Poker Face (#155)

If I had known that buying a new house would inspire inspired a visit from Andy’s parents, I’d have barricaded myself into our old townhouse for life. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to keep them away if we ever had a son (hence my ongoing lobbying to adopt a little girl from China), but I had no idea a new house would be such a draw. Given my father-in-law’s obsession with photos of the house, I should have known what would happen.

As soon as Andy and I finished our year-long, DIY remodel of our new house,  my Chinese-American in-laws decided they needed to make sure we’d done it right. Jay and Sunny informed Andy that they were coming to visit in April.

I was not consulted.

There was never any question in their minds that they would stay with us. Never mind that our house was less than 1200 square feet and their visit would last well into May.

Again, I was not consulted.

It was all wishful thinking when I pointed out local hotels and motels to Andy as we walked the dogs. “Look, honey! The Vagabond Inn will give them free cable and breakfast! And it’s within walking distance…hmmm, maybe there is something further away, ha, ha.”

We both knew his parents would be mortally offended. Sunny and Jay got upset if Andy and I weren’t home by 10 PM when we stayed at their house in Hawaii. The one time Sunny arranged for us to stay at the hotel where she worked, as a birthday present for Andy, Jay threw a fit. He told Sunny she would make us feel like we were not welcome. This was eventually smoothed over and we did get two blissful days in a fabulous suite on the dolphin lagoon. Of course, Jay and Sunny called five times before noon, continually (and ironically) interrupting the process which was their only hope for a grandson. And, no, there was no point in not answering the phone. This merely served as an excuse for the parents to show up at our door, asking: “Everything all right? I think the phone is not working.”

So we couldn’t suggest that Jay and Sunny stay at a hotel, no matter how inviting that continental breakfast sounded. After all, since there was no grandson, the house itself is the main attraction, with gambling coming in second. Sunny and Jay planned to take a side trip to Vegas.

Hooray for slot machines!

Once they had decided to visit, my in-laws called us two and three times a day regarding flights, turning Andy into their travel agent. Dutiful Andy spent hours on-line, searching for a fare that will not lead to outraged shouts of: “Too expensive! Mrs. Lui got fare to San Francisco for half that!”

I protested. “Honey, this is crazy. You can’t be spending your limited free time with Travelocity and Expedia. There are plenty of real travel agents in Hawaii, and they are SURE to have inside information on the best deals for Vegas hotels.”

“They’re also sure to jack up prices. Or at least that’s what my parents think,” Andy sighed. He continued surfing the web, pausing only to sigh heavily again, or throw out pleading looks from his puppy dog eyes.

To no avail. Years of therapy helped me remain firm. I reminded myself that it was not my problem if my husband couldn’t set boundaries for his parents; I could only refuse to be an enabler (even if I did have enough free time to lose $1,000 at computer solitaire).

A few days passed without phone calls from Jay and Sunny. Andy prowled the internet, checking every Honolulu/ Los Angeles/ Las Vegas flight permutation on every airline. The night Andy finally found a Mrs. Lui-worthy deal, he shot me a triumphant look as he dialed his parents’ number on the phone. Before he told them about his bargain, however, Jay and Sunny informed Andy they booked their tickets three days ago.

I bet they used Mrs. Lui’s travel agent.

Andy’s expression never changed during that phone call. I couldn’t decide if my husband was a saint or on his way to internalizing himself an ulcer.

I debated recommending psychotherapy to him, if only for the duration of his parents’ visit.

Only later did I discover how amazing my husband’s poker face truly was. I had the calendar open, since I was planning various events for my in-laws, including a BBQ at our house with their extended family members in the Los Angeles area. I asked, “What day should we have the party?”

Andy shrugged. “I don’t think it matters.”

“Of course it matters,” I responded. “I’m not going invite your cousins and aunt and uncle over when your parents are in Vegas. So, are your folks here the last Saturday or Sunday in April?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Okay, cool, we’ll do the barbecue then,” I said, making a note on the calendar. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Andy attempting a furtive slink out of the room. (This is not a maneuver at which he has ever excelled.) My in-law antennae twitched. “So, honey, when are your parents going to Vegas?”

