The future Mr. and Mrs. Ashbough-Wong went off to have dinner at their super fancy hotel and celebrate their engagement with champagne. They spent the rest of their weekend sleeping, getting massages, and lounging by the pool. They stared into each other’s eyes, cocooned in unassailable romantic mush.
Ha. I wish. Perhaps that’s what it WOULD have been like, if the Wong #1 Son hadn’t been SO excited to call his parents and tell them we were engaged.
It’s hard to blame Andy. My family was asleep on the East Coast. I did call and wake up my older brother, but that was payback. Four years prior, when Big Brother finally proposed to the woman of his dreams (after dating and discarding half of my friends), I was the only family member at home when he excitedly called to have someone turn cartwheels. Why was I home? Because it was 6 AM. On a SATURDAY. Everyone else in the family had turned off their ringers. (My siblings are all smarter than me.)
So when I got engaged, the first person I called was Big Brother. On his landline. He snarled at me, I gave him my news, and he cheered sleepily: “Yay! Potstickers at Christmas forever!” Then he hung up. Anticlimactic? Just a smidge.
But Andy’s parents were three hours behind, on Hawaiian time. I think we imagined someone cheering for us besides the Ritz-Carlton restaurant staff. (Someone who didn’t have a vested interest in a good tip.)
Like Monty Python, we didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition. Andy’s conversation with his dad, Jay, went something like this:
Andy: “I asked Autumn to marry me!”
Jay (not cheering): “But she’s pretty. She’ll be hard to hold onto.”
Andy: “She already said yes, Dad.”
Jay (still not cheering): “How much education?”
Andy: “She has a master’s Degree, Dad!”
Me, eavesdropping: “Tell him I graduated summa cum laude! Those honors might finally be good for something.” Andy ignored me. (Highest honors as yet remain useless.)
Jay: “How many children her mother have?”
Andy: “A lot.”
Jay: “How many boys?”
Andy: “I don’t remember. Can I talk to Ma?”
Jay grunted and passed the phone over.
Sunny didn’t cheer, but she did gush for a couple of seconds. Then she said, “Your daddy wants to know how many boys Autumn’s mom had.”
Me (pacing and muttering): “It doesn’t MATTER. Jeez. It would be down to YOUR sperm anyway!”
Andy, to me: “My dad won’t stop until he gets an answer.” To his mom: “Two.”
Sunny: “Two! Two sons! Pretty good. Like me.” A pause and then, “Daddy wants to know out of how many?”
I managed NOT to grab the phone and yell: “ARRRGH! OUT OF TOO GODDAMNED MANY AND WHO THE HELL CARES?!”
Instead, I snatched up a super fluffy pillow, ran into the bathroom, and screamed into feathers instead of the phone. I did not understand this obsession with sons. Like most Americans, I knew vaguely that China prized boys over girls – so much so that thousands of unwanted Chinese baby girls had been adopted by Western parents. But I had never expected to run into such archaic thinking myself. Not in this day and age, and not in the U.S.
In my family, the sexes were equal. My brothers did dishes. My sisters and I mowed the lawn. My dad wielded a mean vacuum. My mother was a lawyer. Our curfews were all the same. None of us were favored due to something as arbitrary as our gender. Oh, no. Our household was a meritocracy.
Like many middle-class kids of educated White Anglo-Saxon parents, our value was solely based on academic success. Our refrigerator was a layered mosaic of A+ report cards. Any loser who brought home so much as a B+ (even in a Gifted & Talented or AP class) was grounded until the requisite A showed up the following quarter. (Yeah. That was me, black “B” sheep of the family. Clearly the dumbest. Remember how I forgot to turn off my ringer?)
So I get the Chinese Tiger Mother mentality. My father was a White Tiger. Forget failure. B+ was not an option.
But for my future father-in-law to imply that my entire sex was inferior? Undesirable? Infuriating. Inexcusable.
About this time, I realized I had nearly chewed through the Ritz-Carlton pillow. I also realized that Andy stood in the door of the bathroom. He no longer held a phone, and he shifted from foot to foot, eyeing me warily.
I spat out a feather: “And are you as fixated on having a boy as your father?”
Andy shook his head. “I kinda want a little girl like my niece.” Andy’s sister had married a Czech and produced a daughter exactly nine months later. His niece was adorable. Andy called her his “little Chinese Checker.”
I was still mad. “And what if I don’t want ANY kids? I already feel like I raised a bunch of them.”
Andy: “Really? Not even one?”
“Would you still marry me? Even knowing I might never want kids?”
I was appeased. “Okay, then. We can still get married.”
“Wait. Was that a TEST?!”