Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What a Croc!

As anyone who has ever gone on a date will know, it’s a mine-field out there.

With girls, it’s like preparing for World War 3. There are endless discussions with girlfriends about what to wear, what not to wear, the decoding missions (“What do you think it means that we’re going to Blah-de-blah restaurant? Does he expect me to put out on the first date? Because I want to, but I also don’t want to send out the wrong message.”) and the four hours of prep time before the date (hair, makeup, outfit, shoes, accessories, perfume).

Guys have it relatively easy. They just have to make sure they wear a nice clean shirt, comb their hair, bring some flowers, compliment the girl on her outfit (but never the shoes) and remember not to pick their nose between courses. Well, at least that’s what I thought this was all we had to worry about.

A few days ago, my flat-mate Saffy introduced us to Mike, her current boyfriend. They’d met at an office function. Saffy said she was attracted to the fact that he was tall, could string a sentence together and wasn’t constantly checking his phone for messages. “And he’s got the cutest ass I’ve seen in a long time!” she reported breathlessly after the first date.

“Oh, that’s very important!” Amanda said with approval. In the world according to Amanda, a man with no ass is a man who is also very likely lacking in other departments. And now after a few dates, Saffy decided that it was time to introduce Mike to her friends, to get their stamp of approval. I begged off and said something urgent had happened at work.

“I hate that stage when you’re meeting the girl’s friends,” said Karl over dinner at Chomp Chomp. “It’s so stressful because if her best friend hates you on sight, it’s over.”

I looked up from my char kway teow and stared. “What do you care?” I asked. “You’re married.”

Karl shrugged. “I’m just saying.”

Right about then, across town, Saffy was introducing Mike to Amanda. By all accounts, it was very civilized, but Saffy said that she could tell that something was wrong. “Amanda had this pinched look, you know, like she’s about to pee out a kidney stone!” she told me later that evening when we had all regrouped in our apartment.

“You cannot possible date that man!” Amanda said without her usual sugar-coating.

Saffy’s famous breasts heaved in alarm. “What is your problem?” she demanded. “He’s single and straight! He’s perfect!”

“He wears Crocs!” Amanda said with devastating pity.

I swiveled my head around and frowned. Saffy’s mouth automatically opened to retort, but to everyone’s astonishment, no words came out. She tried again. And again. Eventually, she managed to squeak out, “What?”

“Mike wears Crocs!” Amanda repeated.

I hesitated. “Uhm, but what does that have to do with the price of eggs?” I asked, utterly bewildered.

“I also say!” Saffy said, her bosom trembling.

It was Amanda’s turn to look surprised. “Crocs!” she stressed again. “He wears Crocs!”

Saffy still looked lost. “So what?” The penny eventually dropped. I piped up, “Are you seriously telling me that you would rule someone out as husband material just because he wears Crocs?” On hearing this, Saffy sucked in her breath.

“Are you seriously telling me that you wouldn’t?” Amanda retorted.

“But Manda, they’re just shoes!” I protested. “Actually, they’re not even shoes, they’re more like slippers!”

“They’re Crocs!” Amanda said firmly. “Crocs are ugly. And if Mike thinks it’s acceptable to wear them, who knows what other kinds of bad taste he’s going to exhibit?”

As Saffy later complained to Barney Chen, “It’s totally unbelievable! I never even noticed what Mike was wearing! Would you hold it against a guy who wore Crocs?”

“Sweetie,” Barney said kindly, “I don’t care what the guy wears, as long as he holds something against me! I’m very low maintenance that way.” Saffy pursed her lips. She was clearly dissatisfied with this unexpected bump in her dating prospects. “The worst thing is that now whenever I see Mike, it’s all I can think about. And I still don’t even know what the problem is! They’re not even that ugly.”

“I hear they’re very comfortable,” Barney said vaguely. “Apparently, it’s like walking on air.”

Saffy wasn’t listening. “Amanda is crazy! Mike is perfect. He’s a banker, he’s smart and he’s got a car. Oh,” she suddenly remembered, “and he’s straight. Do you know how hard it is to find someone like that in this town?”

Barney sighed and patted Saffy’s hand. “You’re preaching to the choir, girl!”

Like I said…mine-field.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's getting late

It really bugs me when people are always late for appointments.

“Maybe she’s stuck in traffic,” my flatmate Amanda said recently as we waited for Saffy like two tired old hookers outside Orchard Towers. She looked around her, nervously taking in the passing traffic of curious tourists and lecherous ah-peks who kept giving her casual glances. “And can you tell me why we agreed to meet here on a weekend?” she said eventually, and added, “I will just die if anyone asks me what my rate is!”

