Daily Archives: June 28, 2008


“I grew up in Beverly Hills. The only Chinese I know is from a Mr. Chow’s menu. Besides, I’m Korean.” – Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy

It’s a very strange thing that’s happened four times over the past nine days. And it’s even stranger that it should happen in this country.

Thursday, 6/19/08, Corporate Communications Division, RHB:

Kim Ping: You barukah? (Are you new?)
Me: (a little startled that a woman so clearly Chinese is using Malay) Yes, I am.
Marina: This is Sandra. Sandra, this is Kim Ping, from Procurement.
Kim Ping: Sandra… Are you Chinese?
Me: Yeees…
Marina: Nampak macam orang putih ke? (Does she look white?)
Kim Ping: No, macam Melayulah. (No, she looks Malay)
Me: (thinking) Whaaaat?

Yesterday, Commercial Division, RHB:

Alwin: Sandra, you are Malay or Chinese? *
Me: (slightly incredulous) Do I not look Chinese?
Alwin: Actually, not really. But I saw that your surname is Chinese, but you don’t really look like it, some more today you are wearing baju Melayu *.
Me: (baffled) No, I’m Chinese.
Amanda: 100% Chinese?
Me: As far as I know.
Christina: Oh, we just asking *, because normally Chinese people don’t have double eyelids.

Today, Subang Parade:

Hana: While you were in the fitting room the salesgirl said you’re very fair for a Malay. I’m like, “She’s Chinese.”

Some eyewear store
Salesman 1: Miss, are you wearing colored contacts?
Me: Um… I don’t wear contacts.
Salesman 1: Oh, because your eyes can see have very hazel color. *
Me: No, no. No contacts.
(A few minutes later)
Salesman 1: Miss, are you mixed **?
Me: Excuse me?
Salesman 1: Yah, you look like mix with Malay. *
Me: (astounded) I’m Chinese.
Salesman 2: Pure Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…
Salesman 2: So you speak Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…

I’ve always thought I look as Chinese as everyone else, and it never fails to throw me off when people ask otherwise, and even more so when they’ve already taken a look at my name in black and white. Maybe if I wore my glasses and had absolutely no makeup on people would have less trouble telling my race. That way even the double eyelids can’t be that misleading.

*Grammar is deliberately erroneous to accurately represent the manner of speech
** The term used to describe multiracial people

Keeping on toes

The fear of inadequacy plagues us throughout our lives. We’re always afraid that we wouldn’t be good enough at our job, our relationship, our friendships, and pretty much everything else right down to lawn bowling. We spend our days wondering if we got that press release right, if our boss is silently scrutinizing us and thinking they might be better off without us, or if we’re really what the other person wants, or if we measure up to their expectations of us. Even if things were going all right, somewhere in the back of our minds the question will always lurk: Is it all enough? Am I enough?

When we feel inadequate, we try harder than we can afford to to show that given the chance, we can be good enough. Unfortunately this applies most to a relationship, because whether or not we like to admit it, no matter how bad a time we’re having at work, no matter how difficult everything else is, and no matter how self-sufficient we’d like to think we are, we just need to know that there’s someone we can come home to at the end of the day and who (hopefully) loves us just the way we are. Even then, twenty years down the road, we could still harbor the fear that what we say or do will never be good enough, and we might still be spending a good deal of our time looking at them as the person who second-guessed us so much before that we have to wonder if they’re still second-guessing us now.

We would lay down our lives to show the boss that we’re really not as inept as we may seem, to make the other person realize that we can really can get this relationship thing right, to comfort ourselves that we really can be good enough at life itself. This then begs the question: are we sticking to the job, the relationship, or whatever endeavor we have at hand because we know we really want it, or because it has reached a level at which we just want to prove our point?