Bobbing for Kimchi

Matt Salesses and his new wife contemplate parenting something other than their cat.

Cathreen and I have our landlords over for Korean barbecue. She has just returned to Boston from six weeks away in Korea, alone, during which I learned how to live by myself again. Now I learn how to live together again—but better this time, she says. I am improving myself as a husband.

We’ve been married for one year; our first anniversary was eleven days ago. While in Korea, Cathreen spent most of her time with our two toddling nephews. The younger one talks a lot and runs around and jumps into people and throws things. The older one screams and walks with his arms out to balance himself and gives a taste of every meal to the dog.

At first, this time with our nephews made Cathreen decide we would never have children, but by the day she left, she was wavering, weak with missing them already. She tells me the family fortune teller thinks 2010 is an auspicious year for us to conceive. The fortune teller has said, as usual, that money will be no problem for her. He doesn’t know me.

When Cathreen calls me at work to go over the specifics of the barbecue, she starts off by saying that our cat choked on something I left out and threw up all over the house. At this point in our lives, our baby is our 3-year-old Persian. The vomit is wonderful timing, given that we’ve invited the landlords down tonight from their apartment above us. Sometimes I ask if they hear Boise meowing, demanding, but they lie politely that they do not. Cathreen says she has kept what made him throw up, to show me.

She says Boise doesn’t appreciate her saving his life. “He thinks I did to him,” she says. What she means is that this is my fault, not hers. She is on her way to the grocery store. I tell her to buy some corn on the cob, and potatoes.

At five, I rush home from work, the raindrops beginning just as I get off the bus. As soon as I am inside the house, it pours. Barbecue canceled, I think, but Cathreen believes the rain will stop. She has barbecue fever. Yesterday evening, a package arrived filled with galbi and kimchi and spicy pork ribs that Cathreen had delivered from a place in New York. I dropped it on the kitchen counter and she sliced it open and said to invite our landlords to dinner. Sometimes the thing that excites my wife most is food. I like this about her.

When I eat something I really like, I bob in my seat. (One of our nephews does this, too—Cathreen’s mother says we are the only two she has ever seen food-dance.) I think it has something to do with my starved past, left at an orphanage as a baby, almost dead when I arrived in America, hungry. I use this as an excuse to eat as much as my stomach can hold, and then more.

Sure enough, the rain clears, and I light the charcoal. The smoke gets everywhere and we eat until we feel fat. Our landlord’s cat watches us. Earlier, Cathreen brought our cat to meet theirs, and Boise, though five pounds heavier, was the clear loser. He turned and sprinted back inside to hide under the bureau. As we eat, the sky grows dark and I think about the Celtics game that will start soon, or has already.

Cathreen says she has lost her husband to sports. She complains that American sports go year round, which draws sympathy. Our landlords do not watch television. We just bought an HDTV. I drink the beer they bought and start to forget myself. It feels like a Friday, but it is Thursday. It feels like the end of something, not anything big or symbolic, just something, but there isn’t any ending. Why do I always feel so out of the moment, I ask myself. Cathreen is drunk.

When we step back inside, Boise comes out and meows at us, voicing his complaints, as if we don’t love him well enough. Cathreen scoops him into her arms and we huddle all together, for a short while, before I slip into the living room.

—Matt Salesses

[If you liked this column, you’ll love Ouch, Matt’s feature about the time he accidentally broke Cathreen’s hand. And the time he lit her hair on fire.]

About Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses contributed to the very first day of The Good Men Project. He writes the "Love, Recorded" column about his wife, baby, and cats. He has written for The New York Times, NPR, the Center for Asian American Media, Salon, The Rumpus, and others. He is the author, most recently, of Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American masculinity. See more at his eponymous website. Contact him via email or @salesses.


  1. Looked like a ball of tape. Thanks, Karissa!

  2. So what was it that made your cat vomit?

    Great essay.

  3. Love it. We should hang out. Tulia would be excited to see your “at!” as she calls them.

  4. Thanks, Sarah! The cat and I watched last night’s game together. He mostly slept, actually.

  5. Sarah Hurley says:

    Great story Matthew. I too have to compete with sports, especially now in Boston! Luckily, I have the cat to cuddle with during the playoffs!

    Thanks for sharing.


  1. […] writing as the Celtics play themselves into a 2-1 hole. Translation: I hate the Lakers. My wife is upset that the television takes up so much of my time. Or she’s upset that she can’t watch what she […]

  2. […] reads to me last week’s column about Boise choking, as if it didn’t happen to us, as if I were not the one who wrote it. She […]

  3. […] writing as the Celtics play themselves into a 2-1 hole. Translation: I hate the Lakers. My wife is upset that the television takes up so much of my time. Or she’s upset that she can’t watch what she […]

  4. […] you familiar with the Good Men Project? Matt Salesses is blogging there. Read about bobbing for […]

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