Viva la freedom: my personal anthem

For some strange reason, words seem to flow out of me better at night, which is why I reserve most of my heart-to-heart chats for after sundown. Last night for instance, His Royal Highness had a tete-a-tete about what I want out of life. Even to my husband, of all people, I seem utterly directionless.

“And don’t tell me it’s about your writing,” he said.

“But it is,” I insisted.

I write for pleasure and as such, can rework a tract or an entire piece countless times until it pleases me to stop. I love the freedom inherent in creating something from scratch. Actually, I just love freedom, period. It is the singularly most cherished attribute of my entire existence and anyone who tries to rob me of it, I take offence with.

My need to protect my right to determine my own path, has seen me verbally duel with family, friends, well-meaning or simply obnoxious acquaintances. Strangers can’t care less what you want to do with your life. Maybe because they know that whatever they say won’t impact your decision anyway. People who know you make two mistakes: firstly, they think your choice is a reflection of the values they share with you and as such, if your choice is supposedly a bad one, it therefore reflects poorly on them. Secondly, they think you must be myopic in some way to think, act, feel or espouse the values you do. They think you haven’t considered all the facts. That your a dreamer, utopian or perhaps just plain crazy.

For the first, I itch to refer them to this poem I found at 18, on the first page of Please Understand Me 2 by David Kiersey, which reads:

If I do not want what you want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong.

Or if I believe other than you, at least pause before you correct my view.

Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more, given the same circumstances,

try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly.

Or yet if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, let me be.

I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me.

That will come only when you are willing to give up changing me into

a copy of you.

I may be your spouse, your parent, your offspring, your friend, or your colleague.

If you allow me any of my own wants, or beliefs, or actions, then you open your-

self, so that someday these wants of mine might not seem so wrong, and might

finally appear to you as right – for me.

To put up with me is the first step in understanding me. Not that you embrace

my ways as right for you, but that you are no longer irritated or disappointed

with me for my seeming waywardness.

And in understanding me you might come to prize my differences from

you, and far from seeking to change me, preserve and even nurture those


 For the second, I also refer them to this poem.

His Royal Highness and I went on to talk about what freedom means to me and why I am willing to go to any lengths to protect mine; even going so far as to cut off anyone who threatens it.

This may be the wrong place to talk about it, but my love of freedom, can be seen in my birth chart. I have Uranus, planet of freedom, rebellion, sudden changes, earthquakes and all manner of disruption situated on my ascendant, the image I project to the world, aspecting, or in relationship with all my personal planets. So even though I am no Aquarian, I am Uranian through and through. Mine is the song the multitudes sang when they stormed the Bastille in 1789 and when they broke through the Berlin Wall  in 1989, 200 years later.

“I feel suffocated by the imposition of other people’s expectations on me,” I told HRH.

Most Asians take this imposition quietly. They are ideal children, then ideal spouses, then ideal relatives to their in-laws. Me? I was purportedly a difficult child (refer to story about my cousin), have been labelled a child by my spouse and don’t give a flying fuck about my in-laws. Lack of physical space I can deal with but I feel stifled when I have to conform to all the should and should nots propounded by someone else. That’s why I also reject religion. I think it’s all the years of doing things I don’t want to do: ten years of piano, four years of accounting, being dragged all around the country after marriage.

I don’t think it shows a weak-will, rather the opposite; it’s by having an extremely strong will that I’ve managed to subordinate my countless urges to do other things. I’ve made myself do the things I have no interest in. Now I only want to what I want to do. How can you call yourself a free man or woman otherwise? If you allow your thoughts and actions to be dictated by someone else, then you are no freer than a jailbird.




The unexpected romantic meal.

Amanda is quite the character. The other night, before her father left us to go for a drug-company dinner she made him help her with one of those Science Kits you get for $15 from K-mart. I have no clue what its about, since I was happily surfing the net at the time, but I noticed it involved stirring something green and turning off the lights at the end.

She kept asking us, “So does it glow?”

“Yes, yes,” said her father, he too now immersed in his computer.

“But I don’t see it,” she said, bringing a dish with two tablespoons of gloop to us.

By now we were all in total darkness, with the only light coming from our computer screens.

“It’s glowing. You just need to charge it up,” said her father.

So on went the lights again. After 5 minutes, She repeated the same thing, turning off all the lights and asking us the green mixture, now pressed into moulds, glow.

“More light,” said her father. “It will glow with more light.”

He dressed up and went out ultra-bouyant in anticipation of a jolly good meal at one of Brisbane’s top Chinese restaurants.

