Editor’s Note: Ranier Maningding is a copywriter and mastermind behind the social justice page “The Love Life of an Asian Guy“. The opinions expressed in this piece are solely his own.
I don’t do rides. Not anymore. Last time I was at Great America with my wife, I had to vomit so hard my asshole nearly fell out of my pocket.
But in that magical moment, my wife giddy with joy, Christmas lights glistening in her eyes, frosted sugar on her upper lip, and a forest of trichomes running through my system, I said, “Fuck it! One more ride!!”
With our freezing palms clasped together, we weaved through food courts and families like a human homing missile. We made it and the line was shorter than anticipated, but our elation was short-lived when we realized we’d be waiting behind a group of obnoxious preteen White kids for the next half-hour.
We tried to stay optimistic. We wanted to believe these were wholesome innocent Caucasians like in those Steven Spielberg movies, but the first thing I heard out of this bushel of 8th graders was, “OMG did you see that new Jake Paul diss track?!” followed by non-stop conversations about classmates who weren’t as “savage” as them.
I turned to my wife, dipped my face into her universe of hair and whispered, “Babe, look.” She kissed the tip of my nose and whispered back, “They’re fucking annoying.”
We tried to ignore them, but like Asian parents on the telephone, preteens talk really, really loud. “Brady! Did you know Dylan texted Melinda last Tuesday?! It’s getting serious! I’m freaking out now!!” Then, they turned radio silent.
As a card-carrying member of the Nosey People Alliance of America, I couldn’t resist a free sip of someone’s tea. I leaned in close and noticed they were talking on the phone.
“Tell Dylan we saved him a spot!”
“Walk through the bushes!”
“Who cares, just do it!”
Oh hell no. You little shits will not let your friends cut in this line.
First off, Jake Paul is trash.
Second, you are not going to let your snotty friends cut in line. Fuck that. We’ve been having a magical ass time and you will not kill our mood.
A ripple of chit-chat came from behind. “What kids? What’s going on? No cutting!” Out of the bushes, two gingers, who looked like Fred and George Weasley but with Richard Spencer haircuts, skipped over to catch up with their friends.
Then, like a magical genie that appears every time you click your heels twice and say “Paul Blart,” a Great America security guard appeared minutes after the kids cut in line. The guard pointed his flashlight at the boys.
“Tell me and don’t lie: did you guys cut in line?” “Yes…” “You need to leave. Come with me.”
Boy, if I could die of happiness overload that would be the moment. Justice was served, Paul Blart’s doppelganger saved Christmas, I felt cheery AF, and my edible just kicked in.
Best of all, we were halfway there.
Standing on my toes, I peeked behind my wife’s shoulder to see how close we were to the boarding zone. I couldn’t see the end of the line, but I saw something else: three of the little blonde girls from earlier were huddled together, giggling at us.
Why were they giggling? The one with the freckles started to point at us. I couldn’t decipher what the brat was saying, so my eyes followed her finger and it lead straight to my wife’s hair. In a nanosecond I knew what the fuck she was going to do.
That little piece of shit was going to touch my wife’s hair.
Like water filling a sunken boat, my mind was immediately flooded with stories my wife told me about growing up as a young Black woman, and the racism she’s experienced because of her hair.
Like the time in 5th grade when Jamie took a scissor during math class and cut off a handful of braids from her head. Students harassed her for years because Jamie got suspended, and my wife was shamed for speaking out against a popular White kid.
Or the time Anthony cut a chunk of hair from Livi’s head and waved it around in front of the classroom and everyone laughed. The teacher didn’t even punish him. My wife was told to “get over it.”
These traumatic memories can be triggered, and the thought of a random White girl bullying my adult wife was too much for me to stand. I wanted to speak up, but if I make a scene with a little blonde White girl, chances are, Paul Blart Jr. would be flashing his lights at me too.
I stood up, stepped towards the little demon child and then, just as I was about to say something, just as her finger inched towards my wife’s hair, the line moved forward, and the girls turned around.
I was confused.
Did I read that situation wrong? Was the Becky #02 trying to mess with my wife’s hair or was she pointing at something else? Maybe she saw Logan Paul’s career leaving the atmosphere? Shit, I didn’t know. But I did wonder: was I a bad person for assuming the worst in a bunch of little White kids? Were they the bullies I imagined from my wife’s childhood?
Erlanger Turner, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown, noted that traumatic racial experiences (like when bullies target Black women’s hair) can produce “psychological symptoms such as anxiety, hypervigilance to threat, or lack of hopefulness for your future as a result of repeated exposure to racism or discrimination.”
I wanted to tell my wife about the kids almost touching her hair, but if I did, knowing her, she wouldn’t hesitate to snatch Becky’s hairline so fast we’d have to change Becky’s name to Eleven.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see my wife call out a racist Jake Pauler to their face, but I also feared that if something went down, the security officer might have something other than a flashlight to point at my wife. It would be a Black woman’s word over six little White children – who do you think they’d believe?
Sure, as an Asian man, I could probably get away with telling off a group of racist White kids myself, but my wife doesn’t have that luxury. It’s similar to that scene in “Get Out” when the police officer pulled over a White female driver (Rose) but instead, asked for the photo ID of her Black boyfriend (Chris). Even though Chris was completely innocent, his Blackness made him a suspect for a crime he didn’t commit.
So, I kept quiet.
For the remainder of our wait time, I watched those kids like a hawk, my teeth ready to disengage so I could ‘Pennywise’ Becky’s arm off if she tried that shit again. Thank god, she didn’t.
One ride, two churros, and a hot chocolate later, we left Great America and arrived home. When I finally told my wife what happened she let out a deep sigh and cupped my face in her hands.
“I’m used to it”
“I know, but you shouldn’t. I just wanted you to have the perfect day.”
Seeing the shame in my eyes, she pulled my cheek towards her chest, embraced my face and said, “I have you, so I did.”