anxiety · irrational thinking · life · social anxiety

A touchy subject sets me off

I try to exude the appearance of an ordinary person, despite my social anxiety, because I don’t want to stand out or be noticed as different. It’s too bad that I’m unable to live up to this facade since I know I’m someone with many deep and unresolved issues.

I often feel myself reacting defensively whenever a subject I am not comfortable discussing happens to come up on conversation. I know I react this way because my brain has gotten used to reacting this way. One subject that elicits this kind of response from me is when my parents ask me about my friends, or the people I hung out with during my day out.

I do not mind saying where I went and what I did, but it’s when I’m asked specific questions about how I met the person or asked questions about the person in general (where  he/she lives, works or goes to school, ethnic background, etc) that I start to feel very testy and almost like the questions are becoming invasive. I feel a combination of anxiety and pressure to answer these questions, and also irritation over my parents’ desire to know more about the person. Often I think to myself, Why do you even need to know all this? I have a lingering feeling of resentment and start wondering if my parents are just interrogating me on purpose. Perhaps I am partially to blame for feeling so sensitized because of the anxiety factor and the discomfort I feel over answering them, but there have been instances where I do think their questions cross into unnecessary territory.
An example is several months ago I was going to meet up with a friend, Michael, in Union Square. And I told my dad this because I was getting ready to leave in a few minutes. He started to ask me questions about the friend. Where he lives, what he does, how did I meet him, etc. Then, of course, he asked me what race is my friend. The minute he found out my friend is black, that’s when the prejudice began. I was in disbelief that he actually told me to be careful around the person and not go over the person’s house. I honestly feel if my friend was white, my dad wouldn’t have given me the third degree. It pissed me off that he was being so biased towards someone he doesn’t even know all because of race.

And now this afternoon, he once again gave me grief about the same friend. I already started feeling annoyed when he asked me again where the friend lives and what train he takes. It also pissed me off that he never seems to remember the names of non-Chinese people, and always just refers to them by their race. He actually referred to my friend as “the black guy” in Mandarin Chinese. Not cool. Then he pointedly asked me if the guy wanted me as a girlfriend. I answered my dad by saying no in my most bitter tone. It irked me that he jumped this ridiculous and unwarranted conclusion right away, which I think is because he doesn’t get that women can be friends with men without shit going further than that. And my dad had the audacity to respond like, “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t be that naive to be tricked into a relationship.” Are you kidding me?  If he sincerely thinks that, I feel sorry for his narrow minded view just because I am friends with anon-Asian person who happens to be male.

Him and my mom have lived in New York for more than 30 years, and yet they act like they don’t want to speak English unless they have to, and all their friends are Chinese. I get it, that’s their comfort zone, especially since they didn’t grow up in America where different races interacting with each other is a regular and normal thing. But I’m different. I was born here, and I really don’t care what race my friends are, as long as they are good and nice people.

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15 thoughts on “A touchy subject sets me off

    1. Would you say prejudice in Chinese families is a real thing? My parents have been in New York for more than 30 years and yet they’ve done very little to cultivate friendships or connections with non-Chinese people. I get the sense my mom sticks to her Chinese clique because that’s where she feels most comfortable, and maybe trying to make conversation where she has to speak English makes her nervous. However, I think it’s wrong for her to be blatantly prejudice. If I can give an example, her brother is coming to NY soon and will stay in a hotel when he gets here. And she was getting all freaked out because the hotel is run by black people. I’m like, how is that even a problem?

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      1. I would say that prejudice exists in every family. I would even say that everyone has prejudices, and not just racially. But, yes, in this context, what you described is very apparent and common in the Chinese culture, particularly with the older generation.

        It used to really anger me as well — the things my parents would say and the prejudiced views they held. I think as we age, we become better able at handling our emotional reactions and we don’t flare up as easily. Maybe it’s desensitisation to the prolonged exposure 😉 , but I’ve found that removing myself from the situation/conversation is the best way to handle it. It still affects me (and even continues to surprise me at times), but at least not in the way where it feels like a WWIII. Sometimes I drop a pensive question before leaving in hopes that they’ll ponder about it and reevaluate their beliefs, but they’ve remained stagnant over the years so it’s doubtful that they’ll change much.

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