“Don’t worry mummy,” said Amanda, wrapping her arms around me. “Our meal will be better than his.”

I smiled back at her. She always knows just what to say to make me feel loved.

“I’m making a vegetable Frittata,” I said, turning my attention back to the stovetop where I had chopped up onion wilting away.

I saw her busy setting the table. When I set our plates laden of Frittata down, I noticed tea towels folded into triangles at the side of our cutlery. I had hardly taken a bite when she turned off all the lights again!

“Amanda, I can’t see what I’m eating,” I called to her from our table.

“It’s more romantic that way,” she said.

“But I can’t see anything. Your mother’s old and she’s going blind.”

I saw a light go on in next room, and heard things being pushed around.

“Better now?” she asked coming to join me. “I wanted us to have a romantic dinner.  These here,” she pointed to the two green lumps from earlier, “are our candles.”

She surveyed the table, seemingly proud of her handiwork.

“I told you we’d have a better meal than Papa. All that’s missing is a rose in the middle to complete our romantic meal,” she said, beaming at me.









Parent politics: dealing with an aggro person at school.

Being a veteran volunteer of school trips, I readied myself to tag along with Amanda’s class to the Pullenvale Environmental Education Centre (PEEC) this morning. Upon arriving at class, I was told that I wouldn’t be needed because of the two trainee teachers going. I turned to leave for home and that’s when I saw D, who I haven’t been speaking to since March.

I know I’ve written about refraining from cliquish behaviour but D really rubs me up the wrong way. Unlike most Asians, I refuse to tolerate aggravation until I grow a stomach ulcer. I let people know where the boundaries are and if they overstep them then, do be warned that I bite. Similarly, I respect other people’s right to privacy and refrain from hounding them with questions that are intrusive, condescending or potentially upsetting.

I ask people thought-provoking questions about sensitive matters, but only after they have indicated that they are comfortable for the conversation to progress. 

D showed me no such courtesy. Like all schoolyard associations, ours began when our kids started at Amanda’s current school 2 years ago. We traded the normal hellos and good morning and once, I hosted her and another mother at my house. We got along swimmingly fine.

The following year, we went out for lunch, where she introduced me to some ladies who attended the same kindy as her daughter. In typical no-holds-barred, fresh-off-the-boat fashion, they asked if I had work done. “Work” being a euphemism for plastic surgery.

“No,” I said. “I’m born this way.”

They were all very friendly but I could see they were irked by how much unlike them I was. Even though my colouring isn’t noticeably different to theirs, my nose has a bridge, my eyes are more deep-set, I have protruding brow-bones where they have layers of fat, I have flatter cheekbones, a much sharper jawline and close up, very fine head hair. For any one of them to look like me, she’d need a Dawn Yang or Xia Xue or any one of those girls type makeover. You’re looking at full-scale plastic surgery on the face.

I had to reassure them that this is how God made me, as everyone kept eyeing me strangely. D said I was being oversensitive. I asked her how she’d like it if people thought her precious Marc Jacobs bags were fake. She said it sounded like a compliment.

I said, “You mean its a compliment to plonk down thousands on something and someone come up to you and ask you if you got it off a side-street in Asia?”

We went out a few more times, during which time the earlier conversation was forgotten. It seemed like she enjoyed orchestrating these get-togethers simply to show off as everyone around the table put up with her constant chatter about Louis Vuitton police and property. She attended even the humblest of such meetings dripping in diamonds.

She loved everyone knowing how rich she supposedly is, how she has to stop her ex from getting her money and what a drag her two daughters are on her lifestyle. On a couple of occasions, she suggested we go clubbing.

“Who minds your daughters?” I asked her.

“My parents.”

Indeed, for a whole year, I only ever saw her mother pick up and drop off her daughters at school. Even though she could have them after school, she dumped them most days in after-school care and advised me to do the same with Amanda. During school holidays, she dumped them in vacation care while she went gallivanting around Europe for weeks.

One day, out of the blue, she started sending me messages via facebook. She said she was sick of being a housewife. I thought it was an amusing comment since one has to be a wife to be a housewife. I’d call her a stay-at-home mum, but she clearly doesn’t stay home and her mother is the one who mothers her kids.

“What are you going to do now that Amanda is getting older?” she asked me.

“I write,” I said. “I’ve been writing for the past 5 years. It’s what I like doing.”

“Oh, do you mean you want to be a full-time writer?” her tone one of derision.

“I am a full-time writer.”

“But what do you want to do about money?”

