Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Cousins

As many of you would have guessed, I come from a relatively untraditional household.

Well, at least in my own nuclear family since some of my older uncles do subscribe to a terrifyingly conservative, vaguely Confucian doctrine. Think Father Knows Best. Thankfully my father, despite the occasional tyrannical bluster, turned out to be far more liberal than most, which perhaps explains the rebellious anarchists he involuntarily fostered in his home. Till now, setting the rules anywhere whether at home or at work would invariably incite me into figuring how to bend or break them.

Enlightened permissiveness there might be in our household but some traditional values still hold true. Unlike most of my peers these days who can hardly recall half of their blood relatives, we were brought up to consider members of our extended family such as our cousins to be as close as our own siblings.

Blood is thicker than water isn't just an antiquated aphorism in my family.

Which is why till now I have relatively few qualms over taking the strap to their unruly brats if they dare step over the line, cantankerous uncle and all. After all, my own hard-nosed elders wouldn't have hesitated to do the same - and for that, I do wholeheartedly thank them since otherwise I would have probably turned into a monstrous miscreant.

Even amongst my cousins, no matter how far flung they might be, there's always an invariable link - made stronger these days with the ever-present chat messaging apps which keeps us all regularly apprised on each other's mundane daily movements.

So you can imagine my horror when I came to the sad realization that not everyone shares such strong familial sentiments.

Paul : That was a lovely lunch. Who was that pretty young lady beside you? 
Calvin : My cousin.
Paul : Visiting? 
Calvin : No, she lives right here. 
Paul : What? 
Calvin : She also works here. 
Paul : And you have never ever seen her? 
Calvin : No, why should I? 
Paul : So what does she do? 
Calvin : Don't know. 
Paul : You're not at all curious to know? You don't want to know her better? 
Calvin : No.

For someone who places such emphasis on familial ties, you can imagine my horror.

Calvin : I have little interest in knowing her.
Cousin : Neither do I. Just because we are related by blood doesn't mean we have to get along.
Paul : I can't tell if I'm impressed with such refreshingly modern views or appalled. 

Not only is this unnervingly anonymous junior Borgia right in town, she's apparently not the only cousin of his age around. Surprisingly quite a number I have yet to meet - and here I'd been led to think he only had eccentric elders left. Despite having a family presumably far more conservative than my own, there are certain key Confucian tenets they don't seem to hold dear such as the prime importance of familial kinship and consanguinity.

In stark contrast to their seeming familial indifference, my adorably nosy cousins found themselves practically agog with curiosity when they found out about Calvin. Half of them, at least the more boisterous half, couldn't wait to meet and have him interrogated under a swinging lamp.

When it comes to cousinly relationships, I'll have to say this is far from the worst though. I've had friends who didn't even know some first cousins even existed till bluntly pointed out. Fabulous Felix spent half his life without meeting his.
“At some point, the family you create is more important than the one you were born into.
No argument with that but that doesn't mean we should entirely overlook the extended family we were born into either. Just like any other relationship, it takes time and effort to build a connection and some relations are certainly worth getting to know better.

No comments: