5 Valid Questions People Ask About My Appearance That Are Totally Annoying

There’s been a lot of talk about race and racism in the past week, on this site and others, and I thought I’d keep the conversation going.

Race has always been a topic of great interest to me. I’m bi-racial; my mother is “white” (one of the most vague terms used to describe race), and my father is Chinese. I’ve never had a hard time grasping my bi-racialness, but it seems to baffle others.

Below are five questions I’ve heard way too often. These questions bother me because no one asks me about my “white” side. No one is interested in the fact that my mom owns a farm in Kentucky or that we raise cows. Everyone is far more intrigued by my Asian side. Because I’ve heard them so many times, it gets old, but these questions actually lead to some pretty good anecdotes on my part. And on further reflection, I’ve come to realize that these are all pretty valid questions.

The Asian’s in the Eyes?

1. What are you mixed with?

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard this one. Often, I hear it from people I’ve just met. This past weekend, I met a guy on a train who thought it was perfectly acceptable to ask this. I kid you not: he turned toward me and stared at my face for a good 15 seconds. Awkward. He guessed right on his first try, “definitely Chinese.”

It’s not that I find the question offensive, I just find it an odd thing to ask before you even know someone’s name. I’ve never felt the urge to go up to a single person and asked what they’re “mixed with” because I detect a stereotypical trait on their face.

2. Do you speak Chinese?

This is usually a follow-up to Question #1. The answer: no, no I don’t. I did not attend Chinese School, my dad didn’t speak Chinese to me when I was a kid, and he still doesn’t. People are always surprised when I tell them I only know a couple words in Chinese. My response is usually met with, “It’d probably be useful if you did.” Yes, thank you, I realize being bilingual is a useful skill in today’s world. Unfortunately for me, I am not bilingual, but go ahead and tell me how awesome it would be if I was.

3. Is your mom a tiger-mom?

This is a hard question to answer. First I have to preface my answer with the fact that my mom is not the Chinese-half of me. Is my dad a tiger-dad? Sort of. He never deprived me of food in order to get me to play piano (although I did have to play until I was 16), but a lot of my childhood memories involve my dad pushing me to learn math. One of my first memories is my dad carrying me to the car from my babysitter’s house asking me the square root of 9. Until recently, I was unaware that Easter eggs didn’t have to contain a math or spelling question. Maybe my dad had a little “tiger” in him, but growing up with an Asian parent isn’t the torture some in the media like to portray it as.

4. Are your parents mad you’re pursuing journalism?

Let’s face it, Asians are not well-represented in the journalism profession. Whenever talk of school or work comes up, people assume I’m pursuing a profession in medicine or something similar. As far as I know, my parents are okay with my pursuit of a career in journalism.

No, I’ve never seen this in real life.

5. Have you been to China?

Again, the answer to this question is a sad “no.” I’ve not yet had the opportunity to travel to China. This question is another bizarre one. I’ve never asked any of my “white” friends if they’ve traveled to the land of their ancestors. This question is another that seems to be reserved for minorities only.

My slight annoyance at the above question comes from a strange place. I’m glad people are interested in me; it’s just irritating that people fixate on my Asian-ness. People always seem shocked when I remind them that I’m just as white as I am Chinese. Of course, this isn’t something I’m unable to get over, just an interesting quirk in our society that I’ve discovered as a halfsie.

No, You Cannot ‘Motorboat’ Me, and Other Things I Shouldn’t Have to Say This Often

Christina and I have something in common – we're up here, guys.

I realize that, to my flatter-chested lady friends, the contents of the following post are going to be about as irritating as the “I’m so pretty that no one takes me seriously and other girls hate me” articles, but believe me when I tell you that I, unlike biotches like Samantha Brick, have a real problem here.

Okay, probably not. But I do have a series of not-often-discussed small inconveniences to get off my big chest.

