Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Name Game

Greetings from a cool and comfortable basement! I'm in Chicago hanging out with my (handsome and much missed) boyfriend for the weekend. It's been nice to relax, see some friends, and generally chill out without worrying about having to do the laundry or let the dog outside. Mengyao's parents have been in and out with work, but I've spent the better part of today with them and have enjoyed getting to know them a lot better. After some (long awaited) meaningful discussion, I have determined that the Liang's are normal people who live pretty normal lives and want what's best for everyone.

(This is a discovery I've made with great relief. I can be honest and say I was afraid that the more they got to know me, the less they would be open to me. While most people will say that I am a great person and very easy to get along with, they will also tell you that I chose one of the least profitable careers in the country, that I am not a stellar cook or housekeeper, and that I am decidedly not Asian.)

The name discussion is being tackled head on at the moment. Top picks are (in alphabetical order): Alexis, Bridget, and Emma. The middle name (Chinese name) will be chosen by Mengyao's parents. For a while we thought we had all of this sorted out. Alexis and Emma both go very well with Liang, but I have to say that Bridget is a name close to my heart that I've always loved it. Alexis is a name that my (willing to compromise) boyfriend prefers over Bridget, but we find that both of us really like the name Emma. My parents prefer the name Emma also.

When the topic was breached with Meng's parents, we hit a snag. When Meng and I left the house to go see Shrek 3 (it was pretty good; I cried), Emma was the top pick. When we returned however, it had been discovered in our absence that the name "Emma" sounds rather like the Chinese phrase for, "Oh my gosh!" The name, therefore, has fallen slightly out of favor in the eyes of Meng's parents. Mengyao says it doesn't matter because in Chinese company we will call her by her Chinese name. I now want to call her Emma more than ever.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Piranha Conversation Outtakes

I tend to see things in a rather satirical light. There are those among you who have been there when my edit button slipped...

I tend to not say all the things that I’m thinking. It’s better that way because half of my thoughts are along the lines of “your face” and “your mom.” (The truth is, actually, that most people don’t say all the things they’re thinking. Imagine, if you will, the President of the United States in the middle of his speech suddenly announcing to the press room how he desperately needs to pee. The funny thing is that everyone always says “I don’t say all the things I think,” as if it’s some great revelation or that they’re different from everyone else.) The problem is that I’m an external processor, and when I’m thinking something really powerful, it swims around inside of me like a piranha, eating up all the useful thoughts and dominating my tank of existence.

It’s funny what people will accidently say to a pregnant woman. Many of you know me as rather unforgiving with speech, and the fact is that until I have published this somewhere, it’s going to destroy my inner being. So here, arranged according to the amount of reaction I’ve had to suppress, are the things that people have accidently said, and the things that I haven’t said back.

7. "You just don't look pregnant to me."
This is usually said by people who see me on a day to day basis. It’s funny because, I feel pregnant. I remember once someone said this to me right after I pulled a round ligament as I was hobbling to class and clutching my side. Additionally, my clothes don’t fit, so every time someone says this to me (like the former co-worker I ran into yesterday) all I hear is, “Haven’t you always been that fat?"

6. "Are you sure it’s not twins?"
This one gets a blank stare. Between a three sonograms and two ultrasounds, I’m fairly certain there is only one bun in the oven. Thank you for your concern.

5. "Do you know who the father is?"
This is usually said by people who don’t know me very well, but it still makes me feel a little disappointed. I mean, I understand that being an unwed mother-to-be does not exactly spell out “pillar of virtue,” but most people have seen me walking around holding hands with this (charming and courteous) Asian guy, so it would follow that the (before mentioned charming and courteous) Asian guy would be the father… unless of course all Asians look alike to you, which may lead you to believe that I sleep around with a lot of Asians. If that’s the case, then I’d say you are the one with the problem.

4. "You know, so-and-so got pregnant in college, and…"
I think that this is an effort to make me feel like the speaker identifies with my situation. It’s a very nice gesture, but it really just makes them sound like a bad conversationalist. I really don’t care to hear how your friend/acquaintance/distant relative was left by her boyfriend/ostracized by her family/later arrested for drug use… unless of course you have some sage piece of wisdom to share in relation to this experience. No? Okay then. Stop talking.

3. "I'm not judging you."
Oh, yes you are. This statement is usually coupled with a very concerned and “understanding” look, and is often followed by…

2. "I just want you to know that Jesus loves you.”
I genuinely get annoyed at this one. I try not to, but here’s the thing: I grew up at a mission center. I attended Christian schools from kindergarten to my senior year, and I spent the majority of my summers visiting holiness camp meetings and going to a minimum of two church services a day. Now, I am not the first to pick up on things, but you’d think somewhere in my childhood I would have gathered that Jesus loves me. I actually had someone sit me down last month (literally led me to a bench and sat me down) and give me a formulaic five minute salvation sermon complete with a personal life story and an analogy—all because I told them I was pregnant. I guess the annoying thing is that each person says it like they’re the only person in the world who’s ever said it to me, or that people who know about Christ’s love don’t sin. Pfft.

