Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Here’s the thing about human nature: we’re never satisfied. Nothing’s changed since the beginning of time. First, when we were all happily living outdoors and breathing fresh air, we decided we wanted somewhere dry and warm, so we built little huts out of twigs and mud. But we got cold inside, so we built little campfires and basically smoked ourselves like salmon.

Then we thought, “Oooh, I’m not liking having to pee in the bush all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an en-suite?” And when we got that, we decided that, maybe, it would be fun to have a garage to park our swords and chariots. And the next thing you know, we’d gone and built the Great Wall of China.

It’s all just a never-ending sequence of greed and restlessness.

Another example: Saffy. For the longest time, she moaned to everyone that she was sick and tired of being single. “Do you have anyone you can hook me up with?” she said to my mother on their very first meeting.

“Uhm,” said Mother, a little panicked.

“Or maybe I just need to get laid! You know, just between us, I’ve not been laid since ‘Friends’ ended,” Saffy added. She later said that she felt so comfortable with my mother. “She’s very easy going!” she told me.

As soon as she got home, Mother emailed to say she wasn’t sure I had picked quite the ‘right sort of girl’ to live with. She said the same thing to her sister who then told her daughter Mei who then told our cousin Mark who immediately rang me all the way from Seattle and said, “Your mother says you’re living with a prostitute. Dude! Is that true?”

And then, one day, Saffy met the man of her dreams, Bradley. Here, finally, was a man who adored the ground she walked on. Who said her habit of sitting with her legs wide open on the window sill (“I’m airing myself!”) made complete sense to him and that people just needed to lighten up. Who told her that there was nothing wrong with eating an additional slice of cheesecake if she wanted. Who bought her Estee Lauder and told her she looked wonderful in a dress she was convinced made her look fat. Who reassured her endlessly that he couldn’t imagine life without her. And, more importantly, who patiently sat through a DVD marathon of ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Love, Actually’, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, and ‘Beaches’.

“Aiyoh,” sighed Sharyn, Saffy’s best friend. “I tell you, ah, if I not orredi marry, I sure kidnap Bladley, one!”

Saffy practically glowed.

A few mornings ago at breakfast, Saffy suddenly piped up, “Why doesn’t he want to marry me?”

Amanda looked up from her Blackberry. And then she looked at me. After much practice, we’d learnt that conversations with Saffy tend to include a lot of mentally connecting the dots.

“Uhm,” Amanda began. “Have you discussed this with him?”

Saffy’s chest expanded. “No, we’ve never talked about it.”

“Then how do you know he doesn’t want to marry you?” Amanda asked.

“Well, if he wanted to marry me, he’d have said so, wouldn’t he? He hasn’t said so. Therefore, he doesn’t want to marry me!”

Amanda later said that just when you think you’ve got Saffy all sorted out, she turns right around and gives you a virtuoso performance in spatial thinking. “It’s like living with Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rainman’!”

Leave it to Sharyn to point out some home truths to Saffy. “Aiyah, why you so gun zheong? You think you very easy girlfriend, is it? He so far not run away is enough, what! What for get so upset! Marriage, hah, I tell you, is not for everyone. Some people can take it. Some people marry, straightaway get die-vorce! Like my sister. She fall in love in JC, marry, have one baby and one year later, the husband have affair. He say after the baby, she get fat. Aiyoh!” she sighed tragically.

Of course, discontent still rules our little flat. In the world according to Saffy, the real test of a man’s love is a Tiffany’s engagement ring. A year ago, that test would have been passed if the man called you the day after the date.

“I hope I don’t become like that,” Amanda said, no doubt thinking of the fact that she’s not been on a date in two months.

This morning, at breakfast, Saffy said that sometimes she misses being single. “Being in a relationship is so stressful! Men just never do what you want them to do! It’s a wonder more women don’t become prostitutes!”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Head First

The thing about growing older is that it can sometimes lure you into a false sense of security. For instance, when you’re six years old, you can’t wait to be fifteen as that’s when you’ll be able to cycle to school and not be ferried about by your annoying mother who insists on touching your hair for no reason and sweeping you up, on the slightest provocation, for a cuddle and a kiss.

And then, when you’re fifteen, you can’t wait to be in your twenties, because you’ll have gotten an office job, moved out of home and not be bothered by anyone. And, of course, when you’re in your twenties, you realize that it was much better to be in your teens because nobody told you about something ridiculous called rent, mortgage and income tax.

In the case of my flatmate, Saffy, some days, it’s just much better to stay in bed.

A few days ago, at the breakfast table, she lowered her handheld mirror and stared at us in horror.

How did this happen? It’s not like I’m still in puberty!” she whispered, her eyes wide open.

Amanda pursed her lips and frowned, while I tried hard not to stare at the ugly huge red pimple that pulsed angrily on the tip of her nose. You couldn’t even pretend it was something else like a mole or something. This was clearly a pimple and by the looks of it, it was here to stay.

Saffy raised the mirror for another look. She moaned. “This is a nightmare! I went to bed with clear skin and this morning, I wake up looking like Bill Bloody Clinton!”

