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The single most important issue

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-02-01 07:27:41

The single most important issue

Wang Xiaoying/China Daily

Those of marriageable age who return home for the Chinese New Year reunion tend to hear the giant sucking sound of the institution of marriage, reminding them that to be single is shameful.

The Lunar New Year is the most festive of all Chinese holidays, with family reunion as the centerpiece, somewhat akin to Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one.

Now that the twin pet peeves have receded into the background-the massive human migration has been made easier by the nation's fast expanding high-speed train network and the New Year's Eve Gala has exhausted all forms of grumbling-there is renewed interest in the age-old custom of pestering marriage-age children with a weeklong bombast of questions and advice.

Isn't it time to consider settling down with someone? I know someone who knows someone in your city who can fix you up with someone of your choice. Why are you so picky? Once you are over a certain age, your value will plummet in the eyes of those looking for a spouse. Be realistic! Find someone, even if he does not meet all your requirements.

While the advice may sound well meaning, some exasperated parents may issue an ultimatum: Bring back a regular date or a fiance(e), or I'll disown you!

Grandparents are usually less straightforward. But there is equal or more weight in their veiled threats: You know I'm getting old. Can you satisfy my wish of seeing a great-grandchild before I breathe my last?

The Chinese parents' urge to dictate their children's lives is legendary. I don't know if this is a match for the fabled Jewish mom, but it definitely does not pale in comparison.

While most parents will discourage their children from dating while in college, they expect the youngsters to find an ideal partner a year or two after graduation. And many find it unsettling for them if you show up for the all-important Lunar New Year without even a date when you are approaching 30.

And it is not just the parents; it is the whole village, so to speak, that can come out and join the chorus. Your high-school buddy may visit you with a toddler in tow; your neighbors may greet you with a friendly "Are you home by yourself?" And someone with the virtue of frankness could simply blurt out: "You're not getting younger. You should consider the institution."

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