Monday, January 08, 2001

CONFESSIONS OF A TWENTY-SOMETHING SINGLE ASIAN MALE

Some of my friends call me a 'Phase II guy'. I'm not sure whether to take it as a compliment or as an insult.

For those of you uninitiated in the Gen Y lexicon, let me explain. There are two dominant types of fish personalities in the post-90s dating pool. First, there are the Phase I guys - those who just wanna have fun and excitement ("Carpe diem!"), engage in risque sexual and hallucinogenic behaviors, and mostly scorn morality. Think of a young George W. Bush.

Then, there are the Phase II guys. These are the nice, sweet ones who work hard and play by the rules; these dawgs (loyal to a fault) make loving husbands and great fathers. Just think: a young Al Gore. These are also the ones that parents -- but never EVER their daughters -- fall head over heels in love with (Trust me… I know from personal experience). And these are the ones that all girls come crying to when their asshole (sorry--'scuse my Creole) Phase I boyfriends abuse them physically, mentally and emotionally (Yup - again, from personal experience).

So I'm a Phase II guy -- which (if you haven't figured out) makes me a bitter, unsportsmanlike sore loser since not one single woman in America under the age of 35 wants to date my kind. Trust me -- it's a documented fact in the most recent Census report.

Don't believe me? Let me tell you about 24.4 years of pure (dating) pain and agony.

My entire life, I've been called two things over and over again: "cute" and "a nice guy". (Do you see the tattoo on my forehead that says "Nice guy. Please tread on me" or is it just my imagination?).

Now, understand that these two seemingly kind and innocuous phrases -- hell, call them like they are: stigmas!!! -- have multiple hidden meanings, not unlike 'sexual relations'. In fact, the story of my life traces the different layers of meaning of the word "cute". Case in point: When I erupted from my mother's womb, the St. John's Hospital nurses called me "cute" (as in "Look at that fat drooling off his chin…isn't that uh…'cute'?). As a shy adolescent, girls would call me "cute" (really meaning, "Hell if I would ever date someone that young, naïve and 'cute'…").

Today, when men call me "cute" - such as the 70-year-old drunken Irish guy who blatantly hit on me in a Boston bar a few weeks ago -- they're really thinking, "Well, he's two steps below rugged, one step below handsome and just a little bit above ugly, so I guess that probably makes him 'cute'." When women call me "cute", what they're really thinking is "I'm lookin' for Phase I. Let's just be friends…"

Don't get me started on how I feel about being called "A Nice Guy"…


Tell me if I've gone bonkers: ctschang@hotmail.com

Sunday, January 07, 2001

WHY I SPURNED THE POST-COLLEGE CAPITALIST RAT RACE

When I compare myself with my former classmates at the big Y, I can't help but stop and wonder, "Gee, what an unconventional path I've taken..."

Really, how many of my classmates have lived in a public housing project or hung out with potheads and drug dealers or even been Hungry -- in a literal, not a figurative sense -- since receiving that magical Y-A-L-E diploma a few May days ago?

I guess I take a little pride in being unconventional. After all, I've seen all too many of my classmates -- really, some of the smartest people at the best schools -- climbing the corporate ladder to becoming a VP or Manager, struggling at parties to explain what they do in a way that hides the guilt of choosing a career path that is so utterly conventional, hiding behind a blue-collared shirt/khaki pants uniform that all but screams out "Aren't you impressed??? I work at 'pick one: Goldman/McKinsey/JPMorgan/Bain'!!!!"

So I've chosen to teach.

To be frank, it's a decision that I've struggled with at times over the past two years. I mean, why make $30,000 and work 70 hours a week when one could make a few times that working fewer hours? You might ask, what the hell kind of 'rational thinking' did they teach you at Yale?

Here's my answer: Because I'm building something.

One of the greatest (and worst) aspects of living in America is the idea of 'reinvention,' the idea that you can pick up and start over again at any time. Of course, the flip side to this is that so rarely do we as a society commit to anything. You see it in our architecture -- hastily-constructed cardboard buildings that are not made to last thousands of years like in Europe but maybe 30 or 40 max; you see it in business, with day traders flipping stocks for a quick gain; you see it in popular culture; you see it everywhere.

I'm seeing it in my Masters-of-the-Universe peers, who as consultants and bankers have chosen to work on 3-month-long projects and to 'advise' people for a quick pay-off, rather than to be fully engaged.

What I love about teaching is that I get to invest my time and energy fully in relationships with students and parents, not for a quick return but for a long-term return. I get to build something: a school and -- forgive me for waxing sentimental here -- a better future for a middle-class kid.

Tell me if I'm full of it: ctschang@hotmail.com.