Monday, November 17, 2014

Grey's Anatomy

Regular readers will know that when it comes to retail therapy, Amanda is the reigning Olympic gold medal champion. No one can touch her. And I mean that literally. Once, during a sale in Robinson’s lingerie department, Saffy absent mindedly reached out to get Amanda’s attention for her opinion on a bra. She found herself prodding the surprised breasts of her HR manager.
            “It was hideous!” Saffy said later. “On so many levels! It was like poking soggy kueh lapis! Literally, one second, Amanda was standing right next to me, and the next she’d been replaced by Mrs Chan and I was poking her in the whatsits! Really, I'm surprised I’ve not been fired!”
            “Maybe she enjoyed the experience?” I suggested.
            Saffy told me I couldn’t be more foul if I tried.
            Amanda, of course, had no recollection of the event simply because by the time Saffy’s fingers had reached Mrs Chan’s whatsits, she was already in the next aisle checking out the silk negligees.
            “I dunno,” she said at the time. “I just kind of get totally in the zone, you know? Everything that’s not relevant to the sale is tuned out!”
            Amanda says there’s something about the words ‘sale’ and ‘discount’ that triggers something very primal in her.
“Just reading those words gets me tingling with anticipation,” she said recently at lunch. “It starts as an itch at the back of the brain, then travels quickly to the pit of my stomach, and all the way to the tips of the fingers so that I itch ever to open my wallet. All my synapses are on fire, alert and vigilant!” she finished triumphantly, as she daintily stabbed her rojak for a peanut sauce coated cucumber.
Sharyn’s saucer-wide eyes were amplified behind her Coke bottle-thick glasses.
“Wah!” she breathed out, her glasses fogging up over her bowl of prawn noodles. “You know, ah, when you tok like dat, it’s like dat Fee-tee Shade of Glay, ah, I tell you!”
I have always harboured the suspicion that if Amanda was ever in a coma, all you needed to do to get her out of it would be to get up really close to her ear and yell Discount!
And if I was ever lost in the middle of deepest Sahara, all I would do is shout out Sale! and shimmying up over the nearest sand dune would be Amanda waving her platinum Amex card.
“I don’t know how she does it,” said Saffy the other day, after coming home from a shopping expedition with Amanda. “And by shopping, I mean that I just followed her around Paragon and watched her spend money. She’s amazing. She picked out things that I thought looked dog ugly on the rack, tried them on, and looked a million bucks!”
So here’s the thing. It’s not just that Amanda is a mad shopaholic, but it’s that she’s also incredibly good at it.
People like me and Saffy…well, really, we shouldn’t even be allowed to leave the house. We’re complete idiots. It’s not that we don’t try. We respond to ‘Sale’ the same way Amanda does. We can jostle and elbow our way to the discount bin with admirable stamina. We’re just as possessed as she is, but somehow, it’s like Amanda will, at the same sale, without even really trying, pick up a beautiful last-one-in-stock silk and cashmere sweater, and we’ll be proudly clutching, after a mad ten minute competitive scramble with Mrs Chan from HR, a Hello Kitty toilet brush. The difference is staggering. 
Saffy says it’s like those top ten tennis players. They’re focused and coldly analytical, while everyone else is run ragged around the court, chasing down cunningly placed balls. “Amanda processes the same information differently,” Saffy told me, looking very put out. “She’s Serena Williams, and we’re Kumar!”
            I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve proudly unpacked my sale purchases and found myself wondering what on earth possessed me to actually believe that I needed a handphone holder in the shape of cactus, or a bottle of lemon room scent which, after a few spritzes, Saffy said made her feel she was inside a giant toilet bowl.
Standing there in our lounge room, amidst the devastation of wrapping paper, shopping bags, crumpled receipts and a tacky plastic kitchen apron, it’s difficult to believe that I had anything to do with that frantic dash to the cash register.
            Sharyn says she stopped going to sales after her second child was born.
            “So sad, right?”
            Amanda told her those kids have a lot to answer for.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Party Line

