It’s family gathering season (Chinese New Year is the next big event right up)! This is the season that you specifically set aside time to reunite and catch up with your grandmother’s sister’s son’s daughter’s niece. Or find out that your cousin’s cousin’s father’s uncle is a professor in your school. Or that your great great grandmother’s biological father’s son’s wife’s daughter was a whiz at baking pineapple tarts.While many of us look forward to these gatherings, whether for the people, food, games or opportunity to earn some money, not everyone does.
Today, Justified has put together a guide on surviving the dreaded family gathering.
Situation #1: Awkward conversations
The hallmark of all family gatherings really is the awkward conversations. The most common question (and its variations) commonly heard during family gatherings is really — “So how, ah girl/boy, got boyfriend/girlfriend?”. If you’re attached, “ah girl/boy, when getting married?”. If you’re married, “when you want babies?”
It’s such a prevalent phenomenon that there are even songs written about it. Oh, and a handphone app too.
It really also does not help that CNY is right before Valentine’s Day, so there’s really no way you can escape this question.
Tip #1: If you can’t beat them, join them.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the saying goes — If you can’t beat them, join them.
Remember that your aunts are not nosy. They are actually the most maligned creatures in this entire family conversation — they only care for your wellbeing! Thus the best thing to do is really to engage them in the subject — as intently as you can.
Look them straight in the eye. Take in a deep breath. Start discussing teenage pregnancies, and the abysmally high divorce rates among young couples.
Alternatively, you could also choose to casually mention that all your professors in school this semester are male. Or hire a boyfriend/girlfriend for the next three days (remember to prepare him/her with cue cards on why you are deeply madly truly in love with each other).
On a serious note, you should engage her matchmaking services. It’s definitely more cost-effective (and you will please her because she gets bragging rights too — killing two birds with one stone), and everyone would be happy!*
*Success not guaranteed.
Tip #2: Eat up!
Tip #2 is a guaranteed winner with your grandmother. You can smile politely and nod ever so often, and pop one of those ridiculously delicious cookies that she baked. Do it every 5 seconds. It is always rude to talk with your mouth full, so keep it full, and you will be spared from having to converse — much. Of course, this is not highly recommended, unless you follow it up with Tip #3.
Tip #3: Remember to stay healthy.
Here at Justified, all of us take a serious stance on healthcare. While your relatives are busy prying into your personal life, your grandmother would simultaneously be piling food onto your plate because she thinks you are too thin for her liking . While that is a great escape from having to make small talk (see Tip #2, above), not everyone is blessed genetically with skinny genes. It’s a pretty exclusive club. Even HPB knows it.
Do not moan about the amount you have to eat. Smile, because this is the perfect scenario for you! Here’s what you do: hydrate yourself adequately (plain water, please).
Water helps to whittle your waistline and combat any heatiness from all the decadent food. More importantly, it gives you ample opportunities to hop, dance, or run to the washroom ever so often, offering a moment of relief (literally) from the hustle and bustle outside (Read: Your aunties cannot question you on your love life while you are in the toilet).
Situation #2: How to win at the gambling corner
A family gathering is never complete without some competition. Oh, especially if it involves some exchange of goods along the way. Some say that winning is all up to luck and chance — but who really believes in luck and chance nowadays? You make your own luck. Who knows… you might earn enough to quit school and cut your own indie album.
Tip #1: Be the Banker.
The banker always wins, as casino movies always say. Always volunteer to be the banker! Do this before anyone else grabs this role — after all, between equal equities, first in time prevails. If someone else volunteers before you, always insist politely. After all, volunteering to do something is always polite, and as (possibly) one of the youngest in your entire extended family, it is your duty to be polite.
Just a fair warning though… being the banker is often a costly investment, so you might have to rip open some of your shiny new red packets to start. But it’ll be worth it.
Oh, but as one famous NUS lecturer recently commented, most lawyers have problems with mathematics (unless you are one of those who will end up as tax lawyers). Heck, that is probably the reason why we’re here in the first place! If you are mathematically challenged, like most of us, remember to bring your calculator along to boost your banker’s credibility.
Tip #2: Bring on your game face.
In the unfortunate event that someone beats you to the job of being the banker, fret not! Not all is over yet. As lawyers, or lawyers-to-be, your job is really to show that you can beat those odds – and you do so, with a straight face.
Law school and its incredible deadlines will likely have trained you pretty well to be really just to be completely emotionless about some things. So channel that each time you play a round during family gatherings.
Remember never to smile, furrow your brows, grin, frown, laugh, or do anything that requires moving your facial muscles. If your cousin remarks that you appear like a robot, tell him that wrinkles start settling in from early 20s and you really prefer not to have any more showing on your face. Or just tell him that you want to milk the after-effects of botox as much as you can.
Tip #3: Know your opponent.
If you, like me, are unable to keep a straight face, why not put some of your acting skills to use?
If you know your younger cousin is naturally timid, wear a big cocky smile on your face and raise your bet by $10. He will probably cower and fold immediately. Also, when he realises your hand was actually horrendous, some mocking isn’t just necessary – It’s required.
If you know your slightly… happy uncle is brash and confident, call his bluff! Don’t mistake his bluster for a good hand. Also, hilarity ensues when both of you turn out to have utterly horrible cards, something which you’ll laugh about during the next gathering.
No but really, here’s a pro tip for Blackjack: always know when to hit or stand. Hit hard until you reach 17 and stand on 17 or more. However, also know when to go for broke. If the dealer has a 9 or 10, don’t be afraid to continue hitting hard. Who knows, you may end up with 3 7s and win 21 x your initial bet.
Note: Although 3 7s are technically possible, I have never seen it happen. Please take a picture and upload it to Overheard. Drinks are on you.
Situation #3: The fashion critique
Remember how, over the Christmas break, your cousin criticized your outfit from top to toe, tuttering that your “heels were too high” and “skirt needs another inch or so”? Rest assured, she will be back. You can, of course, decide to get angry at her, or listen to what we have to say…
Tip #1: Make yourself as unapproachable as possible.
There is no better way to stop a person from criticizing your outfits than to dress like you haven’t stepped out of your school library for months. So put on those thick black glasses, smudge some Kohl under your eyes, a three-day beard growth (for guys only, please)… oh, and bring a copy of Tan and Thio for good measure. This way, no one will want to talk to you. At all.
Tip #2: Be mentally prepared.
Chances are, even if you follow #1, that nosy cousin will still bother you. This time, be prepared for advice that you really should be wearing a size 10 instead of a size 8. And that your red lipstick is too red. Instead of snapping (even if you really want to), take a deep breath, and smile. Confidence is key to defeating cattiness. Don’t pay attention to her at all – you are, of course, more important than that!
Have a great CNY!
This article would not have been possible without the input from the lovely Law Annual team.
We would also like to say that all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.