Mindy gets culturally accurate. Artwork by Mindy.
“Where are you from?”
“The Gold Coast.”
“Yeah, but where are you really from?”
My mother’s womb, you fuck, used to be my go-to answer (only in my head, of course – I’m no where near cool enough to pull this off out loud). However, I now rejoice in being able to wear yoga pants in public with my hair in a messy topknot, and maybe even order a Starbucks Frappuccino without hearing a chorus of Ha, typical white girl.
But it didn’t always used to be this way. No – growing up in a Chinese-Indian family I often envied my white friends whose dinners were astonishingly rice-less, and who didn’t have to provide a phonetic spelling of their parents’ names prior to parent-teacher interviews.
On annual trips to visit family in Malaysia, I’d try to set myself apart from the locals by talking in the broadest Australian accent I could muster and, just to add to my wankery, solely referred to McDonald’s as ‘Maccas’. I cringe, oh how I cringe.
I think that resenting your ethnicity is almost a rite of passage for children of migrant families. For example, I have Indian friends who used to apply lightening creams to make their dark skin fairer, and Chinese friends who’ve spent hours on Youtube watching makeup tutorials on how to achieve the coveted illusion of eyelids. I myself used to try and kill my hair with straightening irons and pull off the popular ‘side fringe’ look. That was the year I learnt that some hairstyles really are race-specific.
However, I’m now aware of the perks of my ethnic cred, and have compiled some of them into a (mildly racist?) list for your viewing pleasure:
1. I can make horribly offensive Asian jokes, and it’s okay(ish).
2. I can sometimes make white girls who wear bindis uncomfortable if I stare at them for long enough. Or maybe it’s just the staring that causes discomfort, but I think I’m satisfied either way.
3. My bowels do not handle spicy food as if it were the devil’s fetus.
4. My mum can make food that’s quite possibly better than Govinda’s.
5. I can make fun of bad Chinese tattoos to feel better about myself.
It’s safe to say that these days I’ve come to my senses and am proud of my diversity. Did you know that my race is a whole fetish on it’s own? Imagine if I became a stripper – the tips that I’d make!
Nowadays, when strangers on the train stare and ask the inevitable So where are you from? I get so excited that I ramble on about my parents’ and all four grandparents’ heritage, including specific years of migration. In fact, I’ve probably deterred them from ever asking anyone that question again. So those of you who hate where are you from’s as much as I used to, I accept thank you cards, flowers and gift vouchers to The Cheesecake Shop.