Failing (#294)

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.

My mother-in-law, Sunny, was younger than Jay. Even so, she had trouble caring for Jay at home. During one of our visits to Hawaii, when I picked Jay up off the floor for the third time and put him back in bed, I told Andy his family needed to think about putting Jay in an assisted living facility.

“Your Dad isn’t that big, but your mom isn’t getting any younger. How is she going to manage without us?”

“I don’t know. No one wants to talk about it.”

Andy’s older sister is a doctor. Her specialty is geriatrics. Yet when I pointed out that Jay was a lot for her mother to cope with and suggested moving him to a home, Betty burst into tears and said, “Oh, Autumn, no!”

Sunny refused to even consider the idea. “Too expensive,” she said.

“Not if you sell the rental house,” I argued.

“There’s too many taxes,” Sunny said.

I steeled myself and asked, “What if you sell both houses and move near us? We could help and your sister is nearby.”

“No, no, I will stay here and be fine.”

Sunny, of course, wasn’t fine. She had her own medical issues cropping up now that she was in her sixties. When she needed various surgeries, one of her kids had to fly 3-5,000 miles to take care of Jay. Same thing when Popo, Sunny’s mother, had a stroke, and Sunny needed to care for Popo.

Guess which of the three children always had to fly out in an emergency?

My husband. We were the closest, with the most flights from LA to Hawaii. Andy had the most stable job, with plenty of PTO. But mainly, Andy had me—the stay-at-home-mom who could, of course, always put her writing on hold to manage the one kid and everything else for a few weeks. His sister, married to another doctor and with two kids, was either on call or her husband was on call. Andy’s brother had a new baby (and then another new baby) while he and his wife worked in tech in San Jose.

For years, all of Andy’s vacation time went to trips to Hawaii. All our extra money went for his flights to Hawaii.

When he ran out of vacation, Andy took some Paid Family Leave (thank you, California!). It wasn’t his full salary, but we got by.

I got bitter. Single parenting The Boy Who Wouldn’t Nap, especially during Spring Break and Summer vacation, was mentally and physically exhausting. When, inevitably, I got injured while trying to walk 2 big dogs and chase Baby D on his bike, I had to keep going. I powered through baths on bloody knees, walks with back spasms, and several delightful noroviruses.

Plus, Baby D hated my cooking and missed his dad. He had no compunctions about telling me this hourly.

In vain did I remind my husband that he was now the unofficial Chinese-American Patriarch. “Just take charge! Put your foot down! Tell your mom she needs to move or move your dad into assisted living!”

Andy could not. He had spent too long deferring to the wishes to his parents. Which was, as always, hard for me to wrap my head around. Not once have my sibs and I shied away from battle with any parental unit—especially not when we thought our cause was just. (As it always was!)

But Andy would not argue with his mother, not even when Jay’s physical abilities deteriorated to the point where he needed a feeding tube. Despite Jay’s earlier instructions NOT to prolong his life, Sunny had one inserted. By then, Jay could no longer speak to protest.

I ranted to Andy about how wrong it was. Jay was stubborn and opinionated. He enjoyed laying down the law. Maybe, because of our skirmishes over everything from cheesecake to screwdrivers, I was the only one who could see how much Jay would have hated being overruled. Or maybe I empathized because I was the only family member who could fully relate to the old man’s bossy, judgmental personality.

Andy agreed that his father would not want to be kept alive, but had no idea where Jay’s old instructions were. Even if he had had them, he would never have fought his mother over his father’s care.

So I ranted to my Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, an oncologist who deals with hospice issues daily.

“I know,” she sighed. “There are so many times when I have to explain to the grandchildren who can’t bear to let grandma go that there are things worse than death. Sometimes, you have to take them into the room and let them see the suffering. But to go against someone’s explicit wishes when they are no longer in their right mind? If only he’d been in assisted living! Or the hospital! They would have already had his wishes on file.”

“I know,” I ground out.

“Disregarding them is monstrous. Listen, if I ever lose my mind to dementia, you take me out, okay? I’ll be sure and leave you some morphine or a shot of potassium to make it quick.”

“I will,” I promised. “And you’ll do the same?”

“Don’t worry. If it comes down to it, I’ll kill all y’all.”

More comforting words were never spoken.

