A Funny Thing Happened to Me at the Grocery Store the Other Day

Although how funny it is depends, I think, on your point of view.

Warning: this is inspired by International Blog Against Racism Week, though I’m not sure it really fits the theme, and anyways it’s full of uncomfortable things which may make you think way less of me, but I don’t really care, because you can’t think less of me than I already do.


I was chillin’ in an Asian gift store, because I wanted some wall hangings. Said store also happened to sell cosmetics, kitchen items, a gazillion Hello Kitty horrors, health and beauty items… really a very nice store, if heavy on the Sanrio kitsch.

A nice white lady came up to me, maybe in her 20s to 40s, I’m not one to judge, and said, “Oh! I have to ask you a question. Do you know the name of this kind of skin cream that all the pretty young Asian women are using?”

Now that was… awkward, although she didn’t seem to notice. Why should she?

“… No?”

She looked vastly disappointed. “Oh, I thought you’d know.”

As if there was some kind of telepathy between young Asian women.

Wouldn’t it be weird if I came up to a random white teenager and said, “Oh! Do you know the name of this lipstick that all the hot white chicks are using?” But it’s not weird if that lady asks me, because as we all know, Asians are all alike.

I went home a bit… not so much upset, as grumpy that I was reminded, once again, that part of who I am—and indeed a large part of who I am to others in this great country I love—is Asian. Or at least, “Asian”, as in this kind of yellow people miasma that occupies the media and entertainment.

I hate that part of me.

I hate my reflection in the mirror every morning and every night, or I would if I thought about it beyond acne and tooth-brushing. I despise the idea of spending time with a group of exclusively Asian women. I never participated in foreign outreach programs, not even when I was in college. I will never visit a country that many people think is “home” to me even though I grew up in soil that they think is foreign to me. I hate everything about my parent’s culture—which happens to be Vietnamese, thank you very much, not this generic “Asian” culture stereotype that people have in their heads. It’s way different from, say, Chinese, in the way that France is different from Spain.

But not many people really get that. I think, really, not many people care—nor should I ask them to care. I’m the alien, after all. I look like an alien, I should not be comfortable, I have no right to be, and I have no right to expect other people to look at me as a normal American.

This is not what someone like me should think. All of that is not true. And yet that litany is what runs through my head whenever I happen to think about my race. The online fiasco that is now known as RaceFail hurt me quite a lot. No matter what I read about it, it reminded me of what I think of as “my problem”, and unfortunately I can’t fucking put that away. I’m sorry to say that I think white people probably had an easier time of walking away, but I understand that’s an unpopular thing to say, and that people I like will swear up and down that the idea, the presumption, is false and accusatory of me.

I’ll have to take them at their word. Because that was how I was taught when I grew up.

As you can imagine, I spend a large amount of time online, because no one can tell, and I can forget about the parts of me that I think don’t matter (and they don’t, or at least, not as much as others may think it does). I have multiple identities anyways, both legal and simply online, so being somebody else—to the point where, as far as I’m concerned, it is me—is not new. It’s a way of coping. Not a good way of coping, and indeed, it’s a cop-out. But it’s what I do.

But I don’t avoid and hate all things Asian. I love to see Asian actors in films—real Hollywood films. But I gave up on the idea of ever seeing them as a lead role. Asians do not belong there, not in this country. This is reinforced again, and again, and again—and again in the live action film of Avatar, and to me these days, that is simply the truth. You can’t escape it.

And I gave up on the idea of an Asian United States President, because we don’t belong there either. Not at the White House. Barack Obama being elected meant a lot to me, and gives me a bit of hope… because people don’t think he’s an alien anymore. Well. Most people anyways….

Maybe someday Asian people won’t be aliens either, here, and I can stop forgetting. I honestly think it would take an Asian president to make that happen.

But you know. I’m not stupid. Never fucking happening. Much easier to think that way, and then to forget, trust me on this.

If you must know, I also hate the fact that I’m a woman. I hate myself in many ways, in fact, which I’m sure is a comfort to people who don’t think women or Asians have a real role in this country as people who can Really Do Things, or who think that they all whine too much about these notions.

I surrendered a long time ago, in this culture war inside me. The status quo won. There ain’t nothing I can do about it, even in myself, so how fucked up would it be for me to even presume to ask others to start changing it? Of course I know in my head most days that that isn’t true, but my heart knows that it is Truth with a capital T.

The other reason I don’t participate in outreach programs is that I know that, in person, I am pure poison to women and to Asians. Thank gods I don’t spend enough time with young ones, thus not shaping them with the sickness that’s in my head and heart, whatever makes me hate myself so. And I tend to stay far away from discussions about race, because it’s just safer.

It is nice, though, to see people come around, gradually. I’m just kind of sad that I continue to hate myself in spite of that. Sometimes I hate myself additionally for not feeling tons better as people admit difficult things, and I’m sorry that I can’t help very much with encouraging and comforting them, and I’m sorry I’m not doing more to be an ambassador or whatever because if not me then who?, because …

… well, I just hate me.

And now I’d like to go back to not thinking about it.

I’m not even bothering to add tags. May this goddamned post sink to the bottom of my statistical pages and rot.

Update: Okay, I added a tag. Because it just struck me as funny. My sense of humor is pretty backwards at times.