How Showing Affection Has Changed For Asian Parents (4 minute read)

I've mentioned that I only speak Chinese to my daughter as I want to preserve the language. This has now evolved into playing Chinese music videos on YouTube. 

And my daughter loves G.E.M. (Gloria Tang, 鄧紫棋, a Chinese pop star in her 20's who creates addictive ear candy and eye-catching videos that make all the kiddies dance around like corn popping in the microwave)


One day, a particular video of hers' showed up on the YouTube playlist called A.I.N.Y. "愛你" (Love You)

In this video, it shows an Asian guy and girl kissing passionately, doing a full-on makeout session. No nudity. Just a couple of faces biting each other's lips, tongues dancing plus some skinny, pale arms shimmying around clothed bodies. Quite tame IMHO and relatively harmless for a 2-year-old to watch.

However, this video made me cringe. Like I couldn't sit through the whole thing and watch the make-out scenes because it felt awkward and uncomfortable.

There was nothing wrong with the acting, the music, the cinematography, the concept or the lyrics.

So why I did I feel so weird? What was so different about this music video that I'm not used to? You know, where are all the barely clothed female dancers, booty shaking, hovering over a black guy wearing grills and bling? (Do people still use those slangs? Meh...IDGAF)

Is it because the actors are Asian? Maybe? 

But I'm Asian and I'm married to an Asian and we obviously had to do some makeout sessions ourselves to create our daughter.

So if they were non-Asian, would I feel differently?

Yes, but why?

Let's break it down...

Hong Kong Movies In The 80's and 90's

I grew up watching both Hong Kong and Hollywood movies.
Hong Kong movies from the 80's and 90's were incredibly tame. Sex scenes did not happen (I think this was actually illegal or something). When two characters did the deed, they would do it à la Sims style, go under the covers and move the blankets around. Woohoo!
I remember the first time my parents let me watch a Third Level Film or "三級片", which is like the Hollywood equivalent of an R rated movie. I was super excited.

I had already watched a ton of R rated Hollywood movies (I had unlimited access to Superchannel in addition to all the other things I got to do) so I expected provocative scenes with tons of violence, blood, guts, and nudity.

But disappointingly, I think the most I got was like some boobs, swearing (which I probably didn't even understand) and some kissing, which paled in comparison to what I saw in Trainspotting or Pulp Fiction.

Although the standards for Hong Kong movies have become more lenient over the years, I didn't continue watching them into my adult years. So perhaps seeing these two Asian people kiss passionately caught me off guard as my expectations are stuck in the 90's.

Whoah...WTF...that's like a Fourth Level Film!

My Chinese Parents' Affection Towards Each Other

Growing up, my parents barely touched each other.

My dad was always in a rush when we were out, checking things off his list and getting ready to go home. My mom liked taking her time, browsing all the aisles, going back and forth between shops.

So for my parents, holding hands was out of the question. How could they when my dad's like half a mile ahead of my mom?

During their downtime like watching TV, they would physically be apart, on separate floors because they enjoy different programs. My dad's downstairs, enjoying a Hollywood action movie, blasting his surround sound system while my mom's upstairs, catching up on the latest drama in those Chinese and/or Korean soap operas.

No cuddling. No touching. No kissing.

And definitely, no make-out sessions...gross..I'm still shuddering.

My Chinese Parents' Affection Towards My Sisters and Me

My oldest sister told me that when she was little (before I was even born), she regularly had nightmares. My parents didn't know what to do with her so they took her to see their family doctor.

The doctor recommended that they create a bedtime routine where they would hug and kiss, saying goodnight before going to sleep. The routine reduced the nightmares and because my parents saw the benefits of this practice, they continued it with my middle sister and then me.

Therefore, in terms of my parents' affection towards me, I'd consider myself an exception compared to other Asian families who are stereotypically non-affectionate. So I have many fond memories of hugging my mom goodnight and curling up on my dad's lap while watching movies as a kid. 

It's pretty cool how this has continued in the affection my parents give to their grandkids, with lots of hugs and kisses. 

How I'm Changing It As A Wife And Mom

My husband and I grew up without observing physical affection between our parents so doing so in front of our daughter does not come naturally to us.

To me, receiving and providing physical affection to/from someone you love (with consent) reinvigorates the body, mind, and soul, deepening the connection you have with them. I believe it goes hand-in-hand with talking about our feelings. And what better way to lead by example than to demonstrate it firsthand.

So we have adjusted to hug and kiss in front of her and hold hands when we can (ie. not carrying a diaper bag/stroller/toy/random rock she found).

I want my daughter to appreciate its significance, becoming naturally mindful of her physical needs. This is especially important given how the world has become increasingly digitally obsessed, where conversations are through texts, hugs are emoticons, kisses are virtual and the number of long-distance relationships that cross multiple time zones is growing.

As for showing affection towards my daughter, it's been wonderful and I'm loving every cuddle and kiss.

Sometimes when my husband and I are are hugging, she'll feel left out and want to join in on the embrace. So we do a family hug which isn't something that commonly happened when I was growing up.

Maybe years down the road, my husband and I will watch TV in separate rooms and I'll want to zip through the store while he browses each aisle.

However, when we come together at the end of the day, I'm hoping we'll still kiss each other goodnight. 

And when she comes home to visit, she'll feel weird if she hasn't seen us embrace.

So Readers, how was affection shown when you were growing up? Is that something you'd like to keep or change?

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