12 Step Program for White Women (#293)

 

  1. PUT DOWN THE PHONE. Yeah, I know you are in mid-text to the one Black woman you know from work five years ago, or the PTA, or from your kids’ dance class/ baseball team/ Girl Scout troop. STOP. Sure, someone on social media said “check in with your Black friends.” But you aren’t friends. You are, at best, acquaintances. If you were friends, you’d know she’s exhausted by all the other white women texting her. What you really want is to know that you are a “good” white person and she doesn’t hate you. Here’s the thing: a) you probably microaggressed the shit out of her because all of us white people do it, and b) you’re expecting more unpaid labor from a Black woman. Which brings us to…
  2. DO YOUR OWN WORK. Pretend you are back in school. You were probably a  good student and the teachers loved you because you were a white woman with an A+ in people-pleasing. You never cheated (although you undoubtedly gave an undeserving mediocre white male the answers at least once). So why are you now asking Black women for the answers? Come on. Think about how pissed off and resentful you are daily because your white husband automatically expects you to handle all the kids’ activities, schooling, and healthcare while keeping the house clean, providing meals, and serving as household counselor/ cheerleader. Now, imagine he comes back from a long business trip and says, “Hey, I saw this article about how women do all the emotional labor. I didn’t bother to actually read it, but give me a pat on the head for noticing it and explain it all to me, please.” If you weren’t so tired, you’d throw something at your idiot husband. And he’d fucking deserve it. Well, Black women are about a thousand times more tired than we are, which you will understand if you…
  3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Read at least two books on the current New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller List. Yes, the NYT is biased and totally cheats BIPOCs (when you your homework you will know what BIPOC means) by switching their criteria to favor white authors. However, the non-fiction section is currently dominated by Black Americans writing about race relations because the other 4.0 white people are finally doing their long overdue reading for Honors English.
  4. DO MORE HOMEWORK. Once your head stops spinning after you finish at least 2 books from #3, read The Hate You Give. It’s easier going and reading fiction is supposed to increase empathy. Yes, of course you are a very empathetic person, but crying over Subaru commercials and rescued animals is not the same as understanding the effects of systemic racism on a visceral level. Ask yourself why you were more outraged over the police shooting dogs than Walter Scott. Or De’Von Bailey. And then…
  5. ACKNOWLEDGE COMPLICITY.  We swallowed the white supremacist narrative that Black Americans deserve the violence meted out by racist cops. And yes, we should have done better. Get yourself some tissues and have a good cry, but do NOT, under any circumstances, call your Black acquaintance and sob over this epiphany. They’ve spent a lifetime surviving what we just learned. They’re too busy giving their offspring “The Talk” to give us absolution. Instead…
  6. TALK TO YOUR OWN OFFSPRING. Since you’ve done your homework, you now know that it is on you to cover all the material state textbooks leave out (some states more than others, TEXAS). There are statues of slave traders, Confederate generals, and Christopher Columbus coming down all over. Use these exciting visuals of destruction as a starting point. End with a comparison between the United States and Germany. (Hint: Germany apologized for the Holocaust, banned the Nazi salute, and DOESN’T have Hitler statues).
  7. CALL OUT YOUR PARENTS. Repeatedly. Don’t let them get away with perpetuating the “by my own bootstraps,” myth or any other racist crap. Overwhelm them with your homework facts. Use the parental controls on their remote to keep them from watching Fox News. Until they shape up, withhold grandchildren on the grounds that you do not want your children to be brainwashed into evil. Never excuse them with bullshit about “but they’re good people,” who would “give you the shirt of their backs.If they excuse the violence perpetrated on Black bodies, and/or putting kids in cages, they are white supremacists and fascists. Would you let your kid hang out with the KKK or Hitler?
  8. CALL OUT ALL THE RACISTS ALL THE TIME. This is probably the hardest part for us. We’ve been trained to be good hostesses. We smooth things over. We don’t create scenes. We’re gonna have to get over that–fast. If we aren’t making white people uncomfortable, we are not doing the work.
  9. PROTEST. THEN CHANNEL YOUR INNER KAREN TO COMBAT POLICE BRUTALITY. Policing is done at the local level. Instead of calling the police on Black Americans enjoying life, call your mayor. Call your city council, and your police commissioners. Attend their Zoom meetings. Identify yourself as a constituent and then, because you did your homework, point out how much goddamned money is spent on the police—especially their unnecessary military gear and their pensions. Since every city will be facing huge revenue shortfalls this year, there is no better time to demand a massive reduction in the police budget. Push for social services and education instead of police!
  10. DONATE. If you’re worried about being scammed, start here. Always, always google organizations. A little research can save you from financing some problematic activist’s failed mountain climbing expedition instead of a solid organization.
  11. FOLLOW BLACK WOMEN–especially on Twitter. (If you haven’t found them by now, you got an F on your homework. Go back to #2 and start over.) Staying current on events and the conversation is vital; it will keep you from embarrassing yourself or donating to the failed mountain climbing dude. Centering and listening to Black voices is even more important, and we’re really, really bad at it. WARNING: never, ever insert yourself in the conversation—Twitter will drag you deservedly and mercilessly. Just listen. Learn. Consider events and history from a non-white perspective. Retweet. Amplify. Repeat.
  12. NO TITLES. Maybe we did the work and feel like we deserve a treat. Resist. Never, ever call yourself “an ally.” Nor “an accomplice.” Why? If we only did the work to signal our virtue, we’re assholes, not allies. But most of all…

