I want to thank my friend Shannon, who blogs on parenting and outdoor living at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So, for nominating Bao Meets Bagel for a Liebster Award!  The award is given to bloggers (that are typically newer or small-scale) by bloggers to recognize and promote each other’s writing. 

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

• Thank the blog that nominated you in a post on your blog.
• Answer the questions asked by the blog that nominated you.
• Nominate 5-11 other new bloggers.
• Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
• Notify all nominees via social media.

I must admit, I don’t follow many new or small-scale bloggers, so I'm opting out of the chain, but I will share a blog that I like at the bottom of this post.

Here are my answers to Shannon's questions:

1. What is your favorite topic to write about? (This may or may not be what you write about most often.)

My favorite topic to write about is the main topic of Bao Meets Bagel: dating and relationships.  It’s a universal and timeless topic.  I enjoy writing about each milestone – from the first conversation to the baby shower.  I’ve had quite a journey finding the love of my life, Alena, and growing in our relationship, and I want to share my experience to help others.  

2. What are your highest goals and aspirations as a writer?

My highest goal and aspiration as a writer is to make an impact with my writing.  My hope for Bao Meets Bagel is that it can serve as a tiny ripple of hope in guiding someone to a good relationship.  I also want to show through the blog something that mainstream media and Hollywood doesn’t show often - an Asian American guy in a romantic relationship.  It’s my own small contribution to defying the silly stereotype of Asians being seen as just smart but never in the romance department.  

At this time, I would like to finish putting all that I know and experienced on dating and relationships in Bao Meets Bagel, and spread the word as much as possible about the blog. There will be a day when I’ve done all that I could with it, and when that day comes, if it has helped, inspired, or entertained anyone, then I would have achieved my goal.

3. Do your family members read your writing? If so, what do they think of it?

Yes, my mother-in-law reads it!  She loves it.  Of course, my wife Alena enjoys it since she’s a main part of the story and contributes to the ideation.  My brother Anthony, niece Sara, and others in my family also read it.

4. What is your best travel story?

My best travel story is when I flew to Barcelona, Spain for one night with some friends while I was studying abroad in London to see one of my favorite bands, Queen, perform in concert.  It was an adventure from beginning to end. 

I was 20 years old.  Fate had it that the semester I studied abroad, Queen and Paul Rodgers decided to go on tour together. My friend Jeremy won the tickets off Ebay and we flew to Barcelona from London early in the morning.  Soon after getting out of the plane, things started falling apart.  I was hustled out of most of my Euros from some people in the street.  Feeling terrible, and without much money left except to buy some Sangria, Jeremy and I ended up walking for what seemed like hours to the Olympic stadium, tired and hungry. Queen showed up late, and we waited for 5 long hours, baking in the sun before they opened the doors.  Thankfully there was a random Asian Freddie Mercury impersonator there that warmed up the crowd for hours.  Finally, we got in the stadium, and since we had standing room tickets only, we rushed to the front, standing only a few feet from where guitar god Brian May was playing.  Queen played for almost 3 hours for what was the most amazing concert I’ve ever been to.  I sung along with tears of joy towards the end - the only concert where I teared up.  We ended up making it back to the hostel for about an hour of sleep.  We woke up early and downed a large pitcher of Sangria for breakfast with the only money we had left before leaving for the flight back to London. 

5. What is your favorite piece of writing OR what piece was the hardest to write?

Hmmm…it’s hard for me to pick one favorite piece of writing but one of my favorites is a 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' from Martin Luther King, Jr.  Articulate and persuasive, and still relevant today.
6. What is your favorite movie and do you believe it’s the best movie you’ve ever seen? (It may not be!)

My favorite movie is Rocky, not because it’s the best movie ever made, but because of the impact it had on my life.  Rocky was about an underdog fighter who against the odds goes the distance and finds love and self-respect, and the movie (or one of its sequels) always seemed to motivate and speak to me (like a good song or artist), whenever I find myself in a challenging situation.

7. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever voluntarily done?

Tandem skydiving for the first (and only) time with an instructor who barely spoke English, after eating ice cream and bunch of fries.  I was the last one off the plane, and waiting nervously while the plane was playing the Gotye song "Somebody that I Used to Know."  After the 40 second freefall, the instructor was trying to tell me that we're preparing for landing but I couldn't hear him from his thick accent and the wind.  I then felt my top two straps get loose, and suddenly I dropped like 6 inches from the original harness.  That was scary, especially since we were 1000 feet up still.  :)  But as we got closer to land, I understood that it was part of the landing.

