We met them at a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant with decor that hasn’t been updated since the 80s. My parents had already chosen their seats, so we squeezed in awkwardly into the booth, with him literally rubbing elbows with my dad. After the introductions, my parents would spend the next week asking again and again how to pronounce his German name. My parents and I conversed in our native Chinese dialect, and he sat silently waiting for my occasional translation. It’s almost the exact reenactment of the scene three months ago, when we went to visit his parents in Cologne, Germany. Except the tables were turned, and spicy Szechuan cuisine replaced the Brotzeit (bread time in German).
At the ripe age of 34, this is the first time I brought a man home to meet my parents. Being Asian, bringing a boyfriend home is serious business. In many cases, it implicitly means announcing to your parents “I think this man is potentially my future husband and I would like for you to scrutinize them and make sure you are ok with that.” It usually starts with a formal request to your boyfriend that is on the level of a pre-proposal, followed by some serious meeting prep to make sure he makes a good impression. The announcement would be made to the parents to coordinate the time and place, and for sure the first meal should not happen at a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant with a $7.99 lunch set menu.
Well, lunch was great. We even packed a to go box. During our week long stay at my parents’ house, they grew to love him for all the reasons I love him. Despite the language barrier, they praised him for his humbleness, consideration, and most of all, how much he cares for me. Just like three months ago when we left Germany, his parents told him how much they loved me, especially because I would set him straight when he was acting bratty (this only happens when he’s with his family).
I never thought it could be so easy, just as I never thought I would plan to spend the rest of my life with a German guy who’s never stepped foot on the Asian continent. As a first generation immigrant, I had always placed shared tradition and value at the top of my list when looking for my soulmate, and envisioned a future where my husband would drink Chinese rice wine with my dad and listen to him reminisce about the Cultural Revolution. It took a nine month sabbatical and ending a relationship that struggled for six years for me to realize that values are not ground in your ethnicity, and an open mind will strike down any barrier.
J devoured all my mom’s home cooking and asked for a second serving of rice. She praised him for his ability to eat more spicy food than I can. I’m beginning to warm up to bread, and loved his mom’s homemade cake. J doesn’t drink alcohol, but he bonded with my dad anyway, over home maintenance and Taichi. I had a long discussion with his dad about religion and spirituality in the backyard. J’s planning to start studying Chinese soon, and I already started looking into German classes.
Life is hard, love doesn’t have to be.