Home > theories > Where’s Waldo: The Asian Man’s Burden

Where’s Waldo: The Asian Man’s Burden

At some point between middle school and high school, I realized that I no longer could just look at the opposite gender and see them for what it was—human beings who typically had longer hair, curves in areas that I didn’t and know lump behind the zipper. Instead, there would be an assessment of whether or not I found that person attractive. In the beginning, this assessment, if you will, was more deliberate, but not intentional. As I grew older, and my voice deepened and turf grew just under the belt buckle, this assessment was instantaneous, like reactions to an inkblot test. Her…I’m attracted to. Her…I am not attracted to (This is not to say that she is not attractive. I simply am not attracted to her). I actually witnessed this happening before my very eyes. I remember asking myself, “Why is it that I can’t just look at females any more and think nothing?” It’s as if I must determine whether or not I find them attractive, physically, at least. My theory begins with our coming of age into that mode when we walk into a room, go to a new place, start a new job, begin the school year or attend a first class and instinctively look around our environment for people we find to be attractive; it’s like an animal coming into a new territory and sniffing around to find potential prey. For those of you who have been to college, you remember orientation week or moving onto your freshmen floor? You scope out the scene, you introduce yourself to people in dorm rooms, at parties and on your floor. For some people, the thought “Who can I hook up with?” flashes into their minds. For others: “He’s cute. I hope I get to know him better.” Regardless of what kind of thought it is that does cross your mind, you are mindful of the people you find attractive. Not only this, you usually remember that person’s name.

As the only non-Caucasian in my friend group in high school and as one of the only Asians at my high school, I grew up being one of the few kids that didn’t have a significant other, while others went through a different significant other every few weeks. In high school, there was not too much of an option other than to pursue Caucasian females, but it was pretty clear early on that none were interested (in me). So, where does Waldo play into all of this?

Basically, Asian guys, for the most part, become a part of the scenery, like in a Where’s Waldo picture book. Notice that in a Where’s Waldo scene, you never notice anyone that isn’t Waldo; they are not special. The only individuals you assess are the people wearing a red and white striped shirt. Everyone else is just a part of the background. Similarly, females who have no interest in men of ethnic heritage, mostly females from the South or most red states, simply gloss over Asian guys. Why? Because they are not familiar with the notion of finding Asian males attractive. Therefore, these females do not even bother making that instant assessment “Do I find him attractive?” And the reason they don’t make this assessment usually is due to a subconscious belief that all Asians look alike[1]. I know this sounds racist, but seriously, think about it. With a few exceptions, how do you describe Asian males? He has black hair, brown eyes, and he’s either short or medium height.

Do you know Daniel Lee?

Which one?

The Korean guy with short black hair, brown eyes, about 5’9” and medium build.

Oh, that guy…

Yeah, riiiiiight. At least with other races, you can use blonde, brunette, red, strawberry-blonde, blue, green, aquamarine, 6’4”, 6’6”. For people who are not used to meeting many Asians, they do not possess an eye to distinguish distinct Oriental features and appreciate types of beauty that are not common in the West.

Until college, I did not have many Indian friends. I knew maybe a handful from middle and high school, but it wasn’t until my freshmen year that I had a few Indians as close friends. My sophomore year, I lived with an Indian fellow by the name of Varun, who became a pretty popular figure in the Indian community, through being active in the South-Asian culture club, performing on an Indian cultural dance team—CU Bhangra—and generally just being a real solid guy. Through this friendship and roommate-ship, I began to make more Indian friends, and they no longer all looked the same to me anymore. I mean, you really could say this about any group of people, except white people really never say it about white people. I even confuse Asians all the time. No big deal.

Gradually, through growing a greater appreciation for Indians in general, by building friendships and becoming more familiar with the culture, I also began to find people of that heritage more attractive. Learning to appreciate different cultures or heritages that you are not used to is a lot like acquiring a taste for beer or exotic foods. With more exposure, your appreciation for it grows[2].

