Fourth World White
The first time I met my mother in law she told an anecdote about her dental hygienist, and felt the need to point out that like me, she was Asian, but rather than say the word Asian, she pulled the corners of her eyes up. I kind of assumed the gesture was anodyne, dumb, harmless, because she has a mild Italian accent, and I mean Jesus, who still does that? Her older son groaned at her not to do that, and I realized what was going on when she said, “she’s Chinese.” Still confused, I asked if MIL had a headache. She must be rubbing her temples.
Yes, that’s it. A headache. She snickered at her son. And that’s how I know she knew what she was doing. And you know come to think of it, that was Thanksgiving almost ten years ago, and I haven’t forgiven her, but gosh if she just knew the extent to which I at this point, can only see her behavior for exactly the way she saw my race: a third world region freely exposed to denigration. But no. Fuck that. That’s some fourth world shit.
About fifteen years ago, my white then-boyfriend heard my phone ring, saw it was my mother calling, and hummed “the Chinese riff.” I was reduced to tears. I’d be embarrassed to admit I continued dating him for another year but the fact is I unceremoniously dumped him for a much hotter, younger, more achieved man. (That’s how recovery works, right?) A gal pal pointed out several years later that he was enfianced to another Asian woman who the pal said looked like me; prompting a low-key facebook search. Reader, this woman looked nothing like me but for our both being Asian and hi, a third of the world is Asian, so that’s saying absolutely fucking nothing. Does the guy have an Asian fetish? Maybe. But his Asians have all been so different. I prefer the theory that he just likes ridiculing women and it’s easier to do to us.
Next time, I hope he’s left behind for someone unimpeachably superior.