I was talking to my dad over the weekend, and we discussed my impending enrollment in law school. He was pretty excited about the idea and expressed his enthusiasm by pontificating endlessly about Casey Anthony, comparing her to O.J. Simpson and Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and drawing general comparisons between American and Chinese law.
“So do you think you’d make a good lawyer?” he asked finally, practically panting in self-delusional satisfaction. In his mind, I was already a female Jose Baez, gracing headlines with my high-profile victories and shopping for yachts with my loads of victory money in my spare time.
“Sure,” I said, not wanting to puncture this rare balloon of hope for my future.
“Lawyers make good lives for themselves, you know. All the lawyers I know have big houses and yachts.”
“The other day I was talking to one of my coworkers. She’s a nurse, but her husband’s a lawyer, and they go on vacations in their yacht whenever they want. Gas alone costs $1500 per trip, but it’s nothing to them because he earns tons of money.”
“And there’s the social prestige. People respect lawyers.”
“Anyway, it’s a good profession. And I think you’d be a good lawyer.”
“Why do you think that?” I asked suspiciously.
“Because you’re no good at science,” he said simply and without humor.
For those of you who don’t personally know my dad, he is a physicist, which apparently makes him immune to logic. Basically, by saying that if someone is a bad scientist, s/he must be a good lawyer, my dad was also saying, by contrapositive reasoning, that bad lawyers are good scientists.
But I had to move silently past this one. When it comes to my dad, there is no use arguing to prove a point. Truth is to my dad as a bicycle is to a fish. Or deodorant to a homeless person. I guess there’s just something about being a stony, middle-aged medical physicist that nullifies all attempt at rational thinking. That and being a Chinese parent. In my experience, the Chinese, as a whole, do tend to be pretty impervious to logic.
Or perhaps it’s all my fault. Maybe this sort of lie is my dad’s only consolation after realizing that his carefully trained, oft-spanked only child has, at age 26, failed to become a neurosurgeon, a Nobel prize-winning geneticist, or even a blue-collar scientist like himself. Because after enough failures, you just have to start lying to yourself.