Day 252: The Man and the Luck of the Asians; ‘Luck’

I suppose I should be grateful that today’s prompt wasn’t ‘corned beef’ or anything but we’re still kind of hitting the nail right on the head here, aren’t we? Subtly, thy name is not WordPress.

Well while everyone else is being kissed because they’re Irish or celebrating that the Pope said they can eat meat on a Friday or out in the fields looking for four-leaf clovers, I wanted to talk about some lesser known Asian superstitions that pertained to, you guessed it, making sure you had some good luck.

Snakes on a Plane

More common I suppose in the Philippines than say, the US, but perhaps also relatable for the Irish, it is said in the Philippines that if a snake crosses your path this will bring good fortune. Unless it bites you. Or you’re on a plane.

Chinese Sweep

In both China and the Philippines, when and where and how you sweep can determine your good fortune or bad. For example, in the Philippines it is considered bad luck to sweep at night or whenever people are playing cards or gambling, for fear of sweeping away good luck. In China for the Lunar New Year the house is cleaned top to bottom but sweeping is done inward and then gathered in a pile to be brought out the back door, as the front door is said to be where good fortune and grace enter.

Teru Teru

Teru teru bozu are little white dolls made from cloth or paper. They are especially popular among Japanese schoolchildren as they are supposed to help influence the weather. Hang a teru teru bozu right side up to ensure good weather, or hang it upside down to try and encourage bad. Great for right before school field trips or final exams.

Money Wallet

In almost all Asian cultures, when giving either a wallet or bag as a gift, it is customary to put some small change or at least one bill in it, to help ensure good luck and prosperity. The same is true for the coming year; everyone in my family will make sure there is at least some money in our wallets to start the year with.

Santo Nino

In any and all Filipino houses or businesses you will most likely find a statue of the Santo Nino (child Jesus). This supposedly brings good luck. The supposed origin of this is when the Philippines was still a Spanish colony, the Spanish set fire to most of the city of Cebu as punishment for hostile actions by the Cebuanos wanting independence. After the fire, amidst the wreckage, Spanish soldiers found the statue of the Santo Nino remarkably and miraculously unscathed.

Ema.jpg

Ema are wooden boards that the Japanese can purchase at Shinto shrines. The Japanese use these boards to write their wishes, after which they hang them at the shrine for the gods to receive and fulfill. It is fun when visiting shrines to read what some people wish for. You will see students hoping for good results on their college entrance exams, couples wishing for a long and successful relationship, or workers hoping for a new job or promotion.

Fresh Off the Boat

Wearing red in China is considered auspicious and can bring the best of luck. That is why celebratory garments are often red and on the Chinese New Year gifts of money are given in red envelopes to impart good luck and good fortune. The same is true of oranges, which are often given to elders or in offerings.

Koinobori

Children’s Day is a holiday in Japan that is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month (May 5th). It is a time for families to celebrate the happiness and health of their children and to wish them good luck to grow up strong, healthy, and successful. A common practice on Children’s Day is to fly koinobori, which are kites that are made to look like the Asian carp. This is from a traditional folk tale about a little carp that swam upstream and became a dragon.

Of course, being a gambler, I have my own set of superstitions for good luck and good fortune whenever I’m at a casino. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. I think pyschologically it helps me to deal with the complete lack of control over my actual results. Before I open up my cards, I always rub them on the table face down and over the money. I tell everyone I am about to hit the tables because I don’t want anyone to think about me and miss me, or else I might lose because they want me to return. If I want the dealer to get a high card, I yell ‘monkey, monkey, monkey’ to scare a high card to the top of the deck. Don’t ask me why.

