Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happiness on a page (or screen)



Notice how people write a lot more when they’re unhappy? There’s something to be said about the therapy of penning thoughts and feelings while dealing with various issues that bother us. It’s no secret that people write a lot less when they are happy. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and organised a few thoughts about the phenomenon where people are less tap-happy while in a happy place.

Happiness is less interesting on a page;

Gushing is unpopular;

When you are not superstitious and don’t believe in jinxing at all but penning down how rosy the world looks to you now might be a potential bitter pill for the future though you hope to heck it won’t happen that way;

When your heart is full to bursting on a daily basis, and you are suddenly bereft of the right words to say;

When you feel guilty for being so happy, because you reckon no one should be this happy when there are so many others, including people you care about, who are coping with their own struggles at this point in time, and you choose to minimise expressing how damn freaking pancreas-busting-ly happy you are;

When you have the urge to broadcast what you feel, but what stops you is the knowledge that some things are between you and the other – I don’t mean dirty laundry or passive aggressive button pushing, but simply knowing that you and the other are the only relevant ones in this thought, this feeling, that only the both of you will fully understand. And that’s why we share, isn’t it? To be understood by at least one other human being;

When you hear someone say the words you’ve been afraid to say but have been playing around the periphery of your mind and dancing on the silent corners of your lips;

When the little things cease to matter all that much, or when they do, they don’t matter for as long a duration;

When what you are writing about has taken a different track somewhere along the half page you’ve just tapped out on;

And I’m now standing on a different thought path blinking at the surroundings I never intended to enter into.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Just realised

It's been 17 years since I first fell in love.

It's been 10 years since I last fell in love.

It's been 6 years since I was last in love.

The years have whirled by so eventfully I have almost forgotten the passage of time. Days meld into the next, night and daylight weaving into each other like gold swathes on velvet, occasionally leaping into bursts of blinding delight, unfurling and unfurling and unfurling until each fleeting moment of beauty is but a distant memory.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Guys, give me (more) hope

I used to be 'one of the guys'. After emerging from 11 years in an all-girls school, I found myself more comfortable in the company of male friends in JC and in university. While I maintained close friendships with female pals, I found the dynamics of a group of guys more suited to my taste.

And it was then that I found out what comes out of guys' mouths when they start to forget they have a female in their midst. The gossip becomes vicious and prolific, and the misogyny flies off the charts.

On a particularly unlikeable girl: "She deserves to be raped lah."

Gossiping about a girl who had dated several guys from the same hostel: "What kind of slut is that?"

On the uptight administrative auntie we had to deal with: "She just needs to get fucked."

The best gems were actually from a boyfriend I was dating in my final year:

On taking a smoke break with a guy friend during the exam study period: "I'm so stressed, I'll rape ANY girl who walks by right now!" (whereupon the resident butch walks by and greets them).

The guys start making small jokes about sex. Then it moves on to rape. Then it quickly becomes them guffawing over a list of steps to commit rape, right down to what type of van they'll use to kidnap the girl and who will drive the van.

Sometimes I laughed with them, sometimes I kept quiet, uncomfortable but not mature enough to know why. But by the time that last one about kidnap-rape came out, the guys eventually noticed the seething glare from my side, and they fell into a guilty silence. Later, as we were all departing, one guy tried to placate me: "We were only joking."

I even tried the "What if  your sister or mother had been raped before?" line of reasoning. You know what else I found out? Empathy isn't always their dominant trait.

Most guys will not break the brotherhood code of silence or even realise anything wrong with what they said, and they will not tell others that this kind of talk took place. Imagine how much of this kind of misogyny is proliferated in casual conversations every day, and no one notices.


These were guys I liked and enjoyed the company of. They were funny, smart, kind to friends. It boggled me how guys like that who would do anything for a friend, who loved their girlfriends, with whom I'd shared countless nights of supper and talk, could speak of women as if they were meat packages placed on earth for men to fuck, unload on, disrespect, discount, pigeonhole, brutalise, blame.

I couldn't say it was because they were bastards, in spite of one of those guys telling me that "all guys are bastards", because they weren't for the most part. I couldn't say it was because they came from homes with mothers with severe mental illness who were violent and caused them to grow up hating women, because they didn't. I couldn't say they were stupid, because they obviously weren't. I couldn't even blame it on 'dirty minds', because I have one too.

(Say what you will about female complicity in misogyny and sexism. Even a woman who will call another a "slut" won't say that she deserves to be raped and beaten simply because she is unlikeable.)

There's something wrong with the way we're bringing up our boys. I don't believe it's their mothers who bring up their sons to view women as objects. I believe it's the way society is bringing them up, and it's the result of thousands of years of civil evolution and the ways that the valuable reproductive imperative has been viewed and handled. It's so ingrained that many men who do not consider themselves sexist will still think and speak like one on occasion. It's such a part of us that when a young woman is being groped in full view of a hundred people and a video of her resisting her violators goes viral, the community is torn between those who cry foul and those who insist she asked for it. And I find myself living in a country where law enforcement places ads on buses that tell loan sharks to quit it, that tell gamblers to seek help, and tell women to not be groped --> sure we can, if we're psychic.

I do not believe all men are dumb, dick-driven creatures who can never resist the female body. I do not believe all men actually believe women should be raped, even those that say it sometimes. That has not been my experience with them. Plus if it were true that scantily clad women are asking to be raped, we'd have one hell of a problem at swimming pools and beaches.

Misogynistic words are symptomatic of social conditioning that tells men that women are beneath them, that to have any feminine traits is a bad thing - often, the worst insult one can hurl at a man is to tell him he's a sissy, a pussy, "like a woman". It is a fragilisation of men's virility, and a rejection of women's. Which is really stupid, because most men I know would be absolutely delighted to know his partner is virile and horny, so why are people so appalled and call women names when they gawk at the humongous bare male body hanging above A&F, but don't even blink when bikini-clad girls splay themselves over boats and cars?

It is all the men out there who recognise their responsibility for their own choices, who recognise that victim-blaming is wrong in any crime, who show themselves to be intelligent and empathetic, who speak up against the injustice, who recognise that gender equality benefits both genders, who march alongside women to protest violence against women, who love their female family and friends too much to debase them with misogynistic language, who are secure enough in their manhood to not feel affronted when others associate them with 'female' traits, that give me hope.

I want more men and boys to give me more hope in the future.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Taking wing in the age of butterflies


I rarely write reviews of theatre productions I watch, as actors rarely do so as to refrain from publicly critiquing peers. I'm making (sort of) an exception now as I feel compelled to share how what I watched tonight affected me. Sort of, because this isn't a review, really, more of a personal reaction upon watching 11•Kuo Pao Kun Devised, Again by The Theatre Practice.



"今年最近几个月来,是蝴蝶时代" --> "Over the most recent months of this year, it has been the age of butterflies."

These are the words of Kuo Pao Kun I see first upon entering the hall where the performance kicks off. My first thought was, what the heck is an age of butterflies?

