A continuing series by former ER writer and Audrey contributor Shannon Goss on life as a modern hapa Asian American woman.
Much of my childhood was spent in small-town Oregon. My high school graduating
class had roughly 130 graduates, and my best and perhaps most generous guess is
that less than 10 percent were ethnic minorities. And while I don’t want to make a sweeping
assumption that small town = small mind, after spending time in good ol’ Junction City
a few weeks ago, I felt compelled to share this (surprising) story. Keep in mind it’s now
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She’s baaack! Former ER writer Shannon Goss ponders life as a modern Asian American hapa woman.
When I was in college, two of my girl friends were physically unable to walk past a jewelry store without stopping to gape at the engagement ring display. I was never that girl.
It wasn’t that I was above coveting material things, after all, I was probably (im)patiently waiting for them to finish gawking so we could move on to Charlotte Russe. Apparently, the things I longed for could be purchased with one $20 bill. I wasn’t superior. I was cheap.
Former ER writer Shannon Goss ponders life as a modern Asian American hapa woman.
If I had to guess I would say I am one of the few people who still make (and valiantly attempt to keep) new year’s resolutions. With the new year comes the opportunity to be a little bit better. Some years I succeed with my resolutions, other years I fail. Generally, it’s on year five of making an annual resolution when it finally sticks. It was that stubbornness that got me to finally develop a nightly floss habit. And still, I’m not always great at it. I admitted this to the dental hygienist at my last cleaning, however, I must be holding my own because she was pleasantly surprised to find very little plaque around my teeth. And believe me, she was looking. I guess that’s a good life lesson for the kids: Set people’s expectations low and then you’ll always exceed them. You can say it: I’m going to be a great parent.
So as the reality of a new year sets in, I once again look to improve myself one resolution at a time. So for 2011, my resolutions are:
1. Do 25 push-ups twice per day. I’m happy to say I have been doing this. In light of the fact that my 91-year-old grandfather does 100 push-ups a day, this may not sound like much, but trust me, it is. I started by doing five. I had to stop three times and thought my arms were going to fall off. Now I do seven regular ones and 18 on my knees to complete the set. Sad? Perhaps. An accomplishment for yours truly? Absolutely.
2. Meditate for fifteen minutes, three times a week: Today’s meditation resolution is yesterday’s flossing resolution. I look forward to 2016 when I actually accomplish this.
3. Run three times a week: I’m not there. Yet.
4. Read one book per month. An accomplished resolution from last year, but one I need to make again this year to ensure that my reading horizons expand beyond email and Facebook.
5. Volunteer once every two months: This might sound piddly, but trust me, it will be an improvement. I volunteered once last year. In December.
6. Electronics off by 10 pm every night. Considering this post will go up after midnight, I have room for improvement.
At this rate I am confident that, if nothing else, I will be doing a lot of push-ups this year. Or at least until I get married. And by “married” I mean “photographed in my wedding dress.” I keep trying to tell Jerome that I’m doing this for him, but we both know it’s really for posterity so that when I look back at our wedding photos my arms look great (that is, less bad). Good arms and a tartar-free mouth. Boom! Happy new year.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An L.A. girl I am not. Oregon? Yes. Hawaii? On occasion. (My grandpa beams with pride when I’m assumed to be a local.) Los Angeles? Not so much. But like a chameleon I am able to blend into my environment, look as though I belong. However, when I roll up to any location, one thing is clear: I’m not Girl Hollywood.
You see, my car is a 1992.
That used to belong to my parents.
I’m fairly confident I am the only person in Los Angeles under 40 with no children who drives a minivan, much less an 18-year-old one. A friend once suggested I put in a car seat just so it “makes sense” to a passerby. When I pull up to any valet stand, it’s obvious I’m not part of the rich elite. No one is that practical. And not surprising, the thing about owning an old car is this: over time things stop working properly, a lesson I learned the hard way one sweltering summer day.
On my way to the Hotel Bel-Air for high tea, I stepped into my car looking the part: cork wedge sandals, cute dress and even cuter purse. By the time I got to the end of my block I realized my a/c wasn’t “on the fritz” as I had previously led myself to believe. Damn thing wasn’t working. At all. Once on the freeway, I could feel beads of sweat dripping down my torso. Instinctively, I used the front of my dress to sop it up. Then I remembered my dress was light grey. And yes, when wet, light grey turns to dark grey. I glanced down at the growing sweat mark on my stomach. Taking a quick mental assessment of all the other places I felt sweat dripping I knew this had the potential to be very bad. Acting quickly, I found a towel and laid it down on my seat so I could hike up my dress as close to my waist as possible without letting passing cars know the color of my underwear. I may be a sweaty pig, but I’m still a lady.
