I visited my cousin Peter and his wife Carol the other day and they spent the entire time moaning about how their kids are driving them up the wall.
“They just don’t listen!” Peter said. He had an urgent look in his eyes, the kind you get when you’re in the cinema and need to pee right in the middle of Avengers: Endgame, but you don’t dare leave your seat because you just know you’re going to miss some big action sequence.
“Well, they’re only two…,” I began.
Carol shook her head as she took a large sip of her Pinot Noir. “No, it’s not that. They scream and cry, and then they sulk, and then they’re sweet and you think, ‘Oh, I really do love you’, and then suddenly they’re screaming again… It’s driving us nuts!”
I hesitated. “Well, I’m sure being locked down hasn’t…”
Peter sniffed. “No, it’s not that either. They were like this even before the virus. It’s gotten to the point when we’re thinking maybe we shouldn’t have been parents in the first place.”
Later that evening, when I called my mother all the way in Sydney, she could hardly have been less surprised. “Well, of course they shouldn’t have been parents,” she exclaimed, her diamond earrings flashing. “Hello, Peter shouldn’t have married Carol in the first place! His mother was so against the marriage, you know!”
“It’s hilarious how deluded some of the candidates are. If I had my life all over again, I swear I would’ve been a matchmaker. I would have laughed all day. It’s the best thing I’ve seen since Say I Do."
Auntie Sook-Ling had taken one look at Carol and hated her on sight. Her son, she told all her sisters, must have been on drugs the day he met Carol, because no Harvard-trained surgeon could possibly have mistaken this smelly skank (her exact words, but translated from Cantonese) for anything other than a two-bit, overweight, ugly, lazy gold-digger.
You can imagine our surprise when we all finally met Carol and discovered she was, in fact, an emaciated, bespectacled school librarian who tied her hair up in a bun and shopped at Crabtree & Evelyn.
“Auntie Sook-Ling is clearly the one on drugs, not Peter,” my sister Michelle reported to Mother. “Carol’s completely harmless! The only thing dangerous about her is that she likes to mix her red wines with a bit of Coca-Cola!”
Six years and two young children later, during which time Carol was promoted to head librarian at her local JC whilst selling Thermomixes on the side at weekends, Auntie Sook-Ling remains convinced her daughter-in-law is Elektra Abundance come to life.
“I wish he’d let me arrange his marriage!” she told my mother the other day. “I had so many suitable candidates from good families. But this is what happens when you send children overseas to study. They get infected by these stupid ideas like marrying for love.” She practically spat out the word.
Amanda was astonished when I told her. “Do people still do that?” she asked at lunch. “Arrange marriages, I mean.”
Saffy looked up from her coin pratas. “Sure they do! I’m watching this show at the moment on Netflix? Indian Matchmaking. It’s hilarious how deluded some of the candidates are. If I had my life all over again, I swear I would’ve been a matchmaker. I would have laughed all day. It’s the best thing I’ve seen since Say I Do.”
At which we all let out a collective sigh.
Amanda’s eyes turned misty. ‘Oh, I love that show! Isn’t it just the sweetest thing ever?”
Saffy leaned in and spoke through a mouth full of prata. “The best. I’m still a little in love with that Italian chef, whatshisname?”
“Gabriele Bertaccini!” said Amanda immediately. “I’m stalking him on Instagram right now. He’s been posting topless pictures of himself lately, and I usually have to sit down for a while.”
“He’s so hot!” Saffy said. “He could boil my minestrone any time he wants. But really, gay men throw the best weddings!”
“Maybe that’s what Peter and Carol should have done,” Amanda said. “Hired a gay man to organise their wedding. Because their wedding was Dullsville! Remember how we sneaked out after the cold platter course?”
“No offence, but two boring people should not marry each other,” Saffy said firmly. “It’s really not fair to the guests!”
Which I suppose is kind of my Auntie Sook-ling’s point. If her precious Peter had only listened to her, he would now have been happily married to Annabelle, his crackerjack of an ex-girlfriend who, instead, had married our other cousin, Sheung, and given birth to three beautifully behaved sons. Instead, she was now saddled with two hormonally imbalanced, potentially stupid, brats (again, her exact words) for grandchildren.
“What a waste of my good genes,” she complained to my mother who replied kindly that all children are inherently ungrateful and didn’t deserve to emerge from the womb.
Saffy says it’s a good thing Mother never became a matchmaker. “Can you imagine? Although…if Netflix ever made a show about her, it would be such a major hit. Confirm!”
Photo: Yash Ruparelia/Netflix