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SuChin's Journal: Super Americans

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March 3, 2004

What's our next story?

I had a meeting with my producers to talk about what our next show should be about. We just did one on dating, and trying to find our next idea is always tricky. But I think it's obvious, I really want to do an episode about body and self image.

It's strange sitting in a meeting with people you work with and talking about the most personal details of your life. We speak as if I'm not really in the room, as if SuChin were another person. It's the only way I can really objectively pitch story ideas and not feel weird about it.

All of this is so new to me, and it scares me and I feel like I'm always making a huge mistake putting my life out there. I'm used to doing interviews, I'm used to standing in the studio and devlivering the day's news. The thought of putting my family out there, of airing all of my personal demons on television still makes me wake up at night. I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to this. After the first episode, I really didn't think I could do another one. People in elevators would ask about my mom ... and I would completely freak out and get really defensive, because, hey, who wants anyone talking about your mom, right? Or I had a girl at Starbucks ask me if I was still with my boyfriend. Ummmm, "None of your business." Well, that's not what I said, but that's what I was thinking. But then I would get these letters from people who saw the show and they would tell me these amazing stories and wanted to connect and share with others that understood exactly what they were talking about. One girl e-mailed me to tell me about the time her mother thought she wanted to join a girl gang when she was rushing for a sorority in college.

It's insane that this is the first show I've ever seen, speaking to people our age, about the experience of growing up in two different cultures, because so many of us live these lives, and all of us at least know someone close who can relate to this.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me
March 4, 2004

Eyelid Surgery

I feel pretty good about the way I look. I'm not too self-conscious about much, but my whole life, there was one thing that I wished I could change — the shape of my eyes. It's the most common surgery among Asians, both here and in Asian countries, to have "double eyelid surgery."

Most Asians are born without creases on their lids. If you're not Asian, you probably have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. That's because you have a crease. Just look at a picture of the eyes of a non-Asian and then look at an Asian person's eyes. What's the difference? Of course one is bigger, but do you notice a "crease," a "fold" in the eyes of the non Asian? It's insane because it's so not noticeable, to most people, it's like a centimeter of skin. But having a crease in your eyelid makes your eyes look bigger.

My whole life, that's something that my family would talk about. We'd get together for a big family occasion and always eventually the conversation would turn to when SuChin was getting her eyelid surgery. I also have this huge scar on my right eye, from a childhood accident and it was always like, "Hey pass the spinach. SuChin, when are you going to get rid of that scar and get your eyelids done are you finished with the salt?"

It didn't make me feel bad. I know that it's really un-PC, that most people would see that as really offensive and unhealthy for a kid, but it really wasn't. It was such a common topic of conversation with my family and with all of my other Asian friends and their families. Its just as common as talking about where you're going to college or if you're going to cut your hair, it's just that common. I think if I felt really bad about it, my parents would have stopped talking about it. It never made me feel bad, though. I think I probably would've developed a complex with or without my family talking about it. I didn't feel like my eyes were too small when I was home, it was when I was at school or watching movies or looking in magazines.

This isn't an episode about body image as much as it is about self image, how you perspective the way you look. What do you feel when you look in the mirror? I just wanted to fit in more. I just didn't want to stand out as much.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me
March 7, 2004

Mom and Dad

Went home to see mom and dad. I'm not quite sure they like being on TV, in fact, I'm pretty sure they hate it. Thankfully, they don't have MTV, actually they don't have a TV at all ... well, sort of, they've got an old TV hooked up to a VCR to watch Korean soap operas. That's the extent of television in my house. We sat around and talked about eye lid surgery and how it was always a topic of conversation around the dinner table.

When I was in high school, I used to put scotch tape on my eyelids to create a fold. I'd actually go out like that, like no one would notice that I've got freaking tape on my eyelids. I also used to sleep with them on because I thought I could actually "train" my eyes to fold naturally. It didn't work. It cracks me up that I used to go through all this trouble, but is it so much different than getting up 2 hours early for school to put on your make up, tease your hair, coordinate your outfits with friends (all of which I did as well) and generally obessess over the way you look?

Now, whenever my mom looks at me on TV or in pictures, they always joke, "oh, you had a good eye day" or "oh, that's a bad eye day, you should stop smiling so much." But mostly, they're really happy that I didn't go through with the surgery, I think they realized that they raised a really healthy daughter, someone who's pretty happy with herself and I think it makes them really proud.

My mom has a natural crease in her eye and, by Asian standards, her eyes are big. But it's funny because to a non Asian, her eyes are just as small as mine, we have small eyes, WE'RE ASIAN! It's completely a cultural thing, it's not like having liposuction or a boob job, it's not about being vain, so much as it is about the influence of Western beauty on other cultures.

