Sunday, December 25, 2011

Face Forward

Has anyone seen the latest Scream movie? The Wes Craven reboot of his hysterically intellectual and scary series? We watched it the other night. Scared us silly with all that slashing, blood, and bulging eyes as one person after the other dropped dead amidst sharp violin notes and girls running around screaming from room to room.
And can I just say that the loudest screams in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda were reserved for Courtney Cox?
Amanda stared slack jawed at the screen. “Oh. My. God. What has Courtney Cox done to her face?” 
“Has she had work done?” Saffy mumbled through a mouthful of Garrett’s popcorn.
“Of course she has!” Amanda said knowledgeably over the screams of a nubile wench being stabbed by the vicious man in black. “Look at the odd angle of her eyes! And, look, she can’t even lift her brows! Oh, Courtney, if Monica Geller could see you now!”
For days, it was all the girls could talk about.
“Got plastic surgery, meh?” Sharyn asked over afternoon tea at the Regent.
“Oh my God, Sharyn,” Amanda said, “she looked like she was caught in a wind-tunnel! Her face was so tight!”
“So tight!” Saffy repeated through a mouthful of chocolate ├ęclair. “So tight that she never smiled. Did you notice that, Amanda? Courtney Cox never smiled through that whole movie.”
“She was pulled so tightly she probably would have farted if she’d smiled,” said Amanda, doing absolutely no credit to her expensive Swiss boarding school education.  
It’s a sure sign that you’re getting old when every time you get together with friends from school, you find yourself scrutinising (and silently judging) their faces for lines and then realize, to your mounting horror, that if your friends are looking wrinkled, then so must you.
My friend Jonathan recently emailed me and told me to look up the website of the law firms that our friends were now partners at.
It wasn’t a pleasant exercise. I swear, if it wasn’t for their names, I wouldn’t have recognized anyone.
Guys whom I remembered to be fresh and handsome back in law school now looked haggard with thinning hair, sagging jowls, and huge bags under their eyes. Girls who once made professors stumble over their lectures looked positively matronly, their eyes hidden behind ugly glasses, their gorgeous faces buried beneath a mask of three-dimensional make-up and their hair burdened with enough hair spray to withstand a cyclone.
“What happened to everyone?” I emailed Jonathan in a panic.
He wrote back: “Stress. Children. Mortgages. Office politics. Loans. Life.”
It was such a depressing thought. It later occurred to me that they don’t tell you about this in school. No one does. It’s like a dirty secret. No teacher or responsible adult ever said to us, “Right, after all these exams and after you graduate and get a job, you’re going to immediately age 30 years and it’s not going to be pretty!” I suppose if they did, no one would ever bother wasting their lives at school. They’d all be at the beach having a party and getting drunk.
I recently spent an hour holding a mirror to my face in the bathroom looking for the devastating aging I saw so clearly in my friends.
“Should we fix an appointment to see Woffles Wu?” I asked Saffy.
“Good luck getting an appointment with him!” she said, never looking up from her latest copy of Prestige magazine. “He’s always going somewhere fun and giving lectures, or he’s traveling down memory lane back to Disco Singapore. Do you think he’s happily married? One of my life ambitions is to marry a plastic surgeon. Can you imagine that? Free face lifts and tummy tucks for life! Think of all the money I’d save! You and Amanda will get friend’s discounts, of course,” Saffy said magnanimously from the comfortable heights of her parallel universe. “Oh my God, have you seen this issue of Prestige? I’m halfway through it and I’ve not seen a single person who hasn’t had plastic surgery. Everyone’s been tugged, peeled and stapled! I tell you, if I ever looked like this, I’d never leave the house!”
“So what would be the point of getting married to Woffles Wu?” I asked.
“Oh, Woffles would never do shoddy work like this!” said the future Mrs Saffy Wu loyally. She snapped shut the magazine and struggled out of the couch. “All this talk of tummy tucks is making me hungry. What’s for lunch? I wonder if Woffles does Botox for tummies. Can you imagine it? Eat all you want and still be able to fit into a bikini without being mistaken for a beached whale! He’d be richer than God!”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Daze of our lives

The other night at a dinner party, someone turned to Saffy and asked her what she would do if she knew she had only one day left to live.
