Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.

My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)

NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?

I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.

But most of the world sees things differently. Men are more likely to be hired than women. Men make more money, even with less experience and education.

In the immortal words of Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottawa: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.”

And still ignorant, ill-mannered, racist misogynists are elected President over over-qualified women.

Misogyny is maddening. Like so many women, I discovered that despite all our strengths, we’re the underdogs. But that just makes me root more for all women. I cheered louder for the victories of Katie Porter and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than I ever did for my football teams.

I knew my husband and I would only have one child. I wanted a girl.

I didn’t get one.

It hurt. But I couldn’t mourn for the daughter I’d never have because my male fetus was super healthy.  I had many friends who had miscarried or weren’t fertile. I didn’t feel entitled to be sad.

I swallowed my sorrow.

Other people were ecstatic. My Chinese-American father-in-law had been loudly lobbying for a grandson since my husband and I were engaged. Not a grandchild, a grandson. Jay was speechless with joy when he found out I was carrying a boy. He insisted on coming to visit.

I think he suspected we were lying to him.

Jay arrived when I was about seven months pregnant.  He said two insulting sentences to me and nothing else until after dinner, when he insisted on a trip to Costco the following day.

As this was my in-laws’ second visit, I expected the Costco pilgrimage. I said, “Sure, I’ll take you and Sunny tomorrow, right when it opens.”

Jay said, “No. Andy will take us.”

In vain did I protest that Andy needed to work so he could hoard his precious vacation days until Baby D arrived. Jay was adamant. They were going to Costco tomorrow and Andy was taking them.

Post-Costco, Andy cornered me in the kitchen. His face especially expressionless, Andy said, “My dad wants to see you.”

Bracing myself for more insults, I followed Andy into the living room. Jay thrust a velvet jewelry box at his wife.

Sunny held it out to me and said, “This is a gift for you.”

“Aww,” I said. “That’s so sweet.” Jay and Sunny had never given me a gift. There were checks for my husband, and there had been a red envelope at the Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony, but in four years I’d never gotten a physical present. I figured the present was because my pregnancy had been so miserable. I was touched.

Until Sunny said, “Jay wants you to know that this is a special gift because you are carrying the baby boy Wong.”

Of course. It’s always about the boys. I struggled to smile through gritted teeth and opened the box.

It held a clunky sapphire and diamond necklace. On good hostess autopilot, I thanked Jay and Sunny.

Jay grunted. I carried my boy broodmare necklace back to the bedroom and closed the door. I glared at the box. For a long time.

Andy appeared eventually, asking, “You okay? I know, um, it’s not that pretty…”

“It’s ugly.”

“Sorry, honey.”

“I don’t care that it’s physically ugly,” I hissed. “That’s not the point. The point is that I’m not worthy of a gift as a person. I’m only getting it because the baby is a boy. Which was no doing of mine, Mr. BOY SPERM MAN!”

Andy gave a guilty chuckle.

I turned my glare on him. “It’s not funny. It’s awful. I’m just a vessel for carrying on the fucking patriarchy. If I were carrying a girl, your father wouldn’t even be here insulting me — which is just one more reason for wanting a girl!” I snarled.

Andy patted my back. He wisely said nothing. He’s good at that.

I grabbed his hand and stuffed the box into it. “Take it back. I never want to see it again.”

“Should I exchange it for something else? They have some nice flat screens,” Andy suggested hopefully.

“No! Whatever you exchange it for will be tainted. It’ll be like Anne of Green Gables and the money she won when Diana entered her story into the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder contest.”

“Uh…what?”

“Every time I’d look at whatever you exchanged the necklace for, I’d think of your smug father and his stupid ‘boy’ necklace,” I explained. “And I’d remember how much I wish I was having a daughter to kick his ass and smash the patriarchy. But I’m not.”

Andy took the box away. Much as he wanted that new TV, Andy exchanged the necklace for a month’s worth of food.

So I could continue to swallow my sorrow.
Literally.

The Matter with Kids (#201)

I’m convinced that most American parents didn’t realize how much work raising a kid was when they decided to have one.

 If they did, we’d have a negative birthrate.

Having a child changes your life irrevocably, in that you will have at least eighteen years with no life. A good parent prioritizes their child’s needs, especially during infancy. They endure a constant state of deprivation: sleep deprivation, cleanliness deprivation, time deprivation, and quiet deprivation.

If you think I know this because my parents were such awesome role models, you must be a new reader. Continue reading The Matter with Kids (#201)

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)

We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)

Would you throw this vase at the patriarchy? What if the patriarchy is your father-in-law?

I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who didn’t have double standards for girls. No telling how much of this was due to feminism and how much was due to fact that the child labor pool in our house was only ¼ male (sometimes less). Big Brother had to do dishes. My sisters and I had to mow the lawn.

Our value was no less because we were female. Continue reading We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)

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)