I WAS raised in a traditional, old-school Chinoy family, but I’ve only begun to grasp the full value of someone losing face.
How does one explain it? We Asians are by nature non-confrontational, so we show our displeasure and disappointment in more subtle ways. Unlike the corporate, in-your-face style that we’re often showed in television dramas and multinational firms, someone falling out of favor with his or her clan is often not as exaggerated.
It can be something as simple as the family deciding not to attend a momentous occasion of the estranged member—often with a bulletproof alibi for why they couldn’t go but would have just loved to be there. Losing face means that the clan and extended family aren’t exactly jumping for joy at certain actions that were taken by someone and so they decide to distance themselves from that particular person because of how much shame he or she brings to the famiry… I mean family.
But it’s not limited only to Chinoy families. To a lesser degree, we are also afraid of losing face with the people around us. That’s why we try so hard to get along and find common ground with our associates—lest we get labeled a killjoy and everyone decides to ignore us.
The fear of losing face can be a good thing as it cautions us against outlandish things, like dancing half-naked on top of the bar when drunk or getting in an unofficial drag race with friends at the SRP. But it can also be detrimental in a sense that we’re not willing to try new things unless we have the unanimous approval of the group—highly unlikely.
From personal experience, I’ve known more than a few friends who have had to put their other interests in the backburner for the sake of towing the line and saving face for their families. Well and good, but they have to someday accept the fact that the older generations will never fully approve of what they do because of the age and cultural gap—and bridging that gap is an art in itself.
As a kid, my lolas freaked out when I took cooking classes since cooking was associated with girls (exactly why I took the class!). Fast forward to the 2010, and people like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay have shattered that stereotype. Now both lolas have accepted my new sideline vocation—provided I feed them every now and then.
Let’s not stress too much over saving face. We may find ourselves fearfully looking over our backs every time just to see if our unseen judges approve. But not everything we do has to have others’ approval—not everyone will understand. We have to come to terms that not everything worthwhile is taken at face value. Don’t be afraid to try out new things and “lose” a little face.
As the immortal John Cena puts it, they “can’t see you,” anyway.