Friday, March 09, 2018

Fall Back Position

My friend Annette sent me a YouTube clip the other day. “It’s about 45 minutes long, but it’s totally worth it,” she said.
            Given that my attention span is normally the same period of time it takes for a dream to die, I told her I seriously doubted it.
            “Just watch it, lah! Aiyoh!” she said. As I later said to Amanda, if Annette’s eyes had rolled any further back, she’d have been blind.
            “So did you watch it?” Amanda asked. In response, I tapped my phone and forwarded Annette’s clip.
            When Saffy came back from her pedicure humming a mangled version of ‘Despacito’, Amanda was still sitting in front of her laptop at the dining table, staring slack-jawed at the screen.
            “Watcha watching?” Saffy said, coming around to Amanda side. “Why are you watching a half-naked Indian man on…Oh. My. God! What is he doing?” she screamed.
            “Will you please stop screaming? It’s just Iyengar!”
            “What is that? Oh my God! How is he doing that? Why is he half-naked?” Saffy moaned, clearly too traumatised to be able to process too much information at the same time. She immediately pulled up a chair next to Amanda and sat down.
            “He’s practically folded his body backwards over his leg!” Saffy pointed out. “How is he doing that? Really, could someone please tell him to put a shirt on? This is so disturbing!”
            “This is how the yogis practise yoga!” Amanda told her.
            Saffy’s bosom puffed out to such a volume, it threatened to obstruct Amanda’s view of the laptop screen. “This is yoga? No way is this yoga! I mean….oh God….look! He’s just wrapped both legs over his head! Oh…I can’t watch this….I swear, if his thing pops out of his loin cloth, I am going to just die!”
            Later that night, over a dinner at the newly renovated Chomp Chomp, it was all the girls could talk about.
            “Is that not the most disturbing thing you’ve ever seen?” Saffy asked me.
            “Actually, I thought it was quite life-changing,” I replied. “For the first time in my life, I finally got a sense of what yoga actually means!”
            “Totally!” Amanda said, stabbing a piece of cucumber out of the rojak. “I loved what he said how his body was in a million pieces, but his mind was whole!”
            “You guys are seriously strange,” Saffy huffed. “That was not normal, what I saw. No one should be able to twist and turn like that!”
            “If you practise enough, it should!” Amanda said serenely. “And that’s the whole point, you have to let the body break complete. That’s how the mind heals itself!”
            “I don’t see how that can be true,” Saffy said firmly. “I mean, how damaged must my mind be if it has to be healed by me literally looking at my ass from the other direction?”

            Of course, that’s the trouble with YouTube. You can never just look at one video any more than you can have just one version of ‘Despacito’. There’s always another clip to look at. Which is how we all eventually came to watch ‘Primary Series Ashtanga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’.

            “So, who’s this dude?” Saffy wanted to know as we all settled in with a tube of Pringles to watch the clip that Amanda had started streaming onto our AppleTV. “And is Ashtanga different from Iyengar?”

            “I’m too lazy to Google it,” I told her. “Which in and of itself is so encouraging as it must mean my mind is already in a million pieces, so I’m halfway there to having a complete mind!”

            If watching Iyengar go through his postures was depressing, watching Sri K. Pattabhi Jois teach Ashtanga made Saffy positively suicidal.

            “Why are they always half naked?” she complained within two minutes of the clip. “And how are these students able to just float like that?”

            “Look how they can touch their whole palms on the ground!” Amanda said with deep admiration. “I have to really strain to touch my toes, and this is after years of very expensive classes at Como Shambhala!”

            “I don’t think they eat anything,” Saffy concluded. “Look at their stomachs! They must have zero body fat! Maybe that’s how they can touch their toes, Amanda. There’s no fat to get in the way!”

            Amanda turned toward Saffy. “Are you saying I have fat?” she said stiffly.

            “If you keep putting away Pringles like that, you sure will!” Saffy huffed.

            Amanda says that in her ongoing journey towards true spirituality, the fact that she hasn’t smothered Saffy in her sleep must count for something.





