• Friends and strangers always comment on what a "lovely mix" his Anglo-Vietnamese children are. (Blend Images/Getty)
Ian Rose gets a bit weirded out when people coo over his Anglo-Vietnamese children. But can’t turn down free dinner.
By
Ian Rose

6 Jul 2017 - 2:13 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2017 - 10:33 AM

The other night, the end of a real midwinter Melbourne Tuesday, having finally got my daughter to choose a goddam BeenyBoo to sleep with, angled her rainbow lamp to her satisfaction and said goodnight, I walked into the kitchen to overhear my partner (who’d seen our son to bed with far less effort), on the phone to a friend, uttering words that chilled my heart.

“Yes, we can do that. We’ll be there tomorrow evening at six. No problem.”

She has this fetish for doing people favours. Her generosity of spirit is the bane of my existence. (Except when I’m its beneficiary, of course.)

Our friend works in marketing for this “edgy” eatery, and wants us in a small-scale (tiny budget) commercial they’re shooting because we’ve got “just the right look”.

It turns out we’ve agreed to go along the following evening to a self-styled “funky” chain restaurant in the outer east. Our friend works in marketing for this “edgy” eatery, and wants us in a small-scale (tiny budget) commercial they’re shooting because we’ve got “just the right look”.

It may be the classic knackered middle-aged man in bald head, spectacles and rubbish beard look I’m currently rocking that’s caught her eye, but I doubt it. It’s got to be the fact that I’m white Anglo and my partner Vietnamese, and we’ve got this pair of mixed kids that makes us so “right”, right?

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s not merely my own laziness and hibernation impulse that gives me pause. Not just the prospect of repeatedly raising the same forkful of cold risotto to my grinning face as a skeleton crew gets its shots just so, the kids growing crankier with every take, that turns me off this project.

It’s got to be the fact that I’m white Anglo and my partner Vietnamese, and we’ve got this pair of mixed kids that makes us so “right”, right?

I don’t want to seem like some kind of snowflake. (I’m not certain what a snowflake is, but I don’t want to seem like one). Only there’s an undercurrent of objectification going on here that weirds me out just a little.

It’s been there ever since we had kids. Even when they were still in utero. And we’d hear how they were bound to be gorgeous, what with, you know, the whole Eurasian thing. When our daughter was a newborn and toddler, friends and even strangers on the street might remark on what a lovely mix she was, as though commending us on some astute design choice we’d made.

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If I’m honest, I enjoyed the flattery, but felt guilty about it, a bit psychically soiled. Our daughter just enjoyed the flattery. She’s had grown-ups cooing over her beauty all her life, so she’s developed decent levels of self-appreciation by now. She’s just turned eight and is at times difficult to drag from a mirror.

When our daughter was a newborn and toddler, friends and even strangers on the street might remark on what a lovely mix she was, as though commending us on some astute design choice we’d made.

She asked me the other day whether I thought she looked fat. Occasionally complains about having “a squishy nose”. The tweenie and teen years are set to be a minefield of body image issues (for the boy, too - though right now he’s so unconcerned about his appearance that he’ll happily spend an entire morning with a melange of snot and peanut butter encrusted across the bottom half of his face).

I’m happy if my children receive positive recognition of their mixed heritage. I just don’t want it to be about the way they look.

I mumble my reservations about doing the commercial to my partner as I make us a cup of tea.

“Well,” she says, “our friend needs our support, it would be nice to help her out and, besides, we’d get a free meal and a few drinks once we wrap.”

I’m happy if my children receive positive recognition of their mixed heritage. I just don’t want it to be about the way they look.

Maybe I’m overthinking this whole thing.

Who am I to judge this restaurant chain? It’s a good thing they want a family like ours in their commercial, an inclusive thing, perhaps a funky and an edgy thing. The kids will enjoy the night out, won’t even notice the objectification part.

Free dinner’s free dinner, after all. Even on a midwinter Wednesday in Melbourne.

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