My sister is in town, so our family had a reunion dim sum lunch on the eve of Chinese New Year.
I have a new haircut which can look quite butch, and none of my relatives had seen it yet. I thought lunch would be a good place to ease some of my relatives into the (let’s be honest) more clearly I’m-not-a-straight-woman look. Test run before meeting the entire clan on the first day of Chinese New Year.
My second aunt, 2yee, didn’t recognise me until she got a good look at my face.
- 2yee: I prefer you with long hair.
- Me: But I’ve had long hair for years.
- 2yee: You can have long hair forever.
Update: Mum has seen the haircut now.
- Mum: *grimace* You look like a man.
- Me: Mm.
- Mum: Did your friend cut this for you?
- Me: Mm.
- Mum: I don’t like this hair.
- Me: That’s okay, it’s not on your head.
- Mum: *disapproving skeptical stare*
As these introductions go, I thought it wasn’t too bad.
- Uncle Fudge: Why did you get short hair?
- Me: Because I wanted short hair.
I actually thought Uncle Fudge, who for many years wore lacy white French shirts and had wavy long hair, wouldn’t really notice or even comment on it. So even one casual question from him is a lot. Then again, he is talking more these days at family gatherings.
My Yee Gu Por (2nd grand aunt) didn’t recognise me! I got a confused look from her when I wished her Happy New Year and received an angpow. I thought the confusion was over the haircut.
Later she smacked my shoulder, had a huge grin, and said she was wondering who had come to her CNY open house. She had a jolly good laugh about it when she realised I am “Ah Han’s daughter”. She openly expresses amusement every time she sees me, my short hair tickles her so.
I visited Tai Gu Por (eldest grand aunt) and Gu Por. She didn’t recognise me either, has not for a few years now. She’s so frail, and this is the second or third CNY where I’ve only seen her lying on her bed. The last time, she didn’t know who I was — we took turns loudly stating our names and who we were as we shook her feeble hand (which I worried may have been unnecessarily tiring). I think she can recognise my mother (or at least, remember the details when told).
As for me, amongst all the grandaunts of that generation, the ones I spoke with most were my late Suk Por, and Yee Gu Por. Tai Gu Por I never saw as much, so I never expect her to remember me.
This time, however, there was a first; when I leaned over to clasp her hand, she started grinning too. I don’t know if she saw a woman with a man’s haircut, or she thought I was someone else quite delightful. I didn’t see the same expression when her other relatives greeted her. The smile returned when I went in to say goodbye.
I’m happy if my hair brought cheer to Tai Gu Por. By all means, laugh at me, and I will laugh with you.