My Chinese-American husband waited to bring a white woman home until he was almost thirty. At that point, Jay and Sunny were grateful Andy had found anyone.
There were plenty of arguments over our marriage venue and our potential change of last names, but no arguments against our actual marriage.
Once we were married, though, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Jay was upset when we didn’t have a child—specifically, the Number One Son of the Number One Son—right away. When the in-laws came to visit, they hit me with criticism for my cooking, my cats, my teapot, our dogs, and even our local Costco.
This negativity wouldn’t have bothered me as much if Jay and Sunny criticized their son-in-law or their other daughter-in-law. But Sunny fawned over her son-in-law. And her other daughter-in-law? Denny’s Wife escaped the trials and tribulations I endured—including the Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony.
While favorite DIL status seemed an impossibility, I hoped that, once the Number One Son was on the way, I might at least achieve Level “Leave Her Alone.” Continue reading Daughter-in-law The First, Daughter-in-law The Worst (#310)
Many readers have requested more “when the in-laws visit” stories.
I see you, sadists.
The only good thing about my Chinese-American father-in-law’s decline was that he could no longer visit. (This is why I am not in prison.) Instead, Andy flew to Hawaii to help his mom with Jay’s care.
The one time Sunny briefly left her husband for her niece’s wedding, I told her how pleased I was that she had gotten away. (Jay was in the hospital for tests and procedures.)
“I feel terrible,” Sunny told me. “So guilty.”
“Why? You should get a chance to see your sisters and have a break. Jay’s fine, with round-the-clock care.”
“But he always said it was my job to take of him. And now I’m not.”
How was it that a man who could no longer speak was still imprisoning his wife with words? Continue reading Sunny, with a Chance of Travel (#303)
Content Warning: this post deals with burial arrangements. Given that over a million people have recently died due to COVID, alone, and with their families often unable to follow the deceased’s religious or personal wishes regarding their remains, you may want to skip this lighthearted post. If so, I understand. I am sorry for your loss and I hope that your memories of your loved one become more comfort than sorrow.
My Chinese-American husband never worried about death. His only end-of-life plan was purchasing life insurance.
When we had Baby D, I got life insurance, too, and insisted that Andy increase his coverage. Because I am always braced for catastrophe and death, I asked him, “What do you want me to do if you die?”
Andy snorted and said, “What do I care? I’m dead.”
“No, seriously. Do you want to be buried? Cremated?”
“Whatever you want.”
“How about a memorial ceremony with your favorite foods and beer and bourbon?”
“If that’s what you want. Because I don’t care. I’m dead.” Continue reading Decisions at the End (#302)
Maybe you have an optimist for a partner. The kind of person who says, when his grandmother has a stroke, “She’s not going to die.”
And she doesn’t.
When his mother has an ovarian mass removed, your husband isn’t worried. “It’s not cancer,” he declares.
The biopsy proves him correct.
While you may agonize over bleeding while pregnant, potential pre-eclampsia, and spiking a fever during labor, your husband does not. “Baby D is going to be fine,” he tells you confidently.
Sure enough, your baby is born ridiculously healthy.
And yet you know catastrophe waits around every corner. When a family member you don’t speak to regularly calls, your first thought is, “Oh, no.” It takes years of practice and therapy to say, “Everything okay?” instead of blurting out, “Who died?” Continue reading Are You Okay (#299)
My Chinese-American father-in-law harangued me weekly until I got pregnant. He believed my sole purpose in life, as wife to the Number One Son, was to bear him a grandson.
Once Baby D was born, Jay’s health deteriorated. Physical ailments led to mental issues. By the time Baby D was four, Jay was in a wheelchair and not always lucid.
As if he had only been holding on to complete his purpose in life—a grandson. Continue reading Failing (#294)
My husband had Chinese-American parents. Mine were white, uptight, and Anglo-Saxon Protestant/ Atheist.
Andy was expected to obey his parents without question. If his parents said his curfew was 10 PM, Andy was home at 10 PM. If Andy’s father wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV, Andy could forget about participating in Little League or any other sport.
I was expected to obey, but not without question. My mom was an attorney. Dinner table discussions in her house ranged from abortion to capital punishment. Everyone was encouraged to express their own opinions and defend them. If I could present a good argument for a curfew change or pierced ears, these items might be considered. (Lost on curfew, won on pierced ears.) Continue reading Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)
There are delightful tea ceremonies in many cultures. There’s the British afternoon tea, paired with finger sandwiches and scones. There’s India’s chai tea, sold on every corner by chaiwallahs with the latest gossip. Russians invite friends into their homes for a brew called zavaka, traditionally served in samovars. Japan’s elaborate Tea Ceremony is famous for its green tea and tranquility.
And then there’s the Chinese Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony, which is none of those things. It’s all about putting an incoming bride in her place in the household hierarchy.
FYI, her place is at the bottom. Continue reading Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony, Part II (#258)
I find names and the naming process fascinating. Giving someone a nickname is often a way of expressing affection—or dislike. My parents divorced and remarried so much that we sometimes had as many as three different surnames in our households, but God help the poor classmate who referred to my stepfather as “Mr. Ashbough,” (the name of my mother’s ex-husband).
God also help whichever sibling my father hollered at using their full name—middle name included.
When my husband and I married, we put a lot of thought into hyphenating both our names. Andy’s Chinese-American parents objected. Their arguments were illogical, hypocritical, and downright ludicrous, but I was forced to concede.
Years later, I was still pissed. Continue reading Lost in Translations (#254)
When I was seven months pregnant, my Chinese-American father-in-law insisted on coming to visit. Jay insulted me personally and women in general. His ceaseless efforts at home improvement culminated in disasters and emergency home improvements for my husband and me. Jay refused to desist. I lost my temper and yelled some mean things at him (all the meaner for being true).
A good hostess never yells at a guest, no matter how trying. A smart wife sucks it up and stays on speaking terms with her in-laws, no matter how insane they are. And a decent mom-to-be will put the needs of her future child ahead of her desire to throttle her maddening father-in-law until he drops the screwdriver of doom forever.
Continue reading Amen, Girlfriend (#244)
My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes.
We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure.
And so common.
Continue reading Snapped (#241)