移民美国后,父亲学会了说“我爱你”

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年6月20日 作者:纽约时报(By WAJAHAT ALI)

Pallavi Sen
Pallavi Sen

“我爱你。”

简简单单的三个字,让我整个礼拜心烦意乱。我问妻子是不是也听见了,也许是我出现了幻觉。我无法相信眼前这个男人的嘴里吐出了这几个字。问题不在他传达的讯息本身,而在传达者:我的父亲。

是谁在冒名顶替吗?这个穿着裤衩、拖鞋,一边听萨布里兄弟(Sabri Brothers)的克瓦利赞歌一边烤清真羊排的巴基斯坦裔美国移民,真的对不到三岁的孙子易卜拉辛说了这句话?

我知道,为人父和为人祖父会彻底改变一个男人。这份愉悦的重担,让我们中的某些人被迫调整自己的事业重心,让他们对这些不交房租的小东西产生极度焦虑,促使他们毕其一生力求成为世上唯一开着丰田塞纳也能显酷的男人。

但我父亲的这份情感,彻底颠覆了我所熟知的那种生活。

在我36年的人生里,我的父母从未对我说过“我爱你”,我也没对他们说过。我们家不是说“我爱你”那种。几年前母亲对我说,“我爱你”是“美国话”,是“goras”(白人)说的,那时候“美国”和“白人”是同义词,后来他们才意识到南亚以及其他地方的移民一样可以自称美国人。

最近在Facebook上,我问其他如今已经为人父母的移民子弟,是否也见到类似的转变。

我的大学老友胡玛·穆尔塔尼(Hooma Multani)说,我们有些人已经习惯了某种“克林昂式的情感表达”,她说她的巴基斯坦裔父亲会使劲拍打他们的背,那就是他的拥抱和吻。

对我的一些移民子弟朋友来说,“无条件的爱”就像室内不脱鞋或跟长辈顶嘴一样,只是痴心妄想。爱是受条件高度制约的,往往取决于好的学习成绩和得当的行为,这向来都是一个心照不宣的道理。

我们很多人从小接受的是查普——一种拖鞋——式管理。你要是惹祸了就得“吃”一顿查普,或者被威胁要在不远的将来吃一顿查普。可是此刻,我的父亲,这个怪人,却在FaceTime上指责我对我自己的儿子说话太硬,当时儿子正光着屁股到处跑,把乐高积木抛向空中。“他不是一般的孩子,非常聪明,”父亲在没有给出任何证据的情况下告诉我。“你对他得温和点。”要是我穿着衣服扔了一块乐高,查普早就往我脸上招呼了。

小时候父亲的确会狠狠地在我脸上留下几个湿乎乎的吻,然后会被我用手擦掉。我们周末一起去漫画书店,他会不断鼓励我去追求自己的艺术爱好,给我各种亲昵的称呼(“瓦仔巴巴”——在家里没人会叫我“瓦加哈”),还会拿我跟乌尔都语里的一种下水相提并论(是在表示喜爱)。

但不会说“我爱你”,也不会参加家长教师联谊会。

他不像我,会在周四晚上与家人一起在宝宝反斗城(Babies “R” Us)耗上两个小时,测试十几款双座婴儿车,而且此前已经花了相当可观的时间了解各品牌和价位。在我的记忆里,他可从来不会在某个非周末时间带我去公园,跟其他几个用360宝宝背带兜着个孩子的棕色皮肤爸爸聊天,没有妻子在场。事实上,如果是上世纪80年代在一处游乐场里见到几个棕色皮肤男人带着孩子,没有女人,报警是一个可以理解并值得赞扬的举动。

我的父亲不是不知道这种变化。他对我说,这对他们这代人是一次文化变革。他说在他小时候,一般情况下父亲不会跟妻子挨着坐,甚至不会在公开场合抱起自己的孩子。我记得祖父是很喜欢我的,但在我父亲小时候,祖父也不会“表露”。对于这种保留,父亲并无怨言。他们是国家分裂的受害者,饱受创伤,被迫迁徙到另一个国家。就算心中有爱,父亲说“他们绝对无法”像我们现在这样表达自己的爱意。

“我们的语言里没有那些词,”我的岳父、一名已退休的巴基斯坦裔美国医生说,意思是在乌尔都或印地语里没有对应“我爱你”的短语。现在他常说这几个字,不只是对孙辈,对我妻子和她的兄弟姐妹也会。他将之归功于美国文化,还有他的孩子们帮他学会了表达。

近日在和几个朋友开始斋月时,我就在想这些,他们都是已经有孩子的移民子弟。我们轮流讲述父母的故事,随着年岁渐长,加上有我们的孩子在,他们的性情开始柔和起来,遇到愧疚和有关死亡的讨论时,会用起宝莱坞式的戏剧化手法。我们意识到父母老了。时光稍纵即逝。

我们都没跟父母说过“我爱你”。父母也从未跟我们说过。

回到家,我给父亲打了电话。我问他为什么从来不说这句话。他的理由是,不一定要说出来才算表达。的确是这样,我的优越生活和教养就是明证。

“有时候这些话说太多遍了,听着虚伪,”他说。“变成了纯粹的字眼,什么意思也没有。”

但有的词是有含义的。不一定非得积压在心里。它们不需要礼仪规范。人们可以也应该尽情使用它们。这样的情感可以是一份简洁的礼物。今年父亲节上,我知道我会努力对父亲说一句以前从未说过的话。


Wajahat Ali是名剧作家、律师与时报观点作者。

My Dad’s Sudden Outburst: ‘I Love You’

“I love you.”

