"How's your friend doing?" my mom asks in Cantonese.
Although my mom has not change her conversational voice, the lilt in her voice is unmistakable. She might as well physically punch the italics into the word as it comes streaming out of her mouth. That is the funny thing about parents: they don't say what they want to say but you pretty much get the gist of where they are coming from.
In my case, it was my white boyfriend who was finally introduced to my parents after over a year of dating. It's not that I wanted to hide him from public but when you are living on your own as your own person, away from your strict parents, and in a relatively unstable "I'm in my early 20s and I don't know what I am doing with my life" phase, it's pretty hard to introduce someone to your parents when you don't know how the relationship will develop.
Regardless, he was introduced and they know of his existence. The fact that they cannot pronounce his name with their limited English vocabulary presents some problems
"Is his name this in Cantonese?"
"No, that means crazy."
"Does it sound like this?"
"No, that means rotting and sounds nothing like his name.
(Agh I give up!)
The fact that he is not a "nice Chinese boy" compounds it. Even after meeting him, he is never referred to as my boyfriend by rather as my friend.
"Have you been seeing your friend lately?"
"Is your friend picking you up from the airport after your business trip?"
"How was meeting your friend's parents?"
One of my co-workers who happens to be gay, Chinese, and has a white boyfriend advises me that every single time my parents say friend, to ask them point-blank specifically which friend until they give up and say his butchered name.
Alas I am not brave enough to implement his advice. After all I am the one who still has to talk to them.