Where’s Waldo, the Asian Man’s Burden


Warm welcome to my friend youarethepan who contributed this post.

At some point between middle school and high school, I realized that I could no longer just look at the opposite gender and see women for what they were — human beings who typically had longer hair, curves in areas that I didn’t, and no lump behind their zippers. Instead, there would be an assessment of whether or not I found that person attractive. In the beginning, this assessment, if you will, was more deliberate but not intentional. As I grew older and my voice deepened and turf grew just under the belt buckle, this assessment was instantaneous, like reactions to an inkblot test. Her…I’m attracted to. Her…I am not attracted to. (This is not to say that she is not attractive. I am simply not attracted to her). I actually witnessed this happening before my very eyes. I remember asking myself, “Why is it that I can’t just look at females any more and think nothing?” It’s as if I must determine whether or not I find them attractive, physically at least. My theory begins with our coming of age into that mode when we walk into a room, go to a new place, start a new job, begin the school year or attend a first class and instinctively look around our environment for people we find attractive; it’s like an animal coming into a new territory and sniffing around to find potential prey. For those of you who have been to college, you remember orientation week or moving onto your freshmen floor? You scope out the scene, you introduce yourself to people in dorm rooms at parties and on your floor. For some people, the thought “Who can I hook up with?” flashes into their minds. For others: “He’s cute. I hope I get to know him better.” Regardless of what thought crosses your mind, you are mindful of the people you find attractive. Not only this, you usually remember that person’s name.

As the only non-Caucasian in my high school group of friends and one of the only Asians in the school, I grew up being one of the few kids that didn’t have a significant other, while others went through a different significant other every few weeks. In high school, there was not much of an option other than to pursue Caucasian females, but it was pretty clear early on that none were interested (in me). So, where does Waldo play into all of this?

Basically, Asian guys, for the most part, become a part of the scenery, like in a Where’s Waldo picture book. Notice that in a Where’s Waldo scene, you never notice anyone that isn’t Waldo; they are not special. The only individuals you assess are the people wearing a red and white striped shirt. Everyone else is just a part of the background. Similarly, females who have no interest in men of ethnic heritage, mostly females from the South or most red states, simply gloss over Asian guys. Why? Because they are not familiar with the notion of finding Asian males attractive. Therefore, these females do not even bother making that instant assessment: “Do I find him attractive?” And the reason they don’t make this assessment usually is due to a subconscious belief that all Asians look alike. I know this sounds racist, but seriously, think about it. With a few exceptions, how do you describe Asian males? He has black hair, brown eyes, and he’s either short or medium height1.

Do you know Daniel Lee?

Which one?

The Korean guy with short black hair, brown eyes, about 5’9” and medium build.

Oh, that guy…

Yeah, riiiiiight. At least with other races, you can use blonde, brunette, red, strawberry-blonde, blue, green, aquamarine, 6’4”, 6’6”. For people who are not used to meeting many Asians, they do not possess an eye to distinguish distinct Oriental features and appreciate types of beauty that are not common in the West.

Until college, I did not have many Indian friends. I knew maybe a handful from middle and high school, but it wasn’t until my freshmen year that I had a few Indians as close friends. My sophomore year, I lived with an Indian fellow by the name of Varun, who became a pretty popular figure in the Indian community, through being active in the South-Asian culture club, performing on an Indian cultural dance team—CU Bhangra—and generally just being a really solid guy. Through this friendship and roommate-ship, I began to make more Indian friends, and they no longer all looked the same to me anymore. I mean, you really could say this about any group of people, except white people really never say it about white people. I even confuse Asians all the time. No big deal.

Gradually, through growing a greater appreciation for Indians in general, by building friendships and becoming more familiar with the culture, I also began to find people of that heritage more attractive. Learning to appreciate different cultures or heritages that you are not used to is a lot like acquiring a taste for beer2 or exotic foods. With more exposure, your appreciation for it grows.

So, where does the burden lie? The burden lies in the pressure to make an impression. If you are any guy, much less an Asian guy, if you want a girl to remember you, you have to stand out (or your looks have to stand out). Asian guys are immediately at a disadvantage because their looks don’t stand out. I can’t tell you how many times I have met females in a variety of circumstance, usually white, that I knew upon shaking their hand that they won’t remember me or my name. If I were the only Asian at the event or in the room, then I’d probably be remembered or referred to as “that Asian kid.” I almost feel inclined to say that there is little one can do to change a person’s perspective on an entire race of people, but based on my own personal experience, I don’t think that that is true. You can, in fact, make an impression on a person to make them see you in all your colors. Just don’t feel pressure to change or to stand out if it isn’t for you. Chances are, the type of girl or boy you want to win over isn’t someone who you have to prove yourself to; it’s someone who can see you are indeed beautiful.

  1. This fact, however, may be true. I cannot tell you how many times, since I’ve been here in Korea that I’ve seen someone and thought that it was someone I knew back at school. It’s quite trippy.

  2. Unless, all you drink is Natty Light. Then just [get out][4].