Monday, June 02, 2014


-When first learning the rules of the road, I remember thinking of the dotted lines that allow one to pass on a two-lane road as... something you're supposed to know, but not information I'd ever have occasion to do anything with. It just seemed implausible that I'd ever choose driving into oncoming traffic over waiting patiently behind the slow-moving car in front of me. The idea that I'd ever have the skills to identify a situation where passing would be both safe and appropriate struck me as so farfetched as to not even think about it. Then today, there was this construction vehicle going like three miles an hour on a 45 mph country road, filled with some kind of mud or dirt or something that I wasn't super keen on driving right behind. Pondering this seemingly futile situation, I then remembered the phenomenon of passing zones. I wasn't in one, until a little bit later, I was. I could see far ahead that nothing was coming, and, as if I were an entirely different person, I passed the truck.

-As a white-ish person with unusual amounts of experience feeling out-of-place for not looking East Asian (Stuyvesant,* Japan, H-Mart...), I've sometimes wondered whether anyone ever gets surgery to look more Asian and less white. Not that I'm signing up for cosmetic surgery of any kind, thanks, but as a matter of curiosity. So I guess I'm obliged to link to the story of a very white, blond man who's surgically transformed himself into what he believes to be a Korean man. The results are surprisingly... something? I'm not sure he ends up looking Korean (we'd need to bring him to Edison and see what language they use to address him at the BBQ place), but... you'd expect someone who'd done this to emerge looking terrible. Not, to be clear, that actual Korean men look terrible, but surgical ambitions this radical tend to leave people looking sort of generically... operated-upon. He, in my highly scientific opinion, does not. If he looks a bit unusual in some of the photos, it seems to be more of a makeup issue than a surgery one.

*Sorry! Euphemistic Chambers Street.


Amanda Lee Savage said...

Your question about passing is interesting! As a Hawaiian/Caucasian, when I go to Hawaii my family is often commenting on my light skin and short hair. Of course, the hair is something I can control, but I always feel sort of like I should tan more before going home for a visit, so I look "more kanaka" and "less white." It crosses my mind often, living with liminal looks--how to look more one way, and not the other. When I was young I used to wonder how to look more white, but these days I wonder about looking more Hawaiian. I don wonder if other hapa people experience the same thing.

Flavia said...

I think the first time I passed traffic over a dotted yellow line was 7-8 years ago, when I had a conference at Dartmouth and had to drive across the entire state of Vermont (I know, it's skinny! but it takes forever!), and the highway is one-lane-in-each-direction, winding through mountains the whole time. I passed at least ten vehicles over the course of the drive, and my heart was in my mouth each time.

Still, it's all the more satisfying for the fear-factor, once done.

Phoebe said...

Amanda Lee Savage,

That totally makes sense. As for the young man looking to look Korean, he's more of a mystery because (despite emerging looking ethnically ambiguous) he's not someone part Korean trying to fit in with that heritage. He's someone who just happened to spend some time in Korea and feels (not sure if the transgender analogy fits, or if using it would be transphobic in some way I can't quite articulate) himself to be a Korean in a white body.

Maybe what I'm finding so captivating about this story is that it's being presented as altogether outrageous. When it's like, people of my ethnicity have been chopping off parts of their noses to look (more) white for probably a century. Why is it any weirder/worse to want to look Korean? Especially if the guy plans to live in Korea.


It's reassuring, I think, to hear that even more experienced drivers (I'm assuming you'd count - most do) find this terrifying. I don't think I'd be capable of passing under mountain or highway conditions. (I have enough trouble as a passenger on mountain drives, and have still only driven alone on a true highway once.) It *is* satisfying once you've passed, but at the same time, I'm having trouble picturing another time when road conditions would give me enough confidence in doing so.