Hope you’re all lucky and happy and healthy. And if not, grab one of these superstitions and get to it! And remember…

Paddy not Patty.jpg

Day 252

Man: 219 Loneliness: 33

Day 236: The Man and the ‘I’m too angry at this ridiculous dating service to come up with a clever title because, like, SERIOUSLY?!’; ‘Hesitate’

Chan Picture.jpg

If I did videos…if I was a vlogger…I’d be jumping up and down pacing the room with my arms doing wild and erratic undulations foaming at the mouth. But I’m not so I have to figure out how to distill the…shock…disbelief…utter bewilderment…and frustration that is more likely to process its way to my fingertips in the form of hands thrown up in the air in utter surrender into cohesive thoughts. In other words, I’m having a hard time typing because every single time my mind starts to really process this, I basically look like this Jackie Chan meme.

chan-meme

So what has me so riled up?! Of all things, an online dating app. Specifically, a rather new entry aimed at an Asian demographic, eastmeeteast.

eastmeeteast

It’s no surprise that the data spies over at Facebook decided to flood my sidebar with ads for this new dating service. I started seeing them pop up last month but didn’t really pay much attention to it aside from the occasional pictures of some very beautiful Asian women. The ads became more persistent recently and also more…objectionable…so I decided to look into their service a bit more. I did not like what I saw.

The motivation behind the service seemed to be noble enough. When its founder, Mariko Image result for jdateTokioka came up with the idea, it was because she ‘wanted to meet someone who shared [her] culture and language, and could talk to [her] parents’. She went on to say that ‘it was very hard on existing dating sites because they tend to group all Asians together’. And I get that. I can relate to that. I have always dated Asian women because of that convenience and connection of shared cultural experiences and perspectives. It is nice to start off from a very similar background and build off of that, and I do have to agree that when I did use online dating to help me find someone, while there was an option to either specify that you either were Asian or looking for an Asian, you couldn’t really specify any further than that. So you were taking a very large and complicated and diverse geographical, cultural, and ethnic Image result for blackpeoplemeetcategory and reducing it to one and the same. I mean hey, I would love to be able to date a Filipina, but I’ve never been able to just search or at least prioritize being matched up with Filipinas. In much the same way that there is jdate for Jewish singles, BlackPeopleMeet for black singles, why shouldn’t, or rather couldn’t, there be an app or site or service designed specifically to help Asian singles? Noble intentions or pragmatic approaches aside, Mariko was very sensibly and practically addressing a need that was there to be filled.

So you have a product with some real potential to be a valuable and profitable service in EastAd1.jpgthe world. There’s a large audience for it, you just need to make sure you are marketing it properly. And this is the first part that really missed the mark and got me wondering what exactly these people were thinking. Suddenly if I was on Facebook at work and an eastmeeteast ad would appear on my feed I’d have to very quickly and furtively scroll past it lest wandering eyes catch a glimpse and wonder what the hell I was doing. A service meant for Asian singles to meet with Asian singles started to pose itself like those mysteriously vague massage parlor ads you see on the back of bad local newspapers. This is not the kind of picture you want associated with your service and it’s also not the kind of membership you want to advertise having. Suddenly I had to question whether or not this service was even legitimate or if I was being asked to join some sort of strange escort service and the FBI would be knocking on my door. If you have real members who EastAd4.jpgare honestly and genuinely interested in finding a partner, why not highlight them? Instead I feel like they are reducing themselves to the very basest and simplistic stereotypes of ‘yellow fever’. Speaking of which, can an Asian even have ‘yellow fever’ being, you know, ‘yellow’ himself? I feel uncomfortable looking at these ads and considering what kind of service they might actually provide. And it isn’t even a one-off thing. These ads were taken directly off of eastmeeteast’s official Twitter account. These are their ads. This is how they want you to perceive them. I’m even extra careful writing this right now at work because I don’t want people to see the pictures on my page as I type. Again, ugh, what the hell guys? What’s your marketing goal here? When it comes to Asians and especially dating Asians, there are enough stereotypes to have to battle. Pictures like these just continue to eastad2perpetuate them and create unrealistic expectations and depictions on both sides. I want to date an Asian women because of the cultural background, similar experiences and interests, and because in general, I just want to. It really shouldn’t have to go beyond that. I don’t need to be tricked into thinking about those awful and outdated stereotypes of the shy, meek, submissive Asian girl and god help you if you’re trying to convince women that’s what we want either. It does no good especially for a service that is supposed to be even more connected and relevant to this particular community. I also think there’s a very fine difference between being self-aware and being self-defeating. So flat attempts at meta-racial humor like this aren’t funny or show some sort of higher level of awareness. I think it shows that this is a company so far-removed from its intended audience that it mistakes hyperbole and exaggeration for poignancy. This wasn’t cool when Mickey Rooney did it. It’s especially not cool when we’re doing it to ourselves. Again, seriously, I have to remind you that all of these pictures are taken from eastmeeteast itself. I don’t mind the name, eastmeeteast, as it correctly and accuralte depicts the intended seekers and potential matches. I understand, just as anyone else who comes across the app, what it is for. But beyond that, I just want it to be treated like any other dating app, and me to be treated like any other person hoping to find love or at least a connection. Once within the confines of the eastmeeteast world all I would want to expect is a smart, sleek, convenient way of meeting people. Yes they would be Asian and but the matching process should be the same. What are my likes. My dislikes. What do I do for fun. I feel like if I were to sign up it’d gauge my matches based on chopstick skills.

