Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Teenage Textbook

As Dan and I have mentioned earlier, we were at a play this evening. It was about a relationship between a Chinese girl and an Indian boy in Conservative-on the surface "racially harmonious/tolerant" Singapore. Of course, the parents objected to it and the couple had insurmountable hurdles to cross.

Whilst I didn't like some of the acting, the emotions that were put forth brought me back to another time and place. The relationship between the protagonists, in truth was like any other relationship- fraught with problems and lots of teeny bopper whining. But the relationship between each protagonist and their parents, that felt real.

There were the patriarchal fathers, the emotionally black mailing mothers and the constant reminder that community comes before self (a strange resonanting echo of the now infamous "national duty" speech made in parliament) and the anguished young adults.

I remember what it was like to be that young adult. Although I didn't have the Indian boyfriend, I did have the authoritarian-"as long as you stay under MY roof, you abide by MY rules" father who basically made it damn near impossible for any boy to get close to me. I recall the time when someone rang and asked to speak to me and my dad bellowed a loud "NO, YOU MAY NOT" into the phone.

Watching the fighting with its underlying tones of frustration and more obvious overtures of anger brought me back to the time where I would actually replay entire scenes of fighting with my parents in my head. Of course, in that fantasy world of mine, I was bold enough to retaliate, to come up with witty and snarky comebacks. But in actual reality, I would sobbing in my room, hating my parents, swearing that I would never subject my own kids through this and secretly waiting for the moment that I could ring the boyfriend back and sob some more on the phone.

I'm so glad to be beyond that, on so many levels. All that uncertainty of where the relationship was headed, the guilt and fear of disapproving parents and horribly in most relationships- the eventual breakup. Like I said earlier on, it gets harder as you get older and I couldn't imagine having to go through all that again.

Right up to the point that I got married last year, I still had plate hurtling, door slamming fights with my parents which still led to the inevitable sobbing hysterically for hours and hating them for days outcome. I think we fear so much that we would disappoint our parents that we get defensive about everything, adding oil to the fire.

I think deep down inside, we always want to please our parents and want their approval. We don't want them to disapprove of the boyfriend with the long floppy fringe and earring, we don't want them to disapprove of the dress we spent an entire month saving up from and we really don't want them disapproving about where we choose to settle down and when we choose to have children. I think that's where all conflict within the familiy lies. If we didn't give a rat's ass about what our parents thought, we'd just do whatever pleases us, regardless of what they thought. Then, there would be disappointment and anger on their part but we merrily go our own way.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 15:35

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