“I have more than enough.”

She went on to say that one of her girlfriends was married to a very rich man but he suddenly contracted a serious illness, forcing them into dire straits. 

“Really, I’m fine,” I said. “I’m covered for any such eventualities.”

“But what about the other things? Life won’t always be so rosy, you know? Don’t you want to get out there and make money? I want to retire young and live it up etc…”

Frankly, if you ask my husband, he’d tell you I’m already retired and living it up. God, please don’t live in an area full of people in the arts, people who spend years on what looks to non-artistic types to  be fruitless pursuits if you are going to get your panties in a bunch over them wasting time. Perhaps she thought I was living off her taxes.

“FYI it’s MY husband’s taxes that’s keeping you at home, instead of the other way around,” I told her. “If you are so bored, why don’t you volunteer in your kids’ classes instead?” 

She was disdainful of volunteering so I asked her to quit hassling me. She tried a different tack, saying she was independent, in need of no man to support her etc. That may be true but in this day and age, rare is a man who CAN support a family without the help of a woman. Most women work because they have to, not because they want to. I consider what I do work because it is what occupies my time between 9am and 3pm; except there is no pay.

The last bit is a concept that’s very hard for the average non-artistic person to grasp. Well, it’s like starting a business. There will be X number of years before you turn a profit, if you turn a profit. Most businesses fail within the first 5 years and similarly, many artists bow to the pressures of paying bills and raising families. The lucky few will soldier on, to inspire those fallen behind to pick up their pens or paintbrushes or whatever else they express their creativity with, at some point in the future. There’s no use telling this to the Ds of the world because they can’t or as I’ve discovered, won’t, see it from your perspective. All they’ll see are endless opportunities to tell you how to live your life, loathing it if you should decide to do the same back to them.








Have you HUGGED your heart/liver/gall bladder etc today?

I have an ulcer the size of Texas in my mouth, but all I can think of is that darn vein just above my left eyebrow. Can’t see it? Check out the picture of me with His Royal Highness during his 40th birthday. You’ll see it snaking above the bridge of my nose there, along with its other siblings.

Since I’m still identifying options to remove the critter, I’ve gone ahead and named it Barney. My logic is I might as well get comfortable with the offending vein, seeing as how I am at its mercy. Hopefully the thing has an ego, and will decide to do me the favour of staying hidden most of the time. Otherwise we’ll have to bring out the big canons: sclerotherapy or lasers. I was going to puff up the area with injectables but apparently it can make the problem more pronounced.

I first noticed Barney and his siblings on my father’s face some 3 years ago.

“Why are you frowning?” I asked my father at the time.

“I’m not frowning,” said he.

“It looks like you’re frowning,” I insisted.

Now, to my chagrin, Barney has migrated to my face, where he seems most comfortable. He’s all I think about even when I am down with some kid from school’s bug, nursing high fevers Friday night and the whole of Saturday. In my sleep, I dream of a beautiful, cold, needle killing him softly with saline or whatever solution they use to make veins disappear.

My obsession must concern His Royal Highness because he attempts to lecture me in his roundabout way. He usually disguises what he has to say to me in story, so as to make the message more palatable. He knows how opposed I am to the the imposition of other people’s values on mine, and so, only attempts the alter my view in the subtlest of ways.

“People neglect their bodies all the time,” he says, as we are driving from one part of Sunnybank to another part of Sunnybank, where we go most weekends.

“No, no, I never neglect any part of me,” I say. “I love myself fully and truly.”

Indeed, I won a gold medal at this year’s Olympics for Narcissist, where I have been a medal contender for years.

“But when was the last time you had a look between your elbows?”

“Just now, while I was rolling up my sleeves.”

“Or the back of your knees?”

“Hhhmmm…you got me there. I haven’t checked the back of my knees in a while.”

“That’s just your knees and they help you to walk. Have you thanked them lately for helping you to walk?”

I’m thinking aliens must have kidnapped His Royal Highness and replaced him with Tony Robbins or one of the gurus from “The Secret.”

“Most of my patients don’t even think about their gall bladders, until I’m about to remove theirs. Suddenly, they want to know what it is for.”

I gasp. It sounds just like me. “What is a gall bladder for?” I ask.

I’m suddenly afraid for all these body parts I have, whose functions I’m ignorant of, whose lifespans I always assumed to be the same as mine, but as His Royal Highness shows, is clearly not the case. What am I to do, if one of them wants to pack up and move back to China?

