One of us

I believe that perhaps no other ethnic group does this in small towns across Canada (correct me if I’m wrong): Almost always when I meet another Asian person in a small town where there aren’t expected to be many, I am stopped and asked the same questions.

“Are you [insert Asian nationality that I’m expected to be]?”

“You live here?”

“How long have you been in Canada?”

“These are your children?”

“Oh, so beautiful! What is their father?”

Then follows a 5-minute conversation about where we were born, when we came to Canada, and do our kids speak “the old language” (and if they don’t, of course, they must learn).

I never mind these questions, of course, and truth be told, I’m usually just as excited as they are to see someone like me in a small town. But I’ve been living in this town for almost seven years, so I’m surprised to still get these questions, as I did today. I thought I’d become one of the “established” Asians in town by now. All the while, my kids are polite and accomodating (especially the Boy, who usually isn’t) when the stranger asks them questions, pats their head, and asks for a high-five. They seem to innately understand that they’ve just entered a secret club, that they’re “one of us” now, and they must put up with answering the questions and being prodded and examined like museum displays.

Indeed, it sometimes does feel like a secret club, entry to which is granted to anyone who simply looks the part. The Beloved Husband used to jokingly call it “The Brotherhood”, as if we all instantly recognise it and belong to it in a quiet way. But it doesn’t happen to white people. And I’m guessing that with any other visible minority group, they don’t just stop and accost each other—nod politely to each other, maybe. I guess Asians (especially of an older generation) do it because they’re known for their forthrightness. And if I’m going to belong to the club, it’s something that I’d better get used to.

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