How FOBOLOUS came about (My first blog on Facebook in 2011)
As soon as I clock out from work, I literally zoom my way out of the building and run to my car at the parking garage and head out to perfect one of the best concepts that has ever been discovered and named in the history of human distractions ... multitasking.
I pull up my phone and take a quick look at the list of things I needed to do.
My tasks are always neatly and geographically aligned. I make sure I hit the most important ones first, the ones that have no room for compromise such as filling up the nearly drained gas tank, getting the kids' milk and the laundry supplies and the life sustaining packs of bottled water. The dry cleaners come next. I may make short pit stops to my eyebrow threading salon and my favorite milk tea place as they are all in the same complex but only if time permits. It's just like hitting three birds with one stone. Finally, if I have extra time which is never often, I stop at my favorite store to quickly pick up an item which I have already thoroughly pre-examined on the web. I believe in the In and Out principle which was not, by the way, derived from your favorite burger chain.
This has been my routine for years since I migrated to the US, just a few months after I landed my first and surprisingly stable job at one of America's iconic companies. I deal with real people everyday both directly and indirectly ... something I have not experienced in my previous employments in the Philippines before. It's a challenging profession which requires a lot of patience and tact but not quite as intellectually stimulating compared to what I used to do.
It's been a long time since I'd made that choice to experience a more laid-back yet adventure-filled life in this so called land of milk and honey and it's amazing just to look back in time.
Did you know that more than a decade had already passed since ...
I emptied my little desk at my last advertising agency and left my professional
I finished a tall cup of the most potent Starbucks flavored coffee I had ever attempted to drink.
I bought that cute yellow suitcase which was a brilliant star at the airport's conveyor belts.
I high-fived and kissed my lifelong friends goodbye. It would have been easier had I known somebody would invent the social network phenomenon called Facebook a few years later.
I broke off from my family's strong embrace and set out on my own.
I drove my first car. It was a lowered black Honda Civic from one of my husband's racing buddies. I remember being raced by young kids on my way home from work every single time they heard the muffler make that loud, ear-splitting roar thinking I was a female ricer. I disappointed a lot of kids back then when I crawled through traffic like a carefree turtle.
I got my driver's license. I failed the first time with a kind-hearted Caucasian city employee who was so disappointed because I sucked. I passed the next one with a strict, iron-willed Asian lady who raised her perfectly shaped eyebrow when I almost generously and wrongly gave the other driver the right of way. And I thought I was impressing her by being considerate. No dice.
I got my government-issued work permits. One Filipino-looking guy was processing my photos when I casually asked him if he was Filipino. He smiled beautifully and with a thicker-than-a-slab-of-steak Filipino accent, he proudly told me that "He used to be". I was so stunned by his ignorance that I never asked anyone resembling a Filipino the same question again for a very long time for fear of being culturally traumatized the second time.
I found out I was capable of shocking people just by opening my mouth. One fine young Filipino-American girl told party guests she couldn't believe I could speak English. That left me more curious than offended. I wondered what type of education these Westernized Filipino kids were getting from their schools and families back then that they did not know what their fellow Filipinos from the other side of the world would and could be like. I mean, the Philippines is an island but we do have a lot of buildings and infrastructural pollution back there and yes, I was a certified Starbucks addict. In fairness to the girl though, she was genuinely shocked and apologetic.
I realized Church's is a chicken place and not an actual church like I thought it was back in college. I overheard one of my preppy friends casually talking about it when he came back from the States. The Filipino version was called Texas Chicken and their oversized honey buns were to die for. Literally.
I learned Americans generally refer to Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Cambodians, Laotians, Japanese and anyone of Asian descent collectively as Asians. I don't blame them. There have been a lot of interracial unions among us that it's hard to distinguish one race from the other. I've been mistaken for being someone of a different race many times and it has never offended me. What does a Filipino really look like, anyway?
I was told about what is common between an Oreo, a banana and a coconut and it had nothing to do with calories or your taste buds.
I embarrassed myself by asking my Afro-American co-worker how her hair grew significantly longer overnight. She was gracious enough to explain about her wig. She probably was laughing in her head and shouting F.O.B.
It's been more than a decade now now since I read and heard and was told that Fresh off the Boat or fob or F.O.B. was supposed to be a distasteful label for Asian people who have just arrived in the United States coming from their homelands.
That confused me a bit since it is geographically impossible for Filipinos in the Philippines to travel to the US by boat.
Okay. Let's just say you survived travelling more than 9,000 miles by boat coming from Asia. But how in the world do you expect to dock in the US through a small boat discreetly? Unless your ultimate goal is to arrive with a handful of government paparazzi on your tails, then no, you will not get off your boat unnoticed.
It took an Asian co-worker of mine to explain how that term must have come about. I was about to say. I bet fobbish sounds so much more fashionable to the person saying it than say, foppish or fop. I guess nobody wants to use Fresh off the Plane because that term seems kinder and less dramatic and doesn't hit home.
So, what is a fob? Is that a label for an understandably clueless and lost little Asian in a whole new Western world or is that a label for somebody's traditional and old-fashioned attitude and unfashionable way of living here in the U.S.?
How long does it take for one to get off the fob phase? Does that label ever go away?
My answer to that is a pathetic "I don't know". I guess I've never been here long enough to know what being a fob truly means.
My guess is, the word FOB may be offensive and hurtful, at least to someone who has already figured out what it means. It may be a term that is used to demean and look down on people. It may serve as a form of entertainment to some who want to get amused at the expense of other people's misfortune. It could also be a rite of passage in which one has to go through all that embarrassing experience on his or her neophyte year in the US to be able to cross to the other side of the fence where the cool, in-the-know people are at.
When that will happen is anybody's guess.
People have their special personalized barometers when judging other people so that will forever remain a mystery. At least, to me..
Or it could just be a term to make fun of life for quick laughs. Everyone in America, after all, is stressed out. It doesn't hurt to laugh and be laughed at to do away with the body's aches and pains from the daily grind.
More than a decade ago, I'm pretty sure I had that invisible label on my forehead that said FOB. I know I have mispronounced and misinterpreted a lot of words mainly because I was not used to the American slur. For example, I didn't know then that dentist sounds like Dennis and winter sounds like winner as articulated by anyone with the Western slang. I was a newbie and it showed and I paid a little price for that.
Fast forward to today, I'm still not sure if I have already crossed the fence to join the other side successfully.
I still don't know what it takes to do that nor do I care about it.
To me, the most essential trait that the newly docked can ever adopt in this country or any country for that matter is the ability to embrace change without sacrificing their roots. We all are gifted with unique identities and philosophies and traditions from where we came from and we should carry that with us anywhere we set foot on. It's nothing to be embarrassed about nor develop amnesia for.
It's what sets us apart from the norm and gives us the edge in a monotonous environment. It's what makes us who we are.
It's a paradox. It says be dynamic yet stay grounded.
So, when you hear your grandma say "My back is itchy, have you seen my "box crotcher"?", don't squirm in embarrassment. That's what makes us unique and special.
And there's a term for that.
It's called FOB-OLOUS..... :)