Sunday, January 25, 2009

On the Eve of It

"Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!"

Owens Lee Pomeroy

It's ironic how I feel most like an outsider during the New Year reunions, and I don't think it used to be that way. I used to actually like it, you know. I welcomed it when I was littler.

It was made out of simpler things back then; food I don't get to eat for the rest of the year, more sugar water than I can safely drink, and married people leaking money in little red envelopes like psycho ATM's. It was a season of plenty and culturally enforced greed.

Now I dread it. I dread the temporarily enforced etiquette and the relations. I dread having conversations with blood-tied strangers. I dread the having to endure the strange embarrassment of receiving money I cannot politely refuse, because traditions prescribed that boon to me. And how long must I sit in the living room so I won't look like I am only there for the cash before I can return to the refuge that is my room, my four walls and one high-speed broadband window?

Why so much angst?

This is the first New Year I spent at home in the last 3 years - a whole 3 years which did nothing to dull my unnatural abhorrence of the holiday. It's like putting on a pair of pants I found at the bottom of a chest of drawers which I stopped wearing because it fitted badly, and realising that time just made it fit worse. There's nothing wrong with the pants, really, it's exactly the same. The fault's in me. I've changed. I'm messed up. But I'm not broken so you can't fix me.

I wonder at my mental health and at my ability to be human. Sometimes, it seemed almost as if I'm painting-by-numbers, as if my emotions are just bits I put on at the right times to give myself the semblance of humanity. There a moments when I feel so detached that I could almost hear a voice telling me, "this is when you should smile, this is when you should cry". It scared me when I caught myself doing it - and it scared me most when I caught myself doing it in the moments I thought I was most sincere and when I felt my sorrows were most real. Does this make me a hypocrite? Does it make me fake when I can't help it?

And family. Why do I try so hard to avoid it? What kind of monster am I when intimacy nauseates and scares me?

Why so much angst?

They served shark-fin soup at the reunion dinner and I refused to have any. They thought it was because I didn't like how it was prepared, proving that I'm just as much a stranger to them as they are to me. A couple of aunt actually asked, so I told them - which I fancy spoilt everyone else's enjoyment of the soup at the table. But I'm a sociopathic selfish braincase anyway so I didn't care.

Then, one of my aunt suggested that we should stop having shark-fin soup in future reunion dinners. I had to wonder, and I wondered for the rest of the dinner, how honestly my aunt actually meant that and how much of it had to do with humouring a weird nephew just because he's family.

Does this make me an ingrate?

Anyhow, I only wondered till they served the yu chu. I seriously love the dish, by the way. In fact, if I have to condense the memories of all the past reunion dinners I've attended into one single image, it'll be a picture of that piglet, all red and crispy with its little roasted piglet head and that little bit at the end which still has its cute little roasted piglet tail attached. Even when I was small, I've always considered it to be the highlight of a year. In my kiddy mind, it was what made the perfect New Year's Eve. If it didn't taste up to mark, I would consider the reunion dinner of that year to be a failure.

This year, the yu chu was the worst I have ever eaten in my life, which isn't saying that it was bad. It was mediocre, average and flat - and after not getting any for three whole years, it was Most Disappointing. Like that child I was, I considered my night ruined. Maybe I'm missing the point of the whole reunion deal but that was never something I looked forward to, and it's not just because I don't want to. Give me this much understanding; I have no idea how to.

Because, I still think that the most important thing in a New Year's Eve reunion dinner is a dish of roasted piglet.

Why so much useless angst?

Home again,
k0k s3n w4i


ap said...

I can't help feeling that we are alike in certain ways, as these are things I ponder about with no end, and try to express in incoherent bits..... questioning humanity and being part of it--- both unbearable and inescapable--- oftentimes when Detachment descends upon frazzled nerve endings, reality resembles a grainy film of no consequence other than being perceived... whatever i emote then seems to have no real tangibility because it seems part of a pattern or plan and just artificial, something I made up to suit my ideals of being human....(tired navel-gazing continues) I wonder, if it is ok to be so perturbed at the inner workings of your own mind? Or if there is any alternative, any escape. Indeed I hadnt quite understood the wish to have a spotless mind until now...

~*caryn*~ said...

i know that detachment. i was at a funeral once, of my uncle. i remember thinking at one point, i should cry now. and so i did. i was 12 then i think. glad to know someone out there felt that way too. to know i'm not the only "weird" one.

Betsy said...

I wanted to ask you to join me and our cousins for a game of Risk and Monopoly. However, when I saw you shut yourself in the room, I reckoned you would want to be alone instead. It'll be nice if you can join us next time :)

fubi said...

i beat him at risk once!!! ask me! ask me! :D *hops up n down*

gaL said...

most of the ppl enjoys the yu chi because of its rich soup. Cause the fin is actually quite tasteless.

Maybe ur aunt can try to have yu chi soup base with other ingredients such as scallops or crab meat for new year if it's a must dish.

and hey, Happy chinese new year kok. :)

ps: im assuming that u dun take yu chi because of the animal cruelty thingy?

k0k s3n w4i said...

ap: everyone's alike in certain ways :) and we can all do with a bit of wangst (not a typo) once in awhile. people like us need to get out more, though.

caryn: what bothers me most is that it seemed a bit schizoid. made affect, much? i like to think we are all mad from time to time.

Betsy: Nah, wouldn't have enjoyed it.

fubi: yup. and I beat her ALL the other times.

gaL: "most of the ppl enjoys the yu chi because of its rich soup. Cause the fin is actually quite tasteless."
that's what I said exactly. And yeah, it's cruel to let the shark drown after cutting off their fins (they can't breathe if they don't swim). also, shark is essential to the health of coral reefs. without sharks, the population of coral eating fishes will boom - destroying entire reefs. another reason is that the primitive immune system of sharks is currently being studied in our search for a cure for cancer & AIDS.