“And there you are, worried over a tiny little vein on your face. Have you given your kidneys or liver or pancreas a pat to say, ‘Good job. Thanks for helping me to live’?”

“No,” I say quietly.

I never expected the need to. I always expected them to be just there for me, working optimally, uncomplainingly, day in day out, until I expire. Obviously, like all relationships, that with your body is a two-way street and my expectations for my organs far exceed any care I’m giving them. Having said that, I’m sure I’m by no means alone in my negligence. Hands up – and be honest now – how many of you have given your heart/liver/lungs (fill in the blanks) a big hug today? 




Baby names: mining for luck.

Two of my dearest friends are having their first baby. The wife, has asked me what to name the child, a girl. Like all unabashed narcissist out there, I offer her my own. Mine has always felt alien to me, but it might just suit someone else – someone less feisty, I imagine, who looks a lot like Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations or that girl whose swimsuit pictures flood the screen whenever you type in my first name.

I have a Chinese name, known only to close friends or very observant people, which I’ve almost never used. X, my friend whom I play translator for, wanted to refer to me by it, but I told her, “Please don’t. I won’t even know who you’re calling when you say that name.”

I can write it out, my squiggles looking like the scratchings of a chicken looking for worms. It’s the least I can do after attending two year’s worth of Chinese language tuition as a child. Amanda has yet to progress to that stage and doesn’t respond to her Chinese name either. I’m beginning to think that like me, her Chinese name will only be for show.

So what inspired me to name Amanda, Amanda? This was some 8 years ago, back in the days when we used to rent a house with 20 chipped tiles in the kitchen, covered over with a woven mat, had a microwave my one-time cleaner said was the cheapest model she had ever seen – mine cost $20 – and lived from pay-check to pay-check because His Royal Highness was putting his sister through university and subsidising half of his hometown because his father loved, and still does, to live large.

My mother had taught me that Chinese believe no 3 generations are rich, just as no 5 generations are poor; that each generation improves on the one before it. However, my living conditions with His Royal Highness, the worst of any in our immediate circle of friends, was far from an improvement for me. I spent the first 8 years of my life in a middle-class, white-collared, neighbourhood, in a terrace house with 4 good-sized bedrooms and 3 attached bathrooms, a huge backyard that I played badminton with my brother occasionally in, or sailed newspaper boats down the drain on rainy days.

What I wanted was a better childhood for my unborn child, as befitting her father’s yet unrealised earning capacity, especially after the one-time cleaner snickered, “And your husband is a doctor, ah?” pointing to my sad, second-hand, no-frills-model, microwave.

Being the typical woman that I am – all women being to some degree aspirational creatures – I latched onto the idea of naming my unborn child after someone whose lifestyle, rather than life, I admire. After all, there are many people whose lifetime achievements are highly laudable – Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, being two of them – but do we want starvation or prolonged detention for our children? Me thinks not. Better to aim lower and look around us to people who enjoy all the comforts of this world.

My untrained eyes happened upon Amanda’s namesake, then an intern at the country hospital His Royal Highness was at. So, why her? If I wanted to name my daughter after a mere doctor, surely there are countless others to choose from. What great attribute did she have for me to want to name my first born, and as it turns out, only child, after her?

She had an extremely good life; a charmed life by all accounts. 

Hearing this, someone once scoffed at me and said, “But that’s like naming my child Bill in the hopes of him being as rich as Gates.”

“But is your surname Gates?” I asked the person. “Amanda’s surname is the same as the other Amanda’s surname. Her father too is a doctor, like the other Amanda’s.”

I almost didn’t name Amanda, Amanda, because one of His Royal Highness’ friends told us that his ex, then also pregnant, was going to also name her unborn child Amanda. “Perhaps you might consider naming yours Mandy, instead,” she said.

Why should I have to change whatever I was going to name my child? This was after all, my child. However, it did give me some food for thought so I went back to the drawing board for a while, mulling over my other options.

“How about Phoebe?” I asked my mother.

“Phoebe sounds feeble,” she said. “We don’t want feeble.”

No, we don’t. As I said, woman are aspirational. My mother named me after her divorce lawyer, then, one of the few female barristers in the U.K. My namesake won her the custody of my elder sisters.

I bought a baby book for $5.99 from one of the bargain bins around Clayton, where we lived. I only needed 1 decent name, but what the heck, I might as well peruse all 10 thousand of them. You can tell I never do anything by halves.

