Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: cultural divide

Crouching Hackles, Hidden Buttons

I forget it was Wednesday (as I write this) and checked my social media before realizing this is supposed to be a social media-free day. I quickly backed out, but it’s just a reminder that I have to be mindful all the time.

I also got into it with my mom last night, which is another reminder. She wanted to talk about a few things before she goes back to Taiwan (tomorrow), and while these talks are never ‘hell yeah! what a great talk’, I wasn’t dreading it this time. We sat down in our usual places across from each other, and she said, “Hey, come here and see this funny thing!” I just sat down, and something in me was like, “No.” So, I said no, let’s just talk. She pushed it by saying, “Would you just come and see this funny thing?” I said no again, and it suddenly became A Thing. After a few rounds of this, I said to turn the computer around, and I’ll look at it this way. She started rambling how hard it’d be, and I knew she wouldn’t let it go, so I turned the computer around. Sure enough, it wasn’t funny (which I told her I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be to me), and that set a bad tone for the conversation. It made me feel like this:

via GIPHY

Then, she said something that crossed a huge boundary and pressed my ‘she cares more about my brother’s time/opinions/thoughts than mine’ button, and I snapped at her. That devolved into an argument about the Asian way of relating versus the American way of relating along with other things, and it wasn’t pretty. When I tried to explain about the joke thing, she said, “I thought it was such a small thing, but I apologize.” Can you guess why my hackles went up? She’s a psychologist, and I was a psych major, so I tried to explain it in a way she would understand–flipping the script back at her. “If it was such a small thing, why couldn’t you let it drop?”

Probing a bit more, she said she thought sharing a joke would be a nice way to start the conversation that wasn’t going to be pleasant in the first place. Then, I understood that she had one of her scripts running in her mind, and she was determined I’d follow it. That actually was made clear when she asked me a question at the beginning of the conversation, then as I tried to answer, talked over me several times. She hadn’t designated a ‘response’ time to her question (it was rhetorical at that point), so she simply didn’t hear my response. This is her MO in general: I have a firm idea of how this interaction should go, and I will not let reality stand in the way. I almost admire her because who among us doesn’t wish we could shape reality to our liking?

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