Thursday, March 31, 2011

Facing Facts

One of the drawbacks to sharing a tiny flat with two high maintenance women is that they have no absolute no sense of bathroom privacy. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve walked past our bathroom and spotted Saffy or Amanda either preening in front of the mirror in various states of undress, or squeezing pimples.

“Oh my God, that’s a big one!” Saffy once cooed with satisfaction as she popped a particularly difficult zit. I was at the time on the phone with my best friend Karl who, of course, immediately asked who Saffy was talking to. Or about.

The other day, I walked by and then walked back. The fact that the bathroom was lit by several candles raised too many questions for even me to ignore.

Amanda leaned over the sink and with both hands gently pulled back the skin around her temple. In mirror’s reflection, she noticed me staring and sighed.

“I’m just checking to see if I need a face-lift yet!”

“In the dark?”

“Well, candle light is the most flattering and it’s the only way to check if I can still pass the candlelit dinner test.”

I paused and thought. Eventually, I asked, “OK, what’s the candlelit dinner test?”

Amanda rolled her eyes. “How have you survived to this age and not know things like this?” she asked in a clearly rhetorical way.

“You know how you should only ever go on your first date where there are lots of candles because everyone looks good in candle light because it hides all your facial flaws? And your date thinks you’re gorgeous but only because he can’t really see any wrinkles and stuff like that because it’s so dark? Sorry, there are a lot of because’s in this conversation. Well, only up to a certain point. Beyond that, no amount of candle light – even from those tiny Ikea tea light – is going to hide the fact that you’ve just turned 50 because Mr Gravity has moved into the house! That’s what the candle lit dinner test is: It’s whether you can go on a first date and still get away with telling the guy that you’re 28!”

Mentally, I sifted through the test, feeling a little bit like Albert Einstein in the process. “What house?” I asked eventually.

Amanda later complained to Saffy that sometimes it astonishes her how slow I can be. To which Saffy replied that it’s because I am a guy and all guys are genetically predisposed to stupidity.

“Well, I’ve never heard of that test!” I said with some degree of heat. “And neither has Karl!”

“That’s because Karl is also a man,” Saffy said, “and his evil cow of a wife never passed the test even when she was in her twenties so how is she to know about it? You’re very luck you know,” she added, drawing in a lungful of air, “that Amanda and I are so generous about sharing our female secrets with you.”

And because neither Saffy nor Amanda felt they were sufficiently objective when it came to their faces (“I know I’m gorgeous, but am I gorgeous for someone in my twenties or someone in my, ahem, early thirties?” Saffy asked), they asked me for my opinion.

Which is how I found myself wedged in our little bathroom two nights ago with my flatmates and a sink crowded with candles.

“God, it’s really hot in here!” Amanda complained. “So, quickly, what do you think?" She lifted her head and then dropped it. “See, if I drop my head, I think I get eyebags. But if I lift my head, I get an instant facelift, but it’s an uncomfortable position to be in for an entire dinner.”

Saffy chimed in, “I also think that my best side is my right side. See, not a trace of wrinkles. But on my left side,” Saffy shuffled sideways, “it gets a bit dodgy. What do you think?”

You know how during the American Idol auditions, the contestants sometimes suddenly get stage fright and forget the words to the songs? Well, that happened to me in our little bathroom. Only, I was so scared I actually forgot how to speak.

“He was worse than useless!” Saffy later told Sharyn. “He just turned red, started stammering and sweating. And then, he just ran out the bathroom!”

Amanda says that judging from my reaction, it’s clear that they failed the candlelit dinner test, though Saffy says they should get another man’s opinion. Karl has volunteered, but to be on the safe side, Amanda has begun interviewing potential plastic surgeons.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hair Raising

For those of you who came in late, Saffy recently started dating her company’s payroll supervisor. This despite the fact that he had, at the time, the worst body odour this side of a belachan factory. But being the resourceful gal that she is, Saffy tracked down the source of his BO (his armpits, if you’re the curious sort) and promptly had him waxed, plucked and deodorized.

As Amanda said the other day, it’s a measure of the man that Bradley, barely a day after meeting Saffy, allowed himself to be signed up for a half year package at Strip.

And once people were able to look Bradley in the eye without being blinded by the onion-like fumes radiating from his body, they discovered to their absolute surprise that he is, in fact, quite a handsome man. Painfully shy, but in a way that Amanda says, is maddeningly attractive.

Barney Chen says it’s all such a terrible shame that Bradley is dating Saffy. “I would have been a much better choice.”

Saffy says she’s so grateful that the day she visited payroll, she had the worst cold ever and could not smell a thing. “You could have put a durian puff in my bra and I still wouldn’t have smelt it!” she told Sharyn, who then told me that the image has completely put her off durians.

