. Start your own software or social networking company. Make billions.
An Asian-American friend of mine went down to Brazil for two weeks. For the first week, he couldn't get a girl to look twice at him. The second week, he ended up sleeping with three Brazilian models, one of them famous for her work in Victoria's Secret Catalog. How did this happen? His buddy casually mentioned to the girls that they were hanging out with no other than the esteemed brainiac Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo.)
Dear MetroDad:Dear Meghan,
My white-ass friend and I were walking around the food court at the local mall last weekend. At one point, I suggested that we eat lunch at Panda Express. My friend squealed and yelled out, "OMG, That is sooo Chinky!!!" I was shocked but was at a loss as to what to say. Any advice?
Marin County, CA
I'm afraid you lost me at "my white-ass friend." This kind of reference I would expect from an Urban Person, not a Californian.
In all seriousness, you should say something. There is nothing more damaging to race relations than the acceptance of derogatory terms that are malicious in nature. Context has no bearing. This is sometimes known as the "I'm not racist. Some of my best friends are lazy Mexicans" rule. It's total bullshit.
I'm sure your friend isn't racist. However, stand up strong for your people. Have some pride. Step up and say something. Your friend will learn a valuable lesson. More importantly, how can you live with yourself if you don't say something?
Dear MetroDad:Dear Winston,
I'm a New Yorker also and you know what irks me? Every time I go to a Chinese restaurant, the only photos I see on the wall are of Mike Tyson, Brooke Shields, and Rudy Guiliani? Where are the photos of esteemed Asians and/or Asian-Americans?
I feel you, Winston. Every time my friends and I walk into an Asian restaurant that has no photos of Asians on the wall, we break into our Do The Right Thing monologue and start yelling, "Hey, Sal. How come they ain't no brothas on the wall?"
Sadly, the only reaction we've ever evoked is when a 79-year-old Chinese woman smacked my friend Sung in the head with a broomstick.
Fight the Power!
Dear MetroDad:Dear Jason,
I'm a 24-year-old Korean American male, adopted and raised in rural Wisconsin. My entire life, I've had almost no contact with my other Asian-Americans. Consequently, I've always dated white women. Now, post-college, I find myself living in Los Angeles surrounded by gorgeous Asian-American women. I can't stop fantasizing about them. Does this mean I have "yellow fever?" (P.S. I can't even use chopsticks.)
Santa Monica, CA
Technically speaking, "Yellow Fever" applies only to white males who have a clear sexual preference for women of Asian descent. Your case presents an interesting dilemma. I'm going to state for the record that anyone who looks Asian on the outside cannot, by definition, be guilty of "Yellow Fever." However, for science's sake, please answer the following simple questions:
(1) Do you automatically cheer for Asian athletes during the Olympics?
(2) Do you instinctively seek out Asian doctors because they're the smartest?
(3) Have you ever had a bowl haircut?
These are really the minimum barriers for entry into the club. If you answered "no" to all of them, I'd suggest going to Korea for a summer. Or start telling women that you're Jerry Yang.
Dear MetroDad:Dear Alison,
I've got a lot of white friends. Is it ok for white people to celebrate Chinese New Year with me?
A lot of white friends? Are you counting co-workers? Because technically, as my friend Amy Sedaris says, co-workers are not your friends. It's good to be friendly with them though. Remember that the next time you're hanging around the water cooler telling wacky stories about your weekend. Why are these people being nice to me? I'm sure excluding co-workers significantly reduces your list of white "friends." But what about the white "friends" who are not co-workers? What's their deal? Well, they probably maintain this relationship with you just so they can claim, "I'm not racist. I've got a lot of Chinese friends."
See, Alison, you don't have a lot of white friends. I hope this solves your problem. Gan bei!
Dear MetroDad:Dear Paul,
I come from a very strict Asian household. My parents are immigrants who have sacrificed so much for me so that I could attend good schools and have every opportunity that they never did. I'm eternally grateful to them for that.
Now, I'm entering my senior year in college and they're pushing me to attend either law school or med school. However, I have no desire to do either of those things. I feel like I'm too young to start on my professional career now. I'd really love to work for a non-profit for a few years or work in the field of international humanitarian aid. There's no way that my parents could ever understand this and I'm terrified to confront them about it. Do you have any advice for me? Am I having a quarter-life crisis? Am I being selfish? Do I owe my parents to pursue a lucrative career so I can repay all the sacrifices that they've made for me?
San Francisco, CA
Interestingly, I get a variation of this e-mail almost every week. For this generation of Asian-Americans, I suspect it's a struggle that many of you have to deal with on a regular basis.
In all honesty, I think ones 20's is the ideal age to try different things. Travel the world. Volunteer. Take a job that interests you. At least for a little while. The one thing I'd want to convey to you is to make sure that you don't end up later in life having any regrets. Personally, I don't. But I've seen it with other peers my age. Explore all that life has to offer so you don't EVER end up wondering "what if?"
You're clearly a bright guy. Your ultimate career is ahead of you. Most likely, on a path that you hadn't originally expected. Not only is that ok but also it's probably something that will benefit you over the long-term. I'm a big believer that one's life experiences shapes who you are as a person.
Over the past 20 years, I've been a public servant, a tennis pro, a journalist, and now a fashion executive. My brother is a struggling independent filmmaker. At no point were our parents ever wholly pleased with our career choices. Did it cause conflict over the years? You bet.
Maybe it's my own personal philosophy. Maybe it's something I've learned with age. However, I firmly believe there's a strong distinction between respecting the sacrifices that your parents made and being driven by guilt. At the end of the line, it's your life. Choose how you live it wisely.
On a semi-related note, I think it's important for Asian-Americans to choose careers that may veer off the road well-travelled. Although I may not be much older than many of you, there is a generational difference. Many of my AA peers became successful doctors and lawyers, and now lead very fulfilling and successful lives. But honestly, I love hearing about Asian-Americans who skip college to become pro snowboarders, or start experimental theaters, or devote themselves to public service.
The whole point (and this ultimately has nothing to do with race) is that you need to follow your dreams. Although many of us Asian-Americans are bound by our Confucian allegiance to our parents, don't be afraid to break new ground and forge a trail of your own.
Maybe your parents won't understand but I'll always be here rooting hard for all of you. I promise.
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MetroDad lives in New York with his daughter Peanut. You can read his musings at http://metrodad.typepad.com.