Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I want this beanie bad despite the fact that only certain beanies like me enough to flatter my head (and not make me look like the Queen of Hearts from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland...) and that I'm still waiting for two beanies in my Gmarket order and that this beanie costs $29.95.

Just look at it! It's adorable! Meow! I like kitties!

Okay, enough for the incoherency. I'm suffering from writers block now in addition to my cold and whatever else and it's frustrating me and clearly impairing my ability to function!

Whatever, I'm going to bask in my past (meaning last week) success. Here's the writing task I did with the brief: Interview your parents about your birth and write a creative non-fiction piece. I'm going to go wash my hair.


I do not want to do this interview. It fills me with dread and explores territory I don’t want to cover. It should be harmless, right, interviewing one of my parents about my birth? Something that should normally be a joyous occasion.

Xinran says in her introduction to China Witness that the Chinese have “a strong inhibition towards the idea of speaking out openly – out of a fear of implicating others” , and I guess that’s what I’m suffering from. I can’t help but think of Ou Yang Yu, whose book I’m yet to finish, On the Smell of an Oily Rag: Speaking English, thinking Chinese and Living in Australia. I imagine he’d draw the English parallel of, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

This paints such a decrepit picture of my family, my parents especially, but I love them. It’s just hard to tear away from my upbringing and what I’ve been taught. Like habits of please and thank you that are as automatic as sensor doors, but I still mean them. They hold meaning to me. This silence is a protective instinct.

I am debating whether to go into it. To plunge in and give away secrets, the family face, which is so prided in Asia. It is hard to, but also hard not to as without doing so is like serving a plate of plain spaghetti. A bland tangled mess on a plate, which everybody questions, not knowing what or why they’ve been served something so horribly incomplete. The sauce may be messy, but it pleases the tastebuds.

From my experiences, and confirmed by what I’ve read, food is important to the Chinese. My mother on discussing her pregnancy with me stressed the point of her suffering – in this instance about morning sickness (but from her incessant complaining should be extended to being all-day-sickness) by letting me know she could not keep any food down. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, none of it survived. Not even water could provide any relief.

My father, on the same subject, talked about the foods and herbal soups he’d cooked for her to keep us both healthy, and in attempts to provide my mother with some comfort. He cooked a lot of congee because it’s easy to digest and nutritious – not just a traditional breakfast dish, but also a typical meal for the sick. It’s also one of my mother’s favourites. Every time we go out to Hurstville, she’ll order congee, and when father cooks a pot, no matter how big the pot is, she makes it magically disappear. Perhaps this is why, whilst I enjoy a small bowl of congee, I cannot eat a lot – I must have had an overdose in the womb.

I also have a lack of appreciation for herbal soups. As a child I used to be a cynic. Now I take them placidly as I not only believe, but know that they’re good for me. They’ve cured me from sickness in the past. But they way they smell, the way they look is enough to induce gagging, let alone the strong disgusting bitter taste. My friend told me her father puts sugar in hers in attempts to make it more consumable. My father says this renders the herbal soup void. My mother and I both have sweet tooths. No wonder there was a time during pregnancy where she believed he was poisoning her.

I questioned them about my birth, and they both answered, as parental code demands, that they were very happy. My mother was glad that I was out, and I can’t blame her. Having to sit through even the briefest of details about nausea and caesareans knowing that I was the cause and that I too will experience the trauma of giving birth is ten thousand times uncomfortable, disturbing, terrifying.

My father, by no means unsympathetic, but nonetheless able to experience my birth through more rose coloured lenses says that it was the happiest moment of his life. That I was beautiful with my thick black hair that I’d stolen from him – I was one week overdue, and he was just starting to lose hair. That the entire town’s police force drove their cars over to our house to see the beautiful Chinese baby girl the day I was brought home.

I can tell from his pride, from his happiness that this is all true. My father loves me, despite being the first baby kept to be born after numerous abortions. Despite what my mother once told me in a spiteful moment (forgive, don’t judge her, we all have our lows) that I was the baby that was only kept to secure permanent residency. That she had no choice. She followed my father to Australia, had no one else and both decided this is where they were going to stay.

In writing this I feel I need to put a bandaid over it. To reassure people I’ve had a happy childhood and that my parents love me. To close with a happy ending. To save face. However, I also feel it’s no one’s business; I know the truth within myself and have started to think of Helen Garner. I’m feeling naked, but as she says I don’t feel totally exposed “because in this mysterious way I’m trying to describe, the “I” in the story is never completely me” . Don’t get me wrong, this is my story, my parents, my interview, but underneath the bath towels I’ve wrapped each of us in, giving the illusion of acceptable nakedness, we’re secretly wearing swimmers.


  1. Nice post!!!

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  2. love the hat!!

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  3. sorry i didnt read all of that i was too distracted by the SUPER CUTE BEANIE!!!!!!!!!! dyingggggggg.

  4. You know I adore your piece, there's not much else I could say *hug* and I'm ultra upset we're not in the same class anymore! DYING.


  5. That beanie is all kinds of cute. I WANT IT TOO. Not that I need anymore hats of any kind.

    And you already know how much I love your piece. <3333

  6. aw thank-you darl! :)
    i love that kitty beanie, so cute!