When I go to Chinatown to have breakfast with my parents, we are always taken to the best table and treated with warm smiles and polite service by the waitresses.
You may think that I would be popular in Chinatown because I look like a Chinese. But hundreds of men and women are like me in New York and they actually get little attention there because we are ABCs (American-born Chinese) and we donít speak Chinese.
Whether itís an outdoor market, a store, or a restaurant, the thing is always the same. ABCs are greeted with a smile and a friendly word in Chinese at first. Then, when they discover that we donít understand the word, smile and friendliness disappear.
It is embarrassing. At one time, when I went to a restaurant with my father, a waitress asked me something in Chinese after she chatted with my father. "She doesnít speak Chinese," my father said. The womanís face turned red. "What? You never taught her?" she asked angrily.
Actually, when I was a little girl, my parents sent me to learn Chinese language and culture. But I dropped out when I was seven. I had better things to do on weekends ó mainly to play with my non-Chinese American friends. I like to be with them and feel happy. But now, in Chinatown, I pay for that because I canít speak Chinese. Perhaps I should have learned some Chinese when I was young.