Friday, March 30, 2007

Of Ang Pows and Pregnant Silences…

(Also appears on Notes From Venus)

Just before Chinese New Year rolled around, I had a conversation with Ai-Ling, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen for years. The conversation revolved around going home to family for celebrations.

Both single, our conversation eventually arrived at “Do you still get asked THE question?”. For the uninitiated (and those too-long married to remember), THE question is the one that accompanies an ang pow packet and is the mandatory annual inquisition of change in our marital status… or in both our cases, the lack thereof.

That was before CNY. My response to her then was “No, I don’t think I get asked as much anymore.” We had a good laugh and supposed that people just get tired of asking OR they eventually got the hint that it’s time to stop.

But that set me to thinking more about it. Which of my prying aunts still asked the question? Which cousins had stopped? When did they stop asking? And why did they stop?
I guess all that mulling made me only more aware of my observations when CNY finally came round. I noticed that there were even less questions this year. I would be given an ang pow and the question just wouldn’t be asked.

But I also noticed something else. In the place of an audible question was a silent one that begged the same. And perhaps being more aware had made me realise that the silence was all the more expectant. Pregnant. Heavily pregnant. Like it had been carried over every Chinese New Year since I was a fertile 15-year old and was almost ready to burst spectacularly.

It didn’t burst in any way, of course, which makes it even more maddening. Mind you, I’ve noticed that the pregnant silences weren’t always polite and amiable. It was like an impatience growing through the years and the silence feels ominously like a stern “Don’t make me ask you again…” moment.

I should humanely save more family members the agony of having to ask THE question again next year. By my own choice, there will still be no ring on my fingers aside from ones that I will choose to wear myself. Ironically, a wedding ring would serve only to start everyone on a litany of OTHER new questions.

Next year, perhaps, I should just go away for a break at CNY and take along with me the two people in the family who matter most. Both Mum and Sis have never once felt a need to ask me THAT question and hence, never had to suffer the agony of waiting for any answers. So, why should anyone else?