Guest blog by a friend, Marilyn Law:

Marilyn Law is an aspiring writer and editor on cultural experiences.  She edits and writes for Asianwave Magazine on cultural events.  Marilyn’s cross-cultural experience attributes to her being a Canadian Born Chinese, growing up in downtown Toronto, living in the suburbs of Toronto and Greater Area of New York and traveling to Asia and Europe. Having a Master’s degree (M.Div.) in Youth and Family Ministry from Tyndale Seminary as well as a Business degree, Marilyn balances her management skills with her ministry heart to serve the community. Her 20 years’ experience serving the community as youth worker/director, ESL teacher, network manager and internal auditor reflect her passion to help people.

Umma, Mrs. Kim, is the wife and mother in the family of Kim’s Convenience TV drama. After watching Episode 103, I relate to Umma when she declares the photo wall as a “Don’t Touch Wall”. Despite moms being accommodating to give her support to family and the community, she maintains the one area that is deemed “untouchable”.

1.  Appearance and image are very important to Asians

Having a beautiful photograph and a display case are the pride of the family. “Don’t touch”, in case the children may ruin the display. In the previous episode, Umma defends her son’s occupation by announcing his promotion as the Assistant Manager. This theme of looking good is displayed on the photo wall.  The culture of a competitive environment often imposes the fear of losing the dignity or respect from others. Are we okay to be comfortable in our own skin?

  1.  Umma likes to look good in the photograph

Her reference about how people see them reminds us of her prior struggle with the other mothers at the church.  When parents strive to appear modest for fear of appearing arrogant, they sometimes hurt their children on the extreme effort. On the other hand, there are parents who strive to prove their worth by announcing their children’s achievements. What is the appropriate balance of showing value to our family members?

3.  Family members (parents, spouses, and children) significantly play a strong role in validating each other

Photographs capture memories. However, memorab

le experience and words are permanent pictures in a person’s heart.  Umma replaced the black and white picture taken by Janet (her daughter), with an update color picture taken by Gerald (Janet’s classmate).   Rather than confronting her Umma that she hurt her feelings, Janet finds an indirect way to regain her parent’s validation.  She secretly uses Gerald to use her own candid photo of her Appa to post beside her Umma’s photo.  Have you protected a family member’s dignity (pride/saved face) creatively with a secret satisfaction?

Many Asian families are expected to uphold the family dignity as a unit.  If one loses respect, the other members feel the pain too.  Therefore, it is considered shameful to show your family’s “dirty laundry”.  Therefore, there is pressure to keep façade of a pretty picture.  I relate to Umma as I protect the appearance of my kitchen.  I have a “don’t touch” new sink where I keep it dry and sparkling. My sons and husband accommodate my pet peeve so long as I still cook a nice meal for them.  They joke with me about it once in a while as a give them a half-smile.