Daily Doodle: Happy Pill
Song of the Day: Feeling Good by Nina Simone
Musical Pipe Dream: I’m set at the back of a stage with the rest of the band in the shadows. When the music sets in, I start pounding the piano keys as the rest of the band plays their instruments to the fullest. An overhead light turns on and shows our burnt orange suits with yellow pin stripes. Our hats match the color of our suits and cast a shadow over our eyes.
Blurb 1/365: I find myself being more and more agitated when I hear people say, “You’re in America. Speak English, ok?” Or more lengthy versions, “Look, I’m not a racist or anything. I just think that if somebody is coming over to America, they should at least learn to speak English. I mean, if I went over to their country, I’d learn their language.” Adding to my agitation are people agreeing with their own stories, “Yes! And I also can’t stand getting those customer service reps from overseas, if I get one of them, I just hang up.” Then laughter an imitations ensue.
What bothers me about hearing this stuff is that it still bugs me so much. And I don’t forget about it. I remember each situation clearly.
There have been Twitter accounts dedicated to retweeting tweets that start with “I’m not racist but …” (@yesyoureracist) and people who tweet “Your in America …” using the possessive form of your instead of the contraction of you and are, you’re, and finish their thought by telling somebody to “speak fucking English!” (@yourinamerica)
Reading those tweets can be funny; it makes light of peoples’ idiocy. But if I’m in earshot of things like that or somebody is actually talking directly to me, I sit and stew and fill in the conversational pauses with thoughts of things I would want to yell.
“You’re in America. Speak English, ok?” Why? There is no reason for it to be mandatory to speak English anywhere in America other than to make people like you feel more comfortable.
“Look. I’m not racist or anything.” Then don’t finish saying what you were planning to say. Please.
“I just think that if somebody is coming over to America, they should at least learn to speak English.” They do know how to speak English. They know how to speak, read, and write in more than one language.
“I also can’t stand getting those customer service reps from overseas.” The sound of an accent while speaking English is natural when people are speaking in a different language from the one they learned at birth. Give them a break.
At a restaurant where a waitress was taking an order, I heard somebody say, “Geez. Learn to speak English. (*Scoff* *Snort*)” That just leaves me wondering why someone would say something like that. That waitress has to serve that rude person because it’s her job. That just sucks.
If the actual beef people have is with companies having customer service employees overseas, then they should channel the frustration with the lack of training (or perhaps purposeful training) that doesn’t provide satisfactory customer service.
For the most part, everybody has to work, and a customer service job is a good one to have. If the problem is that someone else has that job, then people should step it up and offer a skill that companies would hire them for instead of cheap labor. A company worth working for is the one that hires quality over quantity.
In conclusion, I probably just need to chill out. But sometimes I feel like I want to carry around a pie so I could be ready to smash it in somebody’s face when they say something like that.
Daily Doodle: Shirley Fury
Song of the Day: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Musical Pipe Dream: I’m performing at Homer and Marge’s senior prom.
Blurb 1/365: I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more likely for people to be angry on the last day of a three-day weekend.
I assume it’s because of the fact that the angry people need to work the next day and the thought of that makes them angry. They, of course, aren’t thinking of the working barista, grocery clerk, ice cream vendor, customer service rep, retail clerk, movie ticket vendor, or wait staff, they they were an utter asshole to on the final day of their holiday. They also lash out at complete strangers at the coffee shop, grocery store, ice cream parlor, retail store, movies, or restaurant that they encounter.
It seems like it’s the three day weekends that I encounter these nuts. It usually starts with uncontrollable staring, which I try to ignore. Then some excuse for them to say something mean. Next they puff up their chests and yell out profanities or they just continue to stare and scowl. Finally they stomp or drive off, red in the face, trying not to let you see them looking back so that they can remain, in their mind, the victor of the ridiculousness.
I try to make sense of it and give any reason about why they are going insane with rage towards myself or my family. Frankly, it scares me when strangers yell at me. I have no idea what has made them angry and the unknown is volatile. It scares me even more when their children are present. The young ones cry and sometimes enrage the person more, while the slightly older ones stand or sit in silence because they know better and they’re used to it.
I’m annoyed that I have to be the one to hold my anger down because of the fear that some idiot could be stupid enough to physically harm a stranger for whatever reason.
