10 September 2007

Crumpler or Folder?

From an early age, I steered clear of being associated with other Asians. I rebelled. I didn’t truly feel Asian. And I knew very little about the Asian culture. So why should I be lumped in the Asian American category?

However, during my journey, I have found several wonderful Asian friends. Their histories have become my own biological link. All are first generation Asians. And oddly, we all are married to Caucasians ... both Americans and Britons. They are assimilating to the American way of life, and I am moving in the opposite direction. I want to know more about my Asian heritage.

My interest in things Asian first developed when a Japanese friend, Ted, noted the Asian tendency to be, as he put it, “A folder.” I was intrigued. He explained that people are either “crumplers or folders.” The crumplers are type Bs with a tendency to crumple papers rather than fold them. My sister is a crumpler. I am a folder in a family of crumplers. My father used to tell a story of me as a youngster lining up my hair bows from the largest to the smallest.

There’s a Japanese store in London called Muji that caters to the folder. I feel at home in that store filled with its small compartmentalized items and organizers. My husband knows to always book a good bit of time there so that I can absorb it all.

And yet, I still shied away from the Asian mothers at a local bookstore storytime. They clustered together. Referring to me as “auntie,” they asked if I wanted to join them for lunch. I declined. But weeks later at the same storytime, I noticed a Taiwanese woman, Katherine, whose daughter looked like my son’s sister, a mix of Asian and Caucasian. We have become fast friends.

Since having children I wonder more about my medical history, and what genetics may have in store for them and for me. My Korean connection, Adrienne, has revealed some interesting Asian biological facts.

First fact, Asian ear wax is flaky and white. I spent a good portion of my childhood with my head tilted. Having been told that I had wax build up in my ears, my father would ceremoniously put drops in, wait and then syringe my ear canals with water to remove that stubborn ear wax. But my hearing was never affected by it. I just didn’t have the yellow ear wax that came out of my ear on a simple cotton swab. I know now. My son has yellow ear wax like his father. And my daughter has Asian ear wax.

Second fact, a good number of Koreans have creaseless eyelids. Surgery that adds that coveted crease is growing in popularity in Korea and among Korean Americans. I struggled as a teenager with my creaseless eyelids. I would create eyelids by applying liquid eyeliner to train my eyelids to crease. It was frustrating as an awkward teen. And I have come to terms with it as an adult. Adrienne’s eyelids have grown that crease, but she warned me that hers were due to a hereditary aging droop in her eyelid.

Third fact, Asian teeth are more concave than Caucasian teeth. I’ve yet to understand this one.

As I learn more, I want to know more. My children have become another reason for my curiosity. Theirs is rubbing off on me.

My son asks about his Korean heritage. He takes Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art. And he can count to ten in Korean. He’s curious about his Korean heritage and intrigued that I know so little about it. He asks me, “Can we visit Korea?”

“Perhaps,” is my reply.


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