Bloc Party

My mother always says that if you want to get the latest news, don’t bother turning on the news or waiting for the feed to drop on Facebook. Just go get your hair done, she advises. Your hairdresser will update you. “That’s how I found out Uncle John had died in the arms of his mistress!” she told us once.
“Wait,” my sister said. “Janet told you Uncle John died. With his mistress.”
Mother arched a perfectly drawn eyebrow. “Not just with his mistress,” she said. “In her arms!”
“And Janet knows this how?” Michelle asked.
Mother looked around to make sure Daddy was out of ear-shot and leaned in. “Because Janet was the mistress!”
Years later, as Michelle recounted the story to her therapist, she wondered aloud if this was the sort of conversation a mother should have with her ten-year-old. “I mean, where are the boundaries?” she asked. “Is this why I have so many issues?”
Saffy says that sometimes she really does blame the parents. “Your sister is a mess!” she told me the other day. We were on the couch, sunk deep within its cushions, watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and wondering, not for the first time, just how some people are so daring they can just take off all their clothes for the whole world to see.
“I mean, look at what’s happening right now!” Saffy said, waving a chicken drumstick at the screen. “If this was a 3D movie, she’d have poked my eyes out with her thrusting boobs! What must her parents think?”
Just then, Amanda marched in the front door. She crossed the room, picked up the remote and hit pause.
Saffy’s bosom inflated above the cushions. “Excuse us!”
Amanda waved her hands. “Shut up, Saf. You’ll never guess what, but we might be going en bloc!”
Saffy gasped and stopped chewing on her chicken.
Apparently, Amanda was downstairs in our condo hairdresser’s getting highlights in her hair when Irene casually asked her how she was going to vote.
Amanda looked up from her latest issue of Women’s Weekly and stared at Irene in the mirror. “Vote for what?”
Irene’s brush paused in mid-stroke. “Ay? You doh-no, ah? On block, mah! How you doh-no?”
Turns out that one of Irene’s clients is the condo’s secretary and as she was giving Mel a unicorn highlight, Mel had said that several committee members were proposing to put the matter up at the next condo meeting. The last time they’d tried this stunt was five years ago, but there was such a complete lack of interest from our condo’s population of aged retirees that the whole thing died a quick silent death like poor Madame Wong in #07-08 who died last year of a heart attack in her sleep.
“So why are they trying again?” Saffy moaned. “My God, I don’t want to move! I’m too lazy to even get off this sofa to go pee and they want me to move house? Seriously?”
“Apparently, some owners here don’t actually live here,” Amanda said. “They’ve bought several properties as investments, but the rental market is so soft, they can’t service their mortgages, so they’re desperate to sell, especially if they can increase the plot ratio and get some developer interested!”
Saffy turned her head towards me. “Did you understand a word she just said?”
“I stopped listening after ‘some owners’”, I told her.
According to Amanda, Irene also said that she’d been talking to a number of the other residents, including Mrs Yeo and Mrs Chan in block 246 and they both said that all their friends are going to vote against any en bloc. “They’re in their 70s, and Irene says the only way they’re going to be moving out is into an ambulance!”
            “Oh good!” Saffy sighed.
            “But on block is good what!” Sharyn later said, offering her considerable expertise as the owner of two apartments that have both gone en bloc for considerable sums of money. “Wah, when my Gillman Heights go on block, I make so much mah-ney, you know!”
            “Yeah, good for you, Shazz!” Saffy said with just the faintest edge of bitterness in her voice. “But we’re renting! So the only person who’s going to be celebrating is our landlord, not us!”
            “Oh yah hor. I forgot you got no money! Aiyoh, so how, ah?”
            “I may have to move in with you,” Saffy said. “I’d have nowhere else to go.”
            Behind Sharyn’s Coke bottle-thick spectacles, her eyes widened. “Hah?”
            “Well, you’re the one who said en blocs are good!”
            “I got say such ting, meh?” Sharyn said weakly.
            Saffy later said she lives for such moments.


