That's just how, the speaker assumed, I am.
"That's an offensive stereotype," I protested, but was silenced by the man's reassurance that it was a stereotype for a reason. And, he emphasized, there's nothing wrong with it if that's what makes "good little Asian girls" happy.
I had to pause and ask myself if I should be offended by the ignorant assertion thrown at me. Perhaps this guy just misspoke, or he didn't mean exactly what he said.
And then I stopped myself from stopping myself from being offended and just let the anger bubble up. Why should I make excuses for others' casual racism? Why do I need to command myself to not be offended when I felt uncomfortable? Why should I let someone tell me how to feel about a label that's been placed on me?
Was I a raucous teenager growing up who told her parents to go fuck themselves? No. I was on student councils, sang in choir, enjoyed family gatherings. But did that mean I always did what I was told? That I made little to no decisions for myself? That I never rebelled? (Is there a single definition of rebellion all teenagers are "supposed" to follow?)
Background: I grew up in large, close families. As a kid, we never had family reunions because we spent so much time together already--holidays, summer vacations, birthdays, general excuses to see each other for dim sum. Along with my parents and sisters and grandparents (three who are still living to this day), I have 13 aunts and uncles and 12 cousins--and not a single one of them ever told me what to do with my life.
We were told as kids, as most are, to not do things like smoke (not a rule everyone followed) or talk back (definitely not a rule everyone followed), but when it comes to the things that matter--what to study in school, what career path to take, who to date, who to marry, where to live--I can't remember a time it was ever said to me, "You have to choose [insert path here]."
We respected our parents, and in turn they respected us and our decisions too. I remember asking my mom as a sophomore while watching my sister go through the college application process what she wanted me to major in in college. Did she and my dad want me to be a doctor? Or a lawyer? Were we cogs in the mainstream stereotype machine?
She told me that there were things she and my dad would love to see me pursue--things like medicine or accounting--but at the end of the day, this was a decision that I had to make on my own because I was the one who had to live the rest of my life with it. She said that if she forced me to major in something, and then I ended up hating it or I just wasn't very good at it, that I would just end up being mad at her. And that's not something that's healthy or helpful to anyone.
I'm grateful for that. I can tell you for certain that I am who I am because of the strength of those who raised me, and not because of their insistence I blindly bow down to their every wishes. The expectation from those who raised me was never subservience, which is sadly still something that some expect from Asian-American women today--and that needs to stop.