When you’re my age and still single, sometimes your family thinks it’s necessary to make interventions. They mean well, I’m sure. But once in a while I find myself entangled in some hairbrained-scheme to set me up with a nice Chinese boy. Like the parents found in a Jane Austen novel, suburban Asian-American parents cannot relax until all their sons and daughters have been married off. With my older sister pregnant and due with a baby girl in September, I thought I was safe because my parents would have a grandchild soon and they would leave me alone. My complacency happened to be short-lived…
On Saturday night, my family was supposed to have dinner with another couple and the hostess of the Chinese restaurant. Mom wasn’t feeling well so she stayed home and missed out on all the craziness. Dad was running late because of work. Being an early bird, I lingered at the bar with the others. Dad still hadn’t arrived after a half an hour so we seated ourselves at a table in the corner. The restaurant was empty except for two other tables and the atmosphere was unusually quiet for a weekend.
I was sitting beside the wife, a redhead who kind of looked like Lucille Ball. Take my word for it, the scheme she was about to hatch could have only been pulled off by Lucy Ricardo herself. Her husband, on the other hand, was a mild-mannered and soft-spoken man with a tendency to trail off onto tangents while speaking.
Lucy tells me to look at the table across from us. “Now there’s a handsome one,” she remarked. I scanned the table for someone of a marriageable age and the only one I could see was some skinny dude with an asymmetrical buzz cut. Him?! I was suprised by her unorthodox choice.
I was sitting with my back facing the wall and the hostess was blocking my view. I leaned over slightly and caught a glimpse of what I guessed was his better-looking brother. That makes more sense, I thought as I read the “mother-approved” stamp imprinted across his forehead.
I said, “Sure. He’s very handsome,” dismissing her comment as ordinary small talk. He was indeed very attractive. So what? The hostess was blocking my view of eye candy, and secondly, there’s something deeply unappealing about meeting a mate in this type of scenario. My people are here; his family is here.
Everyone must have heard the announcement. As if they had rehearsed it many times, they all simultaneously turn around to stare down the other table. Fortunately, there was no fighting. We were all peaceable folk and the other table did not perceive our odd behavior as aggression. But you could see the bewildered look on the grandma’s face at the other table as she turned to the grandpa, probably wondering why we were all looking at them.
Dad finally arrived and the appetizers were served. Things were going well. I was listening to her husband’s monologue on golfing, struggling to follow his train of thought, which is even more difficult when one knows absolutely nothing about golf.
Lucy leans in and asks me in a whispered tone, “Do you want me to stop him?” Thinking that she sensed my disinterest in the golf tutorial, I thought she meant telling her husband to stop talking.
Then, I noticed she was looking at the other table again. They were gathering their belongings and getting ready to leave the restaurant.
“No. I mean that boy. Do you want me to flag him down for you?” Lucy said.
“Oh no. You don’t have to do that,” I replied.
I thought she was joking so I laughed. Looking down at the table, I noticed Lucy had downed her second glass of pinot noir. Although I was working on my third, I remained very much sober. Her steady gaze at the target and firm resolve, frightened me. In the event she did let out a deafening whistle and begin waving her arms to catch their attention, the way some people hail a taxi cab in NYC, I quickly devised a plan A and a plan B.
Plan A: I would run over to him and his clan and yell out apologetically, “I’m so sorry! We don’t mean to bother you. This lady is really drunk!”
Plan B: I would pull him out to the side and tell him privately, “I have a boyfriend already but I don’t want to tell my family yet. As you can see, they like to meddle. You know…” Then, I would stroll back to the table and tell everyone that he has a girlfriend, and if I was a better actress, I would slump my shoulders and force an unnatural smile as if fighting to hold back the tears.
Lucy, in all her boldness, was not drunk at all. She respected my wishes to release the boy into the wild. We didn’t end up flagging down my Mr. Darcy, and since I hate leaving a story without a more interesting or dramatic conclusion, I’ve made up three endings for you to choose, assuming we did flag him down:
a) Mr. Darcy’s girlfriend or fiance suddenly shows up at the restaurant and flashes me a look so dirty that I die instantly.
b) Mr. Darcy decides it’s the perfect moment to come out of the closet.
c) My dad and his dad head over to another table and discuss important details of our arranged marriage, such as my dowry and how many goats I’m worth.
d) We laugh at the absurdity of it all and go on with our lives.
What I learned from this: Jane Austen novels are still relevant in this day and age because we live in a mad, mad world.