In her book Dear Girls, Ali Wong strongly advises her daughters to marry someone from her own culture. A number of reasons are cited, but the ones that I would immediately get: You don’t have to explain things that you find second nature, whether it’s your customs, your language, your foods… YOUR FOODS. This is a big one. One of the worst things she’s experienced when dating white men is their reaction to different foods that she adores at dim sum on the weekends. “YOU ACTUALLY EAT CHICKEN FEET?” or “HOW CAN YOU EAT THAT?” These comments are not just ignorant, but they are outright offensive. Like Anthony Bourdain once said, “Don’t yuck my yum.” Because that statement is fully rooted in ignorance, bigotry, and whether you are aware of it or not, racism. She also notes that once, she took a white guy she was dating to a Korean restaurant, and he kept exclaiming over and over how much he loves kimchi when it was brought to the table with a number of other banchan dishes. This is one of the stupidest things she’s encountered. “Kimchi is a staple in the Korean kitchen,” she said. “A white guy exclaiming about how much he loves kimchi is like an Asian person going to a white person’s house, seeing white bread on the table, and exclaiming how much he loves white bread!” This was dead on true.
I don’t necessarily think I’ve made a very “different” decision being with Chris; he’s Indian Asian, and so he understands a lot about Asian culture in general: no shoes in the house, respect for parents/bringing them a gift the first time he meets them, food (because he’s not an idiot). While he has a strong preference for food from the Asian continent over any other region of the world, there are still many, many things I love and identify as “comfort food” that he will never quite love as much as me. This includes: noodle soup (pho, wonton noodle soup) — forget it. He will have a spoonful or two and then go back to his rice dish; then there’s things like Chinese seitan/kao fu — he’ll eat it, but he doesn’t get why I love this strangely textured sweet, savory, meatless blob. He doesn’t love East Asian desserts the way I do unless they have mango or coconut. He happily devours pretty much all things that have meat in them, and once there’s rice, he’s all over it. And for sure, one thing he happily eats is any Asian vegetable (other than bitter melon). I thought about this last night when I went out with a white guy friend, and he said he really did not like the water spinach/morning glory/kong qing cai. I glared at him — that’s one of my all time-favorite Asian vegetables!
One of my biggest fears once I reached adulthood was to marry someone who would tokenize me or had an Asian fetish, who would in front of me tell me that he loved me, but then tell his Asian colleague at work “to go back to where he came from” (yes, I know someone this has happened to). Yes, this is targeted specifically at white people. So, maybe it’s a bit of reverse racism, but I never had a desire to date or marry anyone who was white because of this. You never really know, do you? I don’t really have to think about this when I am with someone else who is Asian, so that’s the way I think about this.