Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Wrong Paint Job

This is going to sound rude, but I am really tired of hanging out with my Asian girlfriends. Let me explain.

My husband and I, and our two children go out to dinner with my husband's cousin. We order our food. We sip our drinks. The waitress walks by and says to my husband and his cousin, "You two make such a cute couple."

See, I am white. So even though I'm the one sitting next to the Asian guy, I couldn't possibly be his wife. 

Let me explain some more.

I am getting a drink with an (Asian) girlfriend at a nice hotel bar. My husband joins us and we decide to go somewhere else for dinner. My friend picks up the tab. The bartender says, "Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Xu." <<< Our friend's last name. 

See, I am white. So even though my husband greeted the Asian girl with, "Long time, no see," he must be with her, because she is Asian.

Let's see another example, shall we?

I am 3 weeks postpartum, carrying a diaper bag and holding a toddler's hand. Next to me is my husband, lugging a carseat. Slightly behind us is another (Asian) friend, carrying a small, glittery purse. She is approached by a woman walking her dog. "Wow, you sure look great for just having had a baby!" 

See, I am white. So even though I am overweight, and my friend is skinny; even though I have spit-up stains on my shirt and she wears flawless black; even though I am the one answering incessant "Mommy, Mommy!" questions and double checking the carseat buckles, and asking if we packed any formula, and feeling too tired to even put on makeup to cover up the fact that I'm tired; even though the children look incredibly Caucasian, there is an Asian man carrying the carseat, so the Asian woman must be the mom.

"Actually, the baby is mine."
"Oh! Um, well, you look okay, too."
Thanks a lot, lady.

I could go on. You get the idea. I am tired of the message the world is sending me. Sing it with me:

"One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong."

That's me, the one that doesn't belong. Because I'm white. 

And as a woman who gave up her career to raise children, as a woman whose only occupation is a wife and mother, this message is a slap in the face. Because when someone says, "They look so happy together," or "Their kids are so cute," or "His wife is beautiful," what it says to me is "You aren't pretty enough to be his wife." "You obviously aren't a mother." and "You and your husband don't look right together." 

As a dear college friend once quipped, I was born with the wrong paint job. There is nothing I can do to make the world see the rightness in an Asian man with a white woman, except go back out again and be seen, over and over until the world gets it. I guess someone has to. 

Has anyone else ever been snubbed like this? How did you deal with it? Leave your thoughts and handy comebacks in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Open Letter to the Transgender Woman at my Gym

Dear Person,

I'm sorry I can't address you by name.

I first noticed you by your cool headband. I was walking across the lobby of our woman-only gym when the color caught my eye. I turned to look at it, then I did a double take.

I hope--pray even--that the startle didn't register on my face. Then there was the awkward. You looked at me. I looked away. No! I shouldn't look away! This is a person! Look her in the face like anyone else! But you had looked away again. You looked back, I looked away, you looked away, I looked back. It was just unfortunate timing. I saw you smile, though. It was a nice smile.

Panic had set in at that point. I so desperately wanted you to know that I hadn't been staring at you,--that I'd just been looking at your headband. I tried to be casual. Smile back. I wanted to pack as much good will and acceptance into that smile. Was I smiling too much? I probably looked like I was just trying to stare more. I gave up and scurried off to the nursery to get my kids.

I kicked myself as I picked up my kids, walked them to the car and buckled their seat belts. Then I slapped myself for a while on the drive home. What was wrong with me? I'm supposed to be open and accepting. I firmly believe that a transgender woman should have all the rights and respect any other woman has. Why couldn't I just meet your gaze and say, "Nice headband"?

I'll bet situations like this happen to you all the time. I'll bet it gets lonely. I hope I run into you again. Maybe we could have a conversation. Maybe we could be friends. I want a do-over.

I'd like to open these last few paragraphs to all transgender people. Because I am certain this is not the first time this has happened between two people, and it definitely won't be the last.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for all of us that stare without thinking. I'm sorry that some of us are struggling with change, even when we welcome it. I'm sorry that we have a hard time figuring out whether to call you "Sir" or "Mam." I'm sorry for all the stupid things I'm sure we say, some of us trying to prove how okay we are with you, others just being bad at making conversation. While I'm at it, I'm sorry we have anything to prove.

