I grew up in a mixed household: My mother is Filipino and my dad is from Tennessee — so growing up was quite the unique experience. And I know I’m not alone in this. Without further ado, a list of some of the most awkward, horrifying and beautiful moments of being half Asian-American.
1. Check all races that apply
Identifying your races when asked “Which of the following best describes your race?” when you’re only allowed to choose one can feel like such betrayal. We’re complicated, people, so make sure you always keep us multiracial people in mind.
2. “So… what are you?”
Two things happen when someone can’t quickly identify your race. 1. You mention it first, and they say, “Oooh, OK, I see it now.” Uh, kay. 2. They’re ballsy enough to just come out with it: “You’re not all white, so… what are you?” When asked, don’t ever just tell them. Make them guess. It’s a fun game because they always lose — and I’m competitive.
3. You’re suddenly very aware of how white you are when you walk into an Asian market
Hey, why can’t you just let me buy my lumpia wraps, polovoron and Pretz in peace? Sure, I don’t look like everyone else, but I belong, dammit. I belong.
4. When the Asian cashier starts talking to you in Tagalog
Just nod and smile. Smile and nod. Then swipe your card and get out!
5. Or, when the Asian cashier asks if you’re “mixed”
“Are you a half?” asks the cashier as I awkwardly put more items on the belt.
6. When your father immediately bonds with other white husbands at the Asian market
Just a quick nod or a flash of a smile between the white husbands shopping with their Asian wives and families, and they’re bonded for life. Happens every time.
7. Having your dad at the Asian market with you is infinitely better
Because he, too, has no idea what any of the foreign food is, so you all joke about how the upo looks like an awkwardly shaped cucumber or how we always talk smack about balut being the worst food that ever existed and we can never understand why anyone eats it — as my mom picks up a case and puts it in the cart.
8. Learning curse words in two different languages
Sure, it was fun learning curse words for the first time and snickering every time you overheard your dad cuss under his breath. But when your mom cursed in a different language? It was like a whole new world opened up before you. (And you could curse in public, and no one ever knew what you were saying.)
9. Sleepovers were basically a buffet for your friends
No, my Asian mother was never open to the idea of ordering pizza. She always prepared a feast of spaghetti and lumpia. Oh, and she made everyone take home leftovers the next morning. My friends were damn lucky.
10. Pictures with your extended family gets awkward, fast
Your mom is tiny and your father is 6-foot-2; of course you’re going to look like a giant standing next to your cousins.
11. “Is that your dad?”
Nothing is more awkward than standing next to your own father and someone asking you where your dad is. “Uh, standing right next to me?” Or, at the age of 17, having someone ask your dad who “these lovely ladies are” (referring to his two daughters). Yes, these things happen. It only gets worse with age.
12. One sibling is always more Asian than the other
Image: Kristine Cannon
People will either a) not think you’re related at all or b) point out that you look like twins, except for the fact that one looks “way more Asian” than the other. (See picture above.)
More: Asian baby names
13. Having two kinds of ketchup
Hm, do I want regular ketchup on my eggs or banana ketchup? So many options! (This is likely too specific to Filipino families, but I had to add.)
14. Getting reprimanded when you donate clothes
“Why did you donate those clothes to Goodwill when you could have sent them to the Philippines?,” asks my mother.
15. When someone says you look tan
No, I did not just get back from my vacation in an exotic locale. I just happen to look like this. But, thanks?