Based on reviews of Medicine for Melancholy (which I haven’t seen, yet), to live in a place in San Francisco as a young professional, it’s difficult to fully embrace your culture as a minority. To live in the Mission and to be a so-called hipster is to become “white”.
Several weeks ago, I attended (recently new) friend’s hot pot dinner at his apartment in SOMA. His facebook event invite seemed relatively harmless, albeit full of Asians. Sure, I am used to be surrounded by Asian Americans. On arrival though, he greeted me, “I am glad you’re here because you will be the only non-Chinese Asian to balance out everyone.”
Startled, I said, “But I am Chinese…”
“Oh I thought you were Vietnamese!”
I shook off the discussion about ethnicities and prepared for an Asian Americanized dinner. To my surprise, Mandarin and Chinese pop culture surfaced in conversation. Even the only Caucasian talked about his fascination about China and his desire to absorb every detail of being Chinese. I sat in silence, slightly shameful that I didn’t feel the same. Everyone talked about loving living in Soma and the suburbs of San Francisco. It contrasted everything I was accustomed to.
But am I that rejecting? I purposefully chose the Mission. Every day, I walk out…and perhaps there are a few Asian Americans and of course the Mexican Americans—natives of the Mission. But it’s nearly all non-Asians around me. Including my roommate and neighbors. I feel comfortable here, surrounded by English, a fascination with independent art, freedom of expression, and almost nearly devoid of…any one ethnicity.
When I randomly browsed on Hulu to a movie Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity starring Sandra Oh, I was intrigued at first. An Asian American or at least in this case an Asian Canadian. But as the movie wore on—a story about a girl in Vancouver Chinatown surrounded by Chinese culture and superstition, I was at first insulted…then almost angry. Reflecting upon me, I didn’t want to become just…an embodiment of superstition and unwilling to accept change. And yet, is it because I am beyond the working class?
I walked to Dolores Park the other day and gestured to the park: Imagine it covered with people—as if you couldn’t see grass. And thinking of that, you wouldn’t expect to see many Asian Americans. You would see the people dressing alike, perhaps with a small bbq and cupcakes…and wine and beer. A dog maybe. They would be dressed in all different colors—with umbrellas and picnic blankets. But ethnicity? English would only be spoken. English songs sang. People who are fascinated with culture—it’s a word or two there to demonstrate the in-ness…of Thai knowledge or British style. But it wouldn’t be encompassing.
I spent an hour today trying help my grandmother figure out a way to put a photo slideshow with music on her dvd. Then convert mp3s to wavs so that she can add it to the slideshow. At the end of the hour, my mind was numb with trying to speak broken Chinese. And I would stumble and stutter…until finally a friend called and I could break out into English.
I didn’t have to think in English “How do I say….”