This novel reveals the truths about Asian culture, which will shock you!
|Yellow on the Outside, Shame on the Inside: Asian Culture Revealed - Chapter 3
I got up this morning feeling very fatigued and exhausted, because both of my parents woke me up at six o'clock, so that I would be ready to go visit Auntie up in Palo Alto. You would think that they'd cut me some slack and let me sleep in, since it's Saturday but not when you have Asian parents. I've never been to boot camp, but I'm sure this is pretty close, the only difference being that I'm not required to wear camouflage and shoot innocent civilians. I could complain some more, but then I start thinking about my cousins over in Asia. I have it so much better than them. I remember staying at their house a few years ago, and they were getting up early for school, even during the summer! In fact, they had to wake up at five o'clock in the morning, just so that they could get ready for tutoring. After that was done, they had to get ready for more school at seven o'clock. Then after school let out at five o'clock in the afternoon, they still had to go to an after-school tutoring class! By the time it was over, they barely had an hour to eat dinner, because of all the homework accumulated that day. I bitch and moan about how I have it bad, but I'm living in paradise compared to my cousins.
Now what really upset me about the whole situation with my cousins was that they accepted this lifestyle without any objection. They never complained, and they never said a word about their struggles to anyone. So before I left to fly back to America, I took the time to talk to them about their abject enslavement. I felt bad for them; I still do. I just had to know why they didn't stand up to their parents. Their answers were the same: “That's just how it is here. If you don't get good grades, then your parents won't love you.” I couldn't believe what I heard. How does getting good grades equate to love? Plenty of kids got bad grades and still grew up to become successful—Albert Einstein, for instance. I really got upset when I heard this from my cousins. And I felt such remorse for them as well. No wonder Asians grow up all screwed up, only caring about money, status, and power.
Now I know that it's not just with my family. It's pervasive with Asian families all over the world. So there's really no difference between an Asian parent in America and an Asian parent overseas. Asian children are basically sheep, raised and herded by their parents. And these prize-winning sheep become doctors or lawyers, aka cash cows for their parents—like an investment or retirement fund. Then when Asian parents grow old, their kids—or retirement fund I should say—end up paying for their retirement and taking care of their every need and desire. No wonder Asian parents want their kids to become doctors and lawyers—that's where all the money's at!
Anyway, I'm spending way too much time talking about sheep and cows, and besides, I need to hit the road asap, considering the fact that there's always traffic in LA—24/7, every day of the week. Many people may feel that the greatest mystery of all is the origin of the universe or life outside of Earth, but the real greatest mystery of all is traffic in LA; why is there traffic all the freaking time, even at two o'clock in the morning? A government agency needs to be set up to meticulously analyze traffic congestion, since our tax dollars are being wasted anyway, and it might as well go towards solving a problem that everyone agrees to fix.
All of the sudden, I realize that I'm really in no condition to drive, still sleepy and tired from having to wake up early; so off to the kitchen I go for some delicious, organic coffee—at least there's one good thing about being in this house.
As I start to make a fresh pot, I notice a myriad of calendars on the wall by the refrigerator. My parents would always leave six years worth of calendars, plus the current year. The reason is because the number '6' represents good luck in Asian culture. One thing about Asian parents is that they are completely obsessed with good luck. There's even a book published each year, forecasting the good luck days to get married and the bad luck days not to get married.
At Asian weddings, there's always a tea pouring ceremony in which pouring tea for your relatives is required in exchange for money and gold—talk about using an excuse to get money! Speaking of excuses to get money, the Chinese have an egregiously blatant way of doing it. If you are invited to a wedding, you are required to pay a fee at the reception and if you don't go, you have to pay a portion of that obligatory fee—no exceptions or you'll lose face! No wonder China leads the world in paper production—invitations get sent out like hotcakes! And when you give money at a wedding, it has to be an even number or else it's considered bad luck. Now get this: Asians are also required to give money at a funeral—an odd number or else it's bad luck! As if giving required money isn't enough, Asians are even picky about the parity! I can go on all day about Asian superstition, but I really have to get going. I haven't even started packing yet.
Since it's an Asian custom to always dress to impress, especially with my relatives, I start by reaching for my Louis Vuitton suitcase from the top shelf of my closet and setting it on top of my bed. Then I put in a few Banana Republic stretch polos, with matching boot-cut indigo jeans and some Hugo Boss dress shirts with dress pants. I even throw in some designer Dolce & Gabbana boxers and John Bartlett socks to make my traveling wardrobe entirely pretentious. Now dressing up nice and genteel is not uniquely an Asian culture custom by any means, but wearing expensive, designer apparel to every event is. Asian people always get dressed up—even to a barbecue!