As I sit there looking around the large hall, I see more writing on the walls (literally), and more and more writing is inked onto the walls as the evening wears on, and I imagine they are all quotes from KPK's plays and letters. It is with slight shame that none of it is familiar to me as I've read very little of the late KPK's works.

Over the next hour and a half, we are led through the halls, corridors, rooms, roof, courtyard, and foyer of the building as images, sounds, and movement meet us and pull us.

We lean over a man who thinks he is the only one who sees and suffers because he sees. A woman with her everyday burdens around her ankles asks us questions of time. A man-child chained to his baggage, seemingly both weighed down and light at the same time, yells out the time.

A man with his bowl. A man with the doll he cannot possess. A man who is shadow and sound.

A half-butterfly becomes whole in a mirror. A woman fills the courtyard with song and rains down suggestions of butterflies. A woman with a story, who might be a rock, but with moulding, could she be more than a rock?

A woman who is trying to transform through new words. A woman who has transformed.

At least, these are what I see.

This being site-specific work, I know better than to try to figure out a 'story', and I allow myself to just absorb and experience, and allow the sounds and images to wash over me and move me along. It's not about what the players are trying to tell me, it's what I see in what they give me, and they are giving in abundance. Before I know it, I find myself in the midst of magic.

Immediate thoughts are that it's the magic of nostalgia and transformation, and suddenly, the butterfly analogy makes perfect sense to me.

It is perhaps that final scene in the hall that captures my imagination the most. I don't see a struggling woman who's hopeless at English - I see a woman who is reaching to be more than a rock, who is metamorphosing into the butterfly that is slowly unfolding before our eyes.

And that is what I see in that great hall at the end, surrounded by KPK's text, the memories of his presence, the has-been-is-nows, the pictures on the walls, the open windows, the cloths dangling over the expanse of the ceiling that he'd had put in place to improve the acoustics of the hall, more text. And, most of all, the actors, all of whom had been strongly touched by KPK, and are offering us the echoes of that touch.

It is a couple of hours after the show, after I've had a little time to digest it, that I realise what it is that has moved me so much, other than the beauty and immersion of experiencing it.

I had never known about the man and his works in much depth, just a few fundamentals and rough ideas, and watched a few of his works staged. I'd understood and respected his foundational role in Singapore theatre, and all that he went through during the difficult years. That his works are rich and deeply revered, and the love for him as a playwright, teacher, and father, there's been no doubt. But all this had never affected me at a deeper level. Until tonight.

Being immersed in the world of 11•Kuo Pao Kun Devised, Again and Stamford Arts Centre, the long-time home of KPK's practice and ongoing legacy, the spirit of his work and legacy seeped into me and I realise it has given me a real connection to Kuo Pao Kun, whom I'd never met.

Sitting in that hall, submerged in the love and reverence that the company members have for him, being swept up by the resonance of his work, feeling the past and the present converge in that room brimming with memories that are translating to us now, Kuo Pao Kun has finally reached me.

蝴蝶时代 - The age of butterflies: it is now and always.

Thank you, TTP.

(P.S. If I'd known there were 2 routes, I would've made time to come to watch twice.)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Everyone is born feminist...I mean, everyone-ist

I just remembered that I'd been called a slut before. [And those of you with whom I did Mad Forest, no, I'm not referring to that.]

I was 17 years old, and was crying on the phone - my then-boyfriend had stood me up for a date, which I was obviously not happy about, and he was not happy about the fact that I was unhappy with him. Yes, I know, makes perfect sense. That led to an argument on the phone - not a heated one, mind you, but a pleading one where I tried to make him understand why I was unhappy. Among other choice phrases he used during that conversation, like "spoiled brat", this was the one he used that I almost didn't even catch amidst the rush of words: "Why are you acting like such a slut?"

I remember a very brief pause as I thought, "What? Slut? How does that..." before dismissing the thought to continue grappling with other issues, like why someone who regularly told me he loved me didn't act like he did.

Interesting choice of words he had. That 18-year-old boy obviously hadn't stopped to consider what he would actually perceive a "slut" to be and how one would behave. I doubt that mattered - he used it purely to inflict hurt and emotional bullying, and "slut" is one of the most hurtful names one can use on a female.

I won't go into the whole analysis of using words like that on women - SlutWalk is still fresh in our heads. What this memory made me think about is when gender politics start to take root in a person's life.

Everyone grows up hyper aware of their gender differences and perceptions of how they are expected to behave, what they're supposed to like, how they're supposed to dress. And, of course, what sort of behaviour they're expected to accept and tolerate.

Baby girls wake up to pink bed linen. Baby boys wake up to blue. Little girls get dolls and want to be princesses. Little boys get trains and want to be ninjas. Young girls use verbal sparring to get their way. Young boys use their elbows. Teenage girls go to school in skirts or pinafores. Teenage boys go to school in pants. Women do the laundry. Men change the light bulbs.

On the surface, it looks like this kind of gender differentiation has a hold on people right from the beginning. However, when I thought about it, I realise this isn't what I'm actually observing in kids, and it's my opinion that gender differentiation doesn't really take hold for the first few years.

Watching a class of preschoolers, I realise that while the girls and boys may have different tastes, there isn't a big difference in how they react to things and situations. Both the boys and girls essentially want the same things: the same attention, the same food, climb the same structures, see the same pictures. They want to be treated fairly, they want the same affection.

When my niece was born, I was thinking that since she was born into a family of strong women, she might not subscribe to the whole stereotype of girly girl who'd like pink and purple, want to play princess dress-up, ask mummy to put nail polish on her, be motivated by the promise of being "pretty", and want to be Tinkerbell every other Halloween.

Caitlyn is now 5 years old. And she is all of the above. I'd rail to my sister against the proliferation of pink and purple in her wardrobe, the stash of shiny 'jewels' and plastic tiaras, the collection of Disney princess jelly shoes, and, of course, the Tinkerbell costume. Meanwhile, Caitlyn would sashay around the house in her purple princess dress, decked out in all her plastic jewellery, and ask us if she looked pretty. For heaven's sake, we caught her trying on a bikini top and checking out her own ass when we had her in our fitting room during a shopping trip when she was 3.

But after a while, I stopped objecting to her girly ways and preferences, because I realised this is the same girl who can NEVER be bested by her big brother who's 4 years older, who climbs any surface she thinks she can get away with, who asserts herself in ways that puts boys to shame, who wants light sabres and trains too, and who can learn yoga poses in a heartbeat. In other words, her girly ways do not get in the way of her firm belief that she deserves the same things as others, and has no notion that anything different would be expected of her just because she's a girl.

Her brother Sean will be 9 soon. He still likes cuddling, burying his face in mummy's (and grandma's and Yee Yee's) chest, and being carried...though hardly anyone's strong enough to carry him any more. Very soon, he will stop wanting these things as puberty starts to change him into a man with its own set of taboos.

In the eyes of all these young children, they're all equal even though they're different. They hardly care what's 'expected' of them based on gender - they just want to have fun and affection. They were born thinking we are all equal. We are the ones who tell them otherwise.