The result of the cold, of course, was that Saffy was able to take a good look at Bradley and had to, in her words, cross her legs. Tightly.

“Good Lord!” she later recounted. “If Brad Pitt and Andy Lau had gotten together and had a child, he would look like Bradley!”

But here’s the thing. Both Saffy and Amanda have dated more than their fair share of good looking men. Not one relationship has ever lasted. And when it’s ended, the guys just move on and within a few days, they’ve hooked up with another girl. Meanwhile, Saffy and Amanda sink deeper into a relationship funk, convinced they’re going to die single and childless.

“Good looking guys know they’re good looking,” Barney once told Amanda as he enfolded her into his absurdly muscular arms while she sobbed after the break-up of a relationship she was sure would lead to the altar. “And they know there’s always another girl out there waiting for them. That’s why you should always date ugly guys. They’re so grateful you’re with them they’ll never stray!”

Less than five months later, Amanda’s ex announced his engagement to his high-school sweetheart. Distraught, Amanda went shopping. Loyal to the last, Saffy sent him a voodoo doll encrusted with pins. Barney sent me a text: “I told u so!”
Bradley, on the other hand, has turned out to be the exception to Barney’s rule.

When Saffy walks into a room, his eyes never leave her side. At a recent cocktail party, Amanda wore her slinkiest Armani mini-dress and he barely said hello to her. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was gay!” she slurred drunkenly, while pushing up against me. “You think I’m hot, don’t you?”

Saffy spent all of last Friday night with Bradley at home on the couch watching TV. “He’s so undemanding!” she reported the next morning at breakfast. “He was just happy to lie on the couch with me, holding me and stroking my hair the entire night!”

Amanda blinked. “There are guys like that?”

Saffy’s chest puffed out with happiness. “I know, right? After all those horrible dates where the guy just expects you to put out just because he bought you one lousy meal, I finally meet a man who just likes me for, well, me!”

She paused and pursed her lips. “I have to say, though, that in the beginning, it felt nice having my hair stroked but I got bored after a while. But then I remembered that just two months ago, I was spending all my Friday nights alone in bed playing ‘Angry Birds’ on my iPad. Which really freaked me. So, I let him keep doing it.”

Clearly, the magic is still working. For one thing, Saffy’s legendary temper has calmed down. This afternoon, while we were waiting for a cab by the road and another person cut in front of us, she sighed and just waved at the next cab.

“Life’s too short!” she said when she saw my questioning look.

“She’s so weird these days,” Amanda texted me. “But I adore Bradley!”

I do too. I just hope that I never see him walking along Orchard Road carrying Saffy’s handbag. I swear I'll be so disappointed.

Blonde Ambition

Do you ever have the feeling that maybe life is just passing you by? While everyone else seems to be having an absolute blast – Charlie Sheen comes to mind – you are stuck in a rut in a dull, deadly routine.

In the morning, the alarm scares you awake. Tumble out of bed, stumble into the kitchen, pour yourself a cup of ambition, yawning and stretching and trying to come alive…No wait, those are the lyrics to a Dolly Parton song.

But it’s not that far off from your reality. You slog it to work on the bus or the crowded train, your nose jammed into someone’s smelly armpits. Or you try to move your shoulder away from the person next to you who has fallen asleep and whose head is slowly drooping over. Everyone looks grumpy and, because this is not a Hollywood rom-com starring Sandra Bullock, they’re also badly dressed and badly lit. And speaking really badly.

As the woman next to me on the 105 this morning told her friend on the handphone, “And then, hor, I ask him, ‘Ay, you don’t anyhow say, OK? You want to sleep with udder people, I also can!’ Wah liau, I almost give him two tight slap, I tell you!” And this is where my note-taking goes slightly off the page because she then slipped into a string of Hokkien profanities all the way to Far East Plaza where I imagined she was going to work at the Old Chang Kee kiosk.

During these exciting moments, I sometimes fantasize about winning the lottery. What would I do if I won twenty million dollars, I ask myself. I’d quit my job. With great satisfaction, I imagine the look on my boss’s face when I tell him he can take his miserable low-paying, sub-human job and shove it. I bask in the moment and then imagine myself heading for the lift. I get in, press the ground floor button, smile to myself the entire trip down. The doors open and I step out and…

Here, my fantasy comes to a grinding halt.

Because I can’t imagine the next step. The future after winning twenty million dollars is a blank. Who knew?

Because what would I do with myself all day? I have no interest in golf. I can’t play mah-jong. I guess I could go visit my money in the bank, but when you come right down to it, money doesn’t really have much to say.

