Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reality Bites

Now that the American Idol season is over, the inevitable question arises: ‘What are we going to do with our lives now?’

Some of you out there may be struck by the incredible shallowness of the question. After all, there are bigger, more important issues that deserve our attention. Such as what will happen to Nikita’s vendetta against Division? Is there life after nationals for the William McKinley High kids? Will Meredith’s marriage survive her sabotage of Derek’s Alzheimer clinical trials? Who’s moving into Wisteria Lane? When will the kids on 90210 graduate? Is Bill Compton going to lead a vampire revolt to become the next king of Louisiana or will Sookie come to her senses and sleep with Eric? And speaking of Sookie, is she really a fairy?

These questions haunt me.

“You are so weird, you know that?” Amanda said the other morning when I was moaning about the empty nights stretching head of me, now that all my favourite TV programmes have ended their seasons. “You spend way too much time watching TV!”

Saffy later said that Amanda’s hypocrisy was staggering. “You’d think that while you were quote wasting your life unquote, she was out there discovering a vaccine for cancer when she was right by our side every night watching the same shows! And, excuse me,” she added, drawing breath, “but didn’t she cry like a baby when Lauren sang her last song to her mother on ‘American Idol’? I mean, seriously!”

When I was eight, I badgered my parents to get me a TV for Christmas. “It’s a valuable learning tool!” I argued. “Jack learnt the alphabet and how to count watching ‘Sesame Street’! And I’ve learnt all my biology watching David Attenborough documentaries! Think of all the money you’ve saved on tuition fees!”

My parents had huge misgivings about getting a TV for an eight year old, but then my sister craftily added that our Aunt Hwei-Ling got our cousin Michael an 18-inch for his birthday and that sealed the deal. “I can’t stand that mother of his!” our mother said uncharitably of her own sister. “Always rubbing her millions in our faces!”

Which is how I ended up with a lovely colour 13-inch screen in the bedroom I shared with my brother. “We should get one for the bathroom, too!” Michelle said, demonstrating at a very early age, a precocious talent for consumerism.

While other kids were out climbing trees, sucking up fresh air and learning how to hotwire cars, we were holed up in the bedroom. We told our parents we were watching National Geographic nature programmes (“There’s a great show on sharks by Jacques Cousteau tonight!” Michelle lied to my parents), but really, we were filling our minds with Grade A Trash.

We watched everything. Melrose Place. Baywatch. LA Law. Hill Street Blues. ER. Long before I took my first trip to America, I learnt all about the land of the free on the box and when I finally arrived in New York, I was so disappointed that everything was so clean and that I didn’t witness a single high speed car chase. I went to Times Square and stood around hopefully waiting for a prostitute to accost me.

And now that I’m all grown up, I find myself still deep in my love affair with television. As Saffy recently pointed out during a particularly gripping moment in ‘True Blood’, it’s just like reading a book, but without the tedious effort of having to turn the pages. “And I want to have Eric Northman’s baby,” she added, completely derailing her own conversation.

Meanwhile, I’ve travelled the world watching TV. And saved a lot of money, too. I’ve been all over America. I may never visit Seattle, but thanks to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, I don’t feel like I’ve missed much. Because of ‘Nikita’, I’ve even been inside the CIA headquarters at Langley. During the ‘American Idol’ auditions, I dropped in on Boston, Mississippi and Houston. ‘The Amazing Race’ has shown me the insides of a school in Mumbai, the top of an Austrian mountain and a dirt poor African village.

“I love TV,” Saffy declared recently at a dinner party. The entire table went deadly quiet.

“That’s interesting,” said the VP of a major bank sitting next to her in a tone that Saffy later said made her want to push him down some stairs.

Saffy’s bosom inflated. “I could watch TV all day! My life ambition is to star in my own reality programme! It’ll be called ‘Twin Peaks’! Because of my breasts. Get it?”