We are the ones who tell them to "behave like a girl", and "act like a man." We're the ones who expose them to gender name-calling. Slut. Tramp. Whore. We're the ones who taunt boys for doing 'girly things'. We're the ones who tell them, "Your brother can do that but not you because he's a boy." (And I don't mean peeing standing up.)

I'd say that everyone is born feminist, which in my own definition is 'everyone-ist', because to me, being feminist is about acknowledging that males and females are equal and working towards living with our differences in a mutually respectful way, neither being superior to the other. I think it's just called "feminism" because females have had the short end of the stick in patriarchal societies, and there's a need to elevate women's standing so we are shoulder-to-shoulder with our equals, the guys.

What kind of people do you want your children to grow up to be? What they were born to be? Or subject to a set of prejudices that they will in turn perpetuate?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Holding it, it is no longer there

I watched Jane Eyre again, possibly for the fifth time. The scene in this beautiful movie that never fails to wrench my heart is when Rochester begs Jane to be with him after their thwarted wedding. Apart from Jane's agonizing struggle to choose self-respect over passion, Rochester's intense helplessness, and watching both their hearts breaking at once, I just realised what it is that really gets to me in this scene.

Rochester, unable to change Jane's mind, sinks to his knees and physically clings on to her, pressing his forehead against her in utter helplessness and desperation, completely unable to reach her soul.


And I recognise it. I had been there.

The last moment I had been totally and absolutely in love with a man, I was holding on to him one last, desperate time, my forehead pressed against his chest as I wept, knowing that no matter how much I cried and how much I hurt, I could not reach his soul anymore. He was physically there, but he was gone, and try as I may, physically and desperately clinging on to him wouldn't bring him back.

Still, I held on, unable to stop the tears from flowing and unable to stop myself from wanting him; him, so patiently and so softly holding me, and waiting for me to be ready to let go.

There is no emptier feeling than to physically be with someone you want so badly, yet knowing they are not really there with you, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Five years on, and it hasn't healed completely, and possibly never will. You may stop loving the arm that got torn from you, but you will always bear the scar.

That's what being alive is, isn't it? Feeling your wounds keenly, fingering your scars, trying not to pick at those that have only just scabbed over. Knowing that you'd inflict new wounds upon yourself again, given the chance.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Single Person's Guide to Chinese New Year

Gong Hei Fatt Choy! For all the grief a single person gets at CNY, the ang baos (red packets) are but a trifle compensation for having to endure awkward, unanswerable questions from relatives and family friends who can't remember your non-childhood-nickname name, how old you are, and whether you've left school.

I've decided to share a few coping strategies for my fellow singletons. Here are some sample answers you can use to tackle a few of the typical questions that will be hurled at you this festive season. [Please note that I'm writing a straight woman's responses, but feel free to switch prepositions and gender-specifics to suit your own situation.]

Let's start with the most common, and most dreaded, question: "When is it your turn to get married?"

* I haven't met the right person yet.
* I'm not ready to give up my freedom.
* My career comes first for now.
* Marriage is for losers.
* I refuse to get married and have kids until I can afford to provide them the best, i.e. after I buy my first mansion on Sixth Avenue with its own car porch and helipad.
* I'm only dating him for the sex.
* My lesbian lover wouldn't like that much.
* I want to enjoy casual sex a few years more.
* Most men are intimidated by my Satan-worship.
* He might want a divorce once I undergo my surgery...to become a man.

Question: "Where's your boyfriend?"

a) If you have a boyfriend:

* Visiting his own relatives.
* With his other girlfriend.
* With his wife.
* With his kakis playing mahjong, blackjack, poker, and chor dai di, before they move on to the casino, where they will stay until the fifth day of new year, before they crawl home to nurse their hangovers.
* Hanging pig heads on a few doors, then visiting his sah-lak-gau buddies to sharpen their parangs together, before he's free to come over here - stick around for a while if you want to meet him.

b) If you don't have a boyfriend:

* I'm enjoying single life for now.
* The last relationship didn't end well and I'm not ready for another at the moment.
* He... (let your lower lip tremble.) He... (let a few tears flow for a bit.) He... (Launch into a full-blown breakdown. If method acting doesn't work, make sure you rub chili or onion on your fingers beforehand and discreetly rub them into your eyes when necessary.)
* With that skank that he left me for with most of my money.
* He came out of the closet.
* I came out of the closet.

Question: "When are you getting a job?"

* I have a job, and have had one for the past 9 years. Thank you for asking.
* I work in the arts. That IS a profession. <--I've had to use this one many times.
* I quit my job two working days ago. It takes longer than that to mail a letter, let alone find a new job.
* I have a job already, but my dad doesn't acknowledge "moocher" as a profession and refuses to remunerate me.
* I'm waiting for my dream job. It'll come. You'll see.
* My specialty is very niche. Not every zoo needs a Bolivian Llama psychiatrist.
* Didn't you say you need a new sex therapist? I'm free.

Divorcees may face this question: "What happened? Why divorce?"

* It was a painful experience, and I trust you understand that I would rather not discuss it at the time being.
* Our differences made it impractical to stay together.
* He finally found the feminine wife of his dreams, named Hank.
* Actually he died under mysterious circumstances. Don't worry, they never proved a thing. "Black Widow" is just a nickname.
* He finally met you guys last Chinese New Year. He filed for divorce just after Chinese New Year.

Bonus section for married people

Question: "When are you going to have a kid?"

* When we're ready.
* Once I get my tubes untied.
* Once he gets his tubes reconnected.
* We don't want to make an innocent child answer to the world why his parents are swingers, so we chose not to have any.
* We actually have a child, but decided he's too ugly to be seen, so we keep him chained in the basement. Don't tell anyone.
* I've got syphilis.

Question: "When are you going to have another kid?"

* We want to give our dear one the best instead of dividing our already stretched resources among more kids.
* Once I get my tubes untied.
* Once he gets his tubes reconnected.
* One monster is enough, thank you.
* We actually had another, but she turned out to be an evil twin, so we had her, eh, terminated.

The one-size-fits-all answer to any question:

* Let's not trouble with unlucky things like that. Huat ah!"

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Seasons of...

The past week has been the season of death and life.

Three deaths - one close, one in proximity, one distant. Every now and then, we're reminded of our mortality, especially when death claims someone dear.

Three birthdays, all close. The succession of deaths has made the celebration of life all the more poignant.

The one thing that all these events had in common, though, was the presence of love.

The baby girl, though born with the defect and had not been expected to live beyond her first birthday, had been given her chance at life and all the love she could want in her short time here. The actor who is remembered fondly by an entire industry of friends. The old man who was mourned the moment he was found dead.

Dinner with my father, celebrating a lucky age. Owing a meal to a close friend who brought great music to many. A night of kitsch fun with someone whom I once had to bury in my bosom.

Happy birthday, my dear Sagittarius men.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seven beginnings

It was

The sudden feel of a warm hand taking mine.

