The Australians are probably wondering how pulling your ear has anything to do with heralding 2011. (It really doesn’t.) But just as there is rhyming slang in countries that care about the Ashes (exclusive, elitist  lot!), I’d learnt from a very early age that it was rather fun for certain Singaporean adults to shout “Happy New Year” at knee-high tots, and then reach over and yank hapless tot’s left ear for fun.

And they weren’t even drunk, because these were well-intentioned, God-fearing church people. Unless there was something in that fruit of the vine back in those good ol’ days.

Anyhoo… Happy New Year. I was chatting to MahjongMandy yesterday about feeling our age when we talk to youths nowadays, and practically cringing inside when we hear ourselves ask the following banal questions:

  • So what grade are you in now?
  • What subjects are you taking?
  • Er… enjoying school? (OF COURSE NOT, YOU NUMPTY. IT’S SCHOOL.)
  • So… got a boyfriend? (Cue crickets and nervous giggling.)

Etc.

For years, I’ve had adults proclaiming surprise that “I’m taller than my mommy.” I’ve been taller than my mother since I was 13. It was a good ten years before they gave up on asking the question, and only because I left the country and came to Australia to study. And then I dated a caucasian, which gave everyone something else to talk about. And then we got married, so naturally the question about impending nookie plans and motherhood overshadowed all else.

See, adults are desperate for conversation starters always. They dearly want to relate to others – especially younger folk – but they don’t always know how to break the ice. And I’m starting to realise that I’m asking all the annoying questions I used to loathe when I was a kid.

The trouble is, back then I knew exactly how I didn’t want to be approached. But I never quite figured out what I preferred instead. So now I’m stuffed.

I will be 32 when Blob is out. Tony will be 36. And there’s a part of me that’s petrified I will be old, and out of touch, and lame, and all those things that much-older parents seem to their young, obnoxious, know-it-all offspring. Because I was born in the last century, for crying out loud. In the seventies. When leg warmers were knitting projects gone wrong, and rap was what you did to a hard surface with your knuckles.

And maybe all I need to learn to do is relax and give a listening ear, and stop wanting to adjust their shirt collars. But until then, I sit and tremble at the inevitability of becoming not just uncool, but way uncool.

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