Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light Work

According to President Trump, we live in precarious times. Any moment now, someone somewhere is going to press a button and send us all to Kingdom Come.
Which is very depressing because I recently spring cleaned my room. Which is actually less Marie Kondo than it sounds. My idea of spring cleaning largely involves me opening drawers, staring at them for a while and then shutting them again. The idea of having to sort through the accumulated rubbish is just too stressful.
But I did find a sheet of paper dated 2015 on which I had listed my new year’s resolutions for the coming year.
What gets me is that I’d actually gone to the trouble of typing it all up and printing it out. That, and the fact that it didn’t take Einstein to figure out that I’ve not fulfilled a single thing on the 10-itemed list. It’s too embarrassing to tell you what’s on the list. Suffice to say, one of them was: “Go to the gym”.
I do this every year. I look back. Take stock of what I did right. What I did wrong. Get depressed.
A few years ago, I resolved to stop making a list of New Year resolutions. Instead, I set myself one goal on the assumption that it can’t be difficult to accomplish just one thing. Three hundred and sixty-four days later, it’s always unfulfilled. One year, I decided that I would learn French. To this day, I can only say, “Voici l’hotel!” which is French for “Here is the hotel!” It’s not a very useful phrase.
            Another year, I made it my goal to be nice to people. That lasted all of two days before I lost my temper coming down on the City Hall MRT escalator because everyone was ignoring the keep left rule, and I missed my train.
It’s endlessly mortifying to realise just how unfulfilled your life is, though, to be honest, I’m not sure that I feel particularly unfulfilled because I didn’t get to a gym.
These days, when I get on the bus, I realize I am no longer the youngest person on the bus. Sometimes, kids call me “uncle”. Sharyn says the next person who calls her “auntie” is going to get, in her words, “one tight slap”.
But the bigger question, especially as the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ approaches, is this: What have I done with my life? When the time comes and I breathe my last, will my last thought be: “I’ve had a great time, I have no regrets! Oooh, what’s that bright shining light?” Or would it be: “Are you kidding me? I skipped dessert and now I’m dying? Oooh, what’s that bright shining light?” 
I hope Mr Trump has gotten it wrong and that the world isn’t full of scary people wanting to blow us all up. Because, to be honest, I’m not quite done yet.
There are still so many things to do. Or, rather, not do. Like read the newspapers. There’s nothing in them, except bad news. I should also spend less time on Facebook because it just makes me anxious. And besides, according to my 10-year-old god-daughter, only “old people” are active on Facebook. She’s lucky Sharyn wasn’t around when she said that.
I should also stop feeling guilty that I watch so much TV and just enjoy every second of ‘Real Housewives of Nassim Road’. I should have second helpings at every meal instead of watching my waistline. More to the point, I should eat at more buffets.
I should stop pretending that I enjoy the company of people I don’t particularly like (ie, my cousin and his awful wife and children). I mean, really, talk about hours you can’t get back. I should read more books, see more movies and dance more instead of wasting all that time sleeping in late and taking afternoon naps.
I should call my sister more often and check up on her eczema, and tell the people I really do like how much I enjoy their company. I should also learn how to bake a cake because, as I’ve learnt on Nigella’s cooking shows, nothing says “I love you” more than a home-made cake.
But most of all, I should stop making lists. Because what I kind of get now is that you can’t control your destiny. Every day is Life’s way of surprising you. But what you do with that surprise is entirely up to you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Face Off

