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Hi, Jerrica. Hi there. If you have your story in front of you. Yeah, sure. And try not sound like it's not eight thirty in the morning. Yeah. Thank you for talking to us. Ah, you're in Australia. Yeah. Yeah. OK, ok.
Manic Pixie. Real girl. The first time I heard the term manic pixie dream girl, I felt a hot shame. My unique rebellion suddenly seemed small, my attempts at self definition in vain. I wasn't complex, I was caricature. Always an object, never a subject. Worse, I loved someone who needed me to stay that way. A man who needed me to remain a fantasy forever out of reach. I stepped closer anyway. Don't worry, she said after we fought.
You're still my muse. No, I thought I'm an artist. All right, well, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. No problem. Thanks for asking me to do this.
So it's lovely to talk by Jerrica by now and fall in love with you for the love of my life.
Today's essay is when a dating there leads to months of soul searching. It was published in June 2019 and it was written by Andrew Leigh and is read by Yuanchao. At two a.m., two blocks from Chinatown, Sarah ended our first date by telling me that my race might be an issue. What was supposed to be a one hour coffee date had evolved into a nine hour marathon. From discussing the five love languages during dinner to telling stories about our exes at Coyote Tower, we didn't even notice that we had traversed four San Francisco neighborhoods and logged ten thousand steps.
We had a lot in common, having experienced what some might describe as all-American upbringings. Born and raised in America's former Wild West, she in Texas and Colorado. We had read Little House on the Prairie and learned to square dance and cowboy boots. We'd both spent time on the football field, she in the marching band I as a strong safety, she loves country music and well, I don't hate country music.
Over dinner, we connected when we opened up about our strained relationships with our mothers and how we came into our own.
When we went to college out of state, our thoughts and values mirrored each other, as did our Myers Briggs personality types. Then, as we strolled to the front of her apartment building, Sarah said, I have to tell you something. I smiled, expecting something from one of the countless jokes we had shared that day. Instead, she said, You're the first Asian guy I've ever gone on a date with. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
After talking nonstop all day, I was at a loss for words because here's the kicker, Sarah is Asian-American. Her parents immigrated from Taiwan. Mine came from mainland China. If things don't work out, she said, would it hurt your confidence? Hey, don't worry about it. I said, I've got enough confidence for both of us. When my friends ask what happened, I'll say she had everything going for her. But sometimes things get between people.
I smiled. Like racism. She gave a half hearted laugh. I'm sorry, it's not that I don't like Asian things, I love all Asian food, even stinky tofu. It's just that I've never really been attracted to Asian men. I think it's because there weren't a lot of Asians in my small Texas town, all the Asian men I knew were either my friends, dads or like nerdy brothers to me. It was as if she were swiping right on the parts of her heritage she liked and swiping left on the parts she didn't.
I knew Sarah wasn't unusual when it came to these preferences. It's shockingly common to come across profiles that say, sorry, no Asians. Maybe Asian men need better representation. When I was growing up, there were no mainstream movies like crazy rich Asians putting a spotlight on attractive Asian leading men. There were no all Asian boy bands like Beats gracing the cover of Time and winning over American teenagers on Saturday Night Live.
With Sarah's admission. The last nine minutes of our date undid the previous nine hours, you hear stories of people being catfish by fake online profiles. My date was turning into a catfish tale of its own. I was out with someone who had revealed herself to be completely different from who she first appeared to be. I wondered, is this actual racism or even more pernicious, internalized racism, a form of self-hatred?
I grew up believing Asians weren't desired, Sarah said. I just wanted to fit in.
But my friends had a hard time understanding my parents and our house didn't look or smell like my friends homes whenever I complained about how different we were.
My parents would just remind me that despite my efforts, people will always treat me like I don't belong here.
Seeing that clarified something for me. Despite our similarities, we didn't have the same experience growing up. I was never in front of attention, in fact, I probably received more because I was one of the few Asian students in school. I could be embarrassed by my parents broken English at parent teacher conferences, but what boy isn't embarrassed by his parents? Most important, where Sarah's parents warned her about her Asian identity, my parents celebrated ours. We were proud to be Asian in America.
Rather than seeing Sarah's revelations as a red flag, I found them to be honest and vulnerable. And I felt as if I were uniquely suited to understand her predicament. Even though society views us as the same. Sarah grew up thinking being different was a weakness while I grew up thinking different was a strange. As a whole generation of minorities come of age in minority majority America, I wondered how many other people were grappling with this issue. I was still perplexed, though.
How did we match on the dating app in the first place? She had to swipe right and I certainly have not become Asian overnight. So why did you go on a date with me? I said. She exhaled and looked at me imploringly because my friends dared me to go on one date with an Asian guy. And you're not what I expected. I realize how horrible this sounds. But I guess I to feed into the Asian stereotype. We were standing awfully close to each other.