“Could you maybe put some concealer on it?” Amanda said, still frowning and looking at the pimple sideways just in case it decided to leap off Saffy’s nose and attach itself to her face.

“I’ve already put an entire stick on it, but the shade is too light!” Saffy sniffed. “And it really hurts!”

“Have you tried, uhm, you know, popping it?” I said, leaning back.

“Are you mad?” Amanda snapped. “That’s a blind pimple. It won’t have a head! If you squeeze it, it will just built up pressure inside and make it grow bigger and more painful!”

Saffy squealed and promptly burst into tears.

As I later posted on Facebook, since when did pimples have categories? And leave it to Amanda to know them on a first name basis.

Saffy called in sick at work and refused to leave the flat. She disabled the FaceTime function on her iPhone and ignored all her Skype calls. “I simply cannot be seen!” she told Sharyn piteously on the phone.

“Aiyah, only a pimple, what! Why you so gun-zheong?” Sharyn said.

“Sharyn, this is no ordinary pimple! It’s a blind pimple!” Saffy said with grim pride.

“Hah? Where got such thing, one?”

Every other minute, Saffy would inspect her nose at close range by the light of the window, hoping that by some miracle, it had gotten smaller in the last two minutes. But this one refused to budge even though Saffy threw everything in her considerable arsenal of topical acne creams at it. And when that didn’t work, she sent Amanda off to a dermatologist with a fake acne problem.

“Make sure he gives you super strong antibiotics!” she said, shoving Amanda out the door.

“Saffy, he’s not going to believe I have acne!” Amanda protested as she scrabbled to get a firm grip on the edge of the door. “My skin is flawless and I’m not just saying that. It is! You’ve seen how much birds nest I drink!”

Finally, this morning, four days after it first appeared, Saffy announced that she detected the faintest hint of a white head. “The end is near!” she said with deep satisfaction as she turned her head in the mirror for a better angle.

She sat down at the dining table with a big bowl of hot water and draped a towel over her head. “I’m going to steam this bugger wide open!” she said, her voice somewhat muffled.

“But don’t do it too long!” Amanda said. “You don’t want to burst the fragile blood vessels in your face.”

Saffy later said that if Amanda ever got sacked as a lawyer, she’d have a great second career as a cosmetician. By then, Saffy had successfully burst the pimple in what she says was a spectacular dermatological explosion. “It was like a scene from ‘Alien’! God, it felt good!” she crowed. “I wonder if giving birth is like that! What! Don’t look at me like that! You know what I mean!”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mind Games

For a long time now, I’ve been wondering if I’m becoming stupid. Or, at the very least, senile.

I can come home, wander around the flat doing household chores, have a shower, cook dinner, watch some TV and then suddenly realize that I’ve left the front door wide open the whole time. “I could have been mugged, raped and murdered!” I said glumly once to Sharyn.

“Please, lah,” she replied, “you think you in New York, is it? This is Sing-gah-pore! You mug someone already kena rattan cane. Where got someone so stupid go and mug, rape and murder you, one?”

Or I can leave the flat and halfway down to the bus-stop, I suddenly think, “Did I turn off the stove?”, and then I have to turn right around and go home to check. I once walked back into the flat to find my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch in the middle of raping our Ikea sofa cushion. He managed to look both guilty and extremely pleased I was home so soon.

And just the other day, I was talking to Saffy about a recent episode of ‘True Blood’ when I suddenly drew a complete blank. “Oh my God, what’s the name of that vampire…John? Richard? Thelma?”

“What is wrong with you?” Saffy demanded. “What self respecting vampire is going to call himself Thelma?”

“Elmo?” I hazarded.

Saffy stared at me.

“I think I’m losing my mind!” I told Karl.

“Wait till you get married,” he said comfortably.

“I can’t seem to be able to remember anything! The other day, I was at a wedding and spent the entire night chatting to this girl and the next afternoon at a lunch party, I stuck my hand out and introduced myself to someone and she said, ‘Yes, we’ve met. You sat next to me last night at Jeremy’s wedding!’”

I don’t think I redeemed myself at all by laughing nervously and replying, “Hahaha! I didn’t recognize you in daylight!”

“Oh my God, you made her sound like she was a prostitute!” Amanda exclaimed. “Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

You can imagine my relief at a recent report that said Google is making us all a little bit stupid. The gist of it is that because we can find out the answer to anything at any time with just a few quick keystrokes into our computer and handphone, nobody bothers to learn anything anymore, let alone commit anything to memory.

Why bother learning what the capital of North Sudan is if you can just Google it in a few seconds? Which reminds me of the time I was shopping at Tang’s and the cashier asked me to fill out a form and I got stuck when I had to provide my handphone number.

She looked at me owlishly in the same way you’d look at a two-headed cow in a museum. “You don’t know your handphone number?”

“Well, why would I? I never call myself.”

Of course, that didn’t stop me looking up the symptoms for Alzheimer’s Disease. Google was very helpful here, coming up with a nice selection of articles within 0.06 seconds according to the Google clock. I opened one, read it and panicked.

