Full Circle: Looking Back Into The Past

After a two month sabbatical and extended hiatus, it’s good to be back. During my period of non-posting, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reflecting upon our whole AMWF journey at AMWF Love. When I revisit my first few posts on AMWF I begin to wonder how I ever managed to write those topics. The majority of my compositions come purely spontaneously. It began with just Laura and me posting a collection of writings that soon turned to some form of formal blog. While we may never know our actual reach to our audiences, we were grateful enough to receive feedback from our supporters.

It was great to know that there were other people who expressed their mutual interest in interracial relationships involving an Asian Male. In fact our scope reached out to not only Caucasian females, but also to many other visible minorities including those with African or Latin origins. This was not our intent at AMWF Love to exclude these populations, but to share our thoughts and real life experiences online.

With Laura and I having a Caucasian and Asian background respectively, we elected to talk about AMWF because it would most accurately reflect our thoughts and feelings. I could not speak from an African-American perspective or from a Latin American viewpoint either. Instead I believed it was important to discuss principles of relationships through the perspective of a Westernized Asian Male. At AMWF Love we strive to discuss topics regarding AMWF as well as cultural, emotional, and social issues relating to Asian Male and Non-Asian female relationships. These principles can be also used for Asian Male Asian Female relationships or any other possible combination as well.

So back to the full circle reference – what does it mean? I see it as a way of evaluating progression of interracial dating with emphasis on Asian Male Western Female. Times have changed, and even a decade ago I probably would have a significantly lower chance developing a long-term relationship with a non-Asian female. While I did run into my former girlfriend (AMWF) who I haven’t seen in over seven years, I found out she is happily married (non-AMWF) with a caring husband and son.  Fast forward to present day 2012, I would say instead of getting the automatic rejection from a non-Asian female, there are times when I do get a warm response. Nobody said it was easy, but we are making progress one step at a time.

What about the plans for 2012? Well, we will be discussing more current and present day issues of AMWF relationships as opposed to the prior years of diving deep into historical reasons for typical Asian Male behavioural responses. Things are constantly changing, and clearly what I remember about Asian societies from my elementary social studies classes do not accurately reflect present day society. In the meantime, if you haven’t read some my principles to Asian Men, you are most welcomed to read topics regarding my TCAI model. Happy reading!

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Stuck in the Comfort Zone

Do you have your comfort zone? Maybe it was under the bed sheets as a child, or It’s really hard to depart from a comforting familiarity. Everyone has that place, whether it would be the people, objects, or environment. This is the refuge we create when adversity strikes. It is almost an automated response manufactured by our habits.

While this is universal, I find it very interesting when applying this to relationships of Asian Men and Non-Asian women. As I have mentioned before, a relationship such as AMWF may face more challenges because there are different societal and cultural upbringings between the two parties. I would not say this is a setback, but it requires a different approach compared to an Asian Male Asian Female relationship. Regardless if the female is White, Black, Hispanic, or of another ethnic background we have to understand that these relationships are more of a complimentary paring rather than a similar (compatible) matching.

Both may value family (similar/compatible), but the Asian approach may have more family influence with children over a Western mentality. Weekly Sunday dinner visits to the parents would be almost expected – only to have a mundane conversation of work and weekly updates.

Now back to the comfort zone. What I find most striking looking back at my Asian upbringing was the creation of an environment where I was mostly unwilling to venture off to the unknown. I approached things when I was sure the results would exactly meet my expectations. Working hard would result in good grades and minimal scolding from an over controlling father. Video games provided a virtual challenge that failures would be less embarrassing. Not only that, I soon surrounded myself with like-minded individuals who enjoyed video games, computers, and other technological devices. Life was good.

There is only one problem with spending so much time in the wonderful comfort zone, relationships such as AMWF is next to impossible without some form of compromise and understanding. Traditionally Asian Men are measured by their social status and economic contribution to the family – so a car, house, and job would deem him dating material and additional cars and houses would make him even more attractive, and probably more respected by the Asian public. Don’t be surprised if an Asian Man makes gift giving gestures to signal his financial status.

While Western females recognize this, many also realize there is much more to life than just the collection of material items. Comfort to them is being able to finally take down the emotional barriers and be able to express their feelings candidly with a positive feedback. As a result, we realize that there are adjustments that have to be made when dealing with these kinds of relationships. Otherwise the woman views the Asian man as unresponsive or indifferent.

So how do we change our comfort zones? The simple statement is hard work, and the longer explanation is to create and develop a new environment which will result in a new comfort zone. It takes a lot of time to change behavior and habits, but it is possible – but not easy. Remember, nothing risked is nothing gained.

