GAAAAHHHH Internet I am OVERWHELMED. And waaaay anxious and since the best thing for Anxious Me is to act like I'm not (seriously, I am not being facetious, this IS the best thing) I will now attempt to write something worthwhile! (You: HAAAA!)
So! This morning, when we were still kidless and cleaning up last night's party, I suddenly brain-vomited, as I am wont to do when we are kidless, all the Philosophical Discussions I bottle up and save for Phillip. He looks like a computer geek but he can be pretty astute, pretty insightful when he wants to be. And this morning he schooled me on Race Relations. It was rough. I cried. I had to think. Still thinking.
Not to go into the Whole Big Thing, but a series of conversations, an Unbloggable Event, and about ten minutes of an Oprah show I happened to catch last week turned into this Thing. A thing where I thought I was just sharing a bit of my life with Phillip. You know, I'm all, "Dude, blah blah blah, internal processor, here's my already-thunk-out conclusion, all tidy, there you go, the end." And Phillip is all, "Okay, but blah blah blah maybe you should think about that." It's like he's forgotten I don't like to be WRONG.
And not that I was wrong so much as... realizing I do not take risks in this part of my life and, according to Phillip and everyone else who is smarter than me, maybe I should.
I am, as you know, a Pasty White Girl. But most of the important people in my life, my husband and most of the good friends I've had since high school, are Asian-American. I don't know why this is, or if there is even a reason to wonder why it is. There is a not-so-nice term for white boys who are attracted to Asian women, but I haven't heard of a term for a pasty white girl who hangs out with all the Filipino kids in high school. Whatever. It is what it is.
One thing I don't think I've told you about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship was that, at the time I was in school, there was a strong focus on racial reconciliation, mainly between white people and Asian-Americans, because those were the two racial groups in the fellowship. As a result I participated in MANY the awkward facilitated "conversation" and learned to hide my face whenever it was a white person's turn to speak. It's just the nature of the event, right? Minority attempts to gently educate, Majority doesn't get it. Rinse, repeat, cover my face.
I was never a person who didn't get it, though. Which isn't to say I GOT IT. I think all that really means is that I knew how the things that might come out of my mouth would sound. I choose my words about race very very carefully. I live in dread of being The White Girl Who Thinks She Understands Your Minority Experience. Probably the only person with whom I'm entirely open about this stuff is Phillip, and that's because one day after one of those awkward facilitated "conversations" I went into full tilt Despair re: interracial relationships were IMPOSSIBLE, how could this EVER work, WOE!, MISERY!, I HATE MYSELF! Phillip gave me a few days on that one, possibly weighing his options in the meantime ("do I REALLY want to date this deranged chick?"), but in the end made it clear that I was being a total idiot, would I like to get married now?
Anyway, that's just to say that whenever I don't get something, or whenever I'm confused about something and need to talk it out in a safe place, I find Phillip. This also means I elatedly tell Phillip whenever I have acquired another piece of evidence that shows I do understand. So here's one thing: I have become discerning about my Chinese food. I know what's real Chinese food and what's White People Chinese Food. I totally know the difference and have my preferences and YES, I CAN USE CHOPSTICKS, but on occasion a Chinese relative will assume I only eat sweet and sour chicken, and compliment me on my chopstick usage. Whatever, no big deal. But sometimes something happens, like the Unbloggable Event, where I distinguish myself from the Stereotypical White Person Eating Chinese Food and okay, I'll admit it, I feel PROUD. Like I know the secret. Like I understand something. And I tell Phillip, fully expecting to be laughed at, but mostly he doesn't laugh, he'll just say he noticed.
But I did happen to say that this wasn't something I would share with other Asian-American friends. I mean, besides the fact that it's 1) stupid and 2) totally out of context in practically every conversation, it's something I fear would put me in the category of White Person Desperately Trying To Show You That They Get It. So, I told Phillip, I would probably say nothing. I wouldn't want to risk looking foolish/naive/stupid.
So he looked at me kind of funny and I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was like he turned my little rational explanation on its head. Like, why NOT? I have to say, I haven't fully thought out everything we talked about (INTERNAL PROCESSOR!) but I just knew he was right. That I was fearful and prideful, and not wanting to risk in conversations about race, which you have from time to time when your friends are not white, was keeping me from something. Phillip reminded me that if say or do something in love, the other person should respond in love, even if I mess up - something I always ALWAYS forget. When I told Phillip about the Oprah show, and how there was a white woman going on and on about not having any IDEA that African American women struggle with their hair, and how much I just wanted her to shut up and and how much I wanted to climb into a hole for her sake, he said, "But I think that's awesome."
So many of the important people in my world are Asian-American, and I am deeply invested in wanting them to think I'm cool on this subject. I want to be as aware as I can possibly be, without going around acting like I understand, if that makes any sense at all. And many times I find myself straddling these places. I mean, I go to an awful lot of happy hours with two Asian-American girls, and of the three of us, I'm the only one with an Asian last name. It gets CONFUSING. I tend to play it safe. No, I ALWAYS play it safe. And today I was informed that, just like on Top Chef and Project Runway, playing it safe is kind of lame, especially with people who'll love you anyway.