Monday, September 21, 2015

New Americana

beanie: Forever 21; top: Net; skirt: Forever 21;
bag: Michael Kors; shoes: Born

ABC. American born Chinese--another cold acronym assigned to people who society deems different, in need of a label. Well guess what, society? I don't need your stupid labels. Labels make me a foreigner among Chinese and a sore thumb among Americans. Why can't I just be?

Besides, if anything I'm a Chinese born American because, technically, I was Chinese in the womb, and I didn't become an American until I was born in California. Hence, I'm "born American," making me a Chinese born American. But CBA isn't nearly as catchy, is it society? Well screw you, society--messing with people's identities because it's more convenient for you.

I digress.

I've always felt like an outsider among Chinese people who speak little English. My Chinese is poor, but when I'm around people who communicate primarily in Chinese, I feel compelled to speak Chinese because I have black hair and brown almond-shaped eyes. That's always awkward. What's more, I find it difficult to be myself in another language. When I speak Chinese, I'm dumb and plain--inferior. In English, I'm charming, sarcastic, intelligent, complex. Language truly is a barrier, and so is culture.
While I feel more comfortable with Americans (born and raised in 'Murica), there are a lot of differences between me and many of my peers. To be brief, there are high family expectations, inter-familial hierarchies, being extremely respectful, and no dating until you're thirty.

Here's one that always stuck out: before high school, my friends were all very Americanized, which meant they didn't understand my need to have every single detail regarding our hang out plans (i.e. who's driving, what time will we be home, where are we going, etc.). If I panicked about being yelled at by my parents, they would be sympathetic but not empathetic. In the end, I always felt like I was some sort of burden on them, and it sucked. Conversely, throughout high school, most of my close friends were Asian, which meant that we all had to have loads of details regarding the night's plan. And whenever we ran late, we all panicked together. We all understood the fear that omigod my parents are going to be pissed. Everyone was on the same page, which made things easy and comfortable.

You might be thinking, "Then why don't you just have Asian American friends?" Honestly, that would be a super easy fix, but it seems weird to pick my friends by race. Besides, one of America's greatest attributes is being a melting pot--a decadent mix of cultures and beliefs. I want to be exposed to that diversity. But ugh. It's just hard sometimes.
I also want to touch upon Asian stereotypes and how they pertain to the fact that I tend to dress more loudly. Most people are already familiar with the term, but I'll review it. FOB: fresh off the boat. A derogatory term used to describe people who immigrate to America from an Asian country. There's a stereotype (albeit a mostly true one) that recent Asian immigrants tend to wear "weird" clothes--clothes that are too colorful, slightly unusual, and occasionally garish. Because I tend to dress on the louder side, I'm always paranoid that people think of me as a FOB. Granted, I shouldn't care what strangers think about me. And being considered a FOB isn't even a super insulting thing (in the sense that a FOB is technically just a person who's new to America, not because the term is acceptable). I don't know. This is just something that's confusing for me personally, and I often find myself wondering if people would forgo the weird stares if I was white. Is that a bad thing? Does that mean I'm ashamed of my ethnicity? Or does that make me human? Just another person with another insecurity?
I come from two cultures. Sometimes I embrace that as an element of my individuality. Sometimes I tire of the confusion of not completely belonging to one culture.

How do ethnicity and culture influence your everyday life? I'm interested to know.


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