Short Story by Leanne Sy
Edited by Regiena Siy and Caitlin Young
Author’s note: This is meant to be a satirical story inspired by common experiences that a number of Chinese readers (specifically girls) can relate to. As such, please don’t take this written work too seriously.
Picture yourself in this scenario: Your angkong’s side has arranged another family reunion at the usual Chinese restaurant. You’ve respectfully greeted your elders, said hi to your cousins, and brushed off every comment directed at your weight. With that routine over, you’re about to retreat to the kid’s table when someone asks you that unavoidable question.
“Do you have a boyfriend yet?”
Why didn’t you walk away sooner? If you had done that thirty seconds earlier, you would be scrolling through your phone and eating salted peanuts with the other “kids” right now. But instead, you have to disappoint this random elderly relative with the fact that your answer is still a flat no after years of them repeating the same interrogation.
Sometimes, you wish it were acceptable to give a sarcastic answer.
“No, I don’t have one… yet.”
“Ah, I see.” At this point, goko-ma doesn’t even look surprised. Another year, another opinion revolving around your forever alone status. “How old are you again?”
“She’s eighteen. And no love life yet.”
Oh, great. Just before you can escape, one of your parents and two other relatives have joined the conversation. How long have they been listening?
“Huh? No boyfriend yet? Well, at least you don’t need to worry about her,” di-um tells your mother. “You should be thankful that your daughter doesn’t go out every weekend.”
“That’s so sad, though.” This time, sichiak is the one speaking. “Were you alone again on Valentine’s Day? Your cousin had a date with his girlfriend.”
“… Well, I’m still a college freshman. So I need to focus on studies, you know?” Lies. But aren’t academic priorities a better, more impressive excuse? Besides, it’s technically true.
“Ha? Weren’t you alone with a boy just last week?”
…Is she seriously mentioning that right now?!
At this point, you decide to shut up while everyone else eagerly turns to your mother.
“Last Friday, when I picked you up at Regis Center. You were crossing the bridge with that boy Mark from your barkada. Isn’t he also that same friend who put his arm around your shoulder in your candid class photo?”
“That boy? From the picture Ahia showed us last year?” Di-um looks absolutely scandalized.
Sichiak shakes his head. “He’s not good-looking at all. Do you want your parents to cry?”
“Wait a minute! He’s just a friend talaga,” you insist. “He was going to meet someone else at Regis! His girlfriend.”
“That’s even worse!” Your goko-ma—the person who started this mess to begin with—regards you with disapproval. “If you’re not together, then don’t let him touch you so casually. How many boys are you friends with, anyway? Are you sure that none of them are courting you?”
Your freedom is granted five minutes later, but only because your relatives have moved on to the adults’ table for mealtime. By the time you reach the kids’ table, you’re socially drained and too weak to fight with your younger cousins over the remaining kropek.
“They gave you the talk, didn’t they?” Your older cousin gives you a wry look. She graduated from college two years ago. Still single until now.
“I don’t want to experience that interrogation ever again.”
“It only gets worse as you become older. Just be glad that they haven’t contacted any of their friends yet.”
This short story is brought to you by the Documentation and Publications department of Ateneo Celadon and Elements Magazine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeladonElementsMagazine