Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Playdate with the Asian Mommies

Last week I was feeling very proud of my self for joining not just one, but two playgroups--an ethnically unspecified dad group and an Asian mommy group called "Asian Mommies."  So far nothing has happened with the dad group,  but today was the day that I would have my first encounter with my new Asian sisters and their young'uns.  As promised, I went into this adventure with an open mind, free of preconceptions and anxieties.  I mean, there's always a modicum of nagging dread about one thing or another lurking just beneath the surface, but it tends to be drowned out when logistics are foremost on one's mind.   As they were on mine this morning.  But still...

My niggling anxiety going into this was simply that the Asian Mommies would a) think I was weird for being a stay-at-home dad, and b) think I was creepy for wanting to hang out with Asian women.  Anxiety a is based on the attitudes about gender roles that I have observed among some of my Asian in-laws that are my age or older, and also among stock characters from Amy Tan books and martial arts movies.  Anxiety b is based upon the popular notion that white guys exoticize and fetishize Asian women; and also upon my own creepy motives towards Asian women in the past.  But I'm over that, of course.

Upon meeting the three Asian Mommies who showed up for this event, I quickly categorized them based upon the offensive stereotypes they most closely resembled.  There was the leader, a ruthlessly efficient and expensively accessorized Dragon Lady, the nerdy FOB (if you aren't Asian, you probably don't know what this means; and if you are, you're probably composing an outraged comment in all caps), and finally the mousey mom who is secretly a great master of tiger style kung fu and could exsanguinate a man with a diaper wipe (she just had that look about her.)

Having conveniently pigeonholed my new bestest friends, I felt quite at ease.  It helped that we met at the zoo, which I consider my turf since it's just minutes from our house and I have been there five gazillion times.  But the mommies were not as comfortable as I was.  They were a bit distant toward me at first, and the social ritual that followed could best be described in terms of an appropriately zoopomorphic analogy:

As the docent explained the eating and play habits of the orangutans, the mommies and I exchanged furtive sidelong glances while warily circling each other like bonobos with expensive strollers.  Even though my stroller was vastly superior to any of the others, I squatted next to my babies in a gesture of submission, like one of those little gopher-looking things that they have that whole TV show about.  Meer-cats or whatever.  Then the Dragon Lady, the great silverback of our herd, made an approving comment about my offspring, and after that we all got along like a jovial flock of sea lions cavorting among the icebergs.

And so the rest of the excursion went.  Butterbean and Cobra were perfect little angels even though they stayed out long past nap time.  They seemed fairly interested in the animals, and they even interacted with other kids and grown-ups.  The Asian Mommies and I (I guess I am an Asian Mommy now?) exchanged a warm farewell and spoke hopefully of the good times we would have together in the future.  By the time the twins were getting their nap on, there were a number of emails awaiting that alerted me to future Asian Mommy events.  The next one is a trip to the outlet mall, and--I'm sorry--there's just no way.  But I did RSVP for a lunch date next week, further establishing my group membership by voting on which Asian restaurant I preferred as a meeting spot.  But to avoid being chastened like the low-ranking orangutan who challenges the pecking order by eating the popcorn of his den mother, I added that anyplace would be fine with me.

 Hanging out at the zoo--learning about orangutans, getting juiced up.

14 comments:

  1. This in-law approves. You go with your bad white self. Be sure to flaunt your chopstick mastery at lunch.

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  2. I might even bring my own custom-made pair from home!

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  3. Man are they gonna be mad when they find this blog!

    -George Takai

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  4. Oh Grasshoppah, you have unleashed the Dragon Lady within!

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  5. George--I know. They must never find out about this.

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  6. I just saw these pictures and I think it's unfair that one baby gets to have more (or less) hair than the other just so you can distinguish them. You should just be able to tell by the soul shining through each one's eyes.

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  7. @Anisa--they are still too young to have souls.

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  8. This was great! Maybe I should join an Asian Moms group. I mean, I'm not Asian, but my husband is half...that should count for something, right? Unfortunately, my kid doesn't look very Asian, though. They would probably take one look at me and my kid and be all, "Uh...no!". But I would really like to get in on those restaurant meet-ups! I need to figure this one out.

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  9. funny post! Although I am 100% asian, i felt that I could identify with you a lot in this post since i pretty much grew up as a "white" dude (yeah...growing up in the deep South skewed my perspective on life to align with values and habits of Caucasian americans).

    I remember going to college for the first time (in the Midwest) and then finding myself in a group of asians...all of these stereotypes started coming to mind. Couldn't decide if i should be ashamed for turning against my "brothas" or just accept that i was the product of my environment.

    In either event, i am now sensitized to who i am after spending 10 years in a large metro-city...and then now the last few years in Cali.

