Inspired by one of WongFuPro’s shorts and episodes of Lunch Break, I want to talk about expressions of love in this article. The words “I love you” are very rarely heard in my family, and “love you too” even more so. We’re not exactly the most verbal or affectionate when it comes to expressing our love for each other. The only times we ever hug or kiss each other (briefly) are during birthdays and at airport departure halls. I don’t know if this is stereotypical of most Asian families, but it has certainly become an Asian stereotype. It doesn’t mean we don’t love each other; we just have different ways to show our love in the form of little, everyday things.
If I had to pick one person in my family who is the most affectionate, I guess it would have to be my dad. He’s the one who sometimes say “love you” at the end of phone calls and text messages. He’s the one who will initiate the hugs and kisses on cheeks during those sparingly special occasions. I don’t always return the gesture wholeheartedly; I still feel awkward with skinship when it comes to family, but I try my best. I hug back and reciprocate with air kisses, but I still can’t make myself say the words “love you too” – I can only seem to say it in my head.
This doesn’t mean I don’t love my family or that I shy away from physical contact. On the contrary, I love my family to bits; they’re my whole world and I thank God for them every day, I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be without them. I also love hugs as much as the next girl; I hug my friends all the time, I just don’t know why it always feels a little awkward when it’s with my parents or older brother. My younger brother is the only exception; I’m super clingy with him and I’ll walk arm in arm with him, hug him and squeeze him to my heart’s content. So much so that his friends sometimes mistake me for his girlfriend whenever we bump into them in malls (sorry bro).
In my family, love is my dad saying “don’t forget to pray, do the easy questions first” whenever exam time came around. It’s my mum warning me with “just a heads up, there’s a big, fat cicak behind the bathroom door” because she knows how petrified I am of those house lizards. It’s me giving my parents specially designed, handmade birthday/anniversary/Christmas/CNY cards every year. It’s my parents reminding me to “text us the taxi number” whenever I have to take a cab by myself. It’s me saying “I’m super full, you want the rest of my food?” to my brothers, who I know are still hungry but don’t want to admit it. Mostly, though, it’s all of us asking each other:
“Have you eaten?”
What’s with that question? Well, that one simple question, apart from being a conversation starter, shows that we care about each other’s well-being. Also, we bond over food. A lot. Whenever I visit my grandma in her rural village, the first thing she says is not “hi, how are you?” nor “how was the journey?” nor even “do you have a boyfriend yet?” (ha.. ha..) it’s always “have you eaten?” so I guess this has been ingrained into us from a very young age and it’s now just the go-to question when asking someone’s well-being. To make it easier to understand, think of it like this: “have you eaten?” equals to “how are you?” or “how have you been?” and also “I love you”. It’s less “have you eaten?” and more “we love you and want to know that you’re taking good care of yourself”.
I always get sentimental during this time of year because for me, Christmas is and always will be a family affair. As we grow older (and inevitably apart) we might not be able to spend as many birthdays or anniversaries together as often as we used to, but we’ve always made the time and effort to spend Christmas together. That’s why Christmas will always be my all-time favourite holiday. So here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2016, from mine to yours!