Not By Any Other Name (#227)

When I married my Chinese-American husband, we planned on hyphenating our names. Andy’s parents objected.

A multi-month battle ensued. In the end, Andy kept his name. I kept mine.

This means I lost. I don’t lose gracefully.

I lose grudgefully. I swore that if we ever had a kid, said kid would definitely be an Ashbough-Wong.

Years later, I was pregnant and the issue of names reared its ugly head once again.  We’d settled on a first name – sort of.  The fetus was making me throw up so much, I had taken to giving it less flattering nicknames. Andy found them amusing.

“’Demon Spawn Wong’ has a certain something,” he agreed. “It kind of rhymes.”

“Demon Spawn Ashbough-Wong,” I corrected him.

“Right. Can’t wait to tell my parents that,” he muttered.

“Me, either,” I said, with obvious relish.

Andy asked, “So…what if we don’t tell them? They aren’t gonna see the birth certificate. We can just let them assume.”

“And when they send the kid a check in the wrong name?”

“They always give cash.”

“And are you planning on sending out a special birth announcement just to your relatives, with a fraudulent last name, perhaps?”


“Didn’t quite think that one through, did you, Moriarty?”

Andy sighed. “I just don’t want a fight.”

“Hey, I don’t want to fight, either.”

“Honey, if you had a sword, you’d be sharpening it right now.”

“Yes, but not because I want to fight. Because I want to WIN. And for once, this is a fight I will win. No matter what your parents say or do.”

Andy looked doubtful. “Have you not met my dad?”

“Doesn’t matter. They can scream all they want, but you know who puts the name on the kid’s birth certificate, right?”

Andy’s not a planner. He shook his head.

“The mother!” I announced. “And I’m the mom, I put down the name, I win, they lose, GOOD DAY TO YOUR PARENTS AND THE PATRIARCHY!”

Andy winced.

I did my best evil laugh and said, “But maybe I won’t hyphenate Baby D’s name after all. Maybe I’ll just forget to add Wong completely. Pregnancy brain, you know?”

Andy wisely said nothing.


Weeks later, Andy’s parents finally caught Andy on the phone.

Unfortunately, I was still puking – despite finally being out of the dreaded first trimester. From the bathroom, I only heard the beginning of Andy’s side of the phone conversation:

“Oh, yeah, Autumn’s still throwing up – no, don’t worry, the baby is fine…no, we won’t know if it’s a boy or girl for another month or so… Because that’s when they do the ultrasound, Dad – no, we can’t get it earlier… ah, well, we haven’t actually decided for sure on a name until we know the sex of the baby…  Really? Autumn said that? When did she say that? Huh. Well, she’s pretty adamant about Ashbough-Wong being the last name, but she didn’t say—”

I wanted to snatch the phone out of Andy’s hands right then, but my stomach had other ideas. Ugly ideas. It was another 20 minutes before I could interrogate Andy about the phone call.

“WHAT did your father say I said?”

“He said you told him he could pick out a Chinese name—”

“I never said that!” I shrieked. “I said he could pick out a Cantonese MIDDLE NAME! Oh my fucking God where is the phone let me at him!”

Andy hastily grabbed the handset and backed away. “You didn’t let me finish! That’s what he said. That he and my mom and Popo are thinking of Chinese names. For the middle name. But it depends on whether it’s a boy or a girl.”

That stopped me cold. “Really? You’re sure they know it’s the middle name?”


“And they’re okay with Baby D’s last name being Ashbough-Wong?”


“They didn’t argue at all?”


“Are you lying to me? Is this a case of, ‘don’t upset the pregnant woman, because she’s super hormonal and not stable?’”


“Because I’ll find out and then I’ll be twice as psycho because you lied.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“Huh.” I flopped on the couch, deflated. “All the fuss over you changing your name and they just don’t care about their grandchild’s name? That doesn’t make any sense. Popo flipped out over you changing your name, and you’re her grandchild.”

Andy shrugged. “Who cares, honey? You win. Baby Ashbough-Wong it is.”

“It doesn’t feel like a win. It feels like a forfeit. Not very satisfying at all.”

Andy patted me on the shoulder and said, “Just take the win, honey. Take the win.”

After years of planning my campaign, the easy victory left me thoroughly disgruntled.

And wondering if that’s what my in-laws intended.


Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Still We Reap (#225)

In my AP history class in Northern Virginia, we held an annual debate about the Civil War.

I know, right? What’s there to argue about? Slavery bad. Confederacy wrong. I thought captaining the team for the North would be a slam dunk.

I forgot I was in Virginia, Confederate flag central. Continue reading Still We Reap (#225)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)

Try As You Might (#223)

I lost my mom when I was a teen. It was awful. It was untimely, a tragedy, etc.  She left six kids with a) a mentally unstable father/ stepfather and b) a ton of unresolved issues.

And yet.

I understood that it was better than the reverse. A mother should never outlive her children. Continue reading Try As You Might (#223)

Post-Memorial Day Post (#222)

Both sides of my family served in the military. My mother’s family went in the Army, all the way back to the Civil War (yes, fighting on the wrong side). Dad’s family went for the Navy, which was pretty funny considering they were from a landlocked state. Dad did one tour on ships, realized pilots had a better deal than anyone else, and wound up flying helicopters. Continue reading Post-Memorial Day Post (#222)

Lost & Found: Mom Edition (#221)

Every mother has secrets. Some are dark — a deeply buried history of domestic violence or mental illness. But some are light — generations of wisdom on everything from gardening to cooking.

My mother died before I was fifteen. As a “liberated woman,” she turned her back on domestic wisdom. She had no helpful hints to give me regarding makeup, stain removal, cleaning, sewing, or baking. She was, in fact, terrible at all those things. She had a hell of a green thumb with houseplants. Our neighbors exclaimed over all the hanging baskets of greenery in our D.C. dining room. At the time, I shoved errant leaves out of my hair and glowered. Now I wish I’d asked how she did it. Continue reading Lost & Found: Mom Edition (#221)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

Wretch (#218)

My mother loved being pregnant. When I was 10 and she was pregnant with Baby Brother, she gave up alcohol and cigarettes without complaint. Same thing when I was 11 and she had Baby Singing Sister. She rarely threw up and was always cheerful.

My older sister, the Judgmental Genius Doctor, had miserable pregnancies. Continue reading Wretch (#218)