Things I Missed

July 27, 2010

in therapy in session,this i believe

I have been back to my real life since two Sundays ago.  After a week on the beach, doing nothing, having no appointments to make, no place to rush to, I find it hard to adjust back to life in the suburbia 100%. On the first few days after The Beach, I caught myself thinking that I was about to get ready to go to the beach. I got a bit disoriented when I was driving because I was expecting to make the right turn and go into the development where the beach house was. In an almost imperceptible way, memories from the beach (even when I did not know I was remembering specifically any scene, any event, so perhaps it is more aptly an “aura”) seeped into reality as I am trying to adjust to life back to normal.

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

Disorientation. It happens every year after The Beach. Naturally it does get better as the week of post-coastal coital tristesse advances.

Perhaps because I now have a Tamagotchi blog to keep, I am even more self-reflective; I was caught by surprise by how I reacted with happiness to some of the things back home. Things I hadn’t realized I’d missed while I was doing The Beach… in addition to the Internet and robust Wireless coverage, it goes without saying.

My bed. Ok. Our bed. And I did consciously miss it during The Beach. At least my aching back did. A lot.

When we moved into our current house ten years ago, my husband and I made a conscious decision to get ourselves the best bed we could afford without going against our principle, “Only losers pay retail”. Considering how on average human beings spend one third of their lives in bed (i.e. 8+ out of 24 hours every day in theory), a firm and comfortable bed that allows you to wake up refreshed is one of the best investment with the highest ROI a person can make.  Our bed is one of those memory foams similar to Tempur-Pedic, and true to the marketing claim, we seldom disturb each other when we lie down or get up from the bed.  The downside of having such an awesome bed is 1) We feel like going straight to bed most of the time, and 2) We are so spoiled now that we find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up without kinks or aches when we travel.


My car.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a joke about driving while female? How about driving while Asian? Now put those two together, you got? Me.

I have to write about my love for driving one day, but for now, it suffices to say that I missed my car even though we had a nice and clean rental car, a Toyota Camry, that week.  I didn’t realize that I missed my tiny hatchback. In fact, after a long absence, I tend to be hesitant when I put my foot on the gas pedal, feeling like a virgin driver. I supplied pressure with my foot tentatively and my car purred (the way a small, non-sporty car does anyway). I thought, “Oh how I have missed you!” I love the familiarity. The comfort and ease. The confidence I exude when I am behind the steering wheel of my itty bitty car.  Possibly the smallest, everyday car, used to transport kids on a regular basis within the 15-mile radius of Suburbia. The pride, most likely undeserved, I feel in my heart when I am surrounded by gas-guzzling SUVs.  Especially when I encounter a Cadillac Escalade on the road (which for some reason happens more often than I wish), I see my itty bitty superduper hatchback as a finger extended in its general direction.



Chicago. Or any other larger city with a diverse population where I will not be stared at like a zoo animal. Where I do not stand out. Where I blend into the mosaic tapestry of life effortlessly. Where I will be ignored, just like everybody else.

For one reason or another we end up in the northern most tip of OBX every year where even the groundskeepers are white.  No shit. Even the seasonal workers they employ in the stores and restaurants are of Eastern European origins.  This year, for the first time, I saw two Asian cashiers at the supermarket, and (I did not imagine this!) they looked startled when they saw me at the checkout line.

Yeah, I am going to sound like a reverse-racist but it gets on my nerves every single year on the beach, this lack of diversity. This pervasive whiteness. I am never the only person of color there because my sister-in-law is of Asian Indian heritage. (Born and bred in the U.S. of A.).  Although she laughs every time I mention how 1) this has got to be the worst week for their property value, 2) the two of us double the population of Asian descent instantly, 3) “I am going to integrate now!” before I head towards the local super market, she may not be as sensitive as I am.  I, the product of years of Ivory-Tower immersion in race theories, American histories, cultural histories, identity theories, racial politics, post-colonial literature and theories, what have you.  Every year I counted the number of people of color I saw on the beach, in the pool, in the general area. This year I saw on the beach one African American family and a family of white parents and their children adopted from Asia. Then there were me and my sister-in-law.  That’s it.  Never more than a dozen.

The staring.  The surreptitious looks.  Sometimes became too much.  Without knowing it, I became edgy, stressed, and bitter because I was on display.

I whisper-yelled at the kids to behave more than I should have done, I didn’t know then but I do now, because I wanted to make sure that THESE PEOPLE not walk away with ANY false impression of Asian people. God forbid if I were the only Asian person they have come in close contact with in a shared environment, i.e. outside of Chinese restaurants, dry cleaners, nail salons, [fill in stereotypically Asian-owned businesses]. I certainly don’t want them to draw any negative conclusions about Asian-looking people because of the mistakes I made. (Great! Now they are going to think that Asian mothers yell at their kids too much! Fuck!)

