When I married my Chinese-American husband, we planned on hyphenating our names. Andy’s parents objected.
A multi-month battle ensued. In the end, Andy kept his name. I kept mine.
This means I lost. I don’t lose gracefully.
I lose grudgefully. I swore that if we ever had a kid, said kid would definitely be an Ashbough-Wong.
Years later, I was pregnant and the issue of names reared its ugly head once again. We’d settled on a first name – sort of. The fetus was making me throw up so much, I had taken to giving it less flattering nicknames. Andy found them amusing.
“’Demon Spawn Wong’ has a certain something,” he agreed. “It kind of rhymes.”
“Demon Spawn Ashbough-Wong,” I corrected him.
“Right. Can’t wait to tell my parents that,” he muttered.
“Me, either,” I said, with obvious relish.
Andy asked, “So…what if we don’t tell them? They aren’t gonna see the birth certificate. We can just let them assume.”
“And when they send the kid a check in the wrong name?”
“They always give cash.”
“And are you planning on sending out a special birth announcement just to your relatives, with a fraudulent last name, perhaps?”
“Didn’t quite think that one through, did you, Moriarty?”
Andy sighed. “I just don’t want a fight.”
“Hey, I don’t want to fight, either.”
“Honey, if you had a sword, you’d be sharpening it right now.”
“Yes, but not because I want to fight. Because I want to WIN. And for once, this is a fight I will win. No matter what your parents say or do.”
Andy looked doubtful. “Have you not met my dad?”
“Doesn’t matter. They can scream all they want, but you know who puts the name on the kid’s birth certificate, right?”
Andy’s not a planner. He shook his head.
“The mother!” I announced. “And I’m the mom, I put down the name, I win, they lose, GOOD DAY TO YOUR PARENTS AND THE PATRIARCHY!”
I did my best evil laugh and said, “But maybe I won’t hyphenate Baby D’s name after all. Maybe I’ll just forget to add Wong completely. Pregnancy brain, you know?”
Andy wisely said nothing.
Weeks later, Andy’s parents finally caught Andy on the phone.
Unfortunately, I was still puking – despite finally being out of the dreaded first trimester. From the bathroom, I only heard the beginning of Andy’s side of the phone conversation:
“Oh, yeah, Autumn’s still throwing up – no, don’t worry, the baby is fine…no, we won’t know if it’s a boy or girl for another month or so… Because that’s when they do the ultrasound, Dad – no, we can’t get it earlier… ah, well, we haven’t actually decided for sure on a name until we know the sex of the baby… Really? Autumn said that? When did she say that? Huh. Well, she’s pretty adamant about Ashbough-Wong being the last name, but she didn’t say—”
I wanted to snatch the phone out of Andy’s hands right then, but my stomach had other ideas. Ugly ideas. It was another 20 minutes before I could interrogate Andy about the phone call.
“WHAT did your father say I said?”
“He said you told him he could pick out a Chinese name—”
“I never said that!” I shrieked. “I said he could pick out a Cantonese MIDDLE NAME! Oh my fucking God where is the phone let me at him!”
Andy hastily grabbed the handset and backed away. “You didn’t let me finish! That’s what he said. That he and my mom and Popo are thinking of Chinese names. For the middle name. But it depends on whether it’s a boy or a girl.”
That stopped me cold. “Really? You’re sure they know it’s the middle name?”
“And they’re okay with Baby D’s last name being Ashbough-Wong?”
“They didn’t argue at all?”
“Are you lying to me? Is this a case of, ‘don’t upset the pregnant woman, because she’s super hormonal and not stable?’”
“Because I’ll find out and then I’ll be twice as psycho because you lied.”
“You think I don’t know that?”
“Huh.” I flopped on the couch, deflated. “All the fuss over you changing your name and they just don’t care about their grandchild’s name? That doesn’t make any sense. Popo flipped out over you changing your name, and you’re her grandchild.”
Andy shrugged. “Who cares, honey? You win. Baby Ashbough-Wong it is.”
“It doesn’t feel like a win. It feels like a forfeit. Not very satisfying at all.”
Andy patted me on the shoulder and said, “Just take the win, honey. Take the win.”
After years of planning my campaign, the easy victory left me thoroughly disgruntled.
And wondering if that’s what my in-laws intended.