My Chinese-American fiancé isn’t confrontational. As a child, if Andy so much as disagreed with his father, he’d get a knuckle in the head. Andy’s parents didn’t care what he thought, what he wanted, or whether he agreed with their plans. Jay and Sunny did what they thought was best. They expected their children to fall in line.
This was never more obvious than when the Wong family bought a second house in Hawaii as a rental property in the 1990s. Jay, a civil engineer, handled maintenance. He ordered Andy to help. Jay wasn’t very good at home improvement planning, though. After time wasted due to lack of proper tools and unpleasant paternal frustration, Andy learned to research stud location, caulking, plumbing, and pool repairs before he and his dad left the house. Andy even brought his own stash of tools. When Jay ran into the inevitable repair roadblock, Andy would whip out the proper tool and instructions, magician-like. Jay would reward his #1 son with Chinese praise – lack of criticism. I think high praise was a grunt.
#2 son, Denny, chose a different tactic. Denny worked hard to be actively unavailable or unhelpful at the rental property. When Andy left home, Jay lasted a week before he hired a pool man and handyman.
On the plus side, Andy is very handy around the house. He surprised me by putting up curtains in my apartment on my birthday. He’s almost as brilliant at finding studs as I am (ha, ha), and he can fix sinks and toilets.
But all this self-sufficiency comes with a downside. Andy has a very hard time asking for anything. ANYTHING. The man will wander around the house opening drawers and closets for ten minutes before I finally yell, “What are you looking for?”
Andy: “It’s nothing. I’ll find it eventually.”
Me: “Jesus, man, will you just tell me?”
Andy: “I just can’t find the toenail clippers.”
Me: “Medicine cabinet in the second bedroom’s bathroom. Next time, just ask me first, okay?”
Five minutes later, and he’s hunting through closets and drawers again until I tell him the parkas are packed away in the garage in a tub labeled “Cold Weather Gear.”
When I can’t find something – usually my keys — I’m the total opposite. I go from zero to psycho in under ten seconds:
I open one drawer, rummage around, slam the drawer, open another, rifle futilely, yank out the drawer, and dump the contents on the floor. In under a minute, I’m yelling, “Where the fuck are my keys?”
My psycho behavior does not stop there. Another minute and I will accuse anyone in the vicinity of deliberately stealing or hiding my keys.* Because that’s the only logical explanation, right?
Seriously. I am not rational when my keys are missing.
But back to Andy and his issues. Say Andy’s cooking up a dinner for twelve. In vain will I ask if I can help. “Oh, no, there’s nothing for you to do,” he insists, while stirring one pot for a second, then whisking a sauce, and hurriedly mincing garlic. He checks the broiler, whisks, stirs, and dices. I finally just roll my eyes, barge in, and grab the whisk. He thanks me gratefully, but he will never, ever ask for assistance.
Andy never really even asked me to go out with him. He waited until I kissed him in a hot tub and then said, “Don’t stop.”
If I hadn’t made the first move, who knows if we’d even be together? Moral of the story, for women everywhere: Don’t leave it up to the guy. Kiss him. Ask him out. The guy without all the practiced moves might be the kind of guy who will appreciate you, cook for you, and probably has no practiced moves to cheat on you with other women.
About six months before our wedding, I was at Andy’s place all the time, traffic be damned. Andy cooked lovely meals, did my laundry, and sent me off with Tupperware boxes of leftovers for lunch. He sighed when I left, told me how lonely he was when I wasn’t there, and admitted to missing the cats, even.
The one thing he wouldn’t say was, “Will you please move in with me?”
I certainly wasn’t going to invite myself. Inviting yourself to just someone’s party is très gauche in the WASPy world. Invite yourself to move in with someone? Death has occurred before such dishonor. Or at least hypothermia.
Andy and I might not have moved in together until after the wedding, except for one thing. My rent got raised several hundred dollars. I showed him the notice from my landlord and sighed. “Sorry, babe. I won’t be able to contribute quite as much to the wedding fund now.”
Andy grabbed the notice. Anyone who thinks Asian features are inscrutable would think differently if they had seen Andy’s risk-adverse Asian-upbringing smack headlong into Andy’s frugal Chinese upbringing. His face twitched and rippled. “But, but—”
“I know, I know. It couldn’t come at a worse time.” I heaved another sigh.
Andy struggled to say something. He failed.
“Two month’s rent is now equal to the wedding florist’s bill.”
Andy gulped. His forehead developed a sheer of perspiration.
I pulled open my wedding binder and fanned the flames. “We’re probably also going to need pay for KL’s dress, and maybe JM’s plane ticket.”
Andy broke. “You should move in with me!”
I fanned myself with the binder and affected a Southern accent. “Why, why, Mr. Wong, I do declare, this is all so sudden!”
He threw a pillow at me. But he also brought me tons of moving boxes and helped me clean the apartment so I could reclaim my entire security deposit. Sadly, I don’t think he’s done very much cleaning since. (So, no, the man’s not perfect.)
He did, however, install a key rack right by the front door the very day I moved in with him.
I can’t think why.
*The Ashbough Family Coat of Arms should be a dragon attempting to pull a knight out of armor, failing, and then incinerating the knight in a fit of frustration, never mind that the stupid dragon goes hungry. Cum hostile aduersus peritos (hostile when thwarted, according to crappy internet translations) would be the latin inscription below. At Christmastime, Ashbough partners try and top each others’ “the time when my Ashbough went psycho over lost keys” stories.