Please be patient with us when we fumble with our pronouns, titles, or other gendered vocabulary. Please don't be discouraged if one of us jumps when you say hello. Please keep smiling if we suddenly look panicked. And please, yes, please tell us if we make a mistake. Tell us if we say something rude or insensitive. Keep us accountable. It is going to take a long time for all of us to learn. Please forgive us when we are thick.

I hope this message is the extension of good will and acceptance I want it to be. I hope it is read by the people who need it most. But I hope, most of all, that it signals a small bit change.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Food and Sanity: Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, Cookies!

Valentine's Day is over, and that means discounted chocolate! Seriously, there is nothing cuter than my husband on Friday, coming home with three bags of peanut butter cups. In addition to the chocolates I bought him the day before Valentine's Day, my parents sent us a care package full of heart shaped chocolates, heart shaped junior mints, and one moderate sized white chocolate bear. The message here is that we have a LOT of candy.

Now, if left to our own devices, we would eat all this candy entirely too quickly. To slow our impending diabetic comas, I have concocted a brilliant plan of pure genius. I call it the Candy Compost Bag!

To keep us happy and not completely deprived of chocolate, I took a small selection of nicer chocolates and put them aside for consumption over the next week. I then took all the rest, unwrapped them, chopped them into little bits and put them in a large ziplock bag in the freezer! Observe.

Here you see two coconut cream candies. Nobody wants to eat them. They are sad

Hiya! I chopped them up with ninja swiftness!
Here they are, combined with other chopped up candy. Now they have friends!
"But, Samantha," you say, "What good are these mangled little morsels of chocolate?" Well, I'll tell you. I now have a magical source of chips for cookies!!!

Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I like to use the original Toll House Cookie recipe and add half a pack of instant vanilla pudding for an extra chewy result. Then just add chopped candies instead of chocolate chips!

I'm so jazzed to make cookies tonight! I plan on using half candy bits and half cranberries. They are going to turn out delicious.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Laws of Pregnancy

Your hormones are crazy. 
You are going to cry. 
You will cry over spilt milk. 
You will cry when someone dies in a movie. 
You will cry when long lost lovers in a book are united.  
You will cry when someone says you're beautiful, if someone you love is hurt, 

and when your Pandora radio station plays "Can You Feel The Love Tonight." 

Stock up on tissues.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On Dating Chinese Men: My Three Chinese Romances

Jocelyn Eikenburg over at Speaking of China has asked that some of her blogger readers speak about what it is like to date a Chinese man. Understanding that dating a Chinese man in China and dating a Chinese man in America are two completely different topics, I’d have to say that Chinese men are pretty much like all the other men out there. As I understand it, there is a different set of rules for dating in China, but since I have no firsthand experience on that topic, I’ll stick to what I know.

When it comes down to it, Chinese men are just men. Perhaps they say things differently, show love differently, but I would never try to put all Chinese men into one large category. My three Chinese romances were vastly different.

James was tall, rich, good looking and very full of himself. When he took me to the Valentine’s Banquet my sophomore year of high school, he wore his own tuxedo. I knew he was trouble, but I liked him. He professed undying affection for me and told me I was different from all the other girls. What 15 year old can’t like that? But I knew he was trouble, and so when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I said no.

Turns out, it was a good call. The next day I saw him holding hands with my best friend. Apparently, they’d been “talking” for quite some time and I was the only one who didn’t know. I suppose that was my first “Chinese romance.”

Joe was shy, which made sense because he spoke very little English. He understood more than he could speak, though. I could tell by how agitated he’d get when we all talked about Mr. Least-Favorite-Professor between classes. If a Mandarin speaking classmate were there, he would burst out a short stream of intense feeling to be translated to the rest of us. A conversation with Joe was slow, but always worthwhile, and I enjoyed being with him.

I’m afraid, however, that I frightened the poor guy. I was anything but shy, always willing to share my opinion or jump into a conversation. I tried to be subtle about my interest, but I’m afraid that anyone as shy as Joe would have been scared off by my forwardness. He remains a good friend, but nothing more.

