Had lunch with four women of Chinese descent in a Chinese restaurant. I was the only non-Chinese descent person at the table and it felt strange being there with them. I felt self-conscious. I never feel self-conscious in Chinese restaurants but this time I felt fraudulent somehow. I felt that I was using the chopsticks in some kind of an inauthentic way and I suddenly felt self-conscious about pronouncing the dishes.

More importantly, I kind of thought it was funny - me sitting there with the real Chinese people, having lunch as if I was one of them on their territory. I felt amused but I also felt bad. One of the women is a good friend yet somehow I saw her suddenly, if only for a few seconds, as a type. I related to her as a Chinese descended person instead of as a friend and someone I know and care about.

While I was sitting there I also remembered the way that my dad looks for 'authentic' people eating in a restaurant when my parents choose to eat non-western food. They believe that the presence of 'ethnic' people in a restaurant means that the food must be authentic. We, in our particular party, just happened upon this restaurant because it was close to where we were. It was convenient. Still, I thought about the signals it would send out to people like my parents and the irony of reading a situation from appearances.

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