            Now, if you were to ask most people that question, I’ll bet the mood will turn philosophical and wistful. Perhaps they’ll smile and say something naff like “I’d go hang-gliding”, or “I’d spend it with my dog”.
            Saffy’s eyes widened and her famous bosom inflated to maximum capacity. “Why? What’s going to happen? What do you know? Oh my God, are you staring at my BREASTS AGAIN?” Conversation at the table came to a complete standstill as every head swiveled around in her direction.
            The poor guy who asked the question turned bright pink, and started sputtering, “Yes, uh, no! I mean I was, but I’m not...”
Amanda later said it was one of those questions that you can’t just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to: kind of like “Have you stopped abusing your wife and children?” And with everyone alternately looking at him and peering sideways at Saffy’s breasts, her dinner companion – Amanda’s very distinguished professor of law, as it turned out – found himself completely unable to explain himself.
            Saffy was unrepentant. “What a stupid question to ask me! What would I do if I knew I only had one day left to live? Well, for one thing, I wouldn’t have been sitting next to that Dodo at that boring dinner!”
            The air turned icy. “It was my birthday dinner, Saffy,” Amanda said, her lips tight.
            “And thank you very much for sitting me next to Professor Dumbo-bore!” Saffy said, completely unmoved.
            Still, the question fully occupied my attention for days. People are always talking about their bucket list – things they want to do, or plan to do if they ever found the time, money or opportunity.
            Barney Chen said he’d be spending his last day at the gym. “Because I’m going to have an open casket at my funeral,” he said and added shyly, “I’m going to wear a super tight t-shirt and I want people to say, as they pass my coffin, ‘Man, he looked good for his age.’”
            Amanda raised an eyebrow. “In that case, you might as well be topless! Or nude!” You could tell by Barney’s distant stare that he’d not thought of this sartorial alternative.
            Sharyn says she would leave her children. “Cannot tahan ah, I tell you! Morning wake up, they’re screaming. Night time, still screaming. My mudder, hor, she say, ‘Who ask you get married?’ Aiyoh, why I don’t listen to her?”
Meanwhile, my mother says it might be fun to be in a threesome, a sentiment that shocked my sister so much she was unable to speak for two days. “What sort of a thing is that to say to your children?” Michelle demanded when she regained partial control of her vocal chords. “I can’t even imagine her doing it with Daddy, never mind with a third party! It’s not wonder my therapist says I have issues! When your mother talks like this in public, how could you not have issues?” she croaked.
Personally, I’ll be booking myself onto a first class trip to New York on a Singapore Airlines A380 plane. The idea of being waited on hand and foot, in a nice comfy bed with fluffy white linen, just me and a glass of champagne for 17 hours just seems incredibly blissful. No email access, no phone calls, and hopefully, no screaming baby in the next cabin to disturb my KrisWorld entertainment. I would die happy.
When I told Saffy and Amanda my earthly exit plan, it was met with complete silence.
“What?” I said eventually.
“I cannot believe…” Saffy began.
“That you would spend your last day without us!” Amanda finished.
“Do you have any idea how hurtful that is?”
“But I’ll already be spending my second last day with you!” I protested.
“That’s such a typical male thing to say. That’s just the sort of thing you would say when your mistress discovers you in bed with your wife!” Saffy huffed.
I told her that made no sense at all.
“Well, it does to me!” Amanda snapped. “I guess that’s settled then, Saffy. You and I will be spending our last day together.
Saffy looked a little embarrassed. “Well, uhm, I was thinking that maybe I might get married to Brad!” she began and then went on in a rush. “We marry in the afternoon, have a party and then later that night, I die in his arms! It would be so romantic!”
Amanda says she’s always known that she would die alone. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Will and Grace

People tend to go a little funny when you tell them you’re doing up your will.
            “Oh dear, everything is ok, isn’t it?” they lean in and ask anxiously, their eyes bright with sympathy.
