He sat there in silence, making me very nervous. Usually, he is chewing the scenery, ranting about my report card, my clothes or my excessively bouncy hair.
After a minute of this, I was freaking out. My heart started to beat faster and my stomach felt like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (then unbeknownst to us, three months in-utero) had mysteriously teleported into my stomach and was doing hurdles. I thought my father was going to tell me something serious and grave, like they found a lump in George Bush's elbow and that it was his brain.
Finally, he spoke up. "You don't need to say anything," he said, holding up his hand to emphasize this point. "Let me speak."
He said this in Chinese, so I'm translating for you poor uneducated, monolingual folks.
I nodded silently, biting my lip from asking an instinctive why.
"I have never shamed your grandfather, or your ancestors or our family name," he said quietly.
If you say our family name out loud, it sounds like the English word for "testicles," which is not really that embarrassing. I think it would be more embarrassing if it sounded like the word "balls."
He continued, "When you get back to Chicago, do not embarrass them. Do not embarrass us."
My head nodded on its own accord. I was unable to speak, maybe because he still holding his hand up. Even if it wasn’t, I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to say anything.
Back here in Chicago, I thought about those words to me. Obviously, my father wasn't talking about my shoes--they were really quite fab--so I had to assume he meant my comic book collection. Or my homosexuality.
He also mentioned that he himself has never done anything to embarrass our family, though I beg to differ, he mortified me whenever he walked into the room in just his threadbare boxer shorts when my friends came over. I think he meant our family name, which hardly smelled like roses, but more (appropriately) like wet balls.
My father has been in an unhappy marriage for over twenty years. Ok, I don't really know how unhappy he is. He belongs to another generation of Asians where "being in love" is not what defines a marriage. Honor and respect, maybe--possibly status. Personally, I defined his marriage as unhappy because he doesn't have a giant flat screen plasma TV.
Sometimes it's hard tell if your man is really happy in your relationship and sometimes, the only way you can truly know is if you dig deep down and see if you can find the receipt to that flat screen TV. Brian and I don't have a flat screen TV and I am frantically saving up for one to save my relationship.
I suppose he could've separated from my mother, try his luck with someone else who could stand his killer rotten broccoli farts. But my father doesn't believe in divorce, not because it is not legal in the Philippines, but because it would be shameful and a blight on our family name. I think that even if he was in the most terrible of marriages, he would never even consider it. "Divorce" was not in his vocabulary; I hoped that "arsenic" wasn’t either.
In my father's tradition, having a mistress is not exactly shameful. In fact, in some circles, it's very acceptable to have a mistress. As long as the wife is in charge of the money and the home, most wives are quite happy to have somebody else have to deal with their husbands' oral spelunking and desire to wear panties. A prostitute is just something you pay for with the change in your pocket and hope your dick doesn't fall off three months later.
When I was thirteen, I think he had a mistress. I couldn't prove it though. At that age, I was more interested in the lifeguard in the local pool to care about him. Isn't that weird? My parents' life was falling apart and all I cared about was my dick.
I guess my father and I weren't so different after all.
I am not sure why he felt the need to invoke our ancestors, our family name that last day. As far as I knew, he didn't chew peyote. Maybe he realized that homosexuality was never going to be exorcised from my soul, no monsignor will drive it out of me.
I will not be ashamed of being gay. I will projectile-vomit gourmet pea soup at you rather than be ashamed. I have twenty pairs of shoes that say I have nothing to be embarrassed about.
This Father's Day, there will be more loveless days in my parents' marriage than there were those filled with love. I guess it is my conceit to think that this constitutes an unhappy marriage. After all, he still has honor and the respect of his community.
I respect and love my father. Here in Chicago, ten thousand miles away, I can hold up my end of the bargain easily; he doesn't have to hear about my fabulously gay life. He won't hear about that, or much about anything else either.
No, that's not a shame.
June is Gay Pride Month! Read other posts about it:
Lucky - I was lucky to survive my tumultous teen years. Bill wasn't.
More about my father: