AuthorFarsad, Negin

I have a secret, a dirty secret, something that's caused a lot of heartache and pain over the years. It's not my fault. I was born this way. You see, I have fat fingers. Fat fingers that... oh God, here comes the truth... cannot wield chopsticks.

I know, some people would prefer that I say "wide-fingered." Don't worry, I'm not trying to fat-shame my fingers. I'm just trying to be real about my limitations.

When I was growing up in Southern California, it wasn't an issue because our idea of cultured cuisine was Panda Express at the mall. But now, I live in Manhattan--a borough known for its citizens' exceptional knowledge and use of chopsticks.

I'll hear my Asiano-phile friends say, "Hey, Negin, wanna meet up for some dim sum?" or "Hey, Negin, wanna grab a quick bite of sushi?" They can all walk into sushi bars, beaming with confidence, and go, "Oh look, here are the chopsticks, let me rip them apart at the seam and rub them together!"--because, apparently, everybody knows you're supposed to do that.

And there I am, nervously sipping my miso soup--the one dish you can eat without chopsticks.

"I'm not very hungry tonight," I say, watching with envy as one of my friends expertly employs chopsticks to retrieve a single grain of rice in mid-conversation. Without even looking down!

Now that the United States is increasingly more diverse, it's not just a Manhattan problem anymore. I once walked into a Chinese restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia, and walked right out when I saw that everyone in there was using chopsticks.

I can't let people see me ask for a fork! I'm a good liberal who wants to adapt myself to the rigors of international cuisine! What will people think? If she's using a fork here, she could be patrolling our borders in her free time! She could be one of those people that hates vegans for no reason!

Of course, I have eaten solid Asian food before. I usually wait for a night when I know I'll be by myself. I order Korean, close all the shutters, quietly take a knife and fork from the kitchen drawer, hide away in my bedroom, and sit there--eating my bibimbap in the cover of night with hegemonic Western utensils like some criminal.

Why is everyone (else) so excellent at using chopsticks, anyway? It doesn't make sense! It's not like we're all from Queens with its umpteen nationalities! "This is ridiculous," I often think. "There's gotta be a way for my buxom...

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