The Asian Man’s Burden

We have a new deputy director in the office. She’s a no-nonsense professional woman from Nigeria. She’s Oxford educated, sharp as a tack, every crease in her clothes ironed and starched with a purpose in mind. Her shoes have red soles. (I’m so proud that I know what this means.)

At the UN, you come across these characters from time to time and you better be on your game, otherwise you’re coffee boy well into your 30’s.

But here’s my problem, and it IS a problem.

I finally get a formal introduction to the deputy and the first thing she says to my supervisor when she introduces me is:

“And who is this young man, your intern?”

Now understand, I’ve practiced all year long on how to conduct myself around senior UN staff. No big, desperate smiles, only smart, incisive questions and comments. Quippy anecdotes if you dare. Act like you belong.

But the sad truth is, no amount of practice can compensate for what I lack. I lack hair on my chin and chest.

I’m 27 years old people. 27. Years. Old. But Asian men know this much to be true: an Asian 27 is not a Caucasian 27…not by a long shot.

If you’re going to tell me, “Chris, don’t worry. In the end it’s not about how you look, your performance on the job will speak for itself.” Let me just stop you right there. Please, just shut up. Just shut up.

If my colleagues begin sentences with, “You know, I have a son around your age…” chances are slim that I’m being considered for middle
management.

But what can I do? Facial hair? Unseemly and can’t grow it.

Glasses? I got Lasik done last year.

Better, more sophisticated wardrobe? Stuck in the Banana Republic paygrade.

Act like I know what I’m doing? Can’t fake it.

Invent imaginary children? Might work, but probably not a good idea. Especially without a ring.

So there you are. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should be practicing my lines…

“You want cream and sugar?”

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Asian Man’s Burden

  1. S

    you should try the napoleon complex – i hear it works pretty well.

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