On Appearances & Fitting In

Our eyes are something to be marveled of. Not only does it provide us with sensory information related to our daily lives, but vision has also is often our first line of preventative defense. Why endanger yourself when there is no need to? It’s easy when it comes to physical preventative measures like noticing that the edge of a cliff is unsafe, but when it comes to human interaction, it becomes muddled.

Consumerism & the Predetermined Lifestyle

Having the economic freedom and a vast array of consumer products available is one of the great qualities of a market system, but when it comes to choosing products there are many factors that come into play. When I think about it carefully there are really two predominant factors: society and friends.

Society includes mass media and major corporate brands that portray a vision about how to behave and act within the society. We tune into our favorite shows following the characters as if they were our alter ego.  Subliminally we align our lives to reflect that also though our purchases.  We buy into the “lifestyle” that should let us fit in with society.

In a sense unlike society as a whole, your friends are those whom you share some sort of common ground with. It could be as simple as the same alma mater, work, or just general interest. While this may seem rather trivial for those without an Asian background, friends (and family for that matter) play a significant role in determining our preferences and lifestyle.

Would you prefer: Happily married with a house in the suburbs with two kids and a dog? Or perhaps the downtown loft? We make choices in life based on the lifestyle we want to live.

The “Asian” Collectivist Mentality

What I have experienced with my upbringing and conversations with my friends over the years was the inherent nature of Asians adopting a passive behavior to submit into the common opinions as a whole. These common opinions are far from philosophical, but rather a level of acceptance. Personally I do not have much interest in the latest luxury designer brands, but social status is clearly important for Asian culture. While it may garner some sort of quasi respect, it is certainly better than the latter. Otherwise from an Asian viewpoint it may be considered shameful. Shame in the regards of not being successful in some sort of capacity, and as a result there is this invisible social barrier one will face. What makes matters worse is that shameful events in Asian culture will be remembered and will be rehashed.

Now where does this all tie in with appearances? When somebody clearly stands out not looking typical (usually below average) Asian society has the informal belief that they can be targets for gossip. My parents used to hound me all the time as a teenager when I had facial blemishes. At the dinner table my father would give the condescending surprised tone pointing at my face. It outraged me that he was entitled to pick away at my imperfections (usually physical) while I could fire back over a dozen of his faults. I learned to brush it off, but my parents still get on my case for having longer hair (Communist military buzz-cuts are horrible).

We have devised a clever way to avoid these problems – blend in. This works wonders in Asia, but the styles and tastes in North America or Europe are distinctly different from Asia.  Sometimes our quirky Asian style for men might be more suitable for Asia as it can often be emasculating. I admit times are changing and Asian Males have made strides to improve their style, but you are what you project yourself to be.

On AMWF & Appearances

As an Asian Male I can understand how difficult it is to synthesize thoughts and feelings and transform them into words. I absolutely hated my English classes with a passion, because I found it much more difficult to excel in compared to Mathematics and the Natural Sciences. There was this visual element I was able to utilize which only hindered my social and emotional knowledge by relying on visual/analytical components instead. Chances are many Asian Men also struggle with the humanities and possibly the English language just as I did throughout my academic upbringing.

The problem is that we become so reliant on those channels such as visual information that we overlook the social and emotional components. This does not help the fact that we are constantly barraged by visual information from advertisers. However amidst all the visual advertising there is one good thing. Speaking from my Asian viewpoint, the more we see visual representations of AWMF and many other combinations of interracial relationships, the more society gains acceptance.

Others will claim that AMWF is merely a fetish of some sort. Having a Caucasian girlfriend (or wife) to show off may be an ego booster, but it is still a relationship. If the relationship is to progress beyond initial attraction, there must be much more that has to develop. Unfortunately the majority of those qualities aren’t in our favorite shows, for that does not make interesting television. Instead it will be a unique journey for every AMWF couple as they share both highs and lows of the relationship.

It is definitely unfair to make complete assessments on individuals solely based on their appearances, but it is a fact of life. As the saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover” – just make sure you have a good cover.

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7 Responses to On Appearances & Fitting In

  1. Jeff says:

    I honestly think you are stereotyping just a bit too much. yes, those characteristics you describe exist in us, but they also exist in other races. I also believe that you are your own person, no matter how strict your family is or how heavy society’s perception is of you – for me, it isn’t about proving others wrong and breaking stereotypes – I was never going to allow myself to be stereotyped in the first place.

    Academically I was great at everything, I could have taken PE, drama, arts and psychology into further education. I didn’t because of practicality – not because I’m a certain race and have to fit the engineering/science/maths stereotype.

