Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Days

I don’t know what it is. Maybe there’s something in the air, but the marriage of another friend of ours is making its way to the lawyer’s office.
            Amanda has known Margaret since their Harvard days but whilst my flatmate came back to Singapore to become the kind of high-flying lawyer you normally see in a Shonda Rimes TV show, Margaret became a housewife.
            She met Matt in the law firm where she was doing her pupillage. A month later, they were married. And before you could say ‘Real Housewives of Nassim Hill’, she’d popped out two children, left work, and was having leisurely afternoon teas with the ladies from her Pilates class.
            “What a waste of an expensive education,” my mother would always murmur whenever she bumped into Margaret’s mother at the Tanglin Club.
            Mrs Chen would wince and beg my mother not to talk about it anymore. “It just breaks my heart!” she would immediately go on, evidently unable to let go of the topic. “It’s not as if she can’t afford a full-time nanny. Matt just got a promotion at Goldman Sachs, they can afford two nannies, but Margaret says she wants to be close to her children.”
            Mother would sigh and finger her pearl necklace. “Young people have such strange ideas these days. It’s not like our time when a woman only had three choices. Become a nurse, a teacher or a housewife. Today, they can do so many things! If I had my life all over again…” Here, she would trail off, her mind wandering off into a parallel universe in which she is a gang-busting secret agent. 
            Meanwhile, Amanda has always been torn between complete envy of Margaret’s happy life ferrying the kids to tuition and swimming classes, and feeling a warmth in her belly every time she gets a letter from her bank.
            “I know money isn’t everything,” she once said as she gazed at her bank statement with the kind of love you normally associate with a puppy, “but really, it’s hard to beat have all this money come into your account every month!”
            This would lead Saffy to immediately complain to Sharyn that some people have the sensitivity of a sebaceous cyst. Ever since she’s come out about her obsession with Dr Pimple Popper, her conversations are littered with dermatological references.
            Anyway, a week or so ago, my mother rang me to tell me that Matt has been cheating on Margaret.
            “With his secretary!” she said, her voice laced with outrage and class snobbery. “Margaret found a lipstick stain on his underwear! Honestly, why is it always the secretary?”
            Perhaps it was the seduction of the handsome boss? I ventured.
            “Handsome! Who, Matt? Are you joking? He looks like a toad!”
            “A toad!” Mother insisted. She rang off to rush to Mrs Chen’s side only to find the old woman sitting in her lounge room popping open a bottle of champagne.
            Mother stood at the entrance to the living room and looked a little uncertain. “Uhm…Jane?”
            “Oh, Mei-ling!” Mrs Chen trilled. “You’re just in time to celebrate!”
            Apparently, Matt’s affair was exactly what Margaret’s mother had been praying for. “When they got married, I forced them to sign a pre-nuptial and in it, if there’s an affair and it’s followed by a divorce, that frog doesn’t get a single cent! I haven’t been this happy since Jonathan bought me that emerald necklace from Bulgari!”
            When Saffy heard all this, her impressive bosom rose in admiration. “Goodness, that’s what I call forward-planning! Who would have thought of such a thing?”
            “Apparently, all the tai-tais of District 9,” I told her.
            “It must be nice to be so rich. How is Margaret, anyway?”
            “Devastated, of course,” Amanda said. “She dropped into Matt’s office after lunch with an Old Chang Kee curry-puff for his snack and found him snacking on his secretary in the filing room!”
             “Disgusting!” Saffy pronounced. “I’ve never liked him. He has this oily, fishiness about him. Like a…a…”
            “A toad?” I ventured.
            Saffy blinked. “Well, I was going for a sardine, but I guess a toad works too. They’re both disgusting. Imagine…sacrificing her career and spending all those years raising the kids and looking after the family and he does that to her! It’s a wonder anyone wants to get married at all!”
            The last we heard, Margaret’s mother had marched her hysterical daughter straight into the office of the most expensive divorce lawyer in town and apparently, the paperwork is all done. Just like that: The end of a lifetime.

My mother says Jane Chen has invited her and a bunch of friends to a celebratory lunch at the Summer Palace.

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