Saturday, February 12, 2011

The P to the D to the A

I was among the little boys who chased the little girls in the schoolyard. Back then girls were icky. I joined the slightly older boys who chased the slightly older girls in between classes in high school and college. They weren't icky anymore.

When my eldest was in pre-K and the parent of a student in his class told me that my son had kissed her daughter, my initial reaction was fear. I was afraid because I know the rules of the school yard had changed but I didn't know how. Living on the liberal Lower Eastside does not exclude you from being slightly prudish when it comes to sex. I have written about an incident involving my eldest son, his best friend, and two cats. Suddenly, the body of the self-appointed World’s Coolest Dad was inhabited by the spirit of a prudish old school marm screaming, “Avert your eyes young ones! Avert your eyes from the filth and sin of the flesh!”

I think it is safe to say non-Asian - and some Asian - people generally accept that Asians in general (despite the eroticizing and fetishizing) are not very touchy-feely. Articles like the BBC's "No Kissing Please, We Are Indians" should not be a shock to 2nd Generation Asian American parents.

I can still vividly see my grandmother making the sourest of faces witnessing a couple holding hands and kissing. She turned to me and said something that loosely translates into English as: "Oh God, how disgraceful and unsanitary!"

The funny thing about it though was that I don't remember her looking away.  Then again it was a long, long time ago. I think I was still in elementary school.

The A-sensual Asian is portrayed in Roberta Coles'  book, Race and Family: A Structural Approach (2005):

Perceptions of public displays of affection vary by culture as well... In Asian cultures, hugging and touching may even be considered dangerous. For instance, in America patting children on the head, or even giving "nuggies," is a sign of affection, whereas in Vietnamese culture touching people on the head is thought to rob them of their spirit (Binh, 1975). Asian children may withdraw, therefore, from shows of affection from teachers or other adults.

While I am glad there is a book like Roberta’s on race and family that includes healthy and insightful sections on the Asian population in Western countries (often books like this exclude the Asian American community), I am wary of her conclusions leading to a new set of stereotypes about Asians. The challenge to any book dealing with race and culture is neither are stagnant. Peoples in contact assimilate; picking and choosing the most desirable traits of each others’ cultures.

Jalal-e-Ahmad is credited by the BBC’s No Kissing article with coining the term, "Westoxication," meaning "superficial consumerist display of commodities and fads produced in the West."

I like the term: Westoxication. It accurately describes my upbringing. Newly American, my parents were in love with the promise of Chevrolets, apple pies, baseball, and necking beneath the bleachers - but when it came to us kids, it was strictly “Chinese” (at least the version they wanted us to believe). Realistically speaking, they probably did more to promote the stereotype of the A-sensual Asian than even the Whitest of White Western media.

I picture how Mr. Brady and Bobby and would have done it. Maybe there’d be an age appropriate anatomy textbook there too. He’d say, “You see Bobby, when a man and a woman love each other…”

My father was not Mr. Brady. He and I never had “The Talk.” I don’t remember how or when I learned about sex (In fact, I might just still be doing it wrong). I did take a Human Sexuality course in college as a part of my General Education requirement. They showed a film starring a cloth penis puppet and vagina puppet and brought in a Transgender wo/man to speak to us.

I’m not Mr. Brady. I shamefully admit I don’t know that I would be able to speak to my children about sex. I thank whatever entity might watch over us my eldest has forgotten his first kiss. His life now filled with LEGOS and Star Wars and Harry Potter. When they kiss in the movies, it does not seem to disturb dorment memories within him (but I can’t say for sure). For right now, I am assuming I have some more time.

This 2009 Singapore student PDA discussion I found on RazorTV is entertaining and even a little informative:

It is interesting to me how the speakers rationalized their limits.

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