    I think too many asians are consumerists because they want to be more “western”, to acquire “status” – whereas I don’t think about that at all, I think about consumption and how it’s screwing up the world. Me being of a race that is associated with a “collectivist history” has nothing to do with it – it’s my train of thought. Personally I think if people have to buy things, especially things with a certain brand name on them at huge markup prices, then they have a serious insecurity problem.

    Overall, a person should not be affiliated with racial stereotypes ever. Maybe you will veer more towards some areas – like maths, computers, and be a social hermit – but that isn’t because you are asian, it’s because you are you.

    • AMWF Love says:

      Thanks Jeff,

      Anyways the premise for this article was really in response to all the photos I have noticed in regards to AMWF. I have taken a stab at it to reason out why we use photography so much to the point we solely rely on appearances alone. While I admit it may be a bit of a stretch to take it to the extent that I did, the point is that there is this hidden “Asian Conservatism” trait whereby we default to the safe responses to situations. All these traits will occur in people of different ethinic origins, but the scope was about bringing my own introspective approach as an Asian Male. I still struggle today distinguishing between a binomial response (true/false, yes/no, win/lose, etc.) and responding with an open mind. To be able to question my own identity is something I value, and I wish to share my thoughts with others.

      I still do believe that despite our consumer freedom, we are strongly influenced by society and our social networks by following a lifestyle that is portrayed as “desirable”. Now with the assumption that Asian culturally selects for more reserved and subdued personalities that “follow”, combining that with the previous items above may lead us to a lifestyle of vanity on a physical appearance level. Thus while it is great to see successful interracial couples together in photographs, it also subliminally suggests physical attraction only. We see the rosy picture of a jovial AMWF couple and buy into the possibilities, but we neglect the true components that really keep a couple together – things like trust, honesty, or open communication. That in essence is what I truly meant to communicate, and hopefully not get misinterpreted if I was unclear with my intentions.

      Perhaps it is just my own willingness to take a chance and possibly get chewed out by the general public. That’s what I love about this world, people should have different viewpoints, otherwise we would simply be machines. 🙂

      – Brian

  2. AMWF Love says:

    Everyone wants to fit in, but the on thing that bothers me most about the “Asian” collectivist mentality is that it leaves little room for anything! People are so different and it’s crazy to think that we all need to look the same, wear the same clothing, or try and achieve status just to be respected. Placing so much on the visual aspects of a person ( and everyone does it) is really a bad idea when it comes to relationships. Sure she/she may look great, but that will not last forever. Women with LV bags and crazy nails, guys with designer brands and fancy cars.. it’s all too crazy. To me it simply says you place more emphasis on the outside, then being a healthy person inside.

    People who often place so much value on the way we look must think the AMWF is a fetish, but to the WF who likes Asian culture, and to the Asian men who like western cultures ( or have a background of both), the attraction has little to do with looks.

    -Laura

    • Jeff says:

      They did research on this, apparently people form their first impressions of someone (which are really hard to change) within the first 2 seconds of seeing one. So appearance does matter, and it matters a lot, unfortunately. In this world where people are ten a penny, and schedules are hectic, we naturally try to make things more efficient – and if that means filtering new contacts based on their looks, so be it. Quite sad.

      Although I never understood the reasoning of those who wore branded clothes and accessories as a status symbol – maybe it’s just me but whenever I see someone dressed with major labels I think “urgh” rather than “oh wow, I really respect you”. A flash car I understand, it actually does attract women (the shallow kind), but clothes, shoes and bags? Would be better if you spent it on a deposit for a house, now that’s a status symbol.

  3. Brandon says:

    this entire forum is dedicated to the complexity, emotional and societal aspects of asian males seeking relations with white females. it doesnt get more specific than that. for me, i can not see anything but a very narrow selection criteria based the singularity of two elements: asian male with white female.

    i looked at the foot fetish websites, known chubby chasers and friends with gambling addiction. the only criteria was to acquire the item in question as their goal. they are focused on a single attribute…ignoring possible warning signs.

    that is why i question any male: asian, black, red, olive heck even white that will only consider pursuing a woman solely based on one attribute, ethnicity in this case, as nothing more than a fetish (excluding more socially complex issues as racism etc).

    as a child from chinese parents fresh off the boat from china, one would expect me to fit all the stereotypical asian son (only son) qualities. zonko buzzer on that one. i suck at math. horrific . i got a mercy pass in math. the only reason i went to school was to get to my end goal of the profession i wanted to be in. first year math was just a prerequisite. in fact, i stayed out the ‘usual’ major that people participate in to get into the grad school that i aimed for.

    everything i did in my life was something i wanted to do myself. i did not and still do not listen to anyone. i will acknowledge anyone’s advice but not necessarily follow it. i am where i am because of who i am and no one, no one, can ever take any glory in encouraging, let alone helping, me.

    am i an atypical asian? absolutely! am i a typical north american? absolutely!

