I am not a patient person. I was the kid in the car asking “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes. My many siblings were equally impatient. Road trips were an endless chorus of questions about how long it was to the bathroom, restaurant, and destination.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t go on many road trips.
My Chinese-American husband is patient (sadly, he grew up on Oahu, which is too small for road trips). I’m not sure if he’s naturally mellow, or if the tropical “hang loose” vibes worked on his personality the opposite way that the intense, political atmosphere of Washington, D.C. affected me.
Perhaps our different levels of patience exemplify the difference in our cultures. My Western mindset insists that I can control my destiny if I work, scheme, and worry enough. At the very least, maybe I can get someone incompetent fired if I document the crap out of his failings. But Andy doesn’t see the point; people are gonna be stupid and other people are gonna cover for them. That’s life, and you have no control over your own fate, let alone anyone else’s. Why exhaust yourself changing nothing? Continue reading Waiting (#314)
Shopping for anyone from a different culture is tricky.
Shopping for your in-laws is tough.
Shopping for your Chinese-American in-laws?
You’re fucked worse than The Martian. Continue reading Gifting East: Christmas Edition (#311)
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)
After my father-in-law died, my Chinese-American mother-in-law hunkered down at home for more than a year. Her children flew to Hawaii to visit her. Sunny, who had once longed to travel, only left the house for shopping and walks.
Until my brother-in-law needed help with childcare. Sunny decided to bookend her months at Denny’s house in Northern California with visits to our house in Southern California (and a side trip to Vegas with her sister, of course).
Having had my fill of in-law visits, I went to New York City during the first four days of Sunny’s visit. Don’t be thinking it was filled with shows or shopping, though! I cooked, cleaned, and helped my sister adjust to having a newborn.
When I got home, practically the first thing my son did was complain about eating out.
Now, maybe you think it’s normal for husband and son to eat out when the wife is gone. If so, 1) check yourself on the gender stereotyping and 2) you must be new here. Continue reading A Sunny Visit (#309)
Starting at age 15, my birthday has gone…poorly. I mostly tried to ignore it. This got easier once I had a child. The focus inevitably shifts—as it should—to various kid milestones, kid holiday stuff, kid birthday parties. Also, your memory sucks when you’re sleep-deprived.
When Baby D was just a little more than 2, a friend called and said, “Hey, where do you want me to take you to lunch for your birthday?”
“My birthday? It’s not my—oh. Wow. I guess it is my birthday on Friday. I forgot about it.”
“You forgot your own birthday?! Isn’t that your husband’s job?” Continue reading The Birthday Grinch (#304)
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)
When I was a kid in the Dark Ages, we wrote letters instead of texts. My first pen pal was my cousin in Florida. She was a decade older than me, but she was kind enough to write back and not point out all my spelling mistakes. In third grade, I was a flower girl at her wedding. It was the first time I ever met her.
I wanted my son to have a closer relationship with his cousins—even though we were an entire continent away from them. Whenever my siblings gathered for weddings, holidays, or birthdays, we flew across the country to join them.
Though we used miles whenever possible, my frugal Chinese-American husband complained about the cost, or about how it wasn’t a “real vacation” if we were visiting family. Continue reading Cousins: East & West Edition (#301)
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)