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  • HyperHam 2:14 pm on July 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: american, chinese, mixed race family, ,   

    The little old lady smiled genially at m… 

    The little old lady smiled genially at me cuddling my son.

    “What an adorable boy!” she cooed.

    I thanked her.

    She noticed my accent, and we chatted about where she had been in the States.

    Tickling my son’s foot, she then asked, “And where is he from?”

    Oh, I said, he’s a Brit.

    “No,” she said, “originally.  Originally, where he is from?”




    Ah, the joys of multiracial families.  For those of you new to our saga, I am white American and my husband is BBC – British born Chinese.  When my husband holds our son on outings, people give him the type of look that you normally give doting fathers with their offspring.  A kind tilt of the head, and a sweet nod.  When I am out with my son, I generally get a slightly questioning look, one that asks “Why is the nanny being so over-familiar with her client’s kid?”

    It’s hard not to take it personally, the fact that our family is a bit of an oddity.  According the the 2001 UK census, only 15% of British Chinese males married outside of their race, half of the percentage of British Chinese females.  You will generally see far more BBC females with other race males than BBC males with people who look like me.  It genetics, pure and simple.  My husband has the stronger genes, and our son is the spitting image of him.  I am a caretaker in their eyes, not a genetic contributor.  And some days, it stings.  I look at pictures myself or my sister and her kids as babies, with our bright blond ringlets and large light blue eyes, and I try to mash it in my head with my son’s dark brown hair and soft almond eyes.  I tell myself that Alex got my fierce spirit, my cheekiness, my drive.  I remind myself that I am just as much in there as his father, it’s just a bit more difficult to see at first glance. When a Chinese mother pushes her mixed race baby in a pram, you can generally tell they share DNA. I don’t have that luxury.

    The exchange above wasn’t the first time someone asked about us.  We had just gotten off the plane from London to Chicago to visit my family when Alex and I ducked into an airport bathroom to freshen up.  A lady in the basin areas commented on Alex’s good nature, and I boasted that he was very genial after a seven hour flight, no mean feat for a then 4 month old.  “Oh!  He’s adopted!” she exclaimed, as if the light bulb went off, trying to understand why we were paired together.  When I explained (nicely) that no, his father was Chinese, she said, “Oh, I thought you went over to China to pick one up.”  Setting aside the fact that children are not accessories that one pops over to pick up (thank you Madonna for perpetuating that thought process), on what planet would it ever be acceptable to say something like that to a mother?  I pasted on a smile, got Alex cleaned up, and met Monkey outside the restroom area, who himself was slightly perplexed that a woman had just come out of the bathrooms and given him and up and down look (maybe she thought he wasn’t really my husband, but a baby broker.  The world may never know).

    But back to the lady from before, asking where my son was from.  I wanted to say “Originally, he’s from my vagina.”  And believe me people, after a 66 hour labor with multiple instrumentation and massive hemmorage, I have every right to give props to my vagina for all it had endured.  But, I didn’t.  I smiled, and re-iterated that he was British born and bred.  She got the picture, and no more was said on the subject.  Ah well.  Putting up with well meaning (and eventually, non well meaning) people who don’t quite understand Mendel’s Dihybrid Cross is a small price to pay for having the most wonderful boy in the world.

    In the end,  I don’t care if I never ‘see’ myself in Alex – I know I am there, in every smile, in every cry.  When it comes down to it, DNA doesn’t make you a parent – the hours you put in, the sleepless nights, the worrying, the laughter, the tears, the blood, the pain, the joy – THAT makes you a parent.  My son is an original, born into the brave new world of multi-cultures, multi-nationalities, and multi-races.   He may have a hard road ahead finding his way amongst so many different worlds, but one thing will always stay the same.  Mummy loves him.  Daddy loves him.  And that, folks, is all that matters.


