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adventures of a half-chinese yalie in hollywood

What Do You Buy A Man For His Non-Milestone Birthday?

What Do You Buy A Man For His Non-Milestone Birthday?

“Because love is taking that dive then getting really comfortable and peeing in the pool /
And love is a real-life porn minus all the stuff that makes porn cool.”
-Bo Burnham, “Love Is”

I’m about to talk shit.

*Cue up Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”*
*Katy Perry fires off a cryptic but scathing subtweet.*

No, not that kind of shit-talking! It’s time to talk excrement. Literally. Actual scatological.

Oh, don’t get precious. My last name is Pu and “Violet” is one letter away from “toilet.” Disgusting discussion of dàbiàn is de rigueur.

(Ridiculous sentence mixing random languages! “Dàbiàn” – or 大便 – means poop in Mandarin. In my family, we’d always use that word in public so that our habit of talking loudly and frankly about bowel movements would be less jarring to the genteel Georgians.)

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As I detailed last year, 2013 held a milestone birthday for Deepak. Since we are a full Chinese zodiac apart, 2014 contained a milestone year -1 for me and a milestone year +1 for him. (Yes, we share the same zodiac signs — both zodiacs!)

Scenes from my bday baking spree! Can you guess what I made (besides "a mess")?
Scenes from my bday baking spree! Can you guess what I made (besides “a mess”)?
+ a young coconut, struck down in the prime of its life
+ a young coconut, struck down in the prime of its life
enter one hammer and many whacks
enter one hammer and many whacks

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Success!
Success!
... a bit later, you get 1 batch of espresso chocolate, 1 batch of coconut and 1 batch of pistachio gelato base
… a bit later, you get 1 batch of espresso chocolate, 1 batch of coconut and 1 batch of pistachio gelato base
1 of the 3 whips, which were eventually stacked in a tricolore pattern that somewhat failed
1 of the 3 whips, which were eventually stacked in a tricolore pattern that somewhat failed

Birthdays were studiously under-celebrated by my family when I was growing up. It must have been a character building choice. Every time a Princess Day™ rolled around, there’d be nary a celebratory comment made, and oddly wrapped gifts were presented almost as an afterthought (a favorite method was swaddling the item in used grocery bags). My friends were always shocked that my two sisters and I were never once taken to a restaurant to celebrate our birthday. (We did always eat noodles on the day per the Chinese superstition that it gives you long life.)

Dinner was Thai-influenced. Gosh, those Southeast Asians don't scrimp on ingredients, do they? I had to drive all across creation to get the right mix of kaffir lime leaves, star anise and lemongrass!
Dinner was Thai-influenced. Gosh, those Southeast Asians don’t scrimp on ingredients, do they? I had to drive all across creation to get the right mix of kaffir lime leaves, star anise and lemongrass!

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I was OK with it. This is cossetted America, so privation sounds kind of extreme when you verbalize it — especially in this Land of Social Media-Enabled Conspicuous Consumption. But I didn’t have anything to compare my situation to at the time, and I’m pretty darn full of self-confidence now anyway. Goodness knows what dizzying heights my ego would’ve reached had we received nicely wrapped presents and heartfelt well-wishes!

All that said, my parents have a huge appreciation for pageantry and surprises. Do you know someone like this? For whom plotting, planning and executing surprises is an elaborate sport? My dad comes from a long line of startlers. My aunt once told me, succinctly and chillingly: “For Chinese people, information is a commodity.” Take a bunch of info withholders, add a dash of mad scientist, and you have yourself a childhood filled with a bunch of George Bluth-worthy “and that’s why you always leave a note!” jump scares.

"And that's why you always leave a note" in the Bluth household / scenes from another Pu family "surprise"
“And that’s why you always leave a note” in the Bluth household / scenes from another Pu family “surprise”

Surprises included: bait-and-switch vacations, in which we ended up in places like Hawaii or Yosemite after thinking we were merely driving to our grandparents’ house 1 hour away; or an elaborate recurring ruse in which my dad bought us a box of sweets after visiting the dentist but then didn’t tell, only to then strategically place napkins from Dunkin Donuts around the house and track how fast someone would say something.

My favorite was the way my mom would explain the already odd turn of events to casual acquaintances. She liked to compare our family trips to famous military quests. Not sure how well those worked as common cultural touchstones, though. E.g.:

Mom: “The trip to Yellowstone was plotted more meticulously than Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. … And it was just as successful!
Casual acquaintance: “I don’t understand — are you saying it went well?”
Mom: “Not really. It was catastrophic, just like in The Battle of 1812!”
Casual acquaintance: “When was that?”

With all this birthday baggage on my mind, I opted to go big and a little weird for Deepak’s birthday this year. I got him a designer toilet. Note: If you click on the link you will surely balk at the crazy price. “All that money down the TOILET?!” you will scream. Well, no. I paid a fraction of that. They aren’t cheap, but you definitely shouldn’t pay that retail price. Also, there are a variety of imitators and even innovators in that space — I just knew that Deepak had been eyeing the product for a good long while and was more likely to appreciate the legacy brand.

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I thought about the intersection of what he wanted and what he would use, subtracted any imagined stigma and voilà! (Previously, imagined stigma had prevented me from giving him an automated vacuum cleaner, which we could surely use, or water filters.)

Do you want to see how the sausage is made? Probably not, but here's a play-by-play of installing your own special Japanese washlet!
Do you want to see how the sausage is made? Probably not, but here’s a play-by-play of installing your own special Japanese washlet!
Note: You'll need to hydrate through this mostly thankless and somewhat gross process.
Note: You’ll need to hydrate through this mostly thankless and somewhat gross process.
I've become a dab hand at this! I bought Deepak this bidet in our first year together after he became obsessed after a trip to Korea. They were carrying the brand, Intelliseat, at Costco for a blowout price. They are now gone!
I’ve become a dab hand at this! I bought Deepak this bidet in our first year together after he became obsessed after a trip to Korea. They were carrying the brand, Intelliseat, at Costco for a blowout price. They are now gone!
You can take your mind off the fact that poop particulates (poopticulates, excuse me -- Puticulates®) by strategically positioning your ring in the hardware removal shots for a nice ~pop of sparkle~. Really complements the limescale of the bowl, no?
You can take your mind off the fact that poop particulates (poopticulates, excuse me — Puticulates®) by strategically positioning your ring in the hardware removal shots for a nice ~pop of sparkle~. Really complements the limescale of the bowl, no?
Cart off the excess (non-electronic toilet seats are for suckers!)
Cart off the excess (non-electronic toilet seats are for suckers!)
... and a Happy Bidet to you!
… and a Happy Bidet to you!


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