I remember seeing this one girl at Gabriel's barbecue, all dressed up in Gucci from head to toe. Normally, guys can't tell one designer from another, but I knew she had on all Gucci, because everything she wore had a damn 'G' logo: her sunglasses, purse, even her earrings. Asian people love to show off logos; I'm sure designers are having a field day with all that free advertising. I know I sound like a hypocrite because I wear all this designer stuff—and unfortunately, I am. I'm still trying hard to break away from the ethnocentricity of Asian culture. And it's really hard to break away, especially when you just want to do the right things to please your parents. The problem is that my parents' idea of the “right things“ may not actually be the “right things.”
Anyway, my parents bought all this designer stuff for me, because they were sick of me wearing my nasty-ass t-shirts and jeans with holes the size of cannonballs. Plus, they love the power to control me—my third Asian Pride Theorem. They also said dressing up will help me get a good job in the future; I hope they don't really believe their own crap.
Now that I finish packing, I just say a simple “Goodbye” to my parents, because—remember—Asian families don't hug or kiss. Mommy and Daddy hand me some things to give to Auntie and also, the keys to the BMW 550i—I wonder why? Nothing better than to show how well off you are, especially to your relatives, than by pulling up in a BMW and wearing all Hugo Boss, carrying a Louis Vuitton suitcase.
I pull up to Gabriel's house, only a few blocks down the street, since he can't be seen walking to my house in ostentatious Irvine—this shit just never ends. I honk the horn to let him know that I'm outside. I never did like to go inside Gabriel's house. There's always this smell—not malodorous or frowzy, but very distinct and somewhat discomforting. It's not just with Gabriel's house. Most Asian homes have a poignant smell; it really is an Asian thing. I don't know if it's all that damn stir-fry or incense, but the smell lingers forever. I told him about it but he says he doesn't smell anything. I guess he's so immune to it since he stays home all the time.
I also don't want to go inside because Gabriel's parents are relentless with their interrogation. They have this condescending way of conversing with people, especially with me. They usually start off by patronizingly asking, “Johnson. Are you doing well in school?”—which means: “Are you maintaining a 4.0 or are you failing?”
They would then ask, “Do you plan to go to medical school after you graduate?”—which really means: “Do you plan to sit around doing nothing all day if you don't go to medical school?”
Finally, they would say, “Jordan is so smart to get into Stanford. I know she'll do well after she graduates,” which ultimately means: “Jordan is better than you and you're a loser compared to her.” It's no wonder that my parents and Gabriel's parents are such good friends—four peas in the same, damn Asian pod.
Gabriel rushes out the front door, as if a mob is chasing him with torches and pitchforks. I notice that he's only carrying a small backpack. That's the thing with Gabriel; he always packs light wherever he goes. He says that Japanese people like to keep things simple and compact. I think he's just pretty, damn lazy.
As Gabriel opens my car door, he throws a bag of weed into my lap—my angel from heaven!
"By the way, thanks for coming. I really didn't know if you had a purpose in life, but now I know it's to ride shotgun, so that we can get into the HOV," I say jokingly, just to annoy him like a true best friend.
"Sure, no problem. But I thought my purpose in life was to satisfy your mom," Gabriel replies, a supercilious smile on his face. He's always been good with comebacks.
"Yeah, that's really original." I've always been awful with comebacks.
"Nothing original about satisfying your mom. Everyone's doing it." See what I mean? Gabriel's a natural.
"Okay, okay. You win. Let's get going or else we'll get stuck in traffic.”
The drive from Irvine to Palo Alto is about six hours. I usually take the 101 freeway, but I'll take the 5 interstate this time, since I'm not too anxious to get to Auntie's place. Besides, Gabriel and I are toking up so I shouldn't be driving fast. Orange County cops—I mean pigs—love to pull you over for the smallest offense, even for driving one mile under the speed limit; that's when they get you for the big crimes like DUI.
Gabriel got sent to jail once for a DUI, because the arresting female officer smelled pot on him, even though he wasn't smoking anything; Gabriel just happened to be wearing a dirty shirt, possibly stained with pot residue. It was only his first offense, but they still held him in prison for a week! I didn't have enough money to bail him out since the court purposely brought his charges up to a felony status, and his bail jumped up to the cost of a new BMW. Plus, he didn't want his parents to know so he stuck it out for a week in the OC concentration camp. Gabriel gave his parents the excuse that he decided to go upstate for a week in order to check out some medical school programs—pure genius. Gabriel's true talent is knowing how to bullshit.
