Peeta and Katniss

The other day I spoke with an older Gaysian guy I respect. He first gave me some advice about my Psychology residency application process, and our conversation later turned to topics such as the political roots of queer Asian men’s romantic desires. He expressed some ideas about white supremacy and transracial adoption I hadn’t yet put into words, which I appreciated.

At one point, though, as we talked about how internalized racism may motivate fellow Gaysian men to date white men, he said something along the lines of: “well, if gay Asian men don’t have any other options around them, is it their fault to be with a white man even if he’s basic or a fetishizer? It’s like Peeta and Katniss from The Hunger Games, it’s not like they had a choice to kill other people. I’m not saying it’s the ideal scenario, but if gay Asian men don’t have other options, I’m not sure I blame them.”

I want to make it clear that I do not think this older Gaysian himself endorsed the idea of Gaysian men settling for white men (just in case this Gaysian somehow happens to stumble upon this blog post, I think you’re rad and cool and otherwise wouldn’t have reached out to you!) However, I felt struck by the logic underlying this analogy, that not having any romantic prospects removes you of your agency to the same extent as being forced to kill other people against your will by a totalitarian police state. And yet, I have heard the same sentiment uttered by a less rad older queer Asian man who is now engaged to a white man who couldn’t hold a conversation on his own when I met him, uh yikes, that it’s not about if you’ll settle, it’s about who you’ll eventually settle for.

What strikes me as most bizarre about this idea that you have to settle for the romantic prospects in your geographic area, is the implicit notion that you have to settle for a romantic prospect at all. I understand that in healthy relationships of all kinds, you come to understand and accept the other person’s flaws given that no one on this planet is perfect. However, I feel that this form of settling (i.e., recognizing that everyone has flaws) is very different from the amatonormative notion that a romantic partner, as opposed to friends, is integral and necessary to a satisfying life.

While I am always happy to blame the wedding industrial complex for contributing to the angst of those who want a romantic partner and do not have one, I also wonder how much individual-level self-fulfillment factors into who will settle or not. For example, I love my time with myself. I enjoy and savor every moment of journaling in my notebooks and word documents, going on walks while listening to Twice and reflecting on what elements of their songs I appreciate, and reading novels and analyzing characters from a robust psychological and feminist standpoint. I also deeply appreciate my time with close and more casual friends. Simultaneously, I’m selective about who I spend time with – because I love myself and my time with myself, I minimize interactions that wouldn’t be as fun or meaningful as basking in my own company.

When I consider my comfort with myself, I suppose it originates from biological (e.g., my father always struck me as a person who cherished his independence), psychological (e.g., I’m fortunate to have pretty strong mental health and I’ve worked hard in therapy), and social (e.g., I’ve sought out role models and friends who love themselves without male romantic partners) sources. The social element stands out to me the most though, because it makes me think of one of my favorite writers Caroline Knapp. Through reading her books Appetites and The Merry Recluse, I found a kindred spirit, someone who also enjoyed time on her own, analyzing herself and her relationships in the context of greater social forces, and engaging in a healthy level of self-deprecation. Her books then led me to more radical writers like bell hooks and Audre Lorde. Just yesterday, when I felt sad and angry about something I saw on social media, I reread a couple of essays from The Merry Recluse and thought to myself: you know what Thomas? You got this. Just like Caroline got through the patriarchal bullshit of the late 1990’s, you can get through the racist bullshit of the early 2020’s.

On the one hand, I sympathize and empathize with the issue of Asian American men’s perceived lack of attractiveness. The answer to this problem though, for myself and my own life as an Asian American man, has never been to try to make myself hotter to other men by working out more or changing my diet. I don’t want to date a white man and I don’t care if any white man wants to date me, or even if any man of color wants to date me. I refuse to normalize romantic love as an inherent part of life and romantic desirability as a goal worth aspiring to. At this point, at the age of 26, I feel like I’ve already received enough love for a lifetime – from myself, my friends and community, and the writers, like Caroline Knapp, who came before me.

