Asian Girl Problem #132: Undermothered

This is probably not a surprise, but I quit my corporate 9-6 job about a month ago. What started as a great environment with coworkers I enjoyed turned sour when each of my peers got fired/quit, leaving upper management and interns (who also eventually left) to hire a whole new office. In the new culture (kind of felt like an all-white sorority), I wasn’t comfortable and didn’t respect most of the work. But I stuck it out for another 5 months because I really wanted to put in a year.

The unhealthy coping habits I developed–as I always to do when chained in a desk–reached a boiling point. Too much coffee and sugar, few meaningful interactions, minimal creative outlet and zero motivation drove me to hedonistic evenings and weekends. It also, thankfully, caused me to escape into books again. I spent mornings reading and started going into the city early before work so I could feel human before joining the machine. Reading x yoga x weed is a good temporary antidote for modern life.

But then a few hiccups in my personal life caused a breakdown where I thought I seriously lost a shred of sanity that I’d never get back, and would become my mother. So I gave my two weeks, and found a new job–it’s everything I want at the moment. It involves food/drink/literature/writing/community events, is close to home, run by good people, and lets me work an ideal schedule. In short, it meets all of my ridiculously picky standards. Too picky for someone my age. If you’re thinking “This bitch is spoiled,” I wouldn’t argue.

That’s a quick update on life events which I’ll come back to in detail another day, but what compelled me to blog again is a post that caught my eye on Facebook today. Specifically, the word “unmothered”. Everyone has their triggers and this concept of being unmothered is the strongest of mine.

Ya’ll know the broad strokes–my mom has suffered from severe depression/anxiety since before I was born, and I caused her postpartum depression. She has the resilience of a toddler, could never hold down a job, dislikes most people, and has suffered from mental disorders across the spectrum.

But she was always in the home–so I was not unmothered, as such. She picked me up from school, cooked, cleaned, and participated in family outings. She was also there to spy on me in class, rifle through my things, and teach me how to have an eating disorder (I didn’t follow through). When she was angry, she was there to throw shade and tell me I ruined her body and that I shouldn’t ever have children. When she was sad, she was there to disappear into her room for days, refusing to speak to my dad so I’d have to be sole caretaker and intermediary.

I cursed her dead so many times, wishing I was unmothered. And I think about the very traditional aka melancholy Chinese song she always sang when I was young.

In short, “Mom is the best in the world. Kids who have moms are like treasure…Kids who don’t are like a lone blade of grass…”

When I was four years old, my mom was pretty and young which was all that mattered. I was in love with her femininity. In the summer when she wore cotton dresses, I was moved to request this song over and over again while we sat on our apartment stoop. I snuggled deeper into her skirt and pitied the poor saps without moms in the song. We were inseparable until I turned five, and then our wavelengths crashed. My mother was sad and too wrapped up in her naivete to give the emotional support a super sensitive kid like me needed. She couldn’t understand how I could be unfulfilled when I had food to eat and clothes to wear–I was so demanding. And I knew she would misunderstand or ignore my feelings, so I stopped sharing them.

And here we (and my secrets) are today. A lot of us, especially those who clash culturally with our family, are underparented. It’s not all bad–I’ve been afforded hefty silver linings by having an absent mother. I learned how to support myself emotionally and have also been mothered by other sources, like my dad, girlfriends, pop culture (bleh).

None of it follows the the pomp and circumstance of a Mother, though–the Mother who wants to hear about for your first bra/period/boyfriend, soothes you through breakups and sickness, and just shows you through example how to be a good person in the world.

But not having all that is perfectly fine, and probably applies to the majority of us. Mothering or fathering has nothing to do with sperm to egg contact. I’d like to be a better mother and father to myself and especially other people. Amidst all the interactions, friendships, relationships whatever, that’s the spirit that could make us all feel less lost and more found


Asian Girl Problem #111: The Elusive American Sleepover

I call myself an adventurous eater. I’ll enjoy a fish eyeball, shrimp head, chicken feet, lizard or fried grasshopper anytime. Though not as tasty as the aforementioned, I’ll even eat pork blood, slimy sea cucumber, bitter melon or durian if it’s offered. But there are plenty of American food experiences I’ve never had, but crave, such as getting a pizza delivered. Never ordered food delivery, period. The way it’s engrained into American life and has more apps dedicated to it than any other service is literally hard for me to swallow.

