Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Big Fat Chinese Relationship

The Greeks have big families. The Italians have big families. And then there are the Chinese. Did you know that before the whole "only one child' law of China the average number of children per Chinese family was in the teens? THE TEENS? GAH! I come from British stock. British are definitely not known for their breeding.

So when a British-esque girl meets a Chinese boy and starts to bring two families together, she is in for a shock. The Engineer has a big family. And i mean BIG. His father has ten/eleven siblings (I always forget) and his mother has 8 siblings. They all have kids (some of which have kids). But not only are they a big bunch, but there are a few crazy things to add to the confusion. One: three of the father's siblings are married to the mother's siblings. This makes for three sets of double cousins. Two: they all have two names. They talk to each other using their Chinese names. They introduce themselves to me with their English names. And some of them have nicknames on top of that! Or are referred to in Chinese as 'big sister' 'little brother'. Three: they all look the same. I know I know, it is a terrible thing to say but it is true! Apparently they all share the same "Liu" nose. Great, they even admit they all have the same nose. No wonder I get confused.

The Engineer drew a chart for me when we first started dating, but only of his mother's side. A chart. He DREW A CHART OF HIS FAMILY. Complete with fun facts like: So-and-so likes to knit and wears a bow-tie, So-and-so went to Oxford Med School on full scholarship. My family is tiny. Teeny tiny small. Now that cousin's are married and having kids we are obviously growing. But growing up I had two boy cousins on each side. My parents each have two siblings. We are nothing if symmetrical in breeding.

I have been introduced ever so slowly into this Chinese clan. First some cousins, then his parents, and finally, a year into our relationship, I attend my first Chinese restaurant banquet meal for a birthday celebration. Obviously I am nervous - not only am I meeting the family, but I am the Engineer's first serious girlfriend so everyone is curious. I also happen to be tall, blonde and an actress. Not a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer - the Chinese preferred occupations - but an actress. I am a sore wart on a sore thumb.

So I am standing there, waiting to be seated when everyone arrives at the same time. Suddenly I am flocked by fifteen teeny tiny smiling Chinese ladies who all look the same introducing themselves. All through dinner they look over and smile. I catch one staring. I wonder if I have boogers hanging out of my nose.

Unfortunately, one of the siblings passed away last week and this week we are having his funeral. I was just told about an hour ago that i get to meet the rest of the family now. WHAT? That wasn't them last time? Oh no, those were extensions upon extensions. Nope, I get the meet the rest of the MOTHER'S family this week. Not even the FATHER'S side yet. GAH!

This is why eloping is such a great option. My family is perfect to come to a wedding, they fit in a closet for crying out loud. But the Engineer's family triples the guest list.

Oh and by the way, I'm making a cheat sheet :)

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