By John Michael McGrath
Though my title cleverly references a TV show and the luckiest number in Asian numerology, I can’t deliver on its promise. Lord Almighty, it turns out there’s no one Chinese Girl TM out there to date and marry. They’re all different! My wife Vicki is even totally different from her sisters! It’s weird. The internet did not prepare me for this.
I also blame the internet, nerve centre of all fetishes, for the super-awkward first meeting with Vicki’s closest friends. Immediately upon sitting down for coffee one afternoon in 2000, they asked if I’d ever dated a Chinese girl before. Answer: No. Next question: have I dated any other Asian women before? (No.) Third question: Are you sure? (Um, yes.) My answers didn’t actually seem to convince anyone. I’m pretty sure I was considered a rice king until proven innocent. Almost 12 years later, I’m relatively certain I’ve put them at ease.
I’d actually recommend this experience to other people of a paler persuasion. Not specifically accusations of Yellow Fever, but I think more white people could use some baseless assumptions about their skin colour making them really uncomfortable at least once or twice a year. At the very least, it would make that score look a bit less like the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals.
Once you assuage people’s concerns that you’re a fetishist out to defile their friend, things can move on. You know, to meeting her parents. Protip: the thing about Asian parents valuing education? It’s not just a stereotype. This made the initial conversations about what I was doing with my life (at the time, figuring out how to finish high school several years late) very delicate. “So John, what do you do?” Oh, I work. “Working over the summer to pay for school?” Um, yes, school is in my future. “What will you be taking?” Mumblemumblemumble this is delicious food, by the way. (Regarding the food, I will only say that I’ve passed on only a few dishes in my 12 years with Vicki, and mostly got through the early games of “what will the white boy eat.. But I think my intolerance for picky eaters, never generous at the best of times, has become even fiercer after countless dinners of animal parts I would have called inedible until I’d actually tried them. Duck tongues, who knew? One thing remains true: durian is disgusting and people who like it are objectively wrong.)
Because Vicki’s family are good people it’s hard to think of any real pratfalls, cultural-divide-wise. Sure, there was the time she had to translate when her father was punching me and calling me an asshole, but I got the drift because he was punching me at the time. (It was late on his birthday, there had been much wine consumed on all sides, and I was trying to cheat him at something.) At least as amusing was the time earlier that night he called me a pussy and the future wife of my future children had to translate that. We’ll be sure to tell that story about Grandpa around the holofireplace when they’re older.
Slowly, imperceptibly, but not unwelcome, the sinicisms started creeping in to my life with Vicki. I cook a lot of pasta in a wok now (shut up, it works). When dinner’s ready to eat I’m just as likely to yell “sic fan” (the Cantonese for “dinner’s ready”, but literally “eat rice”) as anything else if it’s just Vicki and I home.
Six years or so in to our relationship, Vicki and I were living together. One day in the kitchen, her older said to me, “You know I forget you’re white these days.” Given the assumptions I started out under, I’m taking that as total victory. Presumed fetishist to honorary Chinese person in six years. Not bad.
John Michael McGrath is a Toronto-based writer who spends most days dealing with the city’s cuckoo-bananas politics.