Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sniffling Meditations

Two nights ago, I had the perfect train of thought for this blog, but I was too tired and sick (having a blasted case of flu) to unzip (been snoozing in a sleeping bag on the floor since Mom arrived. Two words: carpet plush, never underestimate its importance when you are going to spend a month sleeping on the floor), crawl out of the sleeping bag, and type it all out at 4 AM. So--just like my flu--I am just going to let what remains run its course here...

I have been wondering what makes me so apprehensive about dating someone from the Chinese culture. For those not "in the know," there are the "English-educated Chinese" (sometimes variously derided as "white-washed," "Anglophiles," "Charlie Chans," etc.) and the "Chinese-educated Chinese." This is not to say that the former category does not understand Chinese (Mandarin), or the latter category does not comprehend English. It is just a matter of personal preference and taste as to which culture and its various permutations one most often indulges in. Looking at my track record, my experience with Chinese-educated females have been disastrous. Our worldviews clash, our values clash... Heck, even our music and movie tastes clash. In all honesty, our philosophies are so anathema to each other's, that I will probably have an easier time dating E.T. in a skirt than a Chinese-educated female.

To brush it away with a cliche like, "Oh, you are from different cultures (even though you are of the same race)," would be flippant as I have successfully dated Japanese, Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans (Anglophiles, of course), American Caucasians, and even a wonderful British Caucasian (Hi Emma!).

Yes, I'm a man-whore.

However, when it comes to the Chinese-educated female, it all falls apart. I wonder why. I wonder if this personal phenomenon (or, less compassionate readers would prefer the term, "disorder") is the result of being forced to endure 10+ years of compulsory classes and exams in Chinese (Mandarin) under Singapore's education system. I remember having to spend obscene amounts of time, sweat and tears to get a passing grade in a language I didn't give a flying fig about, and a culture I could care even less about. I can't speak for others, but spending long hours memorizing the chicken-scrawlings of a handful of obnoxious, narcissistic, long-dead-and-rotted, individuals in glorified (embroidered) bathrobes, sprouting sanctimonious aphorisms, all whilst waving paper fans and spotting pony tails, hold zero appeal to me. When a friend writes a card in Latin or French to me, my curiosity is piqued, and I go about translating it--immediately. When it is written in Chinese, I schedule it to be translated... Oh, sometime before the next big earthquake hits. Hmm... Maybe I do have a deep-seated disdain, even hatred for the language and this is payback now?

I don't know.

Is my affinity towards... say, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, or T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland, rather than the poems of Li Bai (Li Po), Wu Men, or Lao Tzu, a result of personal taste, or an act of unconscious rebellion against a decade of forced rote learning in my childhood and adolescencee?

Does it matter? Should I care?

Why do I think it is cute when Chinese or Asian (I detest the term, "Oriental." Perhaps there is hope left yet for me) elements are appropriated into American culture, but cringe and deem it tacky, unoriginal and second-rate when the reverse happens? Am I so thoroughly interpellated a postcolonial subject?

The easy-but-damning label / classification / diagnosis of a "self-hating native" does not apply to me as I learned English (3-4 years of age) before I encountered Chinese (at age 7). The only thing Chinese about me is that I can speak some Chinese (Mandarin), read even less, manage a few tortured scribbles, and still remember how to write my name. And, oh, yes, I can stomach eating about every animal there is out there (except dogs. Dogs have a special place in my heart). If these make up the essence of what makes a Chinese, then it is a sad race and culture indeed.

So what does that make me? A tortured hybrid?

If so, then I think, as siewping so astutely pointed out in her comment, my current location is the best place to be in. I guess the process of hybridization began long before I even left Singapore.

Do you go into something knowing well that such a pattern or course of action has a track record of failures? When is it wise to allow passion to overwhelm reason? One believes to love with the heart, but true, lasting and productive love begins with, and is maintained by, the head. You may swoon to the tales of Romeo and Juliet, or Liangshan Bo and Zhu Yingtai in Butterfly Lovers, but do you honestly wish your life (and love) to turn out with such pathos? (Don't you give me any of that eHarmony sh*t).

I think I'll go translate those cards now...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

So, it's Father's Day. Where is your Dad? Mine is half way across the planet in Singapore. I sent him two cards: one, thanking him for being there as my mentor, friend, and protector (and what a fierce protector he has been, and is still); and the other, thanking him for sponsoring me in all my crazy adventures while I was growing up. E.g. scaling mountains in Malaysia (solo and otherwise), Indonesia; cycling 1500 km around Java; cycling up to Kuantan, and Penang (from Singapore); my recreational (and later, technical) scuba diving; rockclimbing; those piano lessons which I sought to escape each and every time (and which not a day passes where I cease regreting not putting in more effort while the opportunity was available); and, of course, the craziest adventure of all by far--life (and love) in a foreign land, etc.

I think being a father to a son is a daunting task. There are so many places to slip and fall. If you are too protective, your son could grow up spoilt, dependent, a total wimp. If you are too domineering, always having your way because you are the alpha male, he could grow up insecure, submissive, and taken advantage of by his contemporaries; or, he might actually mirror you and become a copy of you towards his contemporaries (which still leaves the issue of who is the alpha male in the family).

Being a mentor, protector and leader are extremely difficult roles. We observe the best models in great professors, teachers, instructors. Being a father ups the ante even more as your charge isn't someone who goes away after a few years, with a parting gift of gratitude, and an occasional Christmas card in the mail in the years thereafter, but someone who is your son, your creation, your "better" copy and, for some, the only claim to immortality--posterity.

I don't ask for perfection; I am happy with his presence.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.