Demand and Supply

Sharyn says that from the minute she was old enough to stand up and walk unaided, she had been brainwashed into getting married. Her very first doll, apparently, had been a bride, resplendent in her white polyester wedding gown and veil that, as with most things white in the hands of children who love to eat dirt, eventually turned brown.
            “And the first movie dey bring me to is Cinderella!” she said the other day. “Not like girl today. Dey see Wonder Woman. My time only got Cinderella!”
            “You make Cinderella sound like she’s a bad role model, Shazz,” said Saffy. “Every day, I wish I was married to someone handsome and rich, so I don’t have to work anymore and other people do things for me!”
            Sharyn waved her hands dismissively. “Aiyah, you can afford your own maid, lah! What for you mare-lee to get a maid?”
            Saffy stiffened, every HR bone in her body on full alert for a possible discrimination law suit against management. “Seriously, you have to stop saying ‘maid’! The correct term is ‘helper’!”
            Sharyn sniffed. “Anyway, hor, mare-lee, is one ting, but dey neh-ber say any-ting about the congee-ger right!”
            A silence settled over our lunch table at Island CafĂ©. As usual, Amanda turned towards Saffy, widely regarded throughout Singapore, Batam and the Greater Kuching Area as the undisputed Sharyn Whisperer. As Amanda once observed, if Sharyn were ever the first contact that suspicious, potentially hostile aliens made with Earth, the only thing standing between us and full-blown thermonuclear destruction of the ‘Predator’ kind would be Saffy. “Seriously, most of the time I have absolutely no idea what she’s saying!”
            But this time around, even Saffy was forced to concede defeat. “What?” she said, eventually.
            Sharyn looked surprised. “Hah? You doh-no, ah? I taught your England very powderful? Got English word you don’t understand, meh? Congee-ger right! Is when your husband say he can sleep with you!”
            Later, back in the flat, Amanda debriefed me on the ensuing confusion. “It took a while, but eventually, we worked out she meant conjugal rights!”
            “Oh,” I said. “Conjugal. What about it?”
            Turns out that in the world according to Sharyn, her parents’ deplorable lapse in educating their only daughter about matrimonial sexual demands had been the source of many tensions between her and her husband over the years. Amanda said it was like that scene from ‘Annie Hall’.
            “You know, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton see their psychiatrists to complain about the sex in their relationship? Woody Allen’s psychiatrist asks him how many times they have sex, and he says, ‘Hardly ever! Maybe three times a week!’ and Diane Keaton’s psychiatrist asks her and she’s like, ‘Constantly! Maybe three times a week!’”
            I was impressed. “You don’t remember what you had for breakfast, but you remember the lines of an entire scene from a 1976 movie?”
            “1977,” Amanda said.
            A few days later, my mother FaceTimed me all the way from Vancouver where she and Father were visiting one of her cousins.
            “My God, I have to tell you this,” she began immediately. “You remember Cousin Lin? The one who married Conrad, that fat banker with liver problems? Well, anyway, we were all at her house playing mah-jong with Cousin Pin and Cousin Jin, and we had barely started the second round when Conrad came home. He stopped by the table and I nearly fainted from his awful BO and then he says to Lin, ‘Honey, let’s go upstairs for a bit!’ And at first, we all thought well this is irritating, can’t you see we’re in the middle of mah-jong? So, then Lin gets up and as she starts to follow Conrad upstairs, she leans in and whispers, ‘This might take about half an hour. He has such stamina, he’s wearing me out!”
            Later, when I told this story to Saffy, she literally screamed. “Wait, what? She went upstairs for a quickie with her husband?”
            “Well, I don’t consider half an hour a quickie, but yes. In the middle of the mah-jong game!”
            “How old is this Cousin Lin?”
            “Seventy! And he’s seventy-two. I asked my mother the same thing!” I told her.
            “Oh. My. God!
            “And so for half an hour, my mother and her cousins just sat at the table making awkward small talk while upstairs, conjugal rights were being exercised! Loudly, apparently. The walls are thin in Canadian houses.”
            “That’s kind of gross, no?” Saffy said.
            “You think?”
            Sharyn says if that ever happened to her at seventy, it would be the last straw. “Confirm die-vorce, one!” she said darkly.