My Word: Wedded to the Idea

11 March 2014 Lucille Wong

My Word: Wedded to the Idea

Lucille Wong, Ed#452, February 2014

How do you explain to your over-zealous family that love doesn’t necessarily lead to marriage?

Here is where I stand: I’m 32, a woman and, recently, I moved in with my boyfriend of 18 months. I was proud to make this grown-up decision, having found someone I loved enough to want to share my humble flat with. Sure, I was apprehensive at first. Lindsay (my boyfriend; yes, he has a girl’s name) doesn’t close cupboards and drawers, so I’m forever walking into them. Nonetheless, it was a momentous and joyous occasion. And we’re very happy.

Then it starts: the constant badgering from family and friends to hurry down the aisle.

“Perhaps, you will be next,” colleagues say when someone in the office is getting hitched. “When are you two getting married?” friends ask at other people’s weddings. “So...any news?” everyone asks when we return from an overseas trip. As the commentary is mostly friendly, I shrug it off with a witty but polite response.

My relatives, however, are shameless in their questioning. My family is from Hong Kong, a Chinese culture with influences of British colonialism. We moved to Melbourne in 1990 when I was eight years old. Mum is also Catholic. Her housewarming gift was a brochure titled ‘What marriage means in the Catholic Church’, which is full of high-res images of happy, Anglo, heterosexual families with five children.

Mum obviously condemns our living arrangement and demands to know where Lindsay is sleeping. “Where do you think, Mum?” I bark.

“Well then,” she orders, “you better get married. I expect an announcement in three months.”

Woah. “Isn’t that a bit soon?”

Mum snaps, “No, that’s a bit late.”

My dad is a sixty-something accidental Chinese hipster. He wears a massive Chicago Bulls puffa jacket with a Playboy cap, both are hand-me-ups from my 1990s ‘I love USA’ wardrobe. At least Dad takes me out for a coffee before he imparts his beliefs. “If you’re really against marriage, that’s fine, I won’t interfere. But there are some things about tradition that are VERY important. So go get that piece of paper and tell me about it afterwards. No need for a party and then I don’t have to wear a suit.” Dad sips his latte, “Don’t tell your mum I said this.”

My grandparents and my aunt’s family live in Sydney. On a recent trip there, my grandmother presents me with some jewellery and asks if it would be appropriate to give these to me now. I politely tell her to wait another year or so. I make this up. I have no idea how long she might have to wait but you can’t really say ‘10 years’ to an 87-year-old.

Grandma has similar gifts for each of her seven grandchildren, bought for us at birth, to be presented to each of us when we wed. In particular, my sister and I have matching sets but mine has a red stone and my sister’s has a green stone. My sister!? I think. That Gen Y is living the dream in London with zero interest in responsibility, relationships and commitment (sorry, Sis). She isn’t marrying any time soon.

“Thanks, Grandma, but what if we don’t get married?” I dare ask. Grandma is horrified, “Nonsense! You will ALL get married.”

At dinner, my family gather to discuss this perplexing issue. One thing about being of Chinese background is that your family talk about you in front of you rather than behind your back. My uncle wonders if I’m subconsciously holding out for someone else. My aunt jumps in with her hypothesis, “You’re not a feminist, are you?” Even my emo 18-year-old cousin, who usually spends entire meal times with her headphones in, has something to say. “It’s only a piece of paper,” she mumbles to no  one in particular. The table erupts.  It’s commitment. It’s celebration.  It’s tradition. It’s love. It’s inevitable!

That’s it! I crack it, “One more word about this and I’m never getting married. EVER.” The table is quiet for three minutes. We slurp our soup to the faint hip-hop tune from my cousin’s headphones.

My grandma breaks the silence: “How’s your sister? Has she got  a boyfriend?”

 

» Lucille Wong is a Melbourne writer. She blogs about travel, family and travelling with family at lucillew.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @luci1307

This article first appeared in Ed#452 of The Big Issue magazine.

 

Authors