I look Asian
K and I recently hosted a houseguest from Japan. He was one of the men K knows from the small but worldwide network of puzzle box makers. K met the man from Japan about a decade ago, and his visit to Denver was the first time I met him myself.
In preparation for his stay with us, I cleaned the house, as per usual. I also pulled out our sofa sleeper (which still fills me with amazement every time I witness the metamorphosis of our IKEA corner sofa into a double bed). Then came the angst-driven preparations, such as setting out a wash cloth in addition to a bathroom towel for our guest, and breaking out the nice silverware that K and I got as a wedding gift, and until this moment, had never used.
It occurred to me that each of these unnatural preparations I was making might be interpreted by our houseguest as THE AMERICAN WAY. I never use a wash cloth. Did offering one to him make it seem like ALL AMERICANS use them? And the forks I unwrapped from their packaging seemed gigantic compared to the ones K and I normally use, so would our houseguest think, “Jesus Christ, these Americans really know how to shovel it in.”
I prepared dinner for the evening he arrived and even second guessed my selections (black bean burgers,oven baked mac and cheese, and tomato salad). K mentioned our guest might not be that in to cheese. Was I setting him up for a gut bomb by serving mac and cheese (that I assumed he would not refuse because, you know, Japanese house guests are so polite that they don’t turn away offerings from their host)?
Upon their arrival from the airport, I greeted K and our houseguest at the front door. He bowed his head to me and I mirrored his gesture. After thanking K and me for having him in our home he looked at me and said, “You look Asian.”
Yes. Yes I do. And many times, that is the extent of my Asian identity. I was raised by white people in the midwest. I had American friends growing up. I did American things like curl my bangs in the 80’s and watch My So Called Life in the 90’s. I am American through and through, no matter how much people I meet want to shove me into the “Asian/Pacific Islander” box.
I look Asian. Our houseguest from Japan could not have put it any more eloquently.