Several nights in Vancouver meant several nights of late night chats with my favourite cousin D.
We reminisced about the music we used to listen to, and sang them out loud when driving around. (Apparently, he remembers “Barbie Girl” as the first song that I introduced to him when he was 7. Although I distinctly remembered it as “Tarzan and Jane” by Toybox. 🤔)
We reminisced about growing up together.
About how close we used to be with two other cousins when we were growing up, and how we suddenly drifted apart from them when we reached adulthood.
“Yeah, I really missed those days. The four of us used to travel so much together.” I quipped.
“Yeah, but I have to say, I really feel that it was them who drifted away from us.” – D.
I also had that sentiment, but couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s just the passage of time. Or not enough effort on both sides to initiate contact. I don’t know. Relationships suddenly become harder to maintain once we get older, with more responsibilities, no matter how close we all used to be.
But then again, D and I are so far apart. He’s 12,813 kilometres (or a 12 + 4 hour flight) away for a huge portion of the past 8 years of our lives. Yet when we get back together, it still feels like the good old days and all hell breaks loose (in a good way).
And I’m really happy about that.
We spoke about how we were both brought up in an extended family culture where relatives pitted us endlessly against against one another.
Grades comparison were endless, and unfortunately, I was often the basis of comparison. (I.e. “Why can’t you be more like Che Che Brenda? She studies so hard.”) A fact that I used to be proud of – that other parents wanted their kids to be like me, but only later on realized there’s really no point in studying so hard when it only about grades chasing (as I did in the past).
We spoke about our own upbringing and what we liked/disliked about it. And it was at this point I realized that indeed, the personalities and attitudes of the elders that surrounded us did shape us substantially while we were growing up. We both went through periods of self doubt during the impressionable teenage years (which we did not talk to each other about back then but only just confided in each other).
For me, I grew up with a very low self confidence and was constantly doubting myself. And since late-Primary School, I was criticised endlessly for my looks.
“Why do you have so many pimples on your face?”
“Why are you not taking care of your skin?”
“Why are you always wearing jeans?”
“Why can’t you dress more like a lady?”
I was pressured to do facials when I was only fourteen. I refused, only to be labelled as “stubborn” and told that “I had to start these things early”. Extended family members chided me each time I broke out into spots. And there was plenty of pressure to conform to gender identity, especially since I had a rather tomboyish persona.
Perhaps my relentless grades-chasing back then was my own way to compensate for my lacking self-confidence. Good grades seemed to be the best form of morale boost to me.
And being young, most of us don’t really confront all these negative pressures in the face. Although, several times I did bring this up, only to be told the following.
“It was just a joke lah!”
“You have to stop being so sensitive!”
“Aunty ___/Uncle ___ was just being concerned.”
Concerned, my backside.
“We were young back then. We don’t really have the power. Adults always think they know better just because they are older. But they don’t always do. And they don’t realize what they say can really impact us.” – D.
“Unfortunately, both of us are only-children, which means that our parents were forced to learn on-the-job when we were born. And no parent is perfect.” – me.
The conversation about our respective upbringings went on and on, but most of it are too personal so they shall just remain in my mind.
When I looked up at the clock, it was 12.35am and we had yammered on and on for three hours.
It’s time to pack up and go home to Singapore.
My dear D, please choose the path you feel suits you best and never succumb to parental pressure. Be happy always and I’ll see you again soon!
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