Why Andy is Handy (#48)

Andy installs his own tile floors and fixes toilets. For real.

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?”

Andy: “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.


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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

29 thoughts on “Why Andy is Handy (#48)”

        1. The key rack only works if the wife uses it, we still get the “%(*%$# are my *&^%&% KEYS!” whenever she needs to go out. And the phone…Thank goodness for Android Device Manager…you can always know where the phone is within 6 meters if you turn device location on and the phone has power(a whole other story).

  1. I remember something about someone wanting their own independent space.

    Wait. Was that reverse psychology?!?

  2. ahahahha this piece made my day! Autumn you are a very gifted story-teller.

    It’s incredible how similar Andy and Mr. B are in so many ways. Mr. B was terrified to approach me at the beginning: in fact he didn’t even talk to me for a month and a half before asking me out. During the long awaited date, I pretty much had to jump in his lap to convince him to kiss me (not to mention we both fell asleep while waiting for him to do something!).

    Also the strategy Mr. B uses to cope with his Asian parents is quite similar to what Andy does: he just makes sure things are done properly without listening to his bragging mom BUT he never dares to actively disagree with her or criticize her. I don’t think he would survive Momzilla’s rage in that case.

    1. Hahahaha, yeah, our hot tub kiss was way after midnight also. The only reason we didn’t fall asleep was because we’d have drowned.

      I kind of get Mr. B’s hesitation about approaching a hot Italian chick, Marghini! I think I’d be scared to approach you. 🙂

      Wait. Mr. B’s mom is the infamous MOMZILLA? Or is there more than one?

      1. I am glad you think of me as a “hot Italian chick”!

        Lately I feel more like a messy psycho blob so it is always nice to get some compliments 😀

        I sometimes refer to Mr. B’s mom as Momzilla, but I actually heard that term first on Lina’s blog so I guess she is has the copyright 🙂

        But man, Mr. B’s mom is really a tough one as well. I can’t write too much about her on TLB because Mr. B subsribed to my feeds damn it! Otherwise I would be more open about how creative she is with making her son’s life stressful and drama-ridden.

  3. My youngest daughter married a guy with two brothers, but F was the good son. He was the one who helped his mom with everything. When they got married, his mom was in tears (even though he’d left home years before). Now he’s handy and hard working at home, and also he drives a couple of hours to VA to help his parents out when they need it. The good husband. Also a good father. My daughter did a good job of choosing.

  4. I am ok with taking the initiative myself but in this case it was C.’s who started everything, haha. We met online and agreed on meeting in person a few days later (as friends!) and he insisted on coming to my apartment and pick me up in his car, even though the ice cream store we were going to was like 5 minutes away walking. I was kind of worried he would be a criminal! You know, like when you are told “Don’t get in a car with strangers”. Luckily this stranger was pretty skinny and I didn’t feel threatened 😛 Then the first time we kissed it was also him! And you should have seen the nasty tricks he used to make me invite him to my apartment! He finally came once that I was half sick and he offered to bring some medicines 😀

    1. Oh, I want to hear about these tricks. 🙂

      Yes, I got the flu not long after Andy and I started dating, and he came over and took care of me. I was a miserable mucus mess, but he told me later, “You know, that’s when I knew I loved you. Because as gross and snotty as you were, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.”

  5. “He’s almost as brilliant at finding studs as I am (ha, ha)”

    This line had me bust out laughing at work. Good job, Autumn.

    I had the opposite problem with my boyfriend. After one month he told me to move in with him, and my white girl self was floored. I thought about my personal space and moving too fast and whether this would make or break us–while all he had in mind was the $$$.

    “We like each other, we get along, and we’ll save tons of money on expenses if we move in together.”

    “But it’s only been a month! You don’t even know my middle name!”

    “Pfff, like middle names matter! (psst, what’s your middle name?)”

    “I don’t know about this…”

    *After checking cost of rent in L.A….*

    “Moving in sounds like a great idea! I’ll be there tomorrow!”

    It’s been a year and we haven’t killed each other yet. I guess when you’re dating the right person, moving in isn’t all that big of a problem. 😀

    1. “psst, what’s your middle name?” too funny. Yeah, LA rent is probably only exceeded by NYC and San Francisco. Sigh.

      I get the saving money, though. Andy probably would have turned cartwheels if I just turned up with a U-haul, but he was so adverse to asking!

      If you move in with the right person, it’s mostly great. The problem is moving in before you are absolutely certain its the right person. If they aren’t then it’s just messy!

  6. Great story! I had a stud finder in my tool kit when I started dating and I knew how to use it (on wood studs). I think I was the romantic one who suggested getting married for estate planning purposes. Wish mine could cook like yours.

  7. Oh on point yet again! Love these blog posts. Funny how my chinese American is totally opposite of that, he asks me to help him with EVERYTHING. Then again I think it’s a ruse to get us to do EVERYTHING together. He also made the first move, semi-romantic first kiss on the hood of my car. He took me in his arms and whispered “lean back.” I countered with leaning forward to avoid contact and we smacked teeth lol. I’m a resistant kind haha.

    1. Thanks so much, Autumne! Glad you find them funny.

      Yeah, “needing help” seems a little like a ruse. Did you tell him that pretending to be hurt or need help was one of the ways serial killers got close to their victims? (Google Ted Bundy!)

      Oh, crunching teeth! That makes me cringe. But, yeah, I get you. I’m not a fan of being told what to do, either. (This is sometimes a problem in dance when Andy is supposed to be leading.)

  8. Oh ho ho! This brings back some memories. (I went through the other comments too. XD)

    Mr. I-gave-him-way-too-many-nicknames was kinda the same. I mean, even though he needed something or wanted to talk about something, he wouldn’t flipping initiate it. He wouldn’t ask for help. So, at times, I’d feel frustrated and kinda like a sticky overflowing jello drowning him in “Hey, is everything all right? // Do you need help with anything?” and it’d take such a long time, sometime, before he talked. Ugh.

    But then again, when he’d get injured (I have no idea how he managed to get so many scratches and such), he’d message me and ask how to deal with it. And no, he wouldn’t talk to his mother about it. ._. “I don’t want to worry her.” (And we were in a LDR.)

    Hmm– maybe you are right. I should write about those past times, just for the lessons in them. xD (And I’ll go through the old posts I wrote on Blogspot at that time, though they are few, because he didn’t really wanna “make private matters public” or something, even though he had a flipping nickname, and see what I have there.)

    Oh and– Autumn, your nickname should be Lady Inspiration. 😛

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