“Ally” is the one title no white person can bestow.

Airline Assault (#277)

By now, most of America is probably aware of #Reclinegate. If you aren’t, it goes like this:

A white woman with back issues reclined her seat on a Delta flight–waiting until after the white man behind her had eaten. (He had the last seat on the plane and could not recline.) The man proceeded to pummel the crap out of the back of her seat. She filmed him. For some reason, the media framed this as a “both sides” issue and ran polls on “who is right?”

Plenty of white men say, “Bitch got what she deserved.”

Most women ask, “How is this not assault?!”

I say,  “Let me tell you a story.” Continue reading Airline Assault (#277)

Belated Chinese New Year (#275)

My husband is Chinese-American.

I’m so white looking, I make a point of assuring any new neighbors of color that I did not vote for Trump.

Our son took after me.

Occasionally, an Asian-American woman would ask me if Baby D’s father was Asian, but no one ever appeared to be surprised that I was his mom.

It was different for my husband. He took Baby D to the grocery store when Baby D was about 2. An old white man got in Andy’s face and asked, “Is that your son?”

Andy said, “Yes.”

The old white man snorted and said, “He don’t look a thing like his daddy!”

Andy replied, “That’s because his white mama traded up races.” Continue reading Belated Chinese New Year (#275)

A Tree-mendous Christmas (#272)

As children, my younger sister and I used to lie under our Christmas trees. We had minimal Christmas decorations, and no outdoor lights, but we loved our small trees. Not only were those colored strings of light magical on their own, they were also a visible reminder that parties, presents, and the North Polar Bear were coming.

When I got my first apartment, I got a tree. It went…poorly. Not only did my roommate JM have allergies (sorry, JM!), but we had cats. 5 pound Bat Cat raced delightedly up and down the tree, ornaments flying in her wake. At 25 pounds, Shamu Cat was incapable or climbing any tree. Instead, he pulled branches down and sat on them, almost as if telling Bat Cat, “See? I am also in the tree!” Continue reading A Tree-mendous Christmas (#272)

Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

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)

Don’t Whine, Ditch That White Boy (#259)

There’s plenty of whining on social media.

My favorite GOP whine, which I find hilarious as a former Washingtonian, comes from current Trump/ Republican staffers in D.C. The Trumpers complained that they are harassed and ostracized by locals; instead of touting their proximity to power as Obama staffers did, they vaguely mumble about working for the government when asked about their jobs. (I love you, D.C.!)

A similarly entertaining whine comes from the 62% of white American males who voted for Trump: women hate them. Women won’t date them. Women will actually ditch them in the middle of a date, upon learning that they are GOP supporters. Women have divorced husbands who voted for Trump.

Meanwhile, on Twitter and Instagram, my fellow white women are also whining, especially those who are college-educated and have advanced degrees. It’s apparently quite hard to find a white partner who is educated, motivated, unthreatened by a woman’s success, shares domestic chores, and doesn’t cheat.

That squares with what I remember back when I was dating.

It also squares with what I’ve heard from other Mom-friends at book clubs or playdates: their white husbands suck. Continue reading Don’t Whine, Ditch That White Boy (#259)

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)

Belly Up (#249)

I used to play volleyball with a big group of women. About half these women were Japanese Nationals, living in the Los Angeles area while they or their husbands were working for Toyota, Honda, or other Japanese corporations.

These Japanese women never played volleyball professionally. Many hadn’t played since their school days. And yet they were amazing. They could run down and set a ball like pros. They never gave up on a play, wearing down and demoralizing the strongest, biggest, hardest hitting white women (like me). 

Continue reading Belly Up (#249)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)