It’s hard to believe it now, but once upon a time, my parents were party animals. They loved dancing and every Saturday, they’d put on their dancing shoes and head out for a bit of fox-trot and two-step. And if they were feeling particularly energetic, they’d round up some friends and have dinner at the Tropicana.
These days, their idea of an exciting evening out is to watch an R-rated movie at the cinema. Sometimes, this involves a bit of blood and guts – they loved “300” – but who knew that my mother would enjoy “Saw” so much that she’s recently came home with the DVD box-set? And there was an anxious moment when my father thought his pace-maker had stopped right in the middle of “Ring” in the scene where that girl with all that hair rises out of the water.
When Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” came out a few years ago, my mother said to my father, “Let’s go watch this. I hear it’s very art-house and nostalgic.”
Apparently, all went well with the first third of the movie when the handsome group of terrorists was trooping all over Shanghai and Hong Kong, but then when the first of the sex scenes came on, Mother actually screamed.
“And not in a good way either,” my father later said to my sister. Michelle replied that it was thoughtless comments like that which explained why all his children had grown up with severe emotional issues.
“Aiyoh!” Mother moaned the next afternoon to her mahjong group. “You could see everything! Even Tony Leung’s pee-gu!”
“Eeee!” said my Auntie Wai-ling. “Are you sure or not? Pong! Where got such thing?”
“Ay, I must go watch this movie then. Worth my movie ticket!” said Auntie Ming.
“I’m telling you, it was disgusting!” Mother said firmly, with a delicious shiver. “Young people today just have no shame! Can you imagine having sex with someone you’re not married to, in front of a director and his rolling camera?”
There was a brief embarrassed silence when Mother suddenly realized that Auntie Kwai at the table had divorced her husband for precisely that reason, except in his case, he and his trollop of a secretary had been using a hand-held Sony-Cam – and according to reliable eye-witnesses of the movie, ie the mahjong group, the shaky picture quality left a lot to be desired.
“I really need to join your mother’s mahjong sessions,” Saffy said the other day.
“It sounds like so much fun!”
I grunted. “It’s a vicious group,” I said. “They’ve been playing for years and they know every secret there is to know about each other. They’re all best friends but they’re scared to leave the table to pee because the minute they’re out of the room, the remaining three will start bitching!”
“They look like such sweet old ladies,” Saffy said.
“I’m telling you, I’m surprised they’ve not developed any urinary tract infections!”
Then, a few days ago, I got a call from my mother. “Jason, dear,” she began. “Your father and I are in Switzerland, and we’re about to jump off a mountain. I don’t want you to worry, but just in case, this is where we’ve hidden the jewels…”
As I later complained to everyone on Facebook, the way my mother started the whole conversation, it sounded that she and Father were about to put in motion a double-suicide pact in a glamorous location. “I have aged 10 years!” I posted.
It turned out that my parents had recently joined an over-60 leisure group that did exciting, life-threatening things like parachuting and abseiling. And now, the group had jetted off to Interlakken in Switzerland where they got to jump off a sheer cliff and hang-glide around the lake. Just the thing for a man on his second pace-maker, my sister observed when I told her. “I hope she told you where they kept the wills!”
“She said that you only die once!” I reported.
“So what, now she Jane bloody Bond?” my sister said. You could tell she was getting agitated.
Amanda thinks my parents are heroic. “They’re living life to the full! When was the last time any of us did something like that?” she demanded. “I wake up, go to work, come home. I have the occasional date, but I spend most of my time watching ‘American Idol’. Meanwhile, your parents are diving off mountains! It’s inspirational, I tell you! We’re the old people! We should learn from your parents!”
Saffy looked doubtful. “Can’t just start with some ballroom dancing first?”
Me, I've got bigger fish to fry. I'm going to go dig up some family jewels from our garden.