Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Maternal Instincts

It’s funny how sometimes whatever it is that you’re doing or talking about leads you to think about something else you’d rather not think about.
            Like the time we were all gripped by a particularly gruesome episode of ‘The Following’ involving two blood splattered murderers making out in the shower and suddenly, it reminded Saffy that it was her turn to clean the bathroom that weekend. 
            Recently, we were all watching Hollywood Week on ‘American Idol’ and marveling at how weird some of the contestants were.
            “What’s with this hippie chick?” I piped up. “She’s very strange.”
            “What’s with her eyebrows?” Amanda added.
            “Wait, that’s a girl?” Saffy asked.
            “Well, this is girls’ week, so I guess that would make her a girl,” I said.
            Saffy blinked. “Huh. I would never have guessed.”
            Eyebrows Chick was eventually booted off though Saffy wished that she’d stayed longer for the novelty. “Really, I never would have picked her out as a girl!”
            “Can we talk about Mariah?” Amanda interrupted.
            “What about her?” Saffy said, reaching for the bowl of salted popcorn.
            “Is it me or has she put on some weight?”
            Saffy hit the pause button on the TV. Three sets of eyeballs scrutinized Ms Carey.
            “I can’t tell,” Saffy said eventually. “I'm hypnotized by her boobs. They’re practically coming out at me from the TV screen.”
            Amanda pulled out her iPad and looked up Mariah Carey on YouTube, and sure enough, there was a younger and considerably thinner Mariah belting out ‘Hero’.
            “My God, she’s half the size she is now! It’s like watching a different woman!” Amanda breathed.
            “I think it is a different woman!” Saffy said firmly, a comment that Amanda later said demonstrated just how seriously flawed Saffy’s sense of gender perception is.
            Leave it to Sharyn to put things into perspective.
            “Aiyah!” she cried out the next day in the middle of Golden Shoe when she met up with the girls for lunch. “That video is like ten years old! Ten years ago, you also thin what!”
            There was a pause as Saffy and Amanda’s brains caught up with what Sharyn was actually saying.
            Amanda dropped her spoon back into her bowl of meepok. “Excuse me, but are you saying that I’m now fat?”
            “No, I think she’s saying that we’re fat!” Saffy said helpfully.
            Sharyn looked serenely unperturbed. “And then she also give birth, leh? She got twins, right? You give birth to twins, I see you still got thin or not!”
            “I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” Amanda said stiffly. “Heidi Klum has at least four kids and she’s still walking around in her Victoria’s Secret lingerie!”
            “You supermodel, is it?” Sharyn said, looking owlishly at Amanda over the top of her thick glasses.
            All of which then made me remember when we were all growing up, my mother used to moan about how having us had completely ruined her figure. “I used to have such a lovely thin waist,” she would say as she watched Michelle try on a new dress in a shop. “Never have children. The waist is the first thing to go.”
            You never think of your parents as being young and fun and slim once upon a time, long before you were born. They’ve always just, well, mum and dad – getting older and greyer with each passing year. Though in my mother’s case, she’s getting improbably younger and darker with the help of a doctor or two and a crafty hairdresser who knows his L’Oreal colour chart.
            And increasingly, you mark the passage of time not so much by your parents’ growing infirmity, but by the fact that now when you look in the mirror, you suddenly spot a wrinkle around the eyes that you could have sworn wasn’t there yesterday, or a touch of grey creeping into once jet black hair.
            My sister Michelle says when she was a child, she so desperately wished she was all grown up like our parents. And now, almost at the same age our parents were when they got married and had their first child, she wouldn’t mind being a child again.
            “I’d probably be a lot nicer, too, to Mother,” she added the other day on Skype. “I don’t think I was an easy child. It’s a wonder she never just packed up and walked away from it all.”
            After she disconnected our call, she booked a plane ticket back home as a surprise visit. Not to be outdone, Saffy and Amanda called their mothers and took them out to lunch.