A Reflection on Self-Efficacy

Have you ever had the situation where you believed in something so strongly that it happened? Were there times you didn’t take any action because you could not properly predict the outcome? Just like all the Asian Men out there, I too have experienced many times of being humbled.

Do you remember the first time your dad took off the training wheels on your bike? I still remember it. It was the time where I felt supremely invincible. Well maybe not that invincible, but I was able to pick myself up from any pain or adversity endured. The first time I fell off my bike merely moments after those two little rear wheels were taken off. It was the first time I realized you had to keep pedaling to stay balanced or come tumbling onto the pavement. I remember the tears that came along with the minor cuts on my knee, but I wasn’t crying because I couldn’t do it, it was simply because I was in pain. I fell for a second time because I didn’t know how to properly ascend a sidewalk from the road, and a third for not properly counterbalancing my turning. Yes it hurt, but I truly believed that I was capable of riding a bike.

In other words this was the beginning of building my own self-efficacy. Now you may confuse this with the term confidence, but this much more than the strength of belief in a particular outcome. I would describe self-efficacy as a belief that competencies are attainable, regardless of the setbacks that occur along the way. Now everyone will choose different skill sets and interests, but they tend to gravitate to areas where there are levels of success.

Who would enjoy doing something that you always lost at? For every sport, video game, or interest we experienced some sort of success that kept us going forward. There was just the right mix of challenge and skill that kept our interest levels up. We knew there were opportunities to improve and eventually achieve a high level of success.

The biggest problem for Asian Men is that societal expectations and popular culture does not emphasize self-efficacy, but place a perceived value on a pseudo-confidence that borders arrogance and selfishness. There is no secret that a tall athletic built male with a chiseled jaw line can be forgiven for his bravado, but is that a true qualifier for Asian Men to be attractive? Certainly it is an uphill battle, but the most important thing is not to be discouraged. I simply say this is because the “confidence” that mainstream society is accustomed to perceiving is not as readily apparent in Asian Males, and thus they may seem less desirable.

If I reapply this to our TCAI Model at AMWF Love, the expected behavior will differ depending on the primary archetype of the Asian Male:

  • Technophiles will be more assertive with themselves – stepping out of their comfort zone
  • Comedians will take a chance to say something funny – a natural swagger
  • Ambitious will depict a bold masculine presence – a dominating approach
  • Individuals will listen to their own heart – just being themselves

So be sure what archetype you identify with – that goes for both ones looking for an AMWF Relationship or who are already in an AMWF Relationship.

 

The Mysterious Asian Male & Passion…Where Did It Go?

I was most fortunate enough to have exposure to an Asian and a Canadian lifestyle growing up. Not only did I learn particular mannerisms and behavior from popular culture, I had my Asian friends and family to relate to as well. These days I have come to wonder if there is actually a distinct difference between Western and Asian perceptions of passion and emotions.

The prototypical Asian tends to have some form of subdued behavior. He is courteous, yet has a quiet and gentle presence. I wouldn’t go as far to say he would be shy, just a slightly more reserved. It’s almost as if he’s ensuring that everything is comfortable and safe before placing himself in harm’s way. I can even relate myself. Growing up, I was the regular Asian kid, hanging out in my big Asian group of friends. We hung around each other because it was easy. All of us had some form of strict parents. We went through the piano or violin lessons as a child, had some form of liking to Sanrio (I had Badtz-Maru and Keroppi), and most of all multiple video game consoles (no surprise there). When I was in my comfortable group, I could open up with ease. Hence why large Asian groups are loud (aside from the fact that it is very loud in urban Asian cities) it’s easy to share jokes and relate in their native tongue.

This is a significant contrast in comparison to Western popular culture where there’s a considerable amount of body and facial language in conveying passion. Their eyes will light up in excitement and their face will give a beaming smile. Amazing charisma is infectious. Somehow I don’t quite get that same captivation when I relate to my Asian side.  I would remember when my parents would have their eyes glued to the television watching the latest Chinese prime time drama. For those unfamiliar with the format, it is usually some 25-40 episode series that runs nightly.  It usually centers on a love triangle filled with jealousy, and family dialogue often at the dinner table or living room sofa.  By the end of the series, the virtuous male ends up with the love of his life. How typical.