I also can’t imagine travelling all year. And besides, who would I travel with? Everyone I know still has a job and even though this is a fantasy where I’m best friends with Jennifer Lopez, she can’t take all that time off to tour Italy with me. She still has to judge American Idol.

Sharyn said I could do volunteer work, but I told her I’m not going to start some charity or foundation on the grounds that when I was poor, nobody rich gave me a handout.

“Oh, yah, hor!” she said. “Good point. They can go buy their own 4D!”

“I guess you’d still have to have a job,” Saffy concluded. “Just so you don’t get bored. Boy, would that suck!”

Which then brings me to the whole notion of a dream job. The job you have because you want to do it, not because you have to. So far, the short list involves being (a) a Hollywood star, and (b) God.

But as Saffy points out, when you’re a movie star, you won’t be able to sunbathe nude on the deck of your yacht because of all the paparazzi circling above in their helicopters. And if you’re God, all you’re going to be getting is complaints and stupid prayers like ‘Dear God, please let me win the lottery this Saturday!’

The question continues to fully occupy my days, even as I sit at my computer and bash out stupid articles that I’m sure no one will ever read. Amanda thinks I’m going through a mid-life crisis but I’m sure that’s not it. My mid-life, I tell her, is still a good decade away. It pleases me that she doesn’t contradict me.

The other day, Saffy rang me in a state of great excitement.

“Oh my God! I know what my dream job is!” she gushed. I could almost feel her legendary bosom throbbing over the phone. “I love to eat, I love to sleep late and wake up late, I love to watch TV. My dream job would be…a night security guard!”

Amanda says that if Saffy ever got her dream job, this country would be invaded by Malaysia by day-break.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Love, Actually

Saffy recently started dating someone in her office. She’s never been happier, never mind the fact that there’s all kinds of conflicts of interest when the company’s human resources manager dates the payroll supervisor. And never mind the fact, too, that Bradley has the worst case of body odour this side of a boys school locker room.

Well, at least, that was before Saffy located the source of the eye-watering odour – Bradley’s arm-pits if you’re the curious sort – and promptly sent him off to Strip to get his arm pit hair all waxed off.

Even now, Amanda says it makes her dizzy to think how Saffy was able to pin-point the source with such accuracy. “Where else must she have sniffed?” she asked me the other day, her eyes rolling back with horror. I told her that I hoped she was being rhetorical.

A few weeks ago, Saffy brought Bradley back home for the first time to introduce him to us. Amanda took one look at him and dragged me into the kitchen.

“He is gorgeous!” she hissed. “Oh. My. God. No wonder Saffy could get over the whole body odour thing so quickly!”

Just then, her handphone pinged with an SMS. “I know what u 2 r whispering about in there, but hands off!” Saffy texted.

So far, things are looking good. Now that Bradley is smelling so much fresher, his stock in the office has risen considerably. Suddenly, secretaries, who’d previously never dare to venture onto the fifteenth floor unless they had a thick smear of Tiger Balm under their noses, now found all sorts of excuses to visit Bradley’s cubicle with payroll queries.

Saffy soon put a stop to all that by placing a large framed photograph of herself on Bradley’s desk. She also changed his handphone settings so that every time it rang, it would sing, “Saffy calling, Saffy calling!”

You’d think that this sort of irrational behaviour would put most guys off, especially if they look, to use Amanda’s words, like a cross between Brad Pitt circa ‘Thelma and Louise’ and James Franco circa ‘Spider-Man’. But, to his credit, Bradley remembers how Saffy fell in lust with him even when he smelt literally like garbage. “Man, that takes courage!” he told me. I wrinkled my nose.

And for the first time in her life, Saffy finds herself at the epicenter of a man’s devoted attention and she’s enjoying every moment of it.

When her company’s vice-president came to see her to tell her that he didn’t think it was appropriate that the human resources manager should be dating the payroll supervisor, she told him to mind his own business.

“And don’t you dare threaten me with the sack, either!” she said. “I have, in a very secure location, signed affidavits of three secretaries in this company who say that you made drunken lewd remarks to them at last year’s Christmas party.”
Saffy says the vice-president couldn’t get out of her office fast enough.

A few nights ago, Bradley took Saffy to a steak dinner at MBS.

“Where’s that?” Amanda asked over the phone when Saffy rang to tell her.

“Marina Bay Sands!”

“My God, what is it with this country and its stupid acronyms!”

“I know! At first when he told me where we were going, I thought it was some kind of contagious respiratory sickness!”

But the bigger news is that over a perfectly charred filet mignon, Bradley told Saffy that he thought he was falling in love with her. Saffy choked back a cough and the piece of steak she was chewing.

Then she promptly burst into tears. She got up from the table and rushed to the ladies where she immediately called Amanda who was, at the time, at home watching American Idol.