    • almost witty 3:38 pm on July 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Alex is going to get the "No, really, where are you from?" question for the rest of his life. Like I always have. I've started replying that I'm actually from Argentina…

    • Kaitlin 3:49 pm on July 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I once met a very white woman holding a very black baby at the park and as we started talking I couldn't help but wonder if she was the mother, the nanny, an adoptive or biological mother. I said nothing as I did not want to offend her and it later came up that she was in the process of trying to adopt her. I am very aware of how the stereotyping can feel on such an opposite end of the spectrum as I am adopted and people often size up my mom and I or my brothers and myself and say things like, "You guys really look a like," or "I see it in the eyes." I'm not ashamed of my adoption and have never felt like I was treated differently than my brother. I was told at a very young age so it's just something that is part of my life and I don't bring it up unless it comes up in conversation. I usually just reply, "Oh really. That's weird since I'm adopted." My dad had a friend once ask him how he could love his adopted children as much as his own son and my dad was stunned. He couldn't understand why he wouldn't love us just as much. People make such odd assumptions and I find that I do it myself, even if I don't speak it. You are definitely correct in saying that all that matters is the love you show him.

  • HyperHam 2:09 pm on June 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chinese, reviews, takeaway, theatre   

    Monkey and I went to see Takeaway last n… 

    Monkey and I went to see Takeaway last night, at the Royal Theatre Stratford East.  On paper, the show should have been at least decent.  The writers are a faculty member from Tisch NYC and a graduate with titles and awards.  The cast have done stints on television and West End (from BBC to The Lion King, for goodness’ sakes).  As far as foundations go, this should have been a no brainer.




    Let me get the technical elements out of the way, bullet style.

    • Tighten it the hell up.  Seriously.  A dramatic play can get away with being 2.5 hours long.  A light-hearted musical cannot.
    • Decide if you are going to have a female best friend or guy buddy in addition to the love triangle.  Both is overkill.
    • Cut the funeral scene ENTIRELY.  It does nothing to advance the plot, and considering the rest of the show was so damn farsical, I honestly could not tell till the end of the scene if it was a flashback or dream sequence.
    • If you are going to do fast patter lines, E-NUN-CI-ATE.  For reference, listen to “Another Hundred People” from Company.  It’s bad enough I have to get past the heavy East London accents, don’t shoot yourself in the foot twice by slogging through the lines all mumble-mouthed.
    • Get rid of the Guardian Angel character – you could do the same scene by moving the Eddie/Widow Chu scene a bit further back to the same effect.
    • Decide what you want to be, a boutique musical or a public musical.  A boutique musical is a musical that plays very specifically to a subsection of society.  Think “Menopause the Musical”.  It won’t play Broadway, but it can strongly tour.  A public musical is something that can sit in a house for a month to 5 years (Broadway, theatre districts, etc), and tour (Cats, Les Mis, Lend Me a Tenor).  In this draft, it CANNOT be a public musical.  But as far as a boutique musical goes…well…that leads us to the non technical critique.

    The premise of the show is relatively simple:  A son of immigrants feels lost, and wants to find his way in the world.  This is not a difficult concept to put across to the audience.  I have said it before, but it needs saying again:  Just because I haven’t gone through the exact situation on the stage doesn’t mean I can’t empathize with what I see.  I have never seen 17th century French patriots on-line for Les Mis.  I have never seen a queue of felines at TKTS to get half price tickets for Cats.  People see these shows over and over because they see a part of themselves in the characters.  I want to root for the characters on stage – I want them to succeed.  But the people I saw on stage weren’t…people.  That sounds awful, but it’s true.  They were caricatures.  There was the browbeaten son versus the overachieving father (who, to be fair, seemed to be the most grounded and accessible of characters).  There was the militant ‘yellow power’ freedom fighter and then African princess with ‘yellow fever’ (I hate that term so fucking much).  There was the other-race best friend and the latent gay buddy.  And of course, there was the HK expat Dragon Lady and the off-the-boat immigrant, whose only solo consisted of singing ‘Ching Chong Ching Chong’ over and over.  I didn’t want to root for these people; I wanted to shake a few of them.

    Past the characters, it doesn’t get much better.  There was a convoluted plot with no real resolution, tertiary characters that did nothing to advance the story, and a completely wasted finale.  There were scenes of utter boredom (the duet between the boys was a yawner), scenes of embarrassment (clothed simulated sex within the first 10 minutes), and scenes which made absolutely no damn sense (the bloody funeral scene).  In fact, there was only one really good exchange in the entire play.  Widow Chu and Eddie are alone in the takeaway, and Widow calls out Eddie on his dislike of her.  She says:

    Edmond…There is something your generation never understand about the older generation.  You always say you a trapped between two world; the western and traditional.  You think you friend is the western and your parent is the traditional.  Never think: we are over here, too.  Also trapped between the two world.  Your father and me, we are brought up with one set of values, but here, everything changed.  Worse than you, we cannot even speak the language well.  Barely understand each other.  Barely can read the package in the supermarket.  Is not just lonely in the heart.  Is lonely in the being.