So, where does the burden lie? The burden lies in the pressure to make an impression. If you are any guy, much less an Asian guy, if you want a girl to remember you, you have to stand out (or your looks have to stand out). Asian guys are immediately at a disadvantage because their looks don’t stand out. I can’t tell you how many times I have met females in a variety of circumstance, usually white, that I knew upon shaking their hand that they won’t remember me or my name. If I were the only Asian at the event or in the room, then I’d probably be remembered or referred to as “that Asian kid.” I almost feel inclined to say that there is little one can do to change a person’s perspective on an entire race of people, but based on my own personal experience, I don’t think that that is true. You can, in fact, make an impression on a person to make them see you in all your colors. Just don’t feel pressure to change or to stand out if it isn’t for you. Chances are, the type of girl or boy you want to win over isn’t someone who you have to prove yourself to; it’s someone who can see you are indeed beautiful.

[1] This fact, however, may be true. I cannot tell you how many times, since I’ve been here in Korea that I’ve seen someone and thought that it was someone I knew back at school. It’s quite trippy.


[2] Unless, all you drink is Natty Light. Then, just get out.

  1. September 29, 2010 at 12:59 am

    hahaha, this is soooo true in many ways…! 😉 Funny article! 🙂

  2. killeen
    October 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    i was searching online for images of waldo for my halloween costume, and found myself reading this post. i enjoyed your writing, and your perspective. it leaves me something to ponder. just before i read it, as i was looking at the waldo book page you’d embedded, i thought to myself: “where’s waldo” would be a much more challenging game if he wasn’t wearing such an obvious fashion statement. then again, it’s for kids, so i suppose the ease of finding him is the whole point. regardless, to take your analogy in a different direction: i supposed it’s all a matter of what people look for. i know that i always strayed away from the red & white striped shirt types. i didn’t find appeal in those who were easily noticeable. so, given your burden to make an impression, maybe you also have the advantage of weeding out those who you only would have needed to “prove yourself to” in the end. Cheers, my friend.

    • November 8, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and respond. I hope your Halloween costume worked out!

      I think that your thoughts are definitely valid. When I embedded the “Where’s Waldo?” picture into my post, my intent was on showing people how much Waldo kind of blends in. You have all these pseudo-Waldo figures where his shirt, but not his hat, many characters in red garb. And because he blends in with everyone else, or because everyone kind of blends in with each other, you overlook them all, which is what I’m positing happens all the time with Asians (particularly Asian men).

      I do think you are right, in terms of the advantage I, or we Asians, now face being able to weed out those who I would have only needed to prove myself to. But, wouldn’t it be nice if I had the same chance as everyone else to begin with. It’s like when you pour a bunch of skittles into your hand. I personally don’t like the purple ones, so I take them out and share them with people who do like them. In that way, I know I don’t like them, and it’s been a while since I’ve given them a chance, but as soon as I open a bag of Skittles, they are the first to go, not even having the chance to defend just how flavorful and yummy they are. In the same vein, Asians, I feel, are those purple skittles that I won’t eat. Not because I dislike them, but more because I don’t see them as pieces I eat. I hope my analogy made sense.

      Again though, you are right. Who wants to be with anyone shallow that won’t give everyone a chance? Not I.

  3. Laura
    October 31, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Intriguing post. I grew up in Hawaii as one of the very few white people in a mostly Asian population. I was attracted to people of ethnicities that I was familiar with: basically Asians and Haoles (white people). Then my family moved to the mainland to an area with very few minorities of any type. I can remember not being able to tell many of the Haoles at my new school apart because they all looked the same to me – particularly girls with brown eyes and brown curly hair really confused me (I’m blond with blue eyes, if that matters). Over time, obviously it became easier and easier. Also over time, as I spend very little time with any Asians of any persuasion, my inital, gut-level attraction to Asians has become less frequent. I still may develop an attraction to an Asian once I get to know him, but just seeing him on the street is less likely to elicit that ‘Dang! He’s a hottie!’ response. [Although I think I’ll always be a sucker for a hot Japanese man…]

    I just think we as people are always most comfortable with what we are familiar with. And you are unlikely to be attracted to someone with whom you do not feel comfortable.

    Even though I’m sure it is extremely frustrating to be ‘that Asian kid’, be careful of lumping groups of people together (Southern girls, people from red states, etc). Essentially, when someone is just thinking of you as a generic Asian, they are essentially denying you some piece of your humanity. But when you lump them together, aren’t you doing the same thing? Ultimately, I wish everyone would be willing to go out and experience different cultures to reduce our gut-level blind-spot rascisms. But until that happens, when members of different ethnicities meet, each person should think of themselves as a mini-ambassador for their culture/ethnicity and try not to fall prey to stereotyping.

