Half a Hapa Makes a Quapa
I never considered the genetics of my future children when I was a little girl playing Mommy with my dolls. Why would I have? I didn’t think about their heritage, customs, and language nor about teaching them the rich journey of their lineage. In 1988 when I was confidently fantasizing about marrying Prince William of England (even though he was six and I was eight - it was close enough and whatever, he was a real prince). I didn’t think about how our children would be three quarters White and one quarter Chinese. It was beyond my math level and besides, I would be a real life princess!
As I approached the procreating phase of my adulthood, I had fleeting thoughts of the genetic potential of my offspring. Mostly they were empty fantasies of the mysterious combinations my own mix might create with whatever boyfriend I might be dating or whichever actor or rockstar I might be lusting after at the moment. Before I met my husband, my main celebrity crushes lay somewhere between Pharrell Williams and David Blaine. So, I imagined my kids would either be ultra hip musician nerds with caramel skin and skateboards, or maybe more serious quiet geeks that liked to “out-magic” each other from dawn ‘til dusk with their piercing eyes. Either way, these imagined identities were obviously trivial.
Now, here I am: it’s almost Christmas 2017 and I am almost eight months pregnant with my first child. I found my own prince, and his name isn’t William. It’s Ari. He’s Jewish and from Connecticut - a different style royalty. And, like William, he’s younger than me, too.
Wrapped up within the maddening excitement to meet this little being and the joy and terror of facing parenthood lies a palpable awareness of this baby’s cultural heritage. For me, it’s both a fresh and modern mix while also having a tinge of sadness for the dilution of my Asian self. It sounds more egotistical than I truly mean, but as a Hapa parent I know I must not be the only one struggling with this nugget of awareness. It brings to light my own uniqueness that maybe I haven’t celebrated enough in the past - a genetic combo so specific that in order to produce children with the same Hapa identity I would have to find a half-Chinese/half-Scottish/Irish man to like enough to want children with.
I could also describe this genetic awareness as an inspiration to fire up the actually faint Chinese-ness of myself. My Chinese blood has been in the country so long that what’s culturally left behind after the language was lost, the old recipes forgotten, the ancient jade cracked, is an evolution of Americanized customs. Be what they may, they are ours and mine to continue. My family always celebrates the Lunar New Year and I’m pretty sure my kid will now have three new years to choose from: Jewish, Chinese and modern Gregorian. Cool!
My family loves talking about Chinese horoscopes so my child will be highly aware of its birth year spirit animal and all the best animals to be friends with and date based on its triangle of affinity. My kid will hopefully adapt to our household’s multi ethnic palate preferences and be an adventurous eater who skillfully learns how to roll dim sum with Grandma while knowing the best Jewish deli sources from Dad.
As I struggled to define and celebrate my own version of Hapa beyond “definitely not white” and “never Asian enough,” I now promise to educate, support and celebrate my little Quapa as they develop those senses of self beyond standardized ethnic expectation. I hope to shed more ego as a parent in order to make way for whatever this child will be. In an age where individual identity is so pungent and free, I wait here with my round dancing belly so very anxious to meet this person and welcome them into their own unique existence.
Autumn Henry was born in Missouri, raised a Navy Brat and now calls Brooklyn home. Her career in esthetics was born out of a desire to perform humane Brazilian Waxing but quickly graduated into a full fledged career that focuses on holistic skin care and healing of the individual. Autumn is a fierce advocate for "graceful aging" vs "anti-aging" in a culture obsessed with unrealistic beauty standards. Follow her on Instagram @missautumnhenry.