Many years later, what struck me was that there were very subtle differences between how Asians and Western cultures perceive passion.  As we have mentioned in earlier posts, Asian Males tend to express their feelings for a significant other through actions and gifts. This is also true when it comes to other forms of expression, such as passion. When I talk about passion, I talk about having interest in something, whether it is sailing, music production, cooking, or anything that involves you as a person; it is usually fueled by passion. So, by following this pattern, what will happen is usually the Asian male works harder, and makes sure things are done right – almost to the point of perfection. What is implied is that expression through facial, body, or tone is severely underutilized.  In no written Confucian conversation do I ever recall Confucius telling his pupil to “smile” or have “charisma”.

A Westerner would scratch their head in confusion. They can tell when someone clearly is involved passionately. It’s undeniable. They emit this kind of aura around them. Unfortunately there is one problem with popular culture and consumerism, is that passion borders sexual. The problem is that both can be very intense and often gets used interchangeably. Passion for art, sport, or whatever comes from a combination of challenge and skill. Sometimes we lose track of time and become completely involved. While this is true in a sexual nature, I would classify this as a subgroup of passion with an emphasis on desire than challenge and skill.

So do I believe if Asians can be passionate as well? Yes I believe they can. Unfortunately most of our expression is limited to our actions and not how we project ourselves to others. Instead of sexual attraction that is prevalent in Western popular culture, Asians tend to use jealousy and rage as intense emotions.

Now this becomes a serious issue when it comes to AMWF Relationships. The Asian Male needs to express himself beyond actions such as working hard or listening, while the Western Female has to be receptive to his good intentions despite the lack of expression. Initially I would say the Asian Male will have to learn to express in a way the woman will be receptive, but in a long-term perspective both parties will have to learn from each other. The passion was always there to begin with, but the approaches are different.

To my Asian Males: step out of your comfort zone, and take a chance.

To my Western Females:  understand his cultural upbringing, and don’t ever stop smiling – a soft gentle aura will warm (or melt) any Asian Male’s heart.

Only if the “Undo” Command Worked in Real Life

Our favorite geeky command – whether it is Ctrl-Z or Command-Z, this is the quintessential keyboard combination when things don’t work the way we want it to. Didn’t like the line you drew in your graphics program? No problem, “undo” and try again. Renamed the wrong file? There’s an “undo” for that too! This was the beauty of technology. In a way you could say this was a form of trial and error in a more unemotional and analytical procedure. Now only if this worked in the real world.

Just like many of you I have had my relationship blunders. I’ve been paralyzed by complete fear of messing up conversations, forgotten many important dates (uh oh), or came off a little too intense in relationships. While I am not proud of those moments, I look back realizing they were important life lessons. I have done it all. Missed the kiss on her lips because I prematurely closed my eyes? Yup, did it. Confessed my feelings to a girl who I thought was interested but got completely shot down? I did that too. Being completely oblivious to a girl interested in me when I ditched her to go cram for my final? Yes I actually did that.

As much as I would like to fix my embarrassing relationship blunders (good thing I don’t talk about the other things), there is no “undo” command.  I have learned to accept my tribulations with a smile. Then it kind of hit me. I was certain that I was not the only Asian Male in the world that royally screwed up things. Had I been raised in a very tradition Asian environment filled with shame as the social regulator, I would have burrowed deep into my shell to avoid contact with the public. Friends and family would endless harass me for my gaffes. Instead having guilt as a form of social regulation in Western Culture, I feel somewhat liberated sharing my mortifying moments in life.

Back to the “Undo” command, when it comes to actual real life situations, there is no reversal button we can press when we stumble.  This is very common with new relationships as well as long-term ones. For the Asian Male, this now becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy “No mistakes will happen if we take an inactive/passive position”.  Who needs to “Undo” things when there is nothing to “undo”? In other words, it comes back down to our favorite Asian Male inhibitor, fear. The fear of utterly embarrassing yourself and face a lifelong earful of shame from friends and family is definitely a strong deterrent for Asian Males when it comes to approaching women (and also while being in a relationship).

So what can Asian Males do? The first part is to realize that perfection in real life does not exist. While theoretical and analytical procedures allows us to create hypothetical models, that’s all it is, just theory. As much as we want that 100% in love and relationships, it’s okay, you aren’t going to get lectured by your Asian parents for the missing 2% when you get a 98%. The next thing is to go for it. Just give it a try. Yes you will stumble and blunder, but it’s still better than doing nothing. Finally, look back at the moments learn the important life lessons and try again (with the newfound knowledge). When you can look back and laugh about it, you will be fine – no Ctrl-Z or Command-Z required.

The Public and Private Life of AMWF Relationships

Despite my Western upbringing, I still retain some conservative tendencies when it comes to relationships. When I tried to trace the roots of my behaviour, I found it fairly muddled. I suppose the majority of the tendencies came from watching my parents as an example and perhaps the Asian notion of love in general. In any regard, what I wanted to focus on was the difference between the public and private lifestyle in relationships with a focus for AMWF.

