“How I do post ‘I’m proud of you, girl’ on Facebook?” My dear mother asked me innocently, glasses perched on her forehead, eyebrows just slightly crunched together, eyes squinting at the tiny font on her smartphone.
“Ma, are you saying you’re proud of me or are you just telling your friends?” I reminded my mum that she hasn’t actually told me she’s proud of me, so she quickly gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
I don’t blame mum, I’m exactly the same. Every morning before I leave for work, I give her a good bye hug. Sometimes, I’d secretly mutter an ‘I love you’, but it has never left my lips. Instead, I’d hug her a little tighter or a little longer.
I don’t remember the last time my mum uttered those three little words to me, nor I her — though we’ve read it on birthday cards countless times. My dad, however, would sometimes surprise me by slipping in an almost inaudible “love you” at the end of our phone calls. It always catches me off guard. I’d stagger for a millisecond and he would’ve ended the call before I could reply.
This Asian culture that we’ve grown up in has made us emotionally stunted people. We don’t know how to be affectionate, at least not verbally. We replace “I love you” with chicken rice breakfasts, massage chairs and lovingly brewed herbal medicine.
But, it’s a different story come Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Facebook becomes a lovefest; a competition of “I love my mother/father more than you’”. Sepia-toned photos of our parents in their younger days cradling baby us; “Best parents in the world” captions; heart-shaped emojis; and, of course, the public declaration of “I love you, ma/pa”.
Funny how we’re so comfortable declaring our love for our parents to acquaintances and strangers on the Internet, but not directly to our parents. We’re so afraid to show our affection in person, but give us a keyboard, and we’re as deft at professing love as our Western counterparts.
Facebook has become our refuge from verbal affection. Hiding behind our computer screens, we can finally, confidently, tell our parents how much we appreciate them. No eye contact. No losing composure. No fumbling over words. No heart palpitations. No awkward laughter. Perfect. Heart-felt words we would write on cards now go onto Facebook. Do people still write cards any more?
Last Mothers Day, my heart filled with a warm fuzzy feeling as I read through post after post of my friends’ dedication to their mothers. It was enough for me to jump on the bandwagon. I was ready to dig through our archive of family photos and craft one up for my dad for Fathers Day. But then I remembered the old man thinks Facebook is something you can borrow from the library.
While I would’ve been proud telling the whole world how much I love my dad, he wouldn’t have seen the post. Wouldn’t that have defeated the purpose?
Why are we publicly expressing our love to our parents? Is it really for them or is it self-gratification? Is this another instance of bragging rights, next to photos of boarding passes and fancy dinners, that we post for people to validate our lives with a like button?
I take a look back at the touching posts my friends shared and wonder how many of their parents read them. I wonder how many of them felt as touched as I was. It would’ve been a missed opportunity if everyone but their parents knew how appreciated they are.
This Fathers Day, after I’ve published my Facebook post, I’ll sit next to my dad and read it out loud to him. I want the whole world to know how great he is, but he should probably know it, too.
I don’t know what I’m planning to say, but I can already feel my cheeks overheating!
On second thought, maybe I’ll just save my mushy message for a personal Fathers Day card, accompanied by a hopefully audible “Dad, I love you”. If there’s one person to break the shyness of saying the three words in my family, it won’t be a stubborn old man set in his Asian ways.
And, if the stoic old man isn’t comfortable telling me in person that he loves me, too, he can get my mum to post a comment on my Facebook wall.
That, at least, is a step up from chicken rice breakfasts and lovingly brewed herbal medicine.
Mei Mei Chu is a freelance writer who contemplates a little too much about life, travel, and her Facebook newsfeed