    my parents opinion? while i love my parents and they love me. they have tried to fit me into an asian male cubby hole. and to not cause them an excessive amount of turmoil, i partially submitted to their desires. i am very lucky as high school, under grad and graduate school was very easy for me. they were secretly proud of my academic prowess. on the flip side, i pursued activities that are outside of normal asian acceptance. like what? like participating at a very high level in a sport. like holding down a full time job while going to under grad full time. like dating outside my ‘race’.

    as for friends, not once did i feel like i had to hang out with asians only. my friends were my friends regardless of race. i had a mix of asian and white friends. we hung out on common life beliefs and outlooks etc. and not once, neither them or i ever considered race as a defining attribute to hang out together.

    i do not understand how media portrayal of anything should affect the way we, in this topic, way think is acceptable in relationships. really? we really need positive asian male white female relationships on the movie screen and tv before it is ‘okay’ to be in an asian male white female relationship? it would be the equivalence of everyone asking me if i knew kung fu because i am chinese. you know what the overwhelming question i get is? do you play basketball? (i’m 6’2″) never ever not once was i ever asked if i know fung fu. even when i was a kid and wearing a bruce lee t-shirt. no one ever asked if i knew kung fu.

    perhaps it is just me and my ‘rebellious’ attitude (i dont consider myself rebellious…though i am fiercely independent) or the fact that i never fit into any ‘group’ when i was growing up…but i was never able to fit into any group. nor did i have the desire to do so. i was with the people i am with because i chose to be with them. oh, vice versa on that one.

    so, let’s talk about relationships. let’s talk about my ‘white’ girlfriend. she chuckles when i call her my ‘white’ girlfriend. she thinks it hilarious.

    one time she said that i was flirting with someone. i told her that i was just being friendly. she didnt see it that way. so, an argument of course ensued.

    to prove her point, she went up to some guy and started talking to him a little more than i liked. she smiled, laughed and paid more attention to him than i liked. yes, i saw her point.

    thus, my point:

    i would be insulted. absolutely insulted if she was with me because i am asian. what? because i am asian, you are with me? not because of my intelligence, sense of humor, compatibility? doesnt this sound degrading when the tables are turned?

    i have had so many ‘white’ girls chase me because of yellow fever. not once did i ever go on a date with them. no thanks. like i said from the first time i have started reading and commenting here. i am with the person for who they are not what they are. and in this case, white.

    • Jeff says:

      “am i an atypical asian? absolutely! am i a typical north american? absolutely!”

      You might not realise it but you too have succumbed to the stereotype game. What on earth is a typical north american? I’ve yet to see one. Nor is there a typical asian – it’s quite stupid to stereotype 3 billion people after all. You seem to be boastful of the fact that you are a “typical american”, without actually knowing what that means. If by that you mean you of the extroverted, individual type, great, good for you.

      But then, the “typical” north american tends to form groups, hence the numerous subcultures we have – more so than asians, probably. Goths, jocks, geeks, hippies etc… they are all groups whose members conform to certain attributes. So if you are someone who “does his own thing”, then it’s safe to say you are NOT a typical north american. Not that that’s a bad thing, just like it isn’t a bad thing if you want to be part of the masses.

      The real danger is that, by overcompensating the view that you being asian means you are of a certain personality, you fail to realise that you have been suckered into the stereotype game, that it doesn’t matter what you are, and that what you are isn’t as a result of your genes. Many asians have probably done this, such are the pressures of the host society.

      • Brandon says:

        hi jeff,

        stereotypes exist for a reason. because stereotypes exist. overly simplified? of course.

        every male cousin in my family is an engineer. every one of them. i am not btw. growing up, they were all exceptional in math. i stunk beyond belief.

        as for being ‘north american’. i should be more specific and say american. i know a lot of canadians and their mindset is different than most americans. i am independent, motivated and ambitious. it is my opinion that americans, the one i know and rub elbows with anyway, are like this.

        i am well beyond the age (and social position) of needing to fit into a ‘group’. no jocks, hippies etc. if i were to categorize myself in a group…it would be the successful group. i never pandered to be in a group. i have always thought of myself as me. i have never desired to fit into society nor ever felt i had a need to. i have no trouble being who i am. zero. none.

        and if i am over compensating for being asian, then it has worked out fantastically in my life. i have absolutely nothing to complain about. i have an amazing career in a great profession, a killer personality, success, respect in my community and society, close life long friends, mom and dad are still alive and healthy and am with a woman who is not only over the top beautiful but intelligent and funny.

        i feel like i am the most blessed man on earth and live almost a fantasy life. i sometimes sit and wonder when i am going to wake up. dont get me wrong. i have worked very hard to be where i am. very hard.

        not bragging. just telling you what my life is like.

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