Saffy says her programme has ratings winner written all over it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Read between the Lines

In every relationship, there are distinct key first time ever moments. The first glance. The first handshake. The first smile. The first phone call. The first date. The first kiss. The first fight. The first make-up. And on it goes.

But the most crucial ‘first’ is the moment someone says, “I love you”.

Three simple words where love’s the central theme, as the song goes. And yet, some couples never say it. My sister once asked our mother if she’d ever said “I love you” to Daddy, and Mother replied, “Oh, don’t be silly, darling, we’re not Americans!”

Michelle later said that with parents like ours for role models, it’s a miracle we and our baby brother didn’t end up in a monastery and a nunnery. “I think it’s important to tell someone you love them. Otherwise, how will they know?”

Leave it to my flatmate Saffy to put things into perspective.

As regulars of this column will know, after years of fruitless dates (including one Henny Hartono who really was a fruit, if you know what I mean), endless Friday nights at home consoling herself with the DVD box-set of Sex and The City and a huge plate of pasta, Saffy recently met the very lovely Bradley.

Bradley, as it turns out, is not only extremely sweet, he’s also unfairly good looking and thinks the world begins and ends with Saffy. His devotion to her recently reached a fevered pitch when he bought her, without being asked, a bottle of Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair serum.

“Good Lord,” Amanda sighed when Saffy came home from her date with Bradley, carrying her little Estee Lauder pouch, “where did you find this guy?”

“I know,” Saffy said with immense satisfaction, her bosom inflating. “Any man who will voluntarily walk up to a beauty counter and spend half an hour discussing the merits of various facial creams for his girlfriend, which would be me, is basically a walking lottery jackpot.”

Amanda’s eyes were dewy. “That’s amazing. Has he said ‘I love you’ yet?”

“No, and I don’t think he’s ever going to,” Saffy said.

Amanda sat up straight. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ve said it many times, and he just blushes and hugs me and kisses me,” Saffy said. “Once he replied, ‘That’s sweet of you!’ and then he did that thing he does with his teeth and completely distracted me, and that was that.”

“You’re ok with that?” I asked, mentally taking copious notes.

“I just don’t think he’s an ‘I love you’ kind of a guy, you know? And really, what does it all mean in the end? They’re just words. It’s taken me a long time to work this out, but there was a time when having a guy say ‘I love you’ to me was the single most important thing in the relationship. Because if he doesn’t say it, how will I know where the relationship is going?”

I was startled. “Have you been speaking to my sister?” I asked.

“We’ve had this conversation so many times before,” Saffy said. “And, anyway, the last time a guy said ‘I love you’ to me, he turned out to be married with two kids.”

And not only that, he was also having an affair with Rommy, his Indonesian maid. Saffy took great satisfaction in reporting him to both the Ministry of Manpower and to his wife. When news arrived that she’d ditched him in a very expensive divorce, Saffy took us all out to Morton’s to celebrate.

Which, of course, then started everyone on a romantic retrospective when we thought back on all our past relationships in which “I love you” had been uttered and realized that they were exactly that: Past.

“Remember the time, I said ‘I love you’ to Andrew Pang and he said, ‘Thank you’ and how pissed I was?” Amanda said. “Gosh, maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.”

“No, he was a jerk,” Saffy said firmly. “Any man who is still splitting the bill after the fourth date is not someone you want to walk down the aisle with.”

A few days later, when the subject came up at lunch, Sharyn said, “Aiyoh, why you people always must say ‘I love you’, one? I tell you, hah, tok is cheap! Anyone can say ‘I love you’! I go Andy Lau concert, I scream ‘I love you’ also, but mean nothing, right? More important is how the man treat you. If he buy you Estee Lauder, he sure love you! When he buy you Louis Vuitton, confirm he will marry you!”

Amanda says someone should give Sharyn her own talk show. “She’s Oprah with a Singlish accent!”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hide and Seek

It used to be fun being on Facebook. You’d log on in the morning and you’d have all these lovely posts of friends to read through to see what they were up to and then you’d spend a calming half hour seeing what other people were saying about other people and then you added your two cents worth. And when you all met up in person, you’d have a bit of a giggle and, if you’re the techie sort, you’d immediately Facebook on your handphone that you’d just had a giggle.

