“Kaklong, listen to me when I am talking to you!”
I looked straight at the webcam, and nodded, waiting for her to continue.
“So these are all my rules for you:
- No sleeping in the same room
- No kissing
- No hugging
- No holding hands
- No sitting next to each other
- No eye contact
Non negotiable. You must follow ALL these rules when he stays.”
I stared at her in disbelief. No eye contact? What was wrong with eye contact?
“What? Every Asian mother would do the same.” And with that, she hung up.
It was 2016 and for the first time ever, I would be coming home that summer with my boyfriend in tow. And he would be staying at the house. For three whole weeks.
Mum and Lucas hadn’t gotten off to the best start. They first met at my uncle’s 50th birthday party. Lucas and I were late and by the time we arrived, mum had had a glass of wine – or two. After I made the mistake of going off to pee, mum sprang her trap like a lioness pouncing on a young unsuspecting impala. Sitting down next to him she gave him a hard look.
“How serious are you about my daughter?”
“Oh…uh…I mean…I’m quite serious?” A very frazzled Lucas replied.
“Wrong answer!”, and after a head shake of pure disappointment, she stalked off.
By some miracle, Lucas had not been scared off and was still determined to come back to Hong Kong with me. So as mum fretted about sleeping arrangements and how to make sure we were monitored at all times, Lucas boarded his flight, blissfully unaware he was about to enter the Dragon’s den. The next three weeks passed in a blur of hawk-like observation, careful tiptoeing (it helped that mum was in the hospital for part of it) and extreme butt-kissing on Lucas’ part. At one point he even waited and asked her permission to sit on the white sofa – incidentally this is still a source of great amusement to my dad today. We made it through and mum even let Lucas and I hug at the airport!
He survived his trial by fire, and after two years and many visits later, Mum admitted that she liked having him around the house and has finally stopped asking me where my other boyfriends are. In fact, she’s now gone much too far the other way and is constantly asking how on earth he can put up with me or when her grandchildren will be on the way.
This summer it’s my sister Katie’s turn. We’ve already had months of stress and negotiation about where Jon and Katie will be sleeping – obviously not on the same floor let alone in the same room. When Katie first heard the full set of rules she laughed out loud because she thought it was a big joke. I fear she might be in for a rude awakening. Or not – even Asian mums go soft on the younger child. Either way, we’ve already gotten a glimpse of Jon’s pandering skills in action. He’s got all the expertise – let’s hope he doesn’t scare easily!