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  • Writer's pictureTsunami Hee Ja

Origin Stories: A passive-aggressive observation about not liking to be asked for mine.

These real life conversations always unravel just like narrative exposition. The only perk? Instant comic:

I've already posted my comic for the week, but I was inspired to knock up this quick offering today after seeing a friend's discussion about the topic of having one's origins questioned by strangers. After scolding myself vigorously for checking in on my Facebook feed (a habit that usually leads to a downward spiral of neurotic self-examination, disapprobation, and generally destructive navel gazing), I went back to my drawing desk and tried to summon some innocuous fluff to doodle for the rest of my morning. Instead I considered the viewpoints of all parties involved in what I would call a fairly heated conversation.

I know that in the past I have felt angry and upset when people have asked me "where are you from?"

This pointed curiosity is invariably based on my ethnic appearance, and I find the question terribly awkward. It usually leads to a predictable line of inquiry, which despite its familiarity, never fails to cause discomfort.

I've had the same conversation with little old ladies at the supermarket, taxi-drivers, hair-dressers, students - even a creepy laundromat lurker. It's the question that I know is probably going to come up if I talk to anyone long enough.

"Where are you from?" In some instances there are requests that I speak some Korean (I can't), or as in the scenario depicted above, I'm asked about my mysterious birth parents.

Fun fact: I have actually done a search for my birth mother, and she either couldn't be found, or refused to be put in contact with me ( I'll never know which because the agency was not at liberty to say). Even prior to this fruitless venture however, I have always (and will always) consider my "real" parents the two wonderful human beings who adopted and raised me. All of that said, I no longer feel so angry about being asked, even though it still isn't something I like.

I have always understood that the people who question me never see the sore spot they are pressing. Having not experienced exactly what I have, they can't imagine the residual feelings of rejection, abandonment, and not-belonging that stir within my being every time I'm reminded that I don't look a certain way. They didn't spend long hours staring in the mirror when they were children wishing to look Caucasian so the bullying at school would stop.

But none of these people meant to be hurtful. I believe most (though obviously not laundro-lurker) were just attempting to be friendly.

And perhaps at some point I could have expressed my reluctance to speak about these things with the strangers who asked me. Explained that it made me uncomfortable, not only for my own sake, but in solidarity with countless others who endure the same queries with unease.

This is emotional labor I have chosen not to take on because I dislike confrontation.

And I am reminded that I too have asked thoughtless questions or made insensitive statements about people or situations I haven't fully understood. Hasn't everybody at some point? I've only managed to learn some of these lessons because others took the time to teach me.

Those are just my feelings though. For other people who are asked this question, it constitutes a frustrating micro-aggression that causes very real and very valid anger, and they have every right to feel this way. Stubborn-ignorance is understandably infuriating.

In conclusion (because I'm rambling and don't know how else to finish):

This is hardly an impassioned article that is capable of changing a thing, although I've spent most of my evening trying to write the damn thing. I merely offer you a comic and my perspective, with which you are welcome to disagree.

My commentary comes from a place of acknowledged privilege, because there are definitely countless individuals in the world who have endured infinitely worse than this rather pampered bunny.

I mean, know I really am lucky.

But I'd rather not have a complete stranger feel like they need to tell me that.

Just saying.

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