Pretty Redux

I just received the following comment on my post “Pretty” (which I wrote over a month ago), and felt that it deserved a larger response than one limited to a comment reply.

I think I need to put some perspective here. I’m currently in my mid-twenties and hey, when I was growing up here in SG, that was how adults usually react. It’s part of the culture. You say you teach at HCI, try asking your students or the local personnel whether they’ve faced such a scenario. It’s no big deal, for us, its sort of a method to placate or sooth a child by distracting him/her from what she was crying. To put into context, cajoling, if I may say. Like how my elders tempt me with a few hours of cartoon time if I read a few books when I was younger.

If that librarian was middle aged, I’d understand why she did so even more.

We see this being done in TV series, we see this being done in Kindergarten and yes, our teachers have even said the same thing.
I’m not trying to justify that it is not wrong but I’m going to tell you, it is a HECK lot better than people just striding by and not giving a hoot.

You’re kicking up a mountain over a molehill by being overcritical, dissecting all sorts of reasons to paint the picture gray. Your reaction to this entire matter is only going to enforce many sentiments:

(Off the top of my head)

– Foreign dude not assimilating with the locals
– The librarians are probably going to take this as a lesson to never butt in to anyone’s matter ever again.
-Crying is a natural reaction, OF COURSE, but you my dear friend, are giving off the vibe off the cuff that you are overprotective (That’s not a bad thing at all actually) but you’re mollycoddling.

Oh well. you may not agree with what I have said but again, I beseech you to go chat with locals.

Just ask, how the older generation in SG react to situations like these.

Dear HelloGoodbye, aka A Random Person Who Feels the Urge to Comment Without Leaving any Identifying Information Despite the Fact That WordPress Logs Both Your IP and Email Address,

I find it fascinating that someone such as yourself would take the time to seek out a month-old blog post by a little known writer who lives in the country in which you grew up and condescend to such a person about his reaction to how his daughter was treated by a one particular librarian at one particular library. Do you also approach random strangers on the street and yell at them for what you see as “incorrect behavior”? In your off-the-cuff response, you have made a large number of assumptions and presumptions about me and the situation without bothering to ask if your speculations are even accurate, so I will do you the same courtesy here.

I think I need to put some perspective here.

I presume you mean to say “lend some perspective” as you cannot “put” perspective anywhere, it being an abstract concept rather than a concrete object.

I’m currently in my mid-twenties

Ah, a Singaporean in their mid-twenties. You must be the authority on parenting in Singapore, of course. I’m surprised that you have so much time to comment on my blog when the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports must be ringing you at all hours for your solutions to the country’s low birth rate, and the many parenting magazines must be hounding you constantly for articles based on your expertise.

My own presumption, since you mention being neither a parent or even married yourself, is that you are speaking as a single person still living with their parents (as most mid-twenties singles in Singapore do), and therefore have no first-hand knowledge of any of the issues that I bring up in my blog post. This leads to my tendency to ignore what you have to say, but I’m not in the habit of silencing anyone, unlike you (more on this below).

when I was growing up here in SG, that was how adults usually react. It’s part of the culture.

I find this reasoning hard to digest. Just because this was how adults acted in the 1990s doesn’t mean it’s how they act today; case in point being the other librarian I mentioned in my post, the kinder non-judgmental one. And if it’s “part of the culture,” does that make it right?

You say you teach at HCI

No, I say I taught at Hwa Chong, past tense. Do try to read more critically.

try asking your students or the local personnel whether they’ve faced such a scenario

It would have done no good to ask my students about this because the student population of HCI’s high school section is all male, which you should know, having grown up in Singapore. Boys do not have the burden of worrying about “prettiness” or societal reactions to their physical presentation. Were I still working there, I could have asked my female colleagues, but you also presume that none of my female friends have talked to me about this issue, when they indeed have.