I think the worst thing about the service though is that it continues to perpetuate, profit on, and portray a message about dating Asians that we should really be trying to dissolve or disassociate with. Apparently, female members who sign up for the service can join for free, but men are charged $30 per month. Well let’s ask the owner and founder what she thinks. And I quote, ‘statistically Asian women are wanted more [by men of other ethnicities], but Asian men are not so much desired’.

parks-and-rec

YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WHAT?! Did the Asian owner of an Asian dating app just say that?! I’m about to start angry pacing up in here again! Honestly, this isn’t even a statistic I want to prove or disprove. It’s a perceived fact based on cultural stereotypes that I want the person in charge of helping me potentially find love to not even consider.

I’ve had to deal with this assumption my entire life. It’s become such a seemingly subtle and deceptively harmless facet of everyday racism towards Asians that even I’ve limited eastad3myself sometimes because I convinced myself that no one outside of my own race would ever be attracted to me. I’ve been attracted to people of all different ethnicities and races, but I tend to always hesitate because I think I don’t possess the right qualities to appeal to someone beyond my own cultural scope. Asian men are often depicted as not masculine enough, not tough enough, assertive enough, or confident enough to go out there. Filipinos tend to be pretty short and often have much softer facial features. I happen to be six feet tall and big but still I often feel less than ‘manly’ enough. This is a damaging stereotype that hurts people’s confidence and prevents a lot of people from taking more chances. Now I’m not saying I expect eastmeeteast to deny this or rewrite history or change people’s expectations. I expected them to rise above it by not even addressing it. I believe that the truth is nowadays people are looking beyond appearances and stereotypes. Dating nowadays is such a global and interconnected phenomenon that one cannot help but become much more diverse in choices, preferences, and attractions. But eastmeeteast is very clearly trying to get across the message to Asian men that we are at a natural eastad5disadvantage in the real world. We are unwanted outside of our limited groups. Be wary, Asian man, for Asian women can go anywhere and get picked up by anyone, and you will be left alone. They are profiting by continuing this destructive belief. Asian men should be happy and willing to pay a monthly fee because by doing so you are getting access to an exclusive collection of Asian women who still might actually want an Asian man. What kind of crazy backwards self-defeatist thinking is this? Why are we seriously trying to capitalize on a message we should be trying our best not to spread? That’s what really got me the most. There is a history of racial profiling in online dating apps and the mainstream media portrayal of Asian men has always been less than favorable. Why are we now doing it to ourselves to control and intimidate Asian singles? I’ve done a lot, and still am doing a lot, to help improve myself not only as an individual but as a future potential partner. I keep myself healthy and fit with regular exercise. I’ve taught myself to cook. I’ve developed a well-rounded and diverse personality with many interests, hobbies, and activities. I didn’t do them to supplement some unnatural genetic or ethnic disadvantage. I did it because I wanted to be viewed as an individual for my individual qualities and traits.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the idea of a site that is aimed primarily to help Asian singles meet other Asian singles. But I don’t need the site to further depict or decide what being Asian means or is about and how we should be portrayed. I know from personal experience how hard it can be sometimes to find someone specific in a seemingly endless sea of ever-increasing fish. A little assistance is never a bad thing. But there’s something seriously messed up and slightly sinister behind eastmeeteast. I just think it’s way too off and there’s something wrong with how it’s presented itself. It depicts Asian women as these goddesses, sirens to be desired and dominated. It preys on the cultural stereotype of unattractive Asian men who must be willing to do anything to meet someone. The whole thing makes me feel uncomfortable. Confused. Shocked. I guess I’ll look somewhere else when the time comes.

