You know that uncle who’s always a bit crazy? The one who sits at the kid’s table instead of his allocated seat at the adult’s? Who starts yapping to you in that jocular, overly familiar tone as if he’s still in your age bracket? As if he knows his Billie Porter from his Billie Eilish? Insists that ‘Dance Monkey’ is the artist’s name instead of Tones and I?
Well, it’s one of my favourite parts of getting together with the entire family—be it Christmas, Chinese New Year or the wedding of your second cousin whom you’ve only met once when you were five and only from across the room at some aunty’s birthday (not even blood-related), but you’re still forced to attend due to some unspoken Asian duty to family, and fork over an ang pow.
“How much did you put in your ang pow?” mom asks.
“Aiyoh puh-lease lah! Why are you so cheap? At least 400.”
“But I thought that was the going rate?” I reply. “And I don’t even know his wife’s name.”
“Don’t embarrass me okay! I attend the same church as his mom and cannot have her looking at me on Sunday like I have a stingy son.”
In fact, the more remote the family relation who’s hosting the event, the more likely you’ll bump into that random uncle. He’s harmless. Usually highly animated. And always hilarious.
With the recent spate of back-to-back festive family gatherings, I’ve been on the lookout for this fun relative to rear his head from the chorus of characters that is my family.
My dad recently discovered that he has the gift of healing. Just before Christmas, he was praying for a friend with bad hearing; a fellow churchgoer who had been using hearing aids for years. But after dad placed his hands on his ears, there was a ‘pop’ and his ears were unblocked. It was a miracle. And now dad is laying his hands on anyone for anything.
“Come, let me pray for your shoulders Andrew.”
“It’s okay uncle Richard, I just tweaked my back when I was in the gym yesterday.”
“Receive the blessing!”
Aunty Sue, also known as Doctor Sue, together with my cousin Amanda who has just completed her medical placement, are fielding 100 questions about what happened at cousin James’s wedding last year—forever nicknamed The Tan Outbreak when 28 members of the Tan family were struck down with food poisoning after ingesting prawn mee at the pre-wedding dinner, of which 12 were hospitalised.
“Always have charcoal tablets with you,” advises Amanda.
“And Buscopan,” adds Doctor Sue.
While at the dinner table, uncle Keng is bemoaning the fact that Trump, despite his impeachment, will likely secure a second term in the White House.
A volley of heated debate on the topic—on one side, my Trump-supporting mother, on the other, the majority of the family—is rallying its way down the room to me.
“What do you think Norman?” asks uncle Keng, lobbing the question to me like a deft backhand.
“Well…”, I delay, trying to decide whether to hit it back with a question about the Deep State or dodge it altogether by changing the conversation. “What I really want to know is…,” I’ve decided to let the ball sail pass, “if you could receive an unlimited supply of clothes from three brands for the rest of your life, what would those three brands be?”
There is a pause. My dad has stopped praying for Andrew. Aunty Sue has stopped talking about the importance of washing your hands. And my mom is making the same face she did when I told her about the ang pow.
“Norman, that is so random,” chimes my teenage cousin Anthony. I’m seated at the kid’s table. It’s more fun here, I had reasoned. And then, my entire table starts laughing. Oh gawd, it hits me like a Nole forehand: I’m now that crazy uncle.
We all have different faces for the different people in our lives. There is the face you wear when you’re at work (serious but fun-loving), hanging out with your friends (fun-loving but serious) and with the family (formerly ‘cousin with the cool job’, but clearly now ‘that crazy uncle’). And it’s fascinating when that face (or identity) changes with the swerve balls that life throws at you.
Head on over to our special feature with SEA Games gold medallist Christina Tham as she discusses her career change from swimmer to underwater hockey champion; get to know the fresh new faces in entertainment from London, Sydney, Los Angeles as well as right here in the Lion City in four exclusive shoots documenting their impending rise to fame; plus check in with our handsome cover star Harris Dickinson who is on the verge of becoming a household name with his lead role in the upcoming prequel to the Kingsmen franchise, The King’s Man.
As always, Esquire is full of aces. Whatever the circumstance and no matter the crowd, remember this: you can always save face with a copy of Esquire under your arm or our website saved as your homepage. Enjoy.