Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

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.”

And still ignorant, ill-mannered, racist misogynists are elected President over over-qualified women.

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.

I didn’t get one.

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…”

“It’s ugly.”

“Sorry, honey.”

“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.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

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

37 thoughts on “Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)”

            1. I’ve had the snow flurry plug in for 2 years. I usually just set it up so the snow disappears after one second when it isn’t winter. But this year the snow seems to fall hard and fast rather than swirling. Weird.

          1. Autumn, I’ve wondered about this. I don’t remember you ever saying Andy might not like his father. He seems, just to me as a stranger & blog-reader, respectful, maybe deferential even, to his parents.

            1. He is nonconfrontational, as opposed to deferential. I think deferential implies respect. I am not entirely sure there’s respect, as opposed to tolerance or simply taking the easy route of not arguing because it’s pointless. Does that make sense?

  1. Sometimes I really wonder whether writing is really a good enough therapy or voicing actual concern to the intended person is way better. My husband told his parents off in a respectful manner when they compared his income to his high earning peers. For example, he said, “how will your insults help me?” “Did you even send me to an ivy league like other parents?” Then his parents apologized. So, do you want to ask Jay how will his insults help you? Is he concerned being overweight might lead to a diabetes and birth complications? As for my mom-in-law, I really appreciate that she let me know what she likes so I won’t get her things she won’t be using. Best wishes!

    1. I think it’s great that your in-laws listen.

      Mine don’t. I have tried. My husband has given up trying and I used to tell him to try harder, until I experienced their selective deafness myself. I think I spent two years explaining that we didn’t want kids immediately after the wedding. It never got through. They were just pissed we didn’t have kids right away like they wanted. Every week my father-in-law would call, yell, “Where is my grandson?!” and hang up on me as I again tried to explain why we were waiting.

      1. I see. If you are bothered, please approach a counselor specializing in mixed marriages and Asian studies or even a counselor volunteering in church, temple or women center (usually for minimal fee). Anger and resentment is unhealthy for pregnancy. The fetus is way more perceptive than you think. A counselor will come in handy too when dealing with postpartum depression. My sister was born when my parent’s marriage was rocky, argued a lot coupled with intense stress inflicted by in-laws. As a result, she has plenty of issues such as depression, attention deficit and insomnia. I wished I’ve discovered counseling earlier to help my sister go through unnecessary pain.

        1. Don’t worry, I had a therapist. And baby came through with flying colors, even if Mama didn’t.

          Some things just can’t be fixed, they can only be endured. Luckily, the in-laws don’t visit often.

  2. Phew… for a few good minutes I panicked after reading the word “sorrow” in the title. I’d say: hug Andy and let that gift be the worse thing that will happen in your life. It’s hard to erase thousands of generations of male favoritism. I was glad after the doctors had said that I have a son, thinking that he won’t have to go through the horrible experience of giving birth. Then I felt guilty. And angry at evolution for changing the female body in such a painful way.

  3. OMG! Jay is hard to believe. There are always some people you just have to ignore–which I guess is what you and Andy usually do.

    Misogyny is more top-of-mind these days with Trump being so visible. Fortunately not all men are like Trump and Jay.

    1. Jay is very old school, but sometimes I think he has adult residual Asperger’s — he simply can’t read a room. Or maybe he just can’t be bothered. He thinks his comments on my appearance are funny, and he thought giving me the necklace was compliment because I, too, must be ever so thrilled to be having a boy baby. When people tell him he’s wrong or insulting, he is unable to/ doesn’t care to process it. At this point, it doesn’t matter how much of it is narcissism and how much is the product of not being neurotypical — it’s all maddening.

  4. The more you talk about Jay, the more incredulous of a personality he seems to be. I wonder what the look on his face was when Andy returned the ‘gift’. The ‘gift’ – more than just a slap in the face gesture. When baby comes, Jay must really be thanking his lucky stars his dream came true. It sounds like an uphill battle.

    1. Oh, heck no, we never told him we returned the necklace. Andy did it on the sly. Though maybe it wouldn’t bother him, because he and Sunny returned all the gifts we gave them for years: “Why you spend so much money on a watch?” “Chocolate is so expensive to ship to Hawaii! Never do that again, I don’t want anything for my birthday.”

      And yes, he’s one of those people that you think someone had to make up, because he is so oblivious to his impact on others. That’s part of what makes him so difficult to deal with — you don’t expect people to do and say things that are so far out of the social norm. (Like Trump and his complete disregard for truth and rule of law and just not being an asshole.) So you aren’t prepared and you’re constantly on the defensive, unprepared to react beyond, “Wait. Did that really happen? Who does that?” I think that with Jay, the situation is exacerbated by different cultural norms, too.

  5. Ugh! In-laws are tough enough without having to deal with the whole cultural-gender-issues thing. I wonder how they will be as grandparents. Is this your in-laws first grandchild? By the way…so glad I found your blog. It’s my first time here.

    1. Welcome, Laurie! Thanks for visiting. Let’s see, when I was pregnant, my husband’s sister’s daughter was about seven years old, I think. And his sister was pregnant with a boy, due a few months before my son. But apparently they didn’t care so much about his sister’s kids because she was not the male child. Which is infuriating also.

  6. Oh god, your FIL really is a nasty piece of work. I guess for you Hawai is not the paradise that it is for other people xD I was worried my PIL would have a preference for a boy but they never said anything, and grandma actually wanted a girl!

  7. I so get it.
    I work in a place where having a penis matters.
    For 3 years a girl worked there, basically doing 2 full time jobs. She “helped out” the Charter Dept. ie she put in all their trips AND she dragged them into the turn of the century from the 1950s bassackward way they were handling things. She worked like a fucking dog for both that department and ours. Eventually she got tired of working so damn hard for so little, while people who had neither the wit or the work ethic kept getting away with doing nothing or just being flat out incompetent. So she quit.

    2 weeks later they hired in a driver to work as an assistant mgr in the Charter dept. They knocked down a wall to create office space for him. He has a penis. She didn’t.

    That was her position. She earned it 100X over. He has no relevant experience and hasn’t even proven if he can use a computer. They knocked down a wall and ordered new furniture.

    It’s not even my fight, but it pisses me off. Some inherent penis related superiority is assumed, as it is by your FIL. Fuck that noise.

    1. I know, right? My old boss of international sales turned our department into a money-making machine, but when it was time to restructure because domestic sales flopped, she was the first to go. In fact, the first round of layoffs was mostly women. All the women who did all the work, while the men drove the company into the ground. After that it was like a house of cards and the whole thing collapsed.

      I see it all the time. I was at a candidate forum this past election cycle and I watched two male candidates simply parrot the answers the woman of color had given before them. When they had to go first, they had nothing to say.

      Both got elected.

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