People Stare

People stare. This is nothing new to anyone.

This morning I stood at yet another check-out line with my husband and my baby, waiting to pay for a few groceries in our cart plus a fresh warm baguette I was holding in my hands. And there was an old man, staring down at my little Noah in his stroller. Just staring first at Noah then at me and Davy, and back and forth between my family of three, for far too long for it not to be rude.

When I lived in New York, I assumed people stared at me because I was devastatingly beautiful (sarcasm alert). Or because they were wondering where my pants were. I abhor pants and often wear dresses meant to be shirts because pants and I just don’t get along. This especially applies when I’m on vacation somewhere.

Now that I’m living as an expat in Ghent, I assume people are staring at me because I’M NOT WHITE. Sure I am convinced that it’s also my fashionable devastating beauty, and the whole pants-less thing. But with a population not much bigger than that of New York, Belgium is 23% non-Belgian and that’s not based on skin color. Most of that 23% reside in the capital of Brussels, where 70% of the population is tagged “foreign”.

map_belgium

But I don’t live in Brussels, I live in Ghent (spelled “Gent” in Dutch). Specifically in Evergem, that is mostly once farmland, where I can easily go days and sometimes weeks without seeing skin that is anything but white. I married a white man and into his family of white people. I love white people. But I love all people. But that doesn’t matter when I’m standing on line at the supermarket or getting cough syrup at the “apotheek” (pharmacy) or chewing on chicken at some restaurant here. I just get stared at.

And I don’t know if I’m noticing it more now because I have a baby of mixed Belgian and Korean-American love, or if people are just staring more now that I’m prancing around with a little mixed baby. It’s ignorance and lack of tact that causes my discomfort and feelings of offense. I’m sometimes tempted to carry a few family photos around so I can hand them out to those who stare too long. And charge them a euro or two for it.

I don’t mind so much being stared at, as long as when I meet a stare there is a softness in their eyes telling me they mean no harm and merely lack social skills. Sometimes we can exchange smiles and there’s even small talk. But if and when I am eye to eye and confronted with cold cobwebs of muted racism, I will still smile and nod while cursing them under my breath and carry on with my day.  I’ve never lived anywhere where Asians were the majority in number, but I know I’m not going anywhere and so I’d better get better at dealing with the stares.

But I do believe every once in a while, before I can even help it, I’ll be guilty of beating someone over the head with a perfectly lovely baguette I was waiting to pay for. Because I do love living here.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

34 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    jun you need to stop thinking that you are all that. They stare at Noah because he does look strange with his old man looking receding hair line that has a strange color. Plus he is so fat and round that he looks like a fat round human buddha that is always eating something. Looks like he will be fat like your brother. another thing your fashion needs updating. Maybe there its ok there … but from what you have shown us…you probably think you are the fashion plate in the area of old looking laid back rural farm area. They probably stare wondering if you are a mail order bride or why else would davy marry you.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      I’m sure out there in Southland, Michigan you have every idea what I’m talking about. It seems you know so much about me. But you need to look up “sarcasm” at some point in your limited life. Thanks for visiting my site again.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      Dude,not cool to say these things about a little boy.You get -100000000000 pts.But his mom is a different matter.She’s a two-faced knucklehead.You get +1 pt.

      Reply
      1. SueZK

        I AM SORRY!!!! I know full well your name is JUN !! Im sorry for the misspelling… i was distracted by my anger towards anonymous

  2. Marty

    Oh Anonymous, you must have serious self loathing issues if you have to talk hateful about a precious baby!! Why don’t you make twitter and fb so much more enjoyable and just go back in your dark hole or your mama’s basement with all your cats?!? You act like you despise Jun but seeing how much you know of her it’s definitely that you wish you could just be 1% as awesome as she is. So shoo cat lady!!!!

    Reply
  3. Anna

    First, I can’t believe the first comment on your blog. The ignorance of some people never ceases to amaze me. Which is partially why I am commenting. It is hard for me to understand the bigotry of some people in the US (and around the world).

    While I LOVE the internet and social media, it can bring out the ugliness in the human race. I don’t understand how some people can sit behind their keyboards/computers and say things that they would NEVER say out loud to someone in person. If I am not willing to say something to someone’s face, I am not going to post it online. It just seems a bit disingenuous to me.

    With all that being said, recently their was an episode on the Tia and Tamera Mowry reality show on the Style Network that dealt with the issue of race. Tia and Tamera are bi-racial and Tamera married a white man. She just had her first child a few months ago. On the show she stated that she had been getting some negative comments regarding her marriage (i.e., she was just a white man’s whore) and she was worried about how all of this would effect her soon-to-be born son.

