Friday, February 17, 2012

Hair Treatment

A few mornings ago, I was woken by the sounds of excited chatter in the living room. From experience, this usually means one of two things: either one or both of my flatmates had a successful second date, or there’s a new movie out starring Ryan Gosling and he takes his shirt off.
            I would have yelled out for Saffy and Amanda to keep the noise down, on account of the fact it was a Sunday morning, but the air-con had dried up my vocal chords overnight and all I could manage was a raspy croak.
            The girls were at the breakfast table when I shuffled out of my bedroom. They turned bright shining eyes in my direction.
            “Oh. My. God!” Amanda said immediately. “Saffy is leaving her hair-dresser! She’s moving salons!”
So excited she was unable to speak, Saffy gasped.
            For girls reading this, I probably don’t need to explain to you why this would generate such excitement.
For perplexed guys, it’s like this.
Imagine you’re a devout Roman Catholic. You cross yourself every time Kurt and Blaine hold hands on ‘Glee’, and you hum a few Hail Marys whenever Callie and Arizona make out on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.
And every Sunday, without fail, you faithfully confess all your sins to your priest. Let’s call him Father Anthony. You tell him everything that’s troubling you, every nasty thought you had that week about everyone from your nagging mother to your horrible boss. You tell him how you’re jealous that Jane in accounts is pregnant. How you stole some Post-It pads from the office. You reveal you’ve had forbidden urges for a married man, specifically Christopher Lee (or if you’re a dyed in the wool SPG, Hugh Jackman). You unburden all your sins, every uncharitable thought and act, past, present and future. You ask for absolution. But most of all, you ask for his patient, listening ear.
Because you know he won’t judge you. He loves you as you are. And you love him. You trust him.
So, you do this every Sunday. Every. Single. Sunday. With the same man. Because you need this man. He knows the real you.
And if Father Anthony is away on holiday, and Father Joseph is the temp confessor, you feel kind of weird talking to him. Which you know is probably not kosher either, so you confess the weirdness to Father Joseph anyway.
That’s kind of the sick co-dependent relationship women have with their hairdresser. They share secrets and shampoos. Hopes and henna. Confidences and conditioner. Gossip and colour. It’s intense.
And in the case of Saffy and Amanda, their relationships with their hairdressers, Michael and Steffan respectively, is as close as a gay man and a straight woman can get without actually going straight to hell.
So, you understand the fuss when Saffy announced her decision to leave Michael, who’s done her hair for the last eight years, for Jake who works at another salon across town.
“I want to try a new hair-style,” Saffy explained, “but Michael thinks this is the one that suits me best but I’m bored with it but I don’t want to upset him by telling him I’m bored with it but I’ve got this promotion coming up and I want to very subtly tell my boss that I’m all about new ideas but without actually telling him explicitly hence the hint with the new hair but I need to get it done without offending Michael which is why I’ve made an appointment with Jake but Michael can’t know so am I making myself clear?”
“Crystal!” Amanda said, sagely.
I’ll fast forward the rest of it: Saffy got snappy new bangs with Jake and also got her promotion and now she is wracked with guilt every time she looks into the mirror.
Everyone has complimented her on her fresh look, but whenever she steps out of the flat, she pulls her hair up in a bun and slaps on a cap and sunglasses.
“It will be a disaster if she accidentally bumps into Michael,” Amanda explained.
“So, she’ll go back to him?”
“Of course. A woman’s relationship with her hairdresser is sacred and eternal, you know. Marsha’s hairdresser saw her through four divorces and her fifth wedding! Besides, she has to. The stress of hiding out from Michael is killing her!”
“But won’t Michael know she’s had her hair cut by someone else?”
“Yes and no. She’s going to tell him that she was on holiday and caught lice from one of the kids at the orphanage she was visiting, and she had to get her hair cut by the local hairdresser.”
I stared at Amanda.
“What?” she asked. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pin Head