Anyway, to get released, Gabriel gladly agreed to the plea bargain of a misdemeanor conviction, accompanied with informal probation, but they still wouldn't let him out of jail! They kept him there the whole night, even after he signed the plea bargain! He told me that the reason they keep you there is because they don't want “convicts” and “hoodlums” walking the streets of Irvine. Instead, they let you out late at night, at a godforsaken hour, in the middle of nowhere, so that no one can see you when you leave. Remember how I told you that people don't walk in ostentatious Irvine? That's because they'll probably think that you just got out of jail! Irvine is trying so desperately to keep their little suburban utopia intact, that they'll do anything, like violate your constitutional rights. That's why Gabriel's so anal retentive about my driving, even though I'm a damn good driver, unlike most Asians. He's always checking things to make sure we don't get pulled over: the seat belts, the side mirrors, and right now, the passenger-side airbag. (By the way, Gabriel says that smoking pot in the car is totally okay, since he believes that the medicinal properties of marijuana actually help ease and relieve the stresses of driving—that sounds good enough to me so let's toke up!)
Gabriel analyzes the passenger-side airbag with obsessive-compulsive hands, as if he's an inspection agent. “Why is the airbag on my side so small? It's like the size of a Game Boy,” Gabriel asks. He's the type of person that demands an answer to all of his stupid questions.
“It's the new superficial airbag which protects the most important part: the face,” I retort, like a smart ass. “As long as the face is protected, 'cause the body doesn't really matter. We all know how important faces are here in LA.” If he likes stupid questions, then I'll give him stupid answers.
Gabriel turns his head and gives me a smile. “You're actually funny for once, Johnson.”
I smile back. It's always fun driving with Gabriel. I still remember the time when we first met. It was all the way back in elementary school. His parents moved here from Japan to start a furniture business, and he didn't speak much English when he got here. Actually, he didn't speak any English at all, now that I think about it. I had to show him around school and take him everywhere. I actually didn't like him at first because he was a FOB, seriously fresh off the boat. But we got along and we ended up hanging out a lot. I would always go over to his house to play Nintendo. Back then, the Japanese had the newest games to hit the market. So Gabriel made a lot of new friends in no time, because of that Nintendo. He was funny as a kid, too, and even made fun of himself for being a foreigner. That's the thing about Gabriel; he's always up for a laugh.
But I hate it whenever he makes fun of me for not being able to speak my native language, since I was born here in California. I keep telling him that the reason I can't speak my native language is because my parents never taught it to me. And the reason that they never taught it to me is because they're afraid that if I had any hint of a foreign accent, then I wouldn't be able to get a good job. He says that's stupid and I totally agree with him. In fact, most Asians born in America can't speak their native language, because their parents are so scared of an accent ruining their chances of becoming a doctor or lawyer. And you already know why Asian parents want their kids to become doctors and lawyers. Asian parents are even willing to sell out their own culture and relegate their native language, all in the name of money.
“Dude. How come you never look at your side mirror whenever you're driving?” Gabriel suddenly remarks, as I start to change lanes without checking my mirror. He's still in inspection agent mode.
I decide on another smart-ass thing to say to him. “Side mirrors are overrated. It's all hype.” I think that's smart-ass enough—at least stupid enough.
Gabriel gives me a bizarre smirk. “Overrated? It's a safety device, you idiot.” I can tell Gabriel is a little annoyed.
“Nah, side mirrors really are overrated,” I say to him, continuing to smile. “Don't worry about it.”
“I'm not worried about it. I'm just slightly concerned.” We both laugh. Then Gabriel slaps my right arm and says, “You know, Johnson, I was thinking about how you're the one that's overrated. But then I realized that in order to be overrated, you actually have to be rated first, which you're not, not even a tiny blip on the radar.”
“I know you're a huge blip on the gay-dar,” I rebut, hoping that he would stop his nonsense.
“I take it back about you being funny.” Gabriel slouches in the passenger seat and looks out the window.
I want to annoy him some more, since that's what a best friend's for. “Hey, man. Why don't you ever shave? You always have that nasty, thick beard. I don't want people to think I'm hanging out with a homeless person.” That should annoy him for sure.
“I'd worry more about the way you look, Johnson. You always have that short, spiky, one-dimensional, Bed Head haircut, just like every damn Asian guy.” He's right; I do have that “short, spiky, one-dimensional, Bed Head haircut, just like every damn Asian guy.”
“My mom pays for my haircuts, so I can't really grow it out,” I say, hesitantly.
“Mommy this and Mommy that, “ Gabriel responds cynically. “You have to break out of that typical Asian guy mold. Grow your hair out, stop wearing that Abercrombie and Banana Republic crap, and maybe go to a regular restaurant instead of those in Chinatown or Koreatown.”
