“Lil is a wonderful lady, but she’s not suitable to be a speaker at our event.” Lulan says. Jil shows up in the previous story “The Harvest” here.
“Well, she’s good looking, wealthy, with a perfect husband and a brilliant kid. She’s everything that we are not. We are just average Jane. It’s OK if you are a little jealous.” Ivy says.
“I am not jealous. Well, jealousy is irrelevant anyway. I am just saying that her manifold loveliness is exactly what disqualifies her for our event.” Lulan says.
Every fall, Ivy and her husband Tom Tsai, the owners of Ivy Training Center in Edison, New Jersey, will host a series of free seminars, for which speakers are invited to give speeches on various topics including education, interview skills, job trends, ESL (ESL stands for English As Second Language) etc. Ostensibly they are to serve the Asian immigrant community, but in reality they are the promotional events to help generate business leads and increase the business volume for the training center. Lulan is an unemployed anthropologist who works for Ivy.
Lil is scheduled to make her annual appearance as the authority on family relations and child rearing. She will be speaking to a roomful of middle aged people who want to know how to manage a better family while raising a child who lives in two different cultures.
“Lil is a perfect example of womanhood and we’ve been inviting her to give speeches every year for a decade. The audience likes her. She’s cute, fashionable, and articulate. Basically she has good vibes and she can attract people and that’s good for our business.” Ivy says.
“Lil’s too perfect. Her life experience is too different from average women and her speech is useless to the women who listen to her. She has good looks and good manners, but what she says is just crap.” Lulan says.
“If not Lil, what do you have in mind?” Ivy asks.
“Feifei will be a perfect candidate. Remember her? Her son Mak is one of our students in after-school training courses. How much Mak has improved?” Lulan says.
“You are kidding, right? Feifei? How can you come up with such an idea. She’s divorced first of all. Then she dated somebody unreliable. Her son is an average student. Somebody told me that she adopted a dog from the shelter but didn’t know how to clean up the dog pee on the carpet. Her place smells like a pigsty.” Ivy says.
“I think I said something about her place five years ago. Great memory. Anyway, at the time she’s depressed as her husband ran away. She’s desperate, I mean emotionally, and fell hard for somebody who turned out to be very bad for her. She adopted the dog just to help her and her son to cope with the tragedy. I have to say she eventually learned how to clean up after the dog. Now I think she and her son are back to normal. Her life experience can be so useful for many women, who can learn a lot from her. And her concern for her son is so genuine and she loves him dearly, which is why he can improve so much. She’s the best speaker for our event. On the other hand, Lil comes from a wealthy family from Southeast Asia. She doesn’t need to do anything to get what she gets in life. Lil knows nothing about the struggle of an Asian immigrant woman. Her husband is sweet and helpful by nature; her son is academically competent by birth. She doesn’t have to do much at all. She also has a long time servant as well as her in-laws to help her with house chores. And the most serious problem with her is that she has a bit of self adulation which prevents her from understanding her son’s difficult position as an Asian American boy at school. Lil thinks her way is the correct way and other people’s way is ridiculous. If anything undesirable happens in her son’s life, she thinks it’s due to the decadent American culture or the incompetent teachers or her son’s immaturity as a teenager. She has no fault at all and she’s the virtuous victim who cannot and should not help anybody. I can’t believe anybody wants to listen to her.” Lulan says.
Lulan knows Lil better than other people. Several years back when Lil was in the process of writing a book about her illustrious genealogy, Lulan was asked to write a chapter on the customs and cultures of the place where Lil’s ancestors lived. Lulan’s academic research of the area makes her one of the best persons to do this. At one point, when the work becomes a little too demanding, Lulan lived in Lil’s house for a month so that they could communicate better at night on editing issues.
“Lulan, I have to say you always have bright ideas that are completely impractical. People will mock me if I ask an average person like Feifei to give a speech. People want to listen to Lil, who’s successful, beautiful, sociable. People get what people want and Ivy Training gets more business leads–it’s a win-win.” Ivy says.