Monday, May 16, 2016

Facing Facts

Amanda likes to say that the only thing that distinguishes men from women is a bottle of very good moisturizer.
            Of course, it’s the kind of provocative statement that gets up the nose of hardened feminists like Saffy who once replied if that was true, we’d all be gay. “And not in a good way, either,” she added in a dark tone. No one bothered to reply because frankly, it’s not the kind of thing you can really reply to, is it?
            Not that Amanda will be sidetracked from her very distinct point of view. In the world according to Amanda, if more men got in touch with their feminine sides, there would, for starters, be a lot less wars. And step one to this involves skincare.
            “If men took more care of their faces, the world would be a much safer place,” Amanda said recently.
            The buzz of Chomp Chomp seemed to drop a few notches in volume. Sharyn looked up her very good grilled chicken wings, the heat steaming up her thick spectacles. Her eyes swiveled from Saffy to me. I was careful to concentrate on my mee rebus.
            “Issit?” she said finally.
            “Yes, absolutely,” Amanda said, pleased at the audience participation. “Have you noticed that all the world leaders who are busy bombing each other all have really bad skin? I mean, look at Putin! The worst skin, ever!”
            Sharyn turned to me, puzzled. “The restaurant?”
            “Pu-tin, Sharyn,” I said. “Not Pu-tien!”
            Sharyn turned pink. “Aiyah, sorry lah, I very suaku! I fail geography in school.”
            Saffy held up a finger as she struggled to finish chewing her grilled sambal stingray. Finally, she swallowed. “That,” she said, licking her lips, “that is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! I read somewhere that modern cosmetics is really very bad for your skin!”
            So, here’s the thing about Saffy. The woman has an arts degree from the University of Western Australia, but she could run rings around anyone in a debate. Especially someone from Harvard. It can seem like she’s talking to you about totally the same thing, but really, it’s not till days later you realize that with just one sentence, she has so completely derailed the conversation into a parallel universe, you didn’t even know it had happened.
            Which is how Amanda began the conversation about the role ugly men play in global destruction, but then found herself spending the rest of the evening talking about the merits of organic versus non-organic moisturisers.
            It is also how Amanda, never one to have particularly strong convictions, has spent the past couple of days experimenting with alternative facial treatments.
            “You know, Saffy,” she said last night, her face smeared with shiny goo, “I really think you might be onto something with your crazy-assed theory about commercial products!”
            “I can’t even look at you, right now,” Saffy said, staring down at her phone, her fingers flying across her screen as she texted. “You look like you’ve just finished shooting a scene from a badly made por…”
            “It’s raw aloe vera!” Amanda interrupted stiffly. “It’s supposed to be full of minerals and proteins. I read somewhere that it tightens the skin to make it look like you’ve had a very good face-lift! I can feel my skin tightening as we speak.”
            My phone vibrated. I tapped on the screen to see a WhatsApp message from Saffy. “OMG! I wish I hadnt said anyting about de stupid moisturizer!”
            This morning, I woke up to the sound of clinking bottles. I heard Saffy’s bedroom door open. “What are you doing?”
            “I’m clearing out all my cleansers, toners, serums and moisturisers!” came Amanda’s muffled reply. “I’ve been up all night reading about the horrible chemicals that goes into them. From today, I’m going all natural! I can’t believe I spent so much money on this stuff!”
            “You’re throwing that away?” Saffy said, her voice rising. “But you paid $300 for it!”
            “What’s the point if it’s going to make me sick? I mean, look at my skin. One session with raw aloe vera and I’m glowing! I have never achieved this result with La Mer!”
            Saffy later told me that when Amanda wasn’t looking, she rescued all the discarded bottles of lotions and potions from the bin. “It’s like she just threw away a thousand bucks worth of stuff! What a waste!”
            “What are you going to do with it? I thought you only used soap and water?” I asked.
            “I’m giving it all to Sharyn. God knows she could do with some help. She looks exactly like a man these days!”


