Throughout the years of having brought Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and every other shade of Asian to my Caucasian mother’s house to meet the family, she’s never once batted an eyelash or given me an odd look (although she did laugh the time the Cantonese guy jokingly asked if our dog was for dinner). She deliberately allowed me to grow up in a heavily Asian environment and openly embraced the romantic consequences of it.
I remember having to teach her how to say my first crush’s name (Fangzhou) when I was eight. But just because she has been a blessing in my life doesn’t mean that dating Asian guys has been easy. Far from it; the only more difficult task I will ever face in my life will be the day I give birth to my kids.
Once you get beyond the factor of actually finding an amazing Asian man who is open to interracial dating, that same Cantonese guy stood by and let his Asian mother tell him that he could “work off some steam” by taking me to bed if he wanted, but there was no way in Hell he was dating me. The Viet parents never knew about me.
And that’s the unfortunate reality for many white women who like Asian men. We are often little more than taboo.
So when I started dating my Chinese ex back in 2011, having had experience with Asian moms, I was terrified that she would hate me, especially since he told me that she harbored resentment at her born-in-Beijing son being so Americanized. I remember my heart pounding as he drove me up the driveway. The first few minutes were tense, and then he did the unthinkable: he said that he and his stepdad were going to go out and bring back a Philly and I was going to stay there with his mother, alone, until they came back.
I was terrified and wanted to gag him with his citizenship papers and strangle him because I knew from his own stories that his mother was a demon from Hell (his words, not mine), but now I’m grateful that he did that because it turned out that she was actually very sweet. In the time that they were gone, she took me into the kitchen where she was making our dinner and we had a woman-to-woman chat about China, Chinese people, Buddhism, and how awful she thought it was that her son was a Twinkie (again, her words, not mine); I later realized that she was testing the waters to see if I was as anti-China as her son.
She ended up telling me that she thought I was more Chinese than her son; she said that she always knew he would bring home a white girl, but that she could rest in peace knowing that he brought home “a white Chinese girl.” She told me, “You more Chinese than my son. He bad, very bad. You good girl, good Buddhist. You good Chinese. Okay, you date my son.”
I don’t mean to poke fun at her accent or manner of speaking, this was real; but even though she was so fobby she didn’t have the best English, she tried her best to make me feel welcome and to tell me that she hoped I’d help her son preserve what was left of his Chinese upbringing.
His mother wasn’t worried about him bringing home an Asian girl; she just wanted to make sure that he’d bring a girl home who wouldn’t stamp the Asian out of him, no matter her background.
Asian moms don’t necessarily want you to be of the same ethnicity; they’re just terrified that you’re going to take the Asia out of their sons. I’m not saying that you’ve got to convert religions or learn a new language to get them on your side, but I am saying that you’ve got to make an effort to show her that you have no intentions of stripping her precious boy of his heritage.
She’s terrified of you, not because you’re white, but because you’re different.
Put yourself in her shoes. Many (not all) immigrants came to this country to escape poverty and war. The things that they learned from their mothers and grandmothers don’t exist here. They have no idea where they are or what they’re doing. Their sons come home doing and saying strange things that they don’t understand.
You’re one of THEM, the others, the people who are making their sons neglect their heritage. If I were one of those moms, I’d be terrified to the point of wetting myself if you walked in the door. If you can cross that barrier, if you can show her that her boy’s not going to starve in your kitchen, if you can show her that you’re going to take care of him like she does, then you’ve just unlocked the biggest gate between you and acceptance.
That’s all that any mother wants for her son: to know that he’s being taken care of.
In my case, the Asian tiger mom was so enamored with me that she completely ignored my several tattoos (one of them very large), something that is notoriously perceived as negative in Asia. She also didn’t care that I was about to move to Thailand for a year to teach. All she was concerned with was the fact that both she and her son could be happy with me.
It’s a daunting task to gain the Asian tiger mom’s acceptance, but in the end you’ll thank yourself for it. If you don’t make her realize that you’re not some evil foreign devil come to steal her son, then you’ll only end up in one of two places: either shoved in the background as a forgotten and forbidden toy, or with a demon tiger of a mother-in-law from Hell who will never stop breathing down the back of your neck until she dies. Neither situation is terribly pleasant.
He and I ended up breaking things off several months later because even I grew tired of his insistence on stamping out his Chinese background, but I’ll never forget the sense of relief I felt when his mother realized that I was actually on her side.
The important thing to remember is this: she’s terrified that you’ve come with a bucket of whitewash in hand, and only YOU can prove to her that her son is in safe hands.