Background Information

There should be no surprise with the onset of an Asian shame society; appearances play the number one role. I would take it another step further and say it is how you are perceived by others. Probably the very first thing people notice in an AWMF relationship is the fact that it is an interracial relationship but a lot less common than the WMAF variety. After the initial shock, they will probably think of “how” the relationship was even possible.

AMWF relationships also do come with a preconceived notion of White Females being hedonistic or at worst promiscuous. While it may be true for a small select proportion, it is simply unfair to label the entire population as such. Many of us forget the great strides White Females (and other minorities) have done to progress society for equal rights as well. They didn’t just think about it, they committed themselves to change, bonded, and took action. Back to AMWF – When it comes to a serious committed relationship, White Females also have the ability to involve themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. It means they are willing to establish a connection while also risking their own pain and suffering.

For the Asians, most of our ancestors have vivid memories of coming from impoverished and war-torn societies. The majority of the time was spent on hard work and survival and less on love and relationships. If anything our expression of love came from our actions – primarily through going out of our way as Asians to do something (with no expectation of reciprocation).

The Public Life

Dating is almost synonymous as intentionally being around each other (just the two people together) on an occasional basis. While this may not seem like much for a White Female, it means a considerable amount for an Asian Male. For the most part, they are looking for someone who they can introduce to their parents. When his Asian parents accept the relationship that is an incredible milestone, because not only does the Asian Male have to worry about public opinions, his parents are the most important to please. That being said, if you can have Sunday night dinner with his parents at a restaurant without a hitch that is something to be proud of.

While you may think you have to show your affection for your Asian Male constantly, there is nothing more Asian Males love having their White Female be present physically, and show commitment through attentiveness.  You don’t have to show how madly in love you are with each other in public (which you both should already know), but showing a willingness to be together is something that will make an Asian Male very happy.  In other words, the absence of hostility and the pure comfort about being around each other is really plenty. For the most part, being calm and well-behaved is exactly what the older Asian generation likes to see.  This does not mean you have to be weak and submissive, just refrain from being obnoxious and outspoken.

Again, I reiterate commitment is something Asians value strongly (especially the older generation). I would personally have to say one of the worst feelings about relationships is being in a limbo. When you aren’t really sure of things: “Does she really like me, or is she like this to everyone else?” Whatever you do to show that you care, it’s important to reconfirm it and make sure the intentions are clear.

The Private Life

As many Asians know already, expressing the word love in our native tongue is a very difficult thing to say. This is not quite like how we can use the word love in English. We may love chocolate or ice cream in English, but when it comes to Asian languages, I would say it really means more of a total commitment than anything else. This is probably why we tend to use some form of “like” in our language in contrast to utilizing “love”. Yes there is a “really like” and if I recall in Cantonese there’s a “caring by spoiling” word as well. What I mean by that is the nature of how Asian Males tend to use actions like gift buying to show that they really do care.

When it comes to communication in private, the truth is Asian Males really want to communicate, but it’s not something they will immediately warm up to. Sometimes I would say it stems from the whole family system of filial piety and authority. Traditionally we have to defer to high authority as our thoughts and opinions are replaced by the wants and the needs of the family. Sometimes it’s a really strange notion to wrap your head around, but for me, it was just second nature.

In all honesty there is usually one type of love that almost every Asian Male will experience, and that is motherly love. With the exclusion of the psychotic Asian mothers, they are often very loving and caring. Perhaps it may not be in the same way through words, but through their actions like making their favorite foods or deliberately doing all of the cleaning duties. A woman truly willingly to do things like that for her Asian Male will probably win his heart instantly. A White Female does not have to be a supermodel, but she has to be attractive in his eyes. Of course this is not always the case, but if he’s willing to do most of the household chores anyways, it probably means he’s head over heels for his woman.

How about physical intimacy? Well, I will leave the up to the discretion of each couple. It does vary, but we are definitely not against things like that “behind closed doors”. The toughest part is actually the beginning of a new relationship. By default Asian Males will play the conservative approach, trying not to be too touchy-feely, but with enough trust and communication, things can definitely change. Remember that nerve-wracking first kiss or hand holding? Yes Asian Males sometimes don’t take enough proactive action, probably because they are too busy trying to analyze the situation to see if it is the right moment or not (getting embarrassed is a really bad feeling).

