Archive for August, 2009

Money Honey

I probably have a compulsive buying problem, which wouldn’t be so complicated if it weren’t for the fact that I also beat myself up for spending money on things I don’t need. The former comes from being American; the latter comes from being Chinese. It’s kind of funny how that works out. In the Land of the Free, we spend and spend and spend until someone comes knocking at our door telling us we owe him our first born child because of the insurmountable debt we occur. Hell, take my baby. I don’t care. Just give me unlimited access to eBay and I’ll be a happy camper.

My parents are fairly stable financially, but this is something I didn’t learn until my later years in college. I was always raised with the belief that we were one step away from being considered legitimately ghetto. Not the fun kind of ghetto where you get to speak ebonics or shank people for talking about your momma, but the Stockton ghetto where people take a quick look at you and regret that they did. It’s like smelling someone who hasn’t showered in a week, except that you’re smelling them with your eyes. They start to water a bit, and you’re not sure if the tears are from pity or trauma.

Any time I purchased something non-essential, I felt like I was going to hell. This was cemented by the fact that my dad was shocked at the price of anything and everything. “Oh my Got! Twenty-three dollars for Super Mario!? How come it cost so much? *sigh*” This isn’t to say that my father wouldn’t let us buy things. In fact, he generally didn’t mind as long as he had the opportunity to complain about it after.

We’re at the store and I need a new tooth brush. The Oral-B ones are nice and spiffy looking, but the generic ones are cheaper. Which do I go for? Don’t even think about touching anything that requires a battery or has spinning parts. He would have a bitch fit if he found out. At the moment I’m feeling dangerous and so I go for the Oral-B, but not the fancy one, just the basic. Not all that spiffy, but not Stockton ghetto, so it’ll do.

It’s not even the complaining or yelling that gets to me. I can stand all of that. It’s just the guilt that comes after. My dad has this way of making you feel like you’ve crushed his life savings on a whim. “$4.99 for toothbrush!?…*sigh*” Slight amounts of anger and surprise, mixed with a dash of worry. It’s that worry that gets to you. Will we be out on the streets because of my need for a designer tooth brush? I sit up and think at night, ready to pack my bags in case the eviction notice comes.

Oddly enough, my dad loves the thought of getting a good deal. It’s when he’s most happy, as it is with all Chinese people.

“Peter! I buy 5 box of Midol for you! It’s on sale, so cheap.”
“Baba, Midol is for girls. I don’t get periods.”
“It’s ok! Very cheap, so you can keep for later. I still have more box upstair if you need.”

My dad will come into my room at least twice a week with something random and offer it to me as if I had been bugging him to buy it for Christmas. It’s usually something food-related like aloe vera juice or “practical” like a flash light. And normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, except that he has the need to explain the gift as if I’d never seen it before.

“Aloe vera very good for you! The doctor say it clean out your inside. Good for skin too. Your mom use it on her scratch. We got it cheap at the store. Go ahead and drink it. Little piece of aloe vera inside. It very good for you. It has some sugar inside, but not too much so it okay.”

This is when I know to acknowledge his presence, but ignore the item. If I show any sign of interest, whether it be positive or negative, he continues his curatorial explanation for another five minutes. In the past I used to argue when I’d get random things from him that I didn’t care for. But that only made him describe the item with extra detail, pissing me off far more than I could imagine.

Either way, I’d end up with the shoe cleaner or USB automated coffee warmer, so I’ve learned to accept his “gifts”. Who knows, maybe one day when I’m on my period and start feening for a hot latte, I’ll think back to these moments and thank my dad. For now, I’ll just buy that video game off of eBay and wait for the next time he enters my room, wondering if it’s going to be lecture on spending or a new pair of ShamWows.

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