Did You Know?

Did you know that your parents are people? Me neither (I’m joking, kind of) until I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s masterpiece of a novel The Lowland a week and a half ago. In addition to her stunning prose, I love how Lahiri captures the choices, traumas, and resiliencies that comprise first generation Indian immigrants to the United States. After reading her book I reflected in a more three-dimensional way about my parents and what they gave me.

Even though I write a fair amount about my dad’s absence, he also provided me with a lot. The other day I stumbled upon the inanest Facebook post in which a queer Asian man mentioned liking tall white boys, and I thought to myself, wow, I’m so glad I literally don’t care about boys or looking attractive to boys, especially white boys, regardless of height. While I think I derived my rejection of internalized racism and heightism from reading feminist books, refusing these oppressive norms of the queer community reminds me of my father: he always did his own thing, wearing whatever clothes felt comfortable to him, developing his own political identity outside of the two-party system, and generally not caring about other people’s perceptions. My dad had always been smart, hard-working, and ambitious, and I think I got some of those qualities from him.

I remember positive elements of my mother too. In her more positive moods, she sang to trees while driving me to school and cracked jokes that made me laugh, more so than anyone else in my family did. In contrast to stereotypes about Asian American women’s submisiveness, she had been assertive – though too assertive with me and my brother – and unafraid of confrontation, like yelling at men who approached our childhood home from the window of her office, asking them what they want. I recall downloading pop songs onto her MP3 player because she liked to run: “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, “Right Found” by Flo Rida, and “Glamorous” by Fergie. So my more outgoing personality, my assertiveness, and my love for pop music, at least in part come from her.

I got dinner with my father for the first time in five years yesterday and learned more about why he married my mom and stayed with her. This conversation and some of the phone calls we have had over the past few years have made me pause and reflect on how my parents suffered too – due to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, heteronormativity and patriarchal gender norms, and the mistakes that humans just sometimes make. When one of my best friends asked me about what it felt like deciding to see my father, I told her that while I felt curious about him, I also wanted to know more about myself, my roots and who I came from.

Sometimes I get scared when I act in ways that remind me of my parents. Research, for example, brings to mind my father’s immense intellect and my mother’s penchant for detail, organization, and numbers, both at the expense of deeper emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I remind myself though that I can make decisions too, that I chose a PhD in Psychology because even though my profession includes rigorous research, which brings to mind my parents, it also includes the practice of empathy and care, which makes me feel connected to my grandmother. I like to think that I orient my values and actions to align most with her.

How do you make sense of traits you inherited from your parents for better or worse? General reactions to this post? Wow in like one month I will move to a new city screaming crying throwing up! I booked movers so now I need to like, actually start cleaning out my apartment a bit and figuring out where furniture will go lol. Also I am highly anticipating Le Sserafim’s debut in a couple of days so unless the title song sucks I will most definitely be jogging to it along the nature trail near my apartment yay. Until next post!

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

7 responses to “Did You Know?

  1. Kartavya Ratate

    Appreciate the vulnerability and empathy with which you write about your parents; I am so glad that you are growing and staying grounded in your values. Hope you’re taking care 🙂

  2. Wow, well done for meeting up with your dad and I’m glad it seems to have given you some valuable information.

    I’ve inherited a tendency for depression from my father and I’ve worked hard to know that in myself and not to let it overwhelm me. And if I’m honest, my mother is a good administrator and committee member, and while I don’t let myself get onto committees any more, my admin skills have allowed me my independence in running my business. Think that might be it, though!

    Funny this comes at a time when I’ve just found out my cousin and family are going on a trip that takes in places around my parents’ house, so I know he’ll see them, and I’m seeing him in his home town next weekend – but thank the dear lord for my husband, who has already formulated a plan with me that if they appear suddenly, we walk.

    Best of luck as you move towards moving – you CAN do this. I’ve moved back and forth between the South-East and Birmingham as well as around London and I know you have GOT this.

    • Aw thanks so much for the validation Liz! Appreciate your self-awareness about inheriting the tendency for depression from your father as well as how you potentially acquired some administrative and committee skills from your mother. It seems like you put those skills to use for good for yourself and others! And yes love this plan in terms of if a family sighting/incident occurs and I hope that went as well as possible, either as a nonevent or an event that was coped with? Thanks so much for your best of luck wish about moving, it’s nice to hear that you pulled it off multiple times and seem like an overall thriving person out at the other end!

  3. Wow… love this entry. I loved that you were able to talk to your dad about these things and see your parents with a different lens. I think you’re channeling the best of your parents and grandmother.

    I grew up surrounded by books. Both my parents loved to read. Mom liked to cook which I do too. My dad kept a lot to himself and didn’t share much with me until mom passed away. I would see him every Sunday to give my sister a break and take him out to dinner. Little by little, he would talk and I just listened. One day he talked about reaching over his bed to hold mother but his hand hit the wall. It was a dream. He said it felt so real. Growing up I never heard him talk like that before.

    My patience comes from my mom. I joked with her once that it skipped my older sister and younger brother. She chuckled but I think she knew.

    I hope your move will be uneventful and safe. Good luck with all the prep work for it.

    • Aw thank you so much Matt about honoring how I am processing my biological family! Yesss love this self-reflection about deriving your love of reading from both your parents, as well as your patience from your mother. I’m curious how it felt to witness your father in a different way after your mother passed away. Also, in relation to your mother specifically, I feel like I can feel your kindness and calm and helpful temperament through the screen in our communications which I appreciate so much!

      • I wrote about my dad here. https://nocturnaltwins.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/my-moms-last-gift-to-me/

        It’s a role reversal. I paid the bills for the home, eventually I made his account into our joint account. I got adult diapers for him – he told me he had no idea what to do. He got my jock strap for gym when I was a kid. I was too embarassed to buy it.

        Thanks for the comment on my mom. While I never told him I was gay, I think she knew and insisted that I bring along my bf to my bday dinner. It was my last bday dinner with my mom. I think she was conflicted because she felt troubled about another gay relative we had. She just thought I was too busy with work. But in the end, I’m sure she knew.

        Your entries, whether you realize it or not, help me think and reflect. I like that. Thank you. 🙂

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