Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Angelic Behaviour

People are always asking me what my favourite past time is. Well, OK, that’s not strictly true. What they actually ask me is: “What do you do all day?” Which is a rather rude way of saying they think I’m incredibly lazy. But I’m the sort of guy who says my glass is half-full anyway, so really, it’s all water off a duck’s back.

So when people ask me what my favourite past time is, I always say that I wait for the arrival on YouTube of the latest Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. “I spend my year looking forward to it,” I say without the slightest sense of embarrassment.

What’s that you say? You don’t see what’s so great about the show? It’s just a bunch of women in their underwear?

That’s like saying tennis is just two people hitting a ball across the net. That a Maserati is just a car. Or that Gisele Bundchen is just a girl with two legs.

In the little flat that I share with Saffy and Amanda and my adopted mongrel dog Pooch, the excitement of a Victoria’s Secret Show is a bit like the announcement that Oprah is coming to dinner.

“I wish I looked like Alessandra,” Amanda once said wistfully. She’d just come back from a trip to America where she’d raided the Victoria’s Secret store and brought back a haul of little bikinis, bras and other delicates. I remember she sat on her bed in a sea of pinks, polka-dots, reds and blacks, a little afraid to try any of it on. For at the back of her mind was the certainty that even when she slipped into the sheer silky camisole and tossed her hair, she would never look like a junior Victoria’s Secret Angel, let alone Her Holy Bodyness, Alessandra.

Leave it to Saffy to be practical. “Well, of course we will never look like an Angel!” she huffed, her bosom heaving. “Those girls have an army of people to do their hair, do their make-up, apply body glitter and put on wings for them! God, if I had all that attention, I’d wipe Adriana Lima off the catwalk!”

It says something for Saffy’s immense sense of confidence that not even the facts that she is a good 3 inches shorter than Ms Lima and she currently had a bad case of dandruff (Saffy, not Adey) factored into her world view. Meanwhile, thank you God for YouTube, otherwise it would be months before the show made it to TV.

“Where do these people have so much time that they will tape a show and then upload it to the net!” Saffy said a few nights ago as we gathered around the lap-top at home as she tapped in the keywords.

My best friend Karl had brought popcorn. “I’m just grateful someone does! Really, this is the highlight of my year. I love Selita. I wanna have children with her.”
Barney Chen patted him on the back. “Way out of your league. Stick to your nasty wife.”

This year’s show took place in Miami on a giant crescent shaped stage and it was a doozy. There were great music, lots of gorgeous girls in underwear, wings of twigs and cobwebs and slinky costumes. There was Usher. There was a rainstorm of red rose petals. And Heidi Klum.

“Someone needs to lock her up and throw away the key,” Saffy said at one stage. “It’s unnatural that she’s had ten kids and still looks like that!”

“She’s a freak of nature!” said Amanda.

“I love her,” said Saffy.

“Me too,” Amanda conceded. “I want to be her!”

“But I’m not having Seal though,” Saffy added.

“I’ll take him,” Amanda said, effortlessly tearing apart Heidi’s happy family unit.

“I love Selita’s new hair!” Karl mumbled, slack-jawed as one long limbed goddess after the other strutted across the confetti-strewn runway.

“That is such a gay thing to say,” Barney growled. “I want Tyra back. That girl could really work a runway.”

“Are Marisa Miller’s boobs real?” Amanda asked as we all leaned in to get a better look.

“Karolina’s got too much make-up on,” Amanda said. “She looks like she’s in drag.”

“But in a good way,” Barney said loyally. He’d once shown up at a fancy dress party as Karolina Kurkova. At a Victoria’s Secret themed party of course. In certain circles, that outfit – complete with glittering wings – is still talked about in reverent hushed tones.

That night, we watched the show five times. And we’ve already made it a date for next year’s show. As Karl said when he left, “Seriously, who needs religion?”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Career Trajectory

When we were small, people were always asking me and my siblings what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was as if the question occupied their every waking moment. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” my aunt Ai-Ling would ask as she handed me a red packet at Chinese New Year. In her tight red cheong sam, she bore an uncanny resemblance to a lap cheong.
“Not look like you!” my sister Michelle would mutter under her breath while Jack, just five years old, would snigger.
Our mother, of course, harboured the fantasy of every Chinese mother since the dawn of time that her brood would become a doctor, lawyer and engineer. Imagine her distress when Jack suggested, with a very straight face, that he might like to become a nurse. She never was able to get a handle on his sadistic sense of humour.
Still, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” came up with increasing frequency and after a while, the pressure began to tell on us all, especially my sister. At university, Michelle dated in rapid succession, a medical, law and engineering student and then announced that she’d never been more bored in her life and that she would rather die than to end up like “those jerks”. And much to everyone’s confusion, she decided she wanted to be an accountant.
As Jack would ask me more than once, “That’s not boring?”
Years later, Mother has resigned herself to the fact that her wilfully stubborn children will never amount to much. I’ve quit being a lawyer to write magazine articles for 5 cents a word, Michelle is a reluctant (and often very angry) accountant while Jack spends his time trekking across the Himalayas and smoking bong to keep warm. And whenever anyone asks our Mother what we do, she changes the topic.
The other day, Michelle rang and complained that she hated her job. “Oh my God, it’s so boring!” she moaned.
“Try writing for 5 cents a word!” I said. We’re a competitive family.
“I’ve just spent the past three weeks auditing this company that’s gone belly-up and all I could think of was ‘Who cares?’ It’s a financial meltdown. The world as we know it is coming to an end and there I was, stuck in a dingy room in the basement surrounded by boxes and boxes of dusty accounting records. It was awful!”
My flatmate Saffy thinks Michelle needs a complete career change. “It stands to reason,” she said, her bosom inflating firmly. “Only someone who is emotionally lobotomised would ever become an accountant and your sister is slowly waking up from the nightmare!”
Amanda stared at Saffy for a bit.
“What?” Saffy asked.
“Do you just make these things up?” Amanda demanded.
“So I mix up my metaphoricals, but they make sense!” Saffy replied stubbornly.
“But what’s she going to do?” I asked. “She’s spent her whole life as an accountant, it’s not something you suddenly just give up.”
“Sure she can,” Saffy said easily. “People do it all the time. Especially married couples. Look at my father and Wicked Evil Stepmother. He spent 20 years putting up with her nastiness and then one day, he gets up from bed and files for divorce. What? Stop looking at me like that, Amanda! It makes sense!”
I immediately Skyped Michelle. “Oh, I’m too old for a career change!” she groaned.
“Saffy says her father is very happy now,” I reported.
In her little Skype window, Michelle blinked. “What?”
When Mother heard about her daughter’s mid-career crisis, she was ecstatic. She’d never gotten over the fact that her precious child had ended up being a “book-keeper” and now there was hope. “People have career changes all the time!” she said happily to me over the phone. “Your uncle Martin was just a pharmacist before he decided to become a dentist!”
“Mother,” I said patiently, “Uncle Martin is a dental assistant! He’s the one who moves that tube around in your mouth to suck up all the saliva and blood.”
“Well, he’s not going to be doing that for long. He’ll be a real dentist soon,” she said loyally, completely ignoring the fact that Uncle Martin is 62 and he works for his wife who’s the real dentist.
“Maybe, I’ll just take time off and join Jack on his treks,” Michelle said last night. “Or maybe I just need a break, clear my head and get my Mojo back.”
“Or maybe she just needs to get laid,” Saffy said, to which Amanda added wearily, “Join the queue!”