Tough love

267070__bleeding_roses__8.jpgBy Jonk

Tuesday, 28 November, 2006

In light of the recent Home Special in the Straits Times some time back, ‘When Love Hurts’, the documentary of domestic abuse cases from the points of view of the victims, the guilty parties and wise by-standers gave all readers a detailed yet disturbing magnifying-glass look into the secret sins of countless families in Singapore.

The bold projection of these skeletons-in-closet type of stories on the front cover, and half a newspaper section, made me wonder inside how many other 17 year old teenagers were reading this and knowingly recollecting stormy pasts of their own families.

As a child, whenever my parents fought, I used to think everybody else had this wonderfully utopic life and peaceful parents, that I was the only one stuck in a highly disagreeable family. But as I progressed in age and wisdom, the willingness to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable domestic behaviour also increased and I realized my home problems could be seen as mild when compared to other much more violent home situations, as revealed very recently with the rising number of domestic murders and spousal/child abuse in the heartlands of Singapore.

The broken hearts of my peers

People my age are more open about their families and the grievances they cause us teenagers. Knowing full well that we also have our fair share of contribution to the head and heart aches of our parents and siblings, I’ve heard many stories from the broken hearts of my peers about how they truly feel towards the trouble brewing in their homes, how they wish everything would just be happy and family would, not strangers.

I’ve got a famous friend in a top local school who’s well known for her outrageous partying ways and flirtatious behaviour. Her drinking, smoking and promiscuous behaviour had long since earned her a very bad reputation within the few months of being in the college. As a friend I’ve never really been inclined to despising her the way everybody else does, but instead offered a listening ear whenever she was depressed and completely at a loss of what she was doing with her life.

People hate her for being beautiful, rich and smart (she’s gifted). But what they fail to pity her for, is her broken family background (her parents divorced when she was 3), the lack of love she receives from her father (who has long remarried and has 3 other children, plus a beautiful wife) and loving support of close friends (whom I’m sad to announce she does not have, what with the bad rep).

As she’s in a different college from me, our level of contact is very low and I admit I don’t have much patience to be her counsellor 24/7. Every once in a while I observe and hear about how she’s getting worse in her behaviour through the gossip channel of our alumni, catch up with her and act interested over her latest navel piercing or pseudo-relationship, then pick up the phone and complain about how gone case she is to a mutual friend or two.

Domestic issues affect teenagers

What I’m trying to point out here, is that domestic issues really do affect teenagers and the way they turn out later in life.

My famous college friend once confided in me tearily, that she used to think it was all her fault her parents divorced, and she wishes that perhaps maybe if her father had loved her more, he would have stuck around for her. The fact that that didn’t happen, I concluded intelligently, was what drove her to develop such promiscuous behaviour, dying for the attentions of every other attractive male and just about agreeing to do anything for and with them. This is a heartwrenching but common truth for many young people out there who rise from broken homes.

To think that the effect parents have on their children is longlived. It scares me to think that if I marry, all my beliefs in family peace might just fall apart and I’d find myself stuck in a vicious cycle of disputes and common quarrels.

Where does love come in? Or rather, where does love go?

I still find it difficult to comprehend how two loving people get married lavishly in a fairytale wedding, have a few kids and live the rest of their lives in a deadpan urban pre-mixture of parental woes, financial burdens and spousal annoyance. If domestic storms are so common, where on earth did the concept of a happy marriage materialize?

What is a “happy marriage”?

I recently did a GP essay on ‘what contributes to a happy marriage in today’s society’, and realized half way through the essay that I couldn’t really term marriage today as particularly happy, judging from the more popular divorce and increasingly popular alternative of abuse. When I read about celebrities declaring love for their fifth spouse of the year, and how it’s oh so going to ‘last forever’, I’m not sure whether to laugh or to cry.

I guess family may be the basic building block of society, but it’s also the most difficult to maintain. If you can’t get through the laying down of the foundations, there’s no point looking towards a brighter future in the promising blue skies of tomorrow. We’ve all got to keep being the glue, even as we grow our wings and want to fly away for ourselves.

Our parents, our siblings, our whole families need us, no matter how much they sometimes act otherwise.

And maybe, just maybe, if we make it through this tough round as the kids, we’ll have an easier time as strong, experienced parents another day.

About the author:
Jonk is a JC arts faculty student who describes herself as “incredibly aunty-philosophical when it comes to deciphering the little neurotics of teenage life.”