Underneath my yellow skin

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:


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?

I’m sure some people reading are thinking, “Minna. That’s such a small thing. It really is.” And I know it is. But it’s indicative of family dynamics that have been going on since I was little. Minna’s wants, desires, and stated opinions (I said I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find it funny) aren’t important. Also, my sense of humor is very different than anyone else’s in my family. I’ve been made to look at things other people consider funny (my brother) past the point of me saying I don’t find it funny (nothing offensive, just not funny); listen to jokes I don’t find funny (my father, sometimes inappropriate), and memes that I’ve seen a million times before (my mom). My mom gets sent these memes/videos from her church group, and then insists I see one she considers funny or creative or whatever. When I try to explain to her that I’ve probably seen it and that whatever she thinks is so WOW! is pretty common to me, she replies with, “Oh, yes. It’s not common to me because I don’t have the time for it.” Which is pretty dismissive if you think about it. The response in my brain (but not out loud is), “No, it’s because you’re a technophobe who is ten years behind the time!” Not kind, I know, but I don’t say it out loud.

As for the boundary pushing, it’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. Asians have a different ideas of self and family and boundaries. I understand this. I know she’s Taiwanese just as surely as I am American. I also know that some of the ‘this is the way Asian families are’ has contributed to the family dysfunction and to my personal issues (everything that happens in the family is a secret, even the innocuous stuff), so it’s a difficult row to hoe. I do know that I’ve had my boundaries squashed and ignored, and I’ve been told that no, I don’t actually have those boundaries. So, sometimes, I make sure my boundaries are extra-rigid, and I explode over minor things.

I think my mom felt bad about the situation, but she thinks of it as, “I feel bad because Minna got upset about this small thing” rather than, “Huh. I shouldn’t have pushed Minna on her boundaries when she said no several times.” Again, yes, it’s a small thing, but I was very clear about my no. Also, I had seen the meme before, and, no, it wasn’t funny.

As for the boundary pushing, she said she thought it would be a nice thing to do for me. I said the nice thing would have been to ask me about it first to see if it was something I actually wanted. She said she didn’t have time to talk to me about it first, which again, reinforced my belief that I’m not as important. It reminded me, however, of a time I thought I was doing something nice for an ex, and it turned out it wasn’t a nice thing at all. He snapped at me for it, and while I was hurt at the time, I now realize that he was right. He might have overreacted to the incident (he did), but he was right. I should have asked him first.

During the fight with my mom, she said, “I didn’t realize this was still a thing between us.” I didn’t either, as my reaction came out of nowhere, but it also told me that she was aware that this had been a thing between us before, but because I’ve mellowed out quite a bit, she thought it wouldn’t be. In other words, she knows it’s something that has caused us problems in the past and still did it (although she might not have been consciously thinking about this at the time). What will she take away from it? Sadly, probably that she has ┬áto chill on that thing until I show I can handle it. (Not a good mentality, in my opinion.) But, to be fair to her, she hasn’t done it nearly as often as she has in the past. One of the reason this visit has been mostly drama-free is because we’ve both changed a fair amount.

The other thing I realize is that this shit tends to happen at the end of the visit. This is a pattern with me, and I’m fully aware of it. I can go through something and be fine with it, but the last few days before the end, everything is INTOLERABLE. I think it’s because my brain is like, “I’M ALMOST AT THE END WHY AM I NOT AT THE END THIS SHOULD BE THE END!” It’s as if my brain thinks the event should be over a day or two before it is.

In addition, I live alone, and I like it that way. Having someone else in my space 24/7* is a low-level stressor to me in that I can never really have my own space. Even if she’s in another room, I’m very aware that she is there. It has me like:


So, when it’s down to only a day or three left, I’m all:


I recognize this about myself, but I have yet to be able to change it.

I will say, that as unsettling and upsetting as that argument was, I was pleased because we worked it out in a fairly short amount of time. It’s not completely done (obviously), but I’m also not stewing in it and seething in resentment. In addition, the visit overall was so much better. So. Much. Better. I’m discouraged because I relapsed, but I’m trying not to let it get me down.



*There are a few exceptions.


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