Writing and art by Elysse Cloma
It’s patio season in Toronto. I’m 19 and single for the first time in months, as vulnerable as I am agent.
I start talking to a 20-something-year-old white guy who says his name is Felix. “Felix” is sitting at a table while I wait for my friend, who’s in the washroom. Wearing a blue button-down, his pants are cuffed just enough to reveal his printed socks, and surprisingly, I’m okay with it. He simultaneously charms me and creeps me out with bad pickup lines.
“Do you want to play a game?” he asks. We exchange small talk instead. Something about an internship? He buys me a shot and we toast with a stranger.
Soon I’m drunk and I agree to share a cigarette with him. He shows me his ID, which has his real name on it. I’m suspicious and he quickly changes the subject. “Do you like The Weeknd?”
“Sure,” I say, between puffs of smoke, “but I’ve been listening to that new Justin Timberlake album a lot lately.”
My friends are leaving and I could go with them, but I’m having a decent time with Felix. My friend’s older brother is ready to put his street meat down and fight this guy off but I swear I’m fine and they leave.
We take a cab to Felix’s place just four blocks away. He turns on some music. Some Weeknd song. “I love Abel,” he says.
Soon I’m undressed. I’m even turned on, until I notice the holographic Lil Wayne poster hanging on the wall above Felix’s bed. I’m judging, but my thoughts are interrupted by “oh my god — you have a coin slot — you have an Asian, coin slot vagina.”
It occurs to me then that Felix doesn’t want to fuck me because I’m attractive. He wants to fuck me because I’m Asian.
How lucky was he, to have brought home an Asian girl with a “coin-slot” vagina? What did he expect my vagina to look like? How could I be reduced to a COIN SLOT?
I become withdrawn and don’t want to continue. We lie in bed together. Felix talks at me about online marketing, the boring reads on his bookshelf, far-fetched stories about his ex-girlfriends, conversation so bland even he falls asleep. I stare at Lil Wayne. My race covers me like a blanket.
A rush of feelings unearth themselves.
Do I have to be someone’s fetish to be desirable? I want to be more desirable than other women, especially white women. All white women are more desirable than me. Other Asian women are my competition.
Part of me secretly wants to be a white guy’s Asian girlfriend who takes him to dim sum for the first time, showing him the wonders of chicken feet. I want him to charm my grandmother, who will put on her best English accent to impress him. I want him to pronounce foreign words, and laugh at his mispronunciations.
If I were an actress, would I be hired to speak in broken English? If I starred in a porn, would my moans be mistaken for a submissive whimper?
I think about my relationship to unsatisfying depictions of Asian women in pop culture:
I vie to be Rivers Cuomo’s mysterious foreign love interest in Pinkerton. I adore the fiery seductress Cassandra in Wayne’s World. Perhaps the best (or most bittersweet) reflection of myself is Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — lovelorn for a white male who doesn’t love or respect her.
Even though I think Felix is gross, at least my vagina is desirable to him.
Being with Felix is the first time I am with someone who fetishizes me.
Being with Felix is the beginning of my unlearning.
ELYSSE CLOMA is a re:asian editor and multi-disciplinary Filipinx artist living in Vancouver. Her undying love for music led her to dabbling in music performance, writing, and photography. She has used digital media to create sound installations, motion graphics, and other visual art. The unifying theme of her work is love in its many forms.