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.
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.