Once in a while, I miss Chicago.

I left Chicago one week after my ex-boyfriend told me, “I love you, but not enough to move to Toronto with you. And that, to me, means I don’t love you the right way.” Days before, you could not have separated us (he asked me if I judged him when he picked the stems off vine-ripened tomatoes before bagging them). It was too easy for us to be that way and moving was just the hurdle to flag the inevitable. We broke-up that day, and I departed alone with orders from the U.S. Border Control to do so by the end of the month.

Those last days packing and preparing to leave were torturous. My half empty apartment and everything about Chicago represented our relationship – did I just accept and leave? Of course. If this was tough enough, then that was enough of us. I chalked it up to a ‘bad fit’. Nevertheless, I cried a lot. It was the first and only time I lost my appetite for food. I needed to grieve more, but had to get across the border first. Arriving in Toronto, I told myself that there was nothing left for me in Chicago and it was only a reflection of our good times together.

For months, I had nightmares and the ringer for long distance calls made my heart race. It wasn’t a secret; I thought about us all the time. The radio annoyingly announced Chicago’s weather, hockey results, baseball scores, and of course, Obama’s race. And then there was also the matter of finishing my thesis, based on ethnographic study in Chicago.

I returned to Chicago to graduate, and even spent some time with the Ex. I considered telling him (but didn’t) that this trip was to ensure for myself that I wanted neither he nor Chicago in my life. I was wrong, then right, wrong again, and I’m now only 97% over us and that’s ok. He was the romance of my youth (we sped on bikes down Magnificent Mile through the rain, jumped into Lake Michigan fully clothed, made ketchup from scratch). It was too sweet, I’d gorged myself full of every beautifully in-love moment. Actually, just before his revelation, I was on a diet to prep for more feasting in Toronto. (By the way, I am noticing the food-conflict analogy running through this post, as I’m sure that you have.)

On the other hand, Chicago – before and after him – bored me. It was everything I saw on TV. Once I’d become accustomed to seeing outlandish stereotypes in real-life, I felt that I understood Chicago. I was jaded once again and told him so. He said, “those things you liked about Chicago with me are still here, as they’ve always been in you.”

He was right, though I’m not sure about our friendship.

This is my list of things I miss about Chicago:

  • Bike-friendliness, and especially the lake side bike path in the early morning
  • Seminary Co-op and Gerstein Library at UChicago
  • Race reversals in Hyde Park
  • Intelligentsia coffee and garbage cookies, as they are served at both Istria Cafes
  • Abundant and less-expensive cheese choices and alcohol… and cigarettes
  • Multi-grain demi-baguettes at Medici and sunflowered bread from Red Hen
  • Brownstones (and architecture, in general)
  • Blommer’s aroma at the oddest times
  • Outlandish and gawdy stereotypical characters and neighbourhoods
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i was recently asked by a black man in Chicago: “do asian women like black men or not?

he continued, “if so, how do you know?” and then quite confidently stated that he knew when white, latina, and black women were interested. (we didn’t get to his reasoning though)

i had a million things to say and to ask, since i’d been wondering something similar myself (i have a good hunch that black men are checking, but not approaching me. causing me to wonder if maybe they think i’m off bounds?).

given that i find race relations to be different in Chicago, as opposed to where i’ve recently lived in toronto, my answer below is very open to others’ opinions – so please, your input is welcome!first, i warned him that the things i told him were based on my own observations – not necessarily local, and certainly generalized. i also cautioned him to be considerate of variation and focus on the individual. then, i told him in no particular order, the following:

  • “asian women” covers a whole wide range of females from many countries – in the UK, “asian” refers to southeast asian (e.g. indian, pakistani, etc.)
    • he said meant “oriental” – i said: NEVER refer to asian women as oriental. an educated AW (from anywhere over there, or born here) will at the very least know about orientalism, the west made up the orient to “other” us. 
      • some AW will take offense too (i don’t, but i will roll my eyes and you’ve revealed yourself as ‘likely someone who has an asian fetish’).
  • general groups of AW:
    • group a: – these AW have ethnic origins in 1 of 3 countries (Korea, Japan, and China (and arguably singapore))
      • they are especially good at sneaking peeks at the opposite sex (it’s partly the eyes, but partly just b/c they’re just good at being inconspicuous)
      • most of these AW are not looking at black men, they tend to date intraracially (amongst these countries) or white men
        • there’s actually studies about this. they consider it “dating up the racial hierarchy” based on stereotypes, fear, ignorance, culture, etc.
      • a few of them are open to black men, but know that you are expected to talk to them, a holla will not work!
      • group b: – these AW have ethnic origins in the phillipines, malaysia, laos, etc.
        • these AW that like black men fashion themselves to give cues
        • garish presentation of economic wealth and social prestige works for all men
        • i’m not sure a holla works here, or if it works anywhere actually
      • he asked: “OK, aside from the AW wearing baby phat and such, how do i know?”
        • eeep! this one is tough, very tough.
        • consider the above, plus: AW and asian men often have seriously platonic relationships that appear as though they are dating (e.g. they eat out together, go to movies, etc). Two AW may also do this – no they are not necessarily lesbian though they’re holding hands.
        • your best bet, and this may sound bizarre, but just talk to her!
          • you should know immediately if she’s scared (i would caution you away from this one).
          • if she’s open to convo, take it slow. during this time you can figure out her as a person and not just an AW and hopefully find out if she’s ‘involved’ with someone (can’t promise this one, you may have to just come out and ask)
      • NEVER say: “i always wanted to date an AW”
        • it may be true and you may be genuinely interested in learning all about asian culture blah blah blah, BUT! for most AW’s it’s the equivalent of saying ‘i always wanted to dominate a quiet, exotic, insert stereotype here’
        • to which he said, “but what if i really am interested in learning – it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl, i just want to learn?!”
          • first, make some asian dude friends – they might help your game
          • second, i don’t care! pretend if you must! you have to make her believe it’s HER as an individual that matters and not her asian-ness
      • and finally (for now), i recommended that he should watch or read “the Joy Luck Club”, by Amy Tan
        • sure the acting is terrible
        • but the stories within are representative of many of the issues AW face in north america

      you know when something is relevant to you, there’s a tendency to notice references to it more so (if ever) than before?

      obviously, attending uofc makes its happenings relevant to me. and for the most part, i try to stay up-to-date. given the school’s substantial (*mostly theoretical) contributions, i can certainly understand why academics (and practitioners*) worldwide would want to do the same.

      what i have trouble understanding, however, is why other people seem to be so intrigued with “overhearing” what we uofc’ers have to say. for example, in a recent nytimes article about what to do on a winter day in chicago, a few commenters recommended staking out hydepark coffee shops to “overhear” us students. amidst trivial banter about whether the above ground public transportation system is called the “El” or “L”, best greasy spoons (my interest in the article), and the bitter cold, i guess i can see why listening in on our convos may be interesting.

      but, herein lies the problem(s). as one former uofc student commenter said, “don’t expect good conversation: The U of C is not social; you go there to do brilliant work”. i’d also like to add: what makes you eavesdroppers think we’re just going to blab about our “breakthroughs”, a) in public and/or b) to our colleagues? (b) hints at my own biases about uofc (and grad school, in general).

      yes, the above rant assumes that “lay persons” want to hear the brainy greatness that is uofc. i confess, i’m not sure why ppl are so interested in overhearing us. is it that you want to hear us mess up, see us act stupid and do dorky things? haha – my friend, just visit my blog for that!

      side note: there is a disproportionate # of left-handed ppl (myself included) at UofC.

      huff – i guess i should go back through my blog now to delete identifiers… meh, maybe later.