Damiano’s mother, Sue, late ’70’s.
Mothers — with all their earnest, loving intentions — can often be entertaining, and their advice can be an interesting mix of serious, silly, insightful and mind-boggling (sometimes all rolled up into one zinger you can’t wait to share with your friends). In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve asked fellow Asian American writers and artists to share the funniest advice they’ve ever gotten from their mothers.
playwright of Fortune Wheel
Mom always has looked out for me. I do appreciate it. Not everyone’s mother has loved them as mom has loved me. I just wish after thirty-plus years she would come up with new things to say.
“Ai-Yah. Eat more. You’re too skinny.”
“Don’t take doctor’s medicine every day. Only when sick.”
“Don’t walk around city alone; too dangerous.”
“Marry Chinese girl. They know how to cook, make baby, take care of you.”
“Wear a little jacket. It’s cold today.” (I get this one often.)
I’m in my late thirties now. My dumbass, twenty-year old self is long gone. I’m through experimenting with hallucinogens, or having unsafe sex with strange people from Craigslist. I no longer mix weed, whiskey and motor vehicle operation. I’ve been around the block. I have a job I love, graduate degrees, a wonderful wife, a house, stellar credit, gray hairs, etc. I know what’s up. And I’m pretty sure I’ve learned by now how to dress appropriately for the weather.
But if you spoke to Mom, you would think I was a 6’2,” 190 pound infant, shivering from hypothermia, doddering around the city, barely evading oncoming traffic, over-medicated and half-starved because I didn’t listen to her — and ate only a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, instead of the stack of pancakes and sausage links she would’ve wanted me to eat.
It’s May and I live in Southern California. I don’t need a “little jacket.” I need a T-shirt, and an iced coffee, maybe some air conditioning. I try to reason with her.
“But it’s almost summer, ma. It’s freakin’ hot. Have you even been outside today?”
“No. It’s cold.”
“Seventy-seven degrees is cold? What’s wrong with y—” I sneeze hard, twice. My nose runs. With both hands, I pat down my shirt and pants pockets searching for a used Kleenex.
“See? ‘Ah-choo, ah-choo.’” Then she mimics the way I blow my nose.
“’Fee-fee,’ your ass. I told you I have allergies—and I’m too cheap to buy more Claritin. On my Italian side, my dad, my aunt, my grandma, just about everybody’s sensitive to airborne—”
“Please. For me. Wear a little jacket. You’re getting sick.”
Okay, fine. I defer to her unwavering wisdom. What do I know about how humans contract rhinoviruses? Mom will always know more than I, regardless of how many Johns Hopkins research articles I download and show her. This woman, who left school in the second grade and, before the age of thirteen, was forced to work in a Kowloon bamboo furniture factory by an abusive, gambling-addicted mother. Mom is a woman of strong convictions, who never stopped loving Richard Nixon despite his “alleged” crimes, simply because he visited and paid respect to China. She also believes Nic Cage is a sexy god on earth, no matter how many Ghost Rider sequels he churns out. Last month, mom was the one who took my hand, inspected the swollen, pus-filled sac on my middle finger, and authoritatively stated that I should not take the antibiotics twice a day as prescribed by the doctor: “Maybe once every other day is okay.” When she let go of my hand, a bright orange smudge of Cheetos debris imprinted on my palm, the smoke from her Marlboro burned my eyes, and my nostrils commenced leaking snot onto my shirt.
Summer is fast approaching. The sun overhead reddens my scalp; my face shines with perspiration. It’s supposed to hit eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit today. But I will comply with mom’s edict, so she won’t worry all day, and wonder whether I’ve collapsed in a congested downtown intersection, stricken with pneumonia.
I will wear a little jacket.
Check out more funny advice in our Mother’s Day series:
Celebrating Asian Mothers: Funniest Advice My Mother Has Ever Given Me