Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In The Name Of Love

My last post reminded me of an essay I submitted to my highschool website last year, so I thought I'd post it as well:

I remember during my junior prom, my classmate and I were the only 2 girls who brought non-Chinese dates. There were probably other batchmates of mine that had non-Chinese dates, but I'm sure we were the extreme minority. I asked my mother why she didn't mind me bringing a non-Chinese guy to the prom and she simply said: "It's not like you're running off to marry him." But I guess for the rest of my batchmates' mothers, that was exactly what they feared.

To put this fear into better perspective, I recall my highschool barkada tell me once what her mother said to her when she joked around about marrying a Filipino. She said her mother didn't utter a word and simply looked at her while a tear rolled down her cheek. How's that for something so subtle, speaking a thousand words.

I have to admit my parents weren't very subtle either when it came to me dating as I entered college. Who amongst us didn't hide the parties and secret crushes on the guy from Ateneo or La Salle. As for me, it was the guy from all parts of the world when I went to the US for college. When my dad found out I had a boyfriend during my sophomore year, he called me early one morning from Manila with fury in his voice. Good thing it was my aunt that answered the phone, and filled with guilt for reporting me to my father, she told him to cool down because I was still asleep. To this day I have no idea if it was the fact that I had a boyfriend that drove him up the wall or that my boyfriend was non-Chinese... or both!

As I trudged through my twenties, I dated all sorts of guys. Filipino, Chinese, Cantonese, Singaporean, Vietnamese, American and Australian. Of course when my current boyfriend was non-Chinese, I went through many tricks of the trade to hide it from my family. Although my parents were in Manila and I was in California, they had spies fronting as my grandparents and uncles. And when my latest squeeze was Chinese, I proudly displayed him to the spies, oh I mean relatives. But now that I think back to those years, I realize I never sat down and asked my parents why I had to marry a Chinese guy. All I knew was that they were just like parents of my batchmates in highschool. I'd rather hide it than see my mother cry.

Two years after I graduated from college, my parents got their long awaited immigration papers for the US. A few months before that, I was licking my wounds from yet another failed relationship. This time with a Vietnamese-French guy. Of course not wanting to admit defeat, I told my parents I had given up on California and returned to Manila to be with them. Talk about bad timing! They left the same year I decided to come back.

A few years later, I met an Australian during a visit to Hong Kong. I knew he was the one. Although I had full confidence what my parents felt would not affect my decision to be with him, deep down inside I wanted their approval. And of course I still feared what fury my dad could still lay upon me as an adult. And so the day came when we all met up in Hong Kong and they met hubby for the first time. In just a few minutes into our dinner, my mother popped the question. She asked hubby when he's going to marry her daughter. Surprised, yet half expecting my mother to do such a thing, I felt relieved that they approved. Leave it to Chinese parents to show approval in their own special way.

A few days after hubby and I were married, I finally had the courage to ask my mother: "Ma, how come all those years you questioned my choices in men. You and pa insisted I marry a Chinese man. But when it came time for me to marry hubby, you were the one that popped the question?" She said she simply saw how happy I finally was. I no longer seeked their approval as justification for me to be with someone and that proved to them that I had finally grown up. She admitted moving to the US opened their minds as well, but most of all, it was knowing she could now trust my judgement that I knew what I wanted in life. Rules were rules, but if you wanted something bad enough, they're there to be broken. And I definitely broke the rule to be with the one I love.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Fascinating essay. This is a theme I hear repeated again and again with Asian parents: they have some very set expectations for their children's future, but at the same time show an ability to adapt - in their own way - to an increasingly global world and the way it affects their children's choices in life partners.
Beautifully written.