Five Ways to Disappoint your mother cont’d
Diane depicts her mother as very controlling as she is happy to gain the praise towards her daughter’s musical talents while she is very young. The proud mother was often “gossiping” about her daughter’s performing talents and the amount of money she paid to achieve a successful daughter. The mother expected her to study to become a doctor when she was in Year 11 and failed to take into account Diana’s feelings, interests, goals and desires. “My mother’s dream was for me to be rich, successful and healthy”.
However, she changed her attitude when Diana was in Year 11 and demanded that she pursue a career in medicine, hoping to become wealthy and reputable. Her mother is quick to compare her results with her friends, and only cares about her daughter’s superior results. To the mother, public respect and pride are the most important things in her life, and are much more valuable than happiness and satisfaction. Diane realises that her mother is angry with her because “I made her lose face”. Diane resents her mother’s attitude to her “hobbies”.
Wishing to lead her own life and seek personal satisfaction leads to conflict. Diana was pleased with her results because it reflected her interests and her happiness . “I had had a fulfilling school experience”.
Diana is wounded on several occasions by her mother’s determination to reject her desire for an acting career. Diana is particularly humiliated when she notices her mother’s car driving away during the school performance. The mother clearly rejects her artistic efforts and is very angry at the path she has chosen. She states, “I was shattered”. She also reveals the extent of her personal pain and suffering, and her sense of rejection. She recalls her humiliation and the loss of dignity as she recoils and lets the “hurt sink deeper into my soul”.
Diana states, “maybe I should have told her how I felt”. This shows that she is not comfortable talking with her mother. They do not communicate their feelings and also she feels as if her mother will not understand her, and so she does not bother.
Diana is acutely aware of her controlling mother’s sense of disappointment, frustration — even embarrassment. The mother is so preoccupied with her “face” needs (her dignity) that she refuses to acknowledge the shame of having a daughter who finds a boyfriend on the internet. She prefers or chooses to ruin her relationship with her daughter. Understandably, Diana is humiliated. Ironically, the mother displays similar feelings of discrimination towards the Chinese that Australians showed towards her. She hated Chinese because they are “too tight with money”.
When Diana moves out of home she has “a freedom that I had never known before”. And yet, the daughter feels disappointed and a keen sense of rejection that the mother cannot accept that she loves her boyfriend and is still with him after five years. She regrets the fact that she will always be the “slut daughter” in her mother’s eyes for the “rest of my life”.
The mother’s focus on pride, customs and social proprietary alienates Diana who feels the victim of her mother’s excessive desire to control. She criticises the tendency of her Asian mother to foster dependency so as to restrict her daughter’s choices. Although the mother discards her she finds a “freedom that I had never known before”. Diana also vindicates her choice by stating that the relationship has lasted five years. As we discover, Diana becomes a successful Melbourne-based actor and achieves recognition when she is nominated for Best Actress for Death by 1000 Cuts.
Themes for identity and belonging:
To many Asian parents, public image is more important than the child’s satisfaction. This often has very damaging repercussions for family relationships. Diana Nguyen’s mother compromises her relationship with her daughter because of the need to save “face”, which mortally wounds Diana. Her mother refuses to tolerate Diana’s Chinese boyfriend whom she met on the internet. Diana is so humiliated and feels like a “slut daughter”, who is forced to move out of home. She not only feels shameful but regrets never having a decent relationship with her mother. She feels inhibited and unable to communicate any feelings with her mother that do not suit her agenda.
There is often a clash of views, values and expectations between parents and children that lead to a re-evaluation of identity on behalf of both conflicting parties. In Growing up Asian, many parents expect that their children will follow professional pathways, so as to bring the family status and prestige. The children must therefore negotiate their identity. They must decide whether they will follow their parent’s expectations and hence suppress their own desire for fulfilment or happiness or compromise their relationship with their parents so as to pursue their own career. Those who prefer an artistic career have to battle with the feeling that they have failed their parents. To resist their parent’s pressure also demands a lot of courage and stamina. Diana Nguyen is one such person who finds it difficult to abide by her mother’s dream of a high-status occupation. She is desperate for her mother’s approval, but is shocked when her mother walks out of her performance. Likewise, Vanessa Woods wants to be a writer but the mother using her brand of “emotional terrorism” tries to convince her that she will end up “penniless in an attic”. However, these girls must find a way to build their own lives and find confidence. Diana finds solace and freedom in her relationship with her Chinese boyfriend whom the mother detests and Vanessa eventually comes to find love in the mother’s sacrifice. In the process, Diana has to realise that she will always be the “slut in her mother’s eyes”.
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