Today we headed out to the bus stop, and across the busy road, I spotted a man yelling. Poppy asked what he was doing so I simply shrugged and said he might be crazy because there are some crazy people who just like shouting, right? Many of us have encountered such folks. There is even one in our neighbourhood who walks around backwards. Even when crossing the road. I kid you not.
So I just happened to look across the road at Crazy Man and realised that he was looking at me. No surprise there because crazies often make eye contact because they think you've stolen their money or something. But then I heard what he was saying.
Hold on to your chairs, ladies and gentlemen.
"MARRY A CHINESE GUY!"
Yep, you read right. I heard right. He said just that. My fellow Singaporean said that to me.
You know, when we were honeymooning in Vietnam, I was mistaken as a Vietnamese. When we went to Thailand, the locals thought I was Thai. In China, the locals called me 乌鸦 (or 'crow'; I think they were referring to me as being after Max's money) and told to '说中文' (speak Mandarin).
Here in Singapore, taxis drivers often ask me after staring in their rear view mirror, "You Malay ah?". At playgrounds or at the market, Filipino domestic workers come up to me and speak to me in Tagalog.
I get it. I have a 'global face'.
I have friends who have had beer cans chucked at them from moving cars and told "Go back to China, you chink!" in Australia, friends who have suffered verbal abuse in New Zealand, I've been ignored in queues in Canada.
But this? This, in my own country. Right on the very street that I live on. I'm enraged. In emoticons, I was much more than 'double dot open bracket'. And what is with this sudden exploding urge to maintain blue bloodedness within the country?
Why us? Why me? Why?
I'd like to think of us as an average kind of family. We live in a 3-roomed HDB flat, we pay our bills (sometimes not on time), we eat at hawker centres, and now, thanks to school, our daughter says "Like that so cute one" and other gems.
Max is the most localised angmoh I know. He wears Bata slippers, drinks kopi-c-kosong at the coffee shop, orders from the vegetarian stall at the hawker centre (hands up, Singaporeans who have never done that), and even has the standard ah pek uniform - the tattered white singlet. If he were to walk around with a paper bag over his face, you could never tell the colour of his skin.
To be singled out and yelled at by a stranger in public all because of our marital choices: did we deserve that?
I now think about my kids. How will they be treated when they grow up, coming from an inter-racial family? Aren't we so proud to be a country with 4 main races that live together harmoniously? Or does it only mean each race living within its own and only interacting when it comes to taking pictures for National Day banners? What happens when there are 2 races within a family? Like that how?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one, especially those of whom have grown up in an inter-racial family, or are part of one now.
PS So what did I do in response to that man? The most mature thing of course. I showed him the finger. And no, it wasn't the one of victory. And when I told Max what had happened, he did the same. I'm not proud of it, but I felt the need to show Mr Crazy that I had heard his comment and I did not appreciate it, and that gesture was the first thing that came to mind. And no, the kids didn't see.