Sunday, May 31, 2009

table of humiliation

today was my brother's wedding. he married his high school sweetheart whom he has known for almost 15 years. heralding from the days at summer camp where as teenagers they would flirt by throwing sweet-and-low packets at each other to these currents times where they are beginning to settle down in the bay area i have observed them grow, of course fight, and always, be in love---or maybe just obsessed with each other in those passive aggressive sick ways--whatever.
the ceremony was quaint. outdoors in saratoga, peets coffee and fresh fruit was served, the flower girl ran screaming down the aisle not shedding a single rose cousin escorted my 95 year old grandmother to her seat, walking so slow, so slow....i was wearing a green and yellow dress from the 1950's; perfect lucille ball at a cocktail party if you will.
i had taken special preparation to look my best---or presentable at least. in the weeks leading up to this day i had been feeling increasingly nervous. i am not close with my family nor any of the church going family friends that i grew up around, and i was not looking to be singled out or judged. ive always been the weird one, etc. the lesbian, the wayward daughter, the list goes on.
needless to say, i had grown my hair out, took care to apply minimal makeup because my mother has been guilty of calling me a know----just trying to not attract too much unwanted attention. blah blah blah you can say what you will about being yourself, being strong, but shut up i don't wanna hear it. this was my only siblings wedding and i didn't want to be the goth kid in the corner. i wanted to be the bright-eyed happy sister of the groom.
after the marriage stuff went down and all of the chinese traditional activities such as the handing over of family treasures such as gold jewelry and the emotional tea ceremony where the bride and groom knelt before my father and mother and received their blessings....we headed to the restaurant for the chinese banquet dinner.
round tables were setup around the large hall, with people being assigned seats. there were perhaps 300 people in attendance. the tables were numbered. my immediate family was assigned to a prime table with beautiful crystal glassware and proper settings. the table was labeled # 2.
i looked at the chart and i could not find my name at # 2.
with a sinking heart i found my name at the bottom of the list at number # 17.
***in chinese culture this must be pointed out that this is a huge snub***
i went over to my assigned table. it was in the very back of the room against a wall. there was another wall blocking my entire view of the hall.
it was the fucking worst table in the entire place.
i dont know why my brother did not have a place for me at my family's table. it embarrassed me and confused me.
in chinese culture family is everything. i've never been the daughter my mother wanted me to be but i've always tried to do what i can to cause her the least shame as possible. my friends have sometimes asked me why i dont stand up for who i am, and the truth is that they cannot possibly understand because they are not chinese.
the worst part of the night was when my uncle stood up and had the honor of announcing the entire groom's side of the family. first my grandparents where announced, then my father and mother. each time a name was called, the person would stand up and the entire hall would acknowledge them. it was a moment of honor, of being proud to be affiliated with the groom.
when my name was called there was a long silence. nobody could see me. i stood, embarrassed, probably one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. finally when i waved my hands around a bit, people noticed where i was and i knew what they were thinking---why wasn't the only daughter sitting at the honorable table? tables tables tables you might be thinking...why do i care about tables? ahh but i do, but i did.
after dinner in chinese custom the bride changes from her white wedding dress to a red chinese silk gown. she then will go from table to table with the immediate family from both sides to toast champagne and take photos. i should have been there by the side of my father but in the hustle and bustle i wasn't invited. there is not a single photo of me to prove that i was present. during this time i went to my grandmother's side to visit with her and my grandfather whom i hadn't seen in months. they were as confused as i was as to why i was at such a dishonorable table.
finally i approached my brother to congratulate him. he had hardly spoken to me all day. i dont know if he was ignoring me or if he was distracted, but he hardly said a i left quietly as they were cutting the cake and now i am sitting on my porch home from damned saratoga feeling pretty damn depressed.
i feel as distant from my family as i have ever. i will never have a proud wedding like he. i will never have a chance to put him in a dank corner...nor would i do something such as this to him, ever.
family is about saving face. it's about honor. it's never about love it seems. not with my family. it really breaks my heart because up until the dinner, i was thinking for the first time in years how proud i was to be called a chang not a tanaka.


  1. i'm sorry love... i think you're beautiful. asian people are notorious for being pricks when it comes to family. my oldest brother hasent spoken to me in 7 years and my grandfather refuses to call me by my name, he calls me girl. not much one can do about it. hold your head high.

  2. There is, unfortunatelly, nothing I can do, but I think of you.I recall everything about you from the days when we spent together. To me, you've been someone unforgettable. You've been kind of a special person, giving me a slight hope and a chance to think about myself, my life. I may never be able to experience the same pain as yours; all I can do is to shout "Goooooo on, Debbie Chan(g)!" on your back, from far away place from you.

    You did nothing wrong.
    Keep your head up high at the sky.

    I love the photo you are in the bath tub.

    Ai K