My father and I have a lot in common.
We are both second-borns. We have the same sound in our names. We look alike. We share interests in visual arts, music, languages, philosophy, and much more. We are cautious and meticulous, sometimes to our detriment.
But my father and I also have a lot of differences.
He is also a big brother to two other younger siblings, but I am the baby. His name is easily pronounceable, but people never know how to read mine. He thinks more with his right “artsy” brain, but I think more with my left “STEM” brain. He worked in one field and one company through most of his career, but I have already switched professions and workforces several times. He prides himself in being an old-fashioned Asian, but I am still confused about my identity being a Westernized Asian.
The differences show in the way we dress as well.
My father only wore dark navy or black suits and white shirts while he worked. He looks at me funny when I get dressed in grey striped suits and coloured shirts. I used to interpret it as his sign of disapproval.
Maybe he thinks I am too concerned about my fashion and not concentrating enough on work.
Maybe he thinks I do not have a “proper job” by his standards.
Maybe he thinks I did not turn out as good as him, even with all the commonalities we have.
I was afraid to ask what he thought of me dressed in these “fancy” clothes. I did not particularly like his old-fashioned Asian ways, but I was glad his ways made him a man of few words – if I did not ask, I never had to hear him disapprove, so I could keep dressing the way I wanted to. So, for a very long time, neither of us talked about fashion.
Then, one day, my mother revealed the most shocking secret – my father was actually envious of me, having the choice to wear what I want and look decent in them! “Don’t tell your father you know,” she said, “but he wants to wear pink shirts and have you see him as a hip dad.”
Can you believe it? My father, a typical old-fashioned Asian male, extremely conservative, sets the rules and never has to answer to anyone in the family… THAT father wants to experiment but is worried it would not be accepted by ME?!
Ever since this little secret came out of the closet, I am seeing my father in a different light. I have always respected him and am very proud to have him as my father, but I am feeling increasingly strongly that we have a lot more to talk about, whether it is about our commonalities or differences. (And we definitely need to talk about the choice of word if you want to be “hip” in this day and age!)
Dad, I wonder what you would think if I sneak a pink shirt in your closet… say, how about this for a start?
Whatever it is you think, let me hear it… I am ready to accept. And I hope you know I will love you just the same. Happy Father’s Day!