Sunday February 3, 2013
Grin and bear the ‘interrogation'
Sunday Starters by SOO EWE JIN
As Chinese New Year approaches, many young adults dread facing the invasive questions posed by older relatives. Instead of seeing it as overbearing, perhaps we can look at it differently.
I LEFT my hometown in Penang to work in the big city before I was even 20 years of age. Going home regularly meant taking the night bus that traversed the trunk road, stopping at various stops for roti canai and kopi-o.
But the one trip that was most special was to go home for the Chinese New Year’s eve reunion gathering.
Over the years, as my sisters got married off, the reunion over the traditional charcoal-fired steamboat became smaller and smaller.
And I always knew what was on everyone’s mind, even if they did not speak it out. When is he going to bring home a girl? Will the family name survive?
Ah, heavy is the burden of an only son in a family of eight daughters.
Of course, one fine day, on the second day of Chinese New Year, the girl who was to become my better half arrived at our family home in Jelutong.
I had already been introduced to her family for some time before that, but this was the first time she was meeting my family.
She was naturally welcomed like a queen, though the pressure must have been immense for her.
As we prepare to welcome the Year of the Snake, I also recall this episode in the light of the report by Xinhua about how young people in China dread facing the “interrogations” that parents spring on them on such occasions.
Xinhua quoted a recent post on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, which lists a string of questions that young people are likely to encounter when they go back to see their relatives, including invasive questions about their salaries and marital status.
A woman named Geng Lu, for example, wrote: “How much did you get for the year-end bonus? Do you have a boyfriend yet? When are you going to get married?”
In order to avoid being embarrassed in front of their relatives, some young Chinese have resorted to telling white lies regarding their salaries and marital status.
In the movie Meet The Parents, there’s a hilarious scene of Ben Stiller, playing the role of Gaylord “Greg” Focker, being strapped to a lie-detector machine by his future father-in-law, Jack Byrnes, played by Robert De Niro.
I suppose life does imitate art sometimes and many of us will probably remember situations when people ask more questions about us than they should.
For those outside the family, it is not even necessary to tell any white lie. We can just say: “No comment.”
But for our loved ones, I believe we need not take their “interrogation” as overbearing or insensitive.
We can see it in a positive light that they do care about our future because they too have been through that journey before.
They may have their doubts about a permanent relationship we are about to enter into, but as parents, they will surely want what is best for us. In this time and age, they know there are limits as to how far they can go to shape the decisions we make.
But, perhaps, for these brief moments, as you gather around the reunion table, make them happy and enjoy the conversations, even if they ask you, for the umpteenth time: “When are you going to get married?”
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin (email@example.com) wonders if there is any way he can buy a lie-detector machine to strap on friends who keep on saying “they are on the way” when they have not even got out of the house.
Chinese New Year angpows: Too little or too much?