Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Love Song for Every Girl

This song was written for the children of Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy For Girls in South Africa, but I've put it in the queue of lullabies to memorize for my unborn daughter. Hope you pass along to every niece, daughter, sister, girlfriend you know. It's "Beautiful Flower" by India Arie.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Perspectives outside the "Friend Box"

I present to you two perspectives on dating a friend. First, the cautionary tale by Musiq Soulchild (linked it, because Youtube disabled embedding) vs. the dive-right-in lobby by Corinne Bailey Rae:

What say you, dear readers? What have you done to get out of the friend box, and how'd that turn out for you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cultural Differences: This Blog vs. Adsense

I saw the Asian fetish ads from Google, and I've blocked them. If you see anything else completely incompatible with Shut Up and Love, send me the url of the advertiser, so I can block it, too! Guess some bots only see what they want to see.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cultural Differences: Between Friends

Recently, I was waxing nostalgic with a childhood friend about the moment she realized I wasn't white. We were in eighth grade, monopolizing the phone as tweens do, when she had her epiphany. "You never noticed even when I don't speak English to my parents?" I asked, genuinely surprised. "Well, I guess I never thought about it," she said. "Vietnamese just sounds like quack quack quack to me." Those were really old, good days, pre-race consciousness, when we just talked about Animaniacs and laughed all the time.

Now, friendships are fraught with complications like dating, wealth-consciousness, and race. The race landmines can be awkward and mostly harmless as this Facebook message from an acquaintance:
you'd be so proud of my current asianness. i just made authentic pho soup.”
(She’d also declared herself an “honorary Asian” over spring rolls when I saw her last month. It’s awkward, because it sounds like a lunch special could stand in for all refugee, assimilation, and minority experiences.) The landmines can also be as scathing as someone (our generation, my race, and just last week) suggesting that my dating someone who isn't Asian is a failure of character and a personal betrayal. That person and I may never speak again.

It’s common for majority-folks to disclaim, “It's impossible for me to put myself in your shoes, and experience what you must feel every day.” I disagree. Most people have had at least one searing experience with alienation - perhaps as a woman in a male-dominated field or as the fat kid in a skinny school. Many people, though, use it as a card to win some unspoken victimization contest, rather than as a foundation for understanding.

Once, a girlfriend and I got into a serious email exchange after two nights out: one where I’d gotten us on the list at Verve (she was one of the few white people there and decided to leave) and the other when she’d invited me to East Andrews (I was one of the few people of color, and didn't enjoy the 80s rock cover band). We both said some things after drinking some things, I think. Sober, she wrote, “It makes me angry that people of other races assume that I’ve never been discriminated against when they discriminate more against me than I ever have or will against them. Since I’m white, that’s what they expect from me.” There are two kinds of discrimination here, and both must exist simultaneously to exist at all. Conversely, if one goes, the other evaporates, too.

It can be done. First, minorities have to acknowledge that white friends are trying and missteps don’t constitute racism; this way, we can all get on the same team. (That’s one of the two twin racisms.)

Second, majorities have to stop being defensive to the point of killing discussion before it starts. Out of frustration, some people refuse to discuss cultural or racial differences at all, because they feel that acknowledging them gives prejudice power. But like anger or addiction, we can't get rid of something we don't acknowledge.

Thirdly, never argue against each other. Argue for understanding. Trust that you want to understand your friend as much as she wants to understand you, even –especially- when the conversation starts out uncomfortably. These exchanges rarely come up casually, and when they do, no one wants to lose a friend over it. About these landmines, she wrote, “It makes me angry that I can cause pain and pour salt into this wound every time I open my mouth without even knowing it.” When any of us don’t know, it’s because we're all reluctant to educate each other. I wrote her, “I know your heart enough to refuse to believe that you would choose to continue to cause pain unknowingly.”

We grew closer in these days of emails than we had in years of nights out. Difference is often where the beauty of friendship lies.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Size of "sympathy groups"

"...Make a list of all the people you know whose death would leave you truly devastated. Chances are you will come up with around 12 names. That, at least, is the average answer most people give to that question. Those names make up what psychologists call our sympathy group. Why aren't groups any larger? Partly it's a question of time. ...To be someone's friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting. At a certain point, at somewhere between 10 to 15 people, we begin to overload." -The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I wonder whether if we learn to accept death, we'd have enough emotional energy left to love more people. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cultural Differences: Meeting Each Others' Families

"Once he gets his green card and his PhD, if you get fat enough, he'll leave you." -my father over dessert after meeting my Beloved

"Doesn't your boyfriend say something about your low cut clothes!"-my mother livid about my summer dress

"I'm just worried that people might be racist in Germany, and he won't be proud to bring you around to his friends."
-my mother on our cultural differences
"Mom, we love to show each other off. We're hot." -my American response

"You're talking about getting engaged and raising children, but you don't even live together yet?" -his father upon realizing we are waiting to move in

"Did you already pop the question?" -my 12-year-old nephew to my Beloved
"What question?" -my 11-year-old nephew

"Ivy, Ivy! Do you know about Helmut Schmidt? Come, I'll tell you!"
-his father about his favorite German chancellor

"He doesn't eat fish? That's ok, we'll just order him shrimp." -my mom accommodating my boyfriend's aversion to seafood

"You enrich our family!" -his aunt to me

"No, I don't hate him." -my father when asked about my Beloved

Thursday, July 2, 2009

News Roundup: I Procrastinate, So You Can, Too!

Gay Sex Decriminalised in India
Actually, just in Delhi, and the ruling might be overturned by the high court. Gay rights groups and the Indian government's HIV/Aids control body are elated for homosexuality to be legalised, while clerics and old people are among those shaking their fists at gay revelers covered in celebratory vermilion, hugging and dancing in the streets. India's a democracy, so I'm sure they'll deal. (See the BBC story.)

She's Just Not That into You
All us girls who have accidentally left a trail of broken hearts, we just got called out. (See essay.)

Home Is Next to the One You Love, Especially if You're Homeless
I like to read wedding announcement articles, k? You got a problem with that? Huh! I will cut somebody! Seriously, this wedding story is the only one I've ever read that had me on the verge of tears. Congratulations, Jennifer and Paul, on your nuptials and overcoming your demons. (See the article.)

My Boyfriend Meets My Parents
I know those of you in intercultural relationships are following this story closely. My Beloved of nearly two years met my father about a week ago, and he handled it like a champ. My father, when questioned directly, "So? Do you hate him?" said, "No, I don't hate him - but I can't love him either." Ha! We'll see about that! This weekend, we're going to surprise my mother for her birthday. She's in an intercultural relationship herself, but her standards for men having their business together is very, very high. Expect a wildly entertaining account of the interrogation soon. (See me in Texas.)



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