The only other person I have ever met who hates me as much as my brother Michael does is my wife. We do our banking separately, we do our taxes separately, we do our laundry separately, she sleeps with her head at the foot of the bed so our toes point in opposite directions, we scarcely ever eat a meal together, I literally cannot remember the last time we watched a movie together, we will no longer share the same healthcare come January, and her tongue drips with venom any time she finds herself forced to speak a few words to me, her hatred like a blowtorch in my face. Being treated like shit on a daily basis in my own home takes its toll, a toll I have only been willing to pay for my son’s sake, but I am beginning to question more and more frequently how long I can continue enduring the abuse.
Were it not for my son, I’d have divorced her a year ago, though at least my son’s existence means these past thirteen years weren’t for nothing. I’d go see a lawyer tomorrow if I hadn’t already divorced her for some outlandish reason. I fantasize all the time now about having her and her toxic parents out of my house, but I can only let fantasy carry me so far before I have to force myself to face the excruciating reality. My wife comes from a family of matriarchs, her mother and each of her aunts a matriarch of their own little nuclear family. My wife could not entirely disguise her disappointment when she learnt she was having a boy. Her “love” for him is as shallow as a Petri dish and I genuinely believe the only reason he has mostly been spared any physical abuse—the kind that would leave a mark—is because of me. When I am not around all the time and he comes to me three or four days a week with signs of physical abuse, they can make up any excuse they want and there won’t be a damn thing I can do about mental or emotional abuse like the time I caught my wife in the act of shutting my son—then two years old and ill—in a windowless bathroom with the lights off. Yes, I will file a police report if I witness something like that ever again, but I cannot be a witness if it happens in some other house.
Even if these things never materialized, try to imagine how I would feel if I were the one who pulled the trigger on divorce only for the court to approve of my wife either taking my son away to California or having custody for six months at a time and passing my son back and forth a thousand miles at a time like a volleyball while all his relationships with friends and with teachers get periodically reset. The latter is a very realistic possibility and it wouldn’t just hurt him in a zillion different ways, it would also destroy my career. My wife would have plenty of support, despite being the foreigner in this land, but I would be the one without a moment’s respite when custody is mine. I’d love him to be at least twelve years old when we divorce, but I do not believe the present situation is sustainable for another nine years. My parents-in-law have only lived with us for six years and they’ve already driven me to the brink of madness.
That’s why I want to hold out as long as I can. Thanks to the complete ineptitude and complacency of my wife and her parents, my son is still not potty trained. I would also like for him to be fluent in English (as fluent as a child can be anyway) and for him to have started school. Why fluent in English? I want him to be able to tell me if and how he is being mistreated. Why school? To make it just that bit harder to uproot his whole life when my wife tries to steal my son.
She believes that she is entitled to his love because she gave birth to him. You see, even if I learnt I had been cuckolded this whole time, rearing a child with no biological relation to me, I’d be angry at my wife, but my relationship with my son, in my mind, wouldn’t change whatsoever. Because I didn’t love him the day he was born. That took time and it wasn’t long before he showed me a love I had never known and, frankly, never earned. His first word was Daddy and, while he spreads his love much more evenly these days, he still favors me above all. When my wife and son woke up this morning, he was saying he wants a “Daddy hug.” My wife, delusional as she is, thought he wanted her to take him to IHOP for pancakes. Hug apparently sounded to her like the “HOP” in IHOP. He got out of bed and ran straight for me to be cuddled in my arms. I’ve shed dead skin cells that were ten times the parent my wife is.

About two weeks ago, my mother was congratulating me for the “good week” my wife and I had had, the first such “good week” since I can remember. She said it must be nice to be able to let my guard down for awhile. I never did let my guard down. I knew all too well it wasn’t to last and, sure enough, it did not. Just yesterday, I had taken the day off to recharge my batteries. I was playing some computer games while my wife attempted to put our son down for a late afternoon nap. I was focused on the screen in front of me when, through my headphones, I heard my son unexpectedly burst into tears. I rushed over to calm him. He told me that Mommy had hit him. I looked at her and she instantly denied it, but I also knew my son hadn’t burst into tears for nothing. She had been struggling to get him to sleep. Before I could get another word out of him, my wife had disappeared.
I didn’t find any marks on his body and, having had headphones on, I had no way of knowing where or how hard she had struck him, but I did not doubt my son was speaking the truth and that my wife had just lied to me about hitting our son. After I had successfully calmed my son, I let him play computer games with me for awhile, which is to say I let him watch me play. When his attention span began to wear thin, I took him downstairs to play in the family room, where I saw that my wife had bought one of those outdoor water table activity centers for him. Without her saying it, I knew she expected me to assemble it, but I thought it was a great idea and set to work immediately. With my son’s “help,” it was ready in about forty-five minutes.
