Thursday, November 29, 2012

High Resolution

Can it really be that another year has come and gone? What the hell happened? One minute, it was January, and the next…well, it wasn’t.
            Which, of course, brings up the whole thing about taking stock of the year that’s passed and making resolutions for the year ahead.
            Frankly, I’m completely over the whole thing. My whole life, I’ve never accomplished a single thing on my list of New Year Resolutions, and I think it’s high time I just stopped kidding myself.
            I have decided that New Year Resolutions are for weak willed suckers. They don’t work. They’ve never worked. Because if they’d worked, the world would be full of trim, toned happy people living successful, fulfilled lives. Every home would be neat and tidy and calm. Children would never be yelled at. There’d be no credit card debts. Everyone would be kinder and gentler to their neighbours and work colleagues.
            Instead, we’re all as stressed and unhappy on December 31 as we were on January 1. We didn’t get that pay-rise or promotion. We’ve just managed to emerge from a super crowded train where we’ve spent the entire trip from Raffles Place to Toa Bishan with our noses jammed into someone’s armpit.
Meanwhile, the kids are giving us a major coronary on account of their exams, tuition, piano lessons and general inability to hold a conversation that lasts more than fifteen seconds without them being distracted by an incoming SMS or phone call or Facebook update.  
At least, on New Year’s Day, some of us are still a little buzzed from all the champagne we drank the night before. On New Year’s Eve, the only buzz most of us are getting is the mounting fury that we can’t get to that fabulous party we were invited to because we can’t find a taxi for love or money.
            This year, there will be no New Year Resolutions for me. Because I’ve now come to the conclusion that if you start off each year expecting it to be crap, you won’t be so disappointed and demoralized 365 days later.
            Yes, on one level, it’s basically admitting defeat before the year has even started. But I see it as being a pragmatic realist. It’s like going to watch a Sylvester Stallone movie. If you just expect it to be crappy, and it turns out to be exactly that, then you won’t feel cheated. And if, like ‘Expendables 2’, it turns out to be better than expected, why, that’s a bonus.
            My flatmates think it’s the most cynical thing they’ve ever heard in their lives.
            “Oh, really?” I said the other day. “And pray tell, which of your resolutions have you accomplished in the past, oh, say, five years?”
            Saffy immediately opened her mouth to reply, and then her brain took over. She paused, mouth open, as her eyes stared hard at the ceiling and she thought.
            “Uh huh,” I said finally, when even the silence in the room was embarrassed. “I thought so.”
            “That’s such a depressing way to start a new year,” Amanda said, “believing that you’re going to have a crap year.”
            “Well, so is starting the new year thinking it’s going to be great and then ending it knowing it’s been crap!”
            “I’m not going to give up on my resolutions!” Saffy said stoutly, after she finally gave up coming up with a single example of a fulfilled resolution from the past five years. “In 2013, I’m going to learn how to do the splits!”
            I misheard. “That’s what laxatives are for.”
            Again, Saffy opened her mouth. She paused and frowned. “That’s disgusting!”
            “Why?” Amanda asked.
            “Because I don’t need laxatives to do the sh…”
            “No,” Amanda said urgently. “Why do you need to learn how to do the splits?”
            “Oh, that. I dunno. Just because. I’ve always thought it’s one of the most useless things to be able to do with your legs, and so, I thought, it’s perfect for a new year’s resolution!”
            Which, of course, now has me thinking that maybe Saffy has a point after all. Instead of being so sickeningly virtuous in my resolutions, I should just aim low. So far, my list includes learning to roll my eyes to the back of my head, and being able to swear fluently in Russian.
            Amanda says if she were to have a crass resolution, it would be to burp at will. “Ever since I watched those gross-out college movies like ‘American Pie’, I’ve secretly wished I could just burp into my boss’s face!”
            When I told my mother, she sighed and said there are days when she really believes that I’d been switched at birth in the hospital. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rated G

