Photo Credit: Kirti Poddar on Flickr, licensed under CC
Hong Kong. Saturday night at the cooked food market. The lighting here is unflattering. We have to yell to hear ourselves over the waitstaff slamming plates and beer bottles down on the tables.
There’s a Thai place, an Italian place, a dumpling place, a couple of Cantonese places. My sister has made a reservation for ten people at the Indian place. She’s invited a bunch of friends who don’t know each other. Some of them have brought along strangers. A white guy with chin-length hair follows us to our table. Is he with us? I don’t know how to ask without sounding rude, so I just watch him introduce himself to my friends.
We scramble to figure out what to order, distribute cans of beer a friend has brought from the supermarket, and scoot over to make room for stragglers arriving late.
It takes us twenty minutes to notice the table next to us, where twenty women with ponytails high on their heads are playing drinking games.
The women seem to range in age from 25 to 40. They’re all a similar shade of light-bronze whiteperson, like they’ve spent the day sipping margaritas and reading trashy British tabloids by the pool. Scraps of rice and roti litter their table. The “eating” part of their dinner appears to be over. Now wine gushes like a waterfall, they’re trying to lick their elbows, and everyone in the cooked food center is craning their necks to witness the spectacle.
What are they doing? we ask each other. My friend thinks it might be fun to take a poll. We find a pen and use the cardboard from a four-pack of Asahi Super Dry to collect answers from our dinner guests.
“What’s happening at the table of white women?” he writes on the cardboard. The pen and cardboard make the rounds while we eat our food. Nothing like a mysterious gathering of twenty tipsy white women at the adjacent table to break the ice, huh. Our food arrives. We eat. We review the answers:
- All foster children of same parents
- Sorority 10-year get-together
- Peewee gymnastics team reunion (Team GB)
- Saturday Night
- Proving their whiteness by eating whole chilies
- Totally crazy shit
- End-of-netball-season celebration
- Miniature golf tour
- Sorority reunion
- HOT ACTION
- Nazi Blonde Action Committee (NBAC)
- Cheerleaders 1994 reunion
- Chicago 10-year reunion
- Truck heist of rosé
- Netball team hazing ritual, part 2
Now we are hungry for the truth. On another scrap of cardboard, we write down our most urgent questions. My other friend clutches the cardboard like he’s a ten-year-old playing the role of reporter with a clipboard. He taps one of the women on the shoulder for an interview. She obliges. Her tone is very matter of fact.
What’s the name of your group?
Hoes Are Spicy Curry Club. (We try looking up variations of #hoesarespicy on social media, to no avail)
Do you have a hashtag?
No, but we should.
How did you all meet?
Four of the women were drunk here one year ago.
When was your club founded?
May 2016. We meet around five times a year.
Who are your club’s founding sisters?
The four women in the program. (She hands us the leaflet.)
What is the initiation process?
Just show up!
Do you only eat Indian curry in this club, or do you venture into other types of curry, say, Thai?
We plan to branch out to Malaysian and Thai.
We thank the woman for answering our questions. I snatch the leaflet from my friend, partly because I’m rude, but mostly because I’m dying to see what’s inside. On the front cover, a sexy cartoon chili pepper snaps a winky-face selfie in front of a silhouette of the Taj Mahal. Her eyelashes are soooo long, her lips so plump and ducky. A banner stretches across the bottom of the artwork declaring that this is the “Hoez R Spicee Curry Club.”
Reproduction of sexy winking chili selfie taj mahal.
Pencil crayons on sketchbook paper. Justina Chong, 2017.
It’s the Hoez’s first birthday.
The leaflet looks like someone made it in Microsoft Word 2001, but (I think) there is no irony here. Is this a stock image? I wonder. A Google image search for sexy winking chili selfie taj mahal turns up nothing helpful. Inside the leaflet, we learn about the founding members and order of events. In addition to “loadsa curry,” we are here this evening to witness a welcome speech and poem, initiations and games, some awards, and closing remarks. I tuck the leaflet into my pocket.
Throughout the meal, my sister has been trying to engage the guy sitting next to her in conversation. He’s the guest of a friend, but his friend is sitting at the other end of the table talking to other people. He slouches back in his chair with his arms crossed. He’s unimpressed by the curry-club affair. My sister asks him why. “I’m part of a duck club,” he says. “You hunt ducks?” she asks. “No. My friends and I go to duck places to eat duck. Two ducks per person.” My sister imagines a table of expat men with duckbits cascading from their mouthholes. She’s confused, because don’t white people only eat white meat?
It’s almost time to go.
A woman appears out of nowhere wearing a chili costume.
We settle the bill and bid goodbye to the Hoez, wishing them a fun night. But many questions remain. How did the Hoez R Spicee Curry Club get so many members? Do you have to be white to join? Can Chinese women be in curry club? What about Indian women? What if your hair is short and you can’t wear a scrunchie like the rest of the first-time Hoez? Are lesbians allowed in curry club? Is curry club all lesbians?
Is it okay that I am both impressed by their sisterhood, maybe even jealous, but also disturbed by the racist and colonial undertones of the whole affair?
And is it okay that we expected the only Indian person in our dinner party to order the food?