    That exchange was the one and only true moment.  It touched me, it pulled my heart.  While I am not the daughter of immigrants, I *understood* Widow’s pain.  I *felt* it.  If the rest of the play had stayed true to that monologue, it would have been a blockbuster.  Instead, it was as if the writers decided to throw every cliche about British born Chinese at the wall and hoped that enough would stick to make a coherent play.  It’s sad.  It’s a waste.

    I don’t mind ‘shock’ or ‘offensive’ plays (Avenue Q or Book of Mormon).  I don’t mind time and place specific plays (Flower Drum Song or Show Boat).  I don’t mind over the top silly plot plays (Spamalot, Priscilla Queen of the Desert).  But Takeaway hasn’t yet figured out what it wants to be, and in straddling the fence, it fails on all counts.  For what it’s worth, I think the show is salvageable.  They need to go through it from start to finish with a fine toothed comb and think at all times “Does this reflect what Widow Chu says?”, and if it doesn’t, trash it.  I bet if they do, they will chop an hour off the show and come out with a clean, light-hearted and feel good musical.  If not…well, I doubt we’ll hear from it again.

    Last night before we went to sleep I apologized to Monkey for the night.  He said it was okay, he wasn’t expecting it to be great, or even very good. He had apparently resigned himself to the fact that he would never see himself accurately represented on stage or screen; that is so sad to me.  I hope one day he actually gets to see himself on-stage without cringing.  I hope one day Baby Alex will get to see himself accurately portrayed.  Till then, we have Takeaway.


  • HyperHam 12:55 pm on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chinese, multicultural,   

    Cultural Confusion 

    The doctor walks in when I am nursing, does a double take, and stammers.

    Oh. Eh. Sorry.

    She mutters my son’s name as she is leaving.

    No, wait!  That’s us.

    Oh! Oh. Um. Eh. Alex? Yes? Wong?


    I stop nursing and sit my son up to see her. 

    Yes.  This is my son.

    I understand that multiracial couples are still a minority, and that whites/Asians (or Orientals, as they are called here) are even more rare, and even more rare than that are white women with Chinese men, but lady, you work in a city of 7.5 million people, you can’t possibly be surprised by now. 


    We put Alex to bed last night as always.  We read Goodnight Opus, and then I said goodnight to my boy, and Andrew said goodnight in Hakka.  I tried to repeat it, but messed up, as usual.  I try to get Andrew to speak Hakka as much as he can to Alex.  I know 11 words total, and one of them is ‘fart’, so it’s all on my hubs.  It’s weird, I think I am way more RAWR about Alex learning Cantonese than Andrew is.  I guess I don’t want Alex to ever blame me for not learning it, ie. ‘I don’t have a connection to half my culture because of you!’.  Trying to avoid teenage angst now, I guess. 

    Baby is actually taking a nap in his bassinet, trying to snarf down as much food as possible and type two handed before he wakes up.  🙂

    • almost witty 1:18 pm on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Our first element is surprise!

      • Sue Wegrzyn 3:33 pm on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        And a fanatical devotion to the pope….

        OK – I feel dumb – what is Hakka?

        • almost witty 3:46 pm on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

          Hakka is a sub-division (dialect, if you will) of the Chinese language … the main one that my parents speak.

    • @Mosh 1:25 pm on April 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hang on, didn't Andy just tell me off a few weeks ago for using "Oriental"? Isn't it "South East Asian"?

      Or was that the other week and the politically correct rulebook has changed yet again? I'm on the point of giving up and just saying "gooks". (please note sarcasm, people – I'm sure Andy already knows how I mean it!)

      [P.S. OpenID login doesn't seem to work on here]

      • almost witty 2:36 pm on April 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        To be fair, that wasn't me so much as one of my more politically-active Chinese-American friends. If you're speaking to a British audience, you can use the word Oriental, even if it is a tad old-fashioned.

        • @Mosh 2:44 pm on April 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

          Ah, memory failure on my part. I thought it was you I was arguing with before! I'll settle for being old-fashioned as I am, indeed, old.

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