I Married Into a Matriarchy – Movement Labs

I Married Into a Matriarchy

I married into a matriarchy.  WINNING. Read on for the full story:

On my way to a matriarch lunch.  I totally married into an awesome family (for lots of reasons)…

In some ways, Singapore is like the United States: A nation of immigrants.  Some of the first to arrive in Singapore (and the rest of the Indonesian archipelago), in the 15th and 16th centuries, were Chinese.  Many of these early inhabitants became traders, and worked with the British, Chinese, and indigenous Malay populations to facilitate the exchange of goods and services.  These groups often inter-married (or at least had children together), and developed their own unique culture.

In Singapore, the descendants of this group – who “look” Chinese, speak Baba Malay (a Malay dialect), and have their own blended traditions – are called Chinese Peranakans, or just “Peranakans”.  [To be thorough, I must note that “peranakan” is actually a Malay term that translates exactly to “locally born”.  There are also Peranakan Indians and Jawi Peranakans, who are the descendants of local Malays inter-marrying with South Indian Hindus and South Indian Muslims, respectively.]

Historically, Peranakans had their own style of dress, marriage ceremonies, language, and food.  But for a variety of reasons, in Singapore today, Peranakan culture is gradually disappearing back into Chinese culture.  For example, KMN’s mother is Peranakan, but dresses in a Western style (or in a Chinese cheongsam for special occasions) and cooks Chinese food.  She does speak Baba Malay, though, and both KMN and his sister know a little bit, as well.

As someone who married into a Chinese/Peranakan family, then, how does the culture impact me?  Well, KMN’s family does hold fast to one Perankan tradition: a powerful matriarchy.  The women plan the gatherings, steer the families, and in my observations, usually have the first (and last) say on many matters of importance.  Now this is a tradition that I can help carry forward!

In celebration of this matriarchy – and for a farewell visit with several family members who are returning to their lives abroad – the ladies in my mother-in-law’s family all went for lunch together this past week.  I was lucky enough to be invited to join them.  I really do love seeing families together – and witnessing this gathering of 12 women, spanning three generations, was awesome.  

These women have witnessed the entirety of Singapore’s modern history: from colonial days to independence, from swamp to urban hub, from just developing to positively developed.  Few places moved through these stages as quickly as Singapore, and I can hardly wrap my mind around how much change some of these women lived through – all while working, raising children, loving, laughing, and supporting each other.

We enjoyed a lunch of fellowship, but unfortunately I had to zip out early for a meeting across town.  As my cab driver pointed out, I was going far…like, all the way to the other side of the island:

So how far do you think my trip was, exactly?  [Hint: It cost me $16 USD.]

So how far do you think my trip was, exactly? [Hint: It cost me $16 USD.]

Thankfully, I didn’t need my passport (to get all the way to the other side), and I arrived in the nick of time for my meeting.  Quote from meeting: “The science center is very old. It was built in 1977.  We just opened a time capsule that we sealed a long time ago.  There were a lot of antiques in there, like a very big TV and a CD player.”  Lovely.

Bearing in mind that I’m approaching “antique” territory, I followed up the meeting with an attempt to  fight the aging process.  KMN and I met for a spin class, and somehow, we were on the same wavelength (or our instructor that even was especially inspiring), because we both left everything on our bikes. After our 50-minute class I lounged on the foam roller for a few minutes, in a weak attempt at actually rolling my legs out.  Finally, we called it quits, hit the showers, and dragged our (aging) selves home around 10 PM.  I was beat, but rallied to throw together another multi-bowl meal:

Holly's 3 bowl dinner

Me:love when I cut the pineapple at the perfect time.  It is perfectly ripe and very sweet, but none of it has gone bad/mushy yet.
KMN: Mmmm…
Me: Yeah, I know you don’t really care for pineapple, even if it’s cut at the perfect moment.
KMN: I do if it’s on Hawaiian pizza!
Me: *gag*

So really – how far do you think my taxi ride was?  [Singaporeans, you all sit this one out, OK?]

Pineapple on your pizza: yay or nay?

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  1. Elena January 28, 2013 at 1:28 am - Reply

    Pineapple and hot peppers is my favorite pizza topping ever

    • Holly KN January 28, 2013 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Hot peppers: WIN.
      Pineapple: WHY must you desecrate the pizza so!?!?!?!

  2. misszippy1 January 28, 2013 at 4:59 am - Reply

    No wonder you enjoyed it so much–what a great way to run a society! Sounds like a really fun, full day. Love the look of your meal, too.

    Hmm…$16 I would say adds up to not very far w/ stops/starts. Couple of miles?

  3. Cait the Arty Runnerchick January 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    oh so neat, i always enjoy reading social nuances and practices between different cultures, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    i usually don’t have pineapple on my pizza’s but don’t pick it off either if i get it. 🙂

    • Holly KN January 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Plenty more to come! Singapore is fascinating, because at first glance, it looks like any other major city. But dig a little deeper, and there are all sorts of unique things to see and learn. And I’m lucky enough to know a whole bunch of locals, whose brains I pick quite frequently. 🙂

      And heck, you can stay…even with your weird pineapple habits. 🙂

  4. Reuben February 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Pineapple on pizza is great!

    • Holly KN February 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      Oh, all you warm-pineapple-loving mutants…

      Your wife’s love of rice pudding is all that’s saving you right now… 😉

  5. Chrissy February 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Mmmmm…pineapple on pizza. I’m with Keemin on this one.

  6. […] Language barrier?  Possibly, but her English seemed pretty good to me. Upselling?  Perhaps, but it’s not like she’s working on commission. Overall misunderstanding?  Maybe. An Auntie just being an Auntie?  Most likely… [KMN's Peranakan family has taught me to respect the matriarchy!] […]

  7. […] 12 PM: We are at the first (of five) of KMN’s great-aunt’s houses. Some of her children and grandchildren are also there, and people flow in and out constantly. We don’t know them all, but greet them anyway, and wish everyone a Happy New Year. We enjoy a traditional Peranakan dish of chicken and potatoes in a savory gravy, served with spicy red peppers for zing and crusty bread for dipping in the gravy. This is officially lunch – but there is much more eating to be done today, so we pace ourselves! [If you're curious, you can read more about Peranakan culture in this post: I Married Into a Matriarchy.] […]

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