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Survival Guide for Asian American Women

  1. Learn to wear eye makeup correctly.

         Nothing suggests an Asian female with a weak self-image like overdone eyes. Making up Asian eyes correctly calls for a subtle blending of earth tones while avoiding bold strokes of blue or green, colors suggestive of caucasian eyes. Rightly or wrongly, the wrong eye makeup marks you as someone trying to distance herself from her racial identity. This will make you a target for the wrong kind of male attention and hurt your chances of being taken seriously by the kind of quality men you would like to attract.

  2. Don't dye or curl your hair.

         Like overdone eyes, dyed or curled hair suggests someone who is alienated from her Asian roots and is desperately seeking acceptance from the white world. I know that many girls who do this are just fashion victims who don't merit this harsh judgment, but it's reality. Changing your natural hair color or texture will only add to your struggles to distance yourself from stereotypes.

  3. Speak or learn an Asian language.

         A trait often (and, again, unfairly) associated with a second-class mentality in Asians is the refusal or inability to speak an Asian language. Obviously many Asian Americans who are second, third or fourth generation grow up with little or no opportunity to learn their ancestral languages. But as long as a majority of Asian Americans can speak an Asian language, our ability to speak an Asian language -- or at least a sincere show of interest in learning it -- will be seen as a test of our cultural identity.

         It's best to acquire at least some degree of Asian language ability before getting to college. Those Asian Americans who hope to establish their bona fides by taking Asian language courses will be regarded with suspicion, especially if they evidence other signs of a weak identity. Having at least a rudimentary ability to read and speak an Asian language will establish you as someone with pride in their Asian heritage.


         Let's take a not uncommon situation: You haven't had a chance to learn your ancestral language and are asked point-blank if you speak it. My answer to that is unequivocal: say that you do. This may seem dishonest, but is justifiable in the face of the suspicion leveled fairly or unfairly against any Asian American without Asian language skills. If you are asked to prove it, say you don't like being tested. Your interlocutor may suspect you of lying, but it's better to be suspected of lying to assert your affinity for Asian culture than to be seen, unfairly, as trying to distance yourself from it.

  4. Cultivate Asian male friends.

         There's nothing wrong with making friends among males of other races, but understand that it may be at the expense of future relationships with Asian males. This is especially true if you are in a non-Asian environment in which Asian females are given social access denied Asian males. If you fall into the trap of hanging out with non-Asian males in an environment that subtly discrminates against Asian males, you will be branded a sellout, even if your relationships with the non-Asian males are purely platonic. That brand is more or less permanent. Not fair? Life isn't. If it were, you wouldn't be reading this Survival Guide.

         Making Asian male friends -- even with those you don't find suitable for romantic interest -- will validate you with other Asian males. When the time comes for you to enter serious relationships, your Asian male friends will vouch, explicitly or implicitly, for your standing as an Asian American woman with pride in her Asian identity. If you haven't managed to cultivate Asian male friends who can validate you in this way, you will have to overcome lingering skepticism from future Asian romantic prospects. As a matter of fact, I would advise against trying to start up a relationship with a serious prospect unless and until you have first managed to cultivate strong friendships with Asian males. Again, we're talking social reality here, not principles of fairness. PAGE 3

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"They learn too late that it takes them ever farther from family, other Asians and, ultimately, their own self-respect."