My parents are quite funny. They’re so funny that they can make you cry. They can drive you so mad sometimes.
I told you guys earlier that I email my parents everyday.
In the beginning, I used to write about everything under the sun. Where I went, who I was with, what I ate… whatever I did for that day, I wrote about those in my daily emails. Honestly and without hesitation.
A few weeks later, my mom secretly sends me an email…
Your dad is very worried about the guys you’ve been seeing lately. You know we trust you, but he is always asking me who XXXX is, or who XXXXX is. It may be better if you do not mention any of your guy friends’ names anymore.”
I’m in trouble.
You see, my father is very protective. He does not want his innocent daughter to have a boyfriend this “early.” If he had his way, he would want me to have my first boyfriend later… but that’s another story. That’s why, he gets so concerned when he knows I’m surrounded by men, in a foreign land where he can’t keep his eyes on me. He hates losing control. I can imagine him being afraid of the day I’ll come home pregnant out of the wedlock.
Not that he doesn’t trust me. He does… kinda. But as I’ve told you before, he thinks I’m still 8. He thinks I’m still too young and naive. As if I’ve never dealt with boys before.
But to humor my dad, and to save my mom’s sanity, fine.
No more mentioning of my guy friends’ names.
Sigh, personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’ve had my share of truly platonic relationships, and I think guy friends are the spice of life. For me, I’m pretty clear if a guy’s my friend or more than that, so it’s really useless to worry. I actually count myself lucky to have a healthy number of them.
But for the peace of my home back in Manila, no more mentioning of my male friends. Check.
No wonder, my mom and my brother start wondering if I even have male friends ’cause all I mention in my letters are my female friends. They’re pretty sure I hang out with guys. I’ve always had a fair share of male friends. But it bothers them a bit not to know the specifics, given that they know I have some.
As for my dad, ignorance is indeed bliss, and peace reigned in the family for a brief period of time.
How did I do it? Well, if a guy was in the picture, I’d demote him as a “friend.” I won’t even mention names. For example, “Me, Karen and some ‘friends’ went to a housewarming party. We had a lot of fun. Blah, blah, blah.”
Well, you get the picture.
Of course, since I write an email (and a lengthy one at that) everyday, it’s inevitable that you soon run out of things to talk about. I don’t like to lie, so I simply don’t mention things I know my parents would approve of. So for example, if I went out partying till 4AM in the morning, I’ll just leave it out, concentrating on the book I read earlier that day instead.
Geez. Highlights of my life in Taiwan, and I don’t mention them.
I have to be careful in censoring every single one of my email before sending it out. I dread the times when my mom sends me an email. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom to death. But mom’s emails usually warns me of stuff that I wrote the previous day. After a while, I swear, there was a time that every time my mom sent me a mail, my heart would start beating wildly. If something I wrote bothers my dad, she tells me. Then, I’d have to be more careful. If I wasn’t careful, I’d be in trouble of some sort.
Result: Cut away the trimmings, and in the end, my emails had no meat left.
You can imagine that my emails turn to be quite boring pretty quickly. But since my dad is fine with that, I’m fine with that. For him, as long as the emails come, it’s fine. At least, he knows I’m alive and doing well. It’s a way of keeping control, so to speak.
So what do I write about afterwards?
In the end, I wrote about the food I eat, and the restaurants I go to.
I mean, I basically do the same things everyday, so the only thing that varies is where you ate your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For the longest time, I wrote about restaurants and food. Why? Food is a safe topic. You can’t complain about food. Food can’t woo your daughter and get her pregnant. Food is safe (‘cept for obesity but that’s another story). Food is neutral.
Soon, my parents were also bored of my emails. I mean, once you take all the exciting stuff out, what else do you have left? Nothing — boring emails without much life.
You see, it’s the craziest adventures that are worth retelling. Unfortunately, I don’t want my parents to die of heart attacks. And I’m quite sure they would — if they knew what I was up to most of the time.
After a while, my parents grew kind of worried. If all their daughter did was eat and have coffee, they thought, then what’s so productive about staying abroad then? Why can’t I just stay home more often? Eating out is so expensive. And drinking coffee or eating dessert is a waste of time. Why not just cook some instant noodles at home?