When I was young, journeying to a restaurant and eating there was half the fun–my parents made a freakin field trip out of McDonald’s. Eating in-store meant wedidn’t have to dirty dishes, could enjoy free water, and stuff a bag with napkins and ketchup to use for the rest of the week. The common reasons for food delivery were lost on us. No car? Walk your ass there. Too late at night to walk? You shouldn’t be eating anyway–go to bed. And obviously, we weren’t aware of the culture which gave rise to “late night munchies” and “wake and bake.”

Most of all, my parents couldn’t fathom the concept of paying a delivery fee or tip to receive an asinine service, although more than once, my dad considered getting a second job as a pizza deliverer. While my mouth watered every time we saw a Papa John’s car roll through our street, he dreamed about cashing in on the suburban laziness surrounding us.

The one place I did wrap my mouth around some delivery pizza would be at sleepovers, although I spent more time watching them on TGIF than attending real ones. Because there is nothing as terrifying to the Asian mother (or just mine?) as The American Sleepover.

American kids can go from zero to spending the night in the time it takes to make a short phone call, because their sleepovers are dependent on just two factors:

1. Is it okay with Suzie’s parents?
2. Is it a weekend?

For Asian parents intent on defending their daughter’s chastity and pathetic social standing, more need answering:

1. Has it been at least six months since your last sleepover?
2. Will any sentient being with a penis be at Suzie’s house?
3. Does Suzie’s mother have a good job, and know the harmful effects of artificial ingredients?
4. Have you finished all your studies for the next week?
5. Are you working on a group project with Suzie, and can you incorporate piano practice into the sleepover agenda?
6. Does Suzie get better grades than you?
7. What do you do at a sleepover that you can’t do during the day?
8. Why are you not as obedient as _________’s daughter?
9. We need to find you more extracurriculars if you have an extra 12 hours to spend at someone else’s house.
10. Why can’t Suzie stay at our house?

Suzie can’t stay at our house because we don’t have a dog or video games and we can’t mention any boy names. But mostly because we eat fish heads instead of pizza.

Asian Girl Problem #106: Sex, Drugs, Soda

There are roughly a bajillion articles online about introducing a non-Asian guy or girl to your parents, or having them find out prematurely (any day before a wedding day is not the day, in my opinion), or dealing with families who disapprove. My story basically follows the same plot as all the stories of my youth. Despite being a really good kid, I’ve hidden a lot of things from my parents to 1. save everyone time/strife, 2. protect good things from being ruined by them, 3. maintain their angelic/chaste perception of me.

Keep doing the same thing, and life follows the same patterns. (But I’ve gotten away with a lot more things than not.)

When I was a kid, my mother would tell me not to eat candy because it would make me fatter. But I still did whenever our teacher rewarded us with it. Because I am not a moron. But one day she came to pick me up a little early, and saw me throwing a Tootsie Roll wrapper into the trash and flipped her shit. Yelled at me the entire drive home while I bawled that I hadn’t eaten the candy, but was throwing away trash I found. At six, I learned the art of bluffing for the first time when she got home and picked up the phone, threatening to call my teacher to verify. As soon as I confessed the truth, I realized she had tricked me. I was sure she didn’t have the phone number. She lectured me for days afterwards about how lying leads to sex and hard drugs. I got much better at sticking to my lies after that.

When I was a few years older and developed a bad habit of biting my nails in class, I’d see my her head looking in my classroom window sometimes, when she wasn’t working. Yes it was terrifying. She claims she did it more than I realized.

When I used to hang out in the hip neighborhoods in high school on weekends, I saw my parents drive by us once. They say they were conveniently in the area. I say they were trying to see if I was with a boy who wanted to date me. Joke’s on them–I was with a girl who wanted to date me.

When I was in middle school, I hung out with boys outside of class no more than a handful of times and the only time I can remember is the time we ran into her at the grocery store. We’d stopped in to buy some junk before heading to one of their houses to watch a movie. But she yanked me home and lectured me the whole way back on how I was the stupidest person because I put myself in a position to be raped and soda would kill me.

When I was taking a shower yesterday, my entire family–I mean my parents/grandparents/aunt/uncle thought it’d be nice to surprise me at my apartment to take me to lunch, because I’d been too busy that morning to answer my phone. I walked out without my glasses into my room, totally bypassing my mom, who, unbeknownst to me, was talking to my secret boyfriend, his friend, and my roommate. In between interrogating my roommate for information, she also asked about some charred waffles that I accidentally set on fire earlier that morning–I’d put them on the counter as a joke. Now she either thinks I am mentally disabled for eating carcinogens or doing some kind of waffle-looking drug.


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.

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.