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Tight Finish

Barney Chen says there’s a good reason why he doesn’t like to do personal grooming sessions with a girl.
            “They always ask you the most inappropriate questions!” he complained the other day after a waxing appointment with Amanda.
            Apparently, Amanda had found a really good deal at some dingy old shop in Chinatown and had insisted Barney go with her.
            “Can I just say that it felt like someone was videoing me the entire time?” he growled at me the minute he sat down at Maxwell hawker centre. “And not in a good way either!”
            I looked up cautiously from my mee rebus and wondered where this was all heading.
            The salon was so primitive that the waxing rooms were really just an open space separated by curtains. Sounds of waxed strips being torn from private parts alternated with whimpers of pain. 
            “Is that even legal?” Barney demanded. “That I could hear everything from the next room, I mean? Anyway, there I was on all fours and smeared with wax when suddenly, Amanda’s voice came floating over. She wanted to know if when I was finished, I wouldn’t mind coming around to see if her whatsits were sagging!”
            My spoon dropped into my bowl of mee rebus with a splash.
            “She did not say that!”
            “Who says that?” Barney said, the volume of his baritone rising. “I am seriously so disturbed by the idea! I don't think I could look at my mother in the same way ever again!”
            I blinked. “What does your mother have to do with this?”
            Barney flexed his absurdly huge biceps and rolled his eyes. “Well, she’s a woman, isn’t she? Every time I look at Mummy from now on, I know I’m just going to think of Amanda’s sagging whatsits being waxed!”
            “How old is that guy?” Amanda said when I got home. “What a lot of fuss. If a gay man can’t look at a naked woman’s vajayjay without getting all flustered, then what is the point of us being friends in the first place?”
            “I am sure that this is not the only reason that men can be friends with women!” I said.
            “Not just any men. Gay men!” Amanda stressed.
“But why would you want him to look?” I asked. “Isn’t that Saffy’s job?”
            “OK,” Saffy said, pushing aside her cake. “This conversation officially just got disturbing.”
            “I am pretty sure my whole body is starting to head south and I’m not liking it one bit!” Amanda said before launching into a very detailed anatomical analysis of how even if her body was sagging by one millimeter, it was a completely unacceptable state of affairs. Urgent surgical intervention was required. Saffy was careful to avoid my gaze.
            “I need everything on my body lifted a few millimetres,” Amanda announced. “Maybe even tightened!” Instinctively, I crossed my legs.
“But I want a second opinion before I go see Woffles! And seeing as Barney and I were already half naked during the wax, I didn’t see why we couldn’t just do it right there and then!”
            Silence descended over the dining table and made itself comfortable. I stared hard at a point two inches above Amanda’s head.
            Finally, Saffy spoke up. “Woffles Wu?”
            Amanda nodded.
            “But why would you want to see Woffles Wu?”
            Amanda cocked her head. “Well…why not? Isn’t he a plastic surgeon?”
            “I thought he only did face-lifts?” Saffy said. “You mean plastic surgeons also do…uhm…those kinds of…uhm…they go so far south on the body?”
            Amanda sighed. “Oh my God, honestly, you’re just as bad as Barney Chen!”
            Saffy shrugged. “Well, it’s just such an odd word, don’t you think? I’ve never quite like saying it out loud.”
            Amanda turned to me. “So listen, Jason, can you put in a word for me with Woffles? Maybe he can offer me a discount.”
            “Me? Why me?”
            “Well, aren’t you friends with him?”
            “I don’t even know what he looks like!”
            Amanda frowned. “But he’s got a weekly column with you in 8DAYS!”
            “That doesn’t mean we’re squash buddies!” I told her. “I don’t go into the office. I don’t know what anyone at 8DAYS looks like! Plus, don’t forget, our columns are separated by the Shirtless Guy of the Week,” I added as if that was important.
            “You know,” Saffy began, a contemplative glint in her eye, “maybe while Woffles lifts and tightens your whatsits, he can also give me a butt-lift!”
            Barney Chen says that you couldn’t pay him enough money to do Woffles Wu’s job. “Can you imagine? I’d really never be able to look at my mother in the eye ever again!”