I brought the water table outside and filled it up. He played with it while I mowed the lawn. My wife, of course, always waits until I have actual sweat dripping from my brow to ask me to do something for her. As if I hadn’t just assembled my son’s new water table, mowed the lawn, and trimmed, she asked me to install a bunch of solar lights on our backyard fenceposts. I refused and proceeded to clean up and take my son back inside. I was about to take a shower of my own, but my son needed one and, as he often does, he specifically requested a “Daddy shower.” I could not refuse my son and only after he was showered and dressed was I able to enjoy my own Daddy shower.
Having had a short break between my shower and my son’s bedtime to feed myself, I put him to bed as I always do, reading him three Curious George stories before tucking him in for the night and, as usual, I lay down by his side until he drifted off to sleep. By the time he was sleeping, my wife had joined us, but he wasn’t sleeping long before he woke up in tears. This time, no one had hit him. My son has nightmares. One time just in the past couple of weeks, he described a nightmare to me in which monsters were breaking his bones with hammers. I did not share this with anyone, figuring I’d be blamed for letting him watch me play violent computer games that may very well have planted the seed for this particular nightmare. This time though, I don’t think a nightmare was to blame. He was just feeling ill and the tears were an early warning that he was about to vomit. He has been vomiting frequently enough lately that I think he’ll need to see a doctor if it happens again.
Sure enough, he vomited. I reacted instantly. Within a fraction of a second, he was bent over a waste bin, simultaneously vomiting and crying. I did the only thing I could do and placed a hand on his shoulder while occasionally wiping his face and arms with a paper towel. It was at this moment that my wife began to castigate me over how many paper towels I was using. She had been bringing it up more and more lately and had decided this would be an appropriate time to do so again. Being the one who usually purchases paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper for the household, she complained of how I was wasting “[her] supplies.” Exasperated with both the timing and with the pettiness, I reminded her once again who provides her healthcare, which, as one might imagine, costs a great deal more than a few extra sheets of paper. She seemed completely unmoved by my counterargument.
I continued to tend to my son in his time of need, but, in the back of my mind, I was stewing. I would say I use an above average quantity of paper towels and tissues, but, in the 3.5 years since installing a bidet seat, I don’t use much toilet paper. It’s one thing for couples to bicker over wastefulness, but, to fully grasp the insanity of the situation, you need more context. My wife is no tree hugger. Her concern is purely financial, but my wife and I are not on a tight budget and, in her case in particular, here are a few reasons why:

  • Since my wife first arrived in the United States in 2011, she has spent the past twelve years living under one of my mother’s roofs, paying a pittance for rent or no rent at all.
    • Initially, we lived in my mother’s basement for the first 2.5 years rent free.
    • Toward the end of 2013, my mother bought a house for us to live in and we paid her $500 a month in rent.
    • After we were burglarized in December of 2015 and my wife and I were feeling extremely uneasy about the house we were living in, my mother bought us a second, much nicer house in a better neighborhood, where we initially continued to pay $500 a month in rent. We have continued to live in that house for the past seven years.
      • In July of 2017, my wife’s parents arrived in the United States. They have lived under my mother’s roof ever since. The rent increased from $500 to $700 a couple of years after they arrived.
  • My mother provides thousands of dollars of free childcare.
    • While my mother accepts diapers and milk from us on a regular basis, she does not ask for any reimbursement for all the toys, meals, or entertainment she provides.
    • My mother recently started taking him to weekly swimming lessons on her own dime.
  • My mother has taken my wife and me on trips to California, Florida, Mexico, and New Mexico all on my mother’s dime.
  • I bought my wife her first car out of my own pocket.
  • When my wife’s parents first arrived here, I sacrificed a whole year of my life chauffeuring them to and from their minimum wage supermarket jobs while they got their driving licenses and a car instead of pursuing a career of my own. It’s a decision I have never stopped regretting, but I did so at the request of my wife, something she now denies ever happened.
  • While my wife still likes to bring up the fact that I was unemployed for three years (one of these years at her request as previously mentioned), I continued to provide for us out of my inheritance from my father and maternal grandmother.
    • This same inheritance was what paid for much of the furniture and appliances in our home, including the very sofa upon which her mother was napping yesterday afternoon.
    • A few months after I had found stable employment again, our air-conditioner died and, rather than let my newborn child suffer in the blistering summer heat, I rushed to get the whole system replaced, digging deep into my own pocket to pay for it all with the money I had saved since I started working again. My wife’s reaction was to go to my mother and talk about divorcing me because I hadn’t waited for enough quotes. Ultimately, I think she was upset that I hadn’t hired one of her shady Vietnamese contacts to do the job for cheaper. It was the first time of many that my wife would discuss divorcing me with my mother in an effort to use my own mother against me as a tool to apply more pressure when my wife wasn’t getting her way. My mother eventually caught on.
