This one was written months and months ago. Whatevs. - JH
I’ve always had a soft spot for Chinese New Year. There’s something reassuringly comforting about a celebration that revolves around constant feasting, kitsch festive music, and a tradition that demands a brand new set of everything from toothbrushes to pajamas.
Reading up one’s horoscope for the coming year is also a treat. One year, I was advised to avoid Tigers because they would be a source of irritation all year.
“Why have you not called me in two weeks?” my mother said to me long distance all the way from Sri Lanka where she and Father were spending Easter by the beach. In the background, I could hear my father order a gin and tonic. “I’m your mother. My children are supposed to call me and not the other way round!”
“It’s bad luck!” I said
“What? Says who?”
“You’re a Tiger and our horoscopes clash this year!” I told her.
Mother paused. I could sense her confusion battling with her maternal need to remain all-knowing and not have to ask. Eventually, she settled for a tried and tested formula. “Why are you being so annoying?”
Apparently, she immediately called my sister and asked what Michelle’s horoscope said.
Michelle then immediately rang me. “Oh my God, what is wrong with that woman? She kept babbling on about Tigers and their children, and the whole time in the background, I could hear Paps explaining to someone how much gin he wanted his gin and tonic!”
“They’re in Sri Lanka,” I told her, as if this explained everything.
And I would have an even softer spot for Chinese New Year if it wasn’t for the dreaded ritual of meeting relatives and married friends who think it’s drop dead hilarious to hand over a lousy eight-dollar red packet and then joke about my singleton status for the rest of lunch.
“Oh big deal!” Amanda said recently. “You try being a woman who’s in her th...who’s a certain age and still not married. The pressure is absolutely horrendous!”
Leave it to Saffy to decide that this year, she’s going to officially come out.
“Tell people at a Chinese New Year gathering that you’ve been lying about being straight all your life and all further inquisitions will come to a grinding halt!” she said happily. Apparently, that’s what her friend Mary did last year. Saffy says Mary’s mother was so shaken by the news that her ability to roll her home-made popiah completely fell apart. And ever since then, there have been no further discussions about Mary’s marital status.
“The mother doesn’t even talk about grandchildren anymore!” Saffy said.
Amanda frowned. “But doesn’t Mary have a boyfriend!”
“Yes and no. Yes, she is seeing this hot Danish banker, but no, he’s not her boyfriend because technically, he’s married so what they’re really having is an affair!”
“What do you mean by ‘technically’?” Amanda asked.
“It means he’s living with his wife and three kids, and the wife doesn’t know about Mary!”
Amanda was astonished. “And Mary is ok with this?”
Saffy’s impressive bosom inflated. “Well, it’s not ideal, but she says he’s amazing in bed and this way, she also doesn’t have to deal with the reality of an actual relationship.”
“But then why tell her parents that she’s into biker chicks?”
Saffy rolled her eyes. “Mary says that’s a lot less embarrassing than admitting that she’s having an illicit affair with a married great Dane!”
Amanda looked doubtful. “Really?”
“That’s what I thought when she told me. When you’ve been single for too long, your brains get fried and you stop thinking logically about things.”
“And now that I think about it,” Amanda said, “you already have a boyfriend!”
“Boyfriends don’t count. As far as parents are concerned, unless you’re married, you’re always going to be a source of major disappointment. And for your relatives, you’re still an easy target for their stupid jokes!”
“I don’t make jokes about you, ok?” said Sharyn, virtue oozing from every pore.
Saffy says she can’t wait to show up at her first Chinese New Year event as a friend of Sappho’s. “Someone needs to record people’s reactions! It’ll be like that YouTube clip of those babies in cars going through a tunnel!”
“Who is Sappho?” Sharyn asked. “How come I don’t know her?”
“One day, you might, Sharyn!” Saffy said. Amanda later told Saffy it was cruel to tease Sharyn like that.
“Can I help it the woman sometimes acts like she has never heard of Google?” Saffy complained. “Now listen, I need to get ready. What should I wear when I go visit the relatives tomorrow?”
“How about some shame?” Amanda asked.