An arm gently encircling from behind.

An awkward kiss in a quiet, sunlit room.

A searching look beside a merry-go-round.

A kiss at the front gate.

A hand softly coming to rest on the back of a neck.

Two foreheads touching after a bout of tickling.

Holding each other by the piano in the dark; lying back to back after an argument; stroking my hair late at night until I fall asleep; reading a tear-soaked letter from the homesick boy in the army; lying on park benches watching the leaves move; fishing on the jetty; stroking his fever-soaked forehead; the first scent of our breaths entwining; the terror of first-proclaimed love; the feel of fingers tracing grooves on my arm; the smell of fresh soap just before making love; an eleventh-hour silent confession; countless hours on the phone, long-distance; singing to him as he falls asleep; terminal dilemma, torn between two loves; kissing in the club, not caring who looks; driving in tender silence as the rain envelopes the car; seeing my hair on his pillow; discussing who to invite to our wedding; the boy on his knees begging me to forgive him; watching the lone figure walk away for the last time; the self-inflicted wound of cutting away love; weeping my soul away, clinging to him in futility; weeping alone, knowing he's gone.

Time lines, clear at first, get jumbled up. Memories mingle, jostling for prominence. Moments beginning, moments during.

And then, moments ending.

All beginnings must end alone.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Aren't we sick of obsessing over fat?

Hands up: How many of you, even though you know it's mean and not politically correct, have looked at someone you consider fat and thought, "Eww, what a fatso", or "Fat people just should not appear in public"?

I just saw a piece of news that being fat may now be illegal in Japan, and had the unfortunate curiosity to see what people were commenting on that video. The small-mindedness of some ignoramuses reminded me of this girl I once knew.

A 14-year-old girl, standing at 1.62 metres tall, weighing 47 kilogrammes, with a waistline of 26 inches, bending over backwards from standing into a wheel posture during a cheerleading routine for the school Sports Day.

That girl was convinced she was fat and unfit.

Why was she fat and unfit? Because she had the thickest waistline in the cheerleading team, because a small amount of flesh bulged over the top of her skirt, because she couldn't do a split like some of the other girls, and because she ached after playing ball games. Is it just me, or was that teenage sucker out of touch with what is normal?

That girl was me.

I grew up hyper aware of the issue of fat, because 1) I was underweight as a child, 2) I almost became overweight as an adolescent, and 3) thick waistlines run in the family.

Back to ignorant commenters. I see things like "I'm tired of seeing fat shits everywhere I look" and "Totally sick of seeing fat fuck ass girls everywhere and claiming they are happy being like that. Delusional idiots."

The person I love more than anyone else in the world is considered fat by many. When we go out together (at least in Singapore), it hurts to see people with their judgmental stares and smirks. Do they really know what it's like to have a lifelong struggle with weight? Do they know how it is to try your best and still feel thwarted at times?

Yes, sometimes, being fat is the result of laziness and poor lifestyle choices. However, in most cases I know of, it's a result of complex patterns and occurrences in the course of life, and, I believe, genetics in some cases (the converse is true too - how many people do you know are perennially skinny even though they regularly eat like food is going out of fashion?). Even then, poor choices are also often the result of patterns in our psyche, which is why behaviour modification is a common tool in long-term weight loss.

Let me present two people I know:

Person A: She weighs about 200 pounds, approx 1.65 metres tall. She can lift more weight than most women can. She goes to the gym regularly - I went with her for fitness classes before, and my body was screaming for reprieve while she was still happily pumping away. She's got a butt that defies gravity. She cooks low-carb pasta with organic vegetables. Her kitchen is always stocked with loads of fruit, muesli and whole-wheat English muffins for breakfast. She's diabetic so she keeps her sugar intake low. She has a good sense of style and knows how to dress to flatter (and get attention with cute accessories).

Person B: She weighs about 105 pounds, approx 1.63 metres tall. She eats only two small pieces of pastry each day. She doesn't work out. She's so deathly insecure in her clothes that she never stops looking uncomfortable and tugging at her clothes.

Don't judge. Being fat isn't always because the person can't be arsed to care about their health or make positive changes. Don't say a fat person who loves herself/himself as they are is being delusional or dumb. It means they accept that they're beautiful people even though some people just can't look beyond their physical appearance, having obviously never heard of the notion that attractiveness has more to do with personality than looks.

That's the other thing. Being 'fat' is such a subjective notion. Imagine how thrilled I was the first time I visited the US as an adult, and the locals were marvelling at how slim I was at 120 pounds. Meanwhile, in Singapore, I'm considered a big girl.

I say work with what you've got. No one can be perfect, even if they seem perfect on the surface. If you work towards being healthy, balanced and self-aware, I say you're lovelier than that starving mess of chopsticks they call a runway model (that's a whole other weight issue; let's not go there today).

And for goodness' sake, the next time I hear a skinny person (I define skinny as I-can-see-your-ribcage-through-your-top) say they're getting fat, I might just not be able to stop myself from slugging them.

To those who'd sneer at fat people, I have this to say to you: If looking at a fat person disgusts you, be grateful they can't see your soul and get more disgusted at YOU.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Confessions of a Disney girl


I was Snow White dressed in the wrong colours. I was Cinderella with throw pillows under her skirt. I was the princess who sat atop the step-ladder throne. I was decked in plastic jewels with flaking silver paint. I held court perched upon a huge bean bag.

I was a Disney girl. A big time Disney girl.

I quoted dialogue from my favourite Disney cartoons. I'd hum So This Is Love as I clambered up the side of our garden swing - I never sat on the swing, I only climbed - and draped over the top bar until my mum yelled at me to get down.

Even as I ogled Transformers and GI Joe figurines at toy stores, I'd probably have a pink Barbie dress under one arm - I had more hope of getting girly toys from my parents than boy toys (little did they foresee the future...).

I wore lots of pink.

I wanted to be pretty, and be loved for being pretty. I wanted to wear the fluffy dresses and lipstick. But I'd never be pretty and princess-like. Which princess prefers climbing to preening? Which princess can't talk to mice, birds and other wildlife? Which princess prefers computer lessons to modelling lessons? Which princess slouches and sits with her legs open? Which princess gets bored at her prom when her friends want to do nothing but pose for pictures while she prefers to jive with the band? Which princess pays for every compliment with the pain that inevitably follows when a vulnerable, insecure girl can't tell the difference between angels and sharks? Which princess wonders why real mothers and evil stepmothers sometimes don't seem to feel all that different? Which princess feels unhappy, fat, trapped, and never good nor smart nor talented enough?

And then, one day, a man looked straight into my eyes and said, "Daph, you are a very, very attractive woman", and wasn't trying to get into my pants. I was 22.

That same month I got my first job, based purely on talent as I had no academic qualification that supported that line of work and only had an interview and a written test to prove myself.

Two years later I was an editor of a magazine. (I didn't have the appropriate pay increase, but hey, a promo is a promo).

