Boyfriends and Parents
I still remember it clearly. I was four years old, laying on the couch, sipping my
apple juice and watching my cartoons. My dad sat down beside me and
asked me in Vietnamese:
“Who do you love most in this world?”
It was a game we’d play a lot. I knew the answer because my dad taught
me how to answer the question. I smiled, eager to show off my knowledge.
“I love my daddy, Ha Quan Truong!” I yelled.
“And how much do you love me?” he smiled.
“This much!” I stretched out my little toddler arms as wide as I
could to show him how much. In my mind, nothing could be much bigger
The game usually ended there, with a kiss on the cheek from him. But this time, he went on.
“Y’know, one day you’re going to find a boy you’ll love more than me
and your mommy. And you’ll leave us for him when you marry. And you’ll
leave your brother too.”
My eyes widened in disbelief. I couldn’t imagine my life without
my parents. How could I love anyone else more than them? It was
impossible. I thought long and hard about the problem. Finally, it
dawned on me:
“No, I’ll just never marry a boy, daddy. Then I can be with you and mommy and Vy Tri forever.”
My dad smiled and laughed and then kissed me on my cheek.
For as long as I could remember, my mom’s always ingrained it into my
head that I’d marry a nice Chinese or Vietnamese boy so my parents could speak to him and understand him. He would older than
me with a nice doctor/lawyer/engineer job, preferrably five years older
than me so he could take care of me. (Of course I couldn’t start dating until I was 25 with a nice
respectable doctor job.)
I remember the lectures in the car on the way home from school, sitting
around watching her sew, almost anytime she could find. I wouldn’t have
been surprised if she whispered it into my ear during my sleep. (Some
form of brainwashing on her part?)
The funny thing being, all of her insistence only resulted in my active
rebellion against it. Maybe it was the typical dumb teenager hormonal
induced reaction, but I could find nothing else more boring and
My first serious crush was not on a Chinese boy, or a Vietnamese boy.
Not even on an Asian boy, but a white boy. Who was smart but had no
My first boyfriend was Vietnamese but younger than me (but only by a
few weeks) and a high school dropout whose career ambition was to
become a famous singer.
Subsequent boys who entered my life – crushes, flings and boyfriends –
were also against my mom’s ideal type for me. One was younger by two
years. Another one, high school dropout. Many were the gangster bad boy
types. None were the type to “take care of me.” Instead, I was the
strong supportive one.
As I’ve gotten older though and experienced heartbreak and broke a
few hearts myself, I find myself more and more attracted to the
type my mom actually wanted for me and the type I worked so hard
My current boyfriend is Chinese and speaks three different dialects of
it including Mandarin. Which means he can communicate with my father
and my father can communicate with his family. He’s only a year older
than me, but he takes care of me. He’s good to me, and my parents see
that. He’s sweet, funny, good natured with a good head on his shoulders
and a stable career.
It’s oddly comforting to think after all this time that my parents were
right. But while I still love my father as wider as my arms can spread
(and more), I think I’ll have to go back on the whole never marrying