In one of the episodes of Sex and the City, Carrie grumbles to Samantha about how, while there are big celebrations marking milestones in the married person’s life (starting with engagement, marriage, birth of children, big anniversaries etc.) there is nothing to commemorate the milestones in the life of a single person. Thus, while she found herself buying endless gifts for her married friends down the years, she herself was never the recipient of any largesse.

It got me thinking. In the past, society was geared towards coupledom and the married-and-kids way was the only way. So, landmarks evolved into events that were celebrated, often with gifts. And normally, it was a what-goes-around-comes-around deal because you gifted some, you got some.

Actually, the gifting is beside the point. Why are only landmarks in a couple’s life celebrated? Are there milestones in the singleton’s life that should be noted and feted?

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And on the subject of gifting, Chinese culture at least has a tradition where singletons are at the receiving end (in a good, if somewhat patronizing, way). At Chinese New Year, the tradition is to hand out lai see, or red packets containing money. The etiquette of who to give lai see to is mindboggling, but the blanket rule is that married people give single people lai see. Even if they’re older than you. Even if they’re your boss. I’m still walking the lai see minefield but I draw the line at giving lai see to people old enough to be my mother or bosses who are much older. Though my boss might be an exception, because she has declared she is very happy to receive lai see.

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