There was no response. The “selectively deaf” gene, found only on the Y chromosome, had kicked in. That was not a good sign. With a rising sense of alarm, I tracked my husband down in the kitchen, pulling a beer out of the fridge.

Beer was a worse sign.  I asked, “Didn’t you hear me ask when your parents are going to Vegas?”

Andy avoided my eye and pulled open various kitchen drawers. “I’m, uh, looking for some chocolate for you, honey. Didn’t you say you wanted some chocolate?”

Under normal conditions, I might have been sidetracked. Andy sometimes hides Toblerone bars around the house, hoping to score points if I idly mention wanting chocolate. Then, hey, presto! Andy pulls a chocolate bar out of the spice cabinet and is a hero (or maybe just avoid being sent to the supermarket).  But that night, the chocolate meant nothing to me. “Andy. When are your parents going to Vegas?!”

“There’s chocolate in here somewhere, I just know it…” Andy opened and shut several more cabinets.

I sat down in a kitchen chair. There was no point in making him say the words aloud, because the truth might as well be written in red letters, five feet tall, across the kitchen cabinets:



Which seemed a damned shame, considering Andy’s poker face.

He could have won a lot of money.

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Autumn Ashbough

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

33 thoughts on “Poker Face (#155)”

  1. Is this a post-Halloween horror story? 😉

    I was wondering when you’d get around to recounting this on, and it’s looking like it’s going to be good.

    Was the the first or the only time your in-laws visited?

  2. Imagine that we lived for 1 month once in our apartment together with my in-laws …the apartment was just 430 sqm!!! And also once we had dear mother-in-law with us for three months there when Nathan was born. I think I got some brain damage during those months…

  3. Well, one month seems to be a long time… I guess you can take them out for nice dinners and you can pretend to fight for the restaurant bill and actually get them to treat you guys 🙂

  4. Oh my god this sounds like a nightmare!! Poor Autumn!!! So you had them in your house for 3 weeks? Good lord…

    This experience mirrors what I go through with my fiancee and his in-laws. In China I guess it’s normal to spend an unhealthy amount of time with your in-laws. As you know I went to Japan last May with my fiancee, but what I didn’t mention was that he also brought… HIS PARENTS! His parents invited themselves on our trip and I was helpless to stop it–and not only that, but they made my fiancee pay for EVERYTHING (hotel, the food, their airline tickets… it was like their ROI for raising a successful doctor kid)! It was culture shock x100 for me. The only reason I don’t blog about this is because, through divine intervention, my blog was featured on some Chinese-American news site that (wait for it) his parents read!! So they found my blog and I was so embarrassed. Thus, my good in-law story to Japan was foiled. The stories I have from that trip, my god, I could make a movie out of it.

    Anyway, reading this makes me feel better Autumn. I’m not alone. Can’t wait to hear about the actual visit itself 😉

    1. NOOOOO! They invited themselves on your trip?! Terrible! And paid for nothing? WORSE! At least Andy’s parents are determined to pick the check up for every dinner out. (Huh. We should eat out more.) Oh, and you poor thing, you have no outlet? You can’t even think, “Well, this totally sucks now, but damn it’s going to make people laugh later?!” That’s awful.

      I guess I should be glad my blog gets no exposure. Because if my MIL finds it I am screwed.

  5. Oh no. Oh nooooo trip to Vegas 🙁 I wonder why Jay and Sunny changed their minds. They probably wanted to spend more time with their son and you… Sometimes parents don’t understand the issue of privacy. They are true helicopter parents, hovering over you all over. I am really keen on reading on their stay…

    My parents are kind of like that too. Whenever I go traveling, they like to tag along. And insist on booking a hotel with more beds so we have to all share the bed – sometimes even there people in a bed 🙁

      1. Yes. Three people in a bed. My parents like to get a hotel or motel that has one single and one queen sized bed – or a bed big enough for couples, sometimes not really even queen sized. Dad will sleep on the single bed, and my mum, brother and me in the other one. And we’re all grown adults -__-

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