Anniversary – Part III
I recently celebrated my thirteenth wedding anniversary. I can confidently proclaim that after thirteen years, our union is an unqualified success. We have seven-year-old triplets, a dog, a number of cars including a well-used minivan, a nice healthy mortgage, and a bank account with a balance that in the early years would fluctuate between comfortable and “Can we really live on this?”.
Through any number of trials and tribulations, through problems big and small, we’ve managed to celebrate the good times and pick each other up when times were tough. As much as it is about being in love, the one thing I’ve learned about marriage is that it’s also about the solidarity that comes from two people who share a life together, and it’s that strength that has held us together as problems arise, as they inevitably will. Well, we’ve weathered a lot – and after all of it, I know we are meant to last.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had our share of problems. That’s a part of married life too. As anyone who has a successful marriage can tell you, the first few years of married life are spent just trying to sort out the major issues – money, privacy, and the big kahuna – the other person’s feelings.
We’ve had honest disagreements over money. We’ve had conflicts on how best to raise our kids. We’ve had to face deaths in the family. Most recently, we had to deal with a driver who lost control and drove into our backyard.
The funny thing is, after the ground rules are set, you spend less time arguing about really important issues, but just as much time on issues that don’t warrant any attention at all. Case in point, a recent conversation I had with my wife Maya in the kitchen.
Maya: You didn’t replace the bottled water in the fridge.
Wayne: There’s still some water in the bottle.
Maya: No, I saw what you did – there was hardly anything in it already, and you only drank a little just so you wouldn’t have to get a new bottle.
Wayne: I only drank a little because I was taking my vitamins, and I only needed a little.
Maya: Well, if you go get a glass of water for any reason, and you only leave that little for the next person, you’re forcing that next person to go get a new water bottle just to get enough water.
Wayne: What if the next person only needs a little water like me, just so he could swallow some pills? In that case, I’ve left just the right amount.
Maya: That doesn’t make any sense!
Wayne: I’ll tell you what doesn’t make any sense – since you must have been the one to get some water right before me, why did you leave so little instead of just drinking a little more so you could leave a full bottle of water for the next person?
Maya: Obviously, I didn’t need to do that because look how little you needed to swallow your pills!
The ironic thing is, after a long, drawn out discussion like this, a nice refreshing glass of cold water would have been nice. But both of us would rather face the early stages of dehydration rather than give the other the satisfaction of seeing the other get another bottle of water.
So instead, I search the refrigerator for something else to drink besides the disputed water, until I finally come across a can of prune juice that has been sitting at the very back of the fridge for heaven knows how long.
I pull the lone beverage out from cold storage, trying to avoid seeing any kind of expiration date before I drink it, when, out of the blue, Maya says, “Wait a minute. I was saving that for me!”
And don’t even get me started on the “Toilet seat up or down” discussion.
Anniversary – Part II
As someone who has now been married for 13 years, I am getting used to friends telling me that we have now officially joined the “Old married couple’s club.”
We don’t invite those people to our house anymore.
Every year, my anniversary reminds me of how my marriage came to be. It started with a proposal and asking her parents for their blessing. But my proposal was no ordinary proposal. If I recall, the circumstances around my proposal were that: a) I was proposing to a woman who was born and raised in Taiwan, 2) Her parents were still in Taiwan and did not speak a word of English, 3) They did not know I had proposed or even that I existed until my phone call to them, 4) Up until my call they had been insisting that their daughter come back home and not waste any more time in the U.S.
The objective of my phone call was to introduce myself, ask for their blessing, allow her daughter to “waste” more time and never come back to Taiwan to live, and most importantly, make the entire call in Chinese.
It sounds like the challenge in an international episode of “Fear Factor.” At least I didn’t have to eat any bugs.
I prepared for hours for that call. My fiancé Maya had coached me on what to say and how to say it. Since I was using a number of Chinese phrases I had never used or heard of, I memorized every word phonetically. The first line was the most important and I practiced over and over again the night before until I felt I had gotten it right.
Maya picked up the phone and dialed the number. All I remember hearing was Maya saying, “Dad, I’m getting married. Here’s my fiancé, Wayne.” She handed me the phone.
The moment of truth. “You can do this!” I thought to myself. I tried to pump myself up – “Eye of the tiger! Eye of the tiger!” Whenever I get nervous I start remembering old lines from Rocky movies.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hu, my name is Wayne Chan and I would be honored if you would be a part of our wedding.”, I asked proudly.
There was a moment of silence on the other end. It seemed like an eternity. Then, all of a sudden, her mother says, “DO…YOU…SPEAK…CHINESE???”