I can remember a time, not so long ago, when all I did was party. Every weekend, I’d be out with friends. We’d start at around 11.30 pm on a Friday night in a dimly lit bar on Boat Quay, and then move onto Zouk at about 12.30, dance till a puddle of sweat had formed at our feet while shouting ourselves hoarse over the music. Then, at two in the morning, we adjourned for a bah kut teh on River Valley Road, and eventually, we’d head home stinking of cigarette smoke, head spinning, and body still vibrating from the music.
            The next morning, we’d wake up just in time for lunch and do it all over again that night. And on Monday morning, when someone asked me how my weekend was, I’d honestly say that I had such an amazing time.
For years, that was the pattern of my life. The work-week was a five day preparation for the weekend, as we plotted and planned which clubs we’d go to, and where we’d have supper after.
            Ahh, the folly of youth.
            Somewhere along the line, I found that unless I took a disco nap round about 7pm, I’d start to fade by the time we rocked up to Zouk, or whichever the hot nightclub was then. And by 1pm, I’d say, “You know, I’m really very tired. I think I’m going to go home.”
            A few months later, I appended this to say, “You know, this dry ice is really bothering my sinus. I think I’m going home.”
            And a few months after that, I found myself saying, “You know, this music is so loud, I can hear myself think!”, to which Sharyn, then still happily unmarried and without children, would shout, “What for need to think? Just dance, lah!”
            “I think I’m going home!” I screamed into her ear.
            And then, one day, I realized that I’d just spent the entire weekend curled up on the sofa watching re-runs of ‘Friends’ while eating my favourite nasi padang from down the road, and finding that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
            “I love that it’s so quiet!” I said the other Friday night to Amanda. We were sitting by the open window watching black clouds gather on the horizon.
            “I’m so glad we’re staying home,” she said as a soft breeze made her hair flicker. “Imagine trying to get a taxi when that storm hits!”
            “I know, right?” I said smugly.
            From the depths of the sofa, Saffy, who was playing Candy Crush on her iPad, looked up and said, “God. When did we turn into such aunties? It’s so sad!”
             Amanda looked at her. “Uhm, excuse me, we’re not aunties. I’m just saying that it’s nice to stay home for a change!”
            Saffy’s bosom puffed up. “What do you mean ‘for a change’? Hello, when was the last time we actually went out on a Friday night? Like actually get dressed up, put on make-up, high-heels and lipstick…”
            “Well, speaking for myself,” I said, “uhm, how about never?”
            “Oh shut up! You know what I mean! I'm telling you, if we keep this up, we might as well be wearing adult nappies, playing scrabble and sorting out our heart medication!”
            “Leave it to you to dramatise a simple evening spent at home!” Amanda said stiffly.
            Meanwhile, Sharyn was at home screaming at her children to clean up their rooms. Finally, she was so fed up being ignored, she locked herself up in her bathroom and plotted various ways of leaving them and running away with Wayne.
            “Wayne? Who’s Wayne?” Saffy asked over the phone. “You’ve never mentioned anything about Wayne before.”
            “Wayne Loo-ney! There, that han-sum football player, lah, aiyoh!” Sharyn replied, her voice echoing against her bathroom tiles. “He play for England!”
            “Wayne Rooney? Isn’t he, like, short?”
“You think I very tall, is it?”
“But Wayne Rooney is fat!”
“Fat, your head, lah! Wah, I see him on TV run up and down that football field, I get so excited, ah, I tell you.”
“I need to Google him again.”
“Aiyoh, if I know married life with children is like this, I swear I would have stayed single.”
            Saffy, never one to follow the path of a conversation like a normal person would, looped back to the beginning of the conversation. “Wayne Rooney? Really?”
            “Ay, you remember dat time we all go to Zouk? Wah, so fun! Dance all night, sleep all day. Dat night, dance some more. Eat supper at 2 am, never get fat. No children to ka-chow me. No husband to scold. Aiyoh, why you let me get married, ah?”

            “Isn’t Wayne Rooney, like, bald?” Saffy wondered.