Just like the public life, there is a certain level of bonding and commitment, but usually there are more opportunities to speak candidly about issues. Unfortunately if there are language barriers, it is a little more difficult to convey thoughts and feelings. Sometimes the pride of Asian Males also is something to be aware of. While females have a vast supporting network of close friends and family, Asian Males will tend to keep their own problems to themselves. While he may talk about the external stresses, like his oppressive boss, when it really comes to talking about the intangible things like emotions or spirituality, he’s usually at loss.

Personal Commentary

Nobody enjoys having retarded moments in life. This is especially true when other people witness and recollect your embarrassing moments. The fear of shame is still deeply ingrained in our Asian mindset. Consequently we resort to waiting for the perfect moment where we are almost guaranteed success, but we forget the many opportunities pass by because we weren’t willing to take a risk. I have missed many opportunities because of my own conservative nature. It didn’t matter if I had the future planned, I totally forgot about the present. The travel plans, adventures together, and plans to be together went up in smoke because I was so self-absorbed in the future.

I always thought the true commitment came from doing the trivial things together. Things like going to her little sister’s graduation or just really being there for her when she was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. While it does sound nice, the fact is that we tend to meet people in a public setting first. As much as we want to completely open up as an Asian Male, it would be inappropriate at such an early stage because there are no connections built. I would probably say it would reveal a level of desperation or insecurity more than anything.

Somehow as a result it just hit me. That’s exactly why as Asian Males we go for the friend into lover approach. It makes perfect sense as it reflects the transition between the public and private side of Asian Males. Initially as friends, it is about getting to know each other without divulging too much into any intimate details. Things are lighthearted and fun, and until there some sort of chemistry or connection it progresses into the private and more candid things.

The key is that there is usually some sort of opportunity be together privately. Say it was some mutual friend’s birthday, the opportune moment would be the time when the two would be alone together. Take for example the car ride home. If there are no other passengers, this is actually an opportune moment for one of the parties to speak up. There are many other possibilities, and for the White Females that want to give their Asian Male of interest a little helping hand, provide a situation that allows just the two of you. Have him walk you to your car, ask for technical assistance with some sort of technology, or just simply flat-out approach him (if that is your style, it’s really not a turn off for Asian Males – sometimes it clears things up really fast).

So Asian Males, take more chances, and White Females, recognize the difference between the public and private life. When in doubt, just be upfront about it and communicate.

Another Scholastic Year Begins – Asian Educational Differences

With the exception of locations south of the equator, September brings about a new scholastic year for many students. It’s sad to see the sunshine and warm weather fade away, but for many of us, it is exciting to reconnect with fellow peers. At one point in time I began to wonder if it was any different for individuals going to school in Asia. I definitely remember hearing about the kindergarten entrance examinations for Hong Kong students, and of course the uniforms. Somehow it sparked some interest researching into the school life in Asia. Perhaps it may bring some key behavioral elements unique to Asia and may explain why Asian Males behave in a particular way.

When I speak of the educational differences I loosely regard it to K-12 and Post-Secondary education. I will admit that most of my influence comes from Hong Kong but I am certain there are many similarities across Asia.

The Beginning of it All – Kindergarten

Unlike where I reside in Canada, students are free to choose their elementary, junior high (7-9), and high school (10-12). The educational model is open access for public and separate (mostly Catholic) schools. There are some private schools, but for the most part K-12 education is covered by the government (Provincial). From what I remember, in order to achieve a successful path, an Asian family must plan their child’s scholastic path from kindergarten. A good kindergarten will lead to a good junior high and high school, and then to post-secondary. Since there is limited space, there is really only one way to get accepted, be the best. Trivial things such as arithmetic (yes, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) was something my former classmates (moved to Canada later as a child) had to prepare for.

Examinations

While it may differ across Asia, the majority of examinations are still strongly based on rote memorization. What makes matters worse is that after an exam, the scores are publically posted for the eyes of society. Not only do you see your score, you know exactly where on the “totem pole” people are after the assessment. The brightest students are awarded with praise from the teacher and the bottom-feeders are placed under public shame and pressure to perform better. This feels completely absurd in my opinion, but I have been raised in an environment where information such as this must be kept private and it is protected by government legislation. Shame does exist beyond parenting, and the general public, it exists among your classmates for supposedly healthy competitive reasons.

I would not even be remotely surprised if there were monetary incentives for those who achieve perfect scores, or even if the teacher was offered financial bonuses for the number successful students. When I talk about successful, I mean those who have the ability absorb information and regurgitate it as proof of amazing memorization skills. It doesn’t matter if you understand what is written in the book, as long as you can recite the information perfectly. Personally, skills such as empathy, critical thinking, creativity, mediation, positive criticism, or innovation have no place in many Asian education systems.  While I am not saying the rote approach is wrong, I am simply stating the inflexibilities of the system. Not everyone is meant to be a brilliant analytical stoic genius, but the perceived status is simply too powerful to be ignored. This is probably the result of government policy to eliminate any potential threats by pacifying its nation.

