A Talk with Jay (#108)

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Back to paradise with the in-laws! And oxymorons!

Hope everyone enjoyed the winter holiday blogging break from my in-law issues. Break is over! We now return to Hawaii, almost 2 months after I married Andy.

When last I left you, Andy’s parents, both born in China, insisted on the Daughter-in Law Tea Ceremony, thereby showing me I ranked somewhere around servant status.

Next up was the Chinese wedding banquet, filled with my most least favorite foods. We triumphed only because Andy can eat ALL the food.

Then Andy’s mother tried to re-establish control over Andy with a curfew. Andy refused to be curfed.

You’d think that would be more than enough familial stress.

Wrong.

The morning after Andy broke curfew, his father marched into the kitchen. I greeted him with a cheerful, “Good morning, Jay.”

Jay’s not big on pleasantries. Or even words. He grunted and jerked his head at the door. “Come.”

Andy got up from the table. So did I.

Jay glared at me and barked, “You stay.”

I sat. Like a dog. A good dog.

Unlike a good dog, I fumed as Andy and his dad left the room. They didn’t stop in the living room, either. I heard them go all the way down the hall, to Andy’s parents’ bedroom – and shut the door. Whatever Jay was telling Andy, he absolutely did not want me to hear. I moved from fuming to brooding.

Why was I excluded? Was it something I’d done? Was Jay telling his son to kick the white girl to the curb? Or was it just the patriarchy back in action, talking about important man-stuff while the woman was left in the kitchen?

Well, screw that. I went and sat in the living room. Defiantly.

And then I  imagined every conceivable catastrophe:

  • I’d screwed up the banquet so badly that Jay had lost face and was insisting I had to go. (And here I’d been so certain I was finally holding the chopsticks right-side up!)
  • I’d committed the ultimate faux pas during the Tea Ceremony. Maybe I’d handed over a tea-cup with four fingers. 4 was bad luck – for all I knew, I’d cursed the family and the curse could only cast out if I was cast out.
  • Sunny blamed me for keeping Andy our past his high school curfew. Maybe Jay was GROUNDING Andy!

I giggled at the idea of Andy being grounded at age 31. But only for a second. Because as ridiculous as it might seem to me, it wasn’t out of the question.

I found the Wong family dynamic so foreign, that, as over-educated as I was, I could not make an educated guess about anything anyone in Andy’s family would say or do.

In my white family, if someone pisses you off, you don’t confront them directly. You jab at them verbally, making jokes at their expense, until they yell at you. Then you shrug, look bewildered, and say, “But I was only kidding! Can’t you take a joke?!” Everyone in the family shakes their head over the jerk who lost their temper. They invariably side with the verbal jabber. Especially if the jabs are witty.

But other families are different. One December, right before the holidays, two friends and I were moaning over the inevitable drama that comes with family gatherings. And we clearly did not define drama the same way.

One mixed race male said, “It’s not a party at my house until the cops come.”

A Latina scoffed at him. “It’s not a party at my house until the ambulance comes.”

They looked at me. I hesitantly offered, “Uh…at my house, somebody might slam a door?”

They laughed so hard that I refrained from telling them that I’m usually the one slamming the door. Once I did it repeatedly for 45 minutes. (I was 7.) It’s kind of amazing that my father didn’t kill me then and there. Also kind of a bummer. Then I could have totally topped my friends by saying, “Oh, yeah? Well, it’s not a party at my house until the CORONER comes!”

Basically, I had no street cred and no clue. All I could do was imagine horrific conversations occurring behind the closed door.

An eternity later, the door finally opened. Andy ran into the living room, eyes as wildly desperate as a cat fleeing a bath. He held several pamphlets in his hands.

I jumped up. “What?! What did your dad say?”

Andy: “I…I just…I can’t—” Andy looked down at the pamphlets in his hands. He shuddered, crumpled them up, and fled to the bedroom.

I followed. Andy threw the pamphlets across the room. Then he threw himself on the bed and pulled a pillow over his head.

