A former Asian girlfriend desperately wanted to get out of her off-the-books, grossly-underpaying job for a Chinese construction company and start her own business. So I jumped in, unsolicited, and designed a chain of take-out stores featuring Char Siu Bao, delicious brioche-type buns baked with scrumptious roast pork inside. The perfect item for a commuter on the go, or a quick snack, the bun is the “holder”; you don’t even need a napkin. Cheap to make and yet found only in Chinatown, the chain idea I created — Bao Wow! — would bring char siu bao to the non-Chinese masses. With locations everywhere from Grand Central Station to Madison Square Garden, it would thrive anywhere a Dunkin Donuts did; indeed, the plan was that she’d have a small outpost near every Dunkin Donuts, hers selling something tasting a thousand times better while costing less.
I bought the kitchen equipment necessary to perfect recipes: a large bowl mixer, a scale to weigh ingredients carefully, ovenware to cook with. I experimented with flours of different gluten contents, yeasts rising at different rates and in different forms, and revolutionary fillings like braised short rib and egg and smoked salmon. Every time she came over, I provided her with new learning that opened new possibilities. There was just one little problem: she showed no interest and, weeks into the process, it was undeniable that she just didn’t care.
This is me, I realized. Always looking for women who I can make a massive effort to help. In this striving, I realized, I’m acting just as I did every day with my mother: trying to prove to them (as I tried, but never succeeded with her) that I’m worthwhile and not the selfish little unloving shit she told me I was from earliest memory.
With girlfriend after girlfriend, I identify something important and monumental that they may want — a business to start, a house they can’t afford, whatever — and set my mind to accomplishing it for them. In dating, I’m Claude Rains at the airport in Casablanca “rounding up the usual suspects,” namely women I can try proving myself to, my mother, I realize, being the necessity driving all these sometimes unwanted and, usually, unappreciated inventions.