The meanderings of a recovering ex-expat with the occasional identity crisis
How many times have you driven behind an erratic driver and thought, “Man, that driver’s got to be Chinese. He/she drives horribly!” – only to feel so guilty immediately afterwards, that you go to the nearest Panda Express and try to obtain absolution from your sinful racist thoughts by inhaling a heaping mess of General Tsao’s chicken, beef with broccoli and stir fried noodles, while watching all three Jackie Chan’s “Rush Hour” movies back to back?
Or, how about when you were in school and felt dumber than a garbage bag with a hole in it, because Jim Wang, Xiaoqiu Lee, and Lisa Ting always had the answers to every math and science problem, got the highest grades, did all the extra homework, asked questions that even the teacher couldn’t answer, and then competed in violin and piano contests in their “spare time”?
I believe that our stereotypes of others form when we observe certain people consistently acting in a particular way. We then expect these groups of people to behave in that certain manner, so that we tend to ignore or forget the times when their actions don’t support our assumptions about them.
As many of you know, there are many stereotypes of Chinese people. But with every stereotype, there is always an exception to the rule. So, without further ado, I bring you…
My Favorite Chinese Stereotype:
“Chinese women are demure, graceful, home- and hearth-loving, and will take care of her Man”
I have an alter ego. Her name is “asianite” and she is what many Westerners might think a delicate Chinese lotus blossom of a woman should be. She is 27 years old, 5’2″, 110lbs, fresh-faced and innocent and looks nothing like me. She works in beauty services, has a high school education, doesn’t smoke, and dutifully lives with her parents. Her pale, white skin is as perfect and smooth as a sheet of unmarked paper (not the cheap Office Depot bulk brand, but the premium HP Laser Jet kind).
asianite loves to cook and read, is kind and honest, and seeks a Chinese-food lover, who will enjoy her exceptional culinary skills and is ready for a caring, honest, and loving relationship.
Just one look at her online profile and you’ll wonder where she’s been all your life (Note: Clicking on the profile will enlarge the text):
Of all the things I’ve ever written, I’m most proud of writing asianite’s profile.
First, I’m extremely snobby about incorrect spelling, punctuation and grammar and will judge people based on their writing ability. I once rejected a perfectly nice man simply because the handwritten Hallmark card he sent me read,
“I’m so embbarrassed, I never sent no flowers to nobody I didn’t know before. But you compiled me to do it.”
So for me to craft an online profile that I can’t even understand is pretty genius, albeit quite painful.
Second, asianite’s profile touches on all of the stereotypes that Westerners have about Chinese women: quiet, cute, petite, beautiful, kind, submissive, loyal, ready to please her man before herself. To any foreign man who has a stereotype about how the perfect Chinese woman should be, asianite surely fits the bill.
Third, the name “asianite” came about, because I was thinking about porn names for Asian women that would appeal to Western men – in case my business ever failed and the porn market for sarcastic, saggy Chinese-Canadian women really took off.
“asianite” embodies the exotic mystique Westerners have about Asian women, as well as the lure of *carnal pleasures* that come during the NITE time. (Actually, I think a better porn name for me would be, “Sargasmic”, but this name would not be a box office draw, and I can see now the films’ subject matter would be a big turn-off for men).
Despite the fact that asianite is hardly ever online, never responds to messages, has had the same profile up for the last 5 years and appears too good to be true, she still receives several emails a week from delusional, yet hopeful, Caucasian men around the world.
To these men, I’d like to introduce another Chinese stereotype – “The Dragon Lady”.
A Dragon Lady is someone like my Great Aunt, with whom I once flew from Taipei to Vancouver. We were detained in Canada Customs for hours, as she had tried to bring into Canada an orchid plant and half a dozen Chinese meat buns.
We (Canadian Customs officials and I) watched in horrified amusement as my Great Aunt stuffed her face with six Chinese meat buns, each the size of her palm (she’d rather eat them than let Customs confiscate) – all the while scolding Customs officials in her incomprehensible Chinglish and spitting out bits and pieces of the meat bun at them, as she talked and gestured wildly.
Then, after ingesting all those buns, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, smugly patted her stomach, then gave an award-winning belch, which was the talk of Canada Customs for weeks, since Canadians are usually very quiet about their gas, as they are with most other things.
Actually, my Great Aunt was known in our neighborhood for being difficult, especially after throwing a 2kg pack of frozen baby back ribs at the clerk in the Safeway, because the ribs weren’t on sale like they were the week before.
There’s also my ex-favorite Uncle Tom – whose Mother is my Great Aunt, by the way - who had married Aunt Margaret, thinking she was the perfect embodiment of the Lotus Blossom, as he’d had enough of his Mother’s Dragon Lady attitude while growing up.
Uncle Tom originally told us he wouldn’t let Aunt Margaret drive, because she was too fragile and sensitive to handle the stresses of the road. But we quickly found that Aunt Margaret didn’t have the time to drive a car, because she was already too busy driving my Uncle Tom crazy with her constant nagging and worries.
Today, Uncle Tom is in his early 50 and looks like he’s in his mid-60s. They have two children, but I’m pretty sure the younger one is not human. I’ve stopped visiting their house, as the last time I went I couldn’t find a place to sit that wasn’t already occupied by a toy, clothing, a plate, or a piece of garbage.
So, to all those men with the Chinese Lotus Blossom stereotypes in their heads, just remember: behind every Lotus Blossom there lurks a Dragon Lady.