Life is hard enough as an Asian. Not all of us can get perfect SAT scores, graduate from medical school or trick out a Honda Civic. The pressure to embrace our culture remains but sometimes, we just don’t want to. How To Be A Bad Asian is an ongoing series of personal essays by the 8Asians writers about what sets us apart from the API community, how we deal with the stereotypes that we put upon ourselves and why we all can’t be that perfect Asian. It’s time to be bad.
What do I know about being a bad Asian? I guess I know a few things.
First, I don’t speak Chinese very well. I know the basic things to get by in a dim sum restaurant, but would not call myself “truly” bilingual. I don’t know how to use chopsticks very well (and don’t plan on learning) and I don’t call people “auntie” or “uncle,” especially if they’re not related to me.
I didn’t go to a prestigious university like my friends. Heck, I didn’t even get decent grades in high school. I think I got a 3 point something GPA! For all I know, I may have had ADD or ADHD or whatever mental dysfunction that kids today are diagnosed with. I even flunked math and was placed in “remedial” Geometry and barely passed that. That totally mortified my dad, the rocket science engineer, who studied Calculus at 5 years old.
I’ve been out of high school for over 20 years and I still hate high school. I think I know why. I never related to any of my Asian friends. For one, THEY thought studying in the quad at lunch was invigorating AND they thought joining a club meant joining “SWE: Society of Women Engineers”. Seriously, it was either suffer at lunch with these friends, or eat alone like a pathetic wallflower loser. As a teenager, you can guess what I picked.
Needless to say, I finally grew into my skin during my college days at Cal State Long Beach. I met non Asians who taught me how to break into frat houses at 2 am, tee pee their bathrooms, and hide their car keys in the freezer. I learned that eating Tommy Burgers at 2 in the morning and ditching your 8 am class was acceptable. I didn’t have to hang around the lower campus with the math, business and science nerds. It was acceptable to stay in the Humanities department and declare “Communications” as a major (much to the disappointment of my parents).
I also broke out of my mold when I got my college job as a ticket seller at Disneyland. Once again, my parents were mortified that I wanted to work at a minimum wage Mickey Mouse job instead of concentrating on my studies. They told me numerous times that they were paying for my education and to quit that awful job. Needless to say, they were not happy when I met and later married my husband of 17 years at Disneyland, and he was not Asian, but a poor Hispanic school teacher who grew up in Compton and drove a stripped Hyundai.
Yes, I am a bad Asian…That is, when I’m compared to my little sister who graduated from USC with honors in Pharmacy, who’s married and living behind the gates in South Orange County. Even then, she didn’t marry an Asian, so i guess I’m not that bad, am I?
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