My mother says that in her day, people only ever kissed in the movies or on TV. And even then, it was a chaste lip lock.
            “It’s disgusting what they show these days!” she said the other day after watching an episode of the new ‘Dallas’. “Have you seen the way these young actors kiss now? It’s like they’re having lunch! All that open-mouthed jawing!”
            I wasn’t sure what I was more uncomfortable with – talking about open-mouth kissing with my mother, or that my mother felt comfortable enough to talk about open-mouth kissing with me.
            But, as always, she had a point. Once upon a time, people didn’t even kiss in public, and if they did, it always looked so ridiculous. When Humphrey Bogart smooches Ingrid Bergman in ‘Casablanca’, they spend most of it facing the camera with their cheeks glued together.
            There was never any nudity. At most, you might see the guy topless.
            Then, quite without anyone noticing it, the line was crossed. Sharon Stone crossed her legs and suddenly, the world was her gynaecologist.
            These days, everyone is taking off their clothes on screen and attacking each other in acts of such violent passion that Saffy was once moved to shout out in the middle of ‘Lust, Caution’, “Are you kidding me? Nobody has sex like that!”
            Later, it was all she could talk about. “Oh my God, Sharyn, you could see everything! Even Tony Leung’s bits!”
            Sharyn’s glasses fogged up. “Where got!”
            “Go see it,” Saffy urged. “It’s disgusting! I’ll come see it with you if you’re squeamish. Anyway, it’s pure fantasy. They made all that up. Because nobody has sex like that!” she repeated firmly.
            All this came up again recently when we went to the new James Bond movie, ‘Skyfall’.
            “Daniel Craig is hot!’ Amanda announced as we settled into the seats.
            “Speaking of which, why is it so bloody cold in Singaporean cinemas?” Saffy grumbled as she pulled out a cardigan from her bag. “There’s no global warming in here!”
            For the three people out there who’ve not watched the movie yet, I’m sure I’m not giving away any secrets when I say that there are a few gratuitous shots of a topless Daniel Craig, though as Amanda whispered during one scene, “I have fond memories of his bottom from that ‘Tomb Raider’ movie! Why’s he suddenly so shy?”
            As the credits started to roll and the cinema lights came on, Saffy turned to us and demanded, “Why was there no sex in this movie?”
            “Um,” I began.
            “It’s a James Bond movie. There is supposed to be sex in it!”
            “He slept with that funny looking Asian girl, didn’t he?” I said.
            “Behind a frosted shower door! We didn’t see anything!”
            Amanda said, “I was just saying that we saw Daniel Craig’s bottom in ‘Tomb Raider’.”
            “Exactly!” Saffy’s breasts expanded in all its 3-D glory. “They were just teasing us in this movie with all those topless shots of him. They show people getting killed but they won’t show a little gratuitous sex! What’s that all about?”
“They should get Michael Fassbender to be the next James Bond,” Amanda suggested. “Now, there’s a man who’s not shy of showing off his toolbox!”
“I also say,” Saffy grunted. “Such a disappointing movie. Let’s have dinner.”
Leave it to my mother to call up to say that she and my father had just gone to watch ‘Skyfall’ and to complain about how much sex there was in it.
I blinked. “But there’s no sex in ‘Skyfall’! What movie were you watching?”
“Excuse me, but that David Craig was running around naked for half that movie!”
It was my mother’s turn to pause. “Who’s Daniel? What are we talking about now?”
My sister says it’s a miracle that Mother somehow managed to raise three children without losing any of them at the amusement park. “It’s an even bigger miracle that she got pregnant with us in the first place if she thinks that there was any sex in ‘Skyfall’!”
Of course, this was all before we went to watch ‘Magic Mike’.
Saffy said it had that werewolf from ‘True Blood’ in it. “He’s hot! He’s always naked. This is going to be such a great movie!”
Again, for the three people out there who’ve not seen ‘Magic Mike’, I hope I’m not spoiling it for you when I say that there’s no sex or nudity in it. Suffice it to say, too, that Saffy was in a black mood for the rest of the weekend.
Every so often, she would shout out, “It’s a movie about male strippers!”  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pin Point

