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A Day in a Life of a Not Quite New York Hapa Who Is Told She Looks Like Winnie Cooper From The Wonder Years

  8:15 a.m.

Alarm. Cotton mouth. The side effects of the sertaline (a Zoloft generic because I can’t afford the real thing) are kicking in. Lament Dr. Hoffman for increasing the dosage. I did not sleep well. Eyes still heavy. Press snooze.

8:30 a.m.

Alarm. Half-dreaming of floating balloons and cranes. See a missed call from my mother. I miss her but she stresses me out. Forget to press snooze.

8:55 a.m.

Sound of a blender. Pretty White Roommate is making a protein shake. I’m going to be late for work again.

9:07 a.m.

Ask if Pretty White Roommate wants coffee. She doesn’t. Lately, I’ve grown conscious of how her small muscular frame contrasts with the lazy softness of my curves. If I were fully Asian I would be skinnier. We would go to yoga class together, Pretty White Roommate and I, and talk vegetables as we lay in savasana. Pour more cream in coffee. Chug. It burns. Shower.

9:25 a.m.

Dig out blue-striped sweater from laundry hamper. Thankfully it doesn’t smell. Curse myself for luxuriously prolonging my shower by thirteen point five minutes longer than necessary. Why don’t I ever think about consequences? Now I will be more than half-an-hour late for work.

9:28 a.m.

Get distracted by the mirror.
I am pretty.
I am pretty and nice and smart.
La la la.
Oh god. Am I fat? Am I ugly?
No. I am strong.
No. I am weak.
I forgot to take my pill.
Why don’t I have pants on yet?
Throw on jeans and dash out without make-up.

9:35 a.m

4 Train. Franklin Avenue Station. A young, mixed woman and a middle-aged, distinguished looking white man sits across from me. She spaces out into the distance. He reads “Vollidiot” by Tommy Jaud.

Wonder if they are together?
Wonder what their babies would look like?
He adjusts his black-framed glasses.
For some reason I find this condescending.
There is absolutely no way I will make it uptown by 10.

10:26 a.m.

Office. Although my boss didn’t reprimand me for being late, I could tell she was annoyed. Check email.
Facebook notification: Sara Baines has written on my wall.
Note reads: “Hey winkvegas, i miss your chinese hair and eyes. When are you coming home?”
She is an old friend and means well. In high school, I let my peers call me “crackerjap”. I liked the way I could make them laugh by drawing caricatures of myself as a cartoonish Asian person with bucked teeth and lines for eyes during class.
White people love it when minorities make fun of themselves. They get a certain glint in their eyes, similar to the frightening way fraternity guys cackle when a character on South Park makes a gay joke.

11:00 a.m.

Can’t concentrate on the assignments that are piling on my desk.
Draft responses to Sara’s wall post.
Wonder what “home” is.
I didn’t go back to Kentucky this Christmas and I have no idea when I will return.
Check bank account. It looks bleak.

11:07 a.m.

Settle on “I’m never going to come home if you continue this racism against me”.
Wait for Sarah to retort with another ignorant comment.
What uncultured swines they are.
I’m so special and racially conscious.
My high school friends never appreciated me! They just want to bring me down!

12:12 p.m.

Sara responds with, “I love you.”
I am surprised and then cry a little.

12:44 p.m.

Kitchen. More coffee. I conspicuously tousle my head until Senior Coworker notices my new hair cut. He comments that the length of my bangs makes my face look more Japanese. Wonder if this is a compliment or an insult?

1:26 p.m.

Lunch. Senior Coworker asks me which one of my parents is Japanese.
“My mother,” I say.
Senior Coworker asks me if I speak Japanese.
“Yes,” I say.
Senior Coworker asks me to say something in Japanese.
“Something in Japanese,” I respond.
The questions are always the same. Next, he will ask me how my parents met. I will tell him they were hippies in San Francisco. Which is partially true.

2:40 p.m.

Office. I am typing up a Word document. My fingernails are dirty but I cannot bring myself to care. As I get older, it is getting increasingly difficult to invest time or money into my physical appearance.

