How to answer awkward CNY questions

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The first day of Chinese New Year is supposed to be an auspicious day to usher in the new year. But it is also a day for interrogation: the one thing that annoys people, especially young adults, is the barrage of marriage-related questions relatives would ask. In fact, it is my biggest pet peeve. “Got boy or girlfriend?”, “When are you settling down?” and “Why are you still single?”

These are few of the many questions my aunts, uncles and cousins would never fail to ask every year since I turned 25 three years ago. The keyword here is “marriage”, but let’s not jump to conclusions and think that I am encouraging you to settle down with your significant other on 31 January. If you are single, do not rush into searching for a life partner. No one dies from being single during Chinese New Year – you decide when is the right time to get hitched.

I empathise with those who are single. My cousins are married, except for one who is already in his 40s, and I have become the official target for Chinese New Year interrogation. The good news is, there is a way to bounce off those questions without feeling angry, bitter or sad.

The trick is to answer wisely or take the questions, twist it and ask your relatives back in a pleasant manner. And with a smile. Whatever works, works!

“I am saving up for my big day!”

An ingenious, self-explanatory answer to the question “When are you getting married?”, this answer prompts relatives to stop grilling you further on your marital status.

“I am still waiting for my flat or apartment to be ready…”

One of the most valid reasons for modern couples to say why they are not yet married is that their Built-To-Order flat is not ready; rather, the apartment is scheduled for completion in another three or four years’ time. Be prepared to answer which district or constituency you are staying in.

“Do you know of anyone suitable?”

The beauty of this question is that it exposes your aunt, uncle and cousins’ interest in your life. Last year, an uncle asked “Where’s your partner” and I smiled, saying: “Do you know of anyone who’s suitable? Well…that person must be independent. Not reliant.” To my uncle’s horror, he replied: “I…I…don’t know of anyone.” Voila!

“My boy or girlfriend is at work!”

It is not good to tell a lie during the festive season. According to Chinese superstition, once you tell a lie on any one of the 14 days of the Chinese New Year celebrations, you will continue telling lies throughout the year.

But that does not mean you cannot tell a joke, especially if you are a workaholic. Simply say “My boy or girlfriend is at work” and they will stop bugging you.

See? It is not hard to turn things in your favour.