Whenever I see aunties at large family gatherings, I am guaranteed to hear them say something about the way I look.

“It’s nice that you have big eyes. Good thing you have double eye-lid.”
“Your chin is not pointy enough. You’d be prettier if your nose was higher”
“Oh your pimples have cleared up. Have they gone to your back instead?”

Do I agree with these Asian Aunties? I admit that I have a semi-flat nose and a round chin. But is my nose not pointy enough?  To who or what standards am I comparing myself with? Do I look Too Asian? Why was this important to me?

At a certain point in my life, I wanted to look like a White Girl. My best friend at the time was a beautiful Italian and Portuguese girl, and I wanted to look like her. She had the large eyes, high nose and pointy chin. Score. She had all three of the Asian Auntie criteria.

However, my issue was not with looking White Enough. I would never be able to look White enough. I am not even White to begin with. My issue was always with looking Too Asian.

Too Asian (a personal projection): the slit-like eyes, flat face, and bowl cut.

These are only some of the criteria that I associated with looking “Asian”. Over and over again, I interpreted that these were unattractive features. I hadn’t learned how to see and/or appreciate the beauty in these features. For a long time, Too Asian was synonymous with Too Unattractive.

In twelfth grade, a close friend of mine dubbed me: Baoface. The nickname describes the shape of my face as bao-like. In Chinese a baozi (包子) is a steamed bun, usually filled with something delicious. This nickname describes my face as something round and squishy, its description of me is in a Chinese manner.

When my friend had given me this nickname, there was no ill intent. She was merely describing my face and its shape. It was up to me how to interpret this information. My love for Chinese bao stopped me from interpreting the given nickname as something that was negative. More importantly, I realized that there were multiple ways to look at myself. I can look at myself from an Asian Auntie perspective, and describe my face against other beauty standards. I can also look at my face as it is, and embrace it as is.

“Baoface” gradually became something that I closely identify with. Yes, it describes my face, but it also describes a bit of who I am. This word is neither Chinese (Too Asian) nor English (White Enough), it is a mix of both.

grace k.