He's right again, especially about the last part. I do admit that I'm always eating at a Chinese restaurant; or eating at a Korean restaurant; or eating at a Japanese restaurant. That's the thing about Asian restaurants. They all congregate together to form a Chinatown, Koreatown, or a Japantown. And it's interesting that I've never heard of an Iraqtown or an Australiatown or any other 'town' for that matter. The reason is because Asian people are insecure and fearful; they don't think they can get any business, unless it has an Asian theme like Chinatown, Koreatown, or Japantown. They can't be unique so they have to share the same archetypal and cultural theme for their stores. They figure that they can make big money huddled up in a theme town—aka Asiatown—versus being unique and different by going independent. Why be a pauper fish in a big pond when you can be a king fish in a small pond? It's always about the money.
“What's wrong with being Asian?” I ask Gabriel, musingly.
“There's nothing wrong with being Asian,” Gabriel replies adamantly. “There is, however, such a thing as being too Asian. You live here in America, bro. A multicultural country. Living with just Asian culture is too one-dimensional, like your damn hair. ” He's actually right about “being too Asian.” I really do need to change but that's easier said than done. Gabriel's also right about how “there's nothing wrong with being Asian.” There's also nothing wrong with practicing Asian customs, as well as appreciating Asian culture. But the problem with Asians is that they don't wish to appreciate other cultures; they have an ethnocentric view that Asian culture is better than every other culture (Ethnocentricity is another reason why Asians congregate together in Asiatowns.) I see so many Asians with “Asian Pride” stickers on their vehicles and “Asian Power” tattoos on their bodies. They think that they are better, but in fact, they're not. No culture is better than any other culture, just as no person is better than any other person. Perhaps Asians forgot to read the Declaration of Independence, which states: “all men are created equal.” I guess they didn't bother to read it since they only came to America for the opportunity to make lots of money, not for freedom or equality.
In New York City, for instance, many Chinese people live in Chinatown and stay there for the majority of their lives, without even stepping outside once. They may say that the reason they only stay in Chinatown is because they don't speak English well enough to leave, but there are many non-profit organizations and schools that teach English for free, even at the student's residence for convenience. The truth is that many Chinese people don't want to learn English, because they don't want to assimilate. In other words, they think that their culture is the best—ethnocentricity—and that other cultures are inferior, particularly American culture. So why do they live in America then? Remember what I said about how Asians moving to America, not for freedom, liberty or patriotism? It's always about the money.
As Gabriel mentioned, America is a multicultural country, a country full of different cultures, with the appreciation of different cultures. Asians can learn a lot just by appreciating and understanding other cultures, instead of keeping their false ethnocentric view that Asian culture is the best.
“Gabriel. I'll grow out my hair if you shave your nasty beard,” I say to him, proceeding to make a deal. I know he'll be more than happy to oblige.
“You got it, Johnson. Anything to help your social life.”
Now that's something I really need help with. It's embarrassing to tell you this, but I've never had a girlfriend. Well, not a real girlfriend anyway. I've been out with girls and made out with a few but never anything long term. There's no way to have a girlfriend with all this pressure from my parents. Plus, Asian parents are very strict when it comes to dating. They don't want us doing it, until at least we graduate from high school. Some don't even want their kids to date until after college! Anyway, I won't have time for a girlfriend after I graduate from UCI, because I'll be going to medical school right after that. And medical school will be even much more stressful so I'll have no time to do anything else but study. It's funny that the road to a successful career means death to your social life. Maybe I should just get neutered like our German Shepherd since he never has anything to worry about, except fetching the paper and taking a walk in the park, which reminds me of something that I've been waiting to tell you.
I was walking my dog a week or so ago in the park right by my old high school. I noticed a new, chrome-plated drinking fountain installed near the entrance of the gazebo. As I walked towards it, I could see three separate spouts: one at the top for adults, one in the middle for kids, and to my amazement, one at the very bottom for dogs! There was even a cute, little push pedal so that you wouldn't have to bend down and strain yourself laboriously since, heaven forbid, Irvine residents can't be caught looking like a day-laborer. Isn't this just unbelievable? Dogs even get their own drinking fountains. I wonder what people in third world countries would say about this. Right as I was about to leave the park, a snarly, hefty Golden Retriever ran past me without a leash—or even an owner. I noticed a copious number of dog tags around the neck so I knew it wasn't a stray. Then a car drove past me, with a young woman sticking her right arm outside the passenger window, waving a cane back and forth briskly. I thought it was strange that the car and the dog were both parallel, side by side, going down the street. I then realized that the woman was walking her dog in her car! Oh, for crying out loud! Has it really come to this? Irvine residents can't even walk their dogs by feet now; they have to do it by car! Isn't this just unbelievable?
All of the sudden, the low fuel indicator light comes on as I'm driving, so I start looking for a gas station. I didn't fill up before the trip since I'm really in no hurry to get to Palo Alto; I'm really not. I'm going to take my sweet-ass time since I know Auntie's preparing to unload non-stop criticism about me all weekend long! Sometimes, I wish I didn't have Asian relatives; sometimes, I wish I wasn't Asian.
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