Sunday, June 03, 2007

Introducing a Lover to Parents

My parents arrived in New York City yesterday morning, met at JFK by me and my sister who drove them to Virginia today to live with her for the next four months. Since this was their first visit to the USA, I showed off the city to them, those sights that I thought would impress them: Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Chinatown, and Battery Park at Manhattan's toe, where one can see the Statue greenish-blue in the distance.

Instead of being favorably impressed, they remarked, when driven by my brother-in-law in his SUV, on the potholes in the road, and, when strolling the busy sidewalks, on the unevenness and cracks that wobbled the stroller in which my two-year-old niece slept. I had anticipated comments on the filthy subway stations, but not these. The imperfections that spoke to me of charming idiosyncrasy, spoke to them of inconvenience and, worse, of negligence. The roads and sidewalks in Singapore, like a discredited theory, are flat, of course.

Then, they found out things about the city of which I knew nothing. My mother discovered in a Chinatown shop dried red dates for boiling soups for my sister's family. Today my father pointed out an office block we passed by the day before, an anonymous building that had already acquired the significance of a landmark for him. I was surprised that I resented them for knowing these things, as much as I had resented their earlier disparaging comments.

If we resent those who do not see our lover's perfections, we also resent them for seeing the perfections we have not seen. Love is a form of judgment, and we hate them who call our judgment into question.

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