Guest Post: A “Little” Something Red for My Chinese-American Groom

I know a lot of you out there are already fans of the AMWF blog When West Dates East (written by the incredibly funny and smart young writer Autumn Ashbough). Here’s the story of how Autumn decides to honor her fiance’s heritage with a very little something red on their wedding day. That’s all I’m going to say about that — read on for the whole story!

Do you have a hilarious wedding story to share, or something else that you think should be on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn how to become a guest poster here.

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(Photo by _e.t via Flickr.com)
(Photo by _e.t via Flickr.com)

Like most brides, I got more than a few pieces of sexy lingerie at my bridal shower. Mesh merry widows, sheer nightgowns, several garters with blue, and even a red silk thong.

Now, I have never been a supporter of the thong. Nope. My politics are liberal, but my clothing is conservative. While I currently live in fashion forward, underwear-optional Los Angeles, I remain the Grand Champion of Excess Fabric. When turtlenecks are in style, I squeal and buy some in every color. (Sleeveless turtlenecks are also a godsend when you work in an over-air-conditioned office building with old, overweight white guys in suits.)

The giver of the red thong was one of my former coworkers. As I thanked her, I must have looked a little puzzled. She quickly explained that she thought it was appropriate, since red was the traditional lucky Chinese color. As I had not yet ventured into the AMWF cyber community, I nodded with the other clueless guests and filed that fact away for future reference.

My Chinese-American fiancé had a blast rummaging through my risqué gifts after the bridal shower. Andy picked up each item, examined it, and dropped it on the floor by the bed. He would then study the lingerie, nod, and say, “Yeah. That one’ll look great!”

But when he got to the red thong, he didn’t even take it out of the box. Andy just pushed it aside with a wistful sigh, because he knew there was no chance in hell I’d ever wear it.

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Like many first generation Americans, Andy had no interest in his Chinese heritage. His goal was to assimilate quickly. He stopped speaking Cantonese after learning it was useless in kindergarten. The only accent Andy retains is a smidgeon of the pidgin he grew up with in Hawaii. He picked up tennis, baseball, weightlifting, and dancing instead of martial arts. Even his car, a Ford Mustang Cobra, was aggressively American. (He also drove it in an unhealthily aggressive American style.)

Andy’s cousins were the same way. His Fashion Plate Cousin’s wedding was as American as you can get – church wedding, hotel reception, poofy white dress, and even a super white groom from Oklahoma. There was no cheongsam, no daughter-in-law tea ceremony – not even a hint of red in the accent colors.

Clueless white girl that I am, I did not, in fact, notice any of these cultural omissions at the time. Months later, however, when Andy and I attended the wedding of a Japanese-American couple, the ballroom contained a thousand golden origami cranes. While the rest of the wedding was thoroughly American, the bride’s nod to her Japanese heritage involved a year of folding thousands of gold foil cranes – with only the flawless ones displayed. These cranes were eventually made into beautiful designs, framed, and displayed in the couple’s home.

I stared up at the cranes and whispered to Andy, “We should do something like that for our wedding.”

Andy chortled. “Uh-huh. You can’t even fold dumpling wrappers. Good luck with that, honey!”

I elbowed him. “Not the cranes, babe. But something Chinese. The wedding is all…white.”

Andy knew my fits of inspiration often meant more work. Andy was instantly wary. “It’s fine.”

“Maybe the bridesmaids’ dresses…no, they’re already bought…so is my dress, the flowers match the bridesmaids’ dress…” I thought furiously and came up empty. Our wedding was in rural New Hampshire in the fall. There’s nothing remotely Asian for miles. “What if I try and find some kind of cake topper?”

“Your Ex-stepmother already gave you that engraved crystal bell that matches the engraved champagne flutes your sisters gave you.”

“Isn’t there some Chinese custom we could work in?”

“Red envelopes, honey,” Andy responded instantly. “Red envelopes with lots of cash will be just fine.”

And although I bugged Andy repeatedly about trying to work in some Chinese wedding customs, he stuck with red envelopes and refused to budge.

