Traveling with Asians

If you didn’t know me super well, you might think I like to travel. Those of you who know me well already did the spit-take on that idea. Bernie and I are big old crabs on the zodiac and prefer the couch to any castle or cathedral. Air travel is disgusting, and the world is still a bit unprepared for the (gasp) interracial couple. I’m used to being waved away from my family with a chipper offer to extricate me from these Asians: “Ma’am, I’ll take you over here!” But this week, traveling home from a week abroad, a French couple actually inserted themselves between me and my children right there in the security queue.

TSA checks are such an enormous stress bummer. I’ve already written oodles of times how it’s additionally fraught for the cancer-ed as a pseudo-scanner reveals our fake bits to everyone on the other side of it. But no one enjoys being berated for forgetting to take out the laptop or being an idiot with liquids while exposing feet and midriffs to surly uniformed staff and impatient (French) travelers who sigh loudly because you have children or difficult buckles or a watch. I was diligently getting all of my things in order when this over-tall and stylish couple pushed my tray back a few feet and plopped their carry-ons right in front of mine.

“What sort of brazen assholery is this?” I asked with my entire face but, you know, not out loud. TSA was blasé. TSA was probably preoccupied with the single dad ahead whose boys packed every electronic they own to go to Europe. Honest to God, Teddy brought a full size keyboard and a gigantic microphone to Barcelona.

To be fair, I don’t look my children. But it takes only 12 seconds of observation to see that I might be associated with or employed by them. Also, while traveling, Teddy is unrelenting with rhetorical questions and observations that include an introductory so Mom? so Mom? Mom? Mom? followed by a dissertation about European urinals or stage whisper wondering if that guy totally just farted or inexhaustibly explaining why his bracket is winning. You know, the sort of charming chitchat you save for your mère. But even when they are exasperating, I still hug them tight and touch their perfect faces. It should be plain that they are mine mine mine.

In June we’re going to Taiwan and probably Japan and possibly Korea–with the kiddos and my in laws. I need matching travel clothes. In the bottom of drawers all of us have I LOVE TAIWAN t-shirts. (Of course we do.) It might be a bit like wearing the ears to Disney Land, but hey, maybe it’ll keep the French from cutting the line.

17342863_10155079674783770_2201259941071036993_n

Duh. They’re totally MINE.

 

Advertisements

Because a stranger called me a prostitute

Occasionally, an odd message will come through the blog or even directly to my personal email. They don’t comment on the topic at hand (trivializing breast cancer, embarrassing myself, hating exercise). Instead, they want to use my small platform to peddle their own ideas or products. Probably most cancer bloggers have had at least one herbal-happy loon suggest we attack our tumors with green tea and meditation because chemotherapy is an evil scheme. I’ve only had to block a few weirdoes, which is saying something in this increasingly say-anything-at-all world.

One reader suggested that my willingness to stand naked before anyone but my husband and undergo life-saving surgery was a profound disobedience to God. We in the Shittiest Sorority should submit to His plan regarding our cancers, and die (or not) according divine whim instead of disrobing for surgeons. BLOCK. But it disturbed me enough that I still remember it three years later.

Today I received a bizarre email from a man trying to strike up a jokey relationship based on the conceit that I am being held in this marriage against my will as an “American Comfort Girl.” An actually creepy, deeply racist stranger found a picture of my family on line and wanted to ridicule the outlandish idea that I had married an Asian and birthed these two bastard half-breeds. He wanted to help me “escape.” I couldn’t delete and change all of my passwords to everything fast enough.

This screen-polluting email made me even angrier that there wasn’t a true apology for this. (I won’t link directly to the disgusting clip.) When something that ugly is laughed off as lighthearted fun, it can lead to other jokey offences, actual on-the-street, go-back-to-China shouting, and possibly prompt a message from a stranger suggesting I am a prostitute to the husband I adore.

