How to survive Chinese New Year when you’re unmarried

A guide to deflecting snide comments from nosy relatives

Photos: ING Image
Photos: ING Image
20 Jan 2016

Photos: ING Image

Chinese New Year might not be a holiday specifically for couples, but like Christmas, it can make the pang of singleness extra pronounced when you show up to reunion dinners unaccompanied. Inevitably, a nosy old aunty will ask how in the world you’re still unmarried, before lecturing you about how much more boys would like you if you only lost weight, worked less, or grew out your hair. More often than not, we leave those gatherings with our dignity as scattered as a platter of loh hei.
But we’ve got good news for you – it’s possible to be young, single, and the most fabulous person in the room (even when you’re being cornered by a troop of overly-critical aunties).

Here’s how to embrace the Chinese New Year as someone who is unattached.
 

1. Think on the bright side: You don’t need to distribute red envelopes
1. Think on the bright side: You don’t need to distribute red envelopes
20 Jan 2016

1. Think on the bright side: You don’t need to distribute red envelopes

According to Chinese tradition, married people give unmarried people red envelopes. So if you’re going to walk into a reunion dinner without a man, at least you’ll come out of it with a pocket full of extra cash. 

2. Go on vacation
2. Go on vacation
20 Jan 2016

2. Go on vacation

Not ready to deal with Chinese New Year at all? Risk the ire of your parents by booking an overseas getaway. If your mother forbids that you skip the festivities, however, you can always schedule the trip for after Chinese New Year, to serve as a reward for whatever awkwardness you have to endure over the weekend. 

3. Think on the bright side: you’ll have more time to yourself
3. Think on the bright side: you’ll have more time to yourself
20 Jan 2016

3. Think on the bright side: you’ll have more time to yourself

Being single means having fewer reunion dinners to attend. While those in relationships might find this sad, you have the benefit of indulging in some “me time” – a rare luxury in the working world. Now is the best time to marathon an entire TV show, catch up on your reading, or simply sleep past noon. 

4. Go for reunion dinners with your friends
4. Go for reunion dinners with your friends
20 Jan 2016

4. Go for reunion dinners with your friends

Surely you’ve got friends who love the Chinese New Year festivities, but who need a break from all the relatives. So gather up a group of pals you haven’t seen in a while and get the party started. You never know who you’ll suddenly hit it off with – or who will bring an attractive friend who is also single…

5. Come up with a witty (or at least pre-packaged) response to “why aren’t you married?”
5. Come up with a witty (or at least pre-packaged) response to “why aren’t you married?”
20 Jan 2016

5. Come up with a witty (or at least pre-packaged) response to “why aren’t you married?”

You don’t need to be hostile, but it’s about time you spoke up instead of shrugging your shoulders and looking uncomfortable. Because really, when the question’s coming from people you rarely talk to, it’s usually asked out of nosiness and not out of sincerity. If a smug married cousin your age asks why you’re not married yet, feel free to respond with something like, “Don’t be silly, I already have a job”. As much as you can, keep it funny and cheerful so that you don’t come across as a bitter person. 

6. Take refuge in a shopping mall (or in a CNY bazaar)
6. Take refuge in a shopping mall (or in a CNY bazaar)
20 Jan 2016

6. Take refuge in a shopping mall (or in a CNY bazaar)

On the one hand, you could be “single-minded” and buy yourself a bunch of clothes, shoes, and a haircut just because you’re unattached and you can afford it. On the other hand, you could also make yourself useful – while getting away – by volunteering to pick up food, supplies, or anything your relatives might need. 

7. Learn to cook
7. Learn to cook
20 Jan 2016

7. Learn to cook

Some people are possessive of their kitchens and their Chinese New Year dishes. But everyone has at least one relative who loves teaching others how to cook as much as she loves doing the cooking herself. See if she’ll let you help out with some small tasks – even if they’re as simple as wrapping dumplings – and in the future, you’ll have some ammo for comments that you could easily find a guy if you only know how to cook. 

8. Give more than you receive
8. Give more than you receive
20 Jan 2016

8. Give more than you receive

Just because you’re unmarried and ineligible to give red envelopes to the kids doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. Volunteer as the babysitter for your small nieces and nephews so that their parents can have a break. Depending on family traditions, it might also be possible for you (if you’re a working adult) to give hong baos to your parents or to your younger siblings. We’ve heard it said that the best thing you can do, when you feel down, is to do something really nice for someone else – and what better time to do that than at the start of the New Year?  

9. Accept that people will always find a reason to criticise you
9. Accept that people will always find a reason to criticise you
20 Jan 2016

9. Accept that people will always find a reason to criticise you

Don’t think that the invasive questions or the snide comments will stop once you find a man. If your relative’s a critical person at heart, she’ll find a reason to judge you no matter how you’re doing in life. After you get married, she’ll ask why you haven’t had a kid yet. Later on, she’ll say that you’re gaining weight. Or that your hair’s thinning out. Just smile politely, and comfort yourself with the fact that you only have to deal with this once a year. 

10. Take up your aunty on her offer to match-make you
10. Take up your aunty on her offer to match-make you
20 Jan 2016

10. Take up your aunty on her offer to match-make you

So, the time has finally come. You’ve hit rock bottom and you’re desperate – desperate to either find a man, or to get your relatives off your back. So swallow your pride, take a deep breath, and this time, say “yes.” Yes, you would like to meet your auntie’s match-maker. You would like to see a photo of the “cute and eligible” guy who lives in her HDB. You do want to attend the reunion dinner next year with a man on your arm. No matter how embarrassed you feel asking for help, she’ll know that you at least gave it a shot. And of course, you never know, your aunt could have a better eye for eligible bachelors than you think.
 

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