This Saturday was the day I had reserved for my parents. My mom really is hell bent on our “immediate family” spending time together when I am in town. She hates it when any of my cousins or my aunt or uncle are there. That is not “real” family time because she cannot be herself and has to put on an act. It’s actually a similar sentiment, but not exactly the same, of Chris’s mother, minus the latter sentiment of needing to put on a show.
The unfortunate part of this ideal desire for “family time” is that we really have nothing to do together other than eat… and listen to their gossip or complaining. My parents and I have little in common. We do not enjoy the same activities, and we do not have the same interests. I’ve never been able to be myself around them because they don’t really care about the topics and causes I care about. My dad’s idea of a good day is watching YouTube videos nonstop, including eating all his meals in front of the computer screen. My mom actually has to nag him to eat at the dinner table with her, even when I am home. My dad is also the king of complaining. He will criticize any and every idea you have. When my mom suggested we go to Japantown, he grunted and retorted, “Why do we always have to go there? It’s all the same all the time!” When my mom suggested we eat at San Tung, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, my dad made his usual disapproving sounds and said that the restaurant is going downhill, the prices are inflated, and that the only thing keeping the restaurant afloat is its signature dry fried chicken wings dish (this is a restaurant that has been going strong for 20+ years, and every single day of the week has a huge queue of people waiting to eat in as well as do takeout). When I suggested we go to Land’s End, he said he didn’t want to walk because he already walked around the block twice this morning for his daily exercise (sounds exhilarating). But we ended up going to Land’s End, and my mom said it would be good to be outside since the day was quite clear and warm. About .4 miles of the .45 miles from Land’s End to the Legion of Honor, a relatively flat walk except for one small hill and a single set of stairs, he threw a massive temper tantrum and started yelling at me.
“You know, where are we going?” His voice was becoming shrill. I wasn’t even bracing myself; I realized in this moment that I wasn’t scared of what he was going to say, and it was one of the first times in my life that I didn’t have a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach when his voice would rise. “This walk is aimless and pointless! There’s nothing to see! Where are we even going to? I’m sick and tired of this. I cannot walk like this. I am not acclimated! You need to get acclimated to do this type of walk! You can do what you want! I’m going back!”
“You have Golden Gate Park right outside your door, and Land’s End right in your backyard, and you cannot even enjoy it!” I shot back at him. “You take walks around the block for exercise that don’t even last 20 minutes. You should be getting at minimum 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and if you are going to do that, why not see something scenic? What do you want to do, sit at home on your computer all day? How is that doing anything productive or even enjoyable? Do you think spending time on your computer is family time together? We are supposed to be spending time together, so what is so wrong about taking a WALK?” I was growing more and more enraged the more I spoke and finally cut myself off. I was surprised my mom didn’t interject to shut me up.
My dad walked off without another word. “I don’t have to deal with this!” I shouted at him as he stomped away.
My mom stayed with me and continued walking. She smiled weakly. She still said nothing. I then ranted to her about how rude and childish he’s been since I’ve come home, how he’s barely spoken to me or even acknowledged me other than to ask random questions about work out of the blue.
“What do you expect me to say — he had no one to teach him better when he was young,” my mom said to me, shrugging her shoulders. “Do you think I have it easy every day with him?”
We got back to the car eventually, after bickering with each other about other fun topics. My dad was cleaning the windows of the truck and acted as though nothing had happened. Well, I guess that is typical Asian parent behavior; never acknowledge what went wrong and try to sweep it under a rug.
We had dinner at San Tung altogether while sharing a table with two friends, one of whom was introducing the infamous dry fried chicken to the other friend for the first time. She was completely blown away and insisted on ordering a second plate. That was the highlight of my dinner activity, other than eating my beloved dry fried chicken wings and black bean sauce noodles. As a family, we barely said anything to each other while eating.
Then, I went home to do laundry. I had plans to see my friends in the evening, and my mom started panicking, saying she didn’t want me to go. “I don’t want you to go out tonight,” my mom started. “It’s dangerous out there — so many punks and it’s not good to go out at night in the city. Tell them you’ll see them another time.”
I could not believe she was pulling this stunt again. She was trying to get me to cancel on my friends for the evening because of her own distrust of society, paranoia, and possessiveness. There was only one acceptable response to my mom, and that was to tell her I’d cancel. That was not going to happen under any circumstances. So she was not going to be happy. And she wasn’t when I refused.
“Why can’t you just be nice to me?” she shrieked. “I always treat you so well and I’ve never done anything wrong to you, and you have to be so mean and rude to me! You just want me to worry, don’t you? You have no consideration and are just selfish! You just want me to worry and my health is already going downhill!”
I’m not going to be brought down. I will rise above. I will ignore these false and baseless accusations and do what I want because I am an adult who can have an adult life.
It is also debatable that she has “never done anything wrong” to me, but that’s another story for another day.
“You are not going! I will not let you go!” she yelled. “You are making me VERY ANGRY right now!”
I didn’t respond because how do you even respond to this delusional talk? You just can’t. So I told her I’d be back in 3.5 hours and left.
Yep, it was just another day in the life of my parents’ household, another searing reminder to me about why I have zero desire to move back to San Francisco and be anywhere closer to them. On a walk around the Napa resort one early evening this week, a colleague asked me if coming back home for these trips made me homesick and want to move back home.
“No,” I immediately said without taking a breath. “Actually, it’s a reminder to me that I made the right decision to move away, and the feeling hasn’t changed in the slightest.”
She seemed surprised, but she nodded her head. She also has moved away from home, but has every intention to move back to her home after a few more years away in another country.
I love my parents, but at a distance. Some people judge me for it, but I don’t really give a fuck. There is a reason human beings were created with legs and not roots. We have to outgrow our parents and move on with our lives to mature and become our own true selves. I was never going to grow properly under their roof and rulership. I would have been stunted, just like my brother was. And we all know where he is now, as sad as it is. But as sad as that reality is, it only makes me more angry and see red everywhere.
If I never left, I’d have no perspective. I’d just live in a small bubble, completely ignorant to all the possibilities that exist outside of the Bay Area. And ignorance is not bliss.