One of the things about growing older is that you’re able to filter very quickly the important stuff from the stuff that’s, well, not.
It’s like when I’m in a taxi, I am able to dip in and out between the news on the radio and the uncle taxi driver complaining about ERP charges in the CBD. I ignore boring unimportant bits like global triple dip recessions and filibusters in the US Congress, while having a bit of a gossip with the uncle about which politician is having an affair with who, and instantly tune back in for breaking news like who got voted off American Idol and Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy.
It’s an important life skill and it’s saved me a whole lot of grief over the years.
Like the time I was back at home to visit my parents, and my mother decided to embark on a long lecture about the importance of saving money for a rainy day.
I barely paid any attention to a single word she was saying, devoting all my powers of concentration instead on the delicious xiao long bao she’d made for lunch. Every so often, I’d mumble, “Mmm, that’s so true, Mum!”
I was inhaling my eighth dumpling when my radar picked up a crucial key phrase. “Plan B? What Plan B?” I asked through a mouthful of perfectly steamed skin, sweet pork and soup.
Mother lifted a perfectly manicured eyebrow. Her eyes flicked over to my father who, by his downcast eyes and close attention to his plate, I could tell was also busy filtering. Mother rolled on. “You must have a Plan B in your career! What if you suddenly decide you don’t want to be a lawyer anymore? Or you get fired? What will you do then? How will you live?”
I thought for a moment. “Uhm, I’ll move back home?”
Silence descended over the table.
“No?” I said, eventually.
“You must always have something as a back up,” Mother said firmly. “It’s like if your daddy ever divorced me, I’d be able to survive for years just by selling my jewellery. What would you do if you suddenly lost your job tomorrow?”
The question haunted me and though, at the time, I’d just started my career as a lawyer, something told me that this was an important bit of advice that I needed to think about.
As it turned out, my Plan B was writing and so, the day after I quit my job at Ong, Yi & Wu, I wrote a story for Her World magazine about the best places in Singapore to get picked up, and I’ve never looked back.
“You’re so lucky your mother gave you that great piece of advice,” Saffy said recently at breakfast. “I have no Plan B!”
Amanda looked up from her cereal. “I thought your Plan B was to marry someone hot and rich?”
Saffy’s impressive bosom deflated. “That’s every girl’s Plan B! Can you imagine the long line for that one?” She sighed and poked at her granola with her spoon. “I have to come up with something else. But the thing is, I have absolutely no talent!”
“Sure you do!” Amanda said. “You’re…you’re in HR!”
Even I blinked at that one.
“That’s a job, Amanda, not a skill set,” Saffy said finally. “If you dropped me in the jungle right now, I’d be the first person to be swallowed by a python!”
“Oh, I know!” Amanda said desperately. “You could become an actress! There’s no training required! You’re always reading in 8DAYS about these young girls who go from Ipoh kampong girl to an artiste in low budget productions and bazillion dollar endorsements!”
“I think I’m too short. And I’d need to lose a lot of weight. Where did I read something about fat actresses?”
“8DAYS,” I said, as I flipped the pages of my current issue, demonstrating once again, my uncanny ability to dip in and out of boring conversations. It occurred to me that my Plan C could be a career in spying.
Sharyn says that her Plan B would be an S+M dominatrix mistress. “Very easy, what,” she told Saffy over lunch at Tiong Bahru market. “I all day scold my husband, beat my children, and make the people in my office cry. Why not do for a living and be paid, some more. Right or not?” She leaned back in her stool and pursed her lips with satisfaction.
Saffy says that just when you think you’ve got Sharyn all figured out, she turns around and surprises you. “She says I could recruit clients for her! She’s a genius!”