I was raised by a dad who gives zero fucks. He came to the US from Singapore, refused to play into any behavioral expectations of Asian immigrants, and is hilariously unapologetic.
He’s the kind of dad who proudly wears a bright red, overly large fanny pack as you prepare to illegally cross the border from Thailand into Myanmar (at the time known as Burma) to meet different indigenous tribes for your mom’s anthropological work.
He’s the kind of dad who has no apprehension about TOUCHING a painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (despite ample signage and velvet ropes) to double check the docent’s textural description of the painting.
“I just wanted to make sure he was describing it correctly!” he said.
He’s the kind of dad who, when asked by a waiter how his food is, won’t hesitate to say, “This is mundane.” Not in anger, or jest, and he’ll never send it back — he’s just telling you how it is.
He’s the kind of dad who, when forced into a Hollister, will let you know that you will regret every single purchase made in that store.
“Nothing in here is flattering, including this lighting,” he correctly observed.
He doesn’t care about dress codes. He’ll openly garden and grab his morning paper in his traditional sarong while cheerfully greeting the khaki-clad neighbor.
But ultimately, his goal Dad Energy comes down to one instant.
After 9/11, on a trip back to the United States from Singapore, we were detained in customs for having a Muslim name. We were brought to a back room that can only be described as a hotbox of anxious sweat, filled with Black and Brown families all waiting in confusion.
I watched as my father was asked question after demeaning question about who he was.
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” the custom officer with frosted tips asked. And to answer your question, I do think frosted tips are a crucial detail to paint the picture of what kind of vibe this person was giving off.
“I have nine.”
“Of course you do, you people always do.” The customs officer rolled his eyes. “Where were you born?”
“I was born at home.”
“Sheeeesh, you’re really just checking all the boxes.”
When we were finally let out, I asked my dad if he was mad. He simply responded, “If he wants to waste his time being arrogant, that’s not on me — I plan to make the most of my time.”
And that was it. He could’ve done a lot of things (honestly, sometimes I wish he had just hit him), and he chose the perspective that if this guy wants to be a dick, that sucks for him. It’s not my dad’s problem. It’s that Dad Energy comin’ in hot.
I experienced a lot of racism growing up. People teasing me for having a funny name, eating different food, having what someone so lovingly described as “chink eyes”. I’d vent to my dad with outrage, waiting for him to explode in the same way I did.
But instead, he’d always say, “Jerushah, why do you care about this person? They’re clearly horrible, so therefore their opinion means nothing.”
Do I wish he got angrier about these things? Sometimes. But in his calm, I don’t sense someone who is taking these offenses lying down. He’s the kind of dad that reminds you that there is power in your ability to live your best life without giving a fuck what people think about you.
Like I said, some real Dad Energy to strive for.