  • I pay the electricity and natural gas bill.
  • I pay the water bill.
  • I pay the waste removal bill.
  • I pay the Internet bill, negligible though it is since our ISP is also my employer.
  • I provide healthcare for my wife, our son, and me.
    • I also provide dental and vision benefits for my son and me. I previously provided these for my wife as well, but she refused to use them and I dropped her.
  • My wife’s parents are currently riding on my auto insurance policy.

The amount of money my wife and her parents save thanks to my mother and me is immense. So I guess what I would like to know is why my wife thinks she cannot afford to let me have the other ⅔ of the sheet of paper towel? I walk into my kitchen every day to find little torn scraps of paper towel scatted across the countertops and, every day, I throw them all away because I don’t like my house to look like shit.
It’s all my mother-in-law’s doing, of course. I’ve explained before how my wife is no more than a vessel for her mother’s will. My mother-in-law is the one who likes to live as if in abject poverty all so she can save a few more pennies and she is not content to exist in this miserable state by herself. She drags her daughter down with her and, what’s more, is attempting to use her daughter to force me to change my lifestyle as well. That she thinks she can force me to live her lifestyle while living in my country under my roof is the very definition of absurdity. I would sooner use a full roll of paper towels every time I need to wipe my mouth between bites than bend the knee to that delusional bitch.
You can imagine my exasperation. With my son emptying himself into the waste bin, I had precious little patience for my wife’s bullshit. I simply told her I’d be happy to drop her from my healthcare policy if she wants to fight over money. She more or less agreed to it. I’ll still have to cover her until the end of the year, but I am thinking I’ll be paying for my own paper towels and tissues come January and the money I’ll be saving will be nice, but what will be far nicer is the wakeup call my wife will receive when she has to shop for healthcare policies in my country and for her to realize how many thousands of dollars it’s going to cost her in 2024. Since our money is completely separated, it will not have any negative financial impact on me. I will simply have a bit more money on every paycheck and she will either have a lot less money or no healthcare at all.
There was a time I would have worried about her because I still had some last molecule of affection for her, but that’s in the past now too. It might not be the greatest look for me in divorce proceedings if it’s brought up that I dropped my wife from my healthcare policy, but how can I keep her on when she consistently shits on me and now harasses me over scraps of paper?
I never got around to it last time, but I will also be dropping her parents from my auto insurance policy like I should have done years ago. She won’t have me to turn to when she has to find them a new one and, with my mother-in-law’s reckless driving, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get a policy with my insurance when they’re not riding on my coattails. My wife needs to feel what it’s like when everything isn’t being spoonfed to her. It’s time she gets a taste of how tough it really is out there.

My wife has been telling me for years that I “work in IT but think like a farmer.” I’ve taken it as a compliment, despite knowing how insanely high-tech farming is in this country. What the masses see as a tech enthusiast is, from my perspective, anything but. I draw a line between someone who is enthusiastic about tech and someone who simply follows tech trends the same way one might follow fashion trends. My wife is a person who follows fashion trends (Vietnamese ones). When I comment on something she’s wearing, she often responds with: “That the style.” We had this very interaction a few days back and I told her the style sucks. Did you know people actually pay money for jeans with holes in them that, from my perspective, belong in the trash?
That’s the way I think. If there is one thing I have done well throughout my life, it’s thinking for myself. Tech trends can be even more puzzling than fashion trends because they can entail significant lifestyle changes. Music streaming is a tech trend. I won’t say it’s wrong for everyone. Music streaming may even be the correct approach to music consumption for a majority of people, but what I can say with confidence is that it’s not the correct approach for me. I was recently involved in a conversation wherein I brought up listening to music in the car and someone responded with a Spotify endorsement. I prefer to own my music and enjoy it losslessly, I explained. Yes, they said, but they don’t like lugging their record player into their vehicle.
It was such an unfathomably idiotic thing to say that it’s a wonder I bothered responding at all. With my DAP, I explained, I can have my entire 7K-song lossless library in the palm of my hand. He did not comment further. I suspect he didn’t know what a DAP is, but I also suspect he is one of countless people of the modern era who elect to live in self-ordained ignorance concerning any tech that might not be perceived as fashionable. We’ve had digital audio players since the 1990s. While nothing has ever beaten the iPod Classic’s user interface and while I personally wish modern DAPs would ditch Android and Bluetooth and go back to having physical buttons instead of these damn touchscreens (most of them are just phones that can’t make phone calls), they utterly destroy the DAPs of the past in nearly every category, especially when it comes to storage capacity and, yes, audio quality.