I had two issues with this. First, did she hear what I just said? I just asked her if she would be a part of our wedding – in Chinese! Doesn’t my asking her a question in Chinese imply that I speak it? Or could it be that since I had to memorize most of the line phonetically, I may have made a mistake and instead of asking her to come to our wedding, it sounded like gibberish, or even worse, that it came out as some bizarre question? Instead of asking them to our wedding, could I have inadvertently asked them whether they preferred to spread cream cheese or laundry detergent on their pet frog?
The second issue I had didn’t have much to do with the question itself – “Do you speak Chinese?” as much as the way she said it. The way she asked me the question – slow, deliberate, with long pauses in between each word for emphasis, seemed more suited to the way you might ask your pet dog a question: “Who…wants…a…doggie bone?!?”
In the end, everything turned out fine. They liked me, and I thought they were terrific too. For some reason, I’ve always been able to make a good impression with the parents of women I have dated. I still get Christmas cards from the parents of a woman whose name I have long since forgotten. I’m not sure it’s supposed to work like that.
Still, I wasn’t completely sure that we were going to hit it off when I picked up Maya’s parents at the airport and met for the first time. One of the first things her father said to me was, “You look better than I expected.”
That’s a good thing…right?
Anniversary – Part I
My wife and I recently celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. The first few anniversaries were special events – a long weekend in wine country, his and her massages at an upscale spa, or a candlelit dinner in a French restaurant with a view of the ocean. Each year’s milestone was further testament to the power of our wedded bliss, the strength of our relationship, and the realization that we had each found our one true love – a love worthy of an annual celebratory extravagance. Someone cue the violins.
As each year passes though, it’s tough to keep up that level of enthusiasm and well, downright zeal. For example, our last anniversary was a bit more mundane. My wife Maya gave me a card, a generic card without any specific message on it from a set of cards she bought long ago at a closeout sale. I know this because I was with her when she bought it.
Yet, I can’t claim that I did much better. I managed to pick up a bouquet of flowers from Costco that I bought at the last minute as I was checking out with my gallon tub of peanut butter, four dozen eggs, and five-pound bag of breaded chicken cutlets. I did buy a very romantic greeting card and managed to scrawl something sentimental down while waiting at a stoplight on my way home for our anniversary. Unfortunately, I had to throw away that first card, and turn back to buy another one, when I realized that in my haste, I had signed the card to my wife with the words, “Best Regards, Wayne Chan.”
Still, I can say without question that this woman from Taiwan, who I have known for nearly half my life, who came to the U.S. 20 years ago and couldn’t speak more than a few words of English, is the love of my life. Perhaps as the years go by, it gets a bit harder to come up with a present or idea that will truly surprise your spouse on your anniversary, and maybe because of that you sometimes end up not trying as hard.
Yet, while it might not seem as romantic, the more important point lies in how your better half fits in with what I call the “I can’t imagine” rule. I can’t imagine not being able to share my day with her. I can’t imagine not waking up to her every day. I can’t imagine not having her in my life.
What do you know…more true than ever.
Perhaps some of the gratification I have towards my marriage is due to the fact that it started off a little rocky.
I had known Maya for only nine months, but even then, I knew she was the one. So, being an old fashioned type, I knew I would need to propose to Maya as well as ask her parents for their blessing. But, there were a few problems. Number one: Her parents both lived in Taiwan. Number two: Neither of her parents spoke a word of English. Number three: Despite the fact that we had been together for nine months, Maya had scarcely mentioned a word about me to her parents (what that says about her feelings for me at the time will be the topic of a future column).
Despite these problems, I was confident I could weather them. So I proposed – and after she gave it some thought, said a little prayer, and forced me to get a blood test, undergo a routine credit check and a thorough vetting of whether I had any prior felony convictions – she accepted.
It was what happened next that completely threw me for a loop.
Unbeknownst to me, Maya’s father had been sending polite requests to her daughter for her to come back to Taiwan. He felt that she had gotten enough out of the American experience, and that it was time for her to come back home and start her career.
However, in this last letter from her father, he was no longer suggesting that Maya go back – he was now demanding it. As luck would have it, Maya received the letter the day after she had accepted my proposal.
So now, my mission was to introduce myself to Maya’s parents, ask them to give us their blessing, rebuff the whole idea of Maya going back home…and do it all over the phone and in Chinese.
How will Wayne do it? What will her parents say? More importantly, what will her father do to Wayne when he finds out? Don’t touch that dial. Tune in for the next column – same bat time, same bat channel.