It’s no big deal, for us, its sort of a method to placate or sooth a child by distracting him/her from what she was crying. To put into context, cajoling, if I may say. Like how my elders tempt me with a few hours of cartoon time if I read a few books when I was younger.

 Where to begin? Perhaps with some dictionary definitions, since you apparently have no access to a dictionary, or even to a completely free website such as Dictionary.com.

placate
verb (used with object), pla·cat·ed, pla·cat·ing.
to appease or pacify, especially by concessions or conciliatory gestures: to placate an outraged citizenry.

cajole
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), ca·joled, ca·jol·ing.
to persuade by flattery or promises; wheedle; coax.

If your argument were to rest on the persuasiveness of your word usage, it would automatically fail at this point, and we’re still only in the first paragraph! Your example of receiving TV time for reading books would be closer to bribery or negotiation than to either of the words you use here.

In any event, the offending librarian neither placated, cajoled, bribed, nor negotiated with my two-year-old daughter while she was crying. She instead insulted and scolded her. These are very different concepts, and I recommend you become more acquainted with them lest you make such another incredibly embarrassing statement in the future.

If that librarian was middle aged, I’d understand why she did so even more.

Another presumption. This particular librarian was in her late 30s or early 40s, which is far from middle-aged.

We see this being done in TV series, we see this being done in Kindergarten and yes, our teachers have even said the same thing.

You state these three very vague examples without giving any specifics whatsoever. Which TV series? Was it your kindergarten? Does every single kindergarten teacher have the same thoughts and opinions and teaching methods, as if MOE has rolled them off an assembly line? What teachers have said the same thing? In which schools? When?

Your rhetorical technique here is to take a very specific event and make it represent the entirety of Singaporean culture, which, as anyone who is actually an expert in cultural studies knows (not that I claim to be so myself), is an impossible task. Culture is messy, resistant to any kind of homogenization, and as disparate as the number of people within it.

But even so, saying that this behavior were evident in these three examples, does that still make it right?

I’m not trying to justify that it is not wrong

Let’s unpack this very confusing clause. The two instances of “not,” or a double-negative, means both of them can be cancelled out; doing so leaves us with “I’m trying to justify that it is wrong,” which is patently what you are indeed not doing with your argument. Everything you have written up until this point has been, in fact, the exact opposite, to justify that this librarian’s actions are actually “no big deal,” i.e. “right,” i.e. “not wrong.” You have just undermined and contradicted your argument with this attempt at circumgraphy.

but I’m going to tell you, it is a HECK lot better than people just striding by and not giving a hoot.

Why? Why would it possibly be better to insult and scold a child than let that child’s father continue to soothe her and calm her down? As I very clearly mentioned in my post, this librarian saw that I was dealing with the situation; it’s not as if Anya were sitting there sobbing her eyes out all by herself.

If indeed the librarian had just “strode by and not given a hoot,” Anya would have stopped crying in another minute, peace would have returned to the children’s library, and the opinion of said library would not have been tarnished in my eyes. Why in the name of all that is good would this not have been the better alternative?

You’re kicking up a mountain over a molehill by being overcritical, dissecting all sorts of reasons to paint the picture gray.

One of the most tried and true methods of silencing someone is to tell him he is overreacting, or being overcritical, or being overemotional. And as you can see, HelloGoodbye, I will not be fucking silenced on my own blog. If you have any semblance of manners whatsoever, you would not enter someone’s house and then tell them that all of their opinions and emotions are invalid, and yet you have done the monumental discourtesy of displaying that behavior here.

Your reaction to this entire matter is only going to enforce many sentiments: (Off the top of my head)

Why should I honestly give a shit what you think? You, who have hidden behind anonymity in order to pass judgment on me in my own virtual home. But to be fair, let me take on your “sentiments” one at a time.