Our current political climate has reminded us that we’ve only been putting makeup over our hate-filled pustules of racism and sexism. We’ve looked good enough for the school pictures, but it’s time to lance these boils. Maybe someday we’ll actually credit the billionaire bully for exposing what has obviously been simmering and spreading below the surface for too long: fear and misunderstanding of different skin, beliefs, and women in general. And you know, it’s not helpful to simply wag a judge-y Facebook finger at the orange ego-maniac who has been caught on tape, or the white man who made an actual video demeaning an entire town of Asians. We’re going to need to do more than that.

Only one generation ago, it was against the law for Bernie and me to be married in many states. Some of our parents, just 20-30 years ago, warned us not to date other races “because it would be difficult for your children.” And those were the thoughtful, modern parents who weren’t overtly racist. And you know what? They weren’t wrong. Last week, I had to explain to my boys why an entire “comedy” segment on a popular news program made fun of people that look like them… and why no one said, “sorry.”

Have you honestly never been complicit and quiet in the presence of downright rape-y language about women’s bits? Do you publicly chastise the jerk (maybe even a family member) who makes the offhand Asians-with-cameras or black-neighborhoods-where-you’ll-get-shot comments? No. No you don’t. Not every time. And you definitely didn’t ten or twenty years ago.

And that’s ok. Not sure you’re changing minds doing that, anyway. But I bet you make damn sure that the kids within earshot get schooled. Dinnertime discussion at the Lee home has been nothing but race relations (complicated and problematic) and rules for talking about girls (only ever say nice things). Exhausted, exasperated, and frankly kind of grossed out with the topic (God, aren’t we all?), Teddy pushed back from table exclaiming, “I’m still PRE-pubescent! My voice hasn’t even changed yet! Do we still have to keep talking about this weird stuff?” Well, Teddy, yes we do. But last night, this picture went viral, and gave me a glimmer of hope that future locker rooms will be filled with actual feminists.

14657316_1260179210704921_1100413023204267691_n

Young men at Centennial High School, showing us how to combat the overwhelming ickiness on the news.

Unlike other angry outbursts catalyzed by news reports of truly gross behavior, mine is not political. I don’t care about the election (this year). Vote, don’t vote. Whatever, dude. But I do care profoundly about how you and I treat each other, how we talk about and to each other, and how we raise our boys to be champions for women. It’s time to get our multi-colored asses into pews or temples or mosques or yoga studios or Soul Cycle. Where do you go to tap into your sincerest, We Are the World feelings? I need them. And so do our kids.

 

Flying

Some version of this happens whenever we travel…

She hurled her carry-on into the overhead, plopped down in the aisle seat, and made an announcement:

“I should warn you. I smell like vodka.” Leaning even closer, “I had two martinis. I’m scared of flying.”

Turning her boozy breath from my face, she waved across the aisle at her similarly schnockered sister sitting in the opposing window seat.

“That’s my sister. Hey, hey… hey,” she poked her aisle-mate, “That’s my sister. Could we trade seats?”

The aisle-mate, who was not a poke-able sort of fellow, insisted everyone keep her assigned seats until take off. The flight attendant agreed. Boozy Lady did not.

“They’re all so mean,” she stage-whispered. “SO MEAN. Oh my God, I’m bleeding. Why am I bleeding?”

Boozy Lady’s inexpert bag stowing had taken a small chunk out of her pinkie finger. The anticoagulant effect of cocktail hour plus her inability to locate the source of her wound was a messy combination. I pulled out my purse, located a Band-Aid and offered to wrap up the offending digit.

“You must be a mom. Who has Band-Aids? You’re a mom!”

“Yup.”

Bernie slid the window shade down and feigned sleep a little harder. But flight-averse Boozy Lady wanted it open.

“Hey,” she poked her aisle mate again, “Can I move over next to my sister so I can see out her window?”

“Ma’am, we’re pushing back. No one is moving right now.”

Boozy Lady elbowed me conspiratorially and lamented loudly that she couldn’t see out of the window. With one eye open, Bernie slid the panel up again.

“He hates me now, right?” her vodka-infused whispers continued.

“No, it’s fine,” I answered with rather dramatic not-looking-up-from-my-book body language.

“Hey. Um… do you know him?” she nudged. “Because he’s eating your pretzels.”

MARTINI