Recipe for Rudeness

Dorothy Chan

I ask my parents how they feel about having

          100% purebred Chinese grandkids at their age,

at the dinner table, when my brother’s home

          for New Year’s, showing off his perfect

Cantonese girlfriend who doesn’t speak

          a word of Cantonese, who isn’t dining with us

because she’s at a five-star restaurant

          in Hong Kong after flying business class

when she’s not on business, and I add more beef

          to the hotpot, more enoki, more shrimp, less hate,

but I can’t help myself when my brother hasn’t

          been home in five years, didn’t visit my father

during his heart attack, and poof, now he thinks

          this fourth-date marriage to a good Chinese girl

solves everything — the promise of family legacy,

          but nope, I hate to break it to you, brother, but

Chan is about the most common name in all of

          China, and we aren’t rich or bluebloods, so what

are you even talking about with legacy, marrying

          a woman you met three months ago, and I drink

more Tsingtao, get a little sad while my brother

          adds more scallops and squid in the hotpot just

for me and he smiles and then coughs from

          the gochujang, the Korean hot pepper paste

and so do my mother and father, and I think about

          endurance, how I hide my boyfriends from my father

who wants 100% purebred Cantonese babies

          out of me, but no one controls my body, no one

how nine years ago at a stoplight in Washington D.C.,

          my brother asks me about any girls or guys I’ve

kissed, as if anyone has to choose sausage or fish,

          one or the other — when the real answer is all,

                                        and I miss the innocent times

                                        when I wasn’t uncomfortable at stoplights,

                                        when we’d make grilled cheeses together:

                                        butter the pan, take your white bread

                                        add cheddar cheese on top, let it melt

                                        add salt and pepper, flip the sandwich,

                                        and wow it’s ready, with a side of ketchup

                                        on the plate: dip your cheesy bread in,

and now I wonder what century he’s living in,

          but I’m the one remembering my mother’s stories

about the fortune teller: how my brother will

          end up with a doctor and how I will end up

with a handsome guy, and as I drink more

          Tsingtao, I think about my own lover, who’s worried

I’m only dating him for the sake of dating what daddy

          hates, but I tell him over the phone, No, I date what’s sexy.


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