The standard of beauty is dictated by people who don't look like us.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me
March 13, 2004


We found her. We found the perfect girl who understands exactly what I'm talking about.

It wasn't easy. Jane is incredible. She's totally normal. You know what I mean? Like, I got a million e-mails and letters from girls who wanted eye jobs, boob jobs and wore blue contacts. That's not what I wanted — I wanted someone who was struggling with the shape of her eyes. I wanted someone who was genuinely torn between getting the surgery and not. Jane is not a vain person. She's been thinking about this for years. She waited until she was out of college and has really come to the decision to get the surgery after a lot of soul searching. She's walking that fine line between holding on to her culture and fitting into the American world around her. She's not doing this because she wants to be "white," or because she's trying to erase her Asian-ness. I'm not sure I agree with that, entirely.

I definitely don't think we thought about this because we want to look white. That's impossible. I'll never look like Gwentyh Paltrow and I don't want to look like her. But there is a sense that we are trying to erase something ... what that is is so much more complicated than our "slanty" eyes. I think we're trying to "erase" the feeling of shame and embarrassment, from all those kids that teased us growing up. Jane says that she always felt "vulnerable" because of her eyes, and I totally connect to that. Like that's the one thing people always made fun of me for.

I could buy all the designer clothes, cut my hair, wear the perfect pair of shoes or hang out with the coolest people, but you can always get me on my "chinky" eyes. There's real truth in that, real honesty about what she feels, about what I feel.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me
March 17, 2004


Just got out of the hospital. Jane got the surgery.

I didn't think that I was going to be able to see her afterwards. Peeling a Band-aid off makes me cringe, so I wasn't sure how I was going to react. It was bad. Like, really, really, really bad. She still had her stitches in and even though it's cosmetic surgery, it's still surgery — blood, swelling, pain, you get the picture.

I kept thinking, God, this could've been me ... this could be the morning of my surgery. I didn't do it because I was just too scared. I was too scared that I wasn't going to like the way I looked. I was too scared of losing the familiarity of my face. I know it sounds weird, but I felt really sad today. Not because Jane was going through with the surgery. I think she has a pretty healthy attitude when it comes down to it. I really think this is going to make her feel better, hopefully move on with her life, and not have her eyes be the center of any unhappiness. But for me, I felt sad because I was thinking about what it would be like if I had gone through with it. I kept thinking, well, my life would be split in half: before and after.

And what would that say about my "before"? Was I not good enough before? Would I have to forget all those years before my surgery? Was that part of my life not good enough? I cried a lot that day. I was really surprised at how much this would affect me. We are who we are. I would miss all the crappy things that go along with feeling like my eyes are too small. You know what I mean? Like, I would also be cutting away a part of myself. I would miss my "bad eye" days, I would miss feeling blue about that, I would miss it because all of that makes up who I am ... and I'm not sure I would want to just get rid of anything that made me feel bad.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me
April 2, 2004

Super Americans

This isn't about plastic surgery — it's not a plastic surgery show — it's about the lengths that we go through to fit in, to feel like we're part of the world around us. Yes, it's awful, awful that I feel this way, it's awful that I can't find an Asian girl in an issue of Vogue or a Puerto Rican American in an issue of Vanity Fair... it's not just about not being represented, it's about not feeling validated, it's about feeling completely invisible.

But I think many of us are Super Americans. That's my new favorite word. We've taken all the good parts about our cultures, the good parts about being American and smashed them together and I think we're better that way.

I love being Korean. I love that my mother gets up at 5 in the morning to cook me a warm breakfast before I get on a plane. I love that my parents only know how to use the cell phone to call me or my brother. I love that I would never disrespect my parents, even if it means that I've sacrificed some parts of my life. But I also love that I can talk freely about these things because I live in a culture that encourages expression. I love that I sit at dinner with friends in New York and they come from places that I've never even heard of. I love that I can work at a place that repsects my opinions and values my point of view. I love that I can appreciate the fine art of Justin Timberlake and still cook a mean KalBi dish at home.

Jane looks good. She looks completely different to me, but she feels lighter, more open. She seems to be happier. For her, it was the right decision. And I guess that's what I'm most afraid of — people seeing this and assuming all Asians have complexes about their eyes. I'm not speaking for anyone but me. Jane isn't speaking for anyone but herself. At the end of the day, what we're trying to do, juggling the complexities of two cultures, of two worlds, is anything but clear. We have no handbook, we're all just trying to figure it out as we go, but the point is, we're trying, and that to me is the most important story of all.

Posted by SuChin | 1515 Broadway | NYC 10036 | Contact Me

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