“You know Armei tells me that her daughter Lily says she wants to be a YouTube star. Armei is furious. All those tuition fees Armei has to pay, only to see her wasting her time…” Pammy says as the whole family sits down to dinner. Armei’s husband Pan just commuted back from New York City and he’s a little tired. Since Pan usually arrives after eight, it’s the family’s habit to have dinner after 8PM every day.
“Armei has to be firm and says no to such kid’s fantasies. Armei’s husband is too indulgent.” Pan says. Whenever he’s tired, he’s a little cranky, but usually he would grow happier after a bowl of rice noodle, a dish of fried beef with vegetable, and two cups of rice wine.
“If that’s what Lily wants, I don’t see the harm.” Sam says. He’s about to be thirteen years old and has just got into the debate team of his school. He now wants to have an opinion on everything.
“You don’t see the harm, do you? You also want to shoot some binge eating videos with her, don’t you? I forbid you to…” The rice wine hasn’t worked its magic yet and Pan is still a little touchy.
Pammy kicks Pan under the table to signal him not to be too negative on Sam. The father-son relationship has been a little tense for a while and Pammy tries to defuse the situation before anything flairs up. In a haste, she remembers the book somebody recommended to her and she got for Sam, which is supposed to be good. It’s a well accepted notion in the community that Asian boys and girls in America need some heroes, some martial arts, and some ancient Asian wisdom in order to build up self esteem.
“Sam, I saw you reading the ‘Asian Folk Tales’ I got for you. It’s for people a little younger than you, but I didn’t know the book back then. Do you like it?” Pammy tries to introduce a new topic.
“OK.” Sam says without much enthusiasm. His parents are too old school for his taste, but he plays along as best as he can.
“You read it?” Pan asks with a tinge of doubt in his voice. “Tell me which story you like best?”
Sam frowns and tries to find an excuse to ward off his father’s attack, but then suddenly his face lights up and he says, “I really like the ancient story of shoes: A man wants to buy a pair of new shoes. When he gets to the market, he purchases several items first before coming to the shoe store. The store assistant shows him what’s available. The man rummages in his pocket and says, ‘I can’t buy shoes today. I measured my feet at home, but I forgot to bring the measurement with me.'”
“I am glad you take an interest in folk tales. It’s good for you. What an interesting story. I’ve never heard of it before.” Pammy says and smiles sweetly at her son, “how can the man be so stupid?”
“Some people are like that, mom. They don’t deal with reality very well. They resort to pre-determined opinions and measurements.” Sam says and gets up. The next moment, he disappears from the dining room.
“Sam, you eat too quickly. It’s not good for your health. It only takes you like five minutes to eat your dinner.” Pammy shouts at him as he retreats upstairs.
“Did you hear that?” Pan says, fuming.
“Hear what?” Pammy is puzzled.
“Sam is mocking me. Where did you get such a book? Now he finds a new way of mocking me. I work very hard every day so that he can have a good life, but he…” Pan drains his cup of wine. Pammy fills his cup up.
“I don’t understand you. What do you mean he is mocking you?” Pammy asks.
“He is making fun of me. Lily wants to be a YouTuber. I try to handle this reality with my pre-determined opinions and measurements. That’s his words. Did you listen to him? He thinks I’m too old to understand the brave new world he is living in. I need more rice wine. Can you get that folk tale book for me? I need to read it so that I can prepare my counterattack next time.” Pan says and drains another cup.