Last week, I hosted the second ever-famous Wired Momma book club meeting. After a great discussion of the book (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn), we moved onto a wide range of topics, which is part of what makes book club so fun – this reality that thanks to the vast Interweb – we can meet up with a group of relative strangers and end up discussing, oh, eating your placenta, dumb things husbands say and naturally, celebrity gossip and bad reality TV (here’s where I learned the uber-important phrase “Redneckognize” which apparently gets said by Honey Boo Boo’s mom. #Hilarious). While our topics were mostly light (the jury’s still out on placenta eating but one WM book club attendee claimed she’d encapsulate her placenta and eat it as vitamins if she had another baby. Aren’t you pissed you missed book club? Cause you should be) – we did cover some meatier subjects.
Somehow the fact that one of my sisters thinks Mr. Wired Momma is the palest man in American and she joyfully mocks him for being wan throughout the year — came up. C’est vrai.
As we then noted that I also have very white kids and shamelessly mocked Mr. Wired Momma (Cause I’m so tan), it emerged that I was the only person at the table who wasn’t part of a biracial marriage. There were five of us in total, one woman is white married to a Vietnamese guy, one woman is Laotian married to a white guy, one woman biracial and married to a white guy, and another woman white married to a Cuban. Then moi and pale-face Mr. WM. Clearly it was important to note that while some of us better “Redneckognize,” another phrase I hadn’t yet heard was “BlaAsian” – which is the Black/Asian combo, made famous, in part, by Kimora Lee Simmons.
But seriously – the conversation then turned to the ridiculously stupid things people inevitably say to moms of biracial kids….like asking them where they adopted their babies from, or if they are the nanny, something my friend and local DC mom, Kim, documents on her amazing blog I’m Not the Nanny. Considering I basically married a man who looks kinda like my brother
I don’t personally have any experience with this but still am fascinated and irritated by the idiotic things strangers feel compelled to say. Why must anyone make a comment – is really the over arching question.
Then not two days later, a friend of mine emailed me a speech she plans to give soon, asking me to look it over. I couldn’t believe the subject matter. It was almost like she’d been part of book club. She gave such an honest, heart-felt and personal insight into this subject matter as a mixed race kid, who is now an adult having her own kids, that I had to share her piece with you – so I bring you Nicolle’s guest piece called “What are you?”:
WHAT ARE YOU?
“What are you?”….It was a new question, but one that became familiar to me in college. Until that time most people I knew, I had known my whole life and whatever questions they had about me, they had figured out on their own…. rightly or wrongly.
But, when I left for college – I was my own person…separated from my family for the first time and forced to make my way in the world as a single person removed from the family unit and that is when the questions started:
“What are you?”
“You’re Vietnamese right?”
“I can tell by your eyebrows you are Korean”
When I think about it, the whole thing began long before then but I was too young to know. My mom told me that when she would take me out when I was an infant she would hear people say…”Look at that cute chinese baby!”. She also took great satisfaction in joking with me that I was really adopted from Uzbekistan.
I am pretty different from my family…so it wasn’t a big leap to think that I COULD have been adopted but it is just not the case. My mom is mom, a tall redheaded white girl of Scottish decent…and when I say white I mean see- thru-skin WHITE. And there is my father, he is of Mexican descent but doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Still I know I have each of them in me. I inherited her wit and her tendency to gather and discard past-times like purses. I have my dad’s almond eyes, as well as his tendency to push the envelope in any endeavor. ….Was it really necessary for him to pretend like he was jumping off of the side of the Grand Canyon during our family visit?…..Regardless, I can’t WAIT to do that to my kids….
Anyway, it took a while, but after I began to get this question almost daily, I started to realize that people’s assumptions about what I was had a lot to do with who THEY WERE.
When I was younger a Navajo boy drew a wonderful picture of me as a gift… except that in the drawing, it was clear that I was a nice young Navajo girl.
In high school there was a girl who really didn’t like me. When trying to get people to see things her way she would tell them….”well, I don’t know what she is but she is definitely “NOT white””
I worked in Disneyland in college and this took the question to a whole new level. It was then I began to have the Japanese tourists speak Japanese to me as I stared blankly back at them. Koreans would swear I was Korean. When I moved to DC the Cab drivers seemed especially fond of the question. I could tell when people really wanted to ask. I could see them start to fidget and look for the right time to blurt…WHAT ARE YOU?? I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of an immediate answer. I would make them would guess and guess just see where the game would take us. My friends delighted in this and began calling me a FASIAN. “Fake Asian”.
Now that I am getting more settled in life, I get the questions less but I see this is a small gift I have now passed on to my two girls. “She looks Mongolian…and I mean that as a compliment” a friend told me about my one year old recently.
So what am I? It changes by the day but right now a I am a Asian looking, envelope pushing, mom, wife and a friend just trying to keep it together …. What ARE YOU??
Thank you Nicolle!!! “Like” Wired Momma on Facebook to keep up with the fun, frolic, next book club meeting and any placenta-eating status updates.