            “I’m dying!” Saffy once said dramatically. By the time Sharyn had stopped crying hysterically, Saffy added, “Well, I’m not dying immediately, but it’s going to happen eventually!”
            “Choy!” Sharyn shouted. “Where got such thing, one, tell people you’re dying? Aiyoh, give me heart attack, ah, I tell you!”
            “All the more reason to do your will, in that case!” Saffy said triumphantly.
            Ever practical, Amanda can’t understand what the fuss is all about. “Everyone should get their will done up. These days, you never know. You could step out of a restaurant and get run over by a bus!”
            “And imagine if you’d been trying to lose weight and all you had for lunch was a salad!” Saffy added with a shiver of horror.
            The other day, my friend Jeremy posted on Facebook an article about this 30 something year old woman in London who was discovered in her flat three years after she’d died. Apparently, the TV was still on and no one had smelt her decomposing body because the windows of her flat opened over a rubbish tip, so no one could tell. By the time the landlord broke down the door to demand his three years of back rent, the woman, still sitting in her sofa in her living room, had become a skeleton.
            The fate of the poor woman fully occupied our attention for days. Saffy couldn’t understand how in three years no one even bothered to find out what had happened to their friend. “I mean, look at this picture of her! She’s so pretty! Three years is a long time not to catch up with someone! What was wrong with her friends?”
            It didn’t take a genius to guess from Saffy’s hunted eyes that she was thinking that if someone so pretty could be completely overlooked for three years, how much longer would it take to discover the skeleton of someone who was considerably less pretty?
            “I hope she at least had a will!” Amanda said.
            “If she was three years behind in her rent, I really doubt she had much money to start with!” Saffy said, completely forgetting that the woman had been very much dead during those three years.
            Later that afternoon, Barney Chen dropped by for coffee and was brought up to date with the issue currently obsessing us. “This is why I have a morning buddy!” he growled in his bass baritone.
            Amanda hesitated. “Uhm…is that like a…uhm…a friend with benefits?”
            “No, that’s a fu…”
            I coughed loudly.
            “A morning buddy,” Barney said with a smirk, “is when you’re single and you live alone and this person calls you every morning just to check that you’re still alive. My morning buddy is my mother! She calls me every morning at 7.30. Her morning buddy is her sister, my Auntie Ming and I’m Auntie Ming’s morning buddy. It’s a closed loop system,” he said with satisfaction.
            Amanda later said at least a morning buddy was one thing we didn’t need right now. “God, imagine living alone and then dying and no one knows…”
            “Or cares,” Saffy added darkly.
            A few days ago, my mother rang and announced that she and my father were redoing their wills. “Would you like us to leave you anything specific, Jason, dear?” Mother asked in the same kind of tone you use to ask someone if they would like another slice of cake.
            “I don’t want any of the silverware!” I said firmly. “Or any of the dusty Persian rugs.”
            Saffy popped her head in my room. “Tell her you’ll take the cash!” she hissed.
            I cupped a hand over the speaker and yelled, “Stop listening to my private conversations!”
            “God, that’s so rude!” she said as she flounced off. “See if I’m going to discover you in the morning!”
            Meanwhile, my mother was still rabbiting on who she was going to leave her precious bed linen and vintage Balenciagas to. “It’ll be all wasted on your sister. She only wears Zara!”
            Michelle later said she couldn’t think of anything more ghoulish than inheriting your parents’ bed linen. “Just the possibility that those might have been the very sheets you were conceived on! Oh my God, can you imagine the ick factor?”
            Saffy says that even if she made a will, she’d have nothing to leave anyone, anyway, so what was the point? But to be on the safe side, she’s now sleeping with her bedroom door wide open. “Check in on me each morning!”

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What a dump

You know you’re getting older when you go to a restaurant and the first thing you comment on is how dim the lighting is.
            “It’s so dark in here! How am I supposed to read the menu?” Amanda demanded the other night.
            Right on cue, a waiter emerged out of the gloom. “Would you like a torchlight, ma’am?” he asked and was rewarded with the Look of Death.
