When people meet me, a reaction I get fairly frequently is that I’m a lot more “American” than their preconception of me had lead them to believe. This of course, is right after the “wow, you’re nicer than I thought” reaction because really, my resting face isn’t a particularly sweet one. Despite associating myself as being a pretty archetypal American, I’m definitely proud to have another part of me derive from a culture completely different.
I come from a Taiwanese background but I was born in the U.S. That being said, my parents were adamant about me maintaining important cultural aspects including the ability to speak Mandarin fluently. I can’t thank them enough for their gift of allowing me to be bilingual. From petty reasons like being able to exchange secrets in another language to the opportunity to develop a close relationship with my grandparents that couldn’t have been accomplishable without the ever fragile bridge of language, I’m so incredibly thankful.
I think at some point a lot of American born kids resent their background. I’ve had my share of wishing I was just American - not Asian-American. To me, it would have made appearing “attractive”, fitting in, and standing out so much easier. Compared to my brown hair and brown eyes, the perks of platinum, Rapunzel worthy hair, and beautiful blue eyes were appealing to say the least. Especially because I wasn’t the type to limit myself to being friends with those who were the same ethnicity as me, there were times I felt embarrassed to reveal my more oriental side. Whether it was my food preference, the way I dressed, or my overall appearance, there was a part of me that shied away in the face of non-Asian friends. I’m proud to say though that this period of my life was short-lived.
I embrace my oriental origins and my parents who taught me more than I could have hoped for, both in their Americanized way and their traditional way. I’m blessed to have been able to communicate and acquire the wisdom of my grandparents whose English would have never sufficed for us to have any sort of substantial bonding. I’m okay with not looking like what society’s image of beautiful portrays. What I’ve gained from coming from another culture is perspective. I love chow mien like I love spaghetti. I love dumplings as much as I love ravioli. I love Ben and Jerry’s as much as I love shaved ice. The me today wouldn’t be possible without every opportunity being multicultural has brought to me and I’m proud to be called an Asian-American because frankly, I’m Asian but also “hella” American.