The Mamas And The Papas


(In light of the recent Paris attacks, I felt that this should be a solemn post. However I’m reminded by President Francois Hollande that life and culture must go on. So here goes.)

It’s a strange but not uncommon practice. Lots of people lose their identities everyday. And the identity thieves? Their newly found dearests and closests.

No, I’m not referring to their parents or siblings, silly. To them, they will always be the same old John or Mary. No, I mean the members of the opposite sex, whom they have recently become “attached” to. Somehow “John” or “Mary”, or isn’t good enough anymore. “Darling”, or “Honey”, or “Sweetheart”, or some variations of these have usurped their places. And the identity-losers appear to be pleased as punch with their newly conferred monikers.

I personally have difficulty with this practice. Being addressed as a label, I mean. Think about it. It is a label, whatever term your current heartthrob applies to you. It could just about apply to any one of millions of people who are engaged in a relationship. You now have no distinct identity. You are just a mere ‘darling’, or ‘sweetheart”, or “honey” or something like that. Whereas you were previously, say, “John Wong Ah Ngow.” Not a pretty name necessarily, but it was yours. Now, you are just a mere ‘darling’. One of thousands. No worse, millions!

Of course, it does have its usefulness. It can be easily recycled. Comes in especially handy when you are no longer with your previous ‘darling’. You can still use the same label for your current one. You don’t have to remember a new name. And you run no risk of being caught accidentally uttering the name of your ex. All darlings are the same. A darling is a darling is a darling. You can use it again and again, regardless of who the love interest is.

Then as so often happens, the darling and sweetheart decide to make it permanent. The initial terms of endearment will usually endure. For a while. After a time, they usually morph into shortened monosyllabic terms which are less burdensome. ‘Darl’ and ‘Hon’ take less effort and time. In time, these may be merged into one useful interchangeable ‘Ooi!’ Exclamation mark inclusive.

Then come the children. The couple morph into “Papa” and “Mama”, and slowly graduate to “Daddy” and “Mummy”. I’m not talking about what the kids call them; that would be entirely appropriate. No, the couple is now calling each other “Daddy” and “Mummy”!

I know these are meant to be terms of endearment. But I wonder if these have not become terms of avoidance. I mean you have not addressed each other by name for so long, what’s to guarantee that if you open your mouth, the right name will pop out? Worse, what if the wrong name does pop out? What kind of problems would that raise? Hey, it’s me. My name is John, remember? And who the hell is Joe?

Plus, if you think about it, wouldn’t it be confusing for the kids? And leave them permanently screwed up? My daddy is my daddy. But he is also my mummy’s daddy. But I’m told that my grandpa is my mommy’s daddy. So who is whom really?
And then there is the “old man”. Isn’t grandpa the old man? But then mummy also refers to daddy as the old man in conversation with others. When the boy asks her who she’s referring to, she says, “Oh, that’s your daddy, sweetheart.” And the daddy wants to know from the son from whom he’s learned to refer to him as ‘the old man’!

A young lady I know who is newly married has, as soon as after the wedding day, referred to her new hubby as her “Ah Lau”. Man, he is already old before his time! No sooner than after the ink has dried on their marriage certificate. Maybe it’s true, what they say. Marriage does take its toll on you – you do age prematurely. He’s got a long time ahead of him to play old.

Then there are the millions who refer to themselves as mummies and daddies to their pets. Our son and daughter in-law have two dogs. Guess what they refer to themselves as? But my wife and I forbid them, on threats of death, to refer to us as “grandpa” and “grandma”. As my wife says, that would make her not only a bitch, but a grand bitch!