It occurred to me this was probably her closest romantic encounter with an Asian man. I reached out and held her hands. I think I understand. You really want to kiss me, don't you? She smiled and half rolled her eyes. Figured I had nothing to lose. I leaned in gently and kissed her. She kissed back, but then pushed me away and started to reach for the door. At that point, I didn't know what to think, what she's rejecting me as a dating formality or because my race made us an impossibility.
I felt indignant. Should I reject her outright on behalf of all Asian men? One of my favorite movies is Before Sunrise, where two strangers meet on a train, go on an extended date across the city and begin to fall in love. Seline, the female lead, talks about how when we're young, we believe there will be many people will connect with and how only when we're older do we realize it happens only a few times. I may have been just thirty one, but I was old enough to know that this was one of those times.
I thought hoped Sarah felt the same thing. But it seemed my race was keeping her from recognizing it. One night of flirting could hardly undo years of assumptions she had embraced about what is desired. I had never connected so deeply in one date as I had with her and felt thwarted by forces beyond my control. First, states, by their nature, are not safe spaces were made to confront our preferences and prejudices, whether they be about appearance, race, body shape, intelligence or anything else.
One thing was clear, though, as I heard the click of the door opening the door, that would shut me out of her life.
I realized I was mistaken about me having enough confidence for both of us.
But she didn't go inside. She stopped holding the door slightly open. Then almost as quickly as she had stepped away. She turned around and with a sly smile. Planted another kiss on my lips. Many months later, after more dates, kisses and moments of vulnerability over stinky tofu, we decided to get married.
Sarah thought she knew how she wanted her life to play out. She thought she knew what kind of person she would find attractive and marry. We all do that to some degree, whether those expectations involve race, career choice or the number of children we want. That Sarah was open to examining those assumptions, even encouraging and helping me to write about them was another quality that drew me to her, our childhood shape us.
I haven't fully appreciated how Sarah's had shaped her. Now, at least we can shape our future together. Before we get back to the show, we want to let you know that we're doing a survey about how you listen to this show and others.
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And thank you. Hi, Sarah. Hi, Maya. It's actually Mia, I'm sorry to you. I just want to be called Maya, so it's all good.
Thank you so much for talking to me today. The story is so much about you and you play such a big part in it. So I've been dying to hear your perspective. Andrew wrote about this kind of epic nine, our first date that you guys went on. At what point during those nine hours together, did you realize, oh, you know, there might be something here?
I think it was early that I felt like this guy is different. Right. There's something I feel somehow connected to him in a different way than a lot of my other dates that I've had.
But there was a lot of baggage for me that just really I felt like throughout the whole day there was this conflict, like I want to like him, but I can't like him.
And so I think it really wasn't until several weeks after dating and after really fighting with my internal demons that I just let myself love him. Hmm. I kind of had this realization and I was living with roommates at the time.
I remember I think just like talking to my roommate and kind of giving her this dialogue of what was in my head around, like, this isn't the person I'm supposed to marry and kind of talking through her like the things I liked about him, the the way I felt.
And ultimately she's like, Sarah, you just got to let this pass go, like this vision that you had for your future of, like, you know, you having, like, hapa babies and all this stuff. You just got to let it go and you have to focus on this person. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
And by Harper, you mean half white, half Asian.
Yeah, exactly. I'm curious how the date came to be.
I had actually gone back to Philadelphia, which is where I went to medical school and spent like eight years. And I was actually there to help my best friend prepare for her wedding.
And I remember we were driving in her car on the way to pick up wedding invitations. And I basically was lamenting to her how just frustrating dating was. And I was ready to just quit and be a crazy dog lady.
And she asked me about my settings in my dating app. Oh, interesting.
And I told her that I had actually unchecked the box for Asians.
And she basically asked me, you are in California, you are in San Francisco. Don't you think you're excluding a large population of potentially eligible men?
She actually came from a similar background to me in that we both came from largely kind of white communities. And she was actually getting married to somebody who is Vietnamese. And I think it really helped me because she kind of talked to me through her own demons and how she kind of got through that process. And I remember her basically saying, can you just go on a date with somebody, go in a few days, you know, with East Asian men?
I promise you, Sarah, like it's not what you think it is. So basically, that's what I did. I checked the box so that Asian men were included. And then I started getting new faces and looking through them and then swiping right on a few. And so I had set up, I think at the time, like two dates with Asian men in that first week. And Andrew actually ended up being my second date.
I imagine that race came up again. And discussions or just in your dating, what were some of those conversations like?
