The night had started out fine. “Tootsie Roll” came up on the radio making me feel like I was in sixth grade. We ate dim sum and noodle soups at a hole in the wall. It had taken us weeks just to get together, period, so this girls’ night out was long overdue and much anticipated.
When we (four other Asian girls plus myself) got to the line at Wet (still feel dirty saying the name of that club), we happened to be standing behind a group of four other non-Asian girls. Eventually two more non-Asian girls got in line behind us. Instant female camaraderie is not unheard of in guestlist lines, where we females know the worth of our gender in the proprietor’s eyes. More women in a heterosexual club means more dollars being shelled out by men who are looking to impress. So when it comes to profit, women are more valuable than men. Just maintaining the appearance of a packed house with a slow-moving line and lots of skirts takes on a huge focus in on-site marketing for any venue.
All of us in the three consecutive girl groups last night knew this. In fact, we bonded lightly joking about how we could skip the cold by entering together as one big group of girls. This works. So we did it.
The security walked us to the front of the guestlist line, and thus eleven random girls breezed past half a block of underdressed clubbers-in-waiting.
Normally I don’t consider a Saturday morning prime time to wax philosophical and critical of race issues, but that’s just how this is going to be as I type this at 7:36 a.m.
Since the original first group of girls in line were the ones who told security that we were all together, they got to go first. The two non-Asian girls behind us were the ones who pre-counted the group and confidently told security the total in our (collective) party, so we let them go second. My group of Asian girls rounded out the last of our three parties.
A non-Asian man with his non-Asian girlfriend came up to one of us at the end and asked, “Did you guys just cut in front of us?” Perfectly legitimate question. I’ve definitely asked this of nightlife revelers when I thought I was passed up for no apparent reason. For our situation, though, we just lightheartedly told him, “No, we were escorted by security.” How he completely missed eleven girls being walked directly in front of him by a big guy in black wearing a Secret Service headset, I don’t know, but hey, who am I to judge?
He fell back into line, talking to his girl, saying loud enough so that more than just us could hear, “Man, all these Asian girls keep cutting and they don’t do anything.” Um, okay. “Why do these Asian people get to cut? This is ridiculous.” “We [sic] been waiting in line and these Asian girls just go to the front? Bullshit.”
Very lightheartedly but with pointed words, we said, “Hey, we’re with all these White girls up here, too. It’s not just us Asians.”
We discussed amongst ourselves what we were hearing, generally trying to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this guy is a belligerent drunk. Maybe they’re going to get over their little temper tantrums and shut the Hell up.
The comments kept coming, though. We’re fairly certain we heard the term “gooks” a couple of times. (Who even uses that word anymore?) We finally shot them a couple of knowing glances, hoping it would cease their passive-aggressive grumblings. The girl turned to the guy trying to shush him. But, belligerent (not implying he was drunk or not, he was just straight-up belligerent) asshole that he was, he continued to run his mouth, ever so carefully slipping “Asians” into the susurrus.
Different variations of the same old digs came to our ears, and we completely shifted our upper bodies in their direction. The girl said to us, “Sorry, don’t worry about him. Haha. I’m trying to quiet him.”
“You know, the fact that you’re laughing, and joking around, and encouraging him, does not make any difference,” one of my friends said.
“No, you know, it’s not you guys. It was these other Asian people that came earlier and cut in line,” she said. Weak-ass.
“Uh-huh,” I said. “You know? It’s just what happens. Any time you go clubbing, girls will get priority in line.” I think I was boring far more polite than they warranted me to be.
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s okay.” (Not sure what she was saying was actually “okay.”)
Some more time passed. The conversation in general had hushed. I was standing with my back against the wall so that when I heard the girl say “And then these Asian girls cut, you know, it happens,” I had already locked eyes with her at “girls.” Here eyes bugged. She childishly tried to hide her face by kissing her companion, as if she was trying to calm him down with empathy. She was doing a piss-poor job of acting like a damsel at his side.
“Look, just stop, okay?” I said. “Both of you? Just stop.” And in case they didn’t get the concept of “stop,” I made a very simple flat-line motion.
The man chimed in, saying, “Look, we are not talking about you. To you. We are not talking to you. People cut.”