8. Who is the biggest celebrity you have ever met?

Hillary Clinton.  At Costco.  Alena and I met her at Costco, where she was signing books. We waited for a few hours in line outside, and I spent a good amount of time thinking of what to say to her.  When we finally got to meet her, I was star struck and I don't know why or how I blurted this out, but I said: “Hello, I’m John and I work for the Department of Energy and this is Alena.”  She was very attentive though and a good listener, and said back, “Oh, great to meet you, John and Alena, and thank you for your service.” And then we were ushered on.  It was a blur.

9. What is your favorite children’s book?

I don’t have a favorite, but I like these classics: books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.  Also, my mother in law bought Liam a book called Chu’s Day, which is a cute story that I'm sure I'll be reading a million times.

10. Where is your favorite place to have lived?

I’ll always love where I was born and raised, Brooklyn, NY, but I also love living in DC.  London is a close second if I had to live anywhere overseas.

11. What was the best part of your day yesterday?

The best part of my day was spending time with Alena and Liam at the park – and trying out that running stroller for the first time.  Stroller runs are tough!  Liam was having a blast, and I’m sure he felt like he was in an amusement park ride when going up and down hills.

And my recommended blog is:
Babaganosh by Kate

Many thanks again to Shannon!
There are many blogs out there written by interracial couples that focus on the challenges of a culture clash in their family, or one person in the relationship adjusting to customs and the language of living in a new country.

For anyone reading this thinking that this blog will be about the cultural challenges that Alena and I face as an interracial couple: I’m sorry to disappoint you. :-)

This blog is and always will be an honest representation of our relationship, and the truth is, we fortunately haven’t had many challenges.  Of course, our generally positive situation is just a sample of one, and I’m sure other interracial couples have different experiences, depending on what kind of racial pairing they are, where they live, whether there is a language barrier, and whether they are immigrants or are 2nd or 3rd generation.  

In sharing our experience, and showing that it’s been mostly positive, we hope that it encourages singles to expand their dating circles and look to date and be in a relationship with someone based on who they are, and not reject someone based on their race.  The friends that we hang out with and people we know are open minded with dating interracially, but I'm still surprised when I read about how prevalent discrimination is by race when it comes to online dating. 

Our Background as an Interracial Couple

Alena grew up in a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania, and her family is originally from Slovenia, a Central European country with only two million people.  But she also lived in Asia for a year and appreciates Asian culture.   My family is originally from China, a country with over a billion people, and I was born and raised in the diverse city of Brooklyn, NY, where I made friends with people from all backgrounds.

We haven't had a language issue, as we both grew up speaking fluent English.  We haven't had a culture clash, as both of our families have been in the U.S. for over four decades.  We both grew up in American culture and appreciate each other’s ethnic background.  We’re an American couple who share many values and interests outside of race.  Fortunately, Alena and I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences and only a few negative experiences as an interracial couple.

The Positives Being from Different Ethnic Backgrounds

Here are some of the positives:  

• The food!  We’ve introduced each other to new favorite foods.  Alena had dim sum for the first time with me, and loves it.  Alena introduced me to Potica, a nut roll from Slovenia, and I love it.  Our family get togethers come with a mix of homemade ethnic dishes from both of our families, and it makes for a delicious meal. 
• A chance to break stereotypes.  As a rare combo of being an Asian male, White female (AMWF) couple and sharing a blog like this, we feel like we’re playing our very small part in breaking stereotypes of Asian guys not being good romantic partners or Caucasian girls not being interested in Asian guys.  Every time we go somewhere or meet new people together, we make it a little less uncommon to see AMWF couples.

• Children who have a chance to learn a second language at home.  Kids of any background can learn a second language, but if one or both parents speak a second language, there is an opportunity for the kid to grow up bilingual and get practice speaking at home.  I grew up speaking Chinese at home with my mom, and I’ll try to continue teaching our son Chinese as well.

The Only Negative We’ve Encountered Being from Different Ethnic Backgrounds

• Stares on occasion in the street.  On a rare occasion, there would be some people that would give us a surprised look on the street or do a double take – perhaps because it is uncommon to see an Asian male, White female pairing,  If that’s the case, let them stare and get use to it.