Amanda turned off the TV and started screaming. “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

“I’m so happy I think I’m going to throw up!” Saffy said.

Of course, since the dinner, every single moment leading up to that declaration has been replayed, dissected and analysed by Saffy and her core group of best girlfriends.

Sharyn says she couldn’t be more shocked if the Prime Minister had shown up on her doorstep. “Wah! That Bradley so smelly before and now so ke-ai! Aiyah, so sayang I never appreciate him more before. So smelly how to even talk to him, you tell me? But good lah for Saffy. She deserve him!”

Amanda says the whole episode has reaffirmed her belief in redemptive love while Barney Chen says Bradley’s declaration is the most beautiful thing he’s heard since volume 4 of the Glee soundtrack.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Eau, no!

A few days ago, my flatmate Saffy came home in a state of grizzled distemper. Even her normally pneumatic bosom heaved with an erratic rhythm.

“Uh oh, what happened?” Amanda said as Saffy slammed the front door, kicked off her shoes and sat down heavily on the sofa, her face the very picture of discontent.

Turns out there’s a guy in Saffy’s office who has, in her words, “the worst case of body odour this side of a Geylang durian stall”.

“And I’m not talking metaphorically about a brothel, either,” she added somewhat unnecessarily.

“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed,” Amanda murmured, and earned herself a poisonous glare.

Saffy sniffed. “Four people came into my office to complain about it today. First, the vice-president popped by. Then this guy’s boss, followed by his secretary and then even Sharyn came! And that woman loves her durian, so that’s gotta tell you something!”

Each demanded that Saffy do something about it and she refused. “I don’t see why that’s my problem!” she told the vice president.

“Saffy,” Amanda said patiently, “it is your problem because you’re the human resources manager!”

Saffy stiffened. “Can you please,” she said icily, “for just one lousy second, stop being such a lawyer about everything? And anyway, you can’t fire someone just because he’s smelling a little ripe! There’s nothing in his contract about it and believe me, I looked.”

The next day, Sharyn stood in Saffy’s office and practically yelled. “Wah lau, eh! He very smelly, you know! Every time, hor, he walk pass, I die! And he sit next to me, some more! Do something, lah!”

“I’m very busy, Sharyn!” Saffy said even as, from behind her computer, she updated her Facebook status.

It says something about Saffy’s ability to stonewall so effectively that even the vice president’s threat of sacking her for not doing her job had little effect. “You don’t scare me,” she told him. “I’ve got dirt on you. And I have everything backed up so don’t even think about trying to rub me out! My lawyer Amanda will be onto you like a bad case of herpes!”

“Oh. My. God. Saffy!” Amanda yelled when Saffy told her what she’d said.

Finally, Saffy had heard so much about the employee with the deeply offensive body odour that she went looking for him. Or, as she put it, smelling for him. It didn’t take her long. The second she emerged from the lift on the fifteenth floor, she immediately detected something in the air.

“It was kind of like cat pee,” Saffy later said. “But it was like five cats had peed together and the puddle had been left to marinade for a few days. You almost felt as if you could clean the toilet with it! It was terrible!”

She wandered through the office, following the trail of the smell and when she finally located cubicle 15.25, she blinked and then did something unexpected.

“You asked him out on a date?” Amanda gasped.

“Don’t judge me! Or Bradley!” Saffy fluted.

“That’s his name?” Amanda sneered. “Bradley?”

“He is the father of my children!” Saffy sighed with pleasure.

“You were meant to fire him, not ask him out on a date!” Amanda cried, her eyes wide with horror.

“Oh, but he’s just so gorgeous! He let me touch his biceps in the photocopy room! Do you know how difficult it is to find someone in this town who’s gorgeous and single?”

“That’s no reason to ask him out on a date!” Amanda shouted. “And has it occurred to you that he’s single because no one wants to go near him?”

“Well, then it’s my lucky day then, isn’t it?” Saffy said cheerfully, her bosom heaving with its customary good humour. “Anyway, I’m sure it’s illegal to fire someone for having body odour!”

“Well, I hope you’re not thinking of inviting him back here!” Amanda said severely. “We’ve just had the sofa steam cleaned and I don’t want to smell of cat pee every time I sit here and watch TV!”

When she found out, Sharyn was so outraged that she sent Saffy an email saying, “I don’t want to friend you anymore!”

Saffy says she doesn’t care. For the first time in months, she actually has a date on a Friday night. She’s sending Bradley to her waxing salon to get his arm pit hair waxed off. “It’s where the BO is coming from,” she said with authority, though Amanda says that she doesn’t even want to think about how Saffy had managed to pin point the source of the smell with such accuracy.

I really need to find new flat-mates.