This afternoon, we went to see Hasan Minhaj’s show Homecoming King at the Cherry Lane Theater in the West Village. The show goes through his immigrant family’s path to coming to America, how he met the sister he didn’t realize he had, and the bullying he faced because of his Indian heritage in school. During the talk back session after the show, he and a film director are discussing bullying in schools in general and why they both think institutions and people in general need to acknowledge it more and do something about it.
It made me sad to remember how Ed used to be bullied. He was a pretty easy target since he wasn’t particularly athletic, was skinny and not that tall, and of course, he wasn’t confident. He was bullied by classmates, even by a teacher at his elementary school who used to hit him. He was defenseless and didn’t know that it was wrong and that it shouldn’t have happened. And even if he did tell our parents, what would they have done? Would they have even defended him and went to the school to have it addressed given that our own father bullied him?
Every day there’s something to remind me about Ed and the injustices he faced. The question now is, what can be done to change similar situations for kids who might face a life just like his?
Tonight, Chris and I went to his friend’s apartment in Midtown East and ate takeout Thai with a bunch of their mutual friends. Two of the friends were relatively new, so one of the friends was describing how we’d all met and how our lives have changed over the last four years since they met. We’re engaged, one of them is married and has a child on the way, and two of them are “the same,” as in, single without any realistic prospects for romantic relationships in the near future. This isn’t really the future that the three of them had envisioned for themselves four years ago.
Chris’s pregnant friend is actually due the week after our wedding, which pretty much means that she and her husband won’t be able to come. It’s a sad truth, but that’s life. We can’t all coordinate our lives to make sure we can always be there for each other at our biggest life moments. It makes me sad, but it’s just another reminder that we should all just live our own lives and stop living it for other people or around other people’s schedules.
The last time I was home, my mom went off at me for hours even after I was in bed at 10am to get ready for work the next day to tell me that Chris treats her and my dad “like dirt” and has zero respect for the two of them. The reason for this was that she claimed that Chris had never once in the last three years ever offered to pay for a meal for her and my dad, and that he just expected my parents to get the tab every time, except for that one time at In N Out Burger, which she says was a massive insult. The irony behind all this is that Chris has paid for many things for them, including vacations to the Grand Canyon and Vancouver, yet, she seemed to have forgotten all of that.
So given that this incident happened, I’m not sure I want Chris to see my parents before the wedding. He’s planning to go to San Francisco for work in two weeks, and he asked if I wanted him to go see my parents. My knee-jerk reaction was no unless he was adamant to pay the bill at whatever restaurant it would be at. He got annoyed at it, saying he refuses to play my mother’s games and that she always fights him for the bill anyway, and so it’s a lose-lose situation. “Why don’t you just do what you would normally do and not do everything as a reaction to your mother’s potential responses?” the therapist said today. It’s a valid point. So maybe I should just let him go see them.
We went through the DSM and came to the conclusion that my mother is almost a textbook example of paranoid personality disorder. She’s constantly distrustful of everyone and anyone, is hypersensitive and misinterprets compliments as backhanded insults. She holds grudges for every little thing that happens to her and always perceives herself to be the victim. Someone is always “hurting me so much,” as she always says. The examples throughout the course of my life are so many that I can’t even go through them all.
The therapist thinks that as part of my process for empathizing, I should keep this disorder model in mind when dealing with her and recognizing that it doesn’t make sense to act rationally with someone who is not rationale. But I’m not sure if I really think that will help me because Ed and I always thought she had some sort of disorder. With something like this, it’s nearly impossible to treat, and it’s even harder when the person doesn’t recognize that she has the problem. So it will never be acknowledged, treated, or cured. It’s an impossibility.
It has to be because I went to what was arguably the best wedding of my life this past weekend that I am now having wedding anxiety. Last night, I dreamt that I met all three of my bridesmaids for lunch. While we’re sitting around a table and eating, I announce to them that I’ve decided to call the wedding off. As their faces change from smiles to total confusion, I take out a sheet of paper with a list of at least ten to fifteen different reasons for why we’re no longer getting married. A few reasons on this list include that we’re no longer communicating, we’re not open about our feelings, Chris is having an affair with some woman in Sydney, and we’re no longer having sexual relations with one another. My friends have no verbal response, but their faces say it all.
