Summa Cum Crap (#1)

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A shadow begins to creep over our double happiness…

Today I met my boyfriend’s family. I also discovered I was unworthy of my college gradation honors.

What kind of history major doesn’t do research?

A stupid history major – or one in love. Wait. That’s redundant.

I’ve always enjoyed digging up historical details. I really enjoyed dating. Contrary to stereotypes involving timid bookworms with glasses, I never found the two mutually exclusive. Far from it. They made a nice package. The quickest way to head off a doomed relationship was research. I’m not talking stalking, or even cyber-stalking – social media hadn’t quite exploded when I was in high school. (Yes, I dated in high school. Yes, it was more than a decade ago. Read another blog if you want super trendy musings.)

So I learned to do my research on prospective dates the old-fashioned way: gossip.   I’d chat with a guy and his friends. Then I’d chat with his old girlfriend and her friends. I soon learned how to interpret a guy’s comments on his ex:

He says:         “We broke up because she was SO jealous.”

Translation:     He’s a cheater.

He says:          “I don’t know what happened, she went all psycho on me!”

Translation:     Cuz he cheated.

He says:          “I didn’t think we were all that serious and then she threw something at me.”

Translation:     Cheater. (And the item thrown was usually a ring – promise ring, class ring, engagement ring…)

The current love-of-my-life-turned-my-brains-to-mush is Andy. Shockingly, the web browser of his dating life was blank. His friends had no “psycho ex-girlfriend” stories to share, no matter how many beers I bought them. No disgruntled women lurked in club bathrooms with horror stories.

Woody Allen and Bill Cosby would have labeled the only story I got as a “missed opportunity.”   A blonde showed up repeatedly at the same clubs as Andy and his friends. She asked him to dance multiple times. Andy finally asked her out for coffee. Their only date lasted less than an hour, at which point Andy returned, face anguished. “She’s only seventeen!” His friends offered him tequila and commiseration.

Luckily, I met Andy before the blonde turned eighteen. I loved to dance. Andy had taken up dancing to meet women. He met me. We became friends. Then we became dance partners. He laughed at all my jokes during practice. We became best friends. Six months later, I dumped the guy I was dating, saw Andy shirtless in a hot tub (he works out!!), and kissed him. He kissed back, and we’ve been together ever since.

I’ll admit, it felt strange that there were no exes for him to talk about – not since his high school girlfriend back in Hawaii.

I put Andy’s lack of romantic history down to the fact that he’s a nice guy, a quiet guy, and Asian. I patted my brilliant self on the back. Other, less clever, more oblivious women never noticed him — not until they saw Andy spin, dip, and lift me on the dance floor. Not until they saw his face break into a gorgeous smile when he laughed at my jokes.

Women suddenly flocked around him. I attempted to be gracious when he was in high demand. Which was always. There are always more women around than men when there is dancing involved. Unless we hit a gay club. Then the guys queued up, complete with flattering melodrama: “I’ll die if I don’t get one dance with a leader like you!” Andy didn’t mind dancing with the gays, which made me love him more. (Then he said stuff like, “They’re a lot less likely to fight my lead than you are,” and I loved him a little less.)

I usually just smiled at the clamoring women and said, “Oh, sure, go on, take him out for a spin.” Especially the older, sweeter ones. But to the younger women, the blondes who ignored Andy for years – like the Hollywood producers who don’t want a script until someone else picks it up — well, to them I was less nice. I told them how Andy made a good living AND was a gourmet cook. (He’s also scary smart, especially in math, where he effortlessly upholds a major Chinese stereotype.)

Andy broke this stereotype on California freeways, flooring the accelerator of his Mustang Cobra, weaving in and out of traffic so recklessly that he’s terrified even BMW drivers. And me. In vain did I once grab the “oh, shit” handle over the passenger door and scream, “We’re gonna die!” He laughed, thinking it was one of my jokes. It wasn’t, but I didn’t want him to think I was a wuss, so I played along.  (I’m still playing along, praying that the price of gas eventually forces him to buy a Prius.)

For a year – whenever we weren’t on the freeways – I was obliviously, contentedly smug. More smug than a sharp-eyed shopper on Black Friday who’d walked away with the newest laptop for under a hundred bucks, right under everyone else’s nose. I had a smart, successful boyfriend who adored me. He was a great kisser. He could cook. He could dance. And no one had a bad thing to say about him.

Today he took me home to meet his family. His Chinese family.

I’m a white girl. A stupid white girl who didn’t do her research on Chinese culture.

You can imagine how it went. No, wait, you can’t. Not unless you are Chinese. Not unless I tell you that Andy is the oldest boy in his family. And the first boy in several generations on his mother’s side of the family.

If you’re Chinese, you might already be laughing. If you’re not, well, check out my blog in a few more days and then you’ll be laughing. Or horrified. Or both.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

31 thoughts on “Summa Cum Crap (#1)”

  1. Alas! I am undone! You found me, babe!

    But in answer to your question…Auntie is super nice. So is your uncle. Auntie said I was pretty. Your nice cousins are all married to white dudes. So no, not even close to a preview of your parents, babe. More like false advertising.