In these situations, I usually question myself: Did I offend this person somehow? Maybe it’s because I looked in their general direction? Is it because of my clothes? Is it because I’m Chinese and in a group of Chinese people? Is it because my husband is white? Is it because I look like I’m of mixed race? Is it because I verbally reacted to their rudeness? Have they mistaken me for somebody else?
These have been reasons why people have been rude or crazy in the past and it’s something that doesn’t surprise me, but I don’t get used to it. It’s kind of sad.
I realize that the answer to all these questions is: Yes.
People like this have decided to be angry at the my or whoever’s existence. They just want us gone; out of their space. Any reason applies. Feelings boil up from beliefs that they were taught to have, had in the past , or currently have and hide from their co-workers, boss, or in-laws. They’re mad at their wives or husbands, hate the freedom that their kids have taken away from them, regret the debt they’re in because they bought that fancy car. Maybe something really terrible happened to them and they don’t know how to cope or they just hate life.
Anybody who knows me knows I try my best to either be kind or unseen and unheard. There are a lot of I-don’t-knows with people like that. I try to avoid them, but public places aren’t all mine. They’re for everybody. That being said, if I could send a preemptive note to anybody that is going to be like that in a public place: Stay the fuck outta my way when I’m gettin an ice cream cone.
Keep the peace.
I watched Django Unchained on New Year’s Day and I loved it. It was entertaining and included thought provoking dialogue, painfully poignant acting, retro photography, and snarky comedy in just the right places. I couldn’t help but smile most of the times Christoph Waltz was on screen because he acted his character so well and is quite cute. Quentin Tarantino and crew did it again!
In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio skillfully delivers a chilling monologue that got me thinking about a conversation I remember having in high school with people that could have called me “friend” had I been just a little bit (less) different. Mind all of us, this wasn’t that long ago. I’ll describe what I remember.
Kevin: But I don’t really understand how you can consider yourself American though …
Kevin: How can you consider yourself a true American?
Shirley: Because I was born here.
Kevin: But your parents weren’t.
Shirley: That’s not really the way it works. Plus, my parents are Americans, too.
Kevin: That’s even crazier.
Shirley: Where were your grandparents born?
Kevin: In the dirt of Tennessee.
Shirley: And your great grandparents?
Kevin: In the dirt of Tennessee.
Shirley: And they’re parents?
Kevin: In the dirt of Tennessee.
Shirley: Statistically, that’s doubtful, but I don’t want to argue.
Kevin: Well … you’re all right. It’s just confusing to me that you consider yourself an American.
Shirley: Okie doke.
Kevin: Yeah, you’re cool and everything, but y’all still can’t drive!
Several classmates nearby: (collective) OOOOOOOOH! HAHAHAHAHA!
Chelsea: You guys, leave her alone.
Kevin: I’m just kidding around.
Chelsea: It’s not her fault. It’s been scientifically proven that Asians have problems with their peripheral vision because of the shape of their eyes.
Chelsea: No, I’m serious. I read in an article that all their eyes have a slight deformity that causes them to have issues with their ability to see on the sides.
Shirley: Chelsea, I think you’re mistaken. (I almost couldn’t get those words out because of what she said. I mean, I was pretty used ignorance by my teen years. But what she said, and thoroughly believed, blew my mind.)
Chelsea: It was in Scientific American or something.
I really don’t know what was more horrifying, the fact Chelsea actually believed that all people of Asian decent have different eyeballs than other fellow human beings, or the fact that she thought she was heroically defending me from bullies with this erroneous information begotten from some insane scientific journal that I’m sure wasn’t Scientific American and that I hope doesn’t really exist.
The thing I always try and remember is that we were young and impressionable. In many ways they were just repeating what they heard from other people. With all things in high school, they were usually done or said just to be “cool”. Let’s just pray that people learn with age. I still think that conversation was crazy.
Maybe the scariest thing is that I still remember this conversation after all these years. Plus, we should have been concentrating on geometry!
(X equals negative B, plus or minus the square root, of B squared minus 4 A C, ALL over 2 A!)
“Hey, are you Chinese?”
“Are you from Iran?”
“Kumusta ka? Want to try this neck pillow?”
“Are you Vietnamese?”
“Oh! I always thought you were Latina or something.”
“Are you half Chinese? … No? … So, what kind of Asian is the other half?”