While driving at a snail’s pace on the freeway I shoved wads of Kleenex anywhere I could reach; against my stomach, between my knees and up around my bra. Once on Stone Canyon Road, I pulled out each piece of Kleenex, which now had the consistency of tissue paper. By the time I reached the valet stand, I was tissue-free save for the errant piece I found four hours later. I hopped out of my car, apologized that the a/c wasn’t working and, head held high, hoped for the best. And by “the best,” I mean I prayed my ass didn’t have giant sweat marks.
A continuing series by former ER writer Shannon Goss on life as a modern Asian American hapa woman.
September 6th marked the two-year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing at the age of 85. When thinking about how much she meant to me, I can still be brought to tears. I realize the significance of my crying is lessened by the fact that it doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes (read: the trailer for The Blind Side), but still, you get the point. My grandma left an indelible mark on everyone in my family, as she was an extraordinary woman in every sense of the word.
In August, my sister gave birth to her first child. A girl. For their daughter’s middle name, my sister and her husband decided on my grandmother’s Japanese name. No one was more pleased to hear this than my grandpa. I had the privilege of calling him with the news. Hearing aid in, he was able to understand me perfectly. For a man who has spent the better part of two years grieving the loss of his wife, I have never heard so much joy in his voice. I could practically hear him smile.
And while my niece will never get to meet the woman she is named after, she will get to know her through the stories that we will, undoubtedly, pass on.
My niece will know that her great-grandmother was the woman who taught her mom and auntie how to ride a bike. She will know that she was the woman who, when laughing really hard, would slap the person next to her. This is something my mom, sister and I all do and, with any luck, so will my niece. She will also know that her great-grandma was a woman so fit that, even in her 80’s, she could pull off wearing short-shorts. And my niece will also know that her great-grandma was the woman who, in the phone call she had with my parents the week before she died unexpectedly, told them to “be kind and take it easy.”
So as we welcome this wee baby into our family, there’s something wonderful about knowing that through her a part of my grandma lives on. I say “part,” but to hear my grandpa say it, it’s much more than that. As I was getting off the phone with him the other day, he told me to tell my sister and brother-in-law to take care of their little girl. He then added, “They’re taking care of grandma, you know.” So, in other words, no pressure.
– Shannon Goss
A continuing series by former ER writer and Audrey contributor Shannon Goss on life as a modern hapa Asian American woman.
Last year I attended a party that was held at a private residence in Beverly Hills. The guest list was dominated by agents, that is people whose very job it is to schmooze. One could argue that as a writer, my job is also to schmooze. Unless I want my audience to consist exclusively of my parents, then yes, networking, schmoozing, whatever you want to call it, would help.
And while I can carry a conversation, engage in witty repartee and generally avoid being a social moron, I do so only when absolutely necessary. My first instinct is to stand in the corner and eat every passing hors d’oeuvre. The food usually serves as my main talking point, “Did you try that prosciutto and goat cheese pizza?” It’s okay, I’ll say it. Sad.
Looking back, I realize that as an affable creature I peaked at age twelve. In animal terms, it went like this: As a third grader I was in the chrysalis stage, tucked away in my cocoon. I was so shy that while on a trip to Disneyland, my parents, in an attempt to raise a confident girl, wanted me to ask Mickey Mouse if I could get a picture taken with him. I was too shy, resulting in the photo seen here.
Yes, that’s my sister and me getting our photo taken with Mickey’s back.
But then as a middle school student I blossomed into a social butterfly. Every day after basketball practice while my mom was patiently waiting in the parking lot, I was busy striking up conversation in the locker room. I may not have been the best basketball player, but I was a champion chatterbox.
It does seem that the next stage for this butterfly is to slowly, but surely, turn into a hermit. That is a recluse. Oddly the second definition of hermit is: a spiced molasses cookie. That actually sounds better.
But before turning into a delicious cookie hermit I decided to give it one last go. Social or bust by way of joining Facebook. I harbored an unjustified resistance to Facebook or any other social or professional networking site. I illogically covet my privacy. Illogical given my extremely low profile. The only explanation for this behavior is, “Because I’m weird.” So I signed up only to realize a very plausible result would be that Facebook will become my great enabler. You mean I can keep in touch with people without leaving my house?
Back at the party, I was about to dig into some steak on polenta when an agent friend did what any good agent (and friend) would do. She dragged me into the middle of the party, forcing me to be social. Hermits are nimble creatures, though, and a short while later I was able to slip off to the side. After all, I caught sight of the dessert trays. Was that pana cotta in a Chinese soup spoon? Couldn’t miss out on a second talking point.
– Shannon Goss
A continuing series by former ER writer Shannon Goss.
If I could travel back in time and have a tête-à-tête with my kid-self, I would say, “While in college, go on a study abroad. You’ll think your world revolves around what happens stateside, but it doesn’t. And while you’re at it, learn a foreign language. Oh, and take more creative writing classes.”