Two years later I took a leap and did all the things that people told me were foolish and impossible to live on, and I've proved them all wrong.

And then, one day, I realised I was beautiful and talented.

The kind of princess that Disney has been veering towards in recent years has evolved - the ballsy, eccentric chicks who have the upper body strength to haul in a huge beast teetering on the edge of a balcony, battle crocodiles and (gasp) be non-Caucasian...but they are still pretty in gowns - Disney will never sell a plain Jane. Though I now own gowns and believe myself to be beautiful, I'm still no Cinderella (though I'm occasionally a Sleeping Beauty).

Today, an older and fatter me still thinks I'll never be a Disney princess, but that's OK because I'm fabulous nonetheless, and wiser to boot. Moreover, if I were perfect like a Disney princess, wouldn't I have nowhere to grow?

The beauty of not being good enough is knowing there's better to come. So yes, I'm not good enough. And that's an exciting thought.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Dedicated to those who (think they) want to die

Why do we love the smell of rain, knowing it brings wet and cold?

Why do we long for love even as it stabs and maims?

Why do we have children, knowing they won't be ours for long?

Why does a starving child hunt for food, knowing that the pain of hunger will come back?

Why do we enjoy the view from high places, knowing that to fall is to die?

Why, even with the will to die driving us to the edge, do we allow life to call us back?

The price to pay for the joy of life is pain, but a lifetime's payment of struggle, tears and wounds is worth the reward of being alive to smell, love, eat, gaze, live.

Being so fleetingly yet blazingly alive.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What I learned from other women

When you go out with other women, dessert is not an option. It's a necessity.

It's easy to tell who are the women who are easily flattered. It's not always a bad thing, but is mildly annoying sometimes.

Women's lips are far, far softer to kiss than men's. (Don't ask me how I know. OK, fine, Truth or Dare.)

I can see when they're genuinely glad to meet me or any other new person. Upon being introduced, their eyebrows rise a little, the upper mask of their face lifts and their eyes widen, and a half-smile is already forming before they consciously tell themselves to smile at you.

If you've ever laid hands on their man or ex-man, no matter how inadvertent or understandable or far-removed in time frame, they'll never trust you.

Insecure women don't know you can tell that they're insecure because they're too busy compensating. A good friend introduced me to a pretty young thing he was interested in. The girl in question was indeed good-looking, well-dressed, and poised in a manner calculated for effect. I smiled and extended my hand to her - her response was to press her lips into a tight, terse smile and look me up and down before limply extending her hand in response. And this leads me to my next point.

Insecure women don't know you can tell when they're judging you. She was gorgeous but I disliked her within 3 seconds of meeting her. Sure enough, she turned out to be deathly insecure and attention-starved and my friend eventually saw there was no point pursuing her.

A woman doesn't have to be drop-dead gorgeous to feel confident and attractive. In a social circle I used to hang around in, there were numerous slim, impeccably-groomed, delicate-featured young ladies. However, the only woman in that group to ever make me gasp and say "Now SHE's hot" was a fleshy ah lian who didn't score high in the looks nor poise department, but could switch from chirpy to kill-em smoulder in a heartbeat, and who spoke her mind freely, devil-may-care - it was this complete belief that she was fabulous that made her so.

Most women are better people when they realise that happiness is wherever they choose to find it.

But some women are much better people when they are miserable than when they are happy.

Some women will always crave the drama. Even when everything is going their way, drama finds them eventually, somehow. (But hey, look what industry I work in. All hail the drama.)

When you're in a room with powerful women, you can't help but feel empowered yourself.

Some women do have all the answers they need - the reason they've turned to you is not to hear the answers all over again, but to have your support and a hug.

The women who end up being the ones who stick around and share your life with you aren't the ones who are just like you. They're the ones who complement you and you them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I am not a (conventional) romantic.

Don't buy me large, expensive bouquets of flowers. Instead, stroke my face with a single rose petal and mingle its scent with that of your lips and breath.

Don't take me to candlelight dinners where the waiters wear coat tails. Instead, dance with me in the dark to Sting's "When We Dance".

Don't compose ditties for me and sing them to me with guitar accompaniment. Instead, hum a soft tune in my ear on a sleepless night while you stroke my hair.

Don't write poetry for me. Instead, read my favourite poems and try to understand why I love them.

Don't repeat "I love you" every other hour. Instead, show me your vulnerability and allow me to hold you when you've had a bad day.

Don't buy me expensive lingerie and silk sheets. Instead, look into my eyes when you make love to me.

Don't open doors nor pull out chairs for me. Instead, be strong for me in times when I truly need you to be.

Don't pay for all my shopping. Instead, tell me honestly when I put on something that makes me look fat, and tell me I'm gorgeous when I put on something lovely even if it costs an arm and a leg.

Don't do everything I like and go to every place I like. Instead, show me who you are and allow us to discover our own things to do and places to go.

Don't burn yourself out trying to be Mr Super Romantic in the first months of our courtship. Instead, be my perennial best friend and partner.

Don't worship me. Instead, love me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Futility

I want many things.

I want to take back the wasted years.

I want him to give a damn about what he did to me when we ended.

I want to grab him by the collar, shake hard and demand, "How COULD you?"

I want him to feel as cheated as I did.

I want my current discontent to have died when my feelings for him died those years ago.

I want to be able to feel without fear.

I want to be able to say, "Goodbye till tomorrow" instead of just, "Goodbye."

I want to be able to remember what it is to be in love, because it scares me that I don't remember.

I want hope to stop wearing away.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Water-logged blues

The rain came back to Mother Earth in an unrelenting crystal curtain - water never forgets who it is beholden to. Wayward dancing shards momentarily defied the confines of gravity and flew horizontally under the canopy, before smugly hugging its target surface: my freshly made-up face. And my new shoes.

But an overdue date with the girls must not be deterred by heaven's sprinkler party. With dogged determination, I dialed a cab company again. A friendly drone informed me that all the taxi services had better things to do than to attend to me.

I'd squeezed into a new backless dress and 4-inch heels - no way was I going to crawl back home because of over-enthusiastic atmospheric moisture, which kept trying to fling itself at me even as I retreated further and further inside the porch canopy. I dialed another cab company, which this time decided to forgo the automated faux friendliness and simply ignore my call.

As I blessed the phone with my richest expletive, a soccer ball, apparently also trying to defy the laws of physics, zipped past my left foot, missing it by 2 inches. Its pint-sized owner scampered to retrieve it without casting me a look, before proceeding to accelerate the 22-centimetre particle through various other vectors.

As the gleeful riot of rain gathered in strength, I glanced forlornly at the time. I was hopelessly late. A loud thump to my right made me feel lucky to be alive while children are playing soccer on the porch. I attempted to book a cab again - the sooner I away with me, the less likely to experience death by ball.