Day 236

Man: 203 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

Philippine Flag.png

So apparently October is National Filipino-American History Month. Another reason for a guy to love October I guess. Filipino-American History Month was established by the Filipino-American National Historical Society back in 1988 but was only recognized nationally starting in 2009. The FANHS decided on October as the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the US was on October 18, 1587 when ‘Luzones Indios’ (natives of Luzon) were brought on the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza to the shores of Morro Bay, California.

It’s pretty cool and all. And I am damn proud to be Filipino-American and that they have set aside this month for us and everything but I’ll be honest with you…I can’t say much to Filipino identity or notable people or culture, really. When I say I’m Filipino, I really mean that my parents are from the Philippines. I never, and I emphasize never had any desire or interest in joining any Filipino culture clubs or anything in high school or college. It actually just *shudder* made me cringe just to think of it. UAASO, United Asian-American Student Organization, was the largest Asian club on campus in college and it was completely run by Filipinos. You’d think I would’ve run there with arms wide open, burst through the doors and yell ‘My people! I have come to you!’ Instead I went the complete opposite direction and became President…of the Chinese Student Association.

I think it might be a Filipino-American thing though, honestly. When I visit the Philippines it’s not like I think ‘oh god I can’t stand being around all these Filipinos’. I find the native Filipino spirit and personality very friendly and agreeable and a lot of fun. But Filipino-Americans around here…eeh…yeah not so much.

My family and I are perfectly content and happy to be proud Filipinos…on our own. We really don’t feel the need to broadcast this to everyone or to be with others just to tell ourselves how happy we are to be us. We still behave and act and think and do things in very Philippine ways. Yes we have a painting of the last supper hanging in our dining room (and another in the kitchen). Yes we point with our lips and pick things up with our feet. But we never thought we would ever want to make that our ‘thing’ or identify with all of this. We just wanted to do it because it made sense, whether culturally, historically, logically, or emotionally.

Don’t ask me about famous Filipino figures. Don’t ask me about Filipino art or music or literature or film. I feel like sometimes I purposely go out of my way to avoid Fil-Ams in pop culture because it would just feel like lazy adoration. Like, I’m not going to like or listen to the Black Eyed Peas just because apl. de. ap. is Fil-Am. I’m not going to listen to Bruno Mars for the same reason and I don’t want to give people the chance to assume that of me. Having Dante Basco be the voice of Prince Zuko was pretty bad-ass though. And yes, I admit I did have a crush on Vanessa Hudgens. But an awesome TV show and a pretty face precede any sort of national or cultural affiliation!

I think one of the reasons why I have such a disconnect with Filipino culture here in the US versus actually in the Philippines is because of how fluid it seems to be. One of the greatest strengths (and conversely greatest weaknesses) of the Filipino is adaptability. We are the second largest Asian ethnicity in the United States and why we are so numerous (and why you probably didn’t even realize that) is because of how well we can assimilate into our environment. We really don’t want a lot of attention drawn to us. We would much prefer to be known for how easily and quickly our neighbors felt safe next to us. Hahah. But because of that I’ve always struggled with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I don’t know what it means to be ‘Fil-Am’ when we have no real strong sense of community or identity. A first generation Filipino-American growing up on the East Coast is going to turn out a whole hell of a lot different from a West Coaster and I really don’t feel comfortable or at home with either. I grew up around other ethnicities. My best friends were and still are Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and white. My entire sense of Filipino identity was derived only from my parents who also quite notably did not really interact with other Filipino families. (I understand their reasons now but…hardly seems apropos considering we’re supposed to be celebrating Filipinos right now. Hahah.)

Even our food, which is usually used as a mark of cultural identity, differs from place to Adobo.jpgplace. We cannot even unite on what should be on our plates. This is more than just a regional anomaly. This isn’t like categorizing Chinese food as either Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, or Mandarin. A dish can change from family to family and interpretations abound. You will often times find more ‘Filipino Fusion’ restaurants than you will ‘authentic Filipino’ simply because almost all Filipino food is fusion. No one wants to unify or define Filipino dishes for fear of singling out certain areas or ethnicities or offending the myriad Filipino families who can cook the same dish a thousand different ways. Who would get to define what Filipino food ‘is’ and how would we even establish their credibility or criteria for such a task.