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A few weeks before our wedding, I came across a library display with Thousand Pieces of Gold, by Ruth Lum McCunn. I’ve always loved historical fiction, but when you grow up on the East Coast of the United States, most history is very Eurocentric. I’m always on the lookout to improve my California/ West Coast history, and I scooped up Thousand Pieces of Gold immediately.

Thousand Pieces of Gold tells the story of Lalu, a Chinese girl sold into slavery in 1871. Lalu goes from a Chinese brothel to an American slave merchant, is renamed Polly, and winds up in Idaho as the prize in a salon poker game. Polly regains her freedom, marries, and becomes an American frontierswoman.

The book was a nice escape from wedding stress. Polly’s hardships in the American West put my own wedding stress/ drama in perspective. My wedding shoes were lost? Hell, at least I had shoes! I was worried that my father walking me down the aisle would seem like an endorsement of the patriarchy? At least my father couldn’t ACTUALLY sell me when times were tough! (I have no doubt he would have. Also, I might have deserved it.)

But what struck me most, when I read Thousand Pieces of Gold, was this picture:

PollyBemis1894
Polly Bemis in her wedding dress, 1894.

Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, my favorite childhood heroine, Polly’s best dress – and therefore her wedding dress – was black. But unlike Laura, Polly was clad all in red underneath. Polly once explained that she was so happy on her wedding day that she just had to wear the Chinese colors of joy and good luck. So while her exterior was the somber, accepted American garb, underneath, Polly celebrated with her Chinese heritage.

And while it was too late to change any external décor at our overly white wedding, I had just the thing – or really, just the thong – to emulate the indomitable Polly Bemis.

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The post-wedding photography session at our wedding was interminable. There were photos of the enormous wedding party, and then of the enormous families. Well, my enormous family. Andy only had one set of family photos to take. I had three.

My smile faltered once we got to my Ex-Stepfather and his family. The photographer called out, “Your gums are showing, Autumn!” I lowered my upper lip while I tried to keep smiling. (Try it. I dare you.)

The photographer finally snapped the last shot and called for my Ex-Stepmother. As Ex-Stepmother and company arranged themselves around us, I dropped my smile and whimpered to Andy, “My feet are killing me. You?”

Andy whispered back, “My butt feels funny.”

I giggled. “Your butt? What’s wrong with your butt?”

“Aw, c’mon, honey. You are not alone. I got a red thong, too.”

“No!”

“Yes!”

Most of our wedding pictures are carefully choreographed, with careful smiles. But the one with my Ex-Stepmother and my Ex-Step-Grammy is a little different. In that particular photo, Andy and I grin like a pair of loons.

It’s my favorite.

loon

Autumn Ashbough is a White American woman who writes about the humorous perils of life with a Chinese-American significant other at When West Dates East.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

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34 thoughts on “Guest Post: A “Little” Something Red for My Chinese-American Groom

  • July 31, 2015 at 8:03 am
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    I did not see THAT coming! My husband has wanted to do matching shirts before, but matching undies!?

    That book sounds very intriguing. Another one to put on my list.

    Great post Autumn!

    Reply
    • July 31, 2015 at 8:51 am
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      Thank you! So…do you wear matching shirts?

      Well, the book perhaps has some hyperbolic anecdotes, but it was fun reading. As Jocelyn pointed out to me, Academic Priscilla Weggars is currently researching Polly Bemis and might be refuting a few claims (like the poker game, and whether Polly would have been more of a concubine than a prostitute).

      http://webpages.uidaho.edu/aacc/research.htm

      Reply
      • July 31, 2015 at 9:29 pm
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        Thanks for sharing that Autumn! Yeah, I attended a talk by Weggars years ago and she claimed there was no evidence for the poker game story. (Makes for great fiction, though.)

        Reply
    • August 1, 2015 at 7:30 am
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      @Autumn, Jocelyn
      In China, matching shirts are widely popular among couples (and sometimes among parents and their kids). I no longer judge people for this. . . I used to think it was way too cutesy, but now I just think it’s kinda cute. But I haven’t done it myself, though Ming has tried to talk me into it on a few occasions! Maybe if we could find “I’m with Stupid” t-shirts.

