Though I don’t share my real name, I will share with you a secret, my maiden name is Asian. It’s Asian because I am part Asian. I grew up in an area that is, by no means, lacking in members of all Asian communities, but I still got asked the typical questions:
“Do you know karate?” No. Do you?
“Do you speak your ethnic language?” No, do you speak yours?
And, of course, my absolute FAVORITE question of all time, “Sooooo, where are you from?” I’m from Washington, why do you ask? (Note the sarcasm)
But, for all of the silly questions, the ignorant statements, and random guesses as to what my ethnic background could be (and not a single person has EVER guessed correctly) one story sticks out in my mind so boldly that it’s actually become one of lore in our life.
To preface this story, let me tell you that one thing I’ve always found absolutely hilarious, is the fact that people always ask if my mom is the Asian one. Mind you, my last name is Asian, so chances are it’s my father, not my mother who is the non-Caucasian in our household. That said, it also means that people are amazing at making broad assumptions with absolutely nothing to back it up.
The scene of my tale is Walt Disney World, the year 2008. My husband and I were on our honeymoon and having a fabulous time. I had planned the whole thing on my own, so all reservations were in my maiden name because I hadn’t yet changed it. We planned on having some fun evenings out at some of the finer dinning establishments, but we are not fancy people, so we prefer to eat at fun places. When the chance came up to eat at an Early America themed restaurant while we were at an after park hours event, we jumped on it.
We had just spent an evening of riding rides with no lines, treasure hunting and generally looking positively ridiculous participating in a pirate and princess themed night, being BY FAR the oldest people there who were not escorting children, when it was time to eat. We walked into the restaurant and gave them our name and waiting patiently for our table.
After a few minutes, a Disney employee approached the hostess and began speaking with her. The hostess gestured towards us and the employee’s eyes got wide and the hushed conversation continued. It was beginning to feel very awkward. This was obviously not something they were doing in attempts to set up some sort of honeymoon surprise, but what on earth could we have done in just five minutes of standing there to cause such a ruckus?
The employee finally approached us and verified that we were the people in question who had made the reservation. When I told her we were, she laughed and said, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m your interpreter for the evening.”
It took just about everything in me NOT to ask if my Washingtonian accent was too thick for the hostess to understand. Not everyone appreciates my snarky sense of humor. And it just goes to show you that odd assumptions about race are not limited to eight year old kids on a playground.
On the bright side of this strange and hysterical tale of oddly placed racial assumptions, she was assigned to us whether we spoke English or not, so we had a dedicated server for the evening, had fabulous service and she was a delightful person to spend an evening with.