Cousins: East & West Edition (#301)

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.

Baby D & Cousins, Winter Edition.

Until he realized that Baby D would literally disappear for entire days of Nerf Wars, fort-building, sledding, swimming, and exploring with his older cousins. With so many playmates, we no longer had to entertain our child. We could, in fact, read books or watch a movie or talk to other adults. Heck yeah, that’s a vacation.

Baby D & Cousins, Summer Edition

The same was not true when we visited my husband’s family. Andy’s parents were no help with childcare. They also decreed when their children would visit, and their children’s visit never overlapped (even though their house was huge). This way, Jay and Sunny got more help with household tasks by spreading out visits from their three children. This became more important—and also more understandable—when Jay’s health went downhill.

Unfortunately, this meant that Baby D saw his grandparents, but not his cousins. Only when Andy’s Earnest Christian Cousin got married did Baby D get to hang out with Cousin N.

Baby D & Cousin, Wedding Edition

Whenever possible, we visited Cousin N and Andy’s sister Betty in Iowa, but she took her kids elsewhere when they had vacations (like Europe and Japan).

Andy’s brother Denny lived in San Jose, but he married a Taiwanese-American woman from Los Angeles. They traveled to Los Angeles all the time—to see her family. Once a year, perhaps, Denny would give us a call when they were in town, and we’d invite them over. Their kids were a few years younger than Baby D, but the oldest boy adored his big cousin.

Yet, more often than not, we’d find out about their visits to LA after the fact. Denny’s Wife was all about seeing her parents and her friends.

The only way I could reliably get Denny’s family to visit was familial guilt. Andy’s birthday was at the end of November. Knowing that Denny always came to LA for Thanksgiving, I’d invite Denny and his family for a birthday dinner the day before or after Thanksgiving and say, “it would REALLY make your brother’s birthday if you and the fam would come.” They were usually late, but at least they showed up.

The funny thing is, Andy was ambivalent about seeing his brother. He’d agree that Dalton should see his cousins, of course, but he would have been fine eating the 6-hour cake, bread, and pot roast I made all by himself.

I couldn’t figure this ambivalence out. Was it because we came from different cultures? Was it because Denny and Andy were both men who go with the flow (i.e., whatever the wife wants)? Or was it because they had more interaction with their cousins growing up and never felt the lack?

I asked Andy, “Aren’t you bummed Baby D hardly ever sees those cousins, even though they’re here a lot?”

Andy merely shrugged.

Last Christmas, we left my family in Utah a day early in order to see Betty, who was in Vegas with Cousin N for his chess tournament. We drove through a brutal snowstorm at 5 AM in order to meet them for breakfast—the only time they had available.

Baby D and Cousin N were born less than three months apart.

But since they hadn’t seen each other in years, they eyed each other like feral cats after a brief hello. It was up to me to ask Cousin N about chess and keep the conversation rolling.

Betty would jump in with the occasional comment. “Baby D, did you know that you and Cousin N both like to sleep in your clothes?”

The boys would grunt, nod, and go back to the buffet.

Betty would try again, “Oh, do you hate milk, too, Baby D? My son does also.”

More monosyllabic answers and grunting.

On the drive from Vegas back to Los Angeles, Andy said, “That was painful.”

“Yeah. It’s too bad, too. They’re so close in age, and Cousin N, unlike Baby D, doesn’t have any cousins from his other parent. Just like your brother’s kids.”

A few days later, Andy arranged to meet up with Denny for dim sum. Denny’s Wife wasn’t coming. I dubbed it “Dad Lunch,” and stayed home.

An hour later, Andy and Baby D returned—with Denny and his three kids. I gave the younger ones some cookies and showed them how to play with the dog and cat while the dads had a beer.

Baby D and the oldest cousin weren’t interested in cookies or pets, though.

They were too busy wrestling.

Baby D & Cousin: Full Nelson Edition.

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. Continue reading Failing (#294)

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)