Underneath my yellow skin

You don’t know what you don’t know

Alternate title: I need to learn more basic stuff, but that’s not as catchy.

I have teeth problems that I need to deal with. I’m not happy about it, but at least I know what needs to be done. An implant and three crowns. Ouch, my wallet!

Then, my car started acting up. It wouldn’t start. I called my bro to verify that I should hook it up to the battery charger he had given to me, and I did that. It startd, but had an ominous meessage about checking the hybrid system. Plus a very scary red warning icon. My brother came over to check it out, but he brought the wrong gauge. He had suggested hooking it up to tthe battery charger overnight and fully charge the battery.

He explained, as he had before, that I drive the car too little in order to keep the battery fully charged. It charges as it runs. So he suggested as he had before to drive the car twenty minutse or so once a month. It was the same explanation he had given me the last time this happened which was several winters ago, but I hadn’t taken him up on it at the time. This time, once I got it statrted after jumping it, I did drive for twenty minutes. But that was with the message flashing, which made me tense as I drove.

Before my brother left last night, he hooked up my car to the battery charger and told me to leave it overnight. I did. This morning, I checked it and the car started right away. The dreaded message was gone! The ‘fill the damn gas’ icon came on, which I did when I went out to go grocery shopping. I was nervous after twenty minutes in Cubs, but the car started without a murmur.

The ‘fill the damn tires with air’ light is also on, but that’s a profblem for next time I go to Cubs me. I will pay more attention this time to my brother’s warning and take the car out more often. I am so relieved that it wasn’t the more dire option, but it exposed how little I know about cars.

My brother is my go-to about anything technological/electrical/car-related, but I probably should know more about the basics. On the other hand, it’s not as if it comes up that often so even if I were to learn more about it for myself, I’ll probably not remember by the next time I have to deal with the same problem.

I told Ian that I had an easier time dealinng with dying twice than with my teeth problems and my car problem. I was joking, but I wasn’t really. The whole medical emergency was something that was a fait accompli by the time I woke up. There was nothing I could do about the dying itself, whereas with my car, I had to take care of the actual problem. I hate being dependent upon a car, but that’s life in the suburbs.

I hate not knowing basic things. It’s because my parents reacted negatively to both them not knowing something and me not knowing something. In general, not knowing something was considered a terrible thing. But, paired with that was the fact that my parents believed weird things that weren’t true. In addition, they were extremely old-fashioned in their beliefs and behaviors. They were firlmy wedded to rigid gender roles, which they tried to impart upon my brother and me.

As with most people, though, my mother was rife with contradictions. Even though she claimed she had wanted to be a mother since she was a young girl, she didn’t actually have an interest in being a mother to me, the person. She wanted me to be her Daughter with a capital D in a way that I was not interested in being.

There was pressure for me to be perfect–like a doll. I was soupposed to react to what my parents said in a way that was flattering to them. They did not want to hear about anyhing negative–and I was not allowed to be upset or angry. Let’s not even talked about depressed, which was what I was since I was seven.

My father was much more concerned with appearnces than feelings, and his image was everything to him.  I had no idea what losing face actually meant to him because it seemed as if anything could cause him to lose face.

The example that is seared in my mind is from when I was a teenager. My parents were out playing tennis with some friends. Another Taiwanese woman from the church (Taiwanese, fundamental, evangelical, very cultlike) called and asked for my father. I said he was out playing tennis. When my parents got home, my father exploded at me. He said that I shouldn’t have told her that they were playing tennis with another friend. When I pressed him on why, he muttered something about her losing face. That really didn’t make sense. At all.

It wasn’t until decades later that I realized she must be either an ex-‘special friend’ or he was lining up the next one. By special friend, I meaen mistress. He’s had one for as long as I can remember–at least one at a time. I don’t know if it was ever more than one. Always Taiwanese, which made sense because he was so pro-independent Taiwan. He never saw America as his home country, even though he’s a naturalized citizen.

Once I realized that he was all about his image, it made him easier to deal with. Not easy, mind you, but easier. Everything he said and did was with the aim of making him feel better about himself. He had no core so he needed others to constantly fill him up. I’m saying this as if I understand and accept it, but it’s draining. He doesn’t give a shit about me as a person and neither does my mother.

This is a long way to go just to say that I have a fear of not knowing something because I used to get punished for it as a child. In small ways and in big ways.I’ve become better at admitting when I don’t know something, but there’s still a moment of panic that I’m going to be in trouble for my ignorance. And that makes me angry. I don’t like feeling stupid or on the defensive.  I know that it’s ok not to know things, but it’s hard for me not to have that involuntary reaction.


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