There’s a story my mother used to tell me about a disobedient green frog. No matter what his mother told him to do, he would always end up doing the opposite. Because of this, on her deathbed the mother frog tried to outwit her contrarian son by telling him to bury her body in the river, rather than in a grave dug safely on land. The disobedient green frog regretted his trouble-making actions and the toll they must have taken on his mother, so he decided that this time he would do as he was told. He would grant his mother her final wish. So, he tearfully buried her in the river, where her body was swept away, lost forever.
Growing up, my mother would teasingly call me and my siblings “green frogs” when we walked our own path instead of heeding what she said. She still teases us now, even as grownups, when we ignore her opinion. Even though this is an inside joke between us, I’ve always known that our mother is a little hurt by our stubbornness and “disrespect.” But ultimately, in these minor instances, she picked her battles and accepted that her children were on the path to independence. That is, after all, a good and healthy thing.
In a way, who I am now is a product of these bittersweet interactions with my mother. The name “green frog” used to be a harmless, Styrofoam dart that would hit and stick every once in a while. Now it’s a name badge I elect to wear because my mother taught me a very important lesson over the past thirty years: sometimes the rebellious green frog is exactly who I need to be.
It was healthy for me to take risks and be myself. I needed to find my own voice and learn how to be who I’m meant to be, separate from my mother. Sometimes my choices were wrong, and ended up hurting me. But my mother let this green frog make some mistakes, even when it was painful. In a way, she was allowing us both to experience growing pains.
Being a green frog now, as a grown woman, is less about being disobedient and more about choosing a life of non-conformity. The older I get, the more I recognize the pointless social constructs surrounding me, especially the ones that weren’t built for me, or people who look like me.
As a result, this green frog has decided to rebel against everything that confuses her and/or hurts marginalized folks: patriarchy, homophobic institutions, the model minority myth, militantly conservative religions, Father’s Day, “kimono” robes, the sizing of women’s clothing, fetishizing people of color, white/male-centric healthcare, and any fashion fad from the hipster phase onward. (I still don’t know what a hipster even is).
It’s important to re-iterate that green frogs don’t just rebel. They do the opposite of what they’re told. As a member of the so-called model minority, I’m supposed to be unproblematic, like the best kind of wallpaper. Instead, I’m going to loudly break through the bamboo ceiling, taking pictures while I’m at it. I grew up being told that euro-centric stories were the only ones worth telling. In response, watch me now review all the amazing, glorious, Asian American novels I can get my hands on. I’ve been told all my life that my greatest purpose is to get married young and repopulate the earth. Instead, you’ll find me dignifying my existence as a woman by trusting and following my own heart.
Accepting the green frog in me has been a laborious journey, but now that I accept, trust, and believe my experiences as a WOC, there’s so much I want to say. I know I’m going to make a lot of mistakes, but being a green frog means giving myself permission to take up space. After all, every celebrated revolution began with a handful of green frogs. Though we may be tiny pains in the neck to traditionalists in power, we’re not afraid to band together and let go of toxic, harmful constructs that don’t serve us. We’re not married to anything that we’re told is “good” and “right.”
If anything, we’ve decided to judge all bandwagons for ourselves.
In this blog you’ll find me doing the above in three different ways: book reviewing, speaking up as an Asian American woman, and sharing what it’s like to be an Asian American writer. If you, too, are a marginalized rebel, I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me as well, so we can speak out together. Alone, we’re considered disobedient, but together, we’re a revolution.
Let’s bring the #greenfrogarmy to life!