I was ON the whole time. I was on my best behavior. I made great efforts to speak with as little hint of my foreign accent as possible because FUCK if I wanted to perpetuate the stereotype of Asians as perpetual, inscrutable, foreigners in this country. (The irony of me being indeed a FOREIGNER was not lost on me. Thank you very much. And I hope you all American-born people of Asian descent appreciate my fighting this battle alongside you so please no more making fun of people speaking in a foreign accent so you can feel, you know, American…)

As soon as I stepped off the plane at O’Hare Airport and emerged from the jetway, I was greeted with faces of varying shades in the bustling gate area.  I let out a sigh of relief.  The tension in my shoulders, which I hadn’t known was there, dissipated with such force it was physically perceptible to me.   The chip on  my shoulder melted, figuratively and physically even though I hadn’t realized I’d been wearing one.  I was able to relax.  I did not become fully aware of it until I no longer felt subconsciously the need to represent.

Yup. I missed not having to represent.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Unknown Mami July 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I’m with you on paying retail, it’s for suckers.
Unknown Mami´s last blog post…“Pig” is not “Big” and Amigas- Fifteen Candles


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:19 am baby!


Corey July 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Great, great post.

You really capture just how powerful a trip can be, rendering you a bit outside yourself even after you return home. I love this about the vacations and even the weekend getaways.

This reminds me of how we always change a memory by just accessing it. More clearly put, we change what home means each time we leave it and each time we return. It’s just with a longer stay away, the more profound that change can be. At least – again – during that pesky transition time.

I just moved away from my home for the first time not even a month ago. My life is nothing but transition right now, a permanent vacation. At least for now. Currently, I’m just trying to concentrate on being fully clothed when leaving the house in the mornings. That’s my life, a striking balance between nudity and dignity without breaking a sweat.

Oh! And your Chuang Tzu quote is well placed. Makes me think of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:19 am

Thank you for visiting and commenting! I got a comment from someone associated with a blog on NPR/WBEZ! Yeah!!! (Let me gloat for a second here… Ok I am back!)

“This reminds me of how we always change a memory by just accessing it. More clearly put, we change what home means each time we leave it and each time we return. It’s just with a longer stay away, the more profound that change can be.” So well put. You should keep notes of what you are going through right now, what you are feeling, how you are seeing the move, the transition, the world. It could be a very interesting book!

And do keep this excellent sentence in the book. I love it! “At least for now. Currently, I’m just trying to concentrate on being fully clothed when leaving the house in the mornings. That’s my life, a striking balance between nudity and dignity without breaking a sweat.”


Erica@PinesLakeRedhead July 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Hi, I stumbled over here from Motherese…

I live on the west coast of Florida in an arts & culture town. I didnt’ realize just how diverse my surroundings were until we went to Highlands, NC in June. It was so white bread and yes, the lawn service people were white. The entire week I only saw one person of color… a woman of Mayan descent busing tables at a restaurant. It really was so odd. I really enjoyed hearing your point of view. Thanks!


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:15 am

Thank you very much for visiting and commenting! Yes! We need to get out of our comfort zones to learn how the other side(s) live/s, and yet I cannot wait to scramble back to my comfort zone as soon as possible…


Justine July 29, 2010 at 8:51 am

Fan.tas.tic post. Really. I would love to hang out with you and your sister-in-law someday – you two are a hoot. “I”m going to integrate now” had me cackling.

And this? “I made great efforts to speak with as little hint of my foreign accent as possible ” – I’m glad you brought this up because I do this almost every day but after 16 years of being here, it’s no longer an effort. However, when I tell people that I wasn’t born here, and that I came here to go to college, they’re consistently surprised, “What? But your English is so good!” like it’s completely unnatural that I can string my words together cohesively and not say “Engrish”.

I recently went on a short trip to a small beach town in MI and even then, I felt a little out of place because of the whiteness of the town. They were nice people, no doubt, but it made me feel self-conscious. Maybe that’s why in my travels I gravitate towards more urban areas because I’m more comfortable “not having to represent”. LOVE that.

And yes, coming home to Chicago is one of the best feelings. The not standing out is what makes this feel like home to me. I love your eloquent and beautiful description of this, “Where I blend into the mosaic tapestry of life effortlessly.” Kudos. Your English is so good! 😉
Justine´s last blog post…Pina Colada Ice Cream Guest Post


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:09 am

Thank you the kind words, and more importantly, moral support. You are my kindred spirits! English. Accent. Ok, that’s another topic for us to write about, isn’t it? 😉


Meg at the Members Lounge July 29, 2010 at 8:20 am

I, too feel guilty when I ignore my blog for a few days, I love your Tamagotchi analogy! I constantly roll my eyes at the Escalades that surround me on the road. I firmly believe those drivers are the unhealthiest individuals, because they always have to troll the parking lots for the closest space to their destination. Apparently the can hog the road but can’t walk.
Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…The Lowell Folk Festival


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:04 am

Escalade. It is as huge as China!


Life with Kaishon July 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm

oh my goodness. I loved this post. We save all that stress by going to the Joisey shore. Races abundant : )
Life with Kaishon´s last blog post…One Thousand Ninety Five Days


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:02 am

Thank you. I read “Jersey Shore” at first. LOL. 😉


Cynthia July 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm

“driving while female/Asian” – LOL. Love it.