“Stuck in traffic, my foot,” I grumbled. “That Saffy was late for her own birth!”

And just like that, Saffy emerged from the crowd, a pint-sized dynamo in a mini-skirt, platform shoes and a tube-top (emblazoned with the words ‘No Money, No Honey’) that barely managed to qualify as a top by a mere two inches of material. “Goodness!” she trilled. “Where are all these people coming from? I was stuck in traffic!”

Eventually, she noticed my stare and shifted uncomfortably. Her bosom trembled with guilt. “What?”

“You took the MRT. What possible traffic could there be?”

“Oh, alright!” Saffy burst out. “Stop torturing me! I was trying on make up at MAC, ok? Give me a break, I’ve had a tough week!”

“But we’ve been standing here for half an hour!” Amanda said. “Why didn’t you call?”

“I got caught up!” Saffy cried. “And I’m only half an hour late!”

Amanda says that next time, we're meeting at Borders. Meanwhile, I've decided to get me one of Saffy's t-shirts in my size.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Miss Match

The first time I tried to match-make someone, it ended in a big fat fizzle. Barney Chen had been thoroughly miserable and going through a slump – which in his world was defined as not having had a date in three weeks. As it happened, one of my clients had just come off a long term relationship when his boyfriend had decided to go home to Rome – without Peter. Perfect, I thought. So I held a dinner party at my place and invited Barney and Peter without telling either it was a set up.

They barely registered each other’s presence. Barney immediately curled up on the sofa with my beloved adopted mongrel dog, Pooch while Peter spent the entire evening talking to Saffy’s breasts, a state of events which cause her tremendous excitement.

“I think I turned him!” she whispered to me in the kitchen, her eyes burning with the kind of light one normally associates with religious fanatics just before they press the trigger. She stared down at her bosom in awe. “They’re magical!” she breathed in awe.

The next day, Barney called and asked why I’d invited “the midget” to dinner, while Peter emailed to ask if Saffy was single because he was currently in lust with the brother of a friend and this brother swung both ways (“If you know what I’m saying and with women, he’s really into boobs!”) and he thought that if he could introduce this brother to Saffy, he (the brother) might consider getting into a threesome with Saffy and Peter. “He’s talked about it before. This is a great way to get in bed with the brother, don’t you think?” Peter asked. He added a smiley face at the end of the sentence.

When I reported this to Saffy, she had to pull out a piece of paper to work out the proposed arrangement. Eventually, she looked up from her scribbles and asked, “Is it just me, or is that a little sick? And is it even sicker that I’m also a little intrigued by what this brother looks like?”

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Where's the ROM-ance?

The idea of marriage does funny things to different people. I personally can’t walk past a magazine rack brimming with bridal magazines without thinking, ‘Honestly, how many different ways can you do a party favour?’

My best friend Karl, who is unhappily married, says he considers it a good day if he doesn’t think about divorce more than three times each morning; while Barney Chen looks forward to the day when Vera Wang will make him a dress for his marriage to Wentworth Miller.

“Don’t you think this whole marriage thing is just a big con?” I asked my flatmate Amanda the other day at our local Starbucks.

She looked up from her cappuccino and blinked. “You’re asking someone who has kept every single issue of Martha Stewart Wedding since 1937?”

“It’s not even romantic anymore!” I said stirring my latte as I told her the story of Geraldine who’d been dating her boyfriend for two years now. And recently, in the middle of the commercial break for Ugly Betty, he’d turned to her and asked casually, “Do you think we should have a look at some HDB flats?”

Amanda rolled her eyes and groaned. “Ugh, I hate that! Can guys please learn to propose properly? Applying for public housing permits is not romantic!”

Which got me thinking. I grew up with some rather, admittedly, dated concepts of romance. Girl meets boy. They fall in love. They part and rendezvous in Paris. They kiss and The End. Not anymore. These days, it seems to me as if standards have fallen (and not in a good way either, as Barney Chen would say).

I blame it on shows like ‘The O.C.’ and MTV. Everything has become tacky and cheap (and not in a good way). Invitations to wedding dinners arrive by email (if you’re lucky) or SMS. Nobody dresses up properly to celebrate the happiest day (supposedly) of their friends’ lives: I once sat next to someone at a dinner at the Four Seasons who wore a black polo shirt from Warner Bros Movie World Gold Coast. He was also an hour late – “Aiyah, I had a nap. I overslept!” And I honestly can’t remember the last time I received a thank you note for all the very expensive wedding presents I brought.

Whatever happened to the romance (and manners) in our lives? Whatever happened to the carefully planned marriage proposal? Since when was a commercial break considered the right moment to ask someone to spend the rest of her life with you? More to the point, if this is going to be the highwater mark of your romantic life, what do you have to look forward to after the wedding?