            “How dare you?” Saffy hissed on behalf of Amanda who had been rendered speechless by the waiter’s appalling lack of discretion. “You can’t go around calling people ‘ma’am’! What is this, the Victorian age? Listen, we’re young enough to be your sister!”
            By the time everyone had calmed down and a new waiter was found to take our order, Saffy was soon complaining that even with the torchlight, she couldn’t read the menu.
            “Seriously, could this font be any smaller? What am I, an ant?”
            I sighed. Clearly, this was going to be an evening of rhetorical questions.
            The next morning at breakfast, it was all the girls could talk about.
            “My God, the acoustics in that restaurant were vile!” Saffy exclaimed, her bosom inflating with effort beneath her super tight tube top. “I’m still deaf from having to shout the whole evening!”
            “Tell it! And can I just say how much I hate all that fiddly food that’s been touched by a hundred hands? Next time, we’re eating in a cze char joint. I’ve had it with these fancy schmancy dumps.”
            “Speaking of which…” Saffy began.
            “Shut up, Saffy!” Amanda interrupted. From bitter experience, it’s never a good thing to get Saffy started on anything to do with gastro-intestinal topics. But our flatmate was made of sterner stuff because she ploughed on.
            “No, really, it’s important. Sharyn’s got hemo-whatsits!” she said in a triumphant rush before anyone could stop her.
            Amanda paused, her spoonful of cereal halfway to her open mouth.
            I looked up from my Blackberry.
            “It’s that thing when your bum hurts! You know, hemo-whatsit!” Saffy said, as if the sheer act of repetition would make things clearer. She looked expectantly between Amanda and me.
            Amanda looked at me. “I’m afraid to ask.”
            “I’m not even going to,” I said.
            After a lot of gruesome graphic explanations, all of it patently unsuitable to listen to while eating breakfast, it turned out that Sharyn had a severe case of hemorrhoids.
            Amanda’s nose wrinkled. “Oh my God, I thought that sort of thing only happened to grandmothers!”
            “She’s going to have an operation to remove it!” Saffy said helpfully, but it was clear from her expression that she had no idea what ‘it’ actually was.
            “So what exactly is a hemorrhoid?” Amanda asked. “And, more importantly, how do we not get it?”
            “I thought it’s when you cut yourself and then bleed to death,” Saffy said. “Or am I thinking of a hemogoblin?”
            Phil-liac!” Amanda said.
            “Who’s Phil?” Saffy asked.
            That afternoon, we showed up at the hospital to visit Sharyn just before she went in for her operation.
            “Aiyoh, you, ah!” she sighed. She was wearing an ugly shower-cap and an even uglier blue hospital gown that Amanda later said did nothing for her figure. “A hammer-roid is when the vein in your bot-bot swell up so it’s hard for you to bang-sai!”
            A fat silence walked into the room and made itself comfortable. Amanda blinked, while Saffy frowned. I looked up at the ceiling and stared hard at the light fixtures.
            “I did not understand a word you just said,” Amanda said eventually.
            Sharyn sighed again. She reached for the pen and paper beside her bed and started sketching. Saffy and Amanda leaned in. Both started screaming round about the same time.
            Later, back in the flat, Saffy said that she’d not seen anything so horrific since ‘Alien v Predator’.
            “Really, talk about gross!” she said, her breasts heaving pneumatically.
            Amanda shivered delicately. “The idea of someone anywhere near my thingy with a scalpel…I’m not going to be able to poo for days.”
            “Can you imagine what this is going to do for my constipation?” Saffy wondered to the world at large.
            As the girls hyperventilated, it occurred to me that if you wanted clear evidence that you’re getting older, it’s when you start visiting your friends in hospital just before they get their hemorrhoids removed. From there, it’s a slow slippery slope towards cataracts, face-lifts and hip replacements. And from there, it’s just a short shuffle to bedpans and respirators.
            That evening, when I called my mother to say hello, she said she and my father were getting ready to go skiing in Aspen. “You only die once, darling!”