And taking the place of number one (drum roll, please)…

1. "Does the father know?"
Okie dokie… “I think that you’re a great person and all, and I have no problem sharing this information with you, mostly because I’m not keeping it a secret, but you don’t seem to even know my boyfriend’s name. What makes you think I’d tell you before I told him?” Of course, that would be terrible and I’d never say that, but I think it, (usually) as I talk to two or more acquaintances without hushed tones in a public place. No, I just smile and tell them, “He knew before I did.” That opens up the opportunity for me to say all sorts of wonderful things about my (incredibly intuitive and level-headed) boyfriend, and the people leave feeling great about the (apparently very close) friendship we share because I’ve confided in them.

Now that I've sufficiently purged my mind of these thought consuming rampage-etts, perhaps I can put down Pratchett's Discworld series and dive into something a little more intellectual. Doubtful, but we'll give it a shot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Driven out of Solitude

Well, folks, I'm back. I suppose I should apologize for the long lasting silence, the unanswered messages and emails, and my tendency to ignore things that are not in front of me, but I simply just don't feel like it. Besides, I'm told I apologize too much.

Many of you, I'm sure, have thought that I've fallen off the face of the planet, or that I'm ignoring you. I have been ignoring you. In fact, I've been ignoring almost everyone, so don't take it personally. You know that comatose state that happens after finals? Before finals week was officially over, I packed up my entire apartment and put it in my parent's mini van, left behind the majority of my friends that I won't be seeing for a rather long time, said goodbye to my (dashing and incredibly sensitive) boyfriend, and plopped my self down in Springport, Michigan.

There's nothing much wrong with Springport. It's a very... small town. I remember when I lived in Kentucky thinking that Campton was small. Campton at least had a grocery store and a downtown. Springport has... an ice cream stand.

I really shouldn't complain. My parents are letting me turn their house completely upside down and they're not making me pay rent for it.

Anyway, given that finals week was also moving week and good-bye week, I decided to be sick for a while and have spent a good portion of the last few weeks sleeping. It's been nice.

"So, Samantha," you ask, "What is it that you have come out of the crypt to tell us about? Why are you finally breaking the silence?"

Well, I'll tell you.


Not that it was ever on the forefront of my mind until I began dating a (handsome and wonderful) Chinese man, but do you realize that there are almost no Asian Barbies? I suppose if I'd thought about it before, it would have registered that I'd never seen one, but after almost three hours of research on the internet, I have come up with only five Barbies of vaguely Asian persuasion since 1990. This includes the Mulan doll, which, to my utter dismay, now only comes in a princess outfit!

"But, Samantha," you tell me, "We've always known that Mattel Inc wants our children to believe they're not beautiful unless they're a bodacious blonde! You can't expect racial sensitivity."

Have you walked down the doll aisle lately? On all sides, not only can you see the buxom blonde trollop, you can also see her African American and Latina friends. I did see a picture of an Asian doll on a display case earlier this year. By hand-searching the collector's website, I found her online. The three others I found were basically dressed as Geishas (though a discerning eye pointed out to me, the dolls marketed as Chinese were all sporting Japanese footwear).

I look back to my early days when my Barbies were my favorite pastime. I had names for all of them, family backgrounds and plot lines. My favorite was Teresa, who had straight brown hair like mine. I loved my dolls, and when I found out I was going to have a girl, it was one of the first things that came to mind. I was so excited at the thought of being able to share part of my childhood with my daughter. But what kind of message will she get if the only dolls that look like her are strange and exotic?

Barbie has brought on the appearance of progression. The new "Career Barbie" series has the dolls in TV chef settings and doctor's white coats. You can find these dolls in several ethnicities... but not Asian.

Thinking that perhaps it was something that the department had overlooked, I searched some of Mattel's other sites. They also own the franchise for Polly Pocket and American Girl, so I scoured those sites as well. There was no sign of Asian-ness anywhere to be found on the Polly Pocket site, but the site itself is so confusing and unhelpful, it wasn't astonishing.

What took me by surprise was American Girl, who I've always felt represented American history in a (somewhat biased but otherwise) all-inclusive manner. So imagine my chagrin when an hour of searching came up with one Asian doll, "Julie's Chinese friend, Ivy."

Take a good look, if you will... See, the thing that strikes me is that, besides her red outfit... she doesn't look Chinese!

(Wouldn't now be an interesting time to bring up World War II? Of course that chapter of our history would be too dark for American Girl. No wonder there's no Japanese doll.)

I just don't understand. Asian-Americans make up the third largest minority in the country! Is it because Mattel Inc. has been unsuccessful at marketing to Asian groups in the past? Or is it simply because they've decided adding a fourth ethnicity their collections would be too difficult? As the leading toy company of the decade, you'd think they'd have gone the extra mile.

So, tomorrow I think I'll make a few phone calls.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Now that the secret is out...

Sorry I haven't been posting. It's pre-finals week, and I'm moving next weekend. As soon as things are more settled, I promise I'll be a better blogger.

I should also apologize to all the people I'm not going to be able to see before I leave. I want to see you all... there's just not enough free time in a semester.

I'm off to dream about baby shoes.