    • November 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my post. When I think of this post/the Asian man’s burden, I largely think of it in relation to the insecurity that I know many Asian guys, myself included at one point in time, have when it comes to pursuing individuals of non-Asian races. You are right, in large part, when you say that I am lumping a great sum of people together by making this generalization, but it is nonetheless belittling to feel that you have no chance with anyone in the room because you aren’t a particular race.

      I would hypothesize that this insecurity stems from, in the Western world, a large emphasis on beautiful being looked at through a Western perspective. How often is short, small-eyed, black hair, dark brown eyes, small nose and flat face (typical Asian features) considered attractive? Not to say that all Asians should be considered attractive, but there is little appreciation of these physical traits even in Asian circles.

      In short, we need more people like you, and I whole-heartedly agree with everything you say. I am just offering an explanation of how some have felt. Even now, when it comes to attracting individuals of the other gender, I feel as though I have much more of a shot when it comes to interacting with women who aren’t white. Possibly because they have also faced a similar sort of alienation. There have been other cases, when very attractive female friends of mine don’t feel that they are beautiful or pretty because of the place that they came from had no Indians, no Asians or whatever. Growing up in a predominately white town, it wasn’t until I went away to summer camp one summer and had a diverse group of friends that I heard for the first time a girl had a crush on me.

      I’m glad you have the views that you do; they should definitely be shared by more people. Thanks again for the reply.

  4. justin
    November 12, 2010 at 8:47 am

    you said it pretty well, “they are not familiar with the notion of finding Asian males attractive.” It just amazes me how isolated people are from the world.

    “Asian guys are immediately at a disadvantage because their looks don’t stand out” Asians do stand out in a crowd of white people physically, yet they are ignored due to stereotyped views, lack of familiarity, and the brain washing of media.

    I want to hear responses from different groups of people…

  5. January 13, 2011 at 4:23 am

    I completely hear you. I went through a similar problem with parents placing me in a Grammar school in Western Australia – not only was I surrounded by non-asians, I was also surrounded by the same gender. It was sausage city. And being a cocktail variety in a room full of bratwursts didnt help either!

    My ironic solution to the problem of trying to scream ‘I am here, dammit!’ was to join a SUB-culture; I turned goth. Immediately the ethnic bias stopped and a whole new set of variables was introduced: Was I cyberpunk? Batcave? Industrial?

    There is a surge in interest with Asian culture; particularly japanese culture and all its related artefacts: Manga, martial arts, culinary exploits and moreover – women. I’ve always felt that our problem is that the fairer gender have a competitive advantage as the sexual pursuit always goes from male to female. Thus, when we go after Caucasian women, we suffer in the race. Conversely our dear sisters and cousins already have defining traits that their caucasian counterparts don’t have

    P.s.: I’m still secretly in love with 6′ tall blonde amazons. Sigh. Don’t know when to quit.

  6. varun
    February 2, 2011 at 12:07 am

    WOOHOO I GOT A SHOUTOUT IN YOUR ENTRY! haha and i can’t believe you put footnotes in your blog post. you are ridiculous