These are questions and comments that I have randomly received from passers by, coworkers, complete strangers in the supermarket, and people trying to sell me something. Some of the curious people are Chinese, some are of the culture that they believe I identify with, some are just random guessers. It has been interesting to witness some people try and peg me as one thing or another. I have come to quite enjoy my ethnic obscurity. The fact is, I am an American and both of my parents are of Chinese ancestry.
There are a few reasons that I think people don’t initially think that I’m Chinese. One, my mannerisms and culture are a mix of my family’s Chinese traditions and the ever evolving American traditions. Two, I don’t speak any of my family’s native dialects. Three, I guess my “look” isn’t thought of as traditionally Chinese.
My family was and is very loving and supportive and I had a great childhood. Growing up had some challenges, but for the most part, everything was good. Everything else I consider life lessons. I was raised in a predominately white suburb in a time where I believe racial adversity was steadily getting itself on the right track towards racial serendipity. My parents always taught me that even if someone didn’t like me simply for the reason of being who I was, that didn’t make me any less of a person. That didn’t stop me from being sensitive when people made fun of Chinese accents, facial features, smells, or size/height. Some experiences left me knowing very well that people did not like me being in their space or line of sight. At a restaurant, it may have even made them feel uncomfortable, annoyed, or ruined their meal. At school, it may have made parents feel like the classroom was being invaded with the increasing numbers of students of color (when there were, like, three of us). I remember a classmate very innocently asked me how I could truly consider myself an American. When I answered it was because I live here and was born here, his counter reasoning was that my parents weren’t born here. What else could I do but let him stew in his ignorance?
While growing up in this environment, my mannerisms and speech acclimated to my surroundings. On one hand, I was trying to fit in with the majority of people that I was around in school and play, and on the other, I was distancing myself from the culture that my parents carried over from their families from Hong Kong and Taiwan. At first, when I realized this, I was sad. The people that I was subconsciously trying to fit in with would never completely accept me, and my extended family and other Chinese Americans felt I was losing my culture.
My parents are both multilingual. They tried to bring my sisters and me up multilingual and spoke Cantonese at home. During a parent/teacher meeting, one of my sister’s first grade teachers said that her sentence structure was hindering from speaking Cantonese during the pivotal time of learning English. Of course now, we all realize that this teacher was just ignorant (and maybe racist and a little insane), but this frightened my parents; they didn’t want their children growing up being made fun of or ridiculed. They reluctantly stopped enforcing us to speak Cantonese at home and we all ended up losing the language skill after kindergarten. My parents never belittled us for not speaking Chinese, but other people who make it their business always put in their two cents about how much of a shame it is.
My husband brought up a good point. The fact is that I’m American. It may be a lost opportunity that I’m not multilingual, but if every American was required to know the languages of their ancestors in order to contest shame, there would be a lot of shame to be had. I am fluent in my national language, and my responsibility lies in knowing how to communicate well with it. Anything else is great, but it is extra.
I’ve heard conversations of people talking with their families where they giggle about having an ancestor that may have “tainted” their gene pool. This was even used as subject fodder for sitcoms. For example, there was an episode of The Golden Girls where Blanche found out a relative of her’s was Jewish which became some sort of detriment to a club function or party she was attending. Don’t get me wrong, The Golden Girls was a great show, but it just proves my point that people actually thought of this stuff enough to put it in a lighthearted primetime show.
I think my family and I look pretty “Chinesey” but my features have always been the main reason why people tell me they didn’t think I was Chinese. There was a bully type student in high school that made fun of my sister and me for being Chinese and having round eyes. He said, “It just isn’t right.” (He was an idiot.) Depending on the season and how much sun I get, my complexion can go from relatively light to pretty dark. The same goes for my hair, sometimes it’s black and other times there are some brown and golden strands in there. I’m pretty sure what I’ve just described goes for many Chinese people out there.
History is very colorful and many things happened on the Silk Road and other trade routes. In history many cultures have mixed and have become their own culture with its own values and traditions. I think that it is a beautiful thing that continues to happen today and it is contributing to the vast spectrum of the appearance of the human race. Which leads me to my conclusion, my connection with my Chinese culture and American culture, my speech and language skills, and my features are all what make me Chinese.
I will continue to revel in my pride and entitlement of being a Chinese American and who I am. I hope all others can harmoniously feel the same about themselves.
Thank you very much for reading!