Still, when it comes to cultural identity, you can talk to me about food. I know food. Filipino dishes still share many of the same characteristics despite the variances. I love Dinuguan.jpgthe hearty and flavor-packed ‘sabaw‘, or sauce that comes with each dish. A lot of Filipino food is stew-based and the rich sauce that is the result of that long stewing process is so good over steaming white rice. Unlike many East Asian dishes that focus on exemplifying and stressing one or at most two different flavors at a time, Filipino food is about packing as many flavors and textures into one dish as possible. For this reason many of my friends have had to become ‘accustomed’ to Filipino food because of how strong the flavors are. Now they love it and when they crave hearty and rich, they know where to go.

Filipino food is also all about being daring. We never let any part of the animal go to waste Balut.JPGand we’ll be damn clever about it too. I love dinuguan, a pork stew of belly, ear, and offal braised in pig’s blood (regional varieties include my preferred one which lessens the amount of vinegar and adds hot green pepper for punch). There is of course the infamous (though utterly delicious) balut. Easy shock-TV material for the uninitiated  but really, it’s just a fertilized duck egg.

 

Okay I get it, that might be a bit…tough to swallow. (HAH. Get it. Swallow like to eat and swallow like the bird which comes from an egg.) You don’t have to jump off the deep end just yet. To be perfectly honest my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines and refuse to eat balut. Personally I think it’s a great breakfast alternative. Regardless, if anything at all, I would highly recommend that this October in honor of Filipino-American History Month, please, find your friendly neighborhood pinoy and ask them to take you a restaurant. Try some Filipino food if you haven’t yet had a chance. I guarantee you that there isn’t one too far from where you are. We’re everywhere. We’re just very good at blending in. But everyone is going to need a nurse or a nanny!

Day 91

Man: 72 Loneliness: 19

 

 

 

Day 57: The Man and the Daily Prompt; ‘Fierce’

Tell me what you would do in this situation.

You check into your AirBNB for the weekend in the Poconos. Your friends have all split the cost for two nights and it came to ~$140 per person for this house rental.

You find out only after opening the door that the house has no central A/C. It is currently 89 degrees. You would like to turn on the fans around the house, but they are all coated in dust. You blast the central A/C unit in the kitchen and hope it spreads while you explore the rest of the house. Luckily the rooms have their own individual units but again, fans and surfaces are dirty. It’s been a long two and a half hour drive due to traffic and you go to relieve yourself. You reach for the toilet paper and the holder drops with a loud, threatening metallic THUD as the stainless steel paper holder drops to the ground, seemingly attached to the wall by a strand of hair. You go to place your towel on the towel rack by the shower and THUD it falls as well.

Whatever. It’s fine. We’ll just place the toilet paper on the window sill and our towels by the sink. You and your group all go grocery shopping, spending more than $200 as the plan is to cook all your meals as part of the experience. You return home hungry to begin the first meal and notice that the stove fire is weaker than normal…and weakening…and weakening…and then…it’s out. Like, completely out. You try to reignite. The starter works. You hear the characteristic *click click click* of the starter and you can see the spark. But no flame. In remote PA, you know all the houses rely on their own propane supplies versus hooking into a gas line. You fear the worst…and check the fireplace. You hit the start and hope to see a flame. It flickers…flames…and then dies again…

The propane is out. You notify the homeowner who tells you that, while they apologize for the inconvenience, they cannot get anyone to refill the propane until Monday. When you check out. It is Saturday and you have two days’ worth of food in the refrigerator. It’s fine. Whatever. We have an electric rice cooker, an electric griddle, and a microwave. We’ll cook everything hibachi style like our ancestors at Benihana (note, I am Filipino, one friend is Korean, and the rest are Taiwanese).

Ultimately, for the inconveniences of the house the owner reaches out to your group and offers a consolation of a $50 refund. The groceries cost $200, and each member paid more than $100 for the two nights. You feel it is a paltry sum and not reflective of nearly the amount of inconvenience, but it’s fine. Whatever. We’ll go spend it on gas and tolls.

