Tea Breaks: White Hairs of Old Age

Tea Breaks is an ongoing experiment of sorts, in an attempt to fit in a bit of the going-ons in my life. So every Monday, I talk a little bit about what happened last week, and occasionally a little bit about my own plans!

Another week, another Monday! Let’s start by getting the title out of the way. There’s an idiom in Chinese. In hanzi, it’s written as 白頭到老 (báitóu dào lǎo), loosely and literally translating to “white hairs of old age”. More figuratively, it means “till death do us part”. So yes, you can guess what this will be about, and you’re probably sick to death with this theme, but indulge me. It’s the last one for this season, promise!

Last week was the famed Valentine’s Day. Both my brother and I don’t have S.O.s, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. Granted, he was gainfully employed, and I had a meeting with a professor. Then we went home, and got ready to third-wheel our parents’ date.

To be fair, it wasn’t really third-wheeling. My parents said we were both their Valentines as much as they were each other’s, so they invited us to a dinner at a fancy restaurant.

There was a couple that stood out, out of those I saw come in to the restaurant: an elderly woman, her snow-white hair done up in a bun, dressed in an dark purple qi’pao and heels. By her side was an even older man, back hunched over and slowly tottering his way past with a cane. But he wore a three-piece tuxedo with a flower in his buttonhole, and she stayed by his side, one arm supporting his, carefully guiding him to the table.

When they finally got there, the man let go of his cane, and very slowly tottered his way to the chair, and pulled it away for the woman to sit in. I could hear her protest, telling him to seat himself first, but he would have none of it.

I snuck glances at them through the night. Their conversation was soft, hushed, but through the entire dinner, their hands were interlaced on the table when they weren’t eating. The woman wore a ring with a small diamond set into it, the man a simple golden band. Once, they clinked glasses of red wine. They had the air of a couple who had been together for so long, anticipating each other easily, and they never took their eyes off each other.

In this world where we’re constantly bombarded with news of ugly divorces, where dating and hooking up are minefields with its own rules, rituals, unspoken customs and taboos, it’s so damnably easy to forget that the divorces and the bitterness we see are what the newspapers and the media focus on. Trainwrecks, tragedies, and dramas always sell more than happy, uplifting news. And I’m so very sure out there, for every marriage that ends in tears, there are at least ten more who are happy and content with each other.

But it was nice to be reminded that yes, there are still couples whose relationships last, who are both willing to still love and compromise, and to see that in flesh.

Then there were my parents, both whom have their fights, their ups and downs – but they still love each other very much. Even if they occasionally resort to kicking each other under the table during their mock arguments at dinner. Or duel each other with newspapers. Or engage in impromptu pillow fights.

Speaking of dinner, I promised food photos in the slug, didn’t I? I’ll end this blog post with them then – but I apologise that I couldn’t get any good photos of the main course or the soup. They came out a tad bit too blurry…

Crabmeat & avacado salad, rose sorbet, and vanilla-strawberry panna cotta!


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