Just as another irritating engaged tone emanated from my phone and my feet started to scold me for donning screw-me-shoes after a long hiatus from high-heels, I looked up in time to see the offending black-and-white sphere hurtling my way again. As I artfully dodged the soccer ball of death, I opened my mouth with the intention of curdling the child's blood with my verbal prowess, when a flash of red brought light to my rain-darkened world. The scarlet Volkswagen came to a halt and the knight in shining white shirt emerged as I jubilantly surged forth to meet him.

"Dad! Pleeeeaaaaase give me a lift?"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beauty, joy, and ghost tears

My heart is full upon being part of my dear Joy's wedding, which was smashing to say the least. Seeing her so happy, having a ball of a time with my best friend and her loved ones, and having been there at such a special time at such a place of beauty has filled me to the brim.

And I discovered that when your heart is full, you truly feel the undercurrents churning, and you realise that repression does not keep a tempest at bay.

Being at the wedding among so much joy pretty much made me realise what I had to do shouldn't be dragged on much longer, and what I truly need isn't anywhere in the vicinity. I don't want to waste weeks, months or years sticking to the easy, 'nice' path, because 'nice' will turn into 'polite', which will turn into 'toleration', and I don't want to have to find out what the next metamorphosis will be. All of us deserve more than that.

Yesterday, we drove into Patong for a quick jaunt. Whilst the rest of the trip had been a ball so far, driving through the raucous streets of Patong brought an unwelcome feeling of recognition, right before I realised why. Years after I was, and still am, over the f***er who bailed on the rest of our lives (and turned it into the rest of my life), the memories of our special moments still hurt, and Patong was witness to the very best time of our life together; for goodness' sake, his profile picture in some social networking site is still a photo I took of him as we sat in the coloured darkness of Patong's night scene. Even passing by the cabaret reminded me so acutely of those blissful days that turned out to be tainted with deceit at such a fundamental level.

I wish we hadn't gone to Patong (but am still very thankful to our kind friend who brought us there).

It hurt to think of the life I'd lost, and the life I know I want that isn't reachable currently. As we traversed the steep slopes that took us away from Patong, it took the blazingly stunning red disk of the setting sun and the resonant laughter of friends to ease the transient dull ache.

These four days mark the tail end of a long contemplation. What I'm about to do is so difficult, but the more time passes, the more the need digs its claws in.

The sadness of loss and readjustment, the liberty of having done the right thing. How does one weigh their life?

I want to choose fairness over comfort. We've done enough thinking and talking - months and months of thinking and talking. It's time to do, and do cleanly.

Somehow, all this sounds more objective than it feels.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Screw optimists

As in, why the f*** am I so optimistic all the time??

Is optimism a state which I force upon myself, or is it my real nature? I've got so much going for myself, and so little, all at the same time. Why am I afraid to show how discouraged I truly feel sometimes, how bloody scared I am?

Sometimes I'm so sick of being strong for myself. Why can't I just curl up on someone's lap and suck thumb for a few days? Why do I repress myself and put on a smile and shrug as if to say "Nevermind", when what I really wanna do is scream and punch pillows and demand to know why the f*** things are the way they are?

Why do I hold back and be diplomatic when I really wanna shove everyone else aside sometimes and yell "You do what I want for a bloody change"? Why do I insist on being selfless when I want to be friggin self-absorbed sometimes?

Why do I smile and keep taking big strides when I'm really scared and wobbly-kneed sometimes?

I'm 31 years old. Why's my career so young? Where's the straightforward path to the rest of my career? Why hasn't anyone in my family (save one) been supportive about my choices? Why hasn't a single one of my extended family come to see any of my shows, including the one who blatantly stated that being an MC (let alone the other roles in the industry) is shameful? Why are the people I care about absolutely the most in my life geographically so far away? Why wasn't I able to bloody choose what I wanted during my formative years so the path wouldn't be so darn difficult now? Where's the sizable nest egg I should have by now? Where's my six-figure CPF? Where's my soul mate? (Oh yes, he's gone and married someone else. Guess that wasn't him.) Where's that someone who'll pat me on the back and tell me I did good? Where's the person who will be strong for me? Just because I don't have as much charisma as some other people, does that make my opinion any less valid? Why does that make you think it's ok to ignore me? Why can't I get my way more often than not? Why am I so giving when what I really wanna do is take more?

Where's my sense of self-entitlement??

If this post irritates you, well TOUGH. This self-centred rant is fucking overdue. I'm done being nice for tonight. Miss Nice will probably be back tomorrow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rare food rave

I rarely, if ever, rave about food, but I gotta this time. Ray just introduced me to this great little Korean restaurant called Kim's Family Food along Lorong Kilat, just off Upper Bukit Timah Rd. It's clearly a family-run joint, and patriarch Kim himself can be seen ambling around the restaurant in a t-shirt, while the young Kim-lookalike at the counter can only be presumed to be his son.

Why am I impressed? The biggest reason is that none of the food is salty, yet tastes fantastic - it's pure and true taste without needing to pile on any salt or MSG. Just about any main order, including a humble bowl of ramen, includes the very typical Korean barrage of side dishes (we counted 14), each healthy, containing very little oil, and tasting great.

We ordered the beef and pork bulgogi sets, one with the soya bean stew and the other with spicy noodles. (We were sorry it didn't occur to us to take photos of the food before we tucked in; we saw other people doing so, though.) Now I'm really not a soup person at all, but the fragrant, slightly nutty stew is something to write home about, with clams and prawn thrown in for richer taste. The carnivore in me was more than satisfied with the very tender and rich-tasting meat in each set.

The portions are generous, and the price is very wallet-friendly for the quality we got. Our sets cost us $15 (with noodles) and $10 (with stew - yes, the one with seafood in it) respectively.

What I didn't expect, though, was that none of the food was particularly spicy. My previous experience of Korean food was littered with pretty potent spice, but I found that the "spicy" food at Kim's was extremely mild - this coming from someone who can't eat fish head curry without going through three glasses of lemon juice.

Ray had heard that one shouldn't be fooled by the term "Appetisers" in the menu. The advice was to never order those unless you had a party of four or more, and boy are they right. We didn't order any, but we did see other tables' orders - one serving of savoury pancakes filled a full-sized dinner plate.

They surprised us with an unexpected humble little dessert at the end of the meal - I didn't see any mention of it in the menu, so maybe - like the side dishes - it just comes with every meal. It comprised a slice of watermelon and a small teacup of sweet cinnamon drink. Ray didn't seem to fancy his, but I'm a sucker for cinnamon, so I totally appreciated that.

If you like good, authentic Korean food that won't cost you an arm and a leg, go try this place!

You can find Kim's Family Food at 17 Lorong Kilat, #01-06, Kilat Court, S598139, tel: 6465 0535. It's in the same complex as the Korean supermarket Lotte Mart.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Short gush

Sudden urge to blog! This is just a short gusher blog entry before I attempt a more thought-through and coherent one.

May I say that I'm so excited I could burst!

