Chinese New Year for the Chinese is that time of the year when relatives gather to get updated on the latest gossip in the families–who’s getting married, having kids, still/forevee alone etc.–just like Christmas for the West.
The West has made it a modern tradition to release romance films capitalising on the warm and fuzzy mood of that time of the year, so I’m going to do a little Chinese twist for Chinese New Year this time round.
Presenting… In collaboration with Goldenscissorscheongsam, A plausible Chinese love story over the last century, partially inspired by the 1940s and Eileen Chang’s (One of the most influential modern Chinese writers who was also the granddaughter of Li Hongzhang–a Qing dynasty Marquis/court official of extreme influence) short story. She wrote Lust, Caution too. Excuse my poor writing, it’s not meant to be a work of art. 😉
Jack was only a student when he met Tammy. She was the mistress of a well-known secret society leader who had tens of thousands men under him and held turf occupying large areas of Singapore/Shanghai/Malaya*.
*pls delete as you seem fit.
Jack had never seen any girl like Tammy before. She was so vicarious and carried herself with such self-confidence that he could just watch her whole day. She acted like she was all alone, regardless of whether that’s a reality, and Jack kinda liked being a fly on the wall. She liked his innocence, and thought she might have a better future with him than the gang leader.
So she started her own plotting to get Jack next in line for the throne of the gang leader. It’s another story of love and betrayal altogether. We’ll settle for this vague description for now.
Finally, the gang leader passed away. As he had no son of his own (either died in other gang fights, assassinated or died from internal fighting), he passed the baton to Jack, his earnest and loyal right-hand man.
Then there’s the issue of legitimising all that wealth. You see, according to Marlow’s hierarchy of needs, once you have satisfied the basic needs then you would want to upgrade to the next level of fulfillment.
Enters Eileen. The daughter of a rich tycoon who had legitimised his own wealth through marriage and who valued the street savvyness of Jack. He recognized that to take his business to the next level, such strategic alliances needed to be formed, which was a win-win situation for both.
Eileen, was like the red rose in Eileen Chang’s story–overseas Singaporean Chinese who studied in London and was quite a party girl during her undergraduate years. She was intrigued by Jack because he represented challenge–his first wife being a socialite who was equally as much a party girl at Eileen as the height of her youth. Slowly, that curiosity and general intrigue turned into fascinating–he was nothing like the party boys she knew back in her school days. He had a bit of that old world charm, and she particularly liked it when he took out his handkerchief to wipe away the dirt and sweat before carefully folding and tucking it neatly into his pocket. And that pocket watch he carried was so last century but so quaint. Fascinating with the past is not something unique to the 21st century.
It was another ten years before Jack decided to marry his third wife–Laura. He had wealth and reputation, he just needed a more presentable and enviable woman to bring out for social events. They call the existence of such female companions mistress. Except, this particular one was able to capture his heart very well, knew all his preferences, and planned out everything for him just the way he liked. And just like a lucky charm, business dealing with her around was always exceptionally smooth and he liked her street savvyness.
She was very very much like him. They say nariccists fall in love with those who reminded them of themselves, and it was the case for Jack and Laura.
Well, when you’ve had three wives, you gotta complete the set so they can keep each other accompanied at the Mahjong table, or so he thought. Fast forward another decade or so, he welcomed his fourth wife, a young but boring woman who was young enough to be his daughter or grand-daughter. This time, it was a marriage of folly (yea, at that age… he kinda lived his life backwards), but that’s what age does to men sometimes.
She was from an average family, and he thought it’s finally time to have an heir to pass on his fortune. He outlived all his rivals, and it was now safe. He liked how she’s different from the other three–obedient, a bit boring but suited the perfect mother and wife image he had in mind, and he loved how she reminded him of his youth and the girls he missed out on as a student.
You would have thought that at the rate things are going, it’s going to be one happy ending. Well, it was for all the women for they saved up well, had properties under their name and struck up an unlikely alliance/friendship with one another. They bided their time. Poor Jack, he trusted the innocent looking young wife Jessie, thinking she was too pure and naive to have anything up her sleeves, and handed over everything he had including all of his CPF (it was back in the days when you could withdraw everything at one go). Once they saw that he needed them more than they needed him, like the many cases of Japanese housewives divorcing their husbands after reaching the age of retirement, they fled with all the money accumulated over the years. NO MORE LAUNDRY!!!! FREEDOMMMMM!!!!!
So guys, don’t have too many wives–you can’t handle them especially when you get too old. And women, please note the importance of financial independence!
Happy Chinese New Year! 😂 I needed a story, and this is the best I could think of given the time…. and my impatience!
SPECIAL EDITION: Red Rose vs White Rose
Eileen Chang once wrote in her short story, Red Rose, White Rose
“There were two women in Zhenbao’s life: one he called his white rose, the other his red rose. One was a spotless wife, the other a passionate mistress. Isn’t that just how the average man describe a chaste widow’s devotion to her husband’s memory – as spotless, and passionate too? Maybe every man has had two such women – at least two. Marry a red rose and eventually she’ll be a mosquito-blood streak smeared on the wall, while the white one is “moonlight in front of my bed.” Marry a white rose, and before long she’ll be a grain of sticky rice that’s gotten stuck to your clothes; the red one, by then, is a scarlet beauty mark just over your heart.”