051 Let’s Not Allow A Joyous Occasion Turn Dreadful

Chinese New Year (CNY) is meant to be a joyous occasion for gathering of relatives and friends. But that is not always the case for everyone.

  • The Dreadful Questions

Some people dread the thought of meeting inquisitive relatives at CNY gatherings. Here are five annoying questions commonly asked:

  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you going to have a/another baby?
  • What job (title) are you holding now?
  • What are your children’s results in PSLE/O/A levels?
  • Which schools do your children go to?

These questions pry into people’s privacy. They cause discomfort to people who are not ready to share, and annoy those who have grown tired of being asked the same old thing all the time.

  • Skipping Town Is Not The Answer

I have friends who skip town to avoid CNY celebrations altogether. It seems like a prudent thing to do, but it may not be a happy outcome for those who are left behind.

On the eve of CNY, an elderly neighbour lamented to me, “The few of us (pointing to two other elderly women and a helper) just had a simple dinner at the coffeeshop. No preparation for CNY because the young people have all gone overseas for vacation.”

I felt a tinge of sadness. Staying away is not the answer.

  • Have You Lost Sight of Others?

Some people attribute such declining motivation to celebrate festive occasions to an erosion of traditional values in a fast-paced modern society. Perhaps so, but I see a much simpler reason: people may be losing sight of others around them.

I had also been asked questions when I was least ready to reply honestly. For example, I didn’t know how to answer a simple question about my job at a time when my career went into a tailspin. And when my elder son was first diagnosed with autism, I could not answer people’s questions about my son’s condition in a befuddled state of mind. But I never blamed people for asking me questions that put me in a spot. Those questions made me realise that I had become too caught up with myself, and lost sight of others.

  • Have Genuine Interest In Others

Quickly, I learnt to deflect inconvenient questions with a sense of humour. Just the other day, I was asked, “You like children so much. Why not go for another one?”

I replied, “We have only two COE (certificate of entitlement: a license for car ownership in Singapore) for childbirth. My wife challenged me to find someone else if I want another one. “

Jokes aside, I think having genuine interest in others is the key to keeping the CNY spirit alive. My 70-year-old aunt was talking about herself becoming more forgetful. Immediately, I seized the opportunity to share with her the colouring books my mom was working on to alleviate the problem. They started colouring together, much to the delight and amusement of the other family members who looked on. It was a happy moment: everyone was in smiles and laughter.

We had another round of laughter later that day with a teenager. Usually, teenagers are the people least interested in CNY gatherings. It is not uncommon to see them looking down at their mobile phone all the time. But that day, the conversation turned out great for a 16 year-old boy. How did I do it?

Simple. I raised a topic of great interest to young boys- “Do you want to know how to raise your chances of getting a girlfriend?”

The boy replied shyly, “I cannot imagine any girl will like a guy like me.”

I was startled by his response, and looked straight into his eyes,

“Look at your Uncle William. I am neither tall nor good-looking.”

Then turning to my wife, I said, “But you see, I have a pretty wife.” I laughed.

He looked convinced and laughed heartily.

Embarrassed, my wife said, “Alas! I had postage stamps pasted over my eyes!”

“Young man, you are tall, good-looking and you attend the No. 1 institution in this country. Have confidence in yourself!”

I added, “Anyway, I can assure you that there are many more girls with postage stamps pasted over their eyes 👀 at your age.”

More laughs.

William WK Tan

8 Feb 2019, Friday

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