I woke up and told Chris about my dream, and he said my subconscious is going crazy. Yes, it certainly is.
I talked to my mom on the phone today since it was my first full day back from Europe, and she wanted a full download of the wedding events. I told her about everything from the food to the DJ to the fireworks, and of course, she said, “Wow, both their families must be rich!” I think if I told my mom that a couple got married in a haystack that she’d probably respond the same way. She wanted to know how much time exactly we spent with Chris’s parents, and if we gave a “decent” amount for the wedding, which is her way of trying to ask how much money we gave as a gift. There was no direct reply to that.
When it comes to money and how much people make, my mom tends to always assume that everyone else is rich except for her and my dad… and me, and that I tend to give too much to people who either don’t deserve it or need it. But she’ll always frame the questions as though I should be giving more. That’s the trap. So if I were to tell her an amount that seemed hefty, she’d respond and say I would go broke spending money that way on “everyone,” and then proceed to get mad at me. It’s the cycle of no-win situations when you are dealing with someone who likely has some sort of paranoid personality disorder. Everything is malevolent and a reason to be angry and suspicious and distrustful.
The last time we got stranded at an airport because of a missed flight due to connection delay, we were given barely $25 for dinner and breakfast, and a hotel stay at the airport Crowne Plaza in Chicago. Yesterday, our connecting flight from Heathrow to JFK was delayed to the point where it didn’t make sense for us to get on the plane, so we took the airline up on their offer to stay at the Renaissance hotel at the airport, accept dinner and breakfast vouchers at their very plush hotel restaurant, and $800 USD each in airline credit for the inconvenience. Apparently this type of reimbursement is due to British law with delayed and cancelled flights in the U.K. I could get used to delays and cancellations with reimbursements like that.
This also meant that I finally got to see London and set foot in the United Kingdom, even if I only got to see the city for about four hours. It was the most glorious delay and accident that could have happened, and an unexpected ending to our France trip. The only thing missing was crumpets.
I’ve been hyped up to go to Marche Bastille on our last Sunday for the last several weeks in great anticipation of our French version of the Last Supper in Paris: poulet roti from the famous poulet roti woman at the market, along with chicken-fat-drenched tiny yellow potatoes. Poulet roti is just French for roast chicken, but this roast chicken is marinated for two days in sesame, soy, and a large variety of herbs, then roasted on a rotating spit over tiny little yellow potatoes. I’d read about it on multiple food blogs as the thing to eat when visiting Marche Bastille, so I knew we had to have it.
When we picked the chicken up and I ripped into it with a sad random spoon we had in our bag and my fingers, I knew we had made the right decision. The skin was crackling, crunchy and very complex tasting and flavorful. It was sweet and slightly salty and herby all at once. The flesh of the chicken came apart quite easily, and the dark meat was perfect. The breast meat was tasty, but the star of this chicken was clearly the skin and the dark meat. It even came with its little giblets on the inside cavity; that’s something you don’t normally get when you buy roasted chicken in an American supermarket. Americans can’t really handle their giblets. I wanted to inhale the entire chicken, and I almost did since Chris’s dad doesn’t like to eat with his hands, and Chris’s cousins shied away from eating that much.
It was a sweet finale to an end in France. I practiced a lot of French here, was received more happily than I was last time, and bought enough chocolate, butter, caramels, and pharmacy products to last me the next year. I can’t wait to come back and eat the rest of France.
And then, when you least expect it, you get reminded of what you lost.
I went to sleep this morning at around 4am after leaving the dance floor at 3:30am. I’m proud to say I was one of the last ten people in the room for the DJ that would have gone on until 7am as per French wedding protocol. Then I woke up at around 8:30 having dreamt about going through my brother’s things after his passing. I’m sitting on the floor next to his desk in the dining room, rummaging through notes, books, and boxes. I come across a bag that has familiar writing on it; it’s my friend Natasha’s handwriting. I could identify that handwriting from miles away. It’s a note she wrote to my brother describing that she put together a care package for him of things to encourage him and make him smile. She included an inspirational book, some of his favorite snacks, among other things. Neither Natasha nor my brother told me that she did this for him. Finding it was bittersweet for me. I was touched that she did this for him, but felt awful that he’s now gone. In my dream, I sit there and stare at her handwriting, wondering what Ed thought when he was given the gift.
