Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Family

When Perception Becomes Reality; An Infinity Loop

when perception is reality.
Is this how you see me?

About a week ago, I received a frantic email from my mother. She needed a new password for a website, and she was having a hard time making one the website would accept. She sent me their requirements and asked me to clarify what they wanted. She added that maybe I could just do it for her because she was having such a hard time with it. I looked at the requirements, and they were pretty standard. The password must be at least eight characters with (at least) one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number, and one special character. I sent her back an explanation and an example and told her to try it one more time; if she still couldn’t do it, I would help her. She emailed me back asking if the number counted as a character, and I said yes. Everything you input, I told her, counts as a character.

A few days later, she called me. She had tried and tried, but couldn’t get it to work. She asked me to help her, and I reluctantly agreed. I hasten to add that I was reluctant because I thought she could do it on her own, and I didn’t want to baby her, not because I didn’t want to help her. My mom is, in her own words, a bit of a technophobe, and she she becomes irrationally freaked out and anxious any time she has to do something on the computer that is outside her comfort zone. In addition, English is her third language, and she doesn’t speak it on the regular these days, so having to do all this shit in her third language probably doesn’t help, either.

Let me tell you a little story about when we both worked at the county (different departments). She called me up one day and said, “I can’t get this website to work.” I walked her through it. I said, “Put the address in the address bar.” That took more explanation. Then, “Did you press Enter?” Mom: “I have to do that?” I’m telling you this to show you my mom’s mentality when it comes to computers. It’s so strange to me because she’s an extremely intelligent and competent woman. She was the first psychologist to practice sandplay therapy in Taiwan–in fact, she brought it to the country all by her damn self. She has a two-year waiting list of people wanting to learn it from her (at least she did when she first started. It might have eased up now that there are more certified sandplay therapists in Taiwan, all trained by her). It’s hard for me to understand how something as simple as a resetting a password can reduce her to such despair.

Yes, I know it’s partly an age thing and a not having grown up with computers thing, but I didn’t, either. I didn’t touch my first computer until I was in college, and everything I know is self-taught or gleaned from the brain of my techie brother. I don’t know nearly as much as he does, but I know more than average about computers I would guess. Again, this isn’t to slag on my mother, but to point out that there’s no reason for her to get so upset about computer basics. It also makes me sad that it’s so anxiety-inducing for her. I can bet that when she was told she had to reset her password, she started freaking out, which makes it all that much harder. Then, she probably started obsessing over it in the back of her mind. She built it up so much, when she sat down to tackle it, she was already in a state of panic. Then, with each successive failure, it only reinforced her helpless and hopeless feeling.

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The Keeper of the Family Secrets

keep it in the family.
SHHHHHHHHH!

In my family, secrets are king. Currently, I am in possession of three major family secrets. Two were told to me by a family member, and one, I discovered unwittingly. One of them, I thought was an open secret in that I thought my extended family knew about it (it’s not a secret concerning my nuclear family, but a cousin of mine), but I recently found out I was wrong. It’s a full-blown secret, except, there are some family members who know about it (excluding me, obviously), but they just don’t talk about it. This is common in my family, and growing up, I just took it as normal. There are open secrets that you don’t mention, but you know everyone else knows about them. Even as adults, my brother and I don’t talk about them. I mentioned one of them in an oblique way several years ago, and we exchanged knowing glances. That was it, and we moved on to another subject.

Not only do we have major secrets, but my father is very big on saving face. He can’t abide appearing foolish or lesser than in anyone’s eyes, which meant that he was constantly on the lookout for any perceived improprieties. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is when he and my mom were out playing tennis with some friends. Another friend of theirs called and asked to speak to him. I said he was out playing tennis. No big deal, right? When my parents came home and I told my father about the call, he flipped out. He was pissed that I had told the second friend he was out playing tennis with other friends because he thought she would be upset that she wasn’t invited. Never mind that she didn’t live in our city or that you don’t have to invite all your friends to every activity you plan. In my father’s eyes, I had committed a grave sin, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned that day: Don’t tell anyone anything. I know it sounds ridiculous, but his overreaction to my action wasn’t just a one time thing.

He always thought he was right, and what’s more, he couldn’t fathom another way of thinking. I learned at a very early age that my mother’s life at home revolved around making sure my father wasn’t upset. That meant not telling him anything she thought he couldn’t handle. Again, it was hard to tell what would upset him and what wouldn’t. Simply asking him to finish up his bath (he takes up to an hour-long baths. He falls asleep in the bathtub) could elicit the silent treatment. We had a decades-long battle in which he would tell me to put on a sweater or coat because he was cold. He did not take kindly to my response of, “But I’m not cold.” He thought because he was cold, I had to be cold, too. He took it as a personal offense when I refused to put on a sweater or a coat. Side note: I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease when I was fourteen, which means I had an overactive thyroid. One of the symptoms is never feeling cold. In other words, I had a medical reason to back up my non-coldness, not that it would have satisfied my father.

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Think of the Children; Vote Against Hate

I saw my niece recently. She’s eighteen, graduated from an arts high school, has a full-time job, and has moved into an apartment with her boyfriend and his friend. She also got two tattoos recently. A small one on her hand and a larger one on her arm. She asked me if I had heard about her getting tattoos, which I had from her father (my brother). I asked if I could see them. She showed me the small one, then shrugged off her jacket so she could display the other. It’s on her arm in a similar place to the one I have on my right arm. It was beautiful, and she told me she had to get it touched up because all the color hadn’t taken. I asked if she was going to get another one, and she said, “Oh, yes!” with eagerness. I laughed and said that you can’t stop with just one, and she nodded in agreement. Then, she said something about getting it because of me. I didn’t really register it, and we kept talking about tattoos as I walked her and her father to the door. She repeated that she had gotten her tattoos because she’s liked mine* ever since she was a small child. I was touched, but also concerned. It’s not a good reason to get a tattoo, but I can’t deny that it was flattering to hear.

She looked like me when she was a little girl. People used to think I was her mother, and my family would sometimes confuse her name with mine. We used to tell stories to each other for hours, with her being the Fairy Princess and me being the Fairy Queen. She wasn’t waiting around for her prince to come, however; in fact, many of our stories were about how she would save her prince from perils. I watched as she grew up to be a creative, artistic, sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful, striking young woman. She’s always been more feminine than I am. In fact, I remember when she was eleven, she wasn’t happy that her mom wouldn’t let her shave her legs until she was twelve. Boys like it when you shave your legs, she informed me gravely. When I told her that not all boys felt like that and that I didn’t shave my legs, she said with as much scorn as an eleven-year-old could muster, “You’re not married, so it doesn’t count.” It made me sad that she had gotten that message from society, but the only thing I could do was continue to model a different way of thinking in the best way I could.


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