When you’re growing up, adults keep a lot of things from you in the hilarious belief that they’re protecting you.
When my aunt Soo-ling got divorced, my parents insisted that Uncle Tom had been posted overseas. Imagine our shock when we bumped into him, his new wife and new triplets the following Christmas.
And there was that time my four-year old brother Jack was staying over at an older cousin’s house and accidentally walked in on her and her husband in the middle of sex. After everyone had stopped screaming very loudly, they told him that she had a cramped muscle and “Cousin Matt was just helping me massage it, that’s all, you don’t need to tell your mother about this, it’s really nothing, can I buy you a Transformer toy?”
To this day, Mary has never been able to look Jack in the eye, which makes Chinese New Year reunion dinners a little awkward.
Another thing that adults never tell you about when you’re growing up is just how much crap you’re going to accumulate.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Amanda said the other day as she looked at the dining table covered from corner to corner with American Vogue, Vogue Italia, Vogue Australia, Paris Vogue, UK Vogue, W, O, Martha Stewart Living, Martha Stewart Weddings, and a whole bunch of titles I couldn’t make out.
“How many dead trees is this?” Saffy asked, goggle eyed, as she gingerly fingered through the pile. “Amanda, some of these are still in their Kinokuniya plastic wrapping!”
“That’s just the last two months!” Amanda said darkly. “I’ve got two years worth at the back of my closet, hidden beneath a pile of clothes that I’ve never worn.”
As I stared at the bleak evidence of Amanda’s obsession, I thought guiltily about the stacks of books on my shelves, gathering dust and turning yellow with mould.
I have unread books that I bought when I was still in high school. Some of the pages are crumbling from the humidity. But still I keep them. And then I go out and buy some more. Which I proceed diligently not to read. Even though I promise myself, one day, I’ll get around to reading all three thick volumes of The Lord of the Rings, and the geo-political intrigues of the Middle-East. I keep thinking this in spite of the fact that I can barely get through a copy of 8DAYS.
Meanwhile, Saffy has left us with strict instructions to shoot her if she ever comes home with one more set of underwear.
“I don’t know why I have so many!” she moaned that night as she sat on her bedroom floor surrounded by open drawers overflowing with lacy thongs, bras in every colour and pattern, silky nightgowns and little bits of g-strings. “I only ever wear the same two pairs of undies, but I must have a hundred sets! This is why I must stop watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! It’s pure evil!”
Sharyn says her entire flat is covered with little sculptures of pigs, on account of her birth year. “Once, hor, I was really bored, so I count how many I have. You know how many or not? Tree hundred and twenty tree! Siao or not, you tell me?”
Which is why this past weekend, we’ve all been on a massive purge. I’ve emptied three quarters of my bookshelf. We did this with the Two Year Rule. If a book is more than two years old, the odds that I will ever read it are not good. The same rule immediately emptied four of five drawers in Saffy’s room.
Two Years became Two Months for Amanda’s magazines. The mound of magazines grew on the floor of the living room next to the books and bras.
By the time we were done, you could barely make your way from our bedrooms to the kitchen. Leave it to Amanda to stand there for a few minutes, her lips moving silently and her fingers twitching before she announced that we were probably throwing away five thousand dollars worth of unused and unread stuff.
There was a moment’s silence as we all stared up at the pile.
“Really?” Saffy said finally. “That’s…that’s a lot of money…”
Amanda fixed Saffy with a look. “Don’t even think about it!”
Saffy shifted guiltily. “What? I’m just saying…I mean, I know we said we were going to donate it to charity…but, really, what’s a seventy year old granny in the old folks home going to do with a size-four fluorescent string bikini?”
Amanda later said that this is the kind of mental image that can give you a seizure.