Asian Girl Problem #98: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

My grandparents need to go to my aunt’s house in Santa Barbara to get their green card applications in order, and since my mom has a fear of freeways and my dad’s on another business trip, I drove us all down to meet my aunt halfway. We had lunch in silence, in the only Chinese restaurant in this one-horse town off the 101. No one had an argument, panic attack or peed their pants, so I was quite proud of all parties.

I was prepared for a three hour interrogation on my dating life during the drive back with my mom. Starting with the same roundabout, awkward questions I’ve been dodging from my dad lately:

“Where did you hang out this weekend? See anyone I know? How’s everything else in your life, besides work? Are you happy?”

“San Francisco. Friends. Good. Yes.” I refuse to volunteer information unless he shows that he’s ready to accept them, aka ask the real questions.

But since I have no issues with sharing real answers here, I hung out in cute cafes, other people’s beds, and the cliffs of San Francisco. Also the dynamics between me and “poly” guy is still ever-evolving and keeping me on my toes, thus a little insane. Also there is one other guy I’m planning to continue seeing, but damn my luck, he’s poly too. Also all my STI tests came back negative!

I can just imagine my dad going out and getting himself a “Proud Papa” mug after that heart to heart.

But mom ended up surprising me on the drive, in more ways than one. First, with her initiation. “Totally casual question I won’t tell anyone else, but how is your 2014 goal to find a boyfriend?” Smooth.

She was also much more realistic and rational than I remembered her to be. We passionately agreed that dating for millennials is a cosmic joke, and that marriage and kids is no longer the end-all be-all. She basically stopped short of saying I should just go spread my seed and enjoy the journey of dating as long as I’m young. (Okay, so maybe I was insinuating that, but when I did she didn’t have a heart attack or jump out the window.)

Very possible explanation for my mom’s transition from drill sergeant to Jeff Spicoli.

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Asian Girl Problem #96: Asian Grandparents

I love my maternal grandparents out of obligation, and my paternal grandparents because they are badass motherfuckers who inspire me every day. Since the former moved to my parents’ house from China, I’ve only spent a couple hours with them. Thoughts so far:

1. My grandma saw some punks on the street in Berkeley, and went on forever about how weird it was that women in America smoke. Turns out the woman was actually a guy with long hair. Plot twist.
2. I know more about my grandpa’s bowel movements than anything else about him.
3. Sometimes when my grandparents link arms with me so I can help them walk, they hang with such ferocity that it feels like they are getting sucked into quicksand and want to take me down with them. I know they aren’t trying to hold me back, but I can’t help but feel like they are.
4. My mom doesn’t talk anymore–everything is a scream.
5. The first thing my grandparents did when they saw me was give me $1000 and apologize for not being able to spare more.
6. They think I am gifted because I know how to drive, pay my bills online, and use a smartphone.

A much more insightful article on the aging Asian-American generation.

Asian Girl Problem #93: Apply Superstition As Needed

While walking home the other day, a psychic passed me a flier and I let my eyes linger on her’s long enough to invite conversation. “I’ve always wanted to be a psychic,” I said. “But do you have the gift?” she asked. “I think I’m good at listening and reading people,” I answered. She then gave me a five minute bullshit reading in the street, starting with flattering my intelligence. I was smart, but I had a lot of blockages. The last six months have been rough for me. (Actually, the reality was just the opposite, but I neither confirmed or denied it.) Then she delivered a punch in the gut: I had a lot of darkness and pain in my past. Who doesn’t? But losing control of my faculties, I started welling up. As she wasn’t the most astute of clairvoyants, she moved on to talk about my ethnicity and how I descended from a lineage of powerful leaders, giving me time to bounce back to my senses. This is why I will never visit a psychic–I’d start crying and never stop. // From what I’ve seen from mainland China and my family, people have a very confusing relationship with spirituality. There are Buddhist holidays, Buddhist architecture and art is everywhere you turn, and Daoist customs still live on in everyday practice. But the Cultural Revolution wiped out the belief in one god and old superstitions, so although cultural spirituality is preserved there is little fundamental ideology to back it up. Before my paternal grandpa passed away from lung cancer, he got very interested in the I Ching. He’d grab whoever he could and read their fortune about anything under the sun. First, he’d make you ask about a general area of your life you needed advice in, and then close your eyes and draw six popsicle sticks out of a pill bottle he kept in his desk. Each stick had either a solid or broken line, which he’d first carved into the wood and then hand-drawn with marker. Depending on the order you drew them, they combined to create one of the patterns in the chart below, and he’d consult his I Ching to determine an answer.