Now, unlike me, Andy’s not given to drama. He’s mellow, more likely to greet bad news with a shrug than hysteria. One of his coworkers once told me that she envied his ability to stroll unhurriedly through the halls of their office building when everyone else on their team ran around wailing and screaming (possibly because something blew up).

Whatever his dad said must have been truly awful.

My stomach felt like I’d eaten lead. I closed the door.

“What. Did. He. Say?”

Andy’s only response was to moan and curl into a ball.

Totally unhelpful. I took a deep breath and managed not to throttle him. Instead, I picked up a crumpled pamphlet. I smoothed it out and did a double take.

It was titled: “How to Have Sex.”

I grabbed the other pamphlets. They had similar titles. I flipped them open. There were diagrams.

But only of the missionary position.

The lead in my stomach dissolved. I nudged my apparently comatose husband with a foot. “Honey, did you look at these pamphlets? I think they are missing a few options.”

“NO! I am never looking at those! Never again!”

“Soooo, you’re upset that your dad finally gave you the sex talk? Now that you’re thirty-one?” I kept a straight face only because love gives you superpowers.

Andy’s face emerged from the pillow. His expression was so tortured he could’ve played Oedipus right before the whole own eye-gouging incident. “It’s not just the pamphlets. It’s…” Andy’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Honey, he showed me his platform.”

“Platform?”

“You know my dad is kind of short, right?”

I nodded. Andy’s father was barely five feet tall. Given that Andy is even taller than me — and thus a veritable giant among his people — I put Jay’s height down to poor nutrition during a childhood spent fleeing communists in China and then Vietnam.

Andy continued. “So made this platform to stand on when he and my mom…”

Andy couldn’t finish, but he didn’t need to. I got the idea. I battled with my expression. Sadly, this time I lost because even love can’t conquer ludicrous.

I laughed until I cried.

Andy looked at me with betrayed eyes.

I gasped, “I’m so…sorry…but I thought…it was something terrible…hahahaha!”

“It IS terrible!” Andy howled. “Platforms! Creepy, outdated, Christian sex pamphlets! Forced to imagine my parents — ugh!” He hit me with a pillow.

I laughed harder. “But I thought maybe it was serious…like they hated me…hahahaha, and it was only sex advice…fifteen years too late…hahahaha!”

I could not stop laughing, not even when his mother shoved open the door. “Andy? Are you in here?”

Andy threw another pillow at me and got up off the bed. “Coming, Ma.”

She waved him away. “No, no, not you. I want to talk to Autumn. About woman stuff.”

I stopped laughing and gave Andy a panicked, don’t-you-dare-leave-me look.

He smiled back. Evilly.

And then the rat bastard left the room.

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Autumn Ashbough

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

33 thoughts on “A Talk with Jay (#108)”

      1. Ah grandchildren, descendants, ‘their’ posterity, you hear about that talk all the time with Chinese families. I am grateful my parents for never having this ‘talk’ with me, somehow did not have that thought process, just statements in passing about having kids.

        However my Grandfather(bless his soul) made up for the both of them in spades. He had spent years trying to get me to go out on dates with women that he chose for me. Always pointing out that Chinese women were better than American, lauding their superior qualities. I suspect he wanted a Chinese Daughter-in-Law since they would be subservient to him, like you mentioned in the Tea ceremony post.

        When I told him at family dinner that I was engaged to an ‘American’, the first thing he said was ‘mixed race babies are genetically stronger’ (translated from Chinese, not sure if that is the most accurate). My poor mother’s eyes got extremely round and she was shocked. I just started busting a gut from laughing so hard at that statement. I think by this time he just wanted Grandchildren, and didn’t care who I married, as long as I got married.

        1. LOL, see, that’s always my advice. Postpone marriage as long as possible and finally the parents/ grandparents will get so desperate, they won’t care who you marry! Andy’s parents were totally accepting of the white girl by the time he was 30. Also, his sister broke them in with her Eastern European husband.

          But your grandfather is right. Generally speaking, the more diverse the parents’ genetic backgrounds are, the healthier the kid is. Especially now that the RH factor issue has been solved.

