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I'm not interested in dating Asian guys

'I'm not interested in Asian guys.'

That's what 16-year-old me used to say. And it's an attitude that 26-year-old me now thinks it was completely stupid to believe.

It was an hour-long taxi ride from Auckland Airport back to my house. My Chinese taxi driver was conversing with me about growing up as an NZ born Chinese. It's a common conversation I typically find myself in when I meet someone who has immigrated to New Zealand from an Asian country. They are always interested in the story of how you got here.

Anyway, while we were exchanging origin stories, he was explaining to me how he wished his only Chinese born son, currently based in Dunedin, would move back to Auckland.

"The Chinese food isn't good in Dunedin," he said. "I wish he could move back here and meet a nice Chinese girl. All he does is 'come home, play computer games.'"

He asked did I spend my time playing computer games too - to which I said no, my boyfriend does though.

"Kiwi?" he asked.

"No, South African actually."

We continued our conversation as I directed him towards my house. I paid my fare, and then he wished me well for the night.

"It's a shame you are not single. I wish my son could meet a pretty and smart Chinese girl like you; you could have been my future daughter-in-law!" he joked.

"I'm not sure I want to live in Dunedin," I laughed. "You said the food wasn't too good there!"

I was very good-natured about his jokes and was flattered by what he said about me. But I thought for a while about how he wished his son would date someone Chinese. What if he found someone who wasn't Chinese? Why did it have to be a requirement?

When I was younger, dating a Chinese guy seemed to be something I would write off immediately. I told my parents to never expect me to introduce them to a Chinese boy, or even an Asian boyfriend. When I was younger, I didn't want to associate myself as dating someone who was from "my kind," especially when I didn't associate myself as part of that "kind" too.

"Blue eyes, cute smile, someone who makes me laugh, is outgoing, is creative, and can cook," I would always explain as my ideal.

But other than "blue eyes", all those ideals are not confined to a race or ethnicity. Why did I think it was okay then to write off a complete continent of races from any dating prospects? I don't hold those conditions with people in my daily life. In fact, you wouldn't treat someone in that way if it came to a job, to someone serving you, or someone you would friend in general.

I could easily fault growing up in western media and the influence it had on my perception. Their avoidance of making Asian males seem more "dateable" in romance plot lines is a true problem when you look at Asian representation, but then again, that is still no excuse.

The fact is, we treat it as being superficial if we based someone solely on their appearance. The same should be said about judging someone on the shape of their eyes or the colour of their skin. And while cultural differences could come into play, that is just like anything to consider like different personalities or beliefs.

I may never date an Asian in my life now since I'm in a solid relationship with my South African boyfriend. However, if I could go back to 16-year-old Mel, I would definitely have a few words to say about her attitude towards dating more than ethnicity. I always ask the world for acceptance based past the lineage of my cultural identity. There needs to be more openness in this world to different races. But while we aim for a world focused on raising good human beings, the first place it should start with is me.

[Photo: Unsplash]

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