I’m living your The Beach dream, baby, except there are plenty of Asians (mainly, Filipino nannies) in my hood. The last time a neighbour came to my door, he looked past me and asked if he could talk to the “owner of the house.” I know what you mean by feeling the need to be ON when in public with my 2 (mixed Filipino/white) boys. I hate the confused stares.

FYI- I’ve become a big fan of your blog. Your honesty & humour is refreshing.
Cynthia´s last blog post…puppet show


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:02 am

Thank you for the kind words. I cannot keep my mouth shut and I have no mental filter online. After all, this is therapy, right? 😉

I hope you gave that guy a piece of what he deserved. Oh, that would have sent me into an episode of blinding rage!


Jen @ NathanRising July 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Damn. That’s nuts that people stare at you like that because you’re Asian. Maybe it’s not because of your race, but instead because of your beauty. You know, I can actually empathize with you on this. I’m Finnish, and I DO NOT look like “everyone else” in East Tennessee. I get stared at a LOT. I’ve even confronted the oglers, and they responded that they were trying to figure out what country I was from (???) because I don’t look like I’m from “around here.” It’s bizzarre, rude, and disconcerting all rolled into a big ball of Uncomfortable, but I still try to take the staring (and comments) as a compliment. My husband tells me foreign is beautiful, way more beautiful than the countrified, from-around-here look. I don’t mean that to sound snobbish, that’s just his opinion and apparently, the opinion of many others.
Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog post…I have a Zombler


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 7:00 am

I can’t believe you confronted them! You go, girl!!!

And Finnish? How exotic! 😉


Naptimewriting July 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Edward Said is rolling over in his TempurPedic Beach House bed right now…
Naptimewriting´s last blog post…Artisan pizza attacked- film at eleven


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 6:59 am



mepsipax July 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Ok….I loved the post….but there is no such fucking thing as reverse racist…it is all just racist.
mepsipax´s last blog post…Im back


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 6:58 am

Thanks! Welcome back!


Mary Lee July 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I think it has more to do with $$$$$ and remoteness than anything else. I LIVE in North Carolina and that beach is just too darned far away! It’s 340 miles from us and we’re not even in the western part of the state. The Duck/Corolla area used to be the most expensive area to live in the entire state because of its remoteness. I suppose it still is.

You’re coming to the right state, we just need to get you to the right beach! When YOU take over planning the family outings, I’ll send you a list.

Chicago … who WOULDN’T be glad to get to Chicago! I’m glad you like going home though. It is tough living someplace you don’t like.
Mary Lee´s last blog post…On the Verge of a Purge


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 6:58 am

That’s where we go every year. And you cannot say this is not a vast country! NC is 3.5 times the size of Taiwan! I didn’t realize I actually like living in Chicago, EVEN the suburbs, until I set foot in the airport that evening. What a drastic difference. What a relief!


Elly Lou July 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

I’m just glad you’re back.

Are you sure they weren’t staring at you because of that rack of yours?
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Relief


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 6:54 am

Me too.

* So much did I say I’d pay you again for starting this rumor? BFF! 😉


TheKitchenWitch July 28, 2010 at 6:50 am

I feel for you–when my husband and I first started dating, I was teaching high school in a very white suburb. Whenever we went to dinner somewhere after work, he felt horribly uncomfortable and loathed all of the “ooh, and inter-racial couple!” stares.

Luckily, our latest move put us in a more diverse (but not hugely, mind you) suburb and we no longer get stares. I was so pleased when I took Miss D. to school and saw other brown (and tan, and other colors) children. Whew.

As uncomfortable as it was, I wish I’d been there to hear you and the running commentary during the visit about ruining property values. I’d have been in stitches. You have this piercing wit that I love.

“Only losers pay retail”–love it.
TheKitchenWitch´s last blog post…Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu


Absence Alternatives July 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm

The best part would have been when my sil went with her sisters who are both married to African Americans. I wish I could be there. It would have been awesome to watch the “spectators'” reactions to us this motley group. 😉


Andrea July 28, 2010 at 7:05 am

“Only losers pay retail” — Bob would love you! 🙂 And I had to laugh at the blog/Tamagotchi comparison. Sometimes it does feel like I’m trying desperately to keep it alive.


Absence Alternatives July 31, 2010 at 6:41 am

Thank you. I’m rather proud of the blog/Tamagotchi analogy myself. I should patent it?


Diane Laney Fitzpatrick July 28, 2010 at 5:31 am

Oh dear. Where on earth WERE you that being Asian makes you stand out? Good lord, I don’t think I’ve ever been to that beach and I don’t want to ever go there. Where were you, Utah? Alabama? Bumfuck, Egypt?
Diane Laney Fitzpatrick´s last blog post…Eat- Pray- Love Little Babies


Absence Alternatives July 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm

LOL. The Outer Banks. 🙂


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