Fortunately, these reactions don't happen often in our daily lives, as we live in the Washington, DC metro area, an area where interracial couples generally have had positive experiences.  We also felt very comfortable in our travels to major American cities like New York City, San Francisco, Miami, and Philadelphia.  The only city in our travels that we didn’t feel as comfortable was in Athens, Greece, where we got stares from a good number of people who saw us in the street –and even encountered some crazy guy in passing yelling at me in Greek – but it’s likely due to the fact that there were barely any interracial couples in Athens, and we just stood out amongst the crowd.
With all the websites and blogs out there that give dating and relationship advice, why would I spend hours upon hours creating yet another one?  Well, I have five reasons:

1.  I want everyone to benefit from my dating mistakes and discoveries.  Even though the name of the blog sounds more ethnic or interracial relationship focused, the information here is universal for all singles and couples, and will be relevant today and tomorrow.  It was a long, difficult journey for me to find the right person.  I made my mistakes and had my a-ha moments, and I want to take everything I know and pour it into one guide.  If there is even one person who benefits from an idea in this blog, then that’s a win.

2.  I want to help the good fellas and ladies out there in the love department.  There are some dating blogs out there for guys who want to be pick up artists, and some that chronicle all the wild adventures of a girl dating in the city.  I have nothing against those blogs, but this one is for the good guys and girls out there who are looking to play for keeps.  

This blog is for: the guy who was rejected when they were in high school because they didn’t have the fancy car or was not the jock.  The girl who has tried for years to look for a good guy, but ends up meeting jerks.  The guy who worked hard in school, got good grades and a decent job but didn’t have much time to date or doesn’t have a ton of experience.  The single mom who is struggling to meet the right guy who will be there for her and her daughter.  This is the blog I would have liked to read when I was single.

3.  I want to inspire the underdogs out there.  All our lives, we hear and see in pop culture that the masculine ideal is ‘tall, dark, and handsome.’  That’s what we see in Hollywood.  That’s what sexy cologne advertisements in magazines show us.  That’s what Taylor Swift sings in ‘Wildest Dreams.’  And being 5 foot 2 and single, that sucks.  There was nothing I could do in the tall department.  I was the last person you would notice in a crowded room.  When I was doing online dating, there were many girls that said they wouldn’t date anyone under 5 foot 10 and filtered me out.  There is a dating bias against guys who are short – just google ‘height and dating’ and you’ll get a ton of articles about this.  In addition, I didn't come from money or privilege.  When I was dating, I was rejected hundreds of times, and suffered through heartbreak after heartbreak.  I wasn’t able to date anyone past 3 months until I met my wife, Alena.  But that’s what makes this blog unique – it’s not written by a guy who was destined to succeed.  If anything, the odds were against me to end up with anyone, yet alone someone as amazing as Alena.

But every time I fell, I got back up and went back to the drawing board, worked to up my game, and with a bit of fate, I eventually found the right person who didn’t care about something superficial like height.  And if I can do this, so can you.  In the famous words of Marianne Williamson, “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.  I want to inspire the underdogs out there.  And in talking about underdogs in love...

4.  I want this blog to help break stereotypes and change the image of Asian American men.    Google ‘Asian American men’ and all the articles that pop up either talk about the difficulties of Asian guys in dating or try to dispels myths about them.  Research shows that Asian American men have a tougher time getting a date on OkCupid.  And it’s not due to the lack of their education, income, or attractiveness.  I think it partly has to do with their game (and this blog should help), and partly how they're seen in society or the lack of their visibility in romantic roles. 

In Hollywood, you can likely name 10 white male romantic leads.  Can you name even two Asian ones?  What we do see instead are Asian guys who are nerdy or who can do kung fu.  And that’s not reality.  And if I can’t be John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, or Steven Yuen, I’m going to change that image online in the way I know how – through writing and speaking out.   

My goal is to give hope to those Asian men or anyone feeling stereotyped out there that it is possible to succeed in dating, neutralize the BS that’s out there that Asian guys lack in the love department, and normalize the uncommon interracial relationship between Asian males and White females.   This is part of the reason why we named this blog Bao Meets Bagel. 

Do I think that this one blog will change the world?  Not at all.  But my hope that it will empower one Asian American guy to succeed and inspire him to do his own blog, and then another and another, until the stereotypes and images become out of date.  We can’t wait for media and Hollywood to change stereotypes – we have to make our own images and channel our inner Gandhi to be the change we wish to see.  I want my future son, Liam, to have better odds in dating than I had.   

5.  If nothing else – if just my wife reads this – it’s a nice memento to capture a special time in our lives.  I want to capture these thoughts while I'm still young and when it's still fresh in my mind instead of waiting too long and being the middle aged dad giving dating advice by starting with "when I was your age...." J