It was almost four years until my next (and final) Chinese romance. In fact, I didn’t expect it to be a romance at all. A blind date with an older man I’d met online was already a bit sketchy. The fact that he was Chinese made him an even less likely candidate. By that time I had encountered a myriad of Asian men, and I found them to be reserved, formal, and a bit awkward. I braced myself for an uncomfortable evening.

The man I met that night completely obliterated my expectations. He put me so at ease that our date lasted well into the morning. After a few weeks of him taking me out to dinner, getting to know my friends, and telling me how beautiful I was without trying to get into my pants, I realized we were falling in love. Of course, the rest is history. I got pregnant (oops), we decided our love would last, and now we’re married with baby #2 on the way!

You can’t generalize about the men of one race. Each man is different. Sometimes I think it would be easier to explain why Mengyao is so wonderful by saying, “Well, he is Chinese,” but the fact is that he is just a guy. Sure, he happens to be Chinese, and that is a big part of who he is, but that’s not what makes him wonderful. He is wonderful because he is wonderful, a fact that would be true if he were Chinese, Taiwanese or Scandinavian.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Parenthood is...

...gently saying, "Okay, put down the knife. Now put down the bunny," because tea time is done, and it's time to take a bath.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Parenthood is...

...making a huge pile of pillows in the living room, because it makes everything more fun.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Laws of Pregnancy

Always have a can of Bush's baked beans on hand. 
You never know when the desire 
will strike.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mean People

Being in the early stages of pregnancy has brought back a few painful memories that I wasn't able to hash out publicly last time because it was too close to home. Now, almost 3 years later, I think I can go back and talk about them. My purpose here has always been to be raw and honest, and this needs to be talked about. Women who get pregnant before marriage are persecuted.

I'm also going to address abortion, because that is something I get asked about a lot. It was never an option for me. For reasons that I cannot completely explain, I believe it is wrong. There have been debates and arguments about when a fetus acquires a soul, and isn't birth control just an abortion pill, and to be quite honest, I don't have the answers. And I'm not going to discuss them either. They are irrelevant in this conversation. When put on the spot, I use my husband's words, "Abortion is morally riddled."

I should follow that up with a small tangent, because I also feel strongly that abortion should not be outlawed.  Being unwed and pregnant can be a desperate situation, were people do desperate things. A woman who desperately wants an abortion will get one whether it is legal or not. That opens the problems of untrained practitioners, procedure complications, and the risk of infection. Legalizing abortion provides professional care to the women who want it. 

(I've heard some say that if a woman gets an abortion, she deserves to die. Shut up. You're a jerk. Who are you to choose which lives are sacred?)

Anyway, to the primary topic.

The second post that I ever wrote was Dealing With Mean People. I didn't talk about those people, or how they were mean, or what the consequences were for me. It hurt too much, and in fact it still hurts today. When certain people found out that I was pregnant, they persecuted me.

Some of them didn't mean to. The woman who emailed my mother to console her since I had "fallen into sin" surely thought she was being kind. As did a (former) friend when he expressed sorrow that I had been "trapped by the shame of fornication." I suppose, in their minds, it was their duty to provide comfort to my parents during my shame. It never occurred to them to pass along a hello. They never thought to ask how I was doing, or if there was anything I needed. As far as they were concerned, I was a lost cause, better to be abandoned.

My mother, by the way, gave them what-for, told them that a baby was a reason for celebration and that they could (more or less) can it.

Other people put me down by not doing anything. Nothing can help you sort out your friends like an unwanted pregnancy. Emotional support came out of the woodwork from the most random, unexpected and wonderful places. (My mother-in-law for one. Even though she didn't know me, and didn't really trust me, she constantly pushed weird foods on me and gave me diet advice, which I have now come to understand is her love language.) Still, the silence from many of my childhood friends was deafening. As if ignoring a problem will make it go away, or that affiliation may tarnish them, they have remained out of contact.

Finally there were those who had a more direct approach. At the top of the list was my husband's grandparents, who suggested that I got pregnant on purpose to secure myself a wealthy man. (Though to give them credit, they knew very little of me besides the fact that my family was not well off, and that I was studying the arts. We have come a long way since then, and I'd like to think that I have risen in their esteem.) There were a few people who pointedly stopped speaking to me. It was made clear to me that pre-marital sex is a sin, and that my sin had made me into nothing.

