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.


Winner, Winner, Olive Dinner (#185)

My Chinese-American husband and I live in Los Angeles. Since my husband is an excellent cook, we don’t go out that often. But when we do go out? There’s always a new Japanese, Indian, or farm-to-table restaurant to try. Andy’s up for anything, which is nice. Most of my white girlfriends won’t even consider sushi. And my friend JM will only go to one restaurant — the Corner Bakery.

When my in-laws visited, my husband and I cooked for them for weeks. Near the end of their visit, Sunny announced that they would take us out to dinner.

I cheered. “Yay! What kind of food would you guys like? A new bistro opened in the Village, or you could try our favorite sushiya in San Pedro.”

Sunny said, “Is there an Olive Garden nearby?”

I sighed. “Of course.” Continue reading Winner, Winner, Olive Dinner (#185)

When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

You know those big, dysfunctional but lovable white families you used to see in television and film? They were all about siblings being super shitty to each other. Yet when one member of the family was threatened, the family closed ranks and fended off the attacker.

I grew up in a huge, white, broken, dysfunctional family.

I thought those stories were bullshit. Continue reading When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

Lucky (#180)

Once upon a time, Andy headed off to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. When he came back, I asked how many strip clubs they’d hit.

He said, “None.”

I said, “Liar.” Continue reading Lucky (#180)

Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

I’ve had a lot of comments from incredulous readers over the last few months. Apparently, no one believes that I have not lost my shit yet with my provocative Chinese-American in-laws. Not even when they nearly burned down the house and never apologized.

Spoiler alert: I have, indeed, lost my shit. In as spectacular fashion as any of you could want. It just wasn’t on my in-law’s first visit, the one I’m blogging about now. (Yes, my reward for surviving the first visit was a second visit! Whoo-hoo!) If you’re waiting on the East Dates West version of The Real Housewives, check back in a few months. Continue reading Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

Doggone In-laws (#177)

These yogurt-covered almonds don’t look like they produce a deadly gas, do they?

Our rescue dogs learned a lot of commands and tricks — sit, down, stay, roll over, etc. Their favorite command was  “vacuum.” Woofie, our Dane-Lab mix, would eat anything — even rocks. (He couldn’t digest rocks — or cabbage, or corn cobs — but he’d still eat them. And then throw them up, of course. Preferably on the nice carpet. Or my shoes.) Continue reading Doggone In-laws (#177)

Pets Versus Dinner (#176)

Christmas Bunny, just prior to attacking a confused cat.

My family has always had a multitude of pets. I grew up with dogs, cats, turtles, rodents, and more. We even had a very special Siamese rabbit named Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Normal people have bunnies named Peter, but, hey, my little sister was only five when she found him in a New Jersey parking lot. Christmas was a New Jersey street tough masquerading as an adorable bunny. He spent ten happy years terrorizing the family Labrador and several cats while eating the antique Italian Provincial dining room set. Continue reading Pets Versus Dinner (#176)

Rules for Shopping with Chinese-American In-Laws (#174)

My Chinese-American husband loves Costco, the giant shopping warehouse. He had a Costco membership when I met him. Every Sunday morning, he did all the bulk-buying. I went with him. Once. Even though he insisted “it wasn’t that crowded, cuz church” there were still hordes of meandering, food-sampling shoppers in my way. I hated it. I’m a military shopper – my mantra is get in, get your objective, and get out. I revel in weaving among supermarket shopping carts with only a hand-held basket, like a sports car weaving through traffic. (And, like those sports car drivers, I probably get flipped off a lot.) Continue reading Rules for Shopping with Chinese-American In-Laws (#174)

A Tale of Two Immigrants (#173)

My maternal great-great grandfather was the most recent immigrant in my family tree. Enraged and disgusted by the rise of German nationalism in the late 1800s, the German patriarch came to the United States. He was so angry with the Fatherland, in fact, that no one in his household was allowed to speak German. Ever.

It wasn’t until recently that I understood exactly how he felt. Ever since the Inflated Tangerine Fascist took office, I’ve regretted not learning Cantonese. It appalls me that such a vile, morally bankrupt cretin is not only human, but American.

Maybe I’ll start speaking in pig Latin. Continue reading A Tale of Two Immigrants (#173)

Cuppa Trouble: In-Laws Visit, Part 3 (#167)

I love tea. Before I married my coffee-drinking Chinese-American husband, caffeinated tea was my morning drink of choice.

Andy never understood. “Coffee’s the best. Even the smell is amazing!”

“True,” I agreed. “It’s like an olfactory orgasm. But the taste is so bitter, you need, like, a half cup of cream to make it palatable.”

“Is that what happened to the cream I was saving for my pasta Primavera?!” Continue reading Cuppa Trouble: In-Laws Visit, Part 3 (#167)