It used to be that you were a success in life if you had the 5 Cs – career, car, condo, country club membership and cash. Of course, if you ask someone like my mother, she’ll tell you the 5 Cs are just a subset of the Big 4 Careers – doctor, lawyer, engineer, and chartered accountant. If you’re in one of these four professions, then the 5 C’s are natural consequences.
“Chartered accountant,” Mother would tell us. “It has to be chartered, otherwise you’re just an ordinary bookkeeper!” she added in a tone that indicated that you might as well be sweeping the streets.
“Is there a word for when you’re prejudiced against someone because of the job that they have?” my sister once wondered.
“Yes, it’s ‘mother’!” my brother Jack piped up. The quip entertained us for a full week.
These days, the whole idea of getting a job that will give you these 5 Cs is just so last century. Expectations have changed. And why not? When talentless nobodies from Kampong Ulu can pop up out of nowhere, without coming within sniffing distance of an actual performance arts school, and become celebrity artistes and earn pots of money hawking abalone and dieting pills to gullible housewives, you have to wonder if there’s any point in even graduating.
If you really think about it, the people making the most money these days are the ones who, at school, you used to sniff at as odd balls and who couldn’t possibly amount to anything. Look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. What are the odds that when they were kids, they spent all recess and lunchtime playing chess, or Dungeons and Dragons?
And when you read that even bankers in the UK are getting their bonuses cut, you can’t help but wonder just what kind of drugs your parents must have been mainlining when they insisted that you learnt your algebra and valence tables.
As Jack, who consistently got straight A’s in maths, pointed out recently, “I’ve literally never had to use a quadratic equation to solve anything in my entire life. That was a complete waste of three months of my life learning that crap, wasn’t it?”
And as you get older, the resentment about the wasted opportunities only grows.
“I wish my parents had sent me to tennis camp,” Saffy said the other day as she watched the Australian Open.
“Who’s playing?” Amanda asked, sitting down on the sofa next to her.
“I have no idea. Some nobody from an Eastern European country with an unpronounceable name and someone with an equally unpronounceable name from who knows where.” Saffy sighed. “But can you believe that last year, they didn’t win a single tournament, and yet they each earned $500,000! It’s ridiculous!”
Amanda was impressed. “Really? God, we should have taken tennis lessons!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “That’s what I’m saying! It’s infuriating!”
They watched the match in silence, the air pregnant with possibilities and unrealisable dreams.
Eventually, Saffy said, “I was just thinking this morning that it would be so fabulous if somebody did a reality TV show about us! Don’t you think?”
Amanda blinked. “What’s so interesting about us? We lead such boring lives. Nothing happens!”
Saffy’s bosom thrust out in 3D. “Are you kidding me? With a bit of heavy editing and fast cuts, it would be a ratings blockbuster! I mean, look at us! I’m hot, you’re hot, Jason’s…not, but we’re hot!” Saffy sat up, her eyes shining. “Between your dating issues and my horrible boss, there’s already so much material. My God, my chronic constipation alone could take up an entire episode!”
When Sharyn heard about it, her glasses fogged up. “Ay, can I be in it too?”
“Sharyn,” Saffy said kindly, “nobody wants to watch the life of a married woman with two kids. Especially when she’s married to a man who walks around all day in shorts and a torn Crocodile singlet.”
“Where got?” Sharyn protested weakly.
“No,” Saffy said firmly. “Our show is all about the exciting lives of singletons living the high life in Singapore! With a supporting cast of gorgeous French and pan-Asian models!”
Sharyn looked doubtful. “We’re sitting at Chomp Chomp on a Friday night eating grill sting ray. This is consider high life, meh?”
“It’s amazing what they can do with editing, these days,” Saffy said with authority. “I really don’t see why those Kardashians should get all the limelight. My life is just as glamorous!”
Doubt still etched Sharyn’s forehead. “But they live in Hollywood, you live in Toa Payoh…”
“Oh shut up, Sharyn! Who died and made you Simon Cowell?”