It’s the second day of the Chinese New Year and celebrations are still in full swing as we get accustomed to 2016 the Year of the Monkey, and leave behind the ups and downs of 2015, the year of the Sheep.
As each of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals occurs once every 12 years (makes sense) once people know which animal you were born under it’s not difficult for them to make an accurate assessment of your age.
So, I’ve stopped proudly proclaiming my Chinese animal, being of the age in which smart women look away coyly when asked about such delicate things. However, I will say (as a small concession because it is a time of goodwill after-all), my Chinese animal sign has erm, four legs.
Okay? Good, now don’t ask me for any more clues. I’ve said too much already.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Marry
The great migration of approximately a zillion people across the country from hearth to home to be with loved ones during the long holiday has finally settled down and the feasting, presenting of red envelopes full of lucky money, watching of galas on TV and visiting and being visited is well underway.
Of course this being China, where there is a Ying, there is a Yang. Which means that amidst all of this positivity and goodwill is the counter-balance of pressure to update your extended older relatives on your hopefully impending plans for marriage to the right person who ticks all the right boxes, even if those boxes belong to your parents and not to you.
Ready, aim, fire, duck
I’m told that the questions, prompting and general assumptions are relentless. They’re fired like bullets towards the young person pretty soon after the welcome greetings are over.
Once the first serve has been lobbied the single son or daughter faces an almost relentless volley of questions, suggestions and encouragement, all designed to somehow enable him or her to almost immediately produce Mr or Mrs Right and rapidly say “I Do’ before proceeding to the hospital for the birth of their child.
Where is your boyfriend/girlfriend?
Why haven’t you found someone yet?
When are you planning to get married?
You’re not getting any younger, what are you waiting for?
Have you seen your cousins? How come they are settling down and you are still single?
Your cousin and her husband just had a baby and they are older/younger/poorer/less educated than you!
You can’t just work and stay at home, you must meet someone and get married, don’t wait another year!
Is there something wrong with you?
This is a good time/the best time/the only time for a woman/man your age to have a baby/wife/marriage.
These are real life examples as relayed by my Chinese friends which are likely to be repeated, verbatim and ad-nauseum during everyday of the eight day holiday. Oh joy.
It’s this type of stress that leads to young people placing and responding to adverts offering a ‘fake significant other’ to accompany them home for the holidays; fees, roles and responsibilities negotiable.
Some months later the faux relationship conveniently breaks down, leaving the parents disappointed at their child’s single status (yet again) and letting the child off the hook for a while longer without having to go as far as actually planning a fake wedding!
The strong desire to see children settled into married life compels parents to place adverts in Chinese newspapers overseas begging their errant children to come home for the festivities, sweetening the deal by promising to greatly reduce all talk about what is sure to be the elephant in the room.
This urge also sees parents vising local parks to post their offspring’s details on a wall amidst hundreds of others. It’s an unusual and unique form of matchmaking where parents can compare potential singles whilst advertising their own in the hopes of speeding things along. Whether or not the young people know their parents are more or less pimping them out is another matter.
Young women reach their assumed sell-by date anywhere between twenty-five and twenty-eight, and after which the nagging to ‘settle down’ may prompt them to move to another city where, God forbid, they enter their thirties as a so called left-over woman’; alone, unwanted, unmarried and childless, forever unable or unwilling to gift a much loved grandchild to her self-sacrificing parents.
But, as one of my Chinese friends recently remarked; after a lifetime of being chaste (or as chaste as possible) avoiding men just in case they weren’t serious, how can they suddenly produce a husband on demand?
Chinese New Year Dragons in Red and Yellow
Is this expectation of instant wedlock a result of tradition or is it simply a parent’s natural desire to see their child settled? Maybe, it’s just another way to avoid losing face in one’s community?
Naturally I don’t know the answers, but I’m sure that many of my unmarried and childless friends will be exercising their powers of diplomacy on more than one occasion during this festive time.
I’m guessing that this could be the reason for such long sleeps after each sumptuous meal eaten and enjoyed during the holiday.
After all no-one, especially family members, can nag you if you’re unconscious right?