Yeah, I think it was interesting because and why I think it was helpful and it ultimately worked out is because Andrew could empathize with where I was coming from. But he also comes from a very different perspective. He came from a background where there weren't that many Asians, but his family really imbued in him the sense that you should be proud to be Chinese. The message that my parents sent me was a lot more around. Like, you just fit in, right.
And people are always going to treat you differently.
You know, when we have these conversations, something that we talked a lot about is, you know, how we think about our own race really affects how we act.
And do you remember a time in your childhood where you felt that being Asian was undesirable?
I'd say like all the time growing up, my school was two percent Asian. That includes East Asian, South Asian.
And ever since I was little, there was always, you know, the little jokes that children would have around Asian eyes. Whenever my mom packed me, which now looking back, is like amazing food for lunch, but smelled different.
People would kind of look at my lunch and kind of put this little grimace and like, oh, why does that smell so weird? I also never felt beautiful when I was growing up. I always wanted to look like my friends who were blond, blue eyed, just because to me, when I looked in media, that was what was desired. And that really affected my view of who I was as a person. And so all I ever wanted to do was just fit in.
I actually went to Chinese school every weekend, so we drove an hour to go to Houston for Chinese school. And my friends were like, why are you going to Chinese school? Like, why can't you come to my birthday party? Like, all of these things just made me feel like, oh, I hate being Asian. I hate being different.
Actually, on that point, I think moving to California has really opened my eyes as well. I mean, one thing I love is that I feel normal everywhere I go. People are so accustomed to Asian culture, Asian food, it's such a different world.
And so I think a lot of my friends who grew up in California, when we share our backgrounds, it's it's so surprising because they went to schools that were 70 percent Asian. Yeah. And I can't even fathom, like, what that experience is like. So it's been very interesting to hear, like, what is it like when in some ways you're actually not the minority?
I remember I have I grew up in New York City, but I have some family in Hawaii. I'm actually mixed race. I remember going to Hawaii for the first time to visit family and just being blown away, seeing so many mixed race people of Asian descent. That was really kind of staggering to me to to be in the majority in one sense or experience that. So, Sara, is Andrew there?
Could we maybe bring him in if he's around? Yeah, let me go grab him. Thank you. Let's get a little closer than my. Thank you, guys.
So, Andrew, very nice to talk to you as well. Of course, I'm curious about your experience in the early days of dating and how you felt about Sarah's admission on the first date.
Yeah, I think this was the first time I ever experienced this, but the first time ever that anybody's ever said, oh, hey, like you're the first Asian guy I've ever got a date with an issue. It was actually it was really shocking.
It was like the shocking I've ever I've ever experienced because we had this great date. And then all of a sudden it was like, oh, OK, this is clearly what I think it is. So my immediate reaction was, I guess as an overconfident guy, I was like, I should get past this one. It'll be OK. We can all find ways to get past get past racism.
And then speaking of confidence, what kind of stopped you from writing Sarah off, as you said or wrote, on behalf of all Asian men at that point?
Oh, yeah. I think the reason why I didn't write her off was because we just maybe it was sunk, sunk cost fallacy. There was just so much time that we had put into it. And I was like this. This makes no sense. Right? Like, I want this to be a moment where we'll both remember this. As this moment happened, we made a decision to get out of our comfort zones or not, and I wanted that to happen.
And you guys just opened the conversation by discussing each of your past?
Yeah, I think we had several conversations around that. And he didn't really shy away, I guess, because he's like, oh, challenge. Awesome.
Let me I'm going to overcome this. It's crazy.
Sunk cost fallacy.
Maybe American confidence is what it is perhaps for us, but I think that really helps. And I think it goes for a lot of things, I think in dating and in life. Right. When you put yourself out there and somebody doesn't turn away, it means something. And so I think that really helped me feel like I can be myself in front of this person. And they're not sure they may be judging me, but they're not shying away from working with me on this.
I mean, that is what relationships are, right, and I think that's kind of something now, looking back that he did that made me feel like I should invest. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, Andrew, I really appreciate you guys speaking to me and being so open. Thanks, Neal. We really appreciated the opportunity to.
You're very welcome. You're listening to Modern Love, the show is produced by Kelly Prime and Hans Butoh and edited by Sarah Sarasohn and Wendy Dorje.
Music is by Dan Powell. This week's essay was written by Andrew Leigh and is read by you. And our Tiny Love Story was written and read by Jericho Man to special thanks to Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahima Trelawney, Laura Kim, Bonnie Wertheim on and Sam Dolnick and Corey Sica and also to Ryan Wagner and Kelly Rogers at Autum. The executive producer for New York Times audio is Lisa Tobin and Dan Jones. And I'm really thanks for listening. We'll be back in two weeks with More Modern Love.