At the Asian Pacific American student conference, a Chinese American student shared with me a story about being ridiculed for bringing roast duck to "Culture Day" at his school. Some of us also have "that story."
In elementary school, it is customary for kids to bring treats on their birthday to share with the rest of the class. For a lot of students, it's usually in the form of homemade cupcakes. My parents had no idea what cupcakes were, much less the idea of baking. We steamed our carbs.
On my birthday in the 3rd grade, I told my dad I had to bring snacks to share with my classmates. He rummaged through our cabinets and produced a package of seaweed cookies.
Guess how many students took the cookies?
Two. My best friend in class and another girl whose mother was Japanese. Everybody else pretty much passed them on with puke faces as if I was offering them moldy bread.
For Isaac's birthday, I was determined to make cupcakes that were Pinterest-worthy. Homemade funfetti cupcakes from scratch (heck no to the box) with perfectly piped frosting, learned from watching Youtube videos.
While we're at it, personalized milk bottles with red chevron paper straws. He wants mac and cheese? Let's make two recipes that adults and children will love.
You don't need a PhD in Psychology to see the connection.
Asian Americans all have ways in which we assimilate. The weird thing about realizing that you are trying to fit in is the ambivalence that comes with it.
Do I keep making these cupcakes? Am I doing a bad job in helping Isaac embrace Chinese culture? Should I make him serve seaweed cookies on his birthday?
I don't know.
For Valentine's Day, we're giving out superhero cards designed by an Etsy store. Still ambivalent.