“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.