This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from BABE by Dorothy Chan, released by Diode Editions in 2021.
Triple Sonnet for Chinese Girls with No Humility
My brother tells me to have some humility, and I know this is an old Chinese standard talking, or like my father says, women were once judged for marriage based on their manners at the dinner table, meaning a silent bride is best: Be quiet. Compliment his mother’s cooking. Eat your whole bowl of rice. And my brother gets away with playing “nice guy,” as in “Look at that nice guy teaching his rude sister proper manners,” because Chinese boys and Chinese girls are never treated the same way—think of those girls born in the Year of the Tiger deemed too aggressive, or how my family fortune teller screwed me over at birth by giving my parents the wrong fortune. Of course, there’s a beauty to not knowing and letting life play out. Of course, my brother’s was right down to a T: the failed first marriage, the second marriage to a medical researcher posing as the perfect Chinese wife, a little too eager to cook meals, a little too eager to don a wedding gown, a little too eager to call him “honey.” A little too eager to put me down at the dinner table in Vegas when I order the salmon and she orders the lobster, and she turns to my brother, saying, “Your sister is too big of a spender.” But forget manners. I’ll order the lobster next time. Throw in French fries and a strawberry mousse—take it to go, pay for my own goddamn meal, because I don’t need anything from anyone. No, I don’t have a fortune, and it’s because no one controls me. I think about the way a lover tells me I look good in red, and I remember the red slips and fishnets underneath peacoats in college in those Ithaca winters, feeling like the most powerful woman alive, and forget humility. My brother fears me. His wife fears me. I’ve got the goods to show off. In what universe does a woman like me eat her rice in silence.
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