– Foreign dude not assimilating with the locals

What in anything I have said would lead anyone to believe this? Am I insisting that the librarian behave “non-Singaporean” in some way? My reaction to this incident is based on the fact that in every prior visit to the children’s library, the librarians there have been nothing short of wonderful, including the first librarian that I mentioned in my original post. That was the behavior I was myself under the assumption was “normal,” which would also mean it was the default cultural behavior, which would make the actions of the offending librarian the outlying ones, and therefore the “non-assimilated” ones.

I am married to a Singaporean citizen. I myself am a Permanent Resident. Our daughter was born in Singapore. We live in an HDB flat. I pay taxes to the IRAS every year. I patronize Singaporean businesses and restaurants. I take the MRT and buses to and from work every day. I taught in a Singaporean school for four years. I now work at a Singaporean publishing house. I have examined Singapore in my fiction. I have made a life for myself and my family in Singapore. Remind me again how I’ve not assimilated?

– The librarians are probably going to take this as a lesson to never butt in to anyone’s matter ever again.

Yet another presumption. Do you work for the National Library Board? Are you intimately knowledgeable of their policies? Why would this overgeneralized assumed reaction be the solution to this issue?

Never once in my original post did I call for all librarians to “butt out of my matters.” The librarian could have very nicely “butted in” and asked if there was anything she could do to help, but she chose not to do so and instead made the situation worse.

-Crying is a natural reaction, OF COURSE, but you my dear friend, are giving off the vibe off the cuff that you are overprotective (That’s not a bad thing at all actually) but you’re mollycoddling.

How am I giving off such a vibe? Because I bother to soothe my toddler when she’s upset? That’s not overprotective, that’s called parenting. But again, you wouldn’t know anything about that, I presume. Also this:

mollycoddle
v.tr. mol·ly·cod·dled, mol·ly·cod·dling, mol·ly·cod·dles
To be overprotective and indulgent toward. To pamper.

You are extrapolating behavior on my part based on your own assumptions. How exactly am I being overprotective by telling an overbearing insulting librarian who has increased my daughter’s upset by an order of magnitude, “Okay, that’s enough, you should go, please, thank you.” Had I actually been overprotective, I wouldn’t have let her anywhere near my daughter in the first place; I may not have brought Anya to the library at all for fear of disturbing any of her sensibilities with the simple interaction with other human beings. Again, your word choices are your argument’s greatest weakness.

Oh well. you may not agree with what I have said but again, I beseech you to go chat with locals.

As you can probably tell, if you’ve even bothered to read this far, I do indeed not agree with what you have said, not one bit. You also assume that I have not “chatted with locals,” as if I have locked myself in an ivory tower away from the influence of “ordinary” Singaporeans so as to not contaminate my existence with their words or presence. I have lived in Singapore for five and half years now, lived and worked and traveled among “locals” in all of that time. Your presumption  that I have segregated myself from the people on whom my livelihood, health, and well-being depend only reveals your unfathomable ignorance about me and my life.

Just ask, how the older generation in SG react to situations like these.

It boggles my mind that one would leave this sentence as one’s final statement on the matter because of its utter irrelevance to anything. The librarian was not in “the older generation,” and the way that “the older generation” reacts, as if every Singaporean above a certain age reacts in exactly the same manner, is not my concern with this issue.

But let’s make the wildly implausible speculation that this is the case, that every man and woman over the age of, say, fifty reacts with the same bullying tactics as did the offending librarian in this case; my question, repeated again and again in this response, is “Does that make it right?”

On a final note, HelloGoodbye, I would recommend you read “How to Be a Good Commenter” by John Scalzi before you decide to respond to this post or any other. It may help to prevent you from looking like an ass in the future.

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1 Comment

Filed under Parenthood

One response to “Pretty Redux

  1. Kudos to you, Jason. Every day we get the opportunity to move forward or slide back. One should really weigh their comments accordingly. Baseless criticism is a surefire vehicle contrary to moving forward. It benefits no one. Your response is quite appropriate. Now it is time to move on.

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