Pursuit Of Happiness Part 1 (Flash Fiction #89)

Image by inno kurnia from Pixabay

“He says I’m not in pursuit of happiness. I’m just a killjoy.” Dana says and then she looks around, waiting for the sympathetic outpouring from her friends Lulan, Pammy, and Ivy. She’s not disappointed. They instantly lend their support–they agree with Dana while denouncing Dana’s husband Taimu in a diplomatic way.

The conversation happens at the waiting room of Ivy Training center, where parents, who come to pick their kids up, wait for the classes to end. Pammy’s son Sam and Dana’s son Kevin are good students at J. P. Stevens, the insanely competitive high school of Edison, New Jersey. They don’t need after-school training, but since everybody is doing extra classes in one way or another, Pammy and Dana are afraid that their sons are left out if not joining in the training madness. And the public transportation system is so inconvenient in New Jersey that parents have to be chauffeurs to transport their offspring from one extracurricular activity to another.

“I sacrificed my career to follow him here because he wanted a PhD in immunology at Rutgers University. I could have been a dancer or an actress–I can still do my Mongolian dance steps–but I gave up on myself to assist him. Now twenty years later, I’ve established my little real estate career here, but he wants to go back. It’s true that he’s going to be appointed the director of the newly established Steppe Medical Research Center, but that’s just the glory to him at the ruin of another career of mine.” Dana says.

“You are going to support me, right? I mean if I divorce him. He can go wherever his career takes him and I want to stay here.” Dana says.

“Well, you know how conservative the community is.” Ivy says.

Ivy and her husband are the owners of Ivy Training Center, and Lulan is their employee–she’s an anthropologist who can’t find a suitable job.

“Yes, that’s true. On social values, the immigrant community is as conservative as the most conservative section of the Republican Party and …” Lulan says, but her pedantic message is usually cut short by her impatient friends.

“You won’t be invited to parties as a divorced woman. Husbands would be afraid that you set up a bad example for their wives, and wives are afraid that their husbands might have an unorthodox relationship with you.” Pammy says. It’s Dana who introduced Pammy to her real estate job two years ago. The two have been working in the same office ever since. Pammy knows she would have to offer her couch or basement for Dana to stay if Dana is in trouble, and Pammy doesn’t like this prospect, so depressing and inconvenient.

“You won’t get elected the secretary of the Edison Parents’ Club next year. Other parents just won’t trust you. Also everybody’s sympathy will be for your Taimu, who is the best husband material. He brings back a paycheck every month and he doesn’t gamble. If he has any infraction, he hides it well and won’t cause you any headache or embarrassment.” Ivy says.

“That’s it? He can gain sympathy so easily while I can’t get sympathy? How about the two careers of mine down the drain? How about I had labored in an Asian restaurant as a waitress for minimum wage for ten years before I could do real estate? Ten years–I could have worked as an artist in the Mongolian dance troupe and enjoyed my work. How about I’ve lived twenty years without buying anything at all for myself, not even a nice hairpin, since all the money goes to mortgage, cars, and child’s education?” Dana says.

“Dana, I support you even if other people don’t.” Lulan says. Ivy gives Lulan a swift kick on the shin. It has been a protracted battle between Ivy and Lulan–Lulan likes to talk with women in the waiting room and gives them a dose of her anthropological opinion on their life stories. Ivy, on the other hand, doesn’t want the Ivy Training Center to become a place for women’s complaints. Ivy lost several students to other training schools because the students’ fathers don’t like what Lulan had told their wives.

Lulan gets the message and tries to retract her statement. “But just think about all the challenges you are going to face. You’ve never lived alone before and you’ve never even written a check to pay the bills since your husband has taken care of all…”

Dana understands what’s between Lulan and Ivy–Lulan can’t stand up to Ivy. “I thought you are going to support me but now I see you are just selfish, practical, unfeeling, and scared cowardly people. Especially you, Lulan. With all your talk about women this and women that, you are just as hypocritical as everybody else. ” Dana is quite angry.

The second part of the story is here and the final part of the story here.

22 thoughts on “Pursuit Of Happiness Part 1 (Flash Fiction #89)

  1. This is what immigrant communities can be like sometimes. I have seen things like these happen a few times with people I know and I’ve noticed that people can be very hypocritical when it comes to things like divorce.

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      1. So true. I think women especially. It is a sad truth. I know a couple who have an indifferent and bitter relationship, but they put up a show in parties–and guess what, they always try their best to criticize others and suppress other people’s truthful expression of feelings. They are so used to their own hypocrisy that they can’t stand other people’s attempt to have a normal emotional life.

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    1. You are sooooo right. And women usually have a hard time of it. Despite all that being said, the support for hard working women is always lacking while the demand for women to support others is always overwhelming.

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      1. Yeah it’s a catch 22 situation where the women can never win. They are always expected to sacrifice first for their husband and then their children. When they do they’re told they are nagging and when they don’t they are selfish for not sacrificing their dreams.

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        1. I have prototypes of women, men, and couples who are exactly like what you said. I remember in college, there was a female professor who didn’t really care about her appearance and there were just so many negative comments about it as if women like her should not exist. And on the other hand, there are girls who dress sexily and who are also being vilified. Just give me a break. There’s such a narrow window of appropriateness for women to behave that it is very easy to go overboard.

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    1. So true. In a family setting, the nuances are everywhere. It’s so complicated that any statement can be a simplification. I wish I have your humor to bring what I have observed into stories. I still haven’t figured out how not to be a bore when writing something real.

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  2. There are too many hypocrites to count. And they sway according to the wind and the weather. I think if one has made up their mind, then they should take the big step. It’s tough to anticipate the future. But one can hope and work towards the best. Nice story! 🙂

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    1. Soooooo true. People will say whatever fits the occasion. Sometimes west wind and sometimes east wind. I am still searching for a way to do it–how to represent women’s tough life without being a bore. I still haven’t figured out how to do it. LOL.

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        1. So true. Growing up with such a couple, I know all the in and out of their bitterness. After all I have witnessed and disliked, I still have to say I support women’s battle for autonomy. I know I could have a much better childhood if my mother had not wanted to be a new woman, but …

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