I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.
My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)
NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?
I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.
But most of the world sees things differently. Men are more likely to be hired than women. Men make more money, even with less experience and education.
In the immortal words of Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottawa: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.”
Misogyny is maddening. Like so many women, I discovered that despite all our strengths, we’re the underdogs. But that just makes me root more for all women. I cheered louder for the victories of Katie Porter and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than I ever did for my football teams.
I knew my husband and I would only have one child. I wanted a girl.
It hurt. But I couldn’t mourn for the daughter I’d never have because my male fetus was super healthy. I had many friends who had miscarried or weren’t fertile. I didn’t feel entitled to be sad.
I swallowed my sorrow.
Other people were ecstatic. My Chinese-American father-in-law had been loudly lobbying for a grandson since my husband and I were engaged. Not a grandchild, a grandson. Jay was speechless with joy when he found out I was carrying a boy. He insisted on coming to visit.
I think he suspected we were lying to him.
Jay arrived when I was about seven months pregnant. He said two insulting sentences to me and nothing else until after dinner, when he insisted on a trip to Costco the following day.
As this was my in-laws’ second visit, I expected the Costco pilgrimage. I said, “Sure, I’ll take you and Sunny tomorrow, right when it opens.”
Jay said, “No. Andy will take us.”
In vain did I protest that Andy needed to work so he could hoard his precious vacation days until Baby D arrived. Jay was adamant. They were going to Costco tomorrow and Andy was taking them.
Post-Costco, Andy cornered me in the kitchen. His face especially expressionless, Andy said, “My dad wants to see you.”
Bracing myself for more insults, I followed Andy into the living room. Jay thrust a velvet jewelry box at his wife.
Sunny held it out to me and said, “This is a gift for you.”
“Aww,” I said. “That’s so sweet.” Jay and Sunny had never given me a gift. There were checks for my husband, and there had been a red envelope at the Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony, but in four years I’d never gotten a physical present. I figured the present was because my pregnancy had been so miserable. I was touched.
Until Sunny said, “Jay wants you to know that this is a special gift because you are carrying the baby boy Wong.”
Of course. It’s always about the boys. I struggled to smile through gritted teeth and opened the box.
It held a clunky sapphire and diamond necklace. On good hostess autopilot, I thanked Jay and Sunny.
Jay grunted. I carried my boy broodmare necklace back to the bedroom and closed the door. I glared at the box. For a long time.
Andy appeared eventually, asking, “You okay? I know, um, it’s not that pretty…”
“I don’t care that it’s physically ugly,” I hissed. “That’s not the point. The point is that I’m not worthy of a gift as a person. I’m only getting it because the baby is a boy. Which was no doing of mine, Mr. BOY SPERM MAN!”
Andy gave a guilty chuckle.
I turned my glare on him. “It’s not funny. It’s awful. I’m just a vessel for carrying on the fucking patriarchy. If I were carrying a girl, your father wouldn’t even be here insulting me — which is just one more reason for wanting a girl!” I snarled.
Andy patted my back. He wisely said nothing. He’s good at that.
I grabbed his hand and stuffed the box into it. “Take it back. I never want to see it again.”
“Should I exchange it for something else? They have some nice flat screens,” Andy suggested hopefully.
“No! Whatever you exchange it for will be tainted. It’ll be like Anne of Green Gables and the money she won when Diana entered her story into the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder contest.”
“Every time I’d look at whatever you exchanged the necklace for, I’d think of your smug father and his stupid ‘boy’ necklace,” I explained. “And I’d remember how much I wish I was having a daughter to kick his ass and smash the patriarchy. But I’m not.”
Andy took the box away. Much as he wanted that new TV, Andy exchanged the necklace for a month’s worth of food.
So I could continue to swallow my sorrow.