            And yes, we got all this from ‘American Idol’ and Mariah Carey. 

Show Time

I don’t know why I do this to myself. I tell myself it’s because it’s good, but even that sounds really hollow. The truth is, it’s just about the most stressful thing ever. On a scale of one to ten, with one being wiped down by a moist towelette and ten having root canal and you’re all tense and your butt is clenched so tight you could almost feel your insides being sucked out, this one is kind of off the chart stressful.
            I am, of course, talking about the new TV show, ‘The Following’.
            Regular readers will know that I don’t have a spare minute these days. I have so many shows backed up on my recorder that pretty soon, I’ll have to get a new one to catch the overflow.
            But I blame Sharyn for this. She is the one who put me onto what is probably the most horrifically addictive show ever.
            “Wah lau, eh!” she said a few weeks ago, her glasses fogging over with excitement. “So damn good, that show. Ay, you must watch, ok? Got that Lohman in it and that ‘Foot-luce’ guy oh-so!”
            I looked up from my sugar cane juice. “What Lohman?”
            “There…dat very han-sum general in dat show ‘Loam’! Hiyah, they got all dat sex and blood and gla-di-ator! And dey always naked, one, and always have sex in pah-blic!”
            It took a moment, but the penny finally dropped. “Oh, Roman! You mean ‘Rome’!”
            “Yah, lah, that’s what I said!”
            Saffy says that she would have been able to decipher Sharyn’s cryptic Singlish in a second if only she’d been present.
            “She must mean James Purefoy. Oh my God.” Saffy’s bosom inflated with ancient lust. “I’ll never forget that full frontal nude moment when he was all oiled up and being scraped down by the slave! He’s in ‘The Following’? Oooh, we must watch it!”
            “Especially if it’s got Kevin Bacon in it!” Amanda sighed. “Do you remember when he was in that movie ‘Wild’ something or other?”
            “Another historic full frontal nude moment!” Saffy sighed. “Why can’t I meet men like that?”
            So, anyway, one night, not so long ago, we sat down and watched the first episode of ‘The Following’. In a nutshell, it’s about a serial killer played by James Purefoy and his sadistic followers who are being hunted by Kevin Bacon.
            There’s lots of blood and guts and some very sick twisted people you don’t ever want to meet doing sick twisted things to innocent people like you and me.  
Suffice it to say that we were all traumatised. I couldn’t sleep all night and Amanda said that she didn’t think she could trust another living person ever again.
            “They might all be sleeper serial killers!” she whispered over breakfast at Golden Shoe. She looked around wildly, then stared at me. “Even you!”
            “Oh, please,” Saffy huffed. “He practically faints when he’s watching an operation scene in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. He’d make a lousy serial killer!”
            “Well, maybe it’s all an act?” I said stoutly. “Ever thought of that? Maybe I’m just pretending to be scared of blood but really, I’m a sadistic raving lunatic?”
            Amanda moaned. “Oh, don’t…”
            Saffy snorted. “Uh huh, a sadistic raving lunatic who writes about his flatmates in 8DAYS! That’s a good one!”
            That night, Saffy told Amanda she was going to sleep in Amanda’s bed. “I can’t sleep alone. Not after that show!” Amanda protested feebly, but you could tell she was grateful for the company.
            And of course, we proceeded to download from iTunes the next four episodes and watched them all in one sitting. What should have taken less than four hours ended up taking the whole night because every two minutes, one of us would reach for the remote control to hit the pause button.
            “Oh my God,” Saffy groaned at one stage. “This is so incredibly stressful!”
            “Why are we even watching this?” Amanda said from beneath the fat cushion she clutched to her chest.
            “You just can’t trust anyone!” I breathed. “They’re all crazy!”
            “That’s what I was saying the other day!” Amanda pointed out, only her eyes visible from beneath the cushion.
            What we want to know is how someone like Sharyn seems to be so unaffected by it all.