I cut him off and said again, “Yeah, you know what? I really don’t care. But both of you just need to stop.”
We turned our backs on them, and I am positive the man purposefully positioned himself closer to us one last time. “I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t so ugly!” Wow, is he even old enough to be admitted into this club? Last I checked, 12 was not the same as 21+. (Later, one of my friends told me how he was making comments about the size of her chest, about her face, about her petite physique. Absolutely inappropriate.)
I was already pretty pissed at this point. It’s pretty remarkable that the Poli Sci and Ethnic Studies graduates in our group hadn’t blown up more beforehand. I believe we had all the reason to.
I finally stepped up to the guy. Not to the girl. She seemed just as lost as this man’s sensibility. His chest and mine were inches apart. “You know what? I know it’s not you, and I know it’s not me, but really, you just need to stop, okay? You are coming off as really ignorant right now.”
He countered with the lamest defense, as if he hadn’t calculated the volume in his voice or his own physical proximity within our hearing ranges. “We are not talking to you. So you don’t need to keep eavesdropping–”
I cut him off. “Look, you’re in a public spot. You know we can hear you, and I know that’s why you’re still talking, period.”
Right then, before he could shut his slow-brained mouth or conceive of something else to say, security came in. “You two,” he said to the guy and his girlfriend. “You two need to cool it.”
“What?” the guy said. Girlfriend looked like she was gonna piss her coochie dress. “We are not talking to you. We are having a conversation.” Picking fights with security is always smart.
“We got complaints from other people in the front of the line, and if you keep it up, I’m kicking you out.” The security gestured to the White girls in our line. That’s right, the White girls complained. Not us Asian girls.
That shut him up, and later on I saw him in the upper level of the club. He didn’t sour the rest of our night, but he certainly didn’t make waiting in line a pleasant experience. (At least as high as standing in the cold can rank on the pleasantness scale.)
In case the whole issue with the above-described exchanges passed over your head, here’s how I see it pared down.
This guy wanted to rile someone up. We even heard him making stupid remarks at some passerby’s drink of choice, “Dude, look at that stupid guy and his Pepsi.” So as irritating as the whole situation was, reasonable people can see that his comments weren’t worth giving a lot of reaction or emotion. Someone who pronounces “DJ AM” as “Dee Jay Am,” like “I will eat green eggs and HAM on this here punk rock turntable set” does not deserve that much attention.
It was obvious that since he wasn’t in a position to argue himself ahead of our eleven-girl party, the simplest, most surface-level thing he had to pick on was the tail end of the group, and the five of us happened to be Asian.
If you’re reading this and you’re on the guy’s side, you might try to justify to me that he was just using the one description that was readily available to him. It’s not like our learned backgrounds were plastered to our foreheads. Our Asianness is a physical trait that’s easy to pick up on. (And pick upon.)
But, my problem with adding racial epithets wherever people see fit is that it is often indicative of a deeper type of racism. Like the whole White-calling debate. I have a couple of guidelines for using racial adjectives. First, if you’re going to use them, use them all the time. It keeps things equal. Second, if you’re not going to use them all the time, use them in situations where the adjective actually adds value to the story or situation. As an example of the latter suggestion, it makes all the difference to say “Don’t bring lots of ice cream to a Chinese party,” because Chinese are frequently born with cases of lactose intolerance. Contextually, the “Chinese” description fills in the blank. Just like if I said, “Why are you bringing that straight guy to the lesbian mixer?” If you take away “lesbian,” you lose the essence of the potential conflict.
In the case of the belligerent fool outside of Wet (Notice how I haven’t named his ethnicity. He is a minority, but I also know that in this story, it doesn’t matter what his color is outside of Non-Asian.), he picked Asian out of the air because something under his skin has pit him against Asians. (If he lives in the Bay Area, all I have to say is “Good luck!”) Describing us as Asian didn’t add value to his whiny complaint that a group of people allegedly cut in line. The core of his discontent was that we are girls, he is not, and him plus his girl did not add up to enough woman to get himself past the velvet rope (metal barriers) sooner.
I think you need to figure out what your problem is, Mr. Belligerent. Ain’t my fault you were born with a penis.