Being Hmong, we have this boundary of not displaying our affections towards our family members. We don’t know why, we just know that our grandparents never showed affection to our parents and our great grandparents never did to our grandparents. And so, I volunteered to do this very interesting experiment. This experiment meant I had to say one simple phrase, ‘I love you’ to members of my family. Although this experiment may seem very easy, it actually wasn’t.
The experiment was for me to say I love you to each members of my family every day. Coincidentally, on the day I volunteered to conduct this experiment, it fell right on the weekend of my dad’s birthday. This made it easier for me to say the phrase.
The first I love you of my experiment was to my siblings. All my siblings are older than me, so it seemed kind of weird just saying it to them out of nowhere. I have to admit, when I was going to say it for the first time, I hesitated and I guess I kind of started to hyperventilate a little too. I did it anyways because their response was what I was really curious about. I wondered, would they say it back to me or would they just stare and laugh?
My predictions were slightly different from the results. My oldest brother stared and then laughed a little. My second oldest sister was the first to respond. Once I told her, she replied, “It’s opposite day.” I then said it to my third oldest sister. Her response was worst. She replied, “Okay? What did I do wrong?” Finally, I said it to my fourth oldest sister. I wasn’t surprise by her response. She answered with a sarcastic question, “I love you too?” I was quite surprised by all of my siblings. I really didn’t expect them to say anything, but I did get some feedback.
When I said I love you to my mom, the atmosphere around her was different because I feel more comfortable with her. Every night before I went to bed, I’d said, “Goodnight, I love you”. She always responded, “Goodnight, I love you too.” I think she was more surprised than I was considering once when she had told me she loved me on the phone, I didn’t know what to say and hung up. Now I tell her I love her every night. I feel like our relationship has improved since we both have mutually begun showing more affection to each other.
When it comes to my dad, our relationship isn’t like a father/daughter relationship. Sometimes we talk to each other like friends and sometimes we don’t talk to one another at all. So when I say I love you to him, it’s such a different feeling compared to my mom and my siblings. When I first approached him and said “Goodnight, I love you,” he just stared and then headed to sleep. He continued to do the same every night when I said I love you.
I think generally, older Hmong men are afraid to show affection towards others because they think they’ll lose their “manliness” but I think they’ll become happier if they do. Their family will know that they do really care and they’ll have a better relationship with their family too.
Although, I never got a mutual response from my siblings or my dad, I am still very satisfied of my experiment. As long as I am more comfortable saying this phrase to them, I feel like I have achieved a lot. For myself, I don’t feel like there is a barrier and I don’t feel uncomfortable telling my family I love them anymore. Even if they’re not listening to me, I know they can still hear me. And when I close the door behind me, I hope they put a little smile on their faces and know that I really mean it.