Uniforms & the Classroom

Along with my fellow North American colleagues, we did not have uniforms K-12 or in Post-Secondary.  We pretty much had free “tasteful” reign of clothing choices, but with my strong Asian influences, I often ended up defaulting into my most versatile “Asian” color: black. Perhaps it just matched my hair, or it was the fact that it black was the easiest color to work with. I admit I have changed my ways, but it must have been a style in the 80’s and 90’s. Otherwise it was silver, the alternate choice for our electronics and motor vehicles.

Outside of North America, uniforms are commonly used for K-12 education. While some may agree it has a standard clothing appearance for its users, I would also believe there are problems created because of it. Hypothetically, if everyone had the same clothes, the evaluation of a person in a school setting is really by two ways – grades and appearances. We have gone over the grades but when it comes to appearances, since it is standardized when someone has bad acne, poor body weight control, or bad hygiene, they are immediately identified and end up ostracized from their own peers. As I have talked about in previous articles, shame is what regulates Asian society, and not guilt. To stand out as an individual may lead to incarceration.

What makes matters even more difficult is the nature of a class. More commonly than anything I have seen a hybrid cohort system for K-12 classes – especially for Japan. The class remains in the classroom and different teachers for different subjects move around the school. This seems counter-intuitive to North American standards for secondary and post-secondary where students freely move from class to class. Often there is a class representative who acts as the liaison for the class, and assists with their fellow peers in the school cleaning duties. While this does have a strong militaristic approach, to be successful requires strong obedience and hard work. I appreciate the discipline put into their education, but I wonder if it truly robs Asians of their own identities and just being a caring human being.

The AMWF Link

The reason for writing this was to find another reason why Asian Males behave in such a manner. Yes we often have to deal with strict parents and possibly and overbearing mother, but do we blame that on Confucianism or just the way things were, and still are? Our own Asian education system produces excellent students who shine in rote memorization, but have been so hammered into subdued obedience designed for introverted professions such as the common doctor and dentist – whereby both are highly respected and well paid. Other skills in manufacturing and processing are useful as well.  The sad truth is that I believe that it makes us into a quantifiable unit of labor – not a person.

This is one of the greatest issues when it comes to AMWF relationships. A White Female needs to be with someone who cares for them as a human being. Someone who listens to her, respects her, and is willing to show his love beyond the provision of physical means. I am not saying attraction is not required, but when I talk about concerns like this, I mean for long-term and permanent relationships that expand to marriage and family.

There really is no absolute perfect approach to solving this situation either. Asian Males will not be able to leverage their rote memorization skills, but have to develop a new set of skills – an emotional capacity, and a willingness to be emotionally generous as well. It is definitely not an easy task either. Even I am always learning how to be a better man, but when I was younger there were definitely times where my AMWF relationships fell apart because of my aloofness. It’s a work in progress.

Just remember Asian Males, as Bruce Lee says, “Don’t think – feel.”

Relationships, Marriage, and the Four Horsemen

Regardless of the fact that the level of relationship may be dating, courtship, or even marriage, there are always trouble signs that will greatly predict the success of the relationship. Strangely enough I stumbled upon literature from Dr. John Gottman using the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analogy from the Bible. Bear in mind that disagreements and fighting every now and then are signs of a healthy relationship. In any case here are the four key behaviors:

Criticism

Criticism in my opinion has two variants, a positive form and a negative form. Positive criticism is about improving the situation without any intentional personal attacks on your partner. There is possible frustration expressed, but definitely not offending. Take for example you were watching your favorite reality competition and one of your favorite competitors was sent packing. I know for one I would be in absolute shock. “How could he be eliminated?”  I would exclaim in discontent “that’s not fair.”

In that situation I do not wish harm on the judges, but I am clearly disgruntled by the apparent unfairness. Now when it comes to negative criticism, this behavior may start out as dissatisfaction but then becomes unbearable. They start with phrases like:

“I can’t believe you…”
“Every time you…”
“What kind of (noun) is this?”

The usual intention is to claim that you are right, and the offending partner is clearly wrong.  Unfortunately it comes with a vicious attack on your partner’s character. I can honestly admit criticism in this regard is almost considered normal in Traditional Asian upbringing. Not only do we get criticism from our parents, we are expected to accept it, as it is supposedly their way of expressing how they care.  The tragedy is that then if we start to believe our actions bring criticism, then as Asian Males we resign ourselves of apathy, and stop believing in anything.

