Friday, May 11, 2007

Seriously, I don't give a crap

So, I'm searching for something at the supermarket, when a Filipino housewife asks me to help her get something from the top shelf, which I am happy to do. After saying thanks, she asks me if I'm Filipino.

Yes, I am. The question I never ask afterwards so I don't seem impolite is "So what?"

I don't know why, but it bothers me that it's the deepest, most intellectual question that comes to most minds I come across. That what interests other people is whether or not I eat adobo (and I don't).

As far as I know, I'm the biggest coconut in the family, and proud of it. I was raised in Staten Island, which if you ask me, is the real inspiration for The Sopranos (I thought it was supposed to be a comedy, btw). I shook off my Italian-American-inspired accent in two places, in high school where I was in the musical all four years, and in Japan, where I was an ESL teacher.

In college, there was the Filipino club, but down the hall the Italian club was playing picture charades and eating pizza, so I went there instead.

Instead of taking Tagalog, which is a course at NYU, I took Japanese instead. Best decision of my life.

And yes, for all this, I've been sensing eye rolls from every relative, close and distant, since college.

So, what I'm saying is this: isn't something like "What kinds of things do you like to do?" or "What did you do in university?" just a tad more interesting than "Say, you're Filipino, right?" Because really, when I used to live in Japan, I honestly didn't give a crap that a fellow American in my line of sight was American. I never got that sense of relief that some other culture shocked ex-pats get when they realize they're not the only English-speaking person on the block.

And as one of those ultra-liberals your mom told you about, I'm saying that people usually get into trouble when labels of race, religion or whatever dominate their way of thinking about others. I get it all the time, even when I'm not in the element people expect from me. I hate it when Japanese language departments at universities advertise job openings, but only to native Japanese. It's not possible that someone who has taken up the language could do just as good a job? More relevant to this post, is it possible that someone could decide to do things not typical of the culture from which they came, in an attempt to break out of the mold of provincialism? What else is the age of multiculturalism and globalism for, if not for pursuing options otherwise not available to you?

All I'm saying is this: don't assume. I'll leave it at that.


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