            “Aiyah, it’s just make-believe one, what!” she chirped this evening when she came over to watch the latest episode.
            “But it’s so sick!” Saffy said.
            “Yah, but so good, right?” Sharyn said, the glare of the TV bouncing off her thick glasses, as she reached for the popcorn.
            And just for a moment, you could see the sudden flare of panic in Amanda’s eyes. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

It's a Dog's Life

Here’s a confession that won’t surprise anyone. I love dogs. Love them to the point of distraction. In fact, I think of dogs as miniature, fluffy, adorable versions of humans.
Which is the completely the wrong way to look at dogs. At least, that’s the lesson I got from a gripping episode of Oprah when the Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan gently reminded the Big O to be a pack leader, that her Sophie was actually happier thinking that she was a dog, and not human. (Sophie, not Oprah.)
Still, that has never stopped me for pretending for one second that dogs are anything other than human. They’re loyal, they’re smart, they understand your mood, they love to eat and lounge around, they love to party and they want nothing more than a cuddle now and then. And they also love to dress up. Excuse me, but these are very human qualities.
I am not alone in this one-eyed mania.
When my cousin Anna presented Bubbles, her beloved Cocker Spaniel, with a Gucci dog collar a few seasons back (yes, even canine couture has its seasons), her mother was horrified. “You spent how much on a dog collar?” Auntie Wai-ling shrieked.
To which Anna replied stoutly – as she spritzed Bubbles with a doggy cologne called Eau My Dog! – that it was Gucci and besides, “my dog deserves nothing but the best.” This, even as she snapped on her Blahniks and marched out the door to visit Burberry that had just come out with its latest line of canine trench-coats. In the signature plaid, of course.
Meanwhile, my sister Michelle to dropped into Tiffany the other day to pick up a nice, silver name tag for her schnauzer, while a friend outfitted her schnauzer Rupert with a crocodile leather collar studded with Swarovski.
“Oh my God,” Annabelle reported on the phone. “He looks like Liberace on his way to an S&M party! He looks so adorable!”
When my brother Jack was living in New York, he would bring his Afghan Bruno to Biscuits & Bath in the West Village for some acupuncture for Bruno’s sinus issues, and later that night, feed him organic free-range beef and chicken patties. My mother threatened to disinherit him.
To those of you currently reading this with your Bobbi Brown lined lips hanging open in disbelief, I will only say this: forking over $500 for a dog collar that will probably last forever (or at least till Hermés’s next collection) makes far more commercial sense than spending a quarter of a million on little Kui-yen’s education. Because, mark my words, that ungrateful kid will eventually grow up, move out of home and consider it a burden to visit you – in the Maximum Security Sunset Home for the Terminally Bewildered – every Sunday after church and before lunch.
Meanwhile, Bubbles, Bruno and Rupert will need to be tranquilised before they would even think about leaving your side. Which has the better return on investment? I ask somewhat rhetorically.
So, in the general scheme of things, there’s no reason why our four-legged friends should not be rewarded every so often with some quality bling and pampering. The Europeans think nothing of forking over some serious Euros for a canine outfit and accessories. And I love that their restaurants are so dog-friendly. In Parisian cafés, no one blinks an eye when a pedigreed pooch settles down at the next table, while in Louis Vuitton, I’ve had to step over Great Danes just to get to the wallets counter.
Besides, if you’re going to be spending $10,000 on a Birkin, what’s another five hundred for a Gucci braided leather leash for dear old faithful Pooch? Is this really the time to be economizing?
Is it all too much, one might ask? Have we taken complete leave of our senses?
But in a world where tomorrow is so uncertain, when you need courage just to step out your front door, you tend to hold onto a few truths. One of them is that when you come home later that night, your dog will be the first at the door to greet you, hysterically joyful that you’re back and asking nothing more than to spend time with you. It’s an unconditional, unrepentant, unrelenting love. So, yes, forgive us, we may be crazy to spend so much money on a raincoat for an animal that likes getting wet. But a large part of it has to do with the fact that it makes us feel better. And what’s so wrong with that?
