I was in my final year of university and semester break started. It had been a rather arduous stretch in which we had to complete the dreaded final year project before graduating. As such, my friends and I decided to take a road trip to tour the entire western coast of Malaysia.
It was a simple plan; make a few stops, enjoy the local food in the many small towns that dotted the coastline. We were also thinking of visiting each other’s hometowns along the way.
I was with my wife, who was my girlfriend back then. We knew that we were going to pass through her hometown, but we and by we, I mean, I gave it little thought. As we were on our way, my girlfriend turned to me and asked if we could stop there. All my friends agreed but I remained silent.
At this point in our relationship, I had yet to meet her parents; I thought I would have more time to prepare. This was not my first experience meeting ‘potential future in-laws’. Most of the time, it doesn’t go well. My last meet with an ex’s parents ended up with them trying to get me drunk.
However, it was clear this had to be done. So, I put on the biggest smile I could and said that I would love to.
My girlfriend’s hometown of Penang is known as the food haven of Malaysia. My friends were excited and I tried to be until we arrived. Her father came to pick us all up for a private tour around town. He had a very relaxed air about him and was extremely welcoming; he even smiled at me as he shook my hand.
I thought, perhaps this wasn’t so bad after all.
The thing about going around Penang is that you will tend to stuff yourself full of food. It wasn’t long before we had to take a little toilet break. As fate would have it, everyone needed to use the facilities except for me and her father. As we sat together in the car, the atmosphere immediately became tense.
It felt like years had gone by before he asked me if I was dating his daughter; I replied that I was. At this point, his disposition turned over. The smile faded, that warm welcoming energy was replaced by something quite a bit more intimidating.
His next question was one that caught me unaware. He asked: “Do you love her?”
I responded reflexively with a default, emotionless “yes”. My body was filled with a primal flight or fight mode. Both options were obviously not on the table; the car doors were locked and I couldn’t attack someone who may well be my future father in law. He nodded, but it was difficult to tell if he was convinced.
As he turned away, all my friends returned to the car. At this moment, my mind raced, I wondered, was he happy with me? Will he object to the relationship?
The male ego in me saw that as a challenge to a problem that I had to fix. Rather, I thought that I should try my best to “fix” his opinion of me. For the next few days, I tried proving myself to him, in subtle ways such as paying for dinner and helping with tasks. Turns out that he did not have a bad impression of me all along.
We had his blessing and we were married a year after that.
I love my father in law and now that I am a father, I would do anything for my little princess. When I look into her eyes, all I want to do is protect her from all the bad and problems in this world.
Maybe one day I would get to do the same with my future son in law; I would love to lock him in a car with me and interrogate him with the same question. Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic. That being said, that road trip was one of the pivotal moments in my life.
In other words, it was one road trip that I would never forget.
Photo Credit: Living Nomads