See, it’s hard out there for a chesty girl. And I should know – especially for a once-petite, pasty ginger, I am a pretty chesty girl. Not Christina Hendricks chesty, but then again, her bosom is superhuman. I won’t bore/titillate you with measurements (yes, the breast puns are going to just keep happening in this post!), but well, my lovely lady lumps are hefty.  And while that’s apparently a desirable thing among certain neanderthal-esque sitcom males, it comes with its own set of weird problems. Here are a few.

1. People think they can comment on them. This one is inexplicable to me; weirder still is the fact that other women are the main culprits. Men either aren’t as into breasts as beer commercials would like us to believe (more on that later) or they’re actually aware of how inappropriate it would be to tell me how big my boobs are. Women, however, have no such filter. I cannot tell you how often other ladies, including (sorry guys) my closest friends, tell me things like, “Oh my God your boobs look huge today.” Now, would I ever tell you that your butt/thighs/pores look huge? God, no. But somehow commenting on my chest is considered a compliment, rather than just, you know, weird. The title of this post is actually not an exaggeration — people ask if they can motorboat me on a surprisingly regular basis. It’s mystifying.

Maybe this girl could get a better job if Banana Republic made Oxford shirts that would actually fit her!

2. I look porny in really normal outfits. The biggest problem? Business attire. Clothing companies simply don’t make blouses for double-D’s. The top few buttons inevitably look like they’re about to bust, making me look like I’m playing a sexy secretary/naughty librarian/litigious lady CEO rather than preparing for a real-life, serious-pants interview or career. I don’t mean to draw attention to my chest most of the time, but with most clothing these days looking like it was made for Tilda Swinton, how am I supposed to look like anything but a very uncomfortable porn star? Maybe I should just get a lower back tattoo and lean into it.

3. Counters. I can’t stand at anything that’s chest height without inadvertently and awkwardly resting my rack on it. This unfortunately includes most bars, which leads to weird looks from bartenders and fellow patrons, plus inevitable stickiness on my shirts and dresses that I am never able to account for until I remember that – ew – I spent the evening with my chest perched on a beer-and-who-knows-what-else-soaked bar.

4. It’s apparently cool for guys to tell me they’re “not really into big boobs.” I think men think that this line makes them seem cool and sensitive and alternative. And maybe to small-chested girls it does sound cool and sensitive and alternative. But to me, that’s like saying, “Yeah, I’m not really into redheads,” or, “Yeah, white girls just don’t do it for me.” Good to know, I guess, but also, ouch. It wasn’t totally necessary for you to start our conversation with, “You’re really not my type.” Don’t get me wrong – it’s super great that your standard of beauty isn’t dictated by the unattainable “women” you see in the media, but that doesn’t mean it’s nice to comment negatively on my appearance. I don’t tell you, “Yeah, I don’t know, skinny hipster types in absurd outfits who say rude things to me just aren’t my scene.” Even though it’s true.

5. Running. I just can’t do it. I look ridiculous and it hurts.

As the lovely and talented Anna pointed out, the above makes it sound like I totally hate my body, which isn’t true at all – most days I’d rather be curvy in the places in which I’m curvy than waifish and wispy (though I think wispy waifs are gorgeous, too). I’ll admit for the sake of unflinching honesty that yes, the ladies look good in a low-cut top, and yes, I have occasionally used that to get drinks before you at the bar. All I want to convey here, really, is that the grass is always greener, and by grass I mean boobs, and by greener I mean more desirable, no matter what size you are. Some days, I wish I could put on a strappy sundress and not have to worry constantly about what bra to wear with it, because not wearing a bra is never an option for me. And I’m sure that some days, if you’re not quite as busty, you wish that sexy little black dress didn’t require a push-up bra.

I guess the actual point here (if there is one outside of whining) is that we shouldn’t assume anything about people’s bodies, especially not that they want to be perpetually reminded about their more dramatic features. The woman with insane blue eyes is probably sick of you gushing about the fact that they look like contact lenses, and the naturally thin, willowy beauty is certainly sick of hearing, “You need to eat a sandwich.” And yes, this voluptuous gal is tired of you asking if you can motorboat her. That’s weird.