Thursday, June 24, 2010

On dating other Asians

Oh, dating. A potentially complicated matter for anyone. My mom recently told me that I need a boyfriend (thanks, Mom, thanks for that). Part of me agrees, though I am in no hurry (thanks, grad school, thanks for that). I’m not going to sit here and tell you that dating has been more complex for me because I am transracially adopted, but there are some anecdotes worth mentioning that I’d like to speak candidly about.

I’m 23 years old and I’ve had crushes on boys since about the second grade. However, I was not attracted at all to Asian guys until college. So, I’ve spent a relatively small portion of my life believing my fellow Koreans to be good-looking. Before that shift happened, I never gave Asian guys a second glance and I didn’t exactly look at Asian women as stunning beauties, either. When I was ten, a childhood friend (who also happens to be a KAD) developed a crush on me and I couldn’t stand it. I was actually upset at him because I thought he liked me solely due to us both being Asian. After all, we were pretty much the only Asian kids in our elementary school. I had only ever had crushes on white boys and, at that age, I never saw myself in a million years liking an Asian boy. This is what I’d consider a solid example of internalized racism—embracing negative views of my own race. No matter how sweet my friend was to me, he wasn’t white and his chances of me returning his crush did not exist. As horrible as it sounds, to have a crush on an Asian boy felt like moving a step down..inferior somehow.

Well. Fast forward 12 years later. Lo and behold, I finally ended up dating an Asian guy. Chinese American, to be exact, and his parents both immigrated to the US as adolescents. Somehow I got over my repulsion to liking Asian guys. I think perhaps this is partially due to my college having a modest, but visible population of Asian students. I remember having class with this one guy from Japan whom I was rather fond of. I wasn’t romantically interested, but it was easy for me to see attractive qualities in him. Somewhere during my undergrad years, I started seeing Asian guys instead of seeing through them. I think this change also went hand-in-hand with greater acceptance of who I was as an Asian woman. When I ended up dating my last boyfriend, there wasn’t some crazy, eye-opening epiphany. It just felt..normal? Nothing that special. I was afraid of there being barriers between me and other Asians raised in Asian families, but being with my last boyfriend helped me to dispel a lot of generalizations I had made about being Asian American. Maybe my resistance to like Asian guys also grew out of my own insecurity about not being ‘Asian enough’ to be with them.

Even now, I do not deny my insecurities, but I do feel freer to date within my own race without embarrassment. Who knows what guy I’ll ultimately end up with. I’m not sure that’s really the point of all of this. The point is that I am Korean and I can finally see other Koreans as attractive. As beautiful, even. Take that, internalized racism!


  1. I never thought about that concept before. I love your blog - so much to think about!

  2. Thanks for teaching us about internalized racism. I've never really thought about this and think it's a really important issue to look at. What do you think would have helped you to identify more with other Asians? What do you attribute to the shift other than being exposed to more Asians in college?

  3. Aw, thanks Grey!

    Pixie, I think it was harder for me to identify with other Asians when I was in grade school mainly because there just weren't many to interact with in my community and not many opportunities to explore the culture. If my environment offered more, I might have taken advantage of it, but as an adolescent, I really wasn't interested in connecting with other Asians.
    I think the shift really grew out of a combination of things. For one, I realized my capacity to actually form relationships with Asian peers, and not necessarily in a dating context, but simple friendship. That built my confidence, just knowing I could forge some kind of connection without being judged for my upbringing in a non-Asian culture. I think the shift also came with age as I became more self aware and accepting of myself. My undergrad years resulted in a lot of personal growth, but I'm still growing and learning as I go!

  4. "As horrible as it sounds, to have a crush on an Asian boy felt like moving a step down..inferior somehow."

    There are so many thing I am sad my children lost through adoption, and this is way up at the top of the list. I don't know if adoptive parents can eliminate such feelings in our children, but I do know we have to try as hard as we can. For my family the best way to do that has been to make sure my children live in environments in which Asians are present.

  5. Thank you for your comment, Margie. I do wonder what would have been different if I were raised in an environment with a visible Asian community that I could learn from and interact with. But, at the same time, my life is what it is. If those feelings cannot completely be eliminated, the next best thing is to heal from them and healing can be a pretty great gift in itself.

  6. Soo, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences online!

  7. serious mental issues....typical asian female.