My gosh, my parents want me to be a certified homebody. They want me to stay home and do what?!
I couldn’t believe my ears. First, my parents want me to eat processed foods, with loads of chemicals, hust because they’re cheaper (as if it’s their money, and as if I can’t afford food). Now, they want me to be a social outcast and have no friends! Aiyo.
Sometimes, I think they want me to be a social pariah.
Finally, when I visited Manila early last year, my mom again took me aside and asked me to write more about school and work.
Like many Chinese parents, their child’s job is something to be proud of. So talking about my “job” is a safe topic, so to speak. At least, it sounded more “productive” than eating out all the time.
So for the past few months, I’ve been writing about my job, the amount of work I have to do, my boss, and anything job-related. Nothing really exciting, mind you. I usually just mention the projects I’m working with, my frustration about incompetence (I totally abhor it), and how busy I was lately. Good thing, at that time, I really was busy, up to a point that I was working from the moment I got to work to the time we finish (I usually don’t do overtime, lucky me).
My father should be so proud.
I may have overdone it, because a few months after, my parents are emailing me again. This time, their emails are full of worried concern about me working too hard and stressing myself too much. Now, they’re asking me if I have other activities other than work (e.g., civil organizations, etc.) or if I am spending time with friends. Oh, they’d love to know more about my friends. Anyone I can introduce them to?
I’m going crazy!!!
I wanna cry! Boo! Hoo! Hoo!
Hearing things like this make you wanna cry.
All right, I’m okay now.
It’s a cycle. When I wrote about my friends, they’d complain and say that all I do is socialize! So, I’ll talk about work. But when I talk about work, they’re worrying I’m stressing myself too much, and want me to talk about my other non-work related activities. But the thing is, they don’t want me to socialize with men. They also don’t want me to stay out too late, drink, party, etc. They get worried. So if I mention my other non-work related activities, I am 100% sure that I’ll get in trouble!
What can I write about then?!
Geez, if I tell them everything I do here, I’m pretty sure my parents would be on the next flight to Taiwan. They’ll ask me to pack my bags and come home immediately so that they can keep a close eye on me.
And bye-bye freedom.
Sometimes, I feel like a journalist in Mainland China. At first, the Chinese government would encourage them to talk about everything that’s happening and write about the truth. But it’s all a façade. If the journalist is stupid to write about the truth, and the government does not like to hear that certain truth, the journalist would find his head chopped off (e.g., me going back to Manila) or heavily censored.
I don’t want to be stupid. And I’m not. I know uncensored disclosure would have terrible consequences.
I still love to keep my freedom. So with the choice of talking about my social life, my work, or the food I eat, I’d prefer to continue talking about work. It’s the lesser evil. My parents may think I’m overstressing myself, but at least, they’re proud enough of me.
Come to think of it, you can’t really win.
Parents will be parents. They may encourage you to spread your wings, but being the protective parents that they are, as soon as they know where you’re going, and are slowly flying out of their control, they rush to clip your wings.
I think for Chinese parents, control is very important. They love to have control about their life, and their children’s lives. They want their lawn to be perfectly manicured all the time, at least, to put on a happy face to the neighbors. Once they feel that you’re beyond control, they censor you and keep you locked for months until you’re “controllable” once again.
I love my freedom, and I know one day, I may have to defend it. Fight for it, so to speak. But now is not the time. Fighting over something that can be postponed is better. At least, you keep the peace, for this moment. Besides, what’s the use of worrying your parents unnecessarily?
So I still keep the façade of a “good daughter.” If it means that they don’t know the entire story, so be it. But I think it’s better that they don’t know everything and not worry, than if they knew everything and worry to death.
Besides, I know for a fact that I’m not doing anything wrong.
But this whole thing still drives me a bit nuts. Keeping a façade can be tiring at times.
So here I am, still writing about work. And maybe talking about doing the laundry or cleaning the room. Sometimes, I add in about reading a book or watching a DVD (I can now hear my dad exclaim, ‘And how much do you pay for the DVD rental?!‘).
Very boring topics. Come to think of it, you really can’t win.