Carolyn Chin

My world.

Endless Attire

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Growing up Asian in a black and white world


My friend Katie who writes for the New York Daily News wrote this today. It’s about her experience in finding books for her toddler, Eli. But she wasn’t looking for any old children’s book. Like a growing number of the American population, Eli is mixed-race. His mother is Asian, his father white. Katie searched for books that showed diversity, something Eli can relate to. 

Her sentiments immediately struck a cord with me. For someone who isn’t or has never been a minority, this may be a foreign concept.

When you grow up and you’re one of few, if not the only, kids who isn’t white, it’s obvious. You stick out like a sore thumb. And no, kids don’t play nice — at any age, I’ve come to learn. You do not look like them and they make it painfully clear.

I watched tv and the kids were white. I watched Disney movies and my idolized princesses were white. (Mulan came along eventually and you can bet your ass we watched it on repeat.) Even in one of my favorite books, Corduroy, the girl was black. Although a minority, she was not a minority that looked like me.  Where were the children who looked like me?

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I never felt pretty because I didn’t look like the pale-faced, blond-haired girls I saw everywhere, but I sure did feel alone. I know now that I wasn’t. I’d assume that most minorities in areas where they were few and far between felt the same as I did.

Every year when Halloween came around, I had a difficult time picking out a costume. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but because I didn’t feel right dressing up as Cinderella or Ariel or Belle. The other kids didn’t have to tell me that I couldn’t possibly be those princesses because I had already told myself that. I told myself that so often that it manifest itself in my every day life.

That was the kind of experience that growing up as a minority left me with. No matter how much I wanted to, I could never be the girl me and all my friends loved because I wasn’t white. It took a very long time to shake that mentality before I could truthfully say loved who I was, as I was.

For quite some time now, I’ve had aspirations of writing and illustrating my own children’s book. One of the first things I aim to do with the book is to choose a main character who is not white, not black, not Asian, not even human. That way, no child who reads my book will have to feel alone while doing so.

So thanks Katie for embarking into the world of motherhood before me and bringing up this topic.

Hand-decorated ornaments, Christmas stuff, crafty stuff, etc. My boyfriend decorated some — can you tell which ones?

Hand-decorated ornaments, Christmas stuff, crafty stuff, etc.
My boyfriend decorated some — can you tell which ones?

Giving thanks

2011 has left me sincerely thankful in so many ways.

Thankful to have watched myself grow as a young journalist and designer.
Thankful to know that this is still only the beginning and the path is endless where ever I decide to take it.

Thankful for the opportunity to have returned to Voices as a mentor and give back in the way so many others have helped me.
Thankful for the chance to lead AAJA Michigan into a new and successful year.

Thankful for the chance to rekindle an old friendship that’s lasted through and through.
Thankful for the new friends that have entered the picture and shared many laughs and similar goals.
Thankful for the friends that have my back no matter what.

Thankful that my body and mind is in better place than it has ever been.
Thankful that my loved ones are still with me today and moving forward.

Thankful for the family I was born into knowing that we all have a roof over our heads, food on the table and can still find laughter even in dark hours.
Thankful for my mother realizing that it’s never too late, that you’re never too old to make a change and go for it.

Thankful for the best man I’ve ever met.
Thankful for the healthiest, most exciting relationship that seems to get better with every morning.
Thankful for the home that we share together and the possibilities the future has in store for us.

Encounters at the dentist office


I’ve never been physically tortured before but what happened to me today felt pretty close.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that when I was 3 years old, I peed in my pants at the dentist. Not a good starting point for a twice-yearly occurrence (if you have dental insurance, of course). A little over two decades later, I’ve got a slightly better grasp on bodily functions but dentist visits still haunt me.
In the past few years, I started warming up to the idea of getting my teeth cleaned by a hygienist. It wasn’t so bad. I found a dentist office I liked and even a hygienist that didn’t make me want to scratch her eye balls out. She was nice and gentle. She had short permy grandma hair.

I expected the cleaning today to be decent, not a walk in the park, but better than the experience I was given. This new hygienist, Sandy (who’s last name will remain a secret mostly because I don’t know it) had another thing coming at me. Normally, they’ll pick your teeth with a sharp hook-like tool, polish with a flavor of your choice and then floss. Sandy was a perfectionist.

Let me be clear about this. If ever there is a time you don’t want to deal with a perfectionist, it’s when you’re in the hot seat. Sandy the Perfectionist picked through each tooth and dug under my already sensitive gums not once around, twice around, but three — count it — THREE times over. When she began, I figured it would hurt and that she would be rough. Sure, I could endure 15 minutes of this picking and prodding before she polished my teeth. But then it went on and on and on. This is when the idea of torture popped into my mind. At one  point I honestly believed that her digging was going to create a cavity in perfectly  healthy tooth.

By the third time around, I knew that she knew that I despised her with a deep burning fire. What began as cordial chit-chat about work turned into short snippy answers to her worthless questions. Sandy the Perfectionist was no longer a person I had interest in hearing words from.

My mind then turned to self-blame. How could I be thinking such horrible things about Sandy the Perfectionist? She was only doing her job. I was the one who signed up for this, who submitted myself to this 45 minutes to an hour of torture. Self-blame quickly turned me into what seemed like an abuse victim. I found myself thinking, “I can do better than this. I won’t mess up in the next 6 months… I’ll floss before bed every night and brush 3 times during the day. I won’t let this happen again.” Sandy the Perfectionist had broken me. The dentist as an entity had done me wrong so many ways and so many times and it all came to surface while sitting in that chair this morning.

I thought about ways to make it clear to her that what she was doing was too rough. The blood dripping into my throat didn’t seem to be enough. I thought about staring her directly in the eyes but opted not to knowing it would actually make me more uncomfortable than it would make her. This brought me back ages to all the things I’d do as a child to  make the hygienist not hurt me. Even at 7 or 8 years old, I remember making small talk to make her my friend instead of some type of teeth cleaning punisher. I’d talk about the weather, about how nice her earrings were, about how the light must bother her eyes all day. I know now that my attempts were futile. It always ended the same. Hygienist with the metal poking tools will always win.