All grown up… Asian in Australia

For eighteen years I tried to be everything but the Asian stereotype. I swam up to five times a week, played cricket, tennis, sucked at maths, and then I got to university and didn’t give a shit anymore. 

All that teenage angst was finally behind me. My journalism degree was going well; I was making new friends, and falling headfirst into a relationship. All was fine and dandy – no, it was better than I could’ve ever imagined and then came a night where all that teenage angst caught up with me.

Being Asian I naturally have some stereotypes; I play the piano, I did once want to be doctor, I eat rice daily, and would eat dumplings more if I could. But, the biggest stereotype I seem to be living out is being in a relationship with a white guy. To be more precise; an Asian girl in a relationship with a white dude – yep, one of those interracial couples like in Iron Fist, Pacific Rim, and The Last Samurai

It was just a joke at first until my Asian friends pointed it out to me, and to no surprise so did my mother…and father…and brother. Then suddenly I was the target of conversation as mum, the Indonesian gang ringleader of gossip would be on the phone informing family friends of my newfound relationship.  I could only hear her side of the conversation but I knew what the conversation was, when she said, “You know my daughter, of course he’s white.”

One time I remember a phone conversation mum had with one of her friends. She talked about how if she could do it again, she would’ve sent my brother and I to more “diverse” schools, so maybe we would’ve turned out more Asian.

And, to be honest, that freaked me the fuck out.

Was I only dating my very white-Australian boyfriend because he was just that, and I needed the validation? Like hey, I’m Asian but at least I’m definitely assimilating to a white-Australia? Was this another one of my tricks to blend in just like in high school? And what about my boyfriend – did he have a thing for Asians – the yellow fever? My brother joked about it a lot, was it actually a thing or am I just overthinking all of this? SHIT.

And then I saw my boyfriend the next day and I figuratively kicked myself.

Why was I letting myself get caught up in this again, when 90 per cent of it was in my head?

I happen to like swimming, tennis, and cricket because I genuinely enjoy the sports. I hate maths because I don’t understand it. I love dumplings, who doesn’t? And I love my boyfriend because he’s kind, smart, and drop dead gorgeous – there’s the cliché.

I did have major identity issues when I was younger, I can finally admit that shamelessly now and they did affect me once. I’d be lying if I said I grew up unscathed by the Pauline Hanson’s of my childhood, but I know my choices and I own them now.

I’ve read dozens of books and articles about growing up Asian in Australia, but they never talk about what happens afterwards.

Well I like to think I’m past the “growing-up” stage now and I can say – for me at least – to fuck the stereotypes. Growing up was hard enough without trying to stop myself from just being me. It screwed me over enough times when I was younger, and I won’t let it anymore.

Words by Steffanie Tan

IG – @steffwith2effs

Art by Sa Pasa

IG – @sa.illustrations

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