The Object of Stereotype


Men with yellow fever can take their fetish and shove it

No, I am not like Suzie Wong or the Geisha you see on TV. No, I do not speak Chinese or know martial arts. Yes, I am an expert at eating with chopsticks. Yes, I am excellent at math. No, I am not submissive. Yes, I am Asian but Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and German blood also flows in my veins. No, my second language is not Japanese or Korean. Yes, I do know other languages, they are French and German.

Being born in Indonesia, raised in the Rocky Mountains among the Rednecks, and having come of age in New York and London, makes me the farthest thing from a California girl. When Miss New York won Miss American 2014 the flurry of prejudicial comments were fast and furious. Criticism was quick against the haters, as it should be, but the incident had me thinking. Is Western beauty still the dominant force in North America? Has Madison Avenue relegated the non-Western European looking woman to the stereotype?

When TV reporter Julie Chen admitted her "Asian Eyes" surgery as a route to a career boost, it was clear that being an Asian woman is still a kind of second class status. Even though it has been decades since the Chinese Exclusion Act or Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, people of Asian descent in North America are still subjected to a kind of lower position compared to white society. For me, growing up among the cowboy rodeo crowd wasn't fun. Looking the way I did was the reason I was a loner, hid in libraries, never dated, and generally was invisible in the social milieu of my junior and senior high school.

However, being Asian did provide some protection. People who were unsafe stayed away from me. What I mean by that is ... there is a reason why I have never seen a hockey game despite being raised in a hockey town. In my Rocky Mountain town the popular jocks on the hockey team benefited from the sports worship in local culture. After a game there was the after-party in the woods. It was a common thing for young women who got too drunk to be assaulted by more than one person at a time.

I never had to worry about that. Not only did I go to Catholic school which had me under curfew but the boys would tell me themselves that I wasn't a target they would consider. Why? Everyone wanted Barbie. Think of the movie, 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'.

Other benefits of growing up Asian in White society was the emphasis my parents placed on academia, thinking about the future, and being serious about life. Like many immigrant families, hard work was a given, and so was accepting that we were different. My entire identity was that I did not belong with the general community. Not only was my name weird but so were my eyes, nose, skin tone, and hair.

By the time puberty came around it was a given that I'd never have all the things the white girls did: fashionable clothes, make-up, boyfriends, a social clique, and a social life. So I compensated and drew strength from my ancestral heritage. I based my value on performance, character, intelligence discipline, and manners.

Beauty was out of the question. Sexuality? Forget about it. Catholic school was restrictive enough but add being Asian and I might as well have become a Tibetan nun. Numbing myself from love and attraction that would never be was normal.

Staying single was effortless. I was always the friend and never the girlfriend. As I got older the men who showed interest were the ones afflicted with 'yellow fever' and inept social skills. The problem was I found them annoying and the one guy who was close to me, couldn't tell his parents. Only did I learn years later that what I experienced in all that rejection, constituted its own form of sexual trauma.

Rather than being seen for the individual I was, people related to me as a stereotype. Like many others in the same position as I, eventually I internalized the messages that only white women were chosen. Heck, even the Asian and African-American boys liked the white girls!

Oh the perils of race, social acceptance, and sexual validation. Life isn't perfect. All we can do is heal the wounds that demand closure. For years I was shut off from connection. Making friends was easy. Taking lovers was a breeze. It was the partnership soul connection that was just so tough to do. My being was calibrated for compartmentalizing lovers into a specific zone. Lovers were secret. We lead separate lives. They rarely met my friends or family. Most of all, lovers were for a season, and most of them were chosen because they were fine with how things played out. Significant others were a whole other story. Lovers were European, worldly, and intellectual but could never get too close. Significant others posed the greatest threat.

The origin of my difficulty with significant others started with my first love. Patrick was the spitting image of the young Chris O'Donnell, the actor from NCIS: Los Angeles. Patrick had those baby blues that I could never forget. He was the best friend, brother, and boyfriend all in one. I could tell him everything and anything. More importantly, I wanted to keep nothing from him, good or bad. Yet, I was the one who was the secret. Long story. We lived in a Redneck Mountain town, so you know how it goes. Patrick was a significant other but my existence was well hidden from his parents. Only his brother Christopher knew about me. Then one day Patrick ran off with a Stampede Princess and I dealt with his loss in private.

Significant others are terrifying because they hold a dagger to my heart. There is hope though. My Tantra teacher Devi Ward has been a guide for me to heal my soul. In her own experiences, Devi describes how her own multicultural background in a white community left some sexual scars in need of healing.

Since this past Spring, Tantra and Tantric Sexuality has evolved to be a form of medicine for my soul as well. The truth is, I don't want to look any other way. I also don't want to carry the scar anymore from being a source of someone else's culturally induced ignorant shame either. Patrick and I were kids. Now I am the adult with a choice to drop the identity that reinforces an urge to push love away in defenseive protection. I'm choosing to heal as I reclaim my real identity.