If I had a nickel every time someone said I'm not Chinese...
Well, I wouldn't be a squillionaire. But I'd have a lot of nickels. A lot of 'em (and by nickel I mean $.05 not $500).
Many Chinese people love to mention how I am not Chinese, but then depending on the mood, the circumstances, they will periodically include me.
As in: "you now, as a Chinese--gotta be practical--gotta do 'Y' because of 'X' cultural more" Or: "c'mon, why wouldn't you eat Shark's fin--Chinese lah! Right?!" "Isn't it!!!???"
Then they exclude me. Then I'm included. And then I'm not. Sometimes in the very same breath, even in the very same sentence I'm both in and I'm out.
It's an ongoing saga. It is the ongoing saga for anyone who is mixed.
Many mixed people try to ignore this saga, i.e. who cares about fitting in if I have the interwebs/One Direction/a Smartphone/Yeezy Adidas. Others pick up stakes in the opposite camp: shouting down racism and demanding immediate inclusion, even if it merely be an administrative, state-sponsored inclusion (i.e.a politically correct inclusion), not the "hearts and minds" variety.
After all, there is something absurd about someone declaring you are not something, that you can't be something. Withdrawing makes sense. Resistance does too.
But the older I get the more I gravitate to the absurd.
Indeed, it is absurd for people to tell you what you are not. To be so sure, to be so callously dogmatic about something--anything, to presume an entitlement to make decrees is absurd. I admit I can't profess I am 100%. On the other hand, no one can say I'm 0% Chinese. I'm somewhere in-between. But there is something remarkable going on here. And I don't want to miss it.
Bothness is a serious subject--it is the central idea in my upcoming book Beyond Eurasian and Hapa: Bridging a Chinese-Western Identity. I used to flirt with withdrawal. I used to flirt with resistance. But I believe I am finally qualified to talk about being mixed because today I come to the discussion with joy.
For me, it is relishing the absurd that has unlocked this joy.
I can finally admit to myself that I may be less than 100 percent Western and less than 100 percent Chinese--nevertheless I'm both. And my joy is encouraged manyfold because I see the space between 'greater than 0%' and 'less than 100%' as a vast, vast place for my identity to roam and prosper. Bothness is laser-focusing on this space. Bothness is the courage to be imperfect. Bothness is an embrace of the absurd.