TigerI know there are many of you reading this who would have been up in arms by the third paragraph. Outraged by the fourth. Livid by the fifth. There would have been harsh words. Demands for more compensation. Sharply worded complaints and negative reviews.

So what did my group of friends and I do? We wrote a four star review noting how wonderful the owners were for caring and trying to make us happy.

This is the curse of the Asian attitude. A cross-cultural embedded ethos of humility, meekness, and tolerance. It is why issues of racism against Asians and Asian-Americans are never as widely publicized or heard. This is why American actors are cast in Asian movies and no one cries foul. It is why relationally, American women are not as interested in Asian men as they are seen as ‘weak’ and American men fetishize Asian women as ‘submissive’.

When I was a travel agent, this presented a whole new level of complication and issue because my capacity to endure trouble and hardship without complaint was now affecting my clients. Clients who, primarily Caucasian, would call me furious about the fact that the ‘blankets are gaudy’ or that the room is ‘ocean view and not ocean front’ or that ‘the hotel has to move us from one room to the other in the middle of the trip’. All of these issues that, were it me or my family or friends, we would have accepted as part of the unpredictability of travel and would simply soldier on. But for my clients this was the end of the world and somehow I had to find within me a fierceness and an aggression not characteristic to me or my culture to demand of equally confused hotel staff refunds, upgrades, special amenities, things I have never dreamt of asking for.

KittenThis is by no means a criticism of American culture. It is an observation of the Asian mindset that has characterized many of my social interactions. I don’t know who of us is more right or appropriate. There are certainly times when the fierceness of a tiger is more apropos than the meekness of a cat. But conversely there are times when the ability to accept and move on is critical and better for the heart and the blood pressure.

I think the Filipino is even more at a disadvantage than most other Asians. See a key characteristic for the Filipino is in fact their ability to endure. ‘The Filipino endures’. Corruption. Poverty. Natural disaster. The Filipino is applauded for his ability to endure and smile and move on. They never cause a ruckus, never raise a voice, they are the most adept at adapting. You could throw one of us anywhere in the world in any situation and we would find a way to succeed. It is a matter of strength and resolution but also of accepting one’s fate and making the best of it, rather than subvert or augment it.

But there must be a turning point when to adapt is no longer acceptable. A firm stance is necessary. It seems so difficult, combining Catholic values of ‘suffer in this life to be rewarded in the next’ with the natural tendency for Asians to be more reserved, less open about troubles and difficulties, for us as Filipinos to ever ask, expect, or seek better in life.

Take meals for example. If you are not Asian and have ever eaten with them, you will notice a certain phenomenon near the end of the meal. No matter how hungry people are there seems to always be one last morsel of each dish still on the table. And now comes the song and dance of trying to get others to eat it and being offered by others to eat. There are smiles and gestures and gestations and it’s all a big commotion. Until your white friend, confused by what is happening, unused to the rhythm of the dance, helps himself to it all.

EatingThis is a huge social faux pas. What is happening behind the scenes is every good little Asian boy and good little Asian girl is doing what was always taught to them. Concern yourself with others and, ignoring your own condition, offer to someone else and allow yourself to take only what is offered to you. We are all hungry. We all want something. We know who to offer what so they can get what they like and we know someone will offer to us what we want. We won’t even find the ability to tell our friend what happened because again, we should simply be good diners and allow him to finish what he would like. To the untrained eye though, it looks like the perfect environment for more aggressive and self-assured people to thrive and take advantage.

Filipino Eyes.gifMake no mistake. Asians are fierce. Fiercely proud and protective. Fiercely loyal. Fiercely attached to honor and tradition that we endure the mark of meekness. If you cross us we will fight back. We have overthrown governments and dictators. Started revolutions. We just think that going a little hungry is less important than the contentment of our friends. We are used to a bit more hardship, and in the grand perspective of things, we shrink to the common trivialities and difficulties of the everyday. But we are fierce. And Filipinos? Some of the fiercest lovers. Blame that on some of our latent Spanish blood.

Day 57

Man: 41 Loneliness: 16