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  10. "...and also upon my own creepy motives towards Asian women in the past. But I'm over that, of course.

    Upon meeting the three Asian Mommies who showed up for this event, I quickly categorized them based upon the offensive stereotypes they most closely resembled...

    ...Having conveniently pigeonholed my new bestest friends, I felt quite at ease."

    Wow, I can't believe I thought I was actually reading the blog of a white guy who actually respected Asian women. I should've known better.

    You probably think it's okay to make these racist comments because:
    1. your in law approves
    2. you "got over" your creepy Asian fetish
    3. you're married to a Viet woman

    This Viet woman thinks you're a gross creep. When I read your wife was Viet, I searched your blog for entries about her, to get a feel for how you wrote about her and about your in laws, hoping that one of my sisters-by-country had married a man who respected and accepted her down to the marrow of her bones.

    But obviously not. Try and reign your defensiveness in and think about what I'm saying. Thanks for the timely reminder that though there are some (very few) white guys out there who can be trusted, MANY (including yourself) cannot.

    Your poor, lovely children - to be fetishized by men like you when they grow older. I hope they are able to squelch that tiny flicker of discomfort and unease when they read these entries as teenagers and young adults for your sake.

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  11. @ATL--Well said, and well-intentioned, I'm sure. But your critique is misplaced. I hereby invoke the "satire" defense, which inoculates me against any accusations of racism.

    Sorry you think I'm creepy--my wife, her sibs, her parents, grandfather, cousins, etc. have all gotten over my otherness and possible creepiness. I spent ten years slowly overcoming their reluctance (you would probably call it "racism" if you were me) to accept me into their fold, and I have now been married to my wife for 9 years. I made huge concessions, including spending a year of Sundays converting to Catholicism, to get in their good graces. My family acquiesced to what seemed like the insane demands of a full-on Vietnamese courtship and wedding (check out my Anniversary post), so as not to be insensitive to their cultural identity; and the Vietnamese community really didn't take our cultural concerns into consideration. This was okay to me, because I understood the insecurities and defensiveness of a minority culture. As mainstream white folks, we had little to defend.

    My wife and I have been together for almost 20 years, and the idea that I don't "accept her to the marrow of her bones" is ludicrous. The notion of a husband in a 2 decades-long relationship slavering over his wife because she is "exotic" is so unlikely that it's almost cute.

    Your "white guys" comment sounds a little racist to me, by the way. Are you insinuating that Viet dudes are more sensitive, trustworthy, etc.? Think about that, why don't you?

    My wife, my Vietnamese family (who I love dearly), and me, always joke about our cultural differences, just as my Mexican, Chinese, Southern U.S., Jewish, Indian, etc., etc., etc., friends joke about them.

    I'm sorry that my writing is not good enough to convey that part of the comedy here is the stereotype of white guys who are creepily into Asian women. Including myself in this stereotype was meant to be self-deprecating, and while I did invoke some Asian stereotypes, it was in service of what we pretentious would-be writers call "creating an unreliable narrator."

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  12. Ugh, I should've known you would have responded with boring-ass trash most racist white guys use. INCLUDING the "reverse racism" trope and the "BUT MY ASIAN/BLACK/HISPANIC FRIENDS DON'T THINK I'M RACIST!!!"

    So what? Who cares what they think? I'm sure the families of murderers think their loved ones aren't killers but does that make it so? Don't bother responding - I've grown bored with you. I thought a man as old as you would have gained some true insight and thought about racism, how it works in this supposedly "post-racial" world, but obviously not.

    I think no one is ever too old to learn, so in hopes that you will one day be able to overcome your defensiveness and think about racism constructively for your children's sake, I leave you with two sites if you ever decide to accept your flaws and be a better man for your family:

    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/

    and http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/

    Also, I agree, you do need to work on your satire. White guys like you don't get to use racist stereotypes as jokes. Not when you're part of the majority keeping women and minorities worn down and away. You and your wife's relationship is your own thing and if she is cool with racist remarks, that's fine for her. But that doesn't change the fact that they're racist.

    don't bother to respond to me - I won't check this site anymore so whatever satisfaction you would get from writing the perfect response can be here, framed for you, but won't be read (at least by me.) I've realized you're just another racist white man with a knee-jerk reaction when someone calls him out on it. See ya, good luck to you and your family, hope your twins grow up strong, smart, and kind.

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  13. @ATL--Just in case curiosity got the better of you, I have gone ahead and formulated the perfect response.

    You are clearly a Nazi. Stop persecuting me.

    Bam!

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  14. I would be rather offended by ATL's attitude and comments, but I really can't be bothered. I bet she doesn't even understand why.

    Enjoyed that post by the way.

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Don't hold back.

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