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Ask Me, Don't Tell Me

By Terri Lee

PROMPT — Ask Me.

Ask me… Don’t tell me who I am. Don’t tell me which type of person you think I am. Don’t tell me what kind of experience I am having or had or will have. Ask me what I feel in my skin, at my age having made my choices. I get it. You think you can guess. You want to empathize and understand what my life has been like. Maybe I hide the pain, confusion, regret and anger behind a blank look or small smile or burst of happy energy. But there’s more inside. That even I don’t know.

I ask myself all the time. Who am I? Why didn’t I? Should I? And even I don’t always have the answer. So how is it that you know so easily what I am thinking, feeling and especially what I experienced?

Ask me. Don’t tell me that being Asian has been much easier than being any other race. Maybe it seems like that and maybe it has been. But I’d like to share my experience. The isolation, the loneliness, the confusion. Why couldn’t I be born in a different time, to a different family, in a different body? Why can’t I be something other than who I am?

Isn’t it strange how much we wish we could be someone else. An old friend once told me he wished he was me in high school. Or someone like me… someone who could ride all the different groups of friendships without standing out. I was flattered. Confused and envious that he could see me as someone different than I felt I was. I felt like the wandering traveler with no place to land. No friendship group that would embrace me like family.

Ask me. Don’t tell me why I only dated one woman and not a string of men and women. Don’t tell me what that means about my sexuality and identity. Do you know why I chose that one person? Do you know all the nuances of my sexuality and life? I need to sort this out for myself as one day I’m sure my children will ask me about it. I wish I had a clear identity. One that fit all the books and traditions. Or do I? Maybe all of us are somewhere here in the middle with me and we just never ask one another who we are. We just assume. If today I’m married to a man, does that tell you who I am?

Asian woman. Med length hair. Married to a white man with two children. I’m sure you know who I am. You seem to be so confident about who I am. More than I am about myself. And if I slip and share something different it comes with a look of surprise, joy, celebration but then we go right back to the conversation about who you assume I am.

No. I don’t want to wear my story on my sleeve. No. I don’t want to pour my soul to you. But sometimes can you ask me?

How do I feel? What do I see through my own eyes? And I promise I’ll do the same. I’ll stop assuming I can see the same world that you see and I’ll ask you. What do you see? What do you feel?

Then one day, perhaps we’ll find the bridge that connects our souls.


Terri Lee is a self-employed design consultant living in Jamaica Plain, MA. She has two young children ages four and two. She had a long hiatus writing until she rediscovered her voice through Listen to Your Mother in 2015. She is a longtime member of the Women’s Writing Circle, building her voice and using expressive writing to help find her creativity and inner peace.


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