To the overly friendly white man who spoke to me on five separate occasions in five hours at a clothing-optional hot springs resort on the morning of my birthday,
You jumped into the pool where I was floating naked and remarked on how cold the water was. It was the cold pool on a morning before the sun had fully risen – this was an obvious and stupid comment. You followed me to the hot pool and commented on the brutality of the sun, which had gotten into your eyes. I again tried to ignore your banal comments as you asked how long I was staying and where I lived.
I was at a hot springs resort sans partner because I wanted to avoid validating or holding space for others for two fucking days, and you decided to impede on my quiet time on the morning of my birthday with your small talk. Why did you feel the need to speak to me, especially after I continued to disengage? Did you assume that I needed companionship, as I had traveled to the resort alone? Did you consider me at all or just want my attention away from myself and onto you?
You told me that you were "not exactly" on holiday, and I saw you walk into a staff only area reserved for massage therapists. I panicked when I realized that I had told you I was staying until Monday and that I lived in the Bay Area. I worried that you could look up my information using these details – fuck, you just needed to find the lone single Asian sounding name in the guest registrations – to follow me or otherwise cause me harm.
I feared getting accosted on the way to the kitchen, where you did manage to find and present me with leftover cut mushrooms from someone else’s meal. After I cooked and ate breakfast and began deep reflection, you saw me and commented loudly on my being left-handed as you walked back to the pools. Was that comment necessary? Did you ever pause to consider that I was enjoying the quiet contemplation of the morning and did not want your presence in my consciousness?
No, because you’ve been raised in a culture of white supremacy that has not taught you to be kind or thoughtful or empathetic towards others, especially people of color. I bet you’ve been centered your whole life. Maybe you think that I, in my Asian, woman-presenting body, wanted your attention as a white man. Maybe you think that I, as a solo visitor, wanted a companion. Fuck that. I didn’t see you approaching any old men for companionship. Your gaze on my body is not the only way to objectify or sexualize me. Your behavior was creepy, violent, and disturbing.
I hold tenderly the pieces of me that questioned if I were being too sensitive or paranoid about your speech or behaviors, that maybe you were just being friendly. Fuck you. No, I am tired of re-evaluating my responses to your inconsiderate behavior. At best, you projected your needs for companionship onto me and interrupted my silences with your noise. At worst, you knowingly followed and searched me out to harass me.
There were no other single women-presenting folks that morning, no other Asians, and no wifi. I felt trapped in a scene from a movie where an Asian woman goes to an idyllic resort full of white people and is [fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind].
I went to this resort to escape for a few days the brutal reality of anti-Asian racism, the heaviness of my work and challenges facing people of color, women, the earth. I wanted to settle into stillness and arrive at clarity about my career path, my relationship, my poetry. I did all of that with the stark reminder that no place, not even a monastery or retreat center, is separate from the outside world. These places too will replicate the harms of dominant culture. Resilience is not given by these places but forged in my response to them, in the ways that I show up and create true spaces of healing in small, intentional communities, with people of color who I trust and respect.
The first time I came to this resort, I brought my white male partner and we had an incredibly deep and beautiful time. The second time I came by myself and could not yet recognize the ways in which the resort privileged whiteness, wealth, able bodies. This third time, I could not imagine returning by myself and feeling completely safe.
This weekend, I saw that I never want to “pass” into whiteness again. I never want to date a white person again. I never want to explain anti-Asian racism to a white person again. As a person inhabiting a female body, I never want to question my own fear at the behaviors and speech of a white man, who wields physical and social power. I never want to pretend that I’m overreacting or just need to get over it so that I can enjoy my own birthday at a resort that I drove and paid to be at. I just want people to leave me the fuck alone.
And I want you, white man, to do your own work. Step back. Observe. Notice when you want to center yourself and insert yourself into other people’s experiences. Step back and shut up.