Contempt

Although contempt is very similar to criticism in the fact that there is intent to draw some form of mental abuse, it differs by not focusing on a particular event, but as a global degrading feeling. You could almost say that criticism occurs as a reaction while contempt is a lingering feeling no matter if it is premeditated or reactionary.

Examples usually come from verbal insults, mockery, and most often through body language combined with tone. Since most of contempt is something that is “read between the lines” I will describe obvious situations where it could happen. A couple fictitious examples I have spontaneously thought of is as follows:

Example One:

Shen and Ashley decide to spend their Friday night window shopping at a local trendy district. While passing by an eclectic store Ashley stops to point at a cute summer dress.

“Are you kidding me?” Shen said as he rolled his eyes in disgust, “that dress makes your arms look even bigger.”

While Shen was able to voice his opinion, Ashley would be more disappointed over with the implications: he shows indifference to her opinions, and reinforces her apparent weight issues.

Example Two:

Han and Angela have been officially dating for a couple years. In preparation for Han’s cousin’s wedding, there is a banquet party group dance that both of them are involved in. Unfortunately being a typical male with two left feet like Han, the steps do not come naturally. To make matters worse, Han not only has to remember his steps, but also has to lead Angela. Trouble arises with alignment issues. Angela stops and glares at Han.

“I don’t get it” Angela voices in frustration, “this is so easy.” Han recollects his composure and tries for a second time. Failure ensues. “Nope,” she says while biting her lip. Completely petrified Han tries for a third time, only to get a tongue lashing.

While not as direct as the first example, there are many situations when the male feels emasculated by his partner. This is something that comes with experience, and no video game is going to teach you this.

Defensiveness

Just as criticism and contempt are more offensive approaches, there are defensive approaches that Gottman classifies as action and inaction. In a sense it is an approach that minimizes the incoming threat to give an opportunity to respond back offensively by both criticism and contempt. The defense comes by evading a perceived attack or using a victim mentality. It is only natural for us to protect ourselves from harm, but things get muddled when things are tense.

“It wasn’t my fault…”
“But remember the time you…”

Now by developing the two examples above, we can create both a defensive and non-defensive approach.

Example One Development – Shen & Ashley

A: “That burger you had for dinner isn’t helping your waistline either.” Ashley quips as she pokes his belly.

B: “Great,” Ashley smiles, “I’ll be sure to wear it next weekend for your mom’s birthday dinner”

Development A used a diversion to place the weight issue onto Shen, while B turned the situation from displeasure to humor. Mind you Ashley may get the last laugh if she gets all genuine compliments for the dress next week.

Example Two Development – Han & Angela

A: “It is sooooo easy” Han responds.

B: “Backseat driving.” Han grins.

C: “As expected from your formal training” he sighs.

In response A, Han repeats what Angela had said earlier, with a slightly altered tone. This has the intention of having her believe that Han was listening. For response B and C, Han diverted the perceived threat by countering with a comment that may actually escalate the situation. While this may seem the most viable option, it does nothing to help the relationship. The problem really is not the small disagreements but the fact that this will accumulate over time and the behavioral response will be the same. Only when enough is enough, then a sudden change tends to follow.

Stonewalling

I confess that growing up this was my main arsenal when it comes to dealing with conflict. It made perfect sense to me, keeping a neutral tone would make the other person feel that I not offended and won’t retaliate. I was always taught to turn the other cheek, but it often is with physical conflict. When it comes to an emotional connection with a woman and especially a White Female, it conveys actually a lack of effort in the relationship.

Examples include:

  • A blank face
  • Crossing arms and refusal to communicate
  • Leaving the situation without any explanation during or afterwards
  • Using the pseudo-agreement of “yes” responses

Granted that the natural response for a male is to hide in his cave to regenerate himself, constantly disconnecting yourself as a male towards a female is extremely hurtful over time. This is a serious issue when it comes to Asian Males as we are taught to maintain a stern disconnected composure.

Fortunately this can be worked around by giving signals that you really want to connect as an Asian Male. Get into her personal space, hold her hands, tell her how much you really care for her – she will forgive you for the lack of expression and recognize your sincerity to be with her. Remember it is a healthy relationship to encounter conflict, but what is important is that you both ultimately respect and acknowledge each other.

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.