Tasks I am happy to zip through these two days:

- Buy munchies for our pantry
- Buy toner and waterproof eyeliner
- Drop off receipt to a wonderful donor (tried to find time to sit and chat with her instead of just drop-and-run, but had the happy problem of no time!)
- Get cheque to pay programme printer
- Collect tickets, label them, and leave them at front-of-house
- Pack in towels and personal dressing room kit
- Remind mother not to be too scandalised watching the show
- Remember who to have supper with on each night
- Remember to breathe

More than four months' work has come to this, with some of the dearest friends I have. I can't wait for the rest of this week to come to pass, but don't want it to end. I can't wait to be skin-drenched-soaked, costume dress flowing one moment clinging to skin the next moment, towelling off sopping wet hair frantically, watching lights bounce off water and black floor and white floor, whispering ardent prayers, freezing, perspiring, more water, candle wax, brooms, stairs, wood, bells, voices, bodies, bulging biceps, white pants, silver on black, black walls, popcorn, everything!

And beneath that effervescent excitement, a deeply gravity-bound realisation of something larger, more substantial unfolding.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Morphing is a painful business

The topic of change and transformation has been (will continue to be in the coming months) very much in the foreground of my mind.

And that was what this morning was - morphing from one thing to another. A positive end to one stage, and a wait for the next thing to evolve.

But by golly, these things feel like a regression sometimes.

Nothing is pointless, nothing is wasted, and the past 1 year and 3 months has largely been good, and I'm glad that it moved on with a lot of warmth and love. Thank you so much, my dear xiao mao.

All the same, it hurts a good deal, more than I thought it would. That picture we took on your birthday is still on the shelf and will probably take me a little while before I put it aside. The ring will sit on my counter a while more too. Know that I'm missing you so much now.

Parting at my door brought back another very unwelcome memory: the previous time I'd said a goodbye on the same spot. I'm sorry to relate the two, which have nothing to do with each other, save their cumulative effect on my state.

Experience helps to heal more quickly but doesn't numb very well. The pain of parting becomes less long-lived but more tiring each time.

I really wish I never have to do this again, knowing I will, in some form or the other; I'd just been going through a good spell the past few years. But gosh, I really do wish I'll never have to again.

"Let me not outlive my own capacity to love."
"Let me die still loving, and so, never die."
~Mary Zimmerman~

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Barrage of evening

Chilled out at the Marina Barrage for the first time on Sunday. Trying to park there is friggin insane, but once you get that behind you, I must say it's quite pleasant there - if you manage to avoid being trampled by kids running blind with kites, or not get annoyed with noisesome aunties.

The sight of the sun setting behind the city skyline was pretty cool, if not quite awesome. Ray's iphone did a decent job of capturing it. Wish I had a Canon again.
Watching kite strings get tangled was also quite entertaining. It was a nice evening.

Interestingly, some security personnel started coming by and asking people to clear the concrete path that had up to then been quite happily strolled and pranced upon by kids and couples. This was a tad puzzling, until we saw a buggy approach with a certain white-haired pseudo-monarch perched in it, waving like a celebrity as he passed. He tends to do that, doesn't he?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The IR is possibly the ugliest structure on the island, and it completely and abruptly ruins the skyline. Not sure which I hate more - what it looks like or what it represents.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surface tension above abyssal disappointment

I hope it works out. I really, really hope it works out. I deeply want it to work out.

But it's not up to just me. What are the individuals willing to do to make it work? In the words of a wise friend, are we committed enough to do whatever it takes to make it work?

But it's not up to just one. Or two. Or three.

Steamrollers can flatten a few feet of terrain. But a steamroller can't level a mountain.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Not-so-final message

Last night, I was waiting for a mild migraine-cum-allergy-headache to ebb before going to sleep. I started stretching in bed, when a very sudden and intense pain blasted through my head. It felt like someone clamped on a really, really, really tight steel headband and kept tightening it. It slowly lowered in intensity but took residence in the right side of my head.

It was so sudden and unique in my experience that I was genuinely worried it was an aneurism. I was worried enough that I actually started typing a last message on my phone via the compose-SMS function so that someone might see it when they walked in in the morning and found me dead. And then, typical me, decided to play it safe and saved it under Drafts and re-opened it under the edit function so it could still be easily found and read without getting deleted accidentally, but without having to pay for sending it to someone. Anal retentive to the last, eh.

But anal retentiveness aside, what that did was make me think about who I wanted to say "I love you" to the most, and I've got my list down. I'm happy to say it's a good-sized list, and all of the people listed already know they're loved by me.

I also know what to say about my life at this moment, distilled down to three sentences. All three are good ones.

And, of course, I had to mention I'm a full organ donor, just in case my heart hadn't stopped yet when I was found.

I'm glad it isn't a final message after all. But I'm more glad about what it's made me think about.

I ended with a more pensive last thought, though.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Non-permanance

Events of recent weeks have brought the idea of permanance, or lack thereof, to mind (and heart).

Just over 3 years ago, I was intensely mourning the loss of a permanance I assumed I had, permanance that I'd spent a lifetime preparing for, confident I wouldn't settle for less than what I deserved. Turns out, I deserved far more than that.

Upon reflection, I realise I had known deep down that I would be settling if I'd gone with that permanant state as it was. Questions of what-if and what-else-out-there had been softly flitting through my head, and I silenced them. I believed what it had was precious enough to supercede any possible doubts I had. And as that turned out, it wasn't I who had the doubts, in the end.

Towards the end of that episode 3 years ago, the one who will remained unnamed said, someone told him that if you don't get married within the first two or three years of the relationship, it gets really hard.

What if he'd popped the question early, before the spot appeared and festered in his heart? What if I'd said yes, as I was likely to have?

The more I think about it, the luckier I feel right now.

It was the loss of this permanence that solidified my awareness of what I truly wanted.

But back to events relating non-permanence of recent weeks.

Trust was broken for someone rather close to me, and a beefy person out there is on probation while they see if there is some glue out there that could possibly mend something so thoroughly shattered.

And then there's another entity infinitely closer that has a definite but undefined conclusion. But sometimes, non-permanance is not a bad thing at all.

Acknowledging that non-permanent nature brought the gladness that comes with meeting someone at a crossroad, glad to have arrived at the same point at the right time. Knowing there's so much to love and enjoy within a finite time brings a richness in each others' company, and a strong desire to embrace each moment.

Sometimes, non-permanence teaches you things, and makes you cherish the present so much more. It can bring you closure. It can undo a knot inside you. It can release you.

Some say it leaves emptiness behind after it's done breaking you. I say it's empty only if you tip all the contents out and don't learn a thing. It breaks you only if you let it.

Here's to every moment, my dear.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dry, mute tears

The kind of tears you shed for a friend when it's theirs and not your heart that's broken, though you wish you could take their pain and spread some on yourself so they don't hurt so badly.

Just spent some time with good friends, one of whom has been abominably hurt. The noise we made was pregnant and silent, and once again we found ourselves with the iceberg syndrome, where what you saw (or, rather, heard) was only the tip of everything else that was there but had no decibel rating. A perpetual group hug even as we sat separately in different spots in the room.

