Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: family secrets

I vant to be alone

Day Five

go. away.
I’m ready for the apocalypse.

It’s day five with no end in sight. Life as we know it is over, and I may not make it out of this alive. If I don’t, tell Shadow I love him.

I’ve been up for almost three hours, and I’ve had to answer four tech questions for my father already. Now, I know this isn’t a big deal because many of us have older parents who are uncomfortable with technology. Let’s throw some additional wrenches into this shitshow. One: I don’t read Chinese; my father’s phone is in Chinese. Two: I don’t use cell phones for any serious work because it makes me angry, scared, and confused. I like a full-functioning keyboard and all my keyboard shortcuts. Three: One of the problems has to do with PowerPoint, which I don’t use at all.

So. We have the comedy of me pointing at something on the screen and asking my father what it says. He doesn’t speak English on the regular any longer and hasn’t for at least two decades, so he struggles to translate the Chinese into English. Then, I try to figure out the equivalent in English before poking his phone, mostly in random.

This is fairly funny, but it’s also irritating because both my parents expect me to drop whatever I’m doing and help them RIGHT NOW. Yes, I know their emergency is not my emergency, but Asian parenting training is real, yo. You don’t say ‘no’ to your Asian parent. You just don’t. I’ve gotten much better at it, but it’s hard not to slip. Plus, my mother has a singular mind when it comes to, well, anything. And she has no ability to rate how urgent something is. If she wants it done, then it’s urgent. It’s hard because my ‘office’ is my couch, which is in the living room. So they feel free just to wander in and ask for whatever it is they need or just to chat.

Small annoyance: My mother is like a caster of her own thoughts. You know that inner voice that is constantly narrating what you do and think? That’s my mom. “I’m going to cut the vegetables now. First I have to soak them, though. I soak them for twenty minutes to get the–what do you call it?” That’s an actual question which she waits for me to answer. I know what she wants, but I’m not going to give it to her. I am not. No, no, no. I am not going to say toxins. “I leave it for twenty minutes, and–” I cannot tell you what follows because by this time, my eyes have glazed over, and my pulse is nonexistent.

I know that I’m making all this sound amusing (and it is in retrospect, it kinda is), but it’s mostly irritating at the time. The last few times they’ve been here, I’ve been able to let this shit roll off my back, but for whatever reason, it’s been harder this time. It started when my mom called me a few days before the visit. We were just talking about whatever, and then she said something that was patently a statement of denial. I was telling my brain, “Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it,” as my brain formulated a statement that I knew wouldn’t make things better and might actually make things worse. My brain wouldn’t let me not say it, and, yes, it didn’t make things any better.

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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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