2:56 p.m.

I tell myself I am not that old.

3:01 p.m.

Remind myself that in six years, I will be thirty, and then feel guilty for being broke and not having a real job.
The Asian guilt festival pounds my brain.
I feel guilty for never finishing my math class in college.
I feel guilty for being in debt.
I feel guilty for not calling my mother.
I am afraid I am forgetting how to speak Japanese.
Will I ever find love again?
What will I make for dinner?
Maybe I can stop by the Beard Papa and buy shu cream
Because then I would feel guilty for spending money I don’t have and eating unhealthy food.

3:13 p.m.

Feel guilty for feeling guilty and remind myself of my privileges.
I am independent.
I have great friends.
I live in a wonderful city in a free country.
I like what I do.
I do not have to fight in a war with guns or get raped on a daily basis.
I speak two languages.
That’s awesome. I am awesome. Awesome!
I start to go through some papers that have been piling up on my desk.

4:08 p.m.

Boss orders me to run outside for an errand. I like errands because they make me feel productive. I like the way the fresh air feels on my face in the wintertime even though I despise cold weather. It’s sunny. I do not put on my glasses or my hood.

4:45 p.m.

“Oh my god!” a woman shrieks as she stops me on the street.
She stares at my face. I am afraid I have stepped in dog poop or have done something horrible to her in the past that I do not recall.
“You look JUST LIKE Winnie from the Wonder Years,” she exclaims, as if she were the first person to say this to me.
I have chronically been told I resemble Winnie since the 7th grade. These days when people tell me I look like her, I am reminded of my math class.
She is apparently a genius and I am an idiot.

5:35 p.m.

Work bathroom. Glance at my reflection.
I get the “Winnie” comment more when I do not wear eyeliner.
Winnie is white.
Wonder if I look whiter without eyeliner.
Wonder if my natural face appears Caucasian.
Remember Summer 2007 when a talent agent told me that although my haircut may be cool in the United States, it was too old fashioned in Japan. He recommended brown highlights and more layers. Why do Japanese people glorify western features?

6:33 p.m.

4 Train back to Brooklyn. Another Distinguished Looking White Man Approaching Middle Age sits across from me. This one listens to music on his purple headphones.
I wish I hadn’t broken mine. Tsunami by the Southern Allstars would be nice to listen to right about now. I like cheesy J-pop contrary to my snobbishness regarding American music.

7:35 p.m.

Apartment. Pretty White Roommate is not home. Open the fridge to find tofu, onions, a piece of cheese, ketchup, teriyaki sauce and not much else. Concoct tofu teriyaki over rice and dig up some ochazuke from the cabinet. My mother was so sweet to send me a rice steamer for Christmas. She is my biggest fan and I take her for granted. I decide to call her.

8:45 p.m.

Mother berates me for being out of touch. She needs to ask me something important. I wonder if it is about my overdue student loan payments or my essay from last month where I revealed that my father plays with sticks.
She asks me why I blocked her on Facebook. I tell her it’s because of the time she thought I was secretly married to a girl because my relationship status says I am married to Mary, my best friend. I do not want her to worry because of things I write on the Internet. She is hurt. I am always making her cry.

9:13 p.m.

Remember the time I kept making fun of my mother’s accent at the McDonald’s drive-thru. She always said “Mcgwiddle” instead of “McGriddle”.

9:20 p.m.

Begin working on some writing. I feel at home.

10:15 p.m.

Pretty White Roommate returns from a date with Lawyer Guy. She is an actor and I love the animated way she tells stories. We share some edamame and contemplate Lawyer Guy’s intentions.

11:30 p.m.

In bed reading Chibimaruko Chan. Relieved I can still read hiragana but I have to look at the yomigana for nearly all of the kanji. This is what I get for dropping out of Japanese School. Tomorrow I will call my mom for a kanji cho.
Start drifting. See flashes of cute dancing rabbits. Peehyala Peehyala. Papa Parapa.


© 2010 Leah Nanako Winkler

hapa identity new york