I would also add: “There are guys who won’t treat you right and will break your heart. Wait it out. Good things happen during the writers’ strike of ’07.”
At that point, my kid-self would ask, “What do you have to do with a writers’ strike?” And that’s where I, self-proclaimed nerdy square-pants, get to look cool in front of my younger self.
As a kid, I had Tiger Beat posters on my wall. I wrote fan letters and, like Joanie, I loved Chachi. According to my diary, I also loved John Stamos.
So, when I joined the ER writing staff, I got to meet the guy I first knew as Blackie on another hospital show. After dropping the “John Stamos is my co-worker” bombshell, I imagine my kid-self would gloss over the fact that I landed a coveted job I had long pursued and go straight to, “Why aren’t you two married?” My kid-self apparently has an inflated sense of how much mojo I have as a grown-up.
I would explain that I have a boyfriend who I love very much. Boyfriend? As recently as college I imagined my 30s to include a husband and children, to which I say “boyfriend and dog” are the new “husband and children.”
So while my kid-self bombards me with questions about why I’m not yet married, I would distract her with tidbits such as: The man who created your favorite show, Laverne & Shirley, guest starred on this ER show (which made Jo Polniaczek’s boyfriend on The Facts of Life a huge star). And during a table read you will get to read opposite him. That’s right, kid-self; you will run lines with Garry Marshall.
And speaking of The Facts of Life, your second episode of ER featured Charlotte Rae, TV’s Mrs. Garrett. You will have and use Mrs. Garrett’s phone number.
I’m not sure how my starry-eyed younger self would handle this onslaught of awesomeness. To know that as an adult I would live blocks away from the man who played Jameson Parker’s brother on the TV show Simon & Simon?
“You mean, the guy who played AJ Simon’s brother? The AJ Simon I named my gerbil after?”
“Yes, that guy.”
Side note: I just realized Jameson Parker is two years younger than my parents. It’s a little weird to think that had things worked out as I had once hoped, I’d be married to a full-fledged member of the AARP.
Life is funny. I may not be able to hold a conversation in any other language or say I have ever lived abroad, but I can say that I’ve met Judd Nelson. And that’s saying something.
– Shannon Goss
We were excited for former Audrey contributor Shannon Goss when she landed a (dream) gig writing for ER, but sad to see her leave for greener (and well-paid) pastures. Now that ER has ended, she’s back to sharing her writing skills with us, this time with a regular column looking into her life as a writer, a hapa Asian American, and all-around modern woman.
I was asked to kick off my bi-weekly columns with an introductory piece. For anyone who has visited my website knows, I’m not big on the “About Me” page.
So what follows is an essay, which is my veiled attempt to get you – the reader – to like me, read me and clamor for more.
One of my high school classmates was convinced that I, with my non-white skin, was not an American. He was equally convinced that my fair-skinned best friend was. He was wrong.
My nationality? American.
My best friend? A green card-holding Canadian.
My ethnicity, which he confused with my nationality, is half Japanese; the other half equal parts Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh. In Hawaii, where I was born, I am known as a hapa, that is, a “half.”
Despite growing up in small town Oregon (read: not a Japanese restaurant in sight), I identify more with my Japanese side than my British Isles side, thus writing for Audrey magazine and not, say, Irish Lass Monthly.
My annoyance over the misuse of “ethnicity” and “nationality” probably has to do with the fact that I was raised by parents who were teachers. In our house, words and how you used them mattered. This supports the life assumption that we can blame pretty much anything on our parents.
Fear of abandonment? Thanks, Mom and Dad. Although in my case a little unwarranted considering I’m basing this entirely on the time I thought my parents boarded a cable car without me. Spoiler alert: They didn’t, something I realized after successfully chasing down the trolley with no money to pay my fare, what
with me being 8-years-old and all.
Inability to wake up early? Totally my parents’ fault, despite my mom’s best efforts to wake me from my teenage slumber by threatening to spray me with a water bottle and/or sing Chinese opera (she is neither Chinese nor an opera singer).
Comical confusion between rights and lefts? I want to blame this on my parents because I don’t know how else to explain my consistent ability to say, “turn left” when I mean, “turn right.” My boyfriend has accepted this as one of my adorable (my word) foibles despite the fact that when I make this error he’s generally at
the wheel of a moving automobile.
In my parents’ defense, however, I also take responsibility for my hang-up about words because I am a writer. Most of the time word choice is a matter of taste. Was she agitated or incensed? Overjoyed or jubilant? This changed while on the writing staff of the show ER where one wrong word could be the difference between life and death (in a fake TV show way).
So yes, words and how they are used matter to me. But hopefully not in a pretentious, you want to punch me in the face way. More of a I’m-laughing-with-you-because-you-misused-the-word-“literally” way.
– Shannon Goss