  2. Ha, my Chinese boyfriend was actually the same. I had all these ex horror stories and he listened to them with fascination like I was a storyteller–but he had nothing to say back. No crazy ex girlfriend stories. It was actually quite a relief for me.

    Anyway, what kind of dancing do you two do? (if I may ask)

    1. Ha! Yes, those Chinese-American dudes are sometimes a little shy and they get overlooked and then they have no horror stories like more extroverted folks. I think that Andy’s with me simply for my entertainment value sometimes. Other times I’m pretty sure he just wants a permanent designated driver.

      We gave up dancing competitively because it was like helium — it expanded to fill as much space in your life as you would give it. (Also $$$$$) But back in the day we spanned multiple styles.

  3. Oh, I can just imagine how that went! I met my husband’s parents and the rest of his immediate and extended family, and basically the whole town at a wedding. To make a long story short, I think I received more [very unwanted on my part] attention than the bride and groom.

  4. Oh yes I also wanted to add.. I showed my Chinese boyfriend this blog (particularly this post) and he said to me, “wow, she makes Andy sound like the perfect man catch.. hey, why don’t you write blog posts about me like that?!” Now I gotta get to work!

    1. Andy is pretty awesome. I’ve repeatedly wrenched my arm patting myself on the back for finding him and holding on tight.

      Yes, I need more info on your guy! Should we do competing lists for Top Ten Reasons to Have a Chinese Boyfriend?

    1. Exactly! I had an Australian coworker who saw me eating a homemade lunch from Andy in the break room. She was like, “He cooks? He dances? He does your laundry, owns a townhouse, has a solid job? Shut your eyes and marry that boy!”

      I was like, “I don’t need to shut my eyes! He’s hot, too!”

  5. I can’t wait to read more; you write brilliantly. I was grinning as you described the driving. I’m very glad I found your site or vice versa. Take care!

    1. Aw, thanks for the writing compliment. So…why aren’t you an editor?

      I thought riding with Andy was terrifying. And then I was a passenger one day when he was hungry, too. I will be carrying food in my purse forever more.

  6. I am dying. You are brilliant! I only came here and I fell in love with your blog. And God! Your sense of humour and writing style! I shall kidnap your brain. ouo

  7. I just discovered your blog and I am so glad I did! It is hilarious! I can SO relate to your description of meeting your partner’s parents. My Chinese fiance’s dad is also a man of few words and I still don’t feel like I know him after years but I do have small moments where I feel like he likes me and is happy to see me. I take the small wins where I can get them! Your partner’s mother sounds very similar too my fiance’s mother too. We lived with my fiance’s parents for three months and that’s when I finally realised it’s not personal this is how they are – my family (like your’s) are polar opposites to his so it has been a steeper learning curve than my ongoing struggle to learn Mandarin and that is saying something!

    1. Welcome, Cat!

      You lived with your future in-laws for THREE MONTHS?! And your mother-in-law reminds you of Sunny? And you’re still getting married?

      You are very, very brave. Or tolerant. Or simply nicer than me. 🙂

      1. Haha it was a tough time I’m not going to lie. It went ok at the start – we would have meals together, watch TV (relatively normal stuff – if slightly quieter with the language barrier). Then one morning when I said good morning to my fiance’s mother she ignored me. I thought maybe it was just a random one off thing but when I got home that night she again ignored me. She then ignored me for weeks. Turns out this is just how she is – she does it to my fiance, she does it to her husband and now that I have been around a while she does it to me. It got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore and for the sake of my sanity I moved out. Eventually some months later my fiance convinced me to come over for dinner and it was like nothing had happened she was back to being polite. While it was a really tough I am actually glad I went through it because now I understand how it really is and don’t have any false expectations.

        1. Yeah, it’s weird. My father-in-law is not one for social niceties, either. He ignores me a lot, which is actually preferable to some of his comments, I guess.

          In-laws in small doses. Definitely.

  8. I laughed (don’t be silly,I am not horrified) … because I am Chinese…

    *Anyway, great writing, loved the way you write your blogs.

  9. I am a year late but I can 100% relate. I dated a chinese guy when I was 20. One of the nicest people I have ever met and we are still friends even though we are married to different people and have very different lives. Anyways he took me to meet his grandma after 1 month of dating (gasp!) and she was very dramatic. She didn’t say much to my face but then told him that he can’t date me since I am not chinese and he is the first born. Needless to say we ended up breaking up. I am happy it happened that early because I am proud of who I am and my heritage – I am Eurasian.

    1. In the interwebs, one is never too late! (Except Twitter. Twitter moves at a manic pace.)

      Also, bad grandma. Although, unless she was on death’s door, you saved yourself tremendous angst and or heartache.

      I hear a lot from the expat Americans in China about racism against westerners. One WF had a story about her Chinese boyfriend being chased down the street with a machete for daring to date a white girl. She was glad he was fast, because no one intervened.

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