Regular readers will know that in the little flat that I share with Saffy and Amanda, we’re prone to short lived bursts of obsessions. You name it, we’ve had it and done it. Gossip Girl, Glee, Gangnam, G.I. Joe. Tick. Sudoku, Siri, Celebrity Anything. Tick. Over the years, we’ve gotten on – and gotten off – the crazy runaway trains of zumba, Farmville, Instagram, Wii, J-Pop, Canto-Pop, K-Pop, Twitter, Facebook, donuts, cupcakes, boybands, girlbands, Steven Tyler, vampires and Lord of the Rings.
            Our flat is littered with the detritus of our devotion. Under my bed is the season 1 DVD of ‘The Osbournes’. The season 2 DVD lies next to it unopened. In one of Amanda’s drawers, you might find a scrapbook of Taylor Lautner pictures in various stages of undress. She’ll deny she has it because her current obsession is with Ryan Gosling, though you can tell she’s about to jump ship for Damian Lewis.
And if you lifted the framed picture of MDNA hanging in Saffy’s bedroom, you’d find a scrappy poster of Madonna circa ‘Like a Virgin’. She was too lazy to even take it down before she put the new one up.
            If you ever wanted to do a study on the short attention span of mindless consumerism, just come knocking at our door. We’ll buy whatever you’re selling. Saffy says that if it was legal in Singapore for people like the Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons to go knocking on people’s doors, we’d currently be rubbing shoulders with Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
            But then, as Amanda so astutely points out, two weeks later, we’d get bored and want to be Catholics and BFF with the Pope.
            Our current obsession is facial acupuncture.
            It all began during one of Amanda’s Pilates classes (which she’s about to drop because there’s something called TRX training that she’s just dying to try) and she suddenly noticed that her teacher had amazing skin.
            Pamela said that she goes for regular sessions of facial acupuncture with Dr Wang in a TCM clinic along Bendemeer Road. “She’s amazing!” Pamela said as she allowed Amanda deep into her personal space to inspect her epidermis.
            “You’re practically glowing!” Amanda said, eyes wide.
            “I know! She just sticks a few needles in and the skin just feels so much tighter.”
            Saffy later said that it sounded too good to be true.
            “You said that about Milla Jovovich!” Amanda said.
            Saffy’s breasts inflated. “I’m sorry, but can you honestly tell me that ‘Resident Evil’ isn’t the best movie ever?”
            Wisely, Amanda ignored the outburst and continued to inspect her face in her handheld mirror. “I’m starting to get lines around my eyes. Pamela says that can all be fixed. It sounds like it’s better than Botox!”
            “I want to get rid of these vertical lines between my eyebrows,” said Saffy having, for the moment, quickly forgotten about her devotion to Milla’s savage destruction of the Living Dead.
            “They’re called elevenses!” Amanda said with the superior air of someone who’s an amateur dermatologist and rabid follower of ‘Extreme Makeover’. “Pamela says they’re a little more difficult to undo, but Dr Wang can do it.”
            “They make me look so grumpy and angry all the time,” Saffy went on, looking at her reflection in her handheld mirror.
            “But you are grumpy and angry all the time!” Amanda pointed out.
            You could tell that Saffy was extremely put out by this comment, but realized that she was severely limited in her range of responses. So she saved it all up and vented when she met up with Sharyn later.
            “Aiyoh!” Sharyn’s thick glasses fogged up. “Why you people so seow, one? Got nice face, not enough. Must now go to acupuncture and get needles poke you in the face! You all very free, lah! You elsewhere not poke enough, is it?” she asked owlishly.
            “You’re just disgusting, Sharyn!” Saffy said, shifting in her seat. “When I’m looking fresh and gorgeous and my skin is glowing, you’ll be eating your words.”
            “Ay, you don’t be so cheem, can?”
            But by then, it was too late. Like SARS, Saffy’s enthusiasm was so infectious that Sharyn decided that she too was coming along to see Dr Wang. Which is how the four of us have got appointments in two weeks. Amanda says the fact that there is such a long waiting list is a good sign. “She must be good. If she’d said we could see her today, I’d be suspicious.”
            “I hope it’s not going to hurt!” Saffy said.
            “It’ll just be a little prick!”
            Saffy grunted, her elevenses deepening. “Like so many of my dates.”