I say, live and let live. Or in my world, let sleeping dogs lie. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Screen Magic

Can someone tell me why new technology is such a challenge these days? For instance, have you ever been in a hotel room and you wanted to turn off a room light while leaving the one in the bathroom on, but you end up shouting at the panel of buttons that you’ve just spent ten minutes randomly pressing? Or how about when you step into the shower and then can’t work out which of the three taps on the walls actually turns on the water? Or stood in front of the room phone and wondered how to dial room service, only to discover much later (usually when you check out) that it’s a touch-screen phone?
The technology becomes even more challenging when you’re flying. Just the other day, I was on a flight from London to Singapore and was getting increasingly frustrated with my seat console.
I bleated in protest to the passing stewardess: “Miss! Miss! Why can’t I get Channel 2? I want to watch ‘Lincoln’!”
Burdened with the thick coats of passengers, with matchsticks for arms and clearly not someone familiar with the phrase, “I’m a gym member!”, she paused for breath and looked at me, a huge smile plastered on her face that expressed extreme pleasure at being interrupted but every other facial feature indicating ‘idiot’.
“Sir, we haven’t taken off yet!” she chirped with brittle cheerfulness. “The inflight entertainment only comes on when we’re in the air. Please wait till we’re in the air! Please!” she repeated and staggered off.
I wasn’t sure I appreciated all those exclamation marks being directed at me so early in the flight but let it pass as I sullenly put the console away. Fast forward two hours later and somewhere over Berlin’s airspace, the conversation was being replayed at 35,000 feet above sea level.
“Miss! Miss! Why can’t I get Channel 2? I want to watch ‘Lincoln’!”
This time, Mary (her name tag said something else but on the advice of my extremely kiasu lawyers, certain names in this post, including mine, have been changed to protect the identity of individuals), overloaded with two hot pots of coffee, turned to me and said, “Sir, that’s the overhead light you’ve been pressing for the past ten minutes.” Which explained the disco strobe light effect I was noticing and which had been next on my List of Things to Complain About to Mary.
After much fuss, I finally got the movie on with the assistance of the five-year kid sitting on my right. But I immediately noticed that something was wrong.
“Why is Daniel Day Lewis speaking French?” I exclaimed.
“That’s because you’ve got the French version of the movie!” Mary told me with a sigh as she leaned over to press a few buttons. I stared accusingly at the kid next to me.
What I want to know is when did something so basic as a television set become so embarrassingly complicated? Does anyone else remember the time when there was only one screen on the plane and everyone watched the same movie at the same time? And it was only available in one language? That was easy. No complicated consoles to operate. No buttons to push. It also meant you couldn’t stop the movie halfway and go to the loo.
Meanwhile, my five-year old fellow passenger was playing a game on his TV screen, all his attention absorbed in the flashing lights and leaping monkeys hurling coconuts. I didn’t even bother asking him how he got to that screen; I was still struggling with the volume control on mine only to discover the reason I couldn’t hear a thing was because I had accidentally pulled the earphone out of the socket.
For someone who, to this day, is incapable of operating a Windows programme, I was completely overwhelmed by the onboard technology. All those buttons. You practically needed a Harvard degree just to put the console back into its slot (“You press this button and the wire retracts!” Mary explained in a monotone).
Across the aisle, I watched a passenger using his handphone.
I stabbed the call button to summon Mary who, for the record, took her time getting to me. “You can use your hand-phone as long as it’s on flight-mode, Sir,” she said wearily after listening to me explain to her urgently that the captain should be alerted. I noticed that she was no longer even pretending to smile.
At that point, I gave up. I took out a pack of playing cards and spent the rest of the flight playing a game of solitaire.
Next week, I’ll be writing about microwave machines.