It’s that time of the year again, only this time this year, you’re alone to face your inquisitive relatives’ questions, and it frustrates you to no end. Being born into a traditional Chinese family has it’s pros and cons. Here’s why.
1. Chinese families do not like to talk about things that are inauspicious, and do not take hints well (at all)
A typical conversation with a senior relative went something like that:
“Girl, how’s your studies?”
“Where is your friend?”
“Friend? What friend?”
“Fine, your boyfriend. Where is he?”
“He isn’t here anymore.”
“Oh then where is he?”
“He isn’t coming anymore.”
“Choy!* don’t say things like that! So when is he coming back?”
“We broke up.”
“Oh. Ok good also. Good lesson.”
So there you go. Despite many countless attempts of trying to get your own relatives to read through the lines, they never get it until it is presented point blank to them. This can lead to absolute awkward silences till one feels uncomfortable enough to either pretend that they’re full and leave the dinner table, or change the topic.
*Choy- A word to ward off bad luck or inauspicious sayings
2. Relatives remember everything
That’s right. They remember right smack down to the school your ex-boyfriend used to go to, the things he wanted to pursue. Even right down to the colour of his spectacles and the countries he’s travelled to. Because they remember everything, they do not think twice to ask you anything about him, even if they are aware of the break up. As long as the story links to the ex-boyfriend, they’d talk about it. From then on, every question that comes out from their mouths would be asking about the current status of both your lives- even if he isn’t in yours anymore.
So that’s great. I’m not trying to be melodramatic-but I was just trying to forget. Did you have to bring it up again?
3. They love to try and pinpoint the reason for the breakup, even if you have already concluded it yourself*
“Did you sleepover at his house before? I told you already that you can’t or you will look cheap to his parents!”
“Going overseas? I’m sorry to say this but I think he just wants the freedom to find some other girl!”
“Maybe it’s because you spent too much time together that he felt strangled.”
“So young, it is obvious that you will break up.”
I get it. You’re trying to find the problem to fix the situation. I think it took me faster than you guys to realize that I didn’t exactly need a solution, because there is no resolution to fix something that has already been lost. As much as you’re trying to help, it’s painful to try and list the flaws in the relationship with such speculation, it feels unjust. Just stop.
*All Chinese family conversations are done at a usually full dinner table of approximately 6-8 people in my family.
4. Everything concerning a happily ever after ends in a marriage
Like how Disney movies gave us the notion of happily ever after, my relatives believe in everything turning for the better, if not even greater only after you find a spouse. There’s financial and emotional stability so why not? They push you to go out with someone suitable, usually a colleague’s son or a cousin’s classmate. Even worse still, they offer new dates at the dinner table even if they know you’re completely hung over your ex still. Out of sight out of mind? I guess not. It sounds like a creepy modernized arranged marriage. You can’t run, but can you hide.
My mother determined I should go for those blind dates because she didn’t want me to be ‘left on the shelf’.
I told her people who get married because they didn’t want to be ‘left of the shelf’ were weak.
She frowned and we didn’t talk the whole day that day.
5. Chinese Values
“No pre-marital sex! Whatever it is, don’t open your legs! The most you should go- if you really, really can’t take it, should be kissing and stop right there.”
Do you really want to argue at the dinner table while trying to use your chopsticks in front of all your relatives who are almost forty years older than you that you think otherwise from their tradition? A tradition that has been passed down over generations?
You’re all up for a free world, not them. Talking back to older relatives could lead to self-shame and disrespect to parents for not bringing you up ‘right’ at the table. But why does it feel that your self-worth seems determinant on how far that you went on your relationship physically?
Maybe I should ask my mother the next time I choose to kiss a man.
At the end of the day, you’re exhausted. You’re drained of any form of charisma you have left for future family gatherings.
I don’t know about you but after a three hour dinner, I spent the next two hours lying in bed swearing to myself that I will never, ever let any future boyfriend meet my relatives again. Not until I get engaged.
That’d save me all the unnecessary trouble.