Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: empathy

Invisible like me

I am invisible in several ways. First, Asian as a race is usually ignored in America. When racism is talked about, it’s always about black people. I get it. Racism against black people is the worst, literally, in America. And Latinos will get a mention now and again. Oh, and when the pandemic hit, there was a hot second of concern for Asians who were getting bashed (because of the “China” virus), but that was it.

And I get that what Asians go through in general is not as bad as what blacks go through. But. At the same time. It was difficult to grow up in the seventies in Minnesota as an Asian girl. My food was laughed at because it was decades before Chinese (mine was Taiwanese, but similar) became fashionable. I was awkward, fat, and miserable. I had no friends, and I was the proverbial fish out of water.

In addition, we have been considered the model minority beacuse waves of East Asians came to America for college/grad school. I have been told in all earnesty that Asian people are so smart. Back in my twenties, my cheeky reply was that all the unintelligent people were in Asia. Not a nice thing to say, but not untrue, either. Not meaning that Asian people are less smart than Westerners, but that with nearly 2 billion Eastern Asians, there are bound to be some who are not as smart as Westerners.

In the sixties and seventies, many East Asian people came to America to study. Many stayed here for opportunities and did not return to their home countries. This is called a brain drain, and it was a big problem back then. In addition, people who come to Ameria from Asia to study are very driven and the cream of the crop (school-wise). In my parents’ case, my father was extremely driven and got a Fulbright Scholarship. In my mother’s case, she’s very smart and worked hard to get here as well. They both had to be at the top of their game, schoolwise to even be considered to be allowed to come to America to study.

In Taiwan, you have to declare your major for college as you enter high school. Plus they went to school for something like ten hours a day. It was brutal. As my mother expalined it to me, school was hard until grad school where it’s then a party. She found it bizarre here that school was pretty much a breeze until college.

Other categories in which I fit that have no place in this world: religion, gender, suxual, generation, marital/parental status. In order, i’m areligious, agender, bi, X, single and childfree. Concerning religion, it’s often Christian, Judaism, and Islam that are the big three. Atheists are known, but reviled. Gender, it’s male, female, and nonbinary (with trans people being acknowledged, finally!). Generation-wise, it’s Boomers and Millennials and nothiing between. It’s fascinating, really, how both Gen X and Gen Z have been erased from the conversation. Boomer is shorthand for old people and Millennial is shorthand for kids today. The oldest millennial is over 40! I mean. Come on. They are married and have kids. But, yes, tell me about kids these days, those millennials.

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Why can’t you be just like me?

One thing I’ve been harping on lately is my incredulity that people are incredulous that other people don’t think like them/act like them/believe what they do. I was reading old Ask A Manager posts, and the commentariat went off on a tangent about eating when you’re in a foreign country. Someone commented on how she found it really sad that her inlaws (Chinese) went to France and sought out Chinese restaurants instead of eating French food. She said she loved Chinese food, but she was still sad about their lack of trying French food.

Woman. 100% of East Asian people are lactose intolerant to varying degrees. 100%. Or, to be generous, 99%. What do French people use a shit-ton of? Cheese. And cream. And milk. I recently Googled gluten-free and dairy-free along with France, and they don’t believe in any of that shit. So, yeah, the in-laws sought out Chinese restaurants! Why the hell would you want to eat something that was terrible on your digestive system?

Other people talked about how they knew ‘picky’ eaters who brought food with them when they went to foreign countries, and wasn’t it so sad that they didn’t try the local food because that’s part of the country?

I would agree that food is one part of a country’s culture, but it’s not the only one. And there are several reasons not to eat the local food. People in that post rightly pointed out that it was nobody’s business and that there were several reasons why someone might not eat the local cuisine.

Some people doubled down, though, and said it was fine if it was allergies, but if it was ‘just’ pickiness, well, that was not ok! Excuse me? Why the fuck was it any of their business if someone had a bland palate for medical reasons, because they were ‘picky’, or for any other reason? Such as being a supertaster.

