Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Revisiting the prawn peeling incident


I initially wanted to talk about the emerging Chinese trend of marrying Vietnamese brides, but reading about pehpeh Dai's (as above, with his wife, Ah Ying) matchmaking experience in Vietnam where "every girl who had eaten with Old Dai had first filled his bowl with rice, peeled the shell off the shrimp, put the meat in his bowl, and waited for Old Dai to begin eating before being willing to pick up their own chopsticks", made me laugh all over again. Will Vietnam never run out of brides? I mean, ya, there was the 3:5 men to women ratio due to the many years of war the country endured which robbed the women of their men, and also the much ranted tirade on lazy Vietnamese men who beat their wives, but still? On a side note, I would like to point here as well, that daughters are so much more valuable than sons, as can be observed... hahah

The now ubiquitous trend of Singaporean men eschewing their local women and procuring Vietnamese brides had caused much resentment among the already much maligned Singaporean females, whose very femininity has been questioned and taunted by the decades-long influx of the Malaysian bride, the China bride, then the Teochew speaking (one of the Singaporean dialects) Kalimantan bride, and now the prawn-peeling, obedient Vietnamese bride, several years ago. It culminated in mass hysteria among most Singaporean females with the infamous Straits Time He* Mail columnist, Xie Wen's prawn peeling article, where he compared the Vietnamese bride to the Singaporean bride who wouldn't peel prawns for her man.

In fact, it has become the other way round. At a recent wedding dinner, my colleague praised a male friend who at another wedding she attended, peeled prawns for the entire table of females so that they wouldn't get their hands dirty. We agreed that that man was very thoughtful and gentlemanly, and we encouraged the youngest man at our table to do it just to see if he would. He did (I must point out here, that I hate prawns, don't eat prawns, those foul-smelling cockcroach-looking sea creatures. So I joined in the "encouragement" from purely anthropological curiosity). I was intrigued by the responses by the other married and unmarried men at our table- they appeared to ignore the entire process, not deigning to show any disdain or interest despite my colleague pointing it out to them too many times. Very fascinating.

The whole prawn peeling issue is not really that bad or big a issue but rather it reflects the mismatch of expectations between the Singaporean man and his female counterpart. The Singaporean man wants a simpler wife, who while may not having to cook or keep a tidy house (but it would be preferable if she did), doesn't question or argue with him unnecessarily, spend his money superficially and support him in his decisions and interests. A need that can now be satisfied by the seemingly obedient and giving Vietnamese wife, who also doesn't spend their money unnecessarily (meaning: on themselves).

The Singaporean woman, on the other hand, wants a faithful husband who gives her the standard of living that she and their future children can be comfortable with (it can range from being able to shop at luxury boutiques, to merely having three filling meals a day and money for a rainy day), i.e. stability. The part about him having to be brilliant, devoted like a knight, speaks five languages, own much ostentatious possessions is not really the norm, as widely perceived by the men. I have to agree that such women, and I do know of some who think like that, should, as my brother used to say, "take a piss and look at their reflection in the yellow pool". If you require more from your man, make sure you can deliver as much to the relationship as he can. Unfortunately this is something most of us have yet to learn. And yet we continue to wonder why foreign brides win. Actually I am ok with foreign brides because most of them marry the men we wouldn't want to either (like old pehpehs, men who were married before, menial workers, etc.). I am more annoyed at the younger men my age who are so brainwashed by the media and prevalent culture that they too, lazy to go through the hassle of pursuing love, are looking towards foreign brides. But then again, if they think like that, it's better that they find love elsewhere.

As for my take on the prawn-peeling issue? Under much self-imposed duress, I will pick up the prawn with tongs, peel and devein them with a fork and knife before frying them in tempura. But I am damn well not peeling drunken prawns. I will cook them with much emotional distress, he can peel them himself.

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