"I have made my feelings clear, but you can live your life the way you want. If that’s what you choose, then I will not be your father anymore."
I heard these awful words twice. The first time that I tried to talk to you about my relationship with Taer, you were firm about your opposition to the idea. You repeated your message again to me last night.
Appa, you know that I have been dating Taer for almost four years now. I know how you feel about this, but please know that I really never wanted to hurt you or go against your wishes. I even thought about breaking up with him several times in the past because I didn't want to upset you so much. Your happiness means that much to me.
So far, I have lived much of my life in a certain way because I knew it would please you. I have fulfilled the wishes and dreams you and umma have had for me. You told me to go to law school; it was not something I would have chosen to do on my own. You somehow decided that being “very smart, a good writer, and a good speaker” equaled being an attorney (especially since my non-science background wouldn’t have worked for med school, your other ideal offspring choice as a Korean parent). So I did it.
You wanted me to pass the California Bar even though I had absolutely no desire to practice law. It made you proud, so I did it. Your new favorite phrase was, “I tell people that now I have my own personal lawyer – my daughter!” I loved seeing you so happy.
But I was never able to part with Taer, even though I knew that was what you wanted from me. My life makes no sense if he’s not in it. It’s just not an option for me. We love each other, and now we are ready to spend the rest of our lives together. I love you so much and don't want to lose you, so what can I do to make this right for you?
I understand that because he has the same last name (and origin) as us, it’s simply wrong to you. You grew up learning and believing that this was just not done; there was no question about it. You even used the word “taboo” – a word I was actually surprised you knew – years ago, the first time, as you pounded your fists on the table to emphasize your point.
You and umma instilled a lot of strong cultural ties in us, but I was still born and raised here, in the U.S. This isn’t wrong to me. We are obviously not related even though we have the same last name, so our kids will be fine. That was the concern centuries ago. It may have been valid then, which is why there was an antiquated law banning such marriages before. However, even in Korea now, that law has changed.
You’ve said that we would have to prove ourselves to you to win you over, but you never gave us the chance in the past. You only allowed yourself to meet him once in all these years, and even that singular time was not out of choice on your part.
How do I know he’s the right one for me? You simply have to see us together. I have always looked at you and umma as having the ideal relationship, the kind I would want. I grew up setting very high standards for my own future relationship because of you. The love between you two is so obvious, which is unfortunately not common, especially among Asian parents of your generation. When I tell my friends that I grew up with the two of you kissing and holding hands all the time, they’re always in disbelief. But that’s how I picture you: laughing together, hand-in-hand. That’s how it should be.
And that’s how it is. That’s what I have with Taer. Ours is the kind of love we can’t hide. I’m practically giddy when I’m with him, even after all this time together. He’s so good to me and so good for me. I think most of our friends picture us laughing together, hand-in-hand. He just makes me so happy.
Now I understand what you need at this point. You say that when a man and woman want to get married, the man's side is supposed to woo the woman's side. His side should be completely "ready" before he approaches you. You want to make sure he’s from a decent family, and you also want to make sure that his family fully accepts me. Because they are also having a problem with the last name, you do not want to send me into another family who will not be completely happy to welcome me as their own. You love me so much and you are so proud of me, you think anyone should be overjoyed to have me as a daughter-in-law. You don’t like the fact that you don’t hear any of your friends speak very favorably about their own daughters-in-law. You think I deserve more than that.
You also say that a mother often feels that a daughter-in-law is taking her son away, so she is threatened. Do you think a father can feel the same way about a son-in-law? The first thing you said last night is that you were sad. You felt so sad that I was choosing to go against your wishes. You talked about the father-daughter relationship and how we used to be so close. You said that becoming less close with time was natural, but I noticed the unhappiness in your voice in that sentence. Are you afraid that you might be losing me now?
Appa, I love you so much. I will always be daddy’s little girl. Nothing can take that away.
Thank you for letting me talk to you last night, and thank you for giving this a chance. I know you're not promising anything yet, but this really means a lot to me. “Maybe” is the best I can ask for right now. I love you.