Speaking of Twice, I’m at the moment obsessed with their song “Signal” and especially Nayeon?? Her confidence and charisma in every scene, end me!! I’m thinking of writing some posts that relate to Twice because I used to dislike the group and absolutely detested “Signal” so, I suppose it’s never too late to change.

What helps you love or feel confident in yourself? How do you approach time on your own? General reactions to this post? I finished my final residency interview this week yay so now back to more routine research, clinical work, over-disclosing about my feelings on the internet, etc. Until next time!

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

7 responses to “Peeta and Katniss

  1. congrats on finishing your interviews! I bet you feel good!

    interesting post. I never really thought of things in this perspective. As for asian men not attractive? I’m not sure if I get/agree to it. ^.~ wink

    love is a weird topic for me. I still do not understand it. (hence my new post).

    • thanks so much for the congrats and for taking the time to read and comment! and I’m glad that it sounds like you haven’t encountered/internalized negative messages about Asian’s men attractiveness.

  2. Glad all your interviews are finished – phew, and well done! I relish my own company, as an only child with a difficult family I spent a lot of time on my own as a child and actively need it still. Hooray for large houses is all I can say, and for a husband who spends two evenings a week Zooming with his parents!

    • Thank you Liz for taking the time to read this post and for the thoughtful comment! Yes I am glad we both relish in our own company and even though the thought of home ownership overwhelms me a bunch at this point, I also like having my own space, which I recognize is a privilege for sure. Hope you are doing well. (:

  3. And now that your interviews are done, you just have to wait? (Patience, yah, how long does THAT take. Heheh) I thought it was funny that you included the parenthetical comment to the older Gaysian man you’re writing about here. If he does recognise himself here, will you tell us? *giggles* Like Liz, above, I’m an only child as well, so I have always spent a lot of time alone for that reason and, over the years, moving a few times to places that were not very open-minded and welcoming, encouraged solitary habits too. Like you, I look to music and journals and books (so many bookfriends) and rereading a trusted storyteller or thinker can make me feel instantly less alone. (Audre Lorde, yes! I am rereading her now and marvelling at how much she shaped my thinking early on, how many actions and decisions I make today that she has influenced, via the printed page. bell hooks too. On Love and Ain’T I a Woman especially.)

  4. I’m happy all your interviews are now done. I hope you find out soon where you will be next.

    I like your independence and commitment to your values and your friends. That’s always been so consistent ever since I started following you here.

    This entry made me pause. You’ve woven quite a few themes here. At 26, you’ve got remarkable wisdom and maturity. The issue of Asian American perceived lack of attractiveness – I’ve certainly gone through that stage.

    Generally, I’m quite comfortable being alone with myself. Although sometimes I think that drives me crazy and I seek company. My photography is generally a solo thing. I’m not comfortable shooting with others – maybe I’m not confident with that yet. I worry sometimes that this pandemic has turned me into a bit of recluse.

  5. G

    Thank you so much for writing about this topic, it really helps me to feel less alone because I also feel similarly. “I understand that in healthy relationships of all kinds, you come to understand and accept the other person’s flaws given that no one on this planet is perfect. However, I feel that this form of settling (i.e., recognizing that everyone has flaws) is very different from the amatonormative notion that a romantic partner, as opposed to friends, is integral and necessary to a satisfying life.” YES, YES, YES! So much of society/culture still puts so much pressure on people to be in romantic relationships and says that one’s standards are just “too high” if one is not doing that. But you stated it so well here. I’m not “settling” because I only want a partner in my life who I have a real connection with and truly want to be in my life in that way, and whether or not that happens, my life is still valuable and I’m still happy being myself, exploring my interests, spending time with my friends, etc. It really means a lot for you to write about this because I feel like so few people feel similarly to me, so thank you!!

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