A complete waste of time, of course, but then so is Gossip Girl, and what’s my point?

Well, my point is, Facebook was meant to be fun. So, what I want to know is when did it become such a political mine-field?

The other morning, at the breakfast table, we were all on our assorted electronic electronic gadgets, me on the iPad, Amanda on her iPhone and Saffy on her laptop.
Suddenly, Saffy gasped. Even her impressive cleavage stopped in mid-heave.

“Oh. My. God.”

“What?” Amanda asked, her eyes never leaving her screen.

“Remember Ridiculous Richard, my ex-boss? He’s just asked to be my friend on Facebook!”

Amanda looked up. “Seriously, what do people do that?”

Saffy’s bosom inflated to dangerous proportions. “I know, right? It’s so incredibly inappropriate!”

“Oh, you can’t be Facebook friends with your ex-boss!” I said firmly. “Just ignore it!”

“I can’t ignore it. His wife Mayzie is my Friday night salsa gal pal, and we’re on the cusp of becoming afternoon tea gal pals!” Which, in Girl Speak, is apparently at the same level as a cabinet minister, as opposed to being a mere MP. You’re in the inner circle of friends.

“How awkward would it be,” Saffy continued, “if we really start hanging out together which means I’d be seeing more of Ridiculous Richard and there’ll always be this Facebook question mark hanging in the air?”

“Well, then accept his friend request.” I thought it was a perfectly reasonable course of action. Apparently not.

“Oh my God, are you crazy?” Amanda cried. And to prove how seriously she was taking this matter, she actually put her phone down on the table. “She can’t be Facebook friends with her ex-boss! That’s just weird!”

“Not to mention creepy!” Saffy added. “I’ve seen the way he stares at my boobs!”

Leave it to Saffy’s best friend Sharyn (who, in Girl Speak, is basically the Deputy Prime Minister) to put the whole matter into perspective.

“Aiyoh, like this can also make drama! Just ignore, lah! Or say you never on Facebook! You know how many unaccepted friend request I have or not? Eighty-two! I don’t care, one! Especially, hor, if I doh-no you, I don’t friend.”

“But I see Mayzie all the time and sometimes Ridiculous Richard joins us for drinks!” Saffy said. “It’ll be so awkward!”

Sharyn paused. “Oh, like that, one, ah! Then you accept, but you hide him! Come, I show you how.”

Which is how Saffy spent an instructive Saturday afternoon being shown by Sharyn how to keep unwanted Facebook friends at bay. As she later said, “Seriously, this woman may look like a wet market auntie, but she’s got the electronics IQ of a freaking genius! The CIA should hire her!”

Sharyn blushed modestly. “No, lah! Pie say, pie say!”

Amanda looked at Saffy’s copious notes and said doubtfully, “It looks very complicated!”

Sharyn grunted in a rather unattractive way. “Once you do a few time, very easy! But if too much, you do this, ok? You accept this person as your friend. Then next day, you delete!”

“Uhm, isn’t that a bit rude?” I asked.

Sharyn sighed, her breath fogging up her Coke bottle-thick spectacles. “Aiyah, most people these days, hor, they have a few hundred friends. You think they sit there every morning and do inventory of their friends, is it? One missing, they never know, one! Trust me! I got 862 friends. If you unfriend me now, I also won’t notice!”

That night, as we sat down to dinner, Amanda asked, “Since when did this whole Facebook thing become so difficult? I want to be friends with people I like, and not because I have to!”

“That Sharyn is amazing!” I said with deep admiration. “How did she get to be so good at computers? I have problems finding the on switch on my laptop!”

Saffy snorted. “I still can’t get over the fact that I’m taking social etiquette lessons from a woman who still thinks it’s acceptable to spit out her chicken bones directly onto the table next to her plate!”

