Compartmentalization

has been practiced by Pammy quite successfully for years until Lulu spoils it. Lulu, the unemployed anthropologist who can’t land a job anywhere except in the local tutoring school, arguably the best after school program in Asian immigrant communities in New Jersey. It’s a place where anxious parents send their unwilling offspring for extra lessons. Whether it’s necessary or unnecessary, depend on who you ask.

Pammy: “Lulu, in our next dinner party, can you not talk about Ancient Egypt or tribes in Syracuse, New York or in Malaysia? I mean people are very upset.”

Lulu: “Pammy, I talk in the same way as I’ve always talked.”

Pammy: “That’s exactly the problem. It’s OK to talk about these interesting tribes among the three of us.” Pammy gives a glance to Armei who’s arranging cosmetic products on a shelf at the other end of the store. It’s Monday, no customers for this little shop in a strip mall, a perfect time for the three to meet and talk. “However it’s rather undesirable, don’t you think, to talk about these things when men are present, for example, in a dinner party.”

Lulu: “Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You are not talking about ‘men being present’. You are talking about your husband being present, right?”

Pammy: “What’s the point? My husband is a typical representation of men. Whatever he dislikes, men in general don’t like.”

Lulu: “I can’t even remember what I said about Ancient Egyptian last time.”

Armei walks back to join her two friends.

Armei: “You said Ancient Egyptian women can divorce their husband and take their dowry back. Even an Egyptian queen did that to her Pharaoh husband because she disliked the pyramid he’s trying to build. I think you said you read it online somewhere.”

Pammy: “You think you just talk casually, but people who listen to you can be rather upset. For the whole night and the rest of the week, my husband gives long speeches about how talkative women and lazy women ruin the world.”

Lulu: “He means I am too talkative and too lazy? I agree with the first accusation, but not the second one. I am not lazy. I work just like everybody else.”

Pammy: “But you don’t cook well and you don’t have a child. My husband thinks if you learn to cook and busy yourself with a child, you won’t have time to read garbage online.”

Lulu: “Look, Pammy, I know I’m not an exemplary womanhood who enjoys double shifts every day. However I think his talking is not targeting towards me but rather towards you. He’s afraid that you will become talkative and lazy like me. So if you try to agree with your husband unconditionally and support his views no matter what, he will not be so anxious and he will not give such speeches. If you prefer, I won’t come to your next party.”

Pammy: “Wait a second. You have to come. If you don’t, I will die of boredom. My husband has his nerdy friends just like him. Nothing they talk interests me. I can’t have a party without my two best friends.”

Armei: “I did remember that your husband was not happy when Lulu talk about Onondaga people and Minangkabau tribe. Hahaha.”

Pammy: “A whole week after that party, he talks about how backward the matriarchal societies are. Without work ethics; without modern comforts; men not being respected. It’s more than I can endure. Lulu, try to have some sympathy for me. His usual nerdy speeches are bearable and I’m used to it; now he becomes didactic and tries to teach me a lesson during every meal. The breathable space under another person’s whim is limited and you are just making it smaller for me.”

Lulu: “OK. I hear you. Let’s compartmentalize. I don’t want to disturb your life. I won’t say anything unsafe in our next party. Look, I have a better idea. How about next time when I meet your husband, I talk about all those good things of a matriarchal society–freedom, sharing, no jealousy, no orphan. I think I can transform him.”

Pammy: “Absolutely not. I don’t want him changed.”

Lulu: “I am puzzled. I thought you want to improve him so that you and him will agree with each other.”

Pammy: “I don’t want him to be improved. I need him to adhere to his conservative views and continue to provide for our family. Improvement brings uncertainties; change brings danger. I’d rather suffer under his current tirade than having him adopt more liberal views. You know marriage is not easy. If you give him the idea that he can become a free spirit, he might flee.”

(Still thinking of an ending.)

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