I want to love China. I want this culture that is somehow supposed to be mine, which I am supposed to represent — I want to be able to cherish it, to have Asian Pride, to bring it forcefully crashing against whiteness, against assimilation.
But here’s a secret.
I hate China.
I hate the hyper-humble performative act. I hate the objectification of women, of children, of anyone really. I hate the easy fulfillment of roles stratified solely by age and gender. I hate that every single type of person has an articulated ideal: three days here with my grandmother and I already know exactly the person I was supposed to be: conscientiously neat, quiet, domestic, impeccably caring, studious, successful. Even what I eat: it’s never enough, and if it’s enough, perhaps maybe then we can criticize the ratio? I hate being called ‘mei nu’ by strangers, as if the most important part of my being such that it must be included in my title is that I must be ‘pretty’. I hate sitting in between two adults and hearing the same conversation about my round face but long legs and eating habits and my too-hyped piano playing and my university and how well I care for my grandmother.
It took being away from family to fully realize how oppressive the culture is, and yet it took even more time away from family to realize that it may not be oppressive at all. Who am I to say what is right? But I can say this: I can say what is right for me. I am American. Narcissistic individualism and tanned skin run in my veins. I don’t want to be Chinese; I never can be Chinese.
And the only thing I suppose I can hope for now is that one phrase I heard from someone not too long ago: that this situation — my self-loathing but hyper-aware being — is the flawed but necessary transition to a better ideal come next generation.