December 17, 2021
One in a series of 25 first-person narratives of offense, outrage, innocent transgression or principled affront, in attire, display, speech or spectacle.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD… IN FEAR AND LOATHING
He turned to me and said (with absolute conviction):
“Tomorrow, I’ll bring you a golden ring, and ask you to marry me.”
“Then I’ll… ” he held up a finger, “I’ll get this blade and,” drew it across his throat, “dead!”
I turned away from him in (mock) horror and not-entirely-suppressed annoyance and returned my attention to the teacher…
After all, it’s first day of class, and this 6-year-old first grader was not, in fact, thinking about getting married, least of all to her desk-mate whose name she had barely memorized.
It’s true, I used to be a way sassier little girl than the mostly chilled-out elderly millennial I’ve become (the school of queueing in NYC works wonders on your Zen, ladies and… ladies.)
My parents have a storybook romance: my father was affected by the tail end of the Cultural Revolution and couldn’t go to college right after high school; he was working as a scenic painter in China’s then-burgeoning film industry while making his way through night school, pursuing a BA in literature, where my mother — well, my mother was the hot young teacher all the boys had their eyes on. After a healthy relationship of 30 some years, he still buys her flowers on their anniversaries and birthdays — I’m honestly getting a sugar high just thinking about it. You’d think it’s in my blood to want something like that: love and marriage, the finale of every fairytale, the promise of a happily-ever-after.
Except that boy, let’s call him Z (who thankfully did not turn out to be a psycho), killed my notion of romance everlasting with his one quick slash across the throat: swoosh, Toto we’re not in Cinderella’s castle anymore, and the end of the wedding is not freedom from whatever hardship our heroine has had to endure, but Bluebeard’s bloody dungeons — Be careful what you wish for little girl!
I think this is why 20 years later, I get extra triggered when people make passing remarks about marrying me, in jest mostly, and sometimes out of a genuine, er… I’m not sure what exactly.
Let me offer some context: I’m an “alien of extraordinary ability,” aka, a holder of the non-immigrant O-1 visa, which allows me to work in the US in my area of expertise (as an interdisciplinary theatre artist). It has been my life for the last 6 years, and will continue to put me in this purgatorial loop of: Step one, work non-stop to secure credibility for my next petition; Step two, spend all my income on legal fees to secure my status every 3 years. Now sprinkle periods of depression and burnout every now and then which consists of sleeping for 48 hours straight — you get the picture. The truth is, I’ve been living in moderate fear of deportation throughout my over 12 years in the USA.
This rinse and repeat will end in one of three surefire ways: 1. I can win a TONY / Pulitzer-caliber award; 2. I can pack up and go home; or 3. I can marry someone.
Indeed, I’m an eligible bachelorette of a green card marriageable age.
“We’ll just find someone to marry you!”
“Don’t worry, if you get rejected, we can just get married and you can stay here forever, and work whatever job you want!”
“I’m sure you can get someone to marry you!”
“Why don’t you just find someone to marry you.”
I smile, and I smile, and sometimes I’ll even toss out an “oh yeah!”
“Oh yeah! Solid plan.”
I imagine strands of my hair turning into medusa’s serpents, and daggers shooting out of my eyes — except it’s an internal infernal, because at the very least, I’m not being persecuted for who I am like the undocumented immigrants; and because those words, though careless, were full of hope.
Green card marriage is nothing new. It’s a concept that people toss around as a panacea for immigration problems: in a way it’s sort of a modern fairytale, a cross-cultural happily-ever-after. As a fairytale, it’s also been depicted in plenty of films and TV, in which nobody gets caught by USCIS and the couple stay friends through thick and thin. We love to believe in fairytales, especially when we cannot see, or have the need to deal with, the paperwork (and that includes my own mother, who tells me to find a husband about once a month — it used to be once a week; we are making progress here).
I saw the remounted production of Martyna Majok’s Sanctuary City a short while ago and it was a satisfying gut punch. For the first time, I saw the unfolding of a crushed dream: here we have a pair of lifelong friends being ripped apart by the prospect of just how much is at stake for a completely selfless act. The emotional stakes, yes, but more so, the amount of paperwork, and if you’re suspected as frauds, potential prison time, and a hefty fine — fine prints for a romantic gallantry, if you will.
I still look back in anger at Z’s ridiculous make-believe marriage proposal as he held himself hostage, for… a validation? Or… I’m not sure what exactly. Maybe my parents’ storybook did affect me: I’ll marry for love, or not at all. And if I’m ever being interviewed about my marriage, I hope the question would simply be:
“So how did you know?”
“I just do.”
No fine print there. At the very least, I won’t be taking myself hostage, because the ransom would be too high to pay.
Z turned out to be a chef, making use of that quick knife of his. Good for him.
PROJECT:OBJECTIONABLE: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Adrienne Crew on MAKIN’ BACON | Lynn Peril on BABY’S FIRST ASHTRAY | Lisa Levy on TOILETTE-À-TÊTE | Maria Swisher on STEALING GENIUS | Oliver Baer on CTHULHU SEX MAGAZINE | Yelena Tylkina on A DRINK TO DEATH | Elke Claus on URINAL SHRINE | Jeff Lewonczyk on SUSPENDERS OF DISBELIEF | Jenn Mehm on TWIN SKIN | Marlon Stern Lopez on SOUVENIR OF THE LAPD | Lauren Curtis on NAILED IT! | Josh Glenn on K-TEL TRUCKER TAPE | Fran Pado on THE BRIEF LIFE OF FRANCES POTTER | Nikhil Singh on HASHTAG FASHIONPOLICEPROBLEMS | Adam McGovern on PERSONA NON GRATA | Crystal Durant on LICENSE TO SHOCK | Dean Haspiel on DIRTY DOORKNOB | Justin J Bowen on UNKLE KRAMPUS | Annie Nocenti on STICKY FINGERS | Michele Carlo on THE MANY HATS OF CARMEN MOFONGO | Alice Meichi Li on BEDTIME FOR CATWOMAN | Whitney Matheson on GYNECOLOGICAL GOODFELLA | Ran Xia on PROJECT GREENCARD | Mimi Lipson on MEIN KITSCH | Art Wallace on ELECTRIC KOCH.
MOVIE OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Ramona Lyons on EYE OF THE SERPENT (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) | Faythe Levine on BEDKNOB (BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS) | Gerald Peary on CUP OF COFFEE (THE BIG HEAT) | Christopher Orr on TOM’S HAT (MILLER’S CROSSING) | Lynn Peril on TRANSISTOR RADIO (DR. STRANGELOVE) | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 2): INTRODUCTION | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | & 20 MORE.
FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Allison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
ALSO SEE: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | POLITICAL OBJECTS (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 (4Q2017) | FLAIR (2Q2018) | FOSSILS (4Q2018) | FETISHES (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS (2Q2020) | SEMIO OBJECTS (2Q2021) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (cross-posted from Significant Objects website). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | LOST OBJECTS (forthcoming from Hat & Beard Press, 2022) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.