STARTING THE NEW YEAR
Savage Kitten, my roommate and former significant other, is in crisis mode.
Her boyfriend is a white guy who does not grasp certain key verities.
There are some things I would like to say to him.
E-MAIL THAT I WILL NOT SEND, TO A PERSON I DO NOT KNOW
Do NOT upset a Cantonese woman at this time of year! Ever! Whatever you fail to understand about the Cantonese-American family dynamic is not a suitable envelope to push right around the beginning of the Spring Festival. How people start the new year marks how that year will continue. It's not just symbolic, but predictive and determinant.
Yes, I realize that you wonder about the family dinner and how she relates to you, as well as who is supposed to do what in your relationship. Or how everything fits together.
Face it: there is NO role for you in the context of New Year's Eve dinner. Period. You are not part of her family. If she hasn't married you, she is not part of your family either. Not in a Chinese context. You aren't kin.
But her ancestors ARE - they'll be there in spirit (according to orthodox belief), and they won't take your presence kindly. Not because you are white - a grievous sin, but one which you committed unknowingly - but because your presence would be ritually inappropriate, and symbolically dangerous. You represent the dissolution of bonds. Your being there would be the shattering of proper relationships personified. Highly unsuitable!
And don't question that woman about her generosity. Savage Kitten is a very giving person - far too giving. For some goofball reason she is more generous with her time and her resources than she should be, far more than many recipients merit.
She judges her own self worth by how much she does for others. It's kinda stupid, but that's just the way she is. She's always had low self-esteem.
But don't push it. Don't ask her to do more than she does. She's a splendid person, and she's a great friend to have. You should realize that, and treat her kindly.
Cantonese-American women do not come with an instruction manual, there is no tech-support number either.
Accept that there may be unpredictable effects.
Chinese New Year is just not the time for YOU to get all querulous and testy, nor the time to detract from what should be, absolutely has to be, a time of calm pleasure. Exciting emotional turmoil is not supposed to be part of the program.
You've lived in San Francisco nearly as long as I have, and I know you're fairly observant and intelligent - so are you stupid or what?
* * * * * * *
Obviously I am not going to send this letter, nor deliver the message in person.
Did I already mention that Chinese New Year should be a time of calm pleasure? Or that how one begins the season determines what the next year will be like?
This will be a good year.
San nien faai lok, maan si yiu yi, san tai kin hong, y'all.
Seui seui peng on.
[新年快樂 - 萬事如意 - 身體健康 - 歲歲平安]
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.