As an Asian-American woman, I know that before leaving my house every morning, I better make damn sure that my clothes are not too slutty, my makeup not too thick, my voice not too coy, my glance not too seductive, and my gestures not too lewd. I know to keep to myself on crowded sidewalks and to choose a seat on the train far away from unknown men. I know to duck my head and remain meek when catcalls follow me down the street, and to give a quick smile when random men tell me “You’re too pretty for a frown”. I know that this is necessary, even though I am raging with fury inside, so angry that bile fills my mouth and burns the back of my throat. I know this is necessary because should I be assaulted, raped, or murdered, my appearance, presentation, and actions will all be taken as evidence to prove my guilt in my own nightmare. As an Asian-American woman, I feel pressured to be twice, three times more aware of this than my white peers, because my ethnicity already labels me as a whore in Western society. Being an Asian-American woman in a white man’s world means that, by default, I am already asking to be dominated, over-powered, defiled.
To be an “other” in the United States means to live this kind of lifestyle - hyper-cautious, hyper-aware, suspicious, scared. To be an “other” in the US means to swallow your pride, swallow your identity. We hear stories about our female friends being raped and then denied by authorities who don’t care. We read about a murdered boy whose killer was set free by a jury who believes that “black” is reason enough to be shot through the heart. We swallow these stories too, and secretly wait for our turn.
Women, racial and ethnic minorities, gays, transsexuals - we’re told to put our hands over our hearts as we watch the rippling flag and be goddamn grateful to be a fucking American.
“Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don’t wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are papier-mâché puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don’t lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.”