Gifting East (#86)


I’ve seen quite a few blogs about the pitfalls of intercultural gift-giving. One Chinese-Canadian woman overwhelmed her new boyfriend’s parents with “over-the-top” gifts. Western blogger Ruby Ronin nearly drowned in food and red envelopes from the parents of various Asian boyfriends.

Meanwhile, I lived in a veritable gift vacuum. I received NO RED ENVELOPES from Andy’s Chinese-born parents. Continue reading Gifting East (#86)

Taboo, or, Why a Chinese Math Stereotype Exists (#18)

Cards from the game “Taboo.”

It was Game Night with Andy’s aunt, uncle, and cousins. Technically, Auntie and Uncle weren’t involved in the gaming. (Well, this sort of gaming. I learned about their love affair with Las Vegas later.) Continue reading Taboo, or, Why a Chinese Math Stereotype Exists (#18)

The Big Money Question (#10)

In which that which is NOT DONE is done to the white girl.

In my white world, there are exactly two times when it is acceptable to ask how much something costs.

1)  SALES.  When a white person tells a friend about the great deal they got on apparel or automobiles, it is acceptable – no, mandatory – that the friend ask for both the original price and the sale price. Continue reading The Big Money Question (#10)

The Patriarch Speaks (#9)

In which the white girl is silenced. Briefly.
In which the white girl is silenced. Briefly.

Three days into our trip, and my Chinese-American boyfriend’s father had spoken directly to me exactly once. This was solely to bellow, “NO!” when I went to shake his hand. I kind of understood. Jay was trying to film our arrival at the airport in Honolulu, and I broke the fourth wall by acknowledging the camera’s existence. Bad me. A day passed. Jay never spoke directly to me. Two days. Nothing. Continue reading The Patriarch Speaks (#9)

Dim Sum. Dim White Girl. Aw, Fork! (#8)

White pawn with fork
White pawn gets forked.

The first time I met my Chinese-American boyfriend’s parents, they were not impressed. Not by my appearance, not by the gifts I brought, and not by my conversational abilities. When Andy announced that we were going to Dim Sum with his grandmother, I was pleased. Here was my chance to show Jay and Sunny that I had some familiarity and respect for their cuisine, at least. This white girl can use chopsticks! Continue reading Dim Sum. Dim White Girl. Aw, Fork! (#8)

Chinese Mom Envy (#7)

In which a suitable gift for a Chinese mother may never be found...
In which a suitable gift for a Chinese mother may never be found…

Three days into our trip, and I hadn’t really talked to the mother of my Chinese-American boyfriend. Sunny gave me a lei at the airport and promptly ignored me. She made sure Andy had his favorite foods, pressed Chinese herbs on him, and even insisted that he take an electric blanket back to Los Angeles, “where it is so cold.” Continue reading Chinese Mom Envy (#7)

Dinner at Chez Mortification (#4)

In which the white girl flails worse than any fish out of water.
In which the white girl flails worse than any fish out of water.

My first dinner with the family of my Chinese-American boyfriend was at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. Andy’s mom Sunny chatted mainly about the chef, and how he was nice and fat. But once she got a glass of wine and our orders were taken, conversation lagged. Andy’s taciturn father Jay had forgotten the usually omnipresent video camera, but he still said nothing. I asked Andy’s brother Denny how he and Claire met. I asked Claire about her major (again). I told everyone how Andy and I met. I tried to fill the silence any way I could.

Continue reading Dinner at Chez Mortification (#4)

Picture This (#3)

This is the kind of picture I imagined for our trip to Hawaii. The real pictures were…different.

When you’re visiting your significant other’s family for the first time, you’re never sure how to picture the sleeping arrangements. Will you be in separate rooms? Or on separate floors?

Continue reading Picture This (#3)

Here’s the Rub (#2)

In which a reserved white girl encounters unexpectedly earthy Cantonese humor.

Andy is a first-generation American, born in Hawaii. His parents are Chinese.

Having majored in dating along with history, you’d think I’d have been more aware of cultural differences. My first boyfriend was Sri Lankan. I’d dated several African-Americans, Latinos, a Brit, a Korean-American, a Hawaiian, a bunch of white Catholics, a Filipino, a Mormon, a few Jewish men, way too many military officers, and a Baptist. I think the only ethnicity and religion I missed was Middle-Eastern/ Muslim, unless you want to count the Moroccan at the Fairfax Holiday Inn who kept inviting me up to his room when I was sixteen. (Said Moroccan skipped reading Morocco’s own diplomatic research packet, which undoubtedly have told him that girls in Washington D.C. who wear miniskirts and red shoes ARE NOT NECESSARILY PROSTITUTES. Seriously, did he think the metal on my teeth implied dominatrix rather than orthodontics?)

Continue reading Here’s the Rub (#2)