Only by traveling outside the closed environment of a classroom that you realize the world is not as flat as Friedman claimed it to be: the so-called globalization of ideas is only the illusion in which we nurse our impossible dreams of reaching out without extending our hands.
I sat down at the dinner table in San Francisco with my parents and several other old Vietnamese people with their children who are more or less my age. Of course, dining with older generations means all your dreams and hopes will be questioned and sometimes be insulted. As a new graduate, I got all the attention that I did not even want:
“Do you have a boyfriend yet? Do you wanna have an American boyfriend? How many kids are you hoping to have in the future?” Questions after questions were fired at me, none of them involving my majors in university, and the only thing I had to protect me was my ignorance against the stereotypes of women being the birth machines of the world.
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend, or a partner, whichever way I sway,” I replied. They asked why. I told them that it was rather a waste of time spending on finding something that wouldn’t last. They asked me what I wanted to do instead. I told them with a straight face: “I would rather have a job, make a lot of money,…” – “For what?” – “For the house of my dream, for the five dogs and ten cats that I want to have, for the happiness of my life.”
And oh how much they laughed. They thought I was kidding. They laughed at a woman’s dream where a man does not have the starring role. They laughed at my ignorance against my role of being a woman, of giving birth. One of the them said:
“I know these two people who live together but have not gotten married yet. They are so busy with their career that they don’t even want children. I think this generation is getting more and more selfish: they need to start thinking about their parents instead of constantly focusing on themselves; they need to think of their parents who want to have grandchildren to boast with others. They need to have at least two children, one for the maternal side, one for the paternal. That’s the only way they can express their gratefulness for their parents.”
My parents nodded in agreement; the people of my age just sat there, focusing on their phones; while I was dumbstruck. At that moment, I knew that no matter how successful I would be in life, my parents still wanted me to do “the right thing”: getting married, having children, fulfilling the role of a woman.
This is not who I want to become. This is not where I want to see myself in the future. I want to live in a world where women are not walking wombs. I want to live in a world where a woman’s happiness can only be measured by the smile on her face and not by the number of children she can produce. I want to live in a world where a woman never need to stand in the shadow of a man to be recognized and appreciated. I want to live in a world where a woman’s dream is never limited to household chores and bearing children. As a woman who thinks she is destined for greater things in life, I want to live in a world like that.
If you want to live in a house with white picket fence, with the person you love, 2.5 children and a golden retriever, go and make that dream come true, but only when it is your dream, when it is for your happiness and not other people’s.
For me, I would like a condo with five dogs and ten cats, please.