It won’t come as much of a surprise to regular readers of this column that there’s been a bit of a drama recently in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda. In restaurants and on the street, complete strangers come up to me and ask me how it’s possible that three people can generate so much angst and trouble in such a confined space.
            Invariably, my first response is to run away. “Imagine having to deal with this all the time!” I said to my best friend Karl after I was accosted in the cereal aisle of Cold Storage by a pimply teenager carrying a Goyard bag. She wanted to know if Saffy and Amanda were real people.
            “So, how? Got picture of Saffy’s boobs?” she asked, pressing close.
            “Uhm,” I said, “you’re really close inside my personal space.”
            “Wah,” she replied, “real life, you also very cheem, hor?”
            “Where do kids get the money to buy Goyard!” Karl later wanted to know.
            I stared at him. “I was just verbally assaulted by Single White Female and all you can talk about is her accessories? Really? How do Madonna and Brad Pitt do this?””
            My point is: my life is full of drama. None of which has anything to do with me. And it’s wearing me down.
            The latest episode began on Saturday morning at the Standard Chartered bank’s ATM machine in Raffles Place. On her way to brunch at the Fullerton Hotel, Saffy suddenly realized that she was down to her last ten dollars which, as she later pointed out, won’t get you two cup cakes these days.
            She inserted her card, in her head humming the theme song to Hawaii Five-O, and her fingers began dropping onto the keypad to tap in her PIN. The music stopped. As it were. Saffy blinked. Then frowned.
            Meanwhile, across town, Amanda was getting her hair washed at the hairdresser when her handphone rang.
            “Oh. My. God!” Saffy announced.
            “I’m getting my hair washed and I don’t want to be electrocuted, so this had better be good.”
            “To the day I die,” Saffy said without missing a beat as she detoured into a parallel universe, “I will never understand people who pay someone else good money to wash their hair when they can just as easily do it at home in the shower. Why don’t you pay me to do it?”
            “Is this what you rang me for?”
            “Oh, my God, no, thank God you reminded me! I’m at the ATM and I’ve completely forgotten what my PIN is. Do you know what it is?”
            “Saffy, why would I know what your PIN is?
            “Because I once gave it to you for safe keeping!”
            “And I told you that I wasn’t your secretary, gave it back to you and told you to write it down somewhere safe!”
            “Oh,” Saffy said. She paused as she marshaled her thoughts. “So, did I ask Jason to keep it safe?”
            “Again, I’m not your secretary!”
            Needless to say, the drama ratcheted up several notches when after Saffy had mindlessly punched in random five digit numbers three times, the machine sucked up her card and refused to give it back to her even after she kicked it a few times and yelled “No!” at it for ten minutes.
            As she later complained, as if modern life wasn’t already complicated enough, you now basically needed to have the memory capacity of a 50G hard-drive just to remember all your access codes. “I have a PIN for three bank accounts. I have user IDs, PINs and passwords for my online banking, Yahoo, three Gmail addresses, health insurance, Apple, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, New York Times, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Twitter, Facebook! It’s all too much! How am I supposed to remember it all?”
            “Write it down somewhere,” Amanda repeated.
            “I did that, but I lost the sheet of paper and now I’m petrified that someone’s found it and is wiping me out! Haven’t you heard of identity theft?”
            Amanda said to me privately that the identity thief would be really scraping the bottom of the barrel to steal Saffy’s identity. “She has a total of $100 in her bank account!”
            I was impressed. “How do you know?”
            “It was one of the random security questions the Stan Chart woman asked over the phone when Saffy had to prove her identity because she couldn’t remember her NRIC number! Can you imagine not knowing your NRIC number in this country? You might as well not exist!”
            I can’t help but wonder if Madonna or Brad Pitt ever have this problem.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Apparently, Oscar Wilde once said that youth is wasted on the young. (I say ‘apparently’ because I’m not sure I’m quoting him exactly and I can’t really check this right now because my Internet is down and I also figure that this is a blog and if you can’t be sloppy with your fact checking here, where can you, are you with me on this, and also by the time the Internet is back up, I’ll probably be taking a nap, I really shouldn’t have had that extra cup of coffee this morning.)
            The other thing that is wasted on the young is holidays. Really, when you come right down to it, what do six year olds need a holiday for? They’re not working a nine-to-five slog. They don’t have to battle it out every morning and every evening on crowded trains. They don’t have to fight for a pay-rise. They don’t have to stress out over a Powerpoint presentation. They don’t have to balance their mortgage repayments, car loans, or deal with maid agencies.
So let’s just admit it. Children don’t need holidays. Because their whole lives are already a holiday.
“That’s a little extreme, isn’t it?” Amanda asked the other day.
“I’m with Jason on this,” Saffy said, her fabulous bosom vibrating with the social injustice of it all. “When you have to deal with a horrible boss whose greatest pleasure in life is to make you redo the audit report for the fifteenth time and then yells at you for spelling his name wrong, then we can talk about holidays!”
Amanda blinked. “You spelt your boss’s name wrong? How is that possible?”
Saffy puffed up. “How was I supposed to know what his name is, let alone that he spells Elvin with two ‘y’s? I only ever call him Mr Tan!”
“Wait a minute, he spells his name E-L-V-Y-Y-N?”
“My point exactly! What is he, an elf from Lord of the Bloody Rings?”
“Speaking of which,” Amanda said, “have you seen Orlando Bloom’s girlfriend, Miranda Kerr, that Victoria’s Secret model? Can you believe that she’s just had a baby?”
“I wish I could walk around all day wearing just a bikini, body glitter and big wings,” Saffy said wistfully.
As I later complained to Karl at lunch, it’s no wonder I seldom initiate a conversation in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda. Within thirty seconds, we’re invariably talking about a completely different subject to the one we started out with.
“And within thirty seconds of the second conversation, we’re talking about another topic altogether!” Even in my heightened state of discontent, I could hear a distinct whining note in my voice.
“Calm down,” Karl said, his soothing voice somewhat muffled by the burger he was chewing. “You sound like you need a holiday.”
And that was my point, I said, it’s adults who need holidays. Not kids. Kids, I said, should be sent to school and not be let out till they’re ready for NS.
“Please don’t talk like this in public,” Karl begged.
Meanwhile, Amanda says she’s reading a book called ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ which is, apparently, life-changing.
“It says that we need to make a paradigm shift in our lives,” she reported this morning. “We need to look at life as one long vacation that’s interrupted by work. Isn’t that a fabulous idea?”
Saffy looked up from her cereal. “How?”
“I don’t know. I’m just dipping in and out of it. I have the attention span of a walnut these days. I can’t seem to concentrate for very long on any given topic.”
“You need a holiday!” I said, pleased that we were back on track.
“I need to stop working and just sit under a palm tree on a beach for a year. And I also need to find a boyfriend.”
“None of which you’ll find holed up all day in an office,” I said, not daring to look at my watch to see how many seconds we had left for this topic.
“I can’t remember the last time I went on a holiday,” Saffy said as she stared up at the ceiling. “I’m so tired. Jason is right. It’s so unfair. Kids these days have, what, three months of holidays a year? What do they need three months off for? We need it more. Not to mention, more deserving. I’m telling you, if it wasn’t for adults, there’d be no kids in the first place!” 
“You sound just like your mother, Saff,” Amanda said.
“Oh. My. God. Did I tell you what she said to me the other day? I was so angry I nearly reached out to choke her. She said…”
I sighed as I glanced at my watch. Thirty-one seconds.