Tactics to avoid nosy relatives during CNY


Chinese New Year is now just over a week away and all us single ladies (single = unmarried) are due for our annual interrogation from nosy aunts and prying grandaunts as to why young lady are you still unwed? A bunch of us were having Coffee at Black last week, and the topic led to much moaning, exchanging of worst ever encounters, and the potential plan to avoid everything this year by foregoing the angpows and heading off to Bintan for the long weekend...

Never one to be defeated, I thought it was a good opportunity to swap tactics.

The question of “when is it your turn” is a loaded one, and let's be honest here, no one is ever truly prepared for it. Is there a right answer? If I practice enough times (kind of like doing a ten year series - though I genuinely hope I won't have to go through this ritual for a full ten years before I can finally flash them something shiny), will I finally find an answer that will "pass" and is appropriate in your eyes? I mean really, what do you want me to say? I’m running out of excuses and isn’t it okay to just be, you know, single in my twenties? (The answer to that is irrevocably a "no")

You see, in Singapore (for those of you who aren't from around here), we all (by “we” I mean females above the age of 24 and below the age of 40, an age beyond which no one would dare ask the question) have to face the music (or the gentle nagging whine and “tsk tsk” on the end) at least once a year during the Chinese New Year. The festivities last a full 15 days, so you can be sure there will be more than one occasion where you'll be trapped in a house filled with relatives, who are all filled with concern over your future prospects. 

I love CNY. I love the festivities and the feeling of family. I love big gatherings. I love the food. I love seeing all the new little additions to the family! And yes, I love the angpow collection (that will be continuing for some time so don’t hold back on me now Aunties!) What I do not love are those well-meaning but meddlesome queries into my love life, or in the case of some of my friends, lack thereof. Truly, is my single self not enough for the lot of you? Do I have to come in twos?

D quipped that one of her aunts, who is 37 (we think), has been telling everyone she will be “getting married next year” for the last ten years or so. She is clearly using the ten year series tactic. While that may work in her clan (they must not have very good memories), it sure as certain won’t work in mine.

So I wrote to a group of good girl friends asking for their assistance, and here my dear readers, is a selection of the very best responses I received. Some real (others a really bad idea) tactics to deal with nosy relatives this CNY season

    • Lie. Buy a fake ring + borrow a fake boyfriend (or get your actual boyfriend to play along). You can deal with the consequences tomorrow, or better yet, next Chinese New Year (if you’re in the habit of only seeing these peeps on an annual basis and no more)

      • Shock and Awe. Leap straight into taboo territory and say you decided to skip the big wedding banquet and eloped instead, adding 'Oh you didn't know? I'm 3 months pregnant!" to explain the CNY food baby. You definitely won’t be getting any more questions about marriage after that because you can be damn sure that piece of news will spread like wildfire. Might be an idea to pre-empt your own parents though. They will probably be pissed.

      • Eye for an eye. This gem I found online – though it does require some prep: the next time someone asks if you’re next (to get married), be sure to sit beside them at a family funeral and ask the same in return. Be prepared for a very angry phone call from your mother.

      • Deflect. If you’re from a super traditional family that doesn’t believe in interracial marriages (yes, people like that still exist. Shocking, I know), bring home someone from another race :) They will definitely avoid the topic of marriage because they sure wouldn’t want you marrying outside of their type! Which is a pity because mixed-race babies are.just.so.cute.

      • Defect. To the other side. When someone asks go on and say, “well, I’ve been thinking about coming out and I really don’t know how I should do it, I don’t want to upset <insert older relative’s name> but I’m so glad you’re open about these things…” Socially awkward situation ensues! But also super fun for you, until you receive that angry phone call from your mother of course.

      • Be practical. Simply tell them you won't be holding a banquet till you collect enough angpows to cover the cost. Smile and hold out your hand unabashedly. They might feel compelled to give you more.
      • Be statistically correct. Quote divorce statistics which you will find here and here. In 2011, there were approximately 27 thousand marriages registered, and 7.6 thousand divorces... you do the math but it does not look pretty. Even the most persistent of Aunties cannot argue with fact. Okay, some can, and since reason is out the window, your next best option is to simply smile and nod.

      • Turn the other cheek. Sometimes, the best plan of attack, is to let them have at you. Try not to get indignant when your relative asks you why you still haven’t gotten married. Instead, embrace it, and take the head on approach: “You’re right, Grandaunt Mildred! I’ve had a rough year, I am in a crappy job that leaves me with absolutely no time to socialize. I’ve also been stress-eating, which means I’ve put on some weight. Wanna talk about it?!” No. They don’t want to talk about it. They just want you to know that they think you ought to be married with three kids by now, as they were. Embrace it, and let it go.

      • Appeal to their sense of reason, because I’m sure it’s in there somewhere (this gem is courtesy of L): my best and most effective and truest response – “aunty xxx, in life, if there is one thing you’d ask <insert their kid’s name here> to be fussy/picky about, what would it be?” works every time… has them shuffling away in contrition, or telling me I’m smart, which I like. 

      The last option is obviously the most feasible, though if any of you do venture to try the first 8, please do let me know how it goes! I can't fathom why older female relatives feel compelled to ask these questions. Is it because you do not know what else to talk to me about? Is it because you feel duty bound to ensure your young eligible niece/grandniece makes the right match? Or is it just something you feel you need to do, because it was done to you?

      Whatever the reason, I appreciate your concern! And as soon as I have the answer, you will be the first to know. But for now couldn’t we just enjoy these delicious pineapple tarts in peace?

      What? You thought I wrote this article for fun? Totally had an agenda behind it, because I know that right now, right this very minute, one of my dearly beloved aunties is likely reading this. Please don't hate me :)