Single Overseas Chinese Guy asks:
Although this may not affect you yourself. It affects a whole load of us overseas born Chinese types. Simply how on earth do we respond to the constant questions of how come you aren’t married yet?
Parents go to Chinese weddings, and fiery arguments ensue about getting married.
Fake BFs/GFs are old utilised tricks. But over time they cease to work and to be honest it feels bad tricking parents like this.
In our first generation barely anybody is married these days. But there seems an increasing desperation in the voices of parents wanting you to get married. As if it is a magic bullet or something. They just simply do not seem to realise that getting married isn’t the be all and end all of things. Yet their old fashioned values don’t seem to tie in with single independent people!
You know, SOCG, I feel your pain — in a different sort of way. Every time I go back to my in-laws’ home, I get a different, though equally loaded question: how come you haven’t had a baby yet?
The hardest was this past summer in China. My Chinese mother-in-law brought [having children] up once again — it was less of an admonition and more a friendly reminder. I think she is beginning to understand the pressure we have. Still, I felt depressed on one level. I imagined that my Chinese mother-in-law thought me especially unfilial. No child yet, from the one daughter-in-law who could, conceivably, have as many as she wanted. My uterus is like prime real estate that I haven’t even bothered to rent out or sell.
I don’t even live close to them, but the pressure of this question weighed on me even long after I returned to the US. You might say I have it easier than you.
Then again, I survived essentially an entire summer living with my in-laws, so I also know what it’s like to feel that pressure on a daily basis. Actually, after a while my mother-in-law didn’t even have to say anything — the fact that one of my sisters-in-law had a newborn baby in the home pretty much took the place of any potential nagging.
Still, whenever I complained about it to my husband, he always reminded me to understand them. And that’s advice you could probably use too.
Consider what the Book of Rites, more than 2,000 years old and considered one of the five Confucian classics, said on the subject of marriage:
Marriage combines two families. It serves your ancestors, and continues the family lineage. For gentlemen, this is very important.
The marriage ritual is the foundation of all rituals.
Marriage (and, for that matter, having children) are the equivalents of required coursework in Chinese culture. You don’t skip them, you don’t take an incomplete — you do them because, from a Chinese perspective, that’s life, that’s what people do. Marriage is also a filial act, since it gives you the opportunity to have children (and as I’ve learned, not having children is the most unfilial thing a person can do in traditional Chinese culture). Remember, the Book of Rites said, “this is very important.”
So it’s no wonder your parents bug you about marriage. This is the culture they grew up with, and they’re just passing it on to you. But more than that, this isn’t them intentionally bugging you; it is also how parents and relatives show they care — which sounds weird, but trust me, it’s true. Actually, in China, asking someone if they’re married is in some sense another way of asking if you’re okay (the thinking is, if you’re married and settled down, you must be happy and okay in life). Next time they ask you, realize where they’re coming from, and that this isn’t an attack on your lifestyle. This is just their culture.
I still haven’t found the ultimate response to the “how come you haven’t had a baby yet” question, and I don’t know that I have any ultimate responses to recommend to you. But you know, you might sometime engage your parents and relatives in a conversation, where you ask them about when they were single. Say this: what was it like before you got married? I can almost guarantee they had to endure the same “how come you’re not married yet” questions from their parents and relatives when they were still singletons. Maybe they even had a hard time finding someone of their own. And if they tell you about it, they might remember what it felt like to be single and drowning in marriage pressure. That whole discussion might even lead into you helping them realize just how hard it is for you to find that special someone. They might even empathize with you for once…
At least, until they attend their next Chinese wedding.
What do you think? What advice do you have?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Send me yours today.