  7. Kobayashi 28
    March 11, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I have to disagree from my personal experiences. It is strange how I stumbled upon this, for my AP world history class I have to write a personal adaptation of “the white man’s burden”, a philosophy commonly accepted in colonial times. I was going to do an “asian man’s burden” thinking it would be funny and wanted to see if anyone else had done that on the web. Well I moved to the US at the age of 5, confused as anyone in a new country. I’m fully japanese, but somehow blessed with a height of 6’3”, good build thanks to years of baseball and football. All of my friends are white and I’ve grown up as a southern prep wearing polos and sperries. Its crazy how my life has been. I’m a junior at high school now and I’m often called a “white” boy. I am the anti asian if you met me and defy virtually every asian stereotype. I speak japanese at home, however. I believe its a matter of who you really are. Maybe you’re a generic asian that gets overlooked. But being unnoticed is not a racial problem but more of your individuality. If you want to be noticed you have to stand out. Girls love a good sense of humor, pick up a guitar, they like that too as long as you’re not the douche that brings his guitar to every damn party. Be yourself and people will naturally notice your good qualities. I know plenty of caucasian students at my school that get overlooked and go unnoticed. My case may be different than yours as we are surrounded by different people and we have different qualities. But the more you fret and ponder about what a girl thinks of you, the less confidence you have. I thoroughly enjoy my life, and glad how I ended up where I am. Not to brag, but fairly popular at school, probably mostly because of baseball – thank you dad for starting me with that at 6. Anyways you only have one life and the more you worry about your imprressions on others, the more you miss out on an oppurtunity to make an impression on others. Just be yourself, and life has a way to work itself out. I came to the conclusion that I only have one life, a strange concept the more you think about it, and decided I would make the best of what I have. Enjoy it and don’t worry about stupid things like what she thinks. What she thinks is what she thinks. Surround yourself with good people who support you man. Hit a gym and get a clean haircut, throw on a polo, and be chill. I may be one of the few exceptional asian guys but again, its not a question of race. On the other hand, I just may be blessed with my physique, charming looks, and the occasional “you’re so hot” comment from a chick haha I feel like a total dick for saying that. Oh well. But I hate when people blame something on race. Questions? Hit me up.

  8. Sheldon Cooper
    April 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Yes, Asian men dont . Thats why there are a billion Chinese

  9. Lamas
    April 30, 2011 at 5:04 am

    You theory is severely flawed. This first time that I saw a 1965 mustang, I thought it was beautiful and I had never seen a 1965 mustang before the first time I saw it, therefore I had no preconceived notion of what makes a car pretty. All cars have pretty much the same things..like all people…we all have 2 legs (most of us) and 2 arms; etc. Research shows that most people are attracted to symmetry. PERIOD. We like tall, short, Big, small, medium, etc. etc. I have seen guys attracted to fat girls..well, they certainly weren’t taught that. If something is beautiful it is simply beautiful. You can not equate looking for a specific color among a myriad of colors with someone not finding Asians attractive. You are trying to sell an opinion of what you call beauty. For instance, you suggest they need to be familiar with different features of an Asian to “LEARN” what is attractive. That is quite a preposterous notion! To LEARN what beauty is! You are pushing an agenda. Maybe you should just hire a white girl to be your girlfriend (you can do this legally in a certain county in Nevada). You have a great deal to learn about Biology and Psychology.

    • June 25, 2011 at 5:05 am

      I stumbled on this article by accident and wasn’t going to post a comment until I read this comment. I think his argument makes a whole lot of sense.
      You may not have ever seen a 1965 mustang before but you have seen thousands of cars and car ads that tell you what makes a beautiful car, the color, the shine, the shape, the fact that it was a mustang, and the obvious time someone put into it, were all signs that let you know that ‘wow this is a beautiful car,’ you’re crazy if you think you had no preconceived notions of what a beautiful car was.
      While its true that people are attracted to symmetry, society plays and incredible role in what and who we are attracted to. The concept of beauty if highly subjective and influenced and molded by environment and culture.
      I have a friend who is a chubby chaser because most of the women in his family are large and so it became his ideal for what a woman should look like. Other people are more influenced by television or magazines or
      It is pretty naive to think something is beautiful just because it is beautiful. There are a multitude of reasons why I as a Latina from NYC would find something beautiful and amazing while a white female from Alabama might find the same object gross.
      Americans are highly influenced by media (television, movies, radio, magazines), and peers.
      So since there are very few Asians in mainstream media (and they are never a sex symbol) and this kid with to school with almost no other Asians, I buy his argument of having to work harder to stand out. And to the HS kid from Japan, you are 6’3 and on the football team and so you do stand out more than the average kid, Asian or not, so I can see why you disagree with him but youre right the more conscious you are of differences when you are in social settings the less confident you are.
      Also someone said something about everyone being a mini ambassador for their race, can we just pump the breaks on that one? That’s how stereotypes get started, I surely don’t want the responsibility of representing an entire race (its fucking impossible any damn way) and I don’t expect that of any single person either.

  10. gandorf
    May 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    found waldo

    • :D
      May 22, 2011 at 1:03 am

      I did too. As soon as I looked at the picture. Lmao

  11. May 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    So… I was looking for a ‘Where’s Waldo’ picture, then I happen to read your blog. I can’t actually relate since I have never been to the US or any other that has Caucasians but I can relate with the ‘asian’ thing since I’m a Filipina. I do think that asians have a ‘tendency’ to look alike, especially among korean, chinese and japanese people… and also the Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian group of ethnicities. However, ethnicity does not really matter when it comes to beauty, I think. Some people are just too prejudiced or shallow, like here in the Philippines where fair skinned, chinese-look alikes with rebonded hair are made to be thought more beautiful compared to the real Filipina which (is like me) tanned, with almond eyes and wavy hair. I agree that you shouldn’t be pressured with getting a boy/girlfriend at school… I mean, WHATEVER! haha

  12. BasketballGirly101
    June 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Kobayashi 28- Lol. Your theroy is tottaly right! Girls really don’t care what race a guy is as long as they have the things the girl wants there go to go!.

  13. Mogoi
    June 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Found him in 3 seconds o_o in front of a lady trying to get a shoe on.

  14. Casey
    January 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

    I disagree with your arguments too. If anything, someone of a non-white ethnicity in a mostly white community would STAND OUT, not be glossed over, as you say. Also, I take exception to your theory that you didn’t have girlfriends because you were Asian. You are projecting the assumption that white girls don’t want Asian boys because they are Asian, which is paramount to claiming that all white girls are racist. Ironically, that in itself is being racist; you are being racist against white girls! As a matter of fact, I am a white girl, and I was VERY attracted to Asian boys, especially when I was in middle school–that’s even one of the contributing reasons to why I studied Japanese instead of French, or Spanish.

    How about examining yourself before slathering people with your broad assumptions?! Did you ever think that one girl may not want to date you for different reasons than another girl? Did it ever cross your mind that girls may be individuals, with feelings, opinions, and perspectives differing from one to the next? Maybe if you used your BRAIN more, less BULLSHIT would come out of your mouth (or fingers, as the case may be)!

  15. August 8, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  16. Evelyn
    March 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I know this is an older blog, but I too found it looking for where’s Waldo pictures. I grew up here in the US. As a Hispanic women, growing up in a primarily hispanic community, popularity really did not depend on looks, I never felt it was based on nationality, we were all primarily hispanic. Didn’t matter if your were short, tall, thin, heavy, we almost all had brown hair, and olive skin. It really was based on personality, you either were extremely soical, witty, smart…..those things usually drew attention from others. As we got into the high school it did depend more on did you have the newest hair styles, were you a cheer leader, a football player, or just a class clown, those people stuck out, now that was our community. Then when I grew up, my husband and I, I being hispanic, he being caucasion ( blond with blue eyes) from my community of hispanics, we moved our 3 children at a toddler age to a fully integrated community. Now my oldest daughter, born with blonde hair and blue eyes, looked absolutely nothing like me, the next a son, green eyes, light brown hair, then the little hispanic was born, so there we were a mixed culture family in a mixed culture community, everything, hispanic, caucasion, black, asian, you name it, it is here, no primary nationality here, best thing we could have done for our family. There is very little to no difference in our community, you are either cute, or you aren’t, nice or mean, not at all based on race. My children grew up having friends of every nationality, in their eyes they were all pretty, cute, handsome, beautiful……I loved the way my children grew up, I am glad I raised them in a sense blind to color, race, nationality awareness, looks. We are all people, created by one God, we are beautiful in our own way, and there is someone out there, that will find us amazing from the inside out. Our race cannot change, but our outer appearance can be changed in a moment, by tragedy,by cosmetic choice, by over eating, by under eating, a new hair cut, and illness…..etc….etc…..etc…..We are who we are from the inside out, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, I wish more people were raised as I was, and I raise my children. Where we live, there are many mixed marriages, with many children of mixed cultures. I love people, it is sad, why is our world the way it is, we are to love everyone. Your blog was so true for so many people, it is so sad, but you did a great job sharing your feeling and what it was like growing up where you did. I hope now you have found more exceptance in your life, I am sure you are an amazing person from the inside out,,,,God Bless

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