“Aiyah,” said my friend Sharyn. “After you marry, hor, no more lo-mance, lah! Anyway, what for you want lo-mance? I tell you ah, once you ROM, it’s the end, ah!”

Saturday, April 28, 2007

At a clip

It's simply bewildering what some people consider acceptable behaviour these days.

This morning, Barney Chen sent me an SMS: "Someone on the train is using nail clippers on himself and his family. Honestly, some people are just animals!"

Friday, April 06, 2007

It's in the bag

I was at a dinner the other night with a bunch of friends. It was one of those gatherings where it was quite possible to slip in the background and let the flow of chatter wash over you. Happily munching my deep fried calamari, I slipped in and out of the different conversational tides. At the back of my mind, I was just wondering when it would be a good moment to leave and head back to American Idol when Vera piped up, “Can someone explain to me why men in this town carry their girlfriend’s handbags?”

My good friend Anne immediately yelped, “Aiyoh, I can not stand guys like that!”

“I know! Have some balls, I say!” exclaimed Vera with force. And on it went for a bit. Of course, the guys at the table stoutly denied that they’d ever carried their girlfriends’ handbags while the girls looked at us sideways, clearly wanting to give us the benefit of the doubt, but holding out on a final judgment till they’d spoken to our respective partners.

It eventually occurred to me then that Carly, sitting to my side, had been unaccountably silent the entire conversation. I swiveled my head around to her and lifted a questioning eyebrow. She looked at me nervously and, under the pressure of my furrowed brow, finally blurted out, “Well, I’ve actually asked my boyfriend to carry my handbag! But only sometimes, lah,” she added hurriedly.

In the ensuing deafening silence, you could have heard a mosquito fart. Much like a python moves in slowly as it surveys its helpless prey, Anne leaned forward and stared at Carly, turning her head slightly. “Uhm, why?” she finally asked.

“Well, sometimes, it’s heavy! What’s the big deal?” poor Carly said, by now clearly regretting ever opening her big mouth.

“Well, that’s your fault, what!” Anne exclaimed. “Who ask you to put gold bars inside? Right?” She looked around the table. Several heads nodded enthusiastically in response.

Under the verbal onslaught, Carly looked desperate. “But it’s a Fendi!”

“Oh my God, Fendi, Prada. Who cares!” Vera cried. It occurred to me in the dim lighting of the restaurant, she looked a little Uma Thurman did just before she went on her murderous rampage in Kill Bill.

“But what if he doesn’t mind carrying it for me?” Carly bleated.

“That’s not the point, lah!” Annette snapped. “A guy should never carry a handbag. Not even if he’s gay.”

From the other end of the table, someone said firmly, “A handbag is a handbag! If you’re going to make the guy carry your handbag, put it in a big plastic bag. Then I think that’s OK.”

“But even then,” Vera said, clearly dissatisfied with this flagrant attempt to create a loophole in the No Handbag If You’re a Man (Not Even if You’re Gay) Rule.

This is all such good material! I thought happily to myself as I busily committed the key points of the dialogue to memory. Later, back in the little apartment I share with Saffy and Amanda, the girls were unanimous in their disdain.

“Oh, I’m seriously going to have to reassess my friendship with Carly!” Saffy said, her voice heavy with disappointment and her famous breasts heaving with judgment. I frowned at her and pointed out that she didn’t even know Carly.

“That’s so not besides the point!” said Saffy, effortlessly dismissing logic with polluted grammar.

Amanda tossed her luxurious shampoo-ad hair and said that there was something very wrong with a world where it was acceptable for a man to carry a handbag. “A man-bag, I understand, but not if the immediate owner is female. It’s just wrong!” she said, her pretty eyes flashing. Then a thought occurred to her. “Unless, of course, he’s just bought her a handbag from say Gucci and is just bringing it to her. Then that’s perfectly acceptable,” she said with approval, while looking at me.

“Why are you looking at me?” I asked nervously.

“It’s my birthday next week.”

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I make less than 30 cents a word. I can’t afford a piece of thread from Gucci.”

“I couldn’t afford to pee in Gucci!” said Saffy, a miserable look settling on her face.

“There’s a toilet in Gucci?” Barney Chen asked me the next day. He was impressed.

“Would you carry a handbag for a girl?” I asked him. He gave the matter some thought. “Only if there was something in it for me,” he said eventually. “Like backstage passes to see Barbra. But otherwise, no.”

“See?” Amanda said. “Even the gays won’t do it! And they’re usually up for anything.”