Those three simple words messed me up for an entire week. I asked my wife if she heard them, too, or if I was hallucinating. I couldn’t believe the man in front of me said them. It wasn’t the message, but the messenger: my father.

Who was this impostor? Could it be that this Pakistani-American immigrant, who grills halal lamb chops in boxers and sandals while listening to Sabri Brothers qawwali, had just said this to his almost-3-year-old grandson, Ibrahim?

I understand how fatherhood, and grandfatherhood, can profoundly change a man. The joyous burden forces some of us to adjust our career priorities, creates excessive anxiety for tiny people who don’t pay rent and inspires a lifelong goal of trying to become the only man in existence who looks cool driving a Toyota Sienna.

But this sentiment from my father was a drastic disruption of a life I had always known.

In my 36 years of existence, my parents have never said “I love you” to me or vice versa. We are not an “I love you” family. Years ago, my mother told me “I love you” was for “Amreekans” and “goras” (white people), which at the time were synonymous, until they realized South Asians and other immigrants had every right to claim the American label as well.

On Facebook, I recently asked if other children of immigrants, who are now parents, have witnessed a similar transformation.

My old college friend Hooma Multani said some of us were used to a “Klingon-type way of displaying affection” and said her Pakistani father used to pat them on the back really hard instead of dispensing hugs and kisses.

“Unconditional love” for some of my immigrant-children friends was as mythical as wearing shoes in the house or talking back to elders. There was always an implicit understanding that love was very conditional, often based on achieving good grades and behaving properly.

Many of us grew up with chappal — sandal — diplomacy. If you messed up, you would figuratively “eat” the chappal or be threatened with eating the chappal in the near future. Yet here’s this strange man, my father, scolding me on FaceTime for using a firm voice with my son, who was running around naked throwing Lego pieces in the air. “He is special and very smart,” my father informed me without providing evidence. “You have to be gentle with him.” If I had thrown a single Lego piece fully clothed, I would have felt diplomacy across my face.

When I was growing up, my father did plant big, wet kisses on my cheeks, which I would wipe off with my palms. There were our weekend trips to comic book shops, consistent encouragement for my artistic endeavors, many terms of endearment (“Wajoo Baba” — no one calls me Wajahat in my home) and comparing me to pieces of organ meat in Urdu (it’s a sign of affection).

However, there were no “I love yous” or P.T.A. meetings attended.

Unlike me, my father didn’t spend two hours with the family on a Thursday night testing a dozen double strollers at Babies “R” Us, after already investing significant time researching different brands and prices. I also have zero memories of my father taking me to hang out with other brown dads wearing their babies in a 360 Baby Carrier at a park on a weekday without any wives present. In fact, if you saw several brown men alone with babies in a playground in the 1980s, you would be excused and applauded for calling the police.

My father does notice the difference. He tells me that for his generation it’s a cultural change. When he was young, he said, fathers weren’t expected to sit near their wives or even hold up their kids in public. My grandfather, whom I remember as being affectionate with me, was not “demonstrative” when my father was growing up. My father doesn’t blame him for his reserve. They were victims of partition, traumatized, forced to migrate to a new country. Even though they were loving, my father said “they had zero capability” to express their love as we do now.

“We don’t have the words for it in the language,” said my father-in-law, a retired Pakistani-American doctor, meaning there’s no phrase that is the literal equivalent of “I love you” in Urdu or Hindi. He now uses it all the time, not just for his grandchildren, but also with my wife and her siblings. He credits American culture and his kids for helping him learn how to express it.

I was thinking about all this recently as I was opening my Ramadan fast with a few friends, all children of immigrants, who are now parents. We were trading stories about how our parents have mellowed with age, softened with our kids and resorted to using Bollywood melodrama when it comes to guilt and discussions of mortality. We realized our parents are old now. Time can’t be taken for granted.

None of us had ever told our parents “I love you.” None of us had ever heard it from them.

I came home and called my father. I asked him why he never said it. He reasoned you don’t have to say it to show it. Indeed, it’s true, and my privileged life and upbringing was a testament to that.

“Sometimes people say it so much that it sounds hypocritical,” he said. “It becomes just words, and words don’t mean anything.”

But some words do have meaning. They don’t have to be hoarded. They don’t need formality. They can and should be given out freely. And it’s a sentiment that makes for a pretty economical gift. I know what I’ll try saying for the first time when I talk to my dad on Father’s Day.

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, lawyer and contributing opinion writer.