Even if it was that the person was truly being picky because they only liked certain foods, so what? There were several people talking condescendingly about how the person could unlearn being a picky eater. Which, maybe yes and maybe no, but no need to get an attitude about it. Also, again, why did it matter to anyone else? If you are traveling with them and they refuse to go to certain restaurants, then, yes, that’s something for you to cencern yourself about. If it’s just that they don’t want to try anything new, but they’re not imposing on you, then why do you care?

For me, I will never go to most of Europe because they are so big on pasta and cheese. Ican’t eat any of that. When I went to Malta and stayed in a Franciscan monastery, they had pasta for every meal. With cheese. Forntunately, they also had plain meat and plain veggies. Plus, gluten-free bread for breakfast. So I ate, but it was pretty miserable.

I just don’t understand why people care. About what other people eat, I mean. Again, if the person who is eating more plainly insists on not going to any place with the things they won’t eat, that’s one thing. Barely.

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The right amount of compassion

I have always felt compassion for other people to a disconcerting degree. It wasn’t just that I knew what they were feeling (though I did); it was that I felt what they were feeling. I was a conduit to their emotions and I hated it. It happened with all emotions, but especially with negative ones. Not only did I feel the disappointment, depression, anxiety, rage, etc., I knew why the person was feeling that way. Obviously, I could not verify that, but it filled my brain with negativity 24/7. It’s one reason I prefer to be on my own with just my cat, Shadow, by my side–I don’t need that in my life.

In my twenties, I felt as if I was constantly assaulted with other people’s emotions. It didn’t help that my mother made me her emotional confidante when I was eleven, underlining the idea that I was responsible for other people’s emotions. In addition, my father didn’t like other people’s emotions because only he was allowed to have them. Throw in fundamental Christian ideology about guilt and I was a hot mess by the time I left for college.

I developed an eating disorder to cope. This happened the summer before leaving for college in which I exercised up to seven hours a day and severely restricted my food intake. I lost forty pounds in two months, which was horrible for my health. At college, I didn’t have the ability to exercise that much every day, obviously, so I essentially starved myself by eating a bowl of oyster crackers for breakfast, another for lunch, and then a small dinner. I only slept four hours a night so I would be starving around two in the morning. I would raid the vending machines for three or four bags of chips, then feel guilty about it. I resorted to making myself throw up, which also wasn’t good for my health.

That was just the tip of the iceberg and indicative of me shoving my feelings down. I simply didn’t know how to handle them because I was never allowed to acknowledge that they existed, especially the negative ones. And because I’m so perceptive to other people’s feelings, I’m constantly checking to make sure that I’m on level with everyone else. I don’t want to be seen as extra or too much.

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My empathy bowl is empty

Was reading my stories (AAM being the main) and there was a question about what to do when your boss was wearing his mask wrong (under the nose). I ran into this when I went to the gas station. An employee was wearing her mask under her nose. I just stayed away and got out as quickly as possible. I know I could have told her to pull it up, but it’s a young woman working a low-paying job. I had my mask on and I was only in there for five minutes. I wasn’t going to add to her already shitty day. However.

If I were in an office where I didn’t need to be and my boss did this? Yeah, no. That would be all kinds of no. There were stories in the comments about people knowing Covid deniers (some of them coworkers) who then got Covid and they (the commenter) having a hard time having any compassion for the person. It reminded me of a question to Dear Prudence from someone whose relatives, want to say brother and sister-in-law, who were avid Covid deniers, spread misinformation, and wouldn’t social distance or wear masks. The LW (letter writer) was pissed because her brother had set up a GoFundMe when he, his wife, and all their children got Covid. He wanted LW to donate and send it around. She was furious and unloaded some righteous anger in her letter to Danny. LW said not only did she not want to give her brother money or send around his request, she had no compassion for him for getting Covid. I don’t even remember her question–probably something about should she do it, anyway? That doesn’t matter because it’s the response I want to focus on.

Danny, rightly so, took the LW to task for being vindictive in her response. He said that it wasn’t the fault of the population that the government has fucked this up so badly and people were confused. This was a few months ago, I hasten to clarify, when information about what to do wasn’t quite as obvious as it is now. Danny also said that wanting someone to pay with their life was cruel no matter the person’s behavior beforehand. He said no one deserved to get Covid for their beliefs/behaviors.

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