Inappropriate At Work #8: “May You Conquer Many Asians”

I’ve recently started a freelance job at a very large company, which is part of an even larger parent company in New York.  They own the entire building and each floor housed a different sub-company.  It was 6:30pm, and the elevator made a stop at every other floor.  People packed in, eager to start their commute home.

One man stood in a corner, sleeves rolled up, book tucked in the nook of his arm.

An older woman noticed it and asked, “What are you reading?”

“It’s a book by David Sedaris,” replied the man. “He signed it actually!  It says, ‘Happy 40th birthday, may you conquer many Asians’.”

“What…?”  The woman said.  There was some giggling in the packed elevator.  Giggles gained courage and grew in to laughter.  Everyone was smiling and looking nervously at me, the only Asian in the packed elevator.  Hell, I was the only minority in the elevator.  “What does that mean?  Conquer Asia?”

“No, it says ‘conquer many Asians.   I have no idea what it means, I have to meet him again and ask him about it.”

300 years later, the elevator finally hit the lobby, and I escaped in to the wild, uncomfortable and slightly offended.

I don’t know much about David Sedaris; I’ve seen his name on a few shelves at bookstores, and understand he’s some kind of comedian.  Not sure that I like his brand of humor.  Or perhaps he’s better in longform, because a little quip like that is so….um….objectifying??  A quick search on google for “David Sedaris Asians” (because I wondered if he was quoting something) only turned up a short article he wrote about how disgustingly dirty China is and how weird Chinese food is.  I dunno, it wasn’t that funny, it was very…expected and not witty.  Kinda just made me go “Hmm. :/” and close the browser.

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2 thoughts on “Inappropriate At Work #8: “May You Conquer Many Asians”

  1. David Sedaris is a relatively famous and popular wit that’s known for writing a lot of humorous personal essays telling stories about his life. He’s a pretty weird eccentric person, I always got the impression of him being odd but harmless. Here’s one of the first things I heard by him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYdpte1W0vk

    Weird thing to sign into a book though : /.

    • Interesting, thank you for the link! I’ve heard a lot of good things about his books too, so I may give them a try (though I have a list of 10 other books to read right now!) Yeah when you get in to comedy like that, I feel like….there’s probably more context that explains it, but as a one liner I have no idea and it’s weird to hear/read. I keep thinking about the Stephen Colbert fiasco with the Redskins, which exploded on Twitter when one light was taken out of context.

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