I have a friend on Facebook who’s a real downer. Actually, I have a few of them. Just about every single post is about something bad. Corruption in some Third World country. Toxins in a brand of baby formula. A complaint about how stupid most people are. How the service at a particular restaurant sucked so badly, you’d think you were at a candy store. The rudeness of Singaporean drivers and this is accompanied by a video of a car that’s straddling two parking lots. A video of an aunty on a bus arguing with a young man, which ends with her spitting at him. A video of Kellyanne Conway demonstrating how not to answer a question.
            Amanda just told me a friend on Facebook posted an article about how someone who is long-winded could actually be showing signs of early Alzheimers.
            “Can you imagine?” she wondered to the world at large. “That would mean that just about everyone I know in my office is two lunch appointments from having full-blown Alzhimers! Isn’t that just about the scariest thing?”
            “I think we need to stop being on Facebook,” I told her. “Have you noticed how angry people are on it? They’re always complaining about something, or posting something that either scares me or makes me afraid. Just the other day,” I went on, “Barney posted this video of a spider fighting with a snake! A snake!”
            “Oh my God, I saw that one! Facebook doesn’t give you notice for that kind of thing, it just suddenly starts playing! I was on the escalator and I nearly jumped back. Luckily, it was rush hour and there was a cushion of people behind me. Otherwise, I would have tumbled down the escalator, snapped my neck and died.”
            “And someone would have been there to capture the whole thing on his phone and then upload it!” I said.
            “What is wrong with this world?” Amanda asked.
            Sharyn says it’s why she’s no longer on Facebook. “Aiyah, so sian!” she declared the other day over lunch at Maxwell Market. “All my friend got some-ting to complain, one. The worse hor, is when they post some-ting like…like…what ah?, wait, lemme tink…oh yah, dat day my friend post ‘So disappointing!’ Nah-ting else. Aiyoh, liddat also got time to post! Say why, lah! Skali, all your friend must message you and ask, ‘Ay, what happen, ah? Are you ok?’ Waste my time!” Sharyn sniffed as she savagely speared a piece of cucumber from the plate of rojak.
            “Is that why I never see you on Facebook, anymore?” Saffy said, looking up from her heaped plate of nasi padang.
            “Yah, I leave Facebook or-redi. Now I am on Instagram! So happy. All day, I look at pretty picture! No stress!”
            “Really?” Amanda said, putting down her spoonful of laksa. “I’ve always wondered if I should be on Instagram.”
            “Confirm, must!” Sharyn said, her eyes abnormally enlarged behind her Coke-bottle-thick spectacles. “I real kay-poh, so I follow Kim Kardashian and Preston Gerber!”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Who’s Preston Gerber?”
            “Aiyoh, you doh-no, ah? He is the son of Cindy Crawford. Wah lau, so han-some! His sister lagi better looking, ah! I wish my chil-ren got so good looking, but dey look like their father, so all got flat nose!” Sharyn’s nose wrinkled at the injustice of such an unfair gene pool.
            Meanwhile, Saffy had been busy tapping her phone. “Gerber, Gerber…oh here we go…oooh, he’s gorgeous!”
            Amanda leaned over to look at the screen. “Seriously, he looks like he’s fifteen!”
            “Oooh, is that his father? OK, the son may be cute, but the father is seriously hot!”
            “Randy!” Sharyn piped up.
            Saffy sighed. “I know. Bradley has been away for a week, I am climbing the walls!”
            “Noooo,” Sharyn drawled. “The father. His name is Randy! Randy Gerber!”
            Saffy blinked. “Seriously?”
            By then, Amanda had abandoned her laksa to set up an Instagram account on her phone. She then spent fifteen minutes following people that Sharyn told her to.
            “Ah, you must also follow Peepy and Mother Lee!”
            “OK, let me find them. Who are they?”
            “Mudder and son. Whenever I sad, I look at their picture and I laugh and laugh. So funny, they all…”
            Amanda peered at her screen. “What is she wearing? Is that a hat?”
            Sharyn barked out a laugh and slapped her thigh. “No, is her real hair! So funny right? Aiyoh, I got so many more you must follow! So fun, Instagram!”

            Saffy says if she had shares in Facebook, she’d sell everything now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spirited Away

I remember a time when people would say exactly what they meant. When a husband forgot his wife’s birthday, she would go into a thundering sulk and not speak to him for days until he’d groveled so low even the cockroaches looked down on him. And when a child misbehaved, he’d get what was popularly referred to in the Unofficial Parents Handbook as “one tight slap”.
            These days, the wife is just as prone to say to the husband: “You’re not present in this relationship. I don’t think you’re being your authentic self!” Meanwhile, the 2017 parent would crouch down to the same level as the child and try to reason calmly and rationally with someone for whom the idea of eating what he’s just excavated from his nose is a simultaneous form of haute cuisine and great hilarity. 
            Just the other day, Saffy told her long-suffering boyfriend Bradley that she didn’t feel he was living life with any degree of presence. “You’re also not very authentic!” she added.
            Apparently, Bradley – who had come over earlier that evening with the vague expectation that he would make out with Saffy on the couch before proceeding to a full on Netflix and chill in the bedroom – blinked. “What?” he said. “I thought we were going to watch ‘Gilmore Girls’ like you wanted to?”
            Saffy sighed. She disentangled herself from Bradley’s embrace and struggled up on the couch. “You see, this is what I’m talking about,” she insisted. “You’re not living in the now! It’s like what Sadhguru says, you have lost the manual to your human operating system!”
            Bradley found himself only able to repeat, “What?” and then, because he felt the situation somehow needed something more, he added, “Who’s Sadhguru?”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated with urgency. “He’s a South Indian mystic! I went to see him with Sharyn the other day. He’s amazing! He says the world is only living either in the past or in the future, which is why we’re all so unhappy!”
            Bradley, being a man and thus capable of only one important thought at any given time, said, “OK, so does this mean we’re not Netflix and chilling tonight?”
            The next day, Saffy told us that the world is in such peril that it behooves us all to get more in touch with our inner self, to which Barney Chen said, if you asked him, touching one’s outer self is even more crucial.
            “I should start up my own spiritual movement,” he growled, warming up to his theme. “Only hot people can join and you have to have a body fat count of 10% or less! Is Sadhguru hot?”
            “Aiyoh! How can you talk like that about a ho-leee man, hah?” Sharyn moaned. “He got white hair, big white beard and he is, what, ah, Saffy, seventy year old?”
            “For some people, that’s really hot,” said Amanda, a committed equal opportunity campaigner when it comes to aging virility.
            “He’s at least a hundred,” Saffy confirmed. “He’s very holy! He kept me riveted for five hours!”
            “Coincidentally,” Barney said with an unseemly glint in his eye, “that’s exactly what happened to me last night with this guy I met on…”
            “As I was saying,” Saffy hurried on, “he talked about how spiritually empty we all are, and how we need to be careful otherwise we’ll completely destroy the whole planet and die!”
            “So how do we get to be spiritually full again?” Amanda asked.
            “Well, apparently, it helps to still the mind. He said the undisciplined mind is kind of like you waving your hand about all the time. So we showed us how to meditate, but only, I was very distracted because some people started crying and someone near the front kept shouting, so I didn’t feel very relaxed.”
            “Yah, lor, but then, hor, Sadhguru say, all the people who could not concentrate, who ask you to pay attention to the people shouting?”
            “Ooh, that’s deep!” Amanda said with admiration.
            “You think?” Saffy asked, doubt etched in her voice.
            “I tink, hor, they all in trance!”
            That evening, Amanda went online and YouTubed some Sadhguru lectures. The next day, her eyes were enraptured. “Oh my God! He’s so good!” She practically swooned. “Everything he says makes so much sense but without any mumbo jumbo! I’m going to see him the next time he comes to Singapore. I also need to find my authentic self!”

