American Born Chinese

So for those of you who don’t know, I am an American born Chinese and I speak Cantonese as well as English. I’m originally from Lawrence, Massachusetts and am currently an Angeleno thanks to my parents moving the entire family over to California in ’93. I guess I had a fairly typical Chinese upbringing. It started out traditional enough. But in many respects, I am also very American. So put together, I am a bit of an American and I am also a bit of a Chinese. I grew up with a healthy dose of watching HK films and listening to HK pop stars of their time: Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok, Alan Tam, George Lam, Sam Hui–basically all the old school HK singers of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. So unlike the typical Asian American of today, I did not grow up believing that Asian men were “weak,” “asexual,” and/or “never got the girl” or some other derogatory image that American media would have us believe. On the flip side of that, I did get from American education that “individualism,” that drive to be different from everyone, to “stand out” and all that jazz and I realize that this runs counter to the Chinese culture, which strives to think in more of a collective sense as opposed to an individual sense.

Nevertheless, whenever I ran into an Asian American in my youth and they often times spouted of the “injustices” that they faced as Asians, I couldn’t relate. Why? Because I didn’t buy into the white media brainwashing. I knew that I was a foreigner since I was young. My mother taught me that really early on, that no matter how perfect my English may be, no matter how well I practice their customs and traditions, that ultimately, I’ll still be seen as a foreigner in their land (granted, they stole this land from the Native Indians and Mexican but the idea remains the same). And that, I think, helped me “make sense” of two competing paradigms, the American one and the Chinese one. And at no point did I betray my Chinese heritage. But, I was not “fobby” enough to hang with the “fobs” and I wasn’t American enough to hang with the Americanized Asians, which, all things considered, placed me in a weird spot. I made friends with a bunch of weird folks who didn’t quite fit into their mainstream version of themselves and oddly enough, Mexicans. I tended to relate more to my Mexican brethren than my Asian brethren over time, which again, placed me in an even weirder spot, socially speaking. Two of my closest friends are Mexicans while only one is Chinese who speaks Cantonese. This one has known me since middle school, which is a heck of a lot longer than the two Mexican friends that I’ve known since high school but, in a way, it’s kind of sad that I don’t have more Chinese friends.

Nevertheless, my first two girlfriends were both Chinese and they both spoke Cantonese. And all my dates after that have been of mostly Chinese, albeit, not the Cantonese speaking sort and of Asian descent. I’ve tried one Taiwanese gal, two Mandarin-speaking Chinese gals, one really Americanized Japanese, two blacks, one white, and all that I can say about these gals is that we’re too different culturally for me to really get with them in the long-term. Now, I’m in this dilemma where it seems that all the Canto-speaking Chinese women have these uber high standards that I can’t fulfill or I can choose to date other races (that I’m not particularly attracted to). I’d like to hold out for that one Chinese gal who speaks Canto and we both share common interests and values but…I’m not exactly getting any younger. I get lots of offers for no-strings attached sex though. Women of all races except Chinese, interestingly enough. I get them more from Mexican and Blacks, if anything. Unfortunately, I’m just not interested. Don’t get me wrong. They do turn me on and I do find many of these women sexually attractive and all that jazz. But I’m just not the sort of man that would “whore himself” just because I can or because “society” says that I should.

I’m just not.

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2 thoughts on “American Born Chinese

  1. I can relate, even though I’m not American. I’m Malaysian-Chinese; I attended a Malay-medium school, but I speak English. I wasn’t ‘fobby’ enough to hangout with the Chinese-school kids and I wasn’t Malay enough to hangout with the Malay kids either. Growing up was a real shitstorm of bullying.
    The part about always being a ‘foreigner’ is true. My great grandparents came to Malaysia from Guangzhou and Fujian and even as fourth generation Malaysian-Chinese, we are seen as second class citizens and not afforded the same opportunities and privileges as the Malays. I think that in America at least, you have better opportunities, as long as you’re able to deliver on the job (or am I wrong?)
    I used to hate being a twinkie because I couldn’t relate to people of my own race, but I wasn’t one of the Malays either. Now that I’m in the working world I realize that my growing up and balancing in between two cultures has given me an edge over everyone else, so it’s all good. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose the opportunities are better in the sense that there are labor laws that evens out the playing field a bit. And to an extent, yes, if you work hard, you can get the jobs that you want, but the pay may not be as much as the average white person’s salary though. There’s still a wide wage gap between what ethnic minorities get and what white people get as a starting salary.

      Twinkie is a word that doesn’t really apply to me, I feel. Here in America, it means that one is too “white-washed” or too American and either know very little of one’s own culture or has no knowledge at all of one’s culture.

      I also feel like growing up with both cultures gave me an edge in the work world as well. And thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s neat to hear that you’ve had a similar experience as I did.


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