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Match Point

Apparently, when you’re famous, you’re prone to doing things your parents always told you never to do.
            Like get drunk in a club (paging Lindsay Lohan). Going to jail (Lindsay Lohan). Or getting arrested (Lindsay Lohan). Or trash-talking your bosses (Lindsay Lohan). Or generally making bad movies (Lindsay Lohan). 
            And then you have people who just like taking off their clothes in public for no reason at all.
            “Oh my God, he’s doing it again!” Amanda said a few weeks ago. We were watching the men’s quarter-finals at the US Open. Novak Djokovic was playing somebody called Feliciano something and suddenly, he was taking off his shirt.
            “Why does he keep doing that?” Amanda demanded, her face wrinkled into a frown.
            “He’s so scrawny, too!” added Saffy whose taste in men’s bodies tends to run along the lines of the Rock and Vin Diesel.
            “Aiyoh, where got scrawny?” Sharyn moaned. “So han-sum!”
            “A malnourished chicken!” Saffy insisted.
            “I want to know which wet market you go to!” Sharyn muttered as she reached for more popcorn.
            “Seriously,” Amanda said, “it’s like in every single match, he’s taking something off. You’d never seen Roger do that!”
            “Underfed rabbit!” Saffy said warming up to her metaphors.
            “You seriously think Djokovic is hot?” Amanda asked Sharyn.
            “Wah liau, eh!”
            “At least Nadal has some proper muscles on him,” Saffy said. “But you don’t see him ripping his clothes off!”
            Amanda wrinkled her nose. As much as she disliked Djokovic, she reserved a special disdain for Nadal. “That’s because he only takes his clothes off if there’s a buck to be made,” she told Saffy. “Have you seen his latest ad for Tommy Hilfiger?”
            “Seen it? I’m starting a new page in my scrapbook just for him. And I have barely gotten over his Armani ads!”
            I swiveled my head from the TV screen. “You have a scrapbook for Nadal? How old are you?”
            Saffy shrugged. “It’s not just Nadal. I’ve got everyone in there. David Beckham takes up like half the book. He’s always topless.”
            “You don’t find him a bit scrawny?” Amanda said.
            “Oh my God, he’s totally a malnourished ferret, but I’m making an exception for that face. Honestly, he just becomes more and more beautiful the older he gets!”
            The thing that annoys me about the whole thing is that these famous people are actually getting paid to take their clothes off. Like a lot of money. I know because I asked Siri and she told me that Nadal’s two-year contract with Tommy Hilfiger is worth about $3-4m. American dollars.
            “What, just for wearing a pair of tight underwear?” Saffy asked. You could actually see her fabulous bosom start to tremble with outrage.
            Sharyn’s eyes turned misty. “Wah, four million, hah? You pay me four million to wear linger-rie, I also cook for you, ah!”
            You could tell by the expressions on Saffy and Amanda’s faces that the three of us had simultaneous images of Sharyn in a two-piece bikini.
            “It’s absolutely disgraceful that these people are paid so much,” Saffy went on. “I mean, it’s not even their day job. They’re not Chippendales! They’re tennis players. Very rich tennis players. They don’t need all those extra millions!”
            “Yah, lor. Not like you and me,” Sharyn told Saffy.
            “You would think that Tommy Hilfiger would ask someone like Chris Pratt to model,” Amanda said, a comment that met with universal approval from the girls.
            “Oh, now, there is one delicious piece of seared Kobe beef,” Saffy said, her chest puffing up with carnivorous lust. “Why is that man not naked more often? One lousy scene in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and that’s it. The only reason I watched that stupid Jurrasic Park movie was to see him take off his clothes and wrestle with T-Rex, and he kept his clothes on the whole time!”
            This morning, I read an online interview with Helen Mirren in which she declared she would not longer be taking her clothes off in movies.
            “Helen Mirren?” Amanda said. “Since when has she been naked on-screen?”
            “Lots of times apparently,” I told her. “She says she was naked in ‘Caligula’. But she says that it’s just so common now and she used ‘Game of Thrones’ as an example.”
            “Yes, that’s very true,” Amanda said. “There’s just no mystery anymore. It’s all just out there. Like that Djokovic. I bet at the Australian Open, he’ll strip down to his ratty old underwear. What else can he do? He’s lost the novelty.”
            Saffy says if you paid her three million bucks, she’d be more than happy to show you some novelty.