Illustration by Angelika Manhart
The sincerest form of flattery

Finally, A Doctor In The Family

By Alice Fok

It is a universal truth in the Wong household that one only becomes an adult when married. So when Miss May brought her fiancé of three years – Dr. Ricci – to Thanksgiving at Uncle Jackie’s house for the time, they both became subjects of intense fascination. “Well, what does he do?” her aunt Mrs. Ling enquired. “And how much does he make?” her other aunt, Lady Lam, chimed in. Dr. Ricci was wonderfully handsome, youthful, and polite. He proved a calming presence for both aunts, who at previous dinner parties had expressed grave concern over Miss May’s ill-advised decision to neglect all efforts to secure a suitable husband until she finished her graduate degree – whenever that would be.

The questioning of Miss May and her fiancé proceeded as Uncle Jackie’s housekeeper served each dinner guest their appropriately-portioned slice of carved turkey with cranberry sauce. Despite Dr. Ricci’s Italian last name, Miss May revealed –to the great relief of all– he was actually half-Chinese. And what great fortune that he was a surgeon! He must be a gentleman of no insignificant means. Ah, and to finally have a doctor in the family, who will certainly examine Mrs. Ling’s left ankle and determine at once whether the pain stems from “toxic heat” or “evil wind.”

Miss May’s wit, charm, and delicate beauty had captured the attention of Dr. Ricci at a Halloween party several years ago, where Miss May was dressed (literally) in sheep’s clothing. And yet, like an animal of prey, she artfully eschewed all conversation about Dr. Ricci at family dinners until she knew beyond a reasonable doubt that they not only were to marry but that he could survive her aunts’ multi-course interrogation.

While the interview continued at the adults’ dinner table, at the kids’ table sat six grown men and one woman – all cousins of Miss May, all unmarried, and all unpleasantly quiet. Mrs. Ling’s son Albert, who sat at that table, stood out in particular. He listened intently to Miss May’s conversation, hoping the room’s attention would never shift towards him. He and his now ex-fiancée Min, with whom he once claimed to be madly in love, were to marry last month and finalize the immigration paperwork that would bring her from China to New York. Both Mrs. Ling and Min’s mother had tirelessly chaperoned the entire engagement, in the hopes of marrying Min to an American (for the latter) and to a gracious Chinese beauty (for the former). Poor Albert did not know that his ex-fiancée had been seeing another gentleman in her hometown of Suzhou and had absolutely no desire to uproot herself. Mrs. Ling only wanted what was best for her Albert, and even she felt blindsided when the bride-to-be’s mother finally delivered the heartbreaking news. Oh, but never mind the details. One mustn’t ruin such a delightful evening with these most unfortunate events!

As the Thanksgiving dinner party wound down and guests began to pick up their jackets and jingle their car keys, Miss May, completely drained by the evening’s conversation, suddenly felt a light touch on her shoulder. It was Mrs. Ling. “What a delightful and supremely agreeable gentleman that Dr. Ricci is! Consider yourself very fortunate, my dear.” she chirped. “But tell me, does his sister have a husband?”


Alice Fok is an M.D./Ph.D. student studying neuroscience at the NYU School of Medicine. She has a cat named Marilyn Monroe, whose sass certainly rivals that of Mrs. Ling.