Thick Dumpling Skin

[It's what's on the inside that counts]

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On Our Radar: My Foreign Mom

From Mary H K Choi’s article for Aeon Magazine:

School was awful. I had to leave during the middle of the day for physical therapy that involved swimming and returning to class with inexplicably wet hair. Lunch sucked. My mom would pack the dumbest garbage. She once smeared bits of raw garlic left over from making kimchi onto white sandwich bread, thinking that’s how the garlic bread advertised at Pizza Hut was born. I waited until she got off work that night and yelled at her with rank breath. I’d eaten most of the seemingly innocent square, elated that a sandwich had turned up at all in a lunch box that usually contained punishment food that sometimes had eyes. The stress of navigating school as a teeny-tiny uncomfortable person with an enormous gimp wing was taking a toll.

One lunch, I was dragging myself around the playground when I saw my mom standing by the fence, waving big and calling my name. I wanted so badly to ignore her. She was supposed to be at work and I didn’t have physical therapy that day so I was immediately suspicious. As confusing as her presence was, my curiosity did not outweigh my desire to be left alone. Especially by her. I began to back away so she started shouting loud enough to be heard over the playground din. I shuffled towards her with every intention to roundhouse-bludgeon her with my plastered arm. She held out a paper box. It was a McDonald’s happy meal: a cheeseburger one, which was my favorite. The offering was so out of character that I considered it a bribe. I wondered if my parents were getting a divorce since that was huge at my school at the time. I asked her what was going on. She mentioned something about how she wanted me to have a lunch that I liked.

I then did what any normal kid would do and yelled and yelled about how embarrassing it was to have her at school with me during lunch of all times. She presented me with a sack of cheeseburgers that I could give out to my friends. I refused the damp bag and screeched about how it was so cheap that she didn’t spring for bright red boxes with toys for them as well. I made her take the burgers back with her. If I were an actress and had to think of something sad to make me cry in a scene, I would think about this moment. This and the time I was 13 when I kicked my mom across a room and ran away for two days because she tried to ground me — for breaking curfew after my friend Jacinta stole money from her dying grandmother so we could rent out a nightclub and write the names of those blackballed on the sign outside. For the record: I don’t know why people have kids.

To read the entire story, click here. 


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I Feel Pretty

It’s 11:20 on a Saturday morning. I woke up about an hour ago feeling a little sluggish from a night of drinking. I just ordered chicken enchiladas with mole sauce from my favorite Mexican joint. I’m sitting on my couch about to tear into them when my phone rings…

Me: Hello?

Caller: (in Chinese) Jerry? Are you awake?

Me: Oh hi Mom. Yeah, been awake for hours. Just about to do some… work…

Mom: (in Chinese) Don’t work too much. You need to get out. 

Me: Aiyah… ok, don’t worry. I’m going to run some errands soon, is everything ok?

Mom: (in Chinese) Did you eat yet?

Me: Ummm… no, not yet. 

Mom: (in Chinese) Don’t eat too much starch, ok?

Me: (laughing) Ok Mom, I’ll go get a salad or something, ok? (looking down at my enchiladas covered in cheese)

Mom: (in Chinese) You should just go to the super market and buy some organic chicken breasts. It’s so easy to cook. All you have to do is add some lemon juice and it’ll be healthy and taste. And don’t forget to drink some water! You need to drink more water so that your skin looks good.

Me: MOM! I drink tons of watever EVERY day, don’t worry. Fine, I’ll go get some chicken breasts or whatever to eat later then.

Mom: (in Chinese) Are you ok? You have to get some exercise you know. You know, you were so pretty when you were in school (in Chinese the word “pretty” is often times used to explain handsome as well. It definitely reads as funnier as Chinese though). You were always the prettiest of you and your brothers (I have 2 brothers, one older/married with two kids, and one younger/married with no children). But now you’re starting to… well… if you just lost like 10 pounds, you’d be so pretty again.

Me: Well… (looking down at my enchiladas in disgust)… Mom… I’m not like… fat you know…

Mom: I know. But you really could be so pretty if you just lost some weight. You should go running today. The weather is so nice. And you used to run so much when you were in school. Remember? So many girls used to like you back then. You know you have to get married one of these days so I don’t have to worry about you anymore. When you get married, then your wife will have to worry (laughing).

Me: … Ok Mom. I’ll go running right now (as I put my enchiladas into my fridge).

So this is a pretty regular type of conversation I have with my mother about three times a week. And yes… I think the embarrassing part of this is that no, I am not a girl. I am a dude. And yes, I get tremendous amounts of pressure almost every single day to lose weight and get married.

At this point, you’re probably all thinking I’m some huge son of a gun right now. If I’m being honest with myself, my body type is pretty average. Ok… maybe leaning on the chubby side, but more or less average.

I actually do exercise 1-4 times a week. Depending on how busy I am each week. But my biggest vice in life is that I L-O-V-E eating and drinking. I think it must have something to do with me not drinking a drop of liquor while I was in college. And living at home with my parents during college always eating my Mom’s super healthy cooking. Which was really good mind you.

But I can’t help it. I love to go out and eat good food and drink good booze. I eat out almost every night.  I’m a single bachelor living in the greatest city in the world… New York. And I love everything about it. I love being able to go out at midnight and being able to go to Blueribbon Sushi for some of the best sushi you’ve ever eaten paired with some of the best sake you’ve ever had as well. I love being able to eat the world’s best pizza whenever I crave it. I like to convince myself that the 2-3 mile jogs I go on will erase all the damage I’m doing to myself at night time.

But my Mom is right. I really could stand to lose 10 pounds. Even now… at the age of 36, I’m still learning to grow comfortable with my body. My Mom was right, when I was in school I was much slimmer and more fit.

But that was friggin 15 years ago! Of course I don’t look as fit as back then! So I’m going to keep convincing myself that those 2-3 mile jogs ARE working. At least… they’re allowing me to keep doing the things that keep me happy in life, which is good food and booze. I guess the moral of this story is that you shouldn’t let anybody tell you how to live your life and what makes you “prettier” or more desirable.  But be yourself and be confident in yourself.

Even if mother is right. 


Jerry | New York, NY | USA

Jerry Ma is the Art Director of Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, has his own tshirt line under the Epic Proportions studio in which he also does graphic design/illustration and self publishes his own comic BURN.  And is also working on The Dim Sum Gang with Parry Shen.

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The Broccoli Diet

I’m all for this blog! I struggled with weight all my life and even to this day and I want to make sure that my 3 girls never have to deal with what I did.

When I was 19, I was attending NYU and living at home in Brooklyn. My Mom decided that I was getting a little too heavy (I was a size 6/8 at 5’3”) for her taste and decided to put me on the broccoli diet. What this entailed was that every night for dinner, while my Dad and my sister had a delicious Korean meal, my Mom put a big plate of steamed broccoli in front of me. I was to dip it in a small bowl of soysauce, vinegar and hot pepper marinade and call it dinner. I think I ate 2 stalks and stalked off to my room. The next night, that same plate of broccoli came out. The rest of the week, that plate was set in front of me every night, the broccoli getting a little limper, a little darker. My Mom finally gave up when she realized that I was actually gaining weight on her broccoli diet because I was hitting the McDonalds on the way home.


Ellen | Bethesda, MD | USA

Ellen Oh is a lawyer, writer, and college instructor whose first book “Prophecy: The Dragon King” is being published by HarperCollins Children for release in Winter 2013.

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