            Saffy sniffs that the only thing authentic about Amanda’s newfound enthusiasm for spirituality is her collection of Prada bags.

Monday, September 18, 2017

All in White

As anyone who has taken a quick break from catching Raticates and Squirtles on Pokeman Go will tell you, the world has turned a particularly nasty shade of crazy. You just can’t do anything without coming up against something or someone who is out to get you.
            Case in point is America where if you’re born in a certain country, it’s not guaranteed that you will be allowed out of the airport and that they won’t send you back on the next flight out.
            “Is Singapore on that list?” Saffy said the other day, demonstrating once again the appalling lack of depth of her reading material.
            Amanda rolled her eyes. “If it is, you can be sure a lot of Singaporeans will be screaming blue murder about their children not being able to go back to their expensive schools after their Easter vacations.”
            Saffy nodded, her bosom inflating without much enthusiasm. “Seriously, what is the world coming to? You can’t go anywhere anymore. Or do anything. Sharyn says she bought a tray of water-colour paint for her kid in Hong Kong and packed it in her cabin luggage, but at the airport, the security people said it was liquid or gel and she had to leave it behind. I mean, how are you supposed to bring down a plane with water-colour paint?”
            As Amanda pointed out recently, you can’t even go to London these days because the air there is so toxic that 10,000 Londoners die each year. “Can you imagine it?” she said, lifting her eyes from her iPad on which she was reading the dreadful statistic. “The air quality on Oxford Street is apparently as bad as Shanghai’s! You go into Selfridge’s for a bit of shopping, you come out and collapse from a fatal asthma attack!”
Leave it to Sharyn to put things into patriotic perspective when she arrived that evening with a da-bao dinner of char kway teow and packets of rojak from Old Airport Road’s hawker centre. You could tell she was still sore about having to surrender her daughter’s water-colour.
“So siow, those airport people!” she huffed. “If, hor, I put all the tube of paint into my toiletry bag, then can go true. But because I put in the original box and carry separately, sah-dun-ly cannot. How they can anyhow do such ting, I oh-so do not know!”
“It’s a crazy world, we live in, Shazz,” Amanda told her, returning to her favourite theme. She opened a white Styrofoam box. “Oh, I love this rojak!”
“Yah, boy. Better stay home in Singapore and don’t go oversea for now. At least in Singapore, when the gah-men is crazy, somehow, got make sense, one!” said Sharyn, card-carrying PAP member since 1982. As Saffy once observed, if the PAP gave out the government equivalent of PPS memberships, Sharyn would have been a lifetime Solitaire member a long time ago.
“We really must stop using all these Styrofoam boxes,” Amanda murmured as she stood back and looked at the white rafts currently floating on our dining table. “This is all going into landfill and they’ll never decompose.”
            “Oh, yah,” Sharyn said. “I remember you don’t like, but today I rush from work to get to Old Airport Road and I forgot to bring my own container. Sorry, hor.”
            “I really should write to the Prime Minister and tell him,” Amanda said in a tone of voice that suggested that she and Mr Lee were on WhatsApp terms.
Saffy looked up from her plate of rojak, crunching noisily a particularly fresh mouthful of cucumber. “I the-riouth-ly…” She paused and chewed faster and swallowed and tried again. “I seriously think the PM has more important things to worry about than the biodegradability of hawker food containers!”
“That’s probably because no one has actually brought it up with him!”
By now, Saffy’s attention, never the sharpest knife in the kitchen, had wandered off into a whole different train of thought. “Actually, I wonder if the PM has actually da-bao’d anything. Surely he has people to do that sort of thing for him. And surely,” Saffy went on as another thought occurred to her, “he wouldn’t eat his rojak out of a Styrofoam box? I always imagine him eating off white fine bone china!”
Amanda couldn’t help herself. “Uhm…why white fine bone china?”
“PAP colour, mah!” Sharyn sighed in a tone that said Amanda’s Harvard education had been criminally wasted on her.
Saffy pointed her fork at Sharyn. “What she said,” she mumbled through a mouthful of char kway teow.

Amanda says it’s totally crazy how she’s friends with some people.