My parents are married.
They have the legal papers to prove it. They’re yellowed and old like antique documents and they’re in Chinese.
They file for taxes together, sign property papers together, make mortgage payments together, have joint bank accounts.
They call themselves husband and wife, if asked.
They don’t fight… much.
They get along and even though sometimes he rolls his eyes when he thinks she’s being a little insensible or silly and sometimes she’ll sigh with frustration when she thinks he’s being lazy and unhelpful, they don’t really fight.
They raised us well. Amazingly well, I’d say, and for that, I am grateful. My dad taught me how to sharpen my work ethic, how to prioritize and be practical, how to do complicated physics problems that my teacher in high school never made clear. My mom taught me how to be sympathetic, how to care for people and how to care a little too much sometimes, how to be stubborn and how to take care of myself.
They do not kiss. I’ve only seen them kiss once- New Year’s Eve two years ago when Ryan Seacrest was counting down with the rest of Times Square and all the kids egged the parents on- “Kiss! Kiss! You have to, it’s gonna be midnight!”- and they finally gave in and did it. Briefly. A quick peck. And “gave in” being the key words.
Are they in love? I don’t know.
When I was younger, I used to badger them with questions about how they met, how he proposed, what their wedding was like. I was a starry-eyed romantic at a young age and I wanted to know.
We were introduced.
He just asked.
Not too big.
I drank those answers in like cough medicine. Reluctantly. As a kid growing up with ideals of happily ever afters, how was I supposed to accept that my parents didn’t fall hopelessly in love, didn’t have a story worthy of fairy tales? At that point, I didn’t believe they were in love. Now, I’m not so sure.
My parents’ story is still incomplete in my mind, mostly because they don’t really share the details with my brother and me. They sort of brush it off as unimportant and the topic tends to fizzle out before it even gets the chance to be broached. All I know is that they met, they wed, and they began their lives together. There were no bells and whistles, no white lace wedding, no tropical honeymoon, no big shebang that I expected as a little kid. I used to be horrified that they didn’t wear their wedding rings, and especially that they’d forget their anniversaries each year, but my parents would just chuckle and say “It’s just a date”.
Western ideals of “love” are so different from those that my parents grew up with. It’s okay, maybe, that here in North America, we paint pictures of falling madly in love with The One and having a flawless wedding- a perfect series of snapshots to cherish and remember forever.
And just because Eastern culture- one that I could never claim to fully understand- might have a different schema for love and marriage, doesn’t mean I can say that a couple isn’t actually in love.
My parents don’t stare into each other’s eyes over dinner and hold hands when they walk through the grocery store aisles. But she’ll rest her head on his shoulder when she’s tired and he’ll carry her bag for her when she tries on clothes in the dressing room. They’ll watch TV together on the couch and they’ll tease each other once in a while from across the room.
Maybe my parents are in love. Maybe they aren’t.
I don’t know how much it really matters, to be honest. They do love each other. And maybe the only interpretation of “in love” that matters for them is their own. They’re happy. They’re not perfect, but I can safely say that despite the cultural differences, they truly do inspire me.