In the happiest and saddest times, he’s still there hanging out, saying, “Hey, remember me? I’m still here even though I’m not. I’ll watch over when you’re feeling good and terrible, and I’ll try to continue being happy for you.” I’d like to say this dream was more hopeful and positive, but in the back of my mind, these dreams just make me sad because it’s a reminder that he isn’t here, even if his presence is still felt halfway across the world. It’s the never ending thought, the sad and final truth.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over losing him, and I know when my wedding day comes, it will be hard because I’ll know he should have been there. I’ll try my best to be strong for him… as much as I can. I have to be strong for both of us, even more so than when he was alive.
Today was one of those one-day-in-a-lifetime days when I got to experience a fairy tale in real life — a wedding at a chateau in the French countryside complete with endless white and pink roses, ending with torches shooting their flames up high toward a sky of fireworks. It’s one of those things that American girls dream about growing up, but they never really get that type of wedding in the end because how many American girls will have a destination wedding at a chateau in France?
Since I left home in 2004 for college, I’ve realized exactly how sheltered I’d been about the world, and every day I’m learning exactly how little I didn’t know the day before. When Navine and Andy began planning their wedding, Navine said to me that she originally didn’t want to have a chateau wedding, that she wanted to do something “different” and get married along the French Riviera where there was warm weather, sunny skies, and the beach. She grew up in Paris attending weddings at chateaux because that’s what the French do when they get married — have a multiple-day-long celebration at a chateau. I laughed out loud when she said this because I thought, yeah, that’s not what my version of “normal” and “what everyone does” was when I was growing up. I grew up thinking the normal, everyday thing to do when getting married was having a church wedding and having a Chinese banquet at a Chinese restaurant, or having a wedding and reception at a hotel or country club. Our versions of “normal” or “cliche” are so different depending on where we grew up and how we were raised. It still makes me laugh to think of Navine rolling her eyes at a chateau wedding and thinking it’s a cliche.
At the end of the night, she and I chatted, and I told her how beautiful it all was today and how it really was very much like a fairy tale. She was glowing and saying, “Screw the French Riviera and the beaches and the sun; this is perfect!”
That’s how I felt. But I guess she’ll get to see our wedding overlooking a beach in just a few months, and that will be incredible in its own way. I’ll be honest and say that after being a part of this wedding, I felt slightly insecure and thought our wedding may be nothing compared to the extravagance of today. But as corny as it sounds, as long as the people we care about are there and I don’t screw up my vows, I think our wedding day will be another version of “epic,” and that’s coming from someone who never uses that word.
Today, the wedding events began with a tea ceremony at Navine’s parents’ home in Paris, and ended with the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen at the chateau about an hour away in the French countryside. As with most Chinese events, the food was endless, and the food offered to the ancestors to bless the marriage was even more endless. We left the bride’s family’s home wondering what would happen with that huge roasted suckling pig, the duck, and all the fruit and sticky rice cake offerings. My family has never hosted a tea ceremony, so I have no idea if all that food really gets eaten or not.
Chris’s cousins’ parents and family were asking me if we would also have a Chinese tea ceremony when we got married. My first response is laughter, not because I think it’s dumb or ludicrous, but more because my parents would barely understand what a tea ceremony is for or what they would do during it. My dad is less Chinese than I am, and my mom doesn’t know anything about tea ceremonies and is Vietnamese. I summed it up nicely by saying, “No, my family isn’t that Chinese.”
I think these traditions are a great thing to have and to continue, and I was happy to be able to be a part of this one. I’m honestly a little sad that my family isn’t that Chinese and won’t be doing it because it ultimately means that any potential future generation of our family will not do it. If I didn’t have a tea ceremony, it’d be like a farce if I ever wanted my future children to have one. None of my cousins had a tea ceremony when they got married, either. It’s like the degradation of cultural identity as the generations continue and the lack of understanding of what the value is to keep these traditions going.