Friday, November 09, 2012

Dance Off

I am, by nature, a very lazy person. If you told me I could stay in bed all day, I’d be happy as Barack Obama the day after the elections. The idea of just lolling around with the day stretching ahead, and with nothing to do except perhaps lie there and exercise my arm stretching for the TV remote control…well, that’s just as blissful as ice-cream on a hot afternoon.
            The reality, of course, is that I’m always running around, trying to tick everything on my To-Do list. Pick up the dry cleaning. Interview someone. Get groceries. Post a letter. Meet deadline. Pay some bills. Watch ‘Downton Abbey’.
            It’s just grueling.
            And these days, I also have to fit in a session of zumba.
            Those of you out there who were born in a year beginning with ‘2’ will not remember this, but there was a time when aerobics was all anyone could talk about. My mother still curses whenever she thinks of all that time she spent squeezed into a pink leotard with purple leggings doing knee lifts and bicycle curls with Jane Fonda.
            “So humiliating!” she now says. “All that undignified sweating and pain, and for what? I just made that woman richer by buying all her stupid exercise videos going for the stupid burn!”
            And then there was a period in the 90s when everyone was doing Pilates or yoga.
            Again, my mother: “Can someone please explain to me the point of a downward dog? I get dizzy and my hair goes everywhere! And what sort of a name is that to give to a posture?”
            So, when I told her that Saffy had signed us all up for Zumba classes, she all but snorted into her mai-tai. “You people are crazy!” she said maternally. “Everyone looks like they’re having an epileptic fit! It’s worse than that Macarena!”
            “Excuse me, but may I remind you that you adore the Macarena? You and Daddy tore up the dance-floor at Cousin Sue’s wedding!”
“I don’t know what…”
“There is video evidence!”
            “We were drunk!” 
            “I love your mother,” Saffy later said as we turned up for our Zumba class. “Underneath all those pearls and cloud of Chanel No.5, she’s just like me!”
            “Why am I here?” I asked as I edged myself to the back of the class.
            “Because it’s the best fun I’ve had in ages in a vertical position!” said Saffy as she stretched. “And this is the best spot, so no one can see you make mistakes! But Amanda’s always at the front of the class, she’s such a show off over-achiever!”
             The teacher turned out to be this little New Zealand girl whose plumpness did not seem to stop her from moving like a gerbil on speed. She moved from the salsa to the meringay to a Bollywood number at such a clip that at one stage, Saffy gasped that she was about to have a heart attack.
            “Come on, you two at the back, stop talking!” Gerbil shouted into her mike as she pranced lightly on her toes. From the front of the class, Amanda’s reflection in the studio mirror gave us a dirty look. Just before the class, she’d given Saffy and me strict instructions not to embarrass her, by which she meant, that we were to pretend we didn’t know her.
            Saffy gave Amanda a cheery wave which Amanda later said was totally spiteful.
            “That’ll teach you,” Saffy said.
Meanwhile, Gerbil was shouting: “Salsa to the left, salsa to the right! Now, single, single, double, double! Single, single, double, double!”
            So, did I enjoy myself? Not really. I sweated like a pig and I realized that I have no hand-eye coordination which means I was always at least three steps and four beats behind the rest of the class. And because there’s no rest between sets, by the end of a 50 minute class, it feels as if someone just stomped all over your heart in five inch heels.
            “That was such fun!” Amanda said as she gently dabbed the sheen of moisture from her forehead.
            “I feel sick!” I moaned.
            “Are there doors on the shower cubicles in this gym?” Saffy wanted to know as she vigorously rubbed her towel under one armpit, then the other. “Because, lemme tell you, there were some girls in this class that I do not want to see naked!”
            Amanda turned away and as she wandered off, you could hear her mutter, “And this is why I don’t know you people!”
            Saffy says she wants to do a Gangnam class next.
            There are days when I really should just stay in bed.