I immediately called Amanda (using my phone’s memory book).

“I’m very busy, what is it?” she asked by way of friendly greeting.

“One of the tests for Alzheimer’s is remembering what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday!” I announced. “I can’t remember what I had! Can you?”

“A pear and coffee for breakfast, egg salad for lunch and tofu salad for dinner!” she said immediately.

“Oh, dear God.”

I called Saffy.

“Fried beehoon with extra chilli for breakfast, laksa for lunch, and fish an chips for dinner! It’s now wonder I feel so fat. Listen, are you really going senile?”

Another test for Alzheimer’s is being able to count backwards from 100 in sevens.

“Oh, that’s easy,” Saffy said. “One hundred, ninety-three, eighty-six, uhm, seventy-nine, seventy-two…”

Panic filled my mouth. I called Karl. “That’s a stupid test. I’m lucky if I can remember how many children I have!” he said.

“But you don’t have any children!” I pointed out.

“Well, there you go then. We can grow gaga together!”

I’m not taking any chances. I’ve just set up an appointment with a neurologist. Amanda thinks my problem isn’t senility so much as it is stupidity. “And laziness!” she said the other night. “Stop using Google and exercise your brain!”

I don’t care what she says. I’ve read some very good things about this neurologist online. I just hope I remember what to ask him.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wearing thin

The other morning at the breakfast table, Saffy looked up from her zhee cheong fun and said, “I have way too much underwear!”

I buried my face deeper behind the newspaper. A silence settled over the dining table and after a while, even it felt a little embarrassed.

Saffy drew in an audible breath. “I said, I have way…”

“Saf, we heard you the first time,” Amanda interrupted, not once looking up from her Blackberry.

“Well, thank you for making the effort to reply!”

Amanda sighed, clicked her Blackberry one last time, put it down and turned her luminous eyes on Saffy. “Yes, what about your underwear?”

“I have too much of it and I’m wondering if I should donate some of it to charity or something! What! I saw that look! I’ll have you know that there are plenty of people out there who would be grateful for a pair of my Marks and Spencer’s lacey thongs!”

“Name two!” Amanda shot back.

Saffy’s jaws clamped shut.

“I thought so,” Amanda said smugly.

All of which made me think about how much stuff I’ve got. For starters, I have an entire wall of books, nearly three-quarters of which I’ve not read. I’m the sort of person who will innocently walk past Borders and suck up three books in my wake. I’ll take these home, put them up on the shelves, stand back to admire how they look and then walk away. Ten years later, they’ll still be up there, gathering a thick layer of dust and turning mottled with age and humidity.

Meanwhile, Amanda has an entire wardrobe of clothes that still have their price tags dangling from the sleeves.

“And don’t get me started on my shoes,” she said the other day as she stood in front of her shoe cabinet and stared lovingly at her Jimmy Choos. “Why do I have so many pairs when I can only wear one at a time? Well, I know why. I love shoes. And that’s all there is to say about it!”

“It’s all rather obscene, don’t you think?” I said. “Not just about your shoes, I mean, but in general. We just accumulate so much stuff!”

“Which brings me back,” said Saffy, “to my point about giving the extra away! Really, could you both please keep up?”

“Saffy,” Amanda sighed, “there’s a big difference between giving away Jason’s unread copy of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and a pair of your frequently worn panties!”

Saffy remained stubbornly unconvinced. “I bet I could sell these on Japanese eBay and make a fortune! Oooh, maybe I could rent one of those vending machines in Tokyo! How fab would that be?” she cooed, her impressive bosom straining with effort.

That evening, as I looked at my bookshelves, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve spent a lot of money on things that I either don’t need or don’t use. I can only read a book at a time, wear one pair of shoes at a time and use one pen at a time. So, why do I have ten pairs of black shoes and at least 20 pens that I’ve swiped from hotel rooms around the world?

More to the point, why have I allowed so much clutter to build up in my life? Because, in the end, it’s all clutter. If you’re not using it, it’s clutter. So, why am I still shopping?

Leave it to Sharyn to put this existential crisis into perspective. “Aiyoh, you, ah! If you only buy what you need, then you might as well curl up and die, right? Life so short, why you stress yourself? For what? If you want to buy, buy lah! I love to shop!” she added happily. “To the day I die, I can still shop, I tell you! I’m very Singaporean!”

Meanwhile, Saffy had culled her underwear drawer to ten pairs of panties and ten bras. “I can wear a new one every day for a week and a half. That’s all I need!”

To which Sharyn said, “Eeeee! How like that? You must change a new pair in the evening, right? Udder-wise, whole day wear same underwear very chao, you know!”

Which, of course, sent Saffy into a big panic. She rushed downstairs to the rubbish bin to forage for all the underwear that she’d thrown down the chute with such happiness just a few hours earlier.

Upstairs, the phone rang. Saffy’s tinny voice sang through. “Oh. My. God. Someone has taken the bag I threw away! I knew there was a market for my underwear! This world is full of sick people!”