Upon learning that I am half-Thai, folks want to know, “Can you cook Thai food?” When I was younger, the answer was no. As in why on God’s green and blue earth would I want to? My mom can cook wonderfully though, thank you.
As I got older, I became annoyed by my mom’s badgering.
There’s a Thai word “greng jai” that has always annoyed me. It’s basically used to describe a person who doesn’t want to be an inconvenience to anyone. They don’t want to be a bother, and it’s supposed to be a positive trait. We have this same idea, too, in American culture, but I feel it does more harm than good.
Sometimes I feel like an anomaly. I’m a 45 year old American Thai-Chinese woman who was born in Hawaii, who has lived on three continents, and who was raised by a Thai immigrant mother and a working class white male. I can’t squeeze into an “ism”. My dress size is small in America, but extra-large in Asia. I’m too American in Asia and not Asian enough in America.
I remember the first time I used chopsticks. We were at Aiea Chop Suey (HA!); it was my mom, my younger brother, and me. We were not given any silverware, just those horrible off-white plastic set of sticks.
My friend, who is somewhat newly moved to Thailand, was reflecting on what it’s like to be an expat: the culture shock, and then the struggle of not wanting to complain and feel culture shocked. As I walked to work, I thought about how much I had changed since living abroad.
I’m binge watching Season 24 of America’s Next Top Model (don’t laugh). In fact, I’ve watched every season (not every episode though) because I’m a wannabe model. Funnily, I take really bad photos, but counteract this by making goofy faces, and accepting the fact that I’m not photogenic.
But what has struck me, as I watched the girls in the house interact with one another, is how many of them carry pain inside them. At first, I thought it was ironic as heck that some of these stunning young women grew up being told they were ugly or funny-looking (this is a repeat theme throughout the seasons), but there’s more to this than just this.