      Reply
  • July 31, 2015 at 4:47 pm
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    Ahahahah this is just hilarious!! Matching underwear could very well be the next level of matching outfits. Let’s watch out 😉

    Autumn, you are my biggest blogger-crush and I love your writing passionately. Just saying.

    Reply
    • August 1, 2015 at 6:10 am
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      Aww! Thanks, guys! You are all both very kind.

      Also, if your men do opt for the thong, Andy wants them to know there can be chaffing issues. 😉

      Reply
    • August 1, 2015 at 6:13 am
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      Yeah, I’m tricky that way. It’s was a funny twist, though I didn’t include Andy’s whole speech about thong solidarity. 🙂

      Reply
  • July 31, 2015 at 10:25 pm
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    Yay!!!! I’m so happy to see you on here Autumn!! Next you’ll be on the cover of NY times, aha.

    I love this post (and all your posts, really). I was shocked about Andy’s little surprise for you at the end of this post, haha. A man must really love you if he’ll put on a thong for you!

    That book also sounds amazing–talk about inspirational! I’ll have to go hunt for it online.

    You’re awesome Autumn!

    Reply
  • August 1, 2015 at 6:14 am
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    Thank you so much, Mary! Sometimes my pieces feel “fluffy” compared to all the cool ex-pat info the rest of you have on your websites, and so I am glad you liked it.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2015 at 6:46 am
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    Lots of info regarding your small, Autumn. Don’t worry, it will come off my Christmas list, lol.

    I had a quick look at Rigby and Peller. They don’t do red thong. Limited edition?

    Reply
    • August 2, 2015 at 5:26 am
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      Thanks, guys! I never get over hearing that I made you laugh. 🙂

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 8:12 am
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    Don’t know about in China, but you can definitely get matching underwear for couples in Korea.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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      Matching undies. Pretty hardcore. I have no idea where Andy got that thong. Or T-string. Or whatever those are called!

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    Matching underwear at the wedding. Hilarious 😀 I hope it wasn’t hard for Andy to find one that suited him…thought it did sound like he wasn’t used to it. Then again, I never got why some people like to wear thongs.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm
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      No idea if finding the red thingie was hard! I think I didn’t want to ask. 🙂

      I am so with you on uncomfortable, though.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 11:52 am
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    Andy really has a sense of humor. I’ve never worn a thong, but I can imagine how uncomfortable it would be.

    Looking through my old wedding and honeymoon pictures, I was chagrined to see that my husband and I were wearing matching clothes on our honeymoon–his shirt and my dress. I wonder whose idea that was.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm
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      I have girlfriends who swear they’ve gotten used to wearing a thong and love them. (I’m not seeing it myself, though.)

      Probably his idea, right?

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 8:47 pm
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    I really didn’t see that one coming! It must be true love if a guy wears a thong for you on his wedding day!

    Reply
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  • August 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm
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    Hahhahahaah. You know what they say, a couple who thongs together, belongs together. Great story…was seriously wondering where Polly came in. Cheers!

    Reply
    • August 8, 2015 at 9:35 pm
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      “The family that thongs together belongs together?” That’s hilarious. (Also, I’m pretty sure you made that up.)

      Reply
  • August 10, 2015 at 4:26 pm
    Permalink

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    Reply
  • August 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm
    Permalink

    Chinese art forms have been handed down century after century with painstaking attention to tradition and exacting detail. Focusing mainly on the natural world and depictions of daily life, Chinese art is a beautiful representation of culture. Chinese art, whether ceramics, painting or music, is rendered in a style that lends an air of the mysterious, the magnificent and the intriguing. This course will enhance your understanding of the major Chinese art forms, their history and more popular forms in contemporary art. Take an opportunity to learn about:
    Traditional Chinese Musical InstrumentsChinese opera
    Hanbridg Mandarin school is a great school, when I learned a lot about China’s ancient culture in school

    Reply
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