I hardly recall curious relatives taking the opportunity during Raya visits to ask me ‘bila nak kahwin’ questions, or perhaps those questions never bothered me (which is why I don’t remember being asked). If they did ever ask, I probably shut them up with a selamba reply like “Besok!“. Or perhaps they didn’t ask, owing to their high regard for my parents (I got my serious disposition and tendency to keep things private from them, after all.) Either way, perhaps it is precisely because I know with a certain amount of confidence that I will get married eventually, that such questions don’t bother me (unlike some other Malay girls my age who may get sensitive over such questions).
This year, however, I noticed that things are different. Since both sides of the family now know that I am engaged, some relatives of the female species have started to ask some really personal questions. I call them personal not because they are actually intruding on my privacy, but personal because they concern my personal choices and decisions.
For example, two of them (who happened to be related via marriage) asked to see how my mister looked like. They asked in a teasing way, saying something like ‘tunang senyap-senyap, sekarang kasilah kita tengok gambar tunangnya’. Perhaps they were indeed trying to hint at how my engagement was a little unconventional as the extended family was not invited. I did not take offence at that, as I believed a ‘proper’ engagement ceremony was too much of a hassle and would just be a waste of money, regardless what people thought. What did bother me was that they had the gumption to ask me to show them a photo of my mister. Look, if my family was the slightly more liberal kind, my fiancé would have been at my place on the first day of Raya and you would have met him yourself. As it is, for so many years my mom was ‘in denial’ about my having a boyfriend, and only acknowledged him after I graduated and started working. Even then she refused to use the word ‘matair’, even when talking about my cousins’ partners, insisting instead on calling them ‘kawan’. For example: “Sepupu kau yang itu dah ada kawan?” Yes, that’s how conservative my parents are.
In fact, the sequence of events that led to, or shall I call it became a catalyst to, my engagement taking place involved a personal decision the mister and I took on our own which at first upset / shocked my parents (no we did not have premarital sex and got pregnant; I’m not that rebellious. Or stupid.) However, they later accepted our rationale for doing so. Yet, when news of that personal decision somehow leaked to the extended family, I got an earful from my mom. They preferred that my personal decisions be kept personal until everything was confirmed or about to take place. By extension, I believe they would also prefer me to keep my fiancé’s identity low-key until he is finally ‘revealed’ on the wedding day. Perhaps I am assuming wrongly and overestimating my parents’ conservative attitude, but I would rather err on the safe side. I don’t splash photos of us all over Facebook; we also keep our interaction on Facebook to a minimum.
So dear curious relatives, if I had thought my parents would not mind me showing off my fiancé, you would have seen photos of him via my cousins’ Facebook accounts (oh I know you have your ways), and you would not need to try your luck in asking me (and consequently making me uneasy as I really don’t know how to reject your request nicely and without sounding irritated, which you made me feel with your questions). Besides, has it never occurred to you that we meet for a maximum of 3 to 5 times a year? Why would I suddenly want to share personal stuff with you when I don’t even share them with those who are actually related to me by blood? In fact, those whom I feel emotionally closer to, and whom I would not mind sharing such photos with as I know I can trust them to keep such a disclosure to themselves, don’t even ask as they know how my parents are.
There was however another who asked about the date, and after the disclaimer statement “please keep this to yourself”, I provided the information. I knew she was not asking merely out of curiosity; she wanted to make a mental note and take care not to make any advanced plans. Yet another asked about that earlier-personal-decision-that-became-the-catalyst-to-my-engagement. Since news had already leaked out (plus I knew this aunt was well-meaning rather than plain busybody), after a slight hesitation, I answered in the affirmative, albeit in a low voice which hopefully put across the message to her that I really did not want this to make headline news in bold.
Of course I feel like it’s such a hassle to be acting coy over questions; any decision that I did make or am about to make is quite honestly nobody’s business, but if relatives considered my life to be oh so fascinating that they must know and must ask, I honestly could not be bothered with the ‘juicy’ details of my life they choose to make the subject of conversations among themselves, and what opinions they held of me because of such details. People will talk whether or not they have the right information or impression. Talk can’t bring me down, nor budge me from my principles. With my old folks, however, ‘face’ and ‘good name of the family’, however, is of utmost importance. Therein lies my motivation for keeping mum about certain things.