Story by Kanara Ty.
When you’re programmed to believe happiness equals marriage and kids by 30 — and they’re nowhere in sight — what’s a 29-year-old (and her angst-ridden mother) to do?
When I was in college, my mother found out I was seeing somebody for the first time. So she did the one thing that comes most naturally to her: she confided in a fortuneteller. I’m not talking about Miss Cleo and her crystal ball; more like a Buddhist monk at the local temple. It was something she grew obsessive about because, every week, she would tell me a new fortune.
I heard fortunes ranging from “He told me that the best guy for you is the one I pick for you” to “You should graduate first before you fall in love with someone” — which led me to question whether she was actually confiding in someone else or, really, just herself.
But then one week, there came a fortune that was really specific and struck a chord with me: “When you turn 26, you will meet three guys. The third guy will be the one you marry — and you will be married by 27.”
I became obsessed with the idea, even more so than my mother. I scrutinized everything about myself at the time (my looks, my body, my career) and I became a bit of a H.A.M. — a Hot Asian Mess. My mom added on to my own over-scrutinizing by constantly bombarding me with questions like “Are you a good enough catch?” “Are you appealing enough to men?” Rather than letting fate take its course, I was determined to see that fortune come true.
When I turned 26, I did indeed meet three guys — all of which turned out to be men I’d never marry even if you’d paid me. But up until that point, I believed I was going to be betrothed, have a wonderful career and even think seriously about having a couple of kids. All before I turned 30. It wasn’t just my dream, but a shared dream among my friends. That dream stemmed mainly from our immigrant parents’ expectations because they didn’t want us to go through the same financial hardships they did. We grew up believing that finding security and stability was the path to happiness.
But of course, life didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. For those keeping track, I’m about one for three on the Asian American immigrant dream scoreboard: I’ve got a solid career, but I’m not married with kids nor do I own any property. About half of my friends are married with their own homes and some even have kids already. My social media feeds went from being filled with episodes of debauchery to minute-by-minute updates on child-rearing. As for me, I’m about to enter my 30th year in a couple of months, and I’m definitely not getting married anytime soon (nor do I have any intention of doing so). Just like that, my dreams changed because I had to rethink a happiness that was my own and not one tied to the Asian American immigrant dream.
Thankfully, my mother no longer asks about making her a grandmother anytime soon. (She used to forget that a partner is necessary before I go into the baby-making phase.) Instead, she asks when I’m going to buy a house. She’s slowly accepting the fact that I’ll be a career-minded serial dater for a while, so she’s using buying property as her new marker for security and stability.