Old hurts never go away

It was lovely seeing the news about the marriage of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan marriage. Congratulations to them!

But the news also brought back a painful memory from my high school years. What, all these years later, a high school wound can still hurt? Well, yes. In fact, things that wound us in high school may be the very injuries that last the longest, because those are the years when you are most vulnerable, most unsure of yourself.

Here’s what happened. I was told that I was “unworthy” of ever being my boyfriend’s wife.

I had dated him through my junior and senior year. And in a true moment of honesty, he told me why he could never marry me:

“My dad says that if I marry an Asian girl, it will destroy my business prospects.”

That’s when I learned that no matter what I achieved, or who I was beneath my Asian exterior, I would never be good enough. I would never be worthy of that boy, or his family, or those who believed the way he did.

Decades later, I still think about it. And in a strange way, I’m grateful for that snub. It’s made me work harder than most people. It’s taught me that I will forever have to prove myself.

Now I look at the Zuckerberg and Chan marriage and I wonder if, somewhere in this country, fathers are still telling their sons that marrying an Asian/Black/Hispanic/Martian girl will destroy their business prospects.

Girls, here’s my advice: make your own fortunes. Toss those boys to the curb. And never forget the old wounds. They may be the fuel that drives you to the top.

7 replies
  1. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    I don’t want to seem dismissive of your anecdotal heartbreak, but you have to admit it’s rather shortsighted to project a single negative experience in life as a universal truth. I would point out that young men head over heels in love with a young woman do not care one iota what their parents think. You were fortunate in finding out the young man you dated did not love you enough. That he used his parents as cover for not feeling he cared enough about you to consider marriage may have hurt, but it enabled you to find someone who does deeply care about you later in life. My guess is if the parents had some deep rooted animosity toward you they would not have waited a couple years to cause a breakup. As a side note to this, I’m sure you have seen movies where young Chinese and Japanese women are forbidden to date outside of their race by their parents. I know I have. Would it then be prudent to project a Hollywood depiction as reality concerning all Chinese and Japanese families?

  2. Tess
    Tess says:

    Bernard, yes, racists come in all colors. And I do know Asian parents who’d forbid their children to marry out of their race.

    But I really meant the post as advice to ANYONE who’s told he or she isn’t “good enough” to be a spouse. Maybe you’re told you’re from the wrong side of the tracks. Or you aren’t good looking enough, or rich enough, or of the right status. When anyone hears that, especially at a young age, it’s one really huge incentive to prove yourself.

    It’s always a satisfying tale when the ignored nerd makes it big and comes back to his high school reunion!

  3. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    It’s nice to see you back Tess, you’ve been away for a while. Always enjoy reading your blogs.

  4. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    “It’s always a satisfying tale when the ignored nerd makes it big and comes back to his high school reunion!”

    LOL! Yeah it is. I hope you’ve been able to experience it first hand too, Tess. 🙂

  5. PackingPadre
    PackingPadre says:


    To assure you that all parents were not like your ex-boyfriend’s, my mother, with my permission, tried to set me up with a girl of Japanese ancestry when I was in high school. The Japanese girl’s parents also approved.

    Unfortunately, the girl wasn’t interested, so it was awhile before I did any interracial dating.

    What the hell, realize it was his loss.


  6. JohnG
    JohnG says:

    I met my Chinese American wife Chris at Stanford in 1973 — you must have been there, too!

    A few years later, I remember telling my dad that Chris and I were planning to move in together. I’ll never forget his response (reflecting his strict Catholic upbringing): “If you love her, how could you possibly move in with her when you’re not married yet???” Didn’t object to the racial issue at all — I’m Irish/English — but he just didn’t get the “living together” program that was becoming common in the 70s.

    Must have worked out; we’ve just celebrated our 35th anniversary this week.

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