With the coming of Spring is a time for family, friends, food, fun and… some potentially awkward conversations.
If you’re tired of having to explain your lack of Tinder success to your relatives, or feigning interest in someone else’s long-drawn life story, don’t burn any bridges just yet.
The Pride has got your back with this guide to surviving Chinese New Year.
The single and the unavailable
You’re in your 20s or 30s and adulting well.
You make your own bed, pay the bills on time, and meet most of the requirements that would endear yourself to even the most distant of relatives.
The only chink in your armour? You don’t yet have a marriage certificate to your name.
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If you’re happily single, you’ll be asked why you’re not yet attached. If you’re happily attached, you’ll be asked why you’re not yet married.
All this is made worse by the fact that the Jack Neo reruns on Channel 8 are boring everyone, causing them to fish for conversation topics.
As many of these concerned family members are usually elder relatives whose questions ultimately come from a place of goodwill, keeping a respectful tone is key.
Without injuring anyone’s feelings, we say it’s best to bite the bullet.
Pre-emptively announce that marriage is not on the cards yet but offer your audience a glimmer of hope with something vaguely committal, like “soon lah, soon.”
Then loudly declare that you are famished and make a beeline for the dining table, where you’ll be in the safe company of others too busy stuffing their faces to recall that you are foreveralone.gif.
Your waistline may suffer, but we say the mental duress avoided is well worth the trouble.
The married, with or without kids
Still on the theme of family, anyone who is married but not popping out babies by the dozen will be asked — “So, when are you having (more) kids?”
We’ve talked about why this question is both intrusive and insensitive on The Pride, but the fight for consideration is futile during CNY, a time when nosiness reigns supreme and good sense is selectively applied.
Case in point: My own cousin, who had just given birth last year, and was still on maternity leave then, was asked whether she would try for another baby within the year so that the full Chinese Zodiac can be represented across the extended family.
Suffice to say, ancient astrology was not exactly high on her list of priorities then.
Tug at their heartstrings by lamenting that you’re still in the process of saving up to start a family, because “nowadays, university education not cheap”.
A well-placed gripe about the costs of living could also serve to shift the conversation towards more accessible and crowd-pleasing topics.
Such as how your employer is a blood-sucking scrooge who has not raised your pay in five years, or the fact that the unreliable transport system is making it hard for you to save money.
You’ll get them on your side so quickly, they’ll forget to ask follow-up questions on your family planning methods.
The one who has prospered visibly
We all know it’s not polite to point out someone’s weight gain, and it’s even less so to say it to their faces.
In a further show of how political correctness goes out the window during CNY, it’s not uncommon to hear, “Wow, you’ve put on weight ah?” uttered in the cheery tone of someone commenting about the weather.
While they may not mean to wound your feelings, there is cause to be irritated if these are the very same folks who proceed to chide you for not helping yourself to another serving of kueh bahulu.
Talk about mixed signals.
If you have the patience of a saint, you could laugh it off as a joke while gently chiding the offender for leaving their manners at home.
But if you’re someone who doesn’t believe you owe an explanation to anyone, try confusion. For example, you could insist that you’re the same weight as before, and blithely suggest that it’s time to schedule their next appointment with the optician.
Or just say that you’re conducting a social experiment on our society’s eagerness to fat-shame others, and they’ve just become part of the case study.
The designated baby whisperer
Most likely to be a teenager or young adult without kids of your own, you are the unwitting chaperone who gets arrowed to entertain the younger children so the “grown-ups” can chit-chat and mingle.
But when you’re onto your third hour of role-playing Mary Poppins and close to losing your mind from replaying Peppa Pig cartoons on loop, even the most seasoned of baby-sitters will discover that an afternoon of chasing after toddlers is hardly your idea of festive fun.
Parenting is tough. And most parents appreciate having someone help to keep their children out of trouble so they can have a conversation or meal in peace.
But if you feel like you’ve done your fair share, don’t be shy to “return” the kids to their parents.
Alternatively, keep an eye out for relatives who look potentially child-friendly. The ones most prone to interrogating your peers on their lack of reproductive success are usually a good bet.
Proclaim with an angelic smile: “Nah, you like children right?”
The bored audience member
We all have that one relative who has humble bragging down to a science.
Whether it’s his children’s straight-A results or the Maserati he recently purchased for just half a million dollars, some people have a knack for making the conversation all about themselves.
And while we’re happy to celebrate our loved ones’ success, one gets a sense that there are more meaningful conversation topics to be explored over the festive season.
The beauty of CNY lies in how there’s usually so much going on at the same time, that one has no shortage of potential diversionary tactics.
While it would take a skilled conversationalist to steer the discussion towards less one-sided territory, drawing the compulsive show-off into a gripping game of ban luck could also help to limit his airtime.
Or, you could bring out the big guns, and by that, we mean the gloriously-laid snack table of course.
Say it with me now: “My bak kwa is better than yours.”