I was talking to a friend of mine today. We met during my acting days when we both attended The Shelton Theater school for actors in San Francisco. Man, I miss those days. Jean Shelton had been around since The Group Theater in New York, and for those of you who know that lineage, they produced some of the best actors the world had literally seen. I’m talking about Marlon Brando, Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, famed director Elia Kazan, list goes on and on. She’d also met the greats like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Her history is simply amazing.
My friend and I were discussing his history with women and how he only felt comfortable dating Asians. I asked him why, and he stated that he didn’t venture outside of our own slanty-eyed folk because he didn’t want to get rejected due to his ethnicity. During his formidable years in high school, he was bullied due to being one of the few ethnic kids in a town that was predominantly white. Of course, after many, many years his past still haunts him. And really, it’s not his past, but his constant thinking of it, blaming it that limits him.
This brought to mind almost all of my characters in my fantasy, Nightfall. Every one of them has a past that has directly affected their actions and decisions in the present. And almost all the time, those decisions have helped moved the story along because the choices they made were based on limited thinking and fear, resulting in disasters.
And disasters are great for storytelling. “We need to get this amulet to save the world. After acquiring it, the enemy stole it and will use it to conquer the world over. What do we do?”
My main character, for example, lost a toddler through a horrible, tragic accident that was outside of his control. (Read the prologue) Guilt and hate and fear swirl around him and his wife, weaving through out the story, churning their decisions into bad ones. And they can’t seem to get themselves out of their past.
Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But then, I’m not saying it needs to be difficult. For me, it took time to get over my relationships that ended, for example. And it did n’t take much for some of my exes. Not sure if that’s saying something about me. Nah.
Eventually, I did let go of the trauma, which you need to understand was self-inflicted. I know this because sometimes I kept those memories alive. And in those rare moments where I was steeped in something else, the pain disappeared. And I guess that’s why rebounds are so common. The new relationship takes your mind off of the old one.
Going back to my friend, he hasn’t let go of the fact that his ethnicity is not to be blamed for what he perceives to be a limitation. It’s his continued belief in that idea. I told him my nephew has a black girlfriend, and they absolutely love each other.
Once you go black, you don't go back. That apparently doesn’t apply to Asians. One of my first exes had dated two black guys before me. I guess you can go back.
I personally understand the stigma of being Asian. I was bullied during school in a different way. Many of the jocks sat close to me during tests because they wanted to copy my answers. I shrugged because I wasn’t the best student in school. But they assumed that I studied hard when I hardly studied. Those same jocks were shocked when I could keep up with them in P.E. class. What they didn’t realize is being chased throughout the school helped me run faster. The threat of wedgies scared the shit out of me, so we nerds had no choice but to book it. Most of us never got caught, but that’s because we were forced to be fast.
Wayne Dyer, a well known self help author and speaker, said that the wake is the trail that’s left behind…the wake can’t drive the boat. So it is with our own pasts.