    I don’t understand how people can be so cruel and judgmental just because of someone’s skin color or sexual orientation or any other reason. And because I chose to surround myself with people that think the same way that I do, I am surprised when I hear of such of things still occurring today.

    I think people are people regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. and all should be treated with the same dignity and respect.

    And in response to the gentleman staring at your precious son, I would have said, “He is adorable, isn’t he.” :)

    Reply
  4. Jun you are noticing it more because you are like a lion protecting her cub; Which is completely normal. You say you are used to it….now that you are a mother, you are seeing it through different eyes. You, Davy and Noah are gorgeous together.

    Reply
  5. kcsmum

    I have to admit – I used to think you had to be exaggerating about all the stares. But I’ve seen it time & time again in the backgrounds of pictures you post. Yet it still amazes me that in 2013 we still have to contend with such behavior. I used to laugh when you said they were staring because they thought you were either a mail order bride or a mail order maid (when out with your MIL). But now it just sickens me. No one could even glance at you, Davy & Noah and not see and feel the love. I commend you for your approach in managing the situations. It makes me ashamed to be from Michigan. The one thing I will never fully understand is why, if you are so obviously hated, do these “people” continue to follow, read and digest every morsel written about or by you?? It is clear from the ludicrous statements that they are total strangers. They wouldn’t know the real Jun if she hit them over the head. And I always laugh at the cowardice of anonymous. Idiots.

    Reply
    1. It’s so strange! There are parts of the world still stuck in a different era… :)

      The idiots will never go away unfortunately. But the good news is, it’s always the same ones running around just pretending to be different people. They have A LOT of time on their hands :)

      Reply
  6. melissa wolf

    Jun staring is definitely difficult to deal with my situation is different in the aspect people want to stare mainly due to my daughter who has autism. We get the pity stare or just a oh God is she contagious stare. I would think though the pictures I’ve seen on Twitter of your family that maybe those people who stare are definitely lacking something. You have a beautiful family.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Hi Melissa. Two of my girlfriends work with autistic children and I am familiar with so many of the struggles involved. Thank you for stopping by and sharing. The important thing is that we know what we have and we love what we have. Your daughter is a very lucky girl to have a mom with such a good head on her shoulders :)

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I know Jun and Davy. Good people, even when people aren’t so nice to them. Noah is perfect…all babies are. I will say this…Belgium has some catching up to do in the area of race relations. Plus, lets face it the reason why so many Belgian men marry outside of their culture is, well, have you seen some of their women?

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Hahahaha. The women here come in all shapes and sizes and conditions :) But yes, sometimes I do wonder how the country has remained in a bubble for so long. But I do love living here. Just need to get better at handling assholes that come my way :)

      Reply
  8. Hi long time no read since I dont have a smart phone any longer. anyway. my grand daughter is just about 18 months and has a big round head and almost no hair. shes beautiful and has a dazzling smile but people stare. and wonder if she has cancer since she has no hair.. so rudeness is everywhere and i would stare at noah cause hes just too dang cute…

    Reply
  9. Ryan Strange

    Jun,
    First I would like to say I am a huge fan. I really respect what you do. Second, thank you. I’m 18 and have experienced this multiple times in my life. My mother is black while my father is white. I grew up in a all- white town in CT. I have been getting these stares for many years in fact, and always questioned “what is wrong with me?” Well on the contrary, nothing is wrong with me, its just people are ignorant. To be honest with, it has gotten so much better in this day in age when we see more and more mixed race children, and interracial marriages. Maybe this will be some of things Noah will experience, for we are kind of in the same perspective. Recently I had my friend(who is black) come visit who I went to high school with, now going to Duke. He stayed at my house for the night and met my whole family. When I was driving him back to the train station he said “Ryan, I didn’t know you were part white. I always thought you were light skinned.” We both laughed. Not all people are ignorant, and in fact, some are more excited that you are different. And as long as Noah has wonderful parents like yourselves, you will be all right. As I’m talking to you now, I realize, parents really do have an effect on their children. I’m so thankful.

    Take care Jun,
    Ryan

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      My goodness Ryan, you sound like you’ve got a great head on your shoulders even at such a young age. I used to hate it when people said “you’re so young” to me when I was 18 hahahaha and I find myself doing it to you now.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. What a funny but telling moment you and your friend had on the way back to the train station/

      You are right. There are ignorant people, and then there are those who just need to be guided with care so that they can better understand everyone else around them :)

      Thank you for stopping by here and adding more life to this blog.

      Reply

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