“That’s so true,” Barney said proudly.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Amanda Unplugged

Amanda recently came back from a work trip to London. “It was the worse flight in history!” she immediately exclaimed the minute she opened the front door and rolled in her Prada luggage. She bent down to coo sweet-nothings to my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch who’d rushed to the door at her arrival, his fat tail wagging furiously with happiness at seeing her again.

"It was awful. I was so gassy!” Amanda exclaimed as she trudged to her bedroom, Pooch faithfully trailing behind, apparently convinced that there had to be a biscuit treat for his enthusiastic greeting. At the dining table, Saffy looked up from her cereal and pulled a face.

“It must have been something I ate in the business class lounge before the flight!” Amanda’s voice floated out. “I farted all the way from Heathrow to Changi. It was like an atomic bomb went off in the Raffles Class cabin!” I choked on my tea.

“Well thank God, the airplane is so noisy and I was keeping everything tightly under wraps with the blanket!” said Amanda as she came out of her room and sank gratefully into a seat at the table. Saffy and I leaned backwards gently.

“Oh, I’m fine now,” Amanda sighed, “but I think I need to go get some colonic irrigation. I may be all gassed out now, but I still feel really blocked up. I read about it in Woman’s Day on the plane. Apparently, it works miracles!”

As I later complained to Karl and Barney Chen, I just didn’t understand why some people found it perfectly acceptable table manners to discuss such obviously private cleansing procedures at breakfast. “I think she’s hot!” Karl said firmly. “And she can discuss anything at my table!”

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

At the Bus Stop

One of the great things about living in cramped Singapore is just how much rich material you can pick up just by standing still. I’m surprised no one has gone around recording people’s conversations. It’s a mother-lode out there. And let me tell you that it’s riveting stuff.

Just the other day, while waiting for the 105 bus, I had my nose buried in a book when I automatically tuned into the handphone conversation next to me where a school girl was updating her friend on her day’s agenda.

“And tomorrow, I have three hours of drama!” she moaned. I wanted to ask if she was being literal, but there was a pregnant pause on her end. “Yeah, he’s in my class also. Do you know, hah, in his boarding school, he played someone called Paul the Rapist?”

And just as my eyes started to refocus on my book, Drama Girl then asked – she didn’t even bother lowering the volume of her voice – her friend, “And what’s the term for when people, like, have it off with dead people? You know,” she went on in a patient tone, “when people boink dead people!” By this stage, I was riveted. I inched nearer while pretending to turn a page. “It’s neuro-pharmacy or something! Neuro-what, ah?”

And no, I'm not making any of this up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MIA with MIW

Hola, happy people...In addition to the regular 8DAYS column (and books - buy more, buy more!), I now have a monthly column with www.miw.com.sg It's all under the "Hear Me Out" link. Check it out for more of my rants.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Porn Free

I don’t know what other people discuss at the dinner table in their homes, but in the little apartment that I share with Saffy, Amanda and my beloved adopted mongrel dog, Pooch, the topic du jour is porn. To be more specific, it’s a topic near and dear to Saffy. Amanda, who went to a Swiss boarding school, usually leaves the table as soon as Saffy broaches the subject.

“You encourage her!” Amanda hissed at me recently as we were in the kitchen washing up after Saffy had spent the entire evening alternately discussing the merits of spaghetti carbonara and the relative strengths of Italian versus Israeli men. She then promptly disappeared into her room with her latest DVD acquisition (‘Angela’s Weekend’) leaving us with strict instructions not to disturb her.

“Excuse me!” I said stoutly as I loaded up the sink with hot water. “I am as mortified as you are! I just find it very hard to get a word in edgewise once Saffy starts talking. And I notice,” I continued, squirting more dishwashing liquid into the sink, “I notice that you’re always very quiet when she’s going on about, uhm, equipment sizes!”

“Well, what am I supposed to say? That I loved the cinematography in ‘Pearls of the Orient’?” Amanda muttered as she vigorously wiped a cup. She paused and frowned as a thought occurred to her. “It’s also a little disturbing to think about what’s going on in her room right now.”

I clattered the dishes loudly in the sink and tried to think about my grocery list.

The next morning, at breakfast, Saffy announced that ‘Angela’s Weekend” was a complete disappointment. At the other end of the table, Amanda sighed, which Saffy ignored.

“I mean,” she went on, “it was just sex, sex, sex! What’s that all about?”

Goggle-eyed, I peered at Saffy over the rim of my coffee-mug. “It’s porn, Saf!” I spluttered. “What do you expect to see – Wimbledon?”

Saffy sniffed. “Well, I know what it is. I just think that they could break up all that sex with something else!”

“Like what?” Amanda shouted, unable to contain her outrage. “A fundraising message from the Dalai Lama?”

Welcome to my new year...