And so I wrote a post about mean people. I took my anger out on poor people who were not very good at talking about pregnancy, and the loud football players who lived above me, and myself. And now, three years later, I'd like to say what I truly feel.

To the people who persecuted me:

Not one of you is a bad person, but you are the reason that some young women have abortions. It is the shame you put on them that drives them to hide their mistakes. It is the misery you remind them of that makes their situation desperate. If you are truly strong to your convictions, you would celebrate me. You would congratulate me for facing the consequences of my own actions without flinching. You would hold me up as an example to other women because, even though it would have been easy, even though I could have gone on with my life as if nothing had ever happened, I chose to uphold the sanctity of life. In your eyes I committed one sin. You would have driven me to a second.

To the people who supported me:

I don't know if I would be here without you. Without the support of people like my [now] husband, my parents, my grandma, and the rest of my family, I might have been shamed into a lesser path. Without my dearest college friends, without the amazing support of my classmates, and those childhood friends who stayed by me, I might have betrayed my own convictions and sent myself into a true darkness where I would never have forgiven myself. It is because of you, and people like you, that some women choose life. You make life wonderful. You make the world a place I could not deny my child. You are the reason my wounds have healed. Thank you.

This has been an emotional journey for me, both in the three years it has taken to heal and in the two hours it has taken to write all of this. I'd like to end with an excerpt from my very first post. A message to all the young women out there who feel or have felt desperate.

Somewhere in this, the first post of this blog, I should tell you all what I hope to accomplish here. I think it's pretty clear that I'm not taking the short way out. I'm going to stick this out to the end. Whether that means keeping this child as my own, or giving it to someone else to raise, I don't know. I have seven months ahead of me, and I know that somewhere out there, there are other girls going through the same thing. So I hope that maybe they stumble across College Baby Bump in their web-surfing and know that they're not alone. I don't know where life is taking me right now, and it's frightening, but I'm going to be okay. We're all going to be okay. Trust me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

Today has been a sobering day for me. You see, it's my birthday.

Not that it hasn't been wonderful in many ways! My (sexy and hot-blooded) husband was home for the morning and let me sleep in, always a nice treat. My parents sent me a gift card and I was able to go shopping online, which is something I enjoy very much. And I had chocolate cake with purple frosting for dinner, along with a tall glass of milk and chocolate ice cream. It really has been nice.

What is so very sobering for me is that I am now 24, and for some reason I have never felt old before. On past birthdays, for instance my 16th or 20th birthday, my mom would ask, "So how does it feel to be 16 [or 20]?" and I would answer that it felt very much like being 15 or 19. 

But this year, I believe that I am 24. In fact, if someone had told me very seriously that I am actually turning 25 or 30, I might have been persuaded. For the first time... ever, really, I feel that adulthood has sunk in. 

I have a theory as to why. I look back at my childhood and think of my mom's birthdays. I can't really remember anything to mark them. I might have made her muffins, or perhaps Dad supervised a breakfast in bed surprise, but the fact is that after breakfast she got up, took a shower, and went on with her day. In fact, my birthday usually overshadowed hers and Dad's, since our birthdays are every other day: Dec 29, 31, and January 2. 

I also look back to my own past birthdays, when the thing I looked forward to most was to put on my favorite clothes and go to Chuck E Cheese, or the mall, or to a restaurant, or (later) a bar. 

But today, the best thing I could have possibly looked forward to was staying in my bathrobe until 1 in the afternoon, and eating chocolate cake with purple frosting at night. It's really all I wanted. And in between I did the grocery shopping, read "Green Eggs and Ham," did a load of laundry, and gave the dog a bath. 

I'm not disappointed. I want to be clear on that. But as I stood at the bakery counter today picking out my chocolate cake with purple frosting, I realized that this must be how my mom has spent her birthdays for about 24 years. And if this is how mom does it, then I must be an adult now. And that, my friends, is sobering. 

The good news is that despite my mother's (unmentioned) age, she claims that she has yet to grow up. This, for me, is why the chocolate cake with purple frosting was so important. So Happy Birthday to me, but here's a quick shout out to Mom and Dad for being awesome parents who have helped me get so far. Happy Birthday to you, too.