Monday, May 09, 2011

Campaign Trial

So, the very exciting 2011 elections have come and gone. It all feels slightly anti-climactic, if you ask me. All that fuss on Twitter and Facebook about rallies and the regrets of certain winsome candidates, and it suddenly feels like it’s back to business as usual.

Or as our friend Sharyn recently posted on her Facebook wall, “Now, no more erection to get gun zheong about every day, how?”

To which Barney Chen posted, “Girrrrl, which constituency are YOU at? I must move!” His response attracted 12 Likes.

Sharyn posted, “Sorry, lah. My English not cheem enuf!”

Meanwhile, Saffy says that not running for office this year is shaping up to be her biggest regret. “I might have won a seat!” she said the other night while slowly chewing on her slice of pizza. (She’d read somewhere that if you chew each mouthful of food at least 40 times before swallowing, you’re guaranteed to lose weight. When she spoke, she’d been chewing, according to the watch I was surreptitiously keeping time on, for at least ten minutes.)

Amanda snorted back a laugh. “And which party would you have represented?”

Saffy looked surprised. “My own, of course! The SAP! Saffy’s Amazing Party! Talk about great branding! Imagine my campaign flyers – ‘Looking to change your life? Saffy’s Amazing Party is the answer!’ My party colours would be Dolce & Gabbana gold and Tiffany blue! And I’d probably get the majority of the male vote simply on the basis of these twin assets!” she said as she stared down at her chest with the kind of pride you normally see on the face of a mother who’s just delivered miracle IVF triplets.

Which, of course, led to a heated debate about party policy. Amanda said that ‘No More Strange Names Like Talvin’ was not a serious election platform to which Saffy replied stoutly that as the SAP was her political party, she could jolly well do as she pleased.

Amanda said it was precisely this kind of crassness that landed you on YouTube and earned you endless ridicule on Facebook.

“Well, what would you campaign on then, Miss Smartypants?” Saffy demanded.

“Well, immigration for starters…”

“What’s wrong with it?” Saffy interrupted.

“It needs to be adjusted. There is a strong community feeling that perhaps there are too many foreigners who are taking away jobs from Singaporeans.”

“Like what kind of jobs?” Saffy wanted to know, adding, “because as far as I can see, they’re all doing the jobs that I really don’t want to be doing anyway, so I say, let them! Like waitressing. Can you imagine me waiting on tables at Tung Lok?”


“Oh my God! Customers in this town can be so rude! Just the other day, I was at Crystal Jade and I saw this tai-tai tell scold the poor Chinese waitress for bringing her the bill when she hadn’t asked for it. If Lulu wants to wait on tables all day, give her citizenship, I say!”

Amanda paused. You could tell she was mentally rewinding the conversation. “Who the hell is Lulu?”

“The Chinese waitress! That’s not her name, of course, but she looked like a Lulu. She had that wild hair Michelle Chong has!”

Amanda later said that she should know by now never to engage in a conversation with Saffy on any topic more advanced than the current Gossip Girl plot line.

“She just skips all over the place!” she complained. “But the infuriating thing is, what she says actually makes sense! I mean, the only reason all these foreign workers are coming into Singapore is because there are all these jobs that local Singaporeans don’t want to do! So, somebody’s got to do it! But if you bring in outside help, you get roasted. If you don’t bring someone in, the work piles up and everybody gets unhappy, and you still get roasted. You can’t win!”

I said I couldn’t imagine having to deal with anything more difficult than trying to decide which movie to watch tomorrow night, a comment that led Amanda to conclude that you couldn’t get her to run for politics if you paid her. “What a horrible job!” she said, her admiration for the Prime Minister ratcheting up in multiples.

Meanwhile, Saffy says she’s putting her political ambitions on hold for the moment. After being glued to the TV watching the election results, she says that she’s now torn between running with the PAP or with the Workers Party. “I don’t think I’d look good in all whites, so that kind of rules out the PAP, and the WP have such boring dress sense!”

Amanda says she worries for this country’s future.