[The trouble with being an introvert is trying to gauge the balance between being an active friend (versus a passive one) and avoiding being intrusive. I wish I'd know what I could do to ease their pain. But that's self-conscious babble. This is not about me.]

How to be a friend when shit happens.

Sometimes you can be there as a shock absorber and topical analgesic.

Sometimes you can be there for them when they need a sounding board.

Sometimes you can be there for advice (when asked).

Sometimes there's nothing to say, and no need - you can be there as silent but sure support, a reminder of how much they're still loved by you, even if it's not the kind of love they have just lost.

Lots of other kinds of love is still better than love betrayed.

We love you, dear.


P.S. We ate your cake, MoFo. And it was GOOOOOOOD.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ancient Egypt at the museum


Went to see the Quest for Immortality - The World of Ancient Egypt exhibition at the National Museum a couple of weeks ago. Fascinating, of course, as with all things ancient Egyptian. I wish it'd been a more comprehensive exhibition, but they travelled all this way to humid, humid Singapore, I'm just glad to have seen it.

Among the busts displayed (that is, statues, not boobs, you dirty minded things), this was my favourite for its shadows and un-empty spaces where bits of it had come off.


I really like the effect of incomplete images and likeness, the suggestion of so much more than you're able to perceive. A partial likeness is so much greater than the sum of its hidden parts.


A little coffin for a little beetle. OK, the beetle was not that little. Apparently, some species of scarabs grow to 17cm in length, but I'm not sure what size Egyptian scarabs typically were (but I'm sure they were big).

A crocodile mummy! A really small crocodile mummy.

And of course, jewellery caught my eye from afar.


Check out the neat detailing on the necklace charms.

The attempt to blend in didn't work like we planned. We should've brought our own white towels and knee-high boots.

What caught my eye about this one is the expression on the figurine's face.




The beyond-prolific symbolism is pretty mind-blowing. Found myself fascinated by the recurring theme of raising the dead one's feet and head above the earth, like the platform painted into the inside of the coffin beneath the feet.

We didn't need to be told these were servant figurines.


Where your vitals go after you die. Not your brain, though.

Scarab charm on the mummy's wrappings.

Pages from one Book of the Dead. No harm ever came from reading a book, right?

Charms and more charms. Love the one at the bottom - it's made to resemble two fingers.

One of the fun activities at the start of the exhibition: either shade and decipher hieroglyphs (which we had no time for and didn't want to fight with the horde of students hogging the display), or fold your very own pyramids. The product of mine and Raymond's origami fingers.

The exhibition is on till 18 April.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another goodbye

Today I stood at the open window in the room that had been converted from an open balcony in 1988, the same spot where I'd stand the night before Christmas, waiting for carollers to pass by so I could shout "Merry Christmas!". I stood there, taking in the suddenly extraordinarily beautiful view, and I cried.


The house at Begonia Terrace had finally been sold, and we'd been making the final excavations before handing over the house in a few days' time.

I had to go back one more time.

I opened all the doors upstairs, and I walked through all the rooms, and I let the afternoon light into the dim hallway. I entered the master bathroom and was reminded how much I miss having a bathtub, and thought about the amount of fun I had wasting time and splashing water in that bathtub as a kid.

I paused at my old bedroom, noting the places where furniture had been, and where it still was. I saw that my postcards and pictures had been removed from the dressing mirror. I opened my old closets and saw that the only thing left in it was a tiny picture of Tom Cruise in the movie The Firm that I had pasted behind the closet door when I was 14. I pushed aside the curtain and looked out my bedroom window, the same one that once let moonlight through to fall on my face as I lay in bed looking up.

I didn't realise I'd forgotten to look at the mirror behind my bedroom door till now.

I entered the kitchen, the only room in the house with a hideous colour scheme (because it was the one room my dad had been allowed to decorate). I realised what a great kitchen it was and still is. In spite of the glaring banana yellow cabinets and mucky green tiled floor, it was cheerful and very comfortably oriented. I suddenly loved that I had tried to play hopscotch on that tiled floor, that the oven never worked, that the fridge surface was stained from all the magnets that had clung to it. I loved that it had another door that led to the backyard. I'd never noticed how spacious the backyard was because it was usually half covered with clothes hanging out to dry on bamboo poles.

I closed the doors, recognising all the unique sounds each door makes, missing the metallic twitching sounds those old doorknobs make when I twist them.

I walked down the stairs, remembering how, as a kid, I'd try to climb down the stairs on just the banisters without getting caught by my mum, and how I'd sometimes take my toys and play under the stairs. I saw the odd spot on the wall where they'd decided to paint the wall around the piano rather than move it.

I'd also forgotten to look at the beige marble floor downstairs, where little me used to love to scan it and fancy I saw shapes of objects and people in the marble swirls, the way some people like to identify shapes in clouds. Those marble swirls were my clouds.

I walked through the garden, where the big ixora shrubs and some trees were still flourishing, even though our other garden residents had faded. I looked at the empty spot where the old mango tree had been cut down years ago because it stopped fruiting, and the other empty spot where the guava tree had also been chopped when it became diseased; its guavas sometimes grew bigger than my head. I looked at our beautiful rambutan tree - my dad remarked that this year's harvest would have been great as he'd been fertilising it well the past months; I drew some little comfort in that the new owner had said he wants to keep the tree.


I passed the two rusting bicycles - I'd learnt how to cycle on the blue one with the basket, and I'd spent my teenhood zooming through Seletar Hills and pedalling to piano lessons on the large black mountain bike. I'd spent so much time roaming the estate on that bike, learning every lane, conquering (almost) every slope and discovering the sweaty, achy way why the Hills were named so.

I looked over the last of the stuff we were not going to take with us, and fought to resist taking many of them with me. Obvious as it was, I regretted that we couldn't take the huge grandfather's clock with us, even though it'd stopped working 15 years ago. Instead, I grabbed some books that I'd forgotten and walked out the front door onto the porch.

On my way out of the driveway, I paused at the front gate, briefly pondering the countless memories and life landmarks that took place at that exact spot. How can one tiny geographical spot contain so much of a person's life, hold so much value?

The gate was shut and locked, and I turned away, feeling the tears come up again and pushing them down. As I pulled away down a street that is beyond familiar, I turned back for a last incomplete glance, and said my silent goodbye to my real home.


I love that old house the way a dog owner loves his mangy old mongrel. It's hard to let go, knowing no one who comes after will love it the way I do. It's old, has cracks in the paint, pieces of parquet flooring that insists on coming loose, probably still a leak somewhere, old fashioned interior, lopsided roof on one side (thanks to my neighbour). And knowing that the new owner will not love it for what it is and will probably modify it drastically, if not tear it down completely and rebuild, breaks my heart.

After we'd moved out 6 years ago, I still had dreams, both good and bad, about that house, in the various rooms, in the garden, on the streets hugging the house. No one can live and grow up in one place for 23 years and not have it echo and haunt and insist on its place in your consciousness. I sometimes still dream about that house.

Like losing a loved one, goodbye is never enough.