The only memento my dad brought home after my grandpa’s death was his popsicle sticks and I Ching book, and he’s since taken very fondly to them–as much as a a bio-chemist who despises organized religion and spiritual woo-woo can take interest in divination. I think it’s softened him in a good way. Reading into the future while knowing your days are numbered seems like it would be very comforting. Believing in a higher power when life is out of control…Like when I was a kid and first discovered a book of superstitions in the school library–I memorized that shiz from start to end. I wished there was a way to make meaning from the chaotic world. Then you get older and don’t believe in, or perhaps need, everyday magic as much. Until one day you find out you can’t get out of bed anymore, and your family is both too busy and scared to visit you. Then the I Ching comes in handy.

Asian Girl Problem #92: The Talk, Sort Of

I went to visit my parents a couple weeks ago, and my mom decided to have the talk with me. One that extended past the “now you can have a baby” nugget of wisdom she told me over a decade ago when I got my first period. Yes, I am 26 or the same age she was when she got married, but I’m surprised this day came at all.

It started when she found out her friend’s 22-year-old daughter had fallen head over heels for a boy and lent him $600 to blow on gambling.

And she is sleeping over at his house! Talk about losing face. She’s sacrificing everything for him, and when he gets bored of her he’s just going to throw her away and find someone taller.”

That’s how my mom’s mind works. Her main points of contention in order of importance:

1. He is almost a foot taller than her (and allegedly more attractive)
2. She gave up the goods before marriage
3. She lent him $600 dollars of her father’s money

As I expressed that everyone should chill and the only idiotic thing about this situation is that she’s lending money, you could see my mom’s gears turning.

“Does Mary do it with boys?” (my friend’s name changed to protect the promiscuous)
“Dating was grounds for expulsion when I was in college.”
Smart girls would never let that happen.” (“That” seeming to mean everything this girl did which compromised her self-worth. It surprised me that my mom believed giving him money to waste and having sex with him all represented her loss of dignity.)

She knows that it’s different now. In China, 70% have had pre-marital sex. But she can accept the numbers much more easily than when they’re intangible, not applied to people she knows. It scares and saddens her, maybe like how polyamory (sorry, I had to take it there) kind of scares and saddens me. It’s jarring to have something you hold sacred be shred apart. As we sat in reverie, I could tell how badly she was struggling to ask me the ultimate question, “Have you had sex?” while I weighed all the possible scenarios. Would there be beauty in truth? Or should I lie and could I pull it off?

She didn’t end up asking, a clear sign that it would keep her up at night to know the truth. And now I’m fully prepped to take it to the grave in exchange for our peaceful coexistence.

Asian Girl Problem #76: Why I Like Jerks

I hate assholes but I date assholes.

I broke a personal record by going out with a guy I met online for the fifth time. I liked him a lot because he was interesting and witty and “got me.” He is also immature and broke and entitled and vain and unaware of others and not particularly attentive to what goes on in my life. He likes conflict and control and one of the ways he gets his kicks is by negging people. Why is he still in my life? I’ve dated other versions of him before. At 22, it was understandable. But 26? Way too old for that shit.

I wonder why I wasn’t 100% inclined to break it off. (Not to worry, I have. I’m too proud and principled to ignore the fact I feel disrespected.) And as usual, I look to my father to shed light on my preference for jerks. He negs all the time and can rarely be described as “agreeable.” Whether it’s schooling us or playing devil’s advocate, he’s always interested in posing an alternate view, which a lot of people (like my mother) see as a fundamental need to argue.

Now bear with me as a make a gross generalization and stretch between my family/culture and love life.

A lot of men I know who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China are the same way. For them it wasn’t called negging or about getting a girl interested,  it was just being normal in a landscape that demanded it. Chinese marriage used to be based on obligation, sacrifice and survival. Headstrong refusal to accept defeat, even if it means sleeping in separate bedrooms and having a relationship that, at best, is just platonic. Instead of romance and emotions, my parents valued efficiency and honesty. If a girl was too fat or a guy came from too poor of a family, you’d just come out with it and move on to the next person. As unhealthy as it is, I admire the strength and restraint behind it. There were less feelings to avoid hurting. My childhood was absent of heart to hearts, crying or coddling, and that’s kind of how my romantic relationships tend to be. Doesn’t mean I have to date someone who is a bad boyfriend–but there is an understandably wide overlap between the two.

Give me a few days to get over it. But in the meantime, I am telling myself: I do not have to be my parents. Nor are they necessarily related to all my issues with dating.