          I’ve got a list for any future thirty-year-old spawn of ours. They need to find someone of Indian, Latino, African, or Middle Eastern descent. Preferably all four, if possible. 🙂

  1. Please, please, please, if you haven’t already, ask me about the sex talk *I* got from my father.

    It’s one of my favorite stories (although it’s less a story and more a punchline), and Favorite Brother (as defined by you), hates that I still tell it all the time.

  2. You know what? This could totally happen to me, because I am 31 and I have never had “the sex talk”, hahaha.

    PS. Yesterday in a supermarket I saw the pudding in the shape of fish that you had in your Chinese wedding. Must be a south-er than here thing, because C. had never seen it!

  3. This is gold!! I can’t wait for the sequel. Your inlaws sound so similar to my fiance’s parents – I think the only thing that saved me from total insanity when we were living with them (apart from moving out!) is that my fiance very much lives his own life and doesn’t let anyone (even, amazingly, his parents) influence him. I don’t know how he does it, I find it much harder to tune it out (even though I don’t understand 99% of it and only get the most abbreviated translated version).

    1. I know what you mean, Andy is the master at tuning out his parents. Mostly. This time, though, his father broke through and scarred poor Andy (although he laughs about it now).

      I am far worse at tuning things out. Maybe because Andy’s parents speak decent English.

  4. Goodness, what a post! Haha. I don’t know whether to laugh or be aghast (or maybe both?). My parents never gave me “the talk”, although my mom slips lingerie in my suitcase after a trip back home (wha).

    The platform gave me horrible visuals autumn! Haha!

    Can’t wait to hear about Sunnys talk. I’m praying this talk doesn’t happen to me in the future…!

    1. You should always err on the side of laughter. So horrible it’s funny, you know? 🙂

      Oh, that is awesome that your mom slips in lingerie. Tacit approval, and no awkward conversations. Also, Lucky Richard!

      I haven’t heard much about your future in-laws. Is such a talk even possible with them?

      1. Actually I’ve only met Richards parents a handful of times and they’re quite nice. Still, it’s crazy awkward when I meet them.

        I don’t know if Andy did this, but whenever we’re having dinner with my boyfriend’s parents at their house, Richard will finish dinner, get up and leave the table. I always assume he went to use the restroom, but then he never comes back and I have to endure 2 hours of awkward conversation, just the three of us. Usually when I find a way to sneak away from the table, I’ll find my boyfriend in his room watching TV or something. I’m aghast that he left me alone with his parents, while he thinks of it as “bonding time” for us. Ugh. Men. ha.

        1. Holy shit, Richard! I thought I knew ya! That is so awful and awkward. I thought you were just going to say he didn’t help clear the table or something.

          Huh. Now, does Richard really think you are bonding or is he looking for an excuse to avoid his parents? I am pretty sure I know what Andy’s answer would be, if he did that to me…

          The good news is that your future in-laws’ comfort level with you may never be high enough to broach embarrassing topics.

  5. Oh, Autumn! You’re killing me. Bad enough that he had that crazy sex talk. But now your mother-in-law is coming to get you?!

  6. Awwww, so cute. NOT! Bwwhahhahahahhaa. Actually, it’s rather endearing that they think, or hoped that you two needed a little boost. *ahem* What a way to bond! Truly. Did this incident happen in black and white, by any chance?

    *rubs hands*

    Hope the next post lets us girls in on a few things *wink, wink* Looking forward to Platform #2.

      1. I don’t think they think we’ll wait with sex for after marriage. They caught us at least one time I know about. That’s one thing about Chinese culture: they don’t talk about embarrasing things.
        Maybe they came up with it because you are not pregnant yet. 😀

  7. OMG, I can’t believe it! “The talk” at 31….whoa! And a platform…oh my, oh my, oh my.

    Autumn, it seems like you were put on this earth to share some of the funniest and most bizarre stories in an intercultural/interracial relationship!

If you liked this, let the white girl know!