Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I seeee you

Yesterday, a curious thing happened.

I came out of my elevator in my building, and walked into the lobby area. The lobby connects directly to the foyer, which is enclosed in glass and connects to the street exit. Inside the glass foyer, the doorman sits at his desk with his security monitors and ushers visitors and tenants in and out of the building.

As I said, I was walking into the lobby area. The doorman was walking from another area of the lobby and walked toward the foyer. He spotted me also walking toward the foyer. He opened the glass door and entered the foyer. I was one foot behind him. Instead of holding open the door, or even giving it an extra push so it would remain ajar, he let the door shut behind him.

In my face.

Then I opened the door and looked at him over the security desk. But he wasn't there. No, he walked as far into the corner behind the security desk as he could, and cowered in the corner to avoid looking at me.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, my doorman was hiding from me.

Let's summarize: (1) He closed the door in my face, knowing I was right behind him, and (2) he hid from me behind the security desk. I couldn't understand why, when in the past, he had always been nice to me. Also, I had contributed to the Holiday Fund that administered bonuses to the staff during the holidays, so I know it wasn't because I was Scrooge McTenant. So why the Doorman Diss?

Then I figured it out: The man's in love with me. Now bear with me for a second.

Clearly, he freaked out when he saw me - donned in my t-shirt and sweatpants, my hair swept up in a loose bun, my face in its pimpled glory. What was he to do in the presence of such beauty? At that moment, when he saw me, he completely forgot who he was or what he was supposed to do. So he did what any insecure man in love would do: He ran. He decided to run inside the glass foyer and pretend he didn't see anything. But oh no, the hot pimply sweatpants girl was coming this way! What to do? Hide! So, despite the fact that the area behind the security desk was literally 10 square feet, he found the furthest corner of the security area, and cowered. "Hopefully, she didn't see me," he undoubtedly thought to himself.

Oh but I did, Mr. Doorman. I did. And now I know the truth.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Tale of a Second Grade Nothing

The three of stood in line at the elementary school library: a black boy, Tyrone, a white girl, Stacy, and a yellow gal, me. Tyrone turned around toward me and began pulling his eyes sidways and diagonally, saying "ching chong ching chong!" He then burst into laughter at my chinkdom.

Stacy laughed a little. She then saw me standing there unaumused. "Hey, Yellow Gal," she said, "you should say to him, 'At least I'm not black!' "

"Really?" I said.

She said, "Come on! He made fun of you, and you're just gonna take it?!"

"Fine," I said.

Then Stacy tapped on Tyrone's shoulder. He turned around. "Yellow Gal has something to tell you."

"What?" he said glaring at me.

"At least I'm not black," I said.

He then exploded. "Why you gotta talk about my color? Did I talk about your color?"

"No, but you talked about my race--"

"DID I talk about your color?"

"No, but you talked about my race--"


"Excuse me, is there a problem?" A librarian hovered over Tyrone, Stacy and me.

"No," we all said.

"Okay then," she said, and walked away, leaving us alone in silence.

This incident happened more than twenty years ago, and I still remember it pretty clearly. As I reflect upon this memory, I find it fascinating that it is so analogous - or perhaps applicable - to race relations today. "At least I'm not black"? Stacy was basically telling me to say "Yes, it sucks being a chink, but at least I'm not black." And I said it -- accepting my own inferiority but trying to assert some superiority over another race -- all under the lens of one blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl, who remained unscathed throughout this dialogue and division.

Perhaps a more sitcom ending could have been Tyrone responding to my racist statement "At least I'm not black," with "What's wrong with being black?" And I could have said "What's wrong with being Asian?" And then all of a sudden all three of us would get it, and then we'd throw our arms thrown over each other's shoulders, the frame would freeze on that image, and the studio audience would clap and the credits would roll over our faces with the theme music.

I guess life ain't like an 80s sitcom. But, I'd like to think that we're making headway. It is, after all, 2009, not 1986.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

L as in label

I just watched the pilot episode of The L Word, which seems to focus on the lives of several lesbian/bisexual professional women in L.A. It was only the pilot, and it was recommended to me by Netflix, due to my Sex & The City fanaticism and my favorable rating of the movie "Saving Face" (a film about a Chinese-American lesbian in NY). I wonder how accurately the show portrays 'real' lesbians. While I found S&tC entertaining, I don't think the majority of single professional women fall neatly into the characters and plot lines of Charlotte, Miranda, Carrie or Samantha. Part of me suspects that The L Word tries to sensationalize lesbians in L.A. the same way S&tC sensationalizes being single and straight in N.Y. Both shows seem to boast a cast of beautiful sexy smart women in a big city, just trying to be happy.

One of the story lines in The L Word focused on one girl, who was a transplant from the Midwest, and then 'discovers' that she is gay. I found it fascinating that a girl didn't know until she was in her twenties that she was gay. After some googling, I realized that there are a number of resources for people who discover later on in life that they're gay. I know it's nearly impossible for me to imagine because I've been straight my entire life. But I can't imagine what it's like to think you're attracted to one gender and only have sex with that one gender, and then later realize well into your twenties that you are attracted to another gender. I can't imagine how difficult it must be, and almost traumatic or shocking to one's identity.

Another interesting characteristic of the show was its lens: its focus on the fact that the characters are Lesbian. In a strange way though, I sort of felt like that by grouping them into this category, it sort of dehumanized them. Yes, they eat food and have sex and like good books and have friends. But the show seemed to reduce them to "Lesbian." When a woman is drinking a cocktail, it is a Lesbian drinking a cocktail. When a woman is reading a book, it is a Lesbian reading a book. I guess while watching it, I couldn't shake that label off.

The only parallels I can personally draw are from being an Asian American (not white) and a female (not male). Does my race or gender define my identity? Or do they only define it insofar as they limit or expand my life experiences? If I see a show with a woman drinking a cocktail, is it a Woman or just a person who happens to be female? I think different Asian American females including myself allow our race and gender define us on a wide and varying spectrum. Some Asian Americans no doubt find their race merely tangential to their identity, while others find it fundamental to their identity.

Anyhow, as a straight girl, I am curious about the gay experience in this day and age - no doubt analogous to the non-Asian in an Asian American history museum who is curious about a different culture. Maybe the show aims to humanize rather than categorize or sensationalize. And perhaps it aspires to enlighten 90% of the population that gays, as humans, are human and thus have the same desires - the need to connect, have good friends, have good sex, and find love.

As a side note, I asked the Boyfriend if he's heard of the show and if so, if he thought it was good. His review of the show: "Hot chicks having hot sex. Awesome show."

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