Stuck in the Middle – My Dual Identity

The majority of my Asian friends were the ones that progressed with me through my academic years. Almost all of us were born and raised in Canada with a Hong Kong background. Honestly I would say we progressed together as a tight-knit group from Junior High, to High School, and onto University. To the outsiders we may have been perceived as a clique not accepting non-Asians, but this was not the case. Since we all came from similar cultural backgrounds, it was only natural that we gravitated towards each other. Somehow we were raised pretty much the same way. All of us had to go through piano or violin lessons as a child, and of course the wonderful Chinese school on Saturday mornings.

There were a few White Males that did manage to hang out our Asian group as well. This was probably because they made an effort to join us. Fortunately being a Westernized Asian group, we still conversed in English; all they had to do was have the intent to hang around us.  As far as I remember there was actually never a single White Female in the massive “Asian Group” of friends. It never struck me as that being odd; just perhaps the passive nature of Asians may have been the reason for them not to hang around us. The group was large enough as it was already, and there was no need to seek out more members.

Maybe times have changed, but as I remember dating White Females, I was the one who had to depart from my circle to join her circle of friends. Had I not done that, I probably would not have been in a relationship with a White Female. Fortunately when things did not work out, my Asian friends still took me back as if things never happened. Looking back I laugh at myself because the group was really just a group where we shared common interests. There was nothing really beyond that. We celebrated birthdays, watched movies, went to events, but never really established lifelong bonds.

As I progressed into Post-Secondary education, I was in the shock of my life when it came to Asians. You see, the majority of the Hong Kong Chinese came before the 1997 return to China. This meant that the only Hong Kong Chinese left were my friends I attended school with. Now the Mainland Chinese students dominated university campus in the analytical fields of mathematics, statistics, engineering, chemistry, and physics. Great, now in my head I’m experiencing “FOB 2.0”. For those who are unaware of the term FOB it is a slight derogatory term for Asian immigrants. During the Vietnam War there were many families who fled Vietnam in boats all across Asia. However the term “Fresh off the Boat” or FOB probably more accurately means “Fresh off the Plane”. While it wasn’t their appearances that bothered me, it was the lack of social etiquette for North American standards. I could deal with the scent of moth balls and loud voices, but it still baffles me when I watch someone with seven small containers heat up one individual dish at a time to monopolize the microwaves with a lengthy line waiting behind the user. Then I remember that it is shame, and not guilt that often regulates their behavior, and if nobody tells them they are doing something wrong, they will assume that everything is normal.

I’m sure they are very good people, but somehow it’s extremely difficult to relate to the Asians from Asia. Despite my Asian features of black hair, soft skin, and single eyelids – I find it difficult to connect with non-Western Asians.  This is probably because my interests do not match up with many traditional Asians. My taste in arts and entertainment takes me to South America and Europe, somewhere completely unrelated to Asian popular culture. The irony is that when I move to social groups primarily of Caucasian individuals, I still feel a lack of a true belonging.

Thus I find myself stuck in the middle as a Westernized Asian. Fused with both Eastern and Western values, I went to school learning the Western Culture, and learned about my Eastern roots at home. You could say it was living two lives, but I found it completely normal. With a large Asian group of friends, it was bound to break off into small groups. Eventually people began to pair off, and commit their time into their careers and relationship partners. The large group that hung out in the circular group tables in the student lounges was no more.

The most difficult part of two identities is the fact that you have two. Sometimes it feels like you have to choose between the two, always in conflict between your Eastern and Western identities. I’ve always wondered if having a single identity would have been a lot simpler. Instead of being pressured to take a professional career, I may have been encouraged to pursue something I truly enjoyed over stability and security. Maybe by being “just Asian” would leave me in a mindless state having to constantly submit to parental pressures.  At the end of the day, I would end up being with one group, and not between two different groups.

So why not pursue a Westernized Asian Female? Well the answer is twofold. The first part really comes down to the numbers game. Even here in Canada there are CBCs (Canadian Born Chinese) in every major urban area but attraction does not occur just because they are born and raised here. Yes, they understand my upbringing, but my past experiences did not leave anything memorable. Perhaps it was a matter of personality, but even my prior relationships with White Females have been such a pleasure regardless of the outcome.  They were open to share their thoughts and viewpoints as White Female, and very emotionally generous. This was something I felt difficult with Asian Females born and raised in North America. I could never fathom their obsession with the latest status accessories, and was unwilling to be just a provider by Asian traditional standards.

These days I really have learned to embrace the dual identity. It’s what defines who I am, and I would not change anything if I could go back in time.  While I might be more Western than my Asian counterparts, I have learned so much about my own identity that I would never would have learned remaining in a tight-knit Asian group. Instead of always trying to fit in with a group, I’ve learned to love myself instead of seeking constant approval from others. I definitely am who I want to be.