People are always asking me what it’s like living with two girls. I always reply that it’s like being stuck in an endless episode of ‘Sex and the City’. But without the glamourous clothes, two inch Manolo Blahniks, sound-track and neat half-hour resolution of issues.
And it’s unbearable when it’s that time of the month.
When I was growing up, my mother would refer to the occasion as ‘the friend’. As in, “I think my friend is coming.” This was usually the hint for my father to suddenly have late night conference calls in the office and early breakfast meetings the next morning. As he once explained to my brother and me, “It’s not a good time to be around your mother when her friend visits.” To which my sister Michelle mumbled that when it came to Mother, it’s never a good time.
For the first two days, she would retreat to her bedroom in a foul temper with a hot-water bottle and every so often, she would send a message through the maid to one of us to pop down to the chemist to buy more pain-killers. Occasionally, we’d hear sharp yelps from behind closed doors and this would usually be accompanied by the sound of our father’s retreating footsteps as he scurried for the front door.
And when Mother eventually emerged from her room, looking pale and wan, we’d eye her cautiously, our emotions ranging between concern and barely retrained panic.
And you always knew that her ‘friend’ had packed up and left the house when she weakly lifted the phone to call Auntie Wai-ling to find out when the next mah-jong session was.
The funny thing was that I never heard any other woman use the term ‘my friend’ till I moved into the little flat with Saffy and Amanda and my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch.
One morning, not long after we moved in together, Amanda drifted out of her room, her hair limp and listless and her normally bright skin a shade duller. “Oh God,” she moaned as she slumped into the dining table chair. “I think my friend is here!”
See, here’s the thing. It’s one thing to agree to live with two girls, but it’s quite another for them to become so comfortable with you that they’re able to discuss freely with you – at the dining table, no less – their assorted bodily functions. I mean, what’s next? Communal waxing sessions?
So, there and then, I decided to nip the problem in the bud. “We don’t have a guest-room,” I muttered as I got up and hurried into the kitchen with my cereal bowl.
Apparently, Amanda later said to Saffy that they had just moved in with a Neanderthal. In turn, Saffy is reported to have replied, “Ok. I don’t really know you all that well, Amanda, so don’t take this the wrong way, but if you’re going to call your period your friend, I’m going to have to seriously reassess our living arrangements.”
“But I hate the P-word!” protested Amanda, effortlessly betraying her convent school education. “It’s such a terrible word!”
Saffy’s bosom puffed up. “And ‘friend’ is better? Are you serious? There’s nothing friendly about something that comes every month and gives you crippling cramps, nausea and migraines! If men got periods, they would have killed themselves and the human race would have died out in the Jurassic period!”
Amanda later said that the fiery look in Saffy’s eyes prevented her from pointing out that humans were actually not around during the Jurassic period.
What followed was a curious four months as the two negotiated a mutually acceptable term to apply to what I still referred to everyone as “that time of the month”.
“Aiyoh, why they so cheem, one?” Sharyn complained. “By right is called menses, right?”
“Oh really, Sharyn,” I said urgently. “Don’t talk to me about this. Please.”
One night, I came home to find the girls sitting triumphantly on the sofa while toasting each other with a glass of champagne. “We’ve found a mutually acceptable term for our periods!” Saffy crooned.
I grunted, already making a beeline for my room. “And meanwhile, we’re in a war against terror. But that’s a small side show compared to this summit!”
Saffy giggled. “Oh really, don’t be such a baby!”
“It’s just too much information!” I pleaded.
Amanda sniffed. “We’re going to tell you anyway. As of now, our former friend is called our moon cycle!”
Saffy added, “It celebrates our woman-hood.”
I couldn’t help but think that they never had this kind of dialogue on ‘Sex and the City’. If they had, the show would probably have died out with the dinosaurs.