I don’t generally hear differences between audio electronics. My $110 DAC sounds as good to me as DACs I’ve heard with price tags ten times higher. When I finally switched from an iPod Classic to an inexpensive FiiO DAP, the FiiO X1, eons ago, it was night and day. While the iPod Classic’s user interface far surpassed the newer FiiO device, the iPod sounded like dogshit in comparison. When I upgraded to the X5 ( I am still running the FiiO X5-II to this day), I could actually hear yet another improvement in audio quality and all of these devices were only being connected to the stereo of the Honda Civic I was driving at the time.
As for storage, I may have been slightly exaggerating when I said I can have my entire 7K-song lossless library in the palm of my hand. As it turns out, my music library is 477 GB and 34.3% of it is actually high resolution—meaning higher than CD quality—with an average library bitrate of 2158 kbps. While a more current DAP would absolutely be able to support such a large library with room to spare, I believe I am actually capped at 256 GB. That hasn’t been a problem since I don’t actually want my entire music library in my car. While I had the luxury in the iPod days of specifying which tracks I do and do not want to appear when shuffling, I no longer enjoy that luxury, so I take much greater care in what I put on my SD cards.
In the very same conversation, another person tried to sell me on Bluetooth earbuds. Firstly, as I explained, I just don’t like putting shit in my ears. More importantly, I see Bluetooth as a means of introducing a sort of planned obsolescence to products. Bluetooth standards change all the time and Bluetooth devices contain batteries, which are a guaranteed point of failure and which are not user replaceable. One can dig a fifty-year-old pair of headphones out of the attic and there’s a good chance they’ll still work. Try digging a Bluetooth headphone out of the attic fifty years later and the chance it’s going to be usable is zero. I also don’t understand the appeal of Bluetooth in the first place. What the fuck is wrong with a wire? It’s really not any inconvenience to me to have a wire. I find dicking around with Bluetooth settings and connectivity a lot more frustrating than I ever found a wire; yet, the Bluetooth cabal has somehow convinced us all that wires are the devil. Relax, people. It’s just a fucking wire.
I find just about everything about The Big Bang Theory intellectually insulting, but one of its greatest offenses was the Sheldon quote “Everything is better with Bluetooth.” Uh, no.
A classic example of someone who is a tech enthusiast versus someone who is just following the trends is when Jim gets a new pair of headphones that he’s really excited about for the perceived audio quality and then Brice comes along and asks if it has Bluetooth or ANC as if those are the only characteristics that matter in a headphone. Jim is concerned with the quality of the audio while Brice is hung up on marketing bullet points, both of which—Bluetooth and ANC—may actually contribute to a reduction in audio quality while also adding unnecessary points of failure to the device. A tech enthusiast is someone who cares about tangible lifestyle improvements while someone simply chasing the tech trends is only concerned with whatever bullet points are being marketed to them most aggressively at that particular point in time, regardless of their dubious benefits or the countless reasons why those supposed benefits are grossly outweighed by the drawbacks that come along with them.
Being a tech enthusiast is about assessing the benefits and the drawbacks in an objective manner and determining for oneself whether the tradeoff is ultimately worthwhile. In most cases, the answer should be no. In biological evolution, most mutations prove either neutral or detrimental and natural selection does not select for those traits. It should be no different when one assesses a new technology. Marketing and the desire to remain fashionable always seem to cloud our judgment though, resulting in landfills of e-waste as we pursue the next tech trend.
I mentioned in the midst of the aforementioned conversation involving car audio and Bluetooth earbuds that I don’t pay for data on my phone, to which the individual who brought up Bluetooth earbuds asked in horror how I Google stuff while I’m out. “The same way we did in 1993,” I answered. “I don’t.” Between the fact that Wi-Fi is everywhere (and I do pay €5 a month for a VPN service), data is scandalously expensive in the United States, and the fact that I don’t need my Internet administered intravenously at all times, it’s a stomach-churning waste of money and the result is that my phone bill for the year is about what most people in this country pay for one or two months.
That’s what it’s really about: making informed decisions. I spent most of what little time I have tinkering with tech; yet, in the eyes of people like my wife, I might not be much of a tech enthusiast. Our perception is all distorted. We’re living in an age when people proudly proclaim themselves to be nerds because they like Bluetooth and pop culture but very well might not know how to use a Windows-based computer worth a damn or how to type out their own name on a keyboard without resorting to hunting and pecking. Hell, one can brand oneself a nerd nowadays without so much as owning a computer but, because one populates one’s home with intrusive and downright terrifying IoT devices, one somehow still constitutes as a tech enthusiast.