“Mixed babies are so cute!” To which I reply, “Thank you.” Look, I’m really proud to be a mixed child. I’m proud of both sides of my heritage, well versed in both of my cultures, and generally happy. But once in a while, I get the occasional head tilt and I know what they’re thinking.
I’m half Thai and half American. Plenty of people around the world are mixed, sometimes they’re just really good at hiding it. I don’t know, maybe I’m just tired of explaining it, so I choose one or the other. The nice thing about being half Asian and half White is that you can easily blend into whichever group you want. Like a chameleon.
When I was younger, I didn’t accept my Asian side. I was constantly bombarded with love from my mother’s six sisters and two brothers and I was tired of it. I tried so hard to be a classic white kid living in a white suburban area, but it was much harder than it looked. The thing of it is, it’s hard to fit in with all your white friends when your skin is darker, your hair is black, and you have smaller eyes. Despite all of this, I tried my damned hardest to convince everyone that I was white. I started doing things that all of my other friends were doing and rejecting anything related to my Asian side.
When I started elementary, my mother said, “Enough is enough,” and dragged me to the Buddhist temple nearby. She taught me all of the chants and how to pray. She said, “Your father isn’t religious, so this is your religion.” Even now, I remember what she said whenever I feel like doing something against the code. It was a big change, going from trying to be 100% white to being surrounded by my mother’s culture every weekend. Eventually, we started going on a regular schedule and it just seemed natural to me. I had met other kids who were in the same boat as me and we started to hang out. I really enjoyed going to the temple because they had food booths and dancing afterward. I loved watching the dancers move gracefully, how their long golden fingernails (fake of course) shimmered in the sunlight. I also really loved the sticky rice and beef that Pa Noon made. Mom said once that I naturally ate like the King. This whole time, I didn’t forget my need to fit in with my white friends. The temple was a different world, a dream so to say, but I had to wake up eventually. This was usually around 2 PM. As I was nearing my final year in elementary, my family moved to our current location, which meant that we were farther away from the temple. We stopped going altogether and my life continued as it did before.
As I was nearing my final year in elementary, my family moved to our current location, which meant that we were farther away from the temple. We stopped going altogether and my life continued as it did before. I missed all of my friends from the temple, but it was my constant communication a sharing of jokes in Thai that reminded me to keep coming back to that side every so often. It would end up being extremely helpful when I went to school in Thailand for three years.
Speaking of Thailand, when I was there, I had the expectation that I would instantly fit in, but I was wrong. Apparently, I was too white, hardly knew the language, and my eyes were too big. Granted, I had grown a little and my monolid was slowly turning into an actual lid. I went to an all girl’s grammar school and wore the traditional school uniform. All of the girls would come up to me and bug me to tell them everything about America. Most of their questions concerned celebrities, to which I had no real knowledge about, so I lied. I mean, it wasn’t like they would go home and research James McJames, Thailand was still pretty primitive at that point.
When I went back home, I had reverse culture shock. I had completely adapted to the Thai lifestyle and was now being thrown back into a dominantly white culture. That isn’t to say that I had forgotten everything from when I was living there before, it was just different. First, there was the insane jet lag, which took me about a month to get over. Then there was the food (back then it was harder to find a Thai restaurant in the area), which could only be acquired when my aunt came over. The currency really threw me off!
But that’s not the worst of it. When I entered high school, there were only about three other Asians in the school including me. It was then that I learned about racism first hand. You see, being mixed, you’re walking on a double-edged sword when it comes to racism. First, you get the obvious jokes about being white and racist. Of course, when this occasion rises, I can always pull the Asian card. But then there is the racism against Asians and trust me, there are a lot. One of my “friends” thought it would be fun to nickname me Rice and my friend from the Philippines Soy. I would just lightly chuckle whenever she called us that, but it was really hurtful. Trust me, I’m not trying to be cruel to this person or call said person out when I mention this case. Personally, I’m not racist. That’s a hard thing to say since I definitely think twice passing people. What I mean is that I’m a very open and accepting person. As someone who has experienced cross racism on both sides of my gene pool, I at least have some say.
I was filling out an application recently. It was going great until I came across the ethnicity question. Asian, Caucasian, Other. Other… So now I’m reduced to other? Maybe I should just shade in all the options. I’m not even going to talk about the sex box. My choices for this option are purely situation based. If I’m applying to somewhere that values diversity, then I’ll shade in the Asian box, but I wouldn’t dare put Asian for something simple like an online survey or such. I want those people to think that I’m white. I’m personally grateful for my, what I call, ethnic fluidity. Ethnic fluidity is ethnicity as code switching is to language. I’m Asian when it calls for it and I’m White when I need to be.
From all this, you are probably thinking that I really love being a mixed child, but the truth of it is, I hate it. I wish I could just split in two and have a conversation with both sides of me. I wonder what I would say to myself. “How are you doing?” “Pulling through.”