In the end I went back to Amanda because we bumped into her namesake in the middle of Melbourne. She too was dining at the same Chinese restaurant, sporting diamond earrings the size of my middle fingernail. She greeted us as though we were chums and remarked on my heaving belly. This must be a sign, I thought to myself. Of all the people to run into in Melbourne, a city of over 4 million, we run into her. Amanda it shall be then.

Six days after Amanda’s birth, we were granted permanent residence (PR). Considering we’d been conned by a PR agent, moved to New Zealand and back, and reapplied for PR again, this was a huge coup for us. Eight months later, we bought our first home and two months after that, His Royal Highness got into advance training, just when he thought he was going to have to wait another year, especially with the build-up of eligible candidates; there being 1 position going for every 5 applicants.

I am convinced Amanda brought us luck; she is in most respects luckier than either of us. But her father also says insists that he has worked very hard to get where he is, a point I do not dispute. The thing about luck is that half of it is given and the other half is self-made. Either only gets you so far.

It’s like writing. Of all the books you see on the shelves, why are some best-sellers and others not? Is it the talent of the author or is it luck that has propelled E L James Fifty Shade of Grey – by most accounts, a middling novel – to its top spot on best-sellers lists? A cursory glance will tell you it has numerous competitors, others much better written.

This is luck and as far as names goes, the name Amanda has been lucky for us. It might not be lucky for someone else. Having said that, the greatest luck is being blessed with a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child. Everything else is a bonus.






HRH’s response to my apology

So how did yesterday’s grovelling go? Not so good, I’m afraid. I showed His Royal Highness the post I dedicated to him and all he said was, “Why is that name still there?” Then several decibels louder, “Why is that bloody F*&^ing name still there?”

“It’s just part of writing, to allow the reader to know who and what I am referring to.”

“Well, why did you write it?”

“What do you mean? Should I have just left him there?”

“You could have just ignored him.”

“I could have, but I don’t want this person sharing my life, even remotely through my blog.”

“Why didn’t you just send him a personal message instead?”

“I didn’t want to correspond personally with him. Look, I want nothing with him.”

I’d UNFRIENDED him on facebook a while ago but he hadn’t gotten the hint. Besides, he isn’t the only ex I have. I wanted that post to act as a deterrent against any exs contacting me; there have been a number. Some have wanted to take trips down memory lane. Thus I welcome all to my blog, except anyone I’ve had a romantic relationship with.

I could see that further discussion would only inflame His Royal Highness, so I ignored him and set about re-reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”, a quintessential novel of the migrant experience, trying to forget whatever was ailing the both of us. His Royal Highness perused a couple of articles in the news, using Amanda’s Ipad, then took himself to bed.

I have no idea whether he was asleep of simply avoiding me as I left him alone while I immersed myself further in the disconcerting experience of inhabiting two worlds but living fully in neither. Doubtless, as a first-generation migrant, this is something I have an intimate knowledge of, but reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s gloriously full-coloured version of it, made me feel like there was someone else who fathoms the inherent duality of living abroad as much as I do; you are a part of your adopted country, but very much still a part of the country from which you came and that experience, even though it bestows a unique perspective, is at times alienating.

When Amanda returned from Chinese class, knowing no more words than before she left for it,  His Royal Highness clucked to her from the bed. Perhaps it was her presence, but he was in a less malevolent mood than before. He begrudgingly joined us for porridge at the dinner cum study table and just as I was beginning to think myself excused from the post two days prior, he said, “Where are the vegetables? Where are they?”

Fine. So I traipsed over to the fridge and dug out the spinach. I emptied the lot into a bowl and blitz the living daylights out of it in the microwave. Then I doused the shrunken green mass in olive oil and kecap manis. “There,” I said, plonking the bowl down in front of him.

Two can play this game. If you want to ignore me, then I’ll just ignore you. I ate up, took my bowl to the sink, then topped up Amanda’s bowl with more porridge after she dropped her meat on the floor en-route to the pot. She still refuses to eat meat and eggs.

“Can we go to the gym?” asked Amanda, some time later.

I was still in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Boston, surrounded by Bengalis, dining on a fabulous curry or ten. The protagonist was throwing a 6-month-old, transitioning to solids, party for her son.

“You can go with your mother,” offered His Royal Highness.

“But I don’t want to go. I’m reading a book.”

“Please, please, you should exercise,” she said. She proudly tells anyone who will listen that she works out more often than both her parents.

“Ok, ok,” I reluctantly agreed, taking my keys from my handbag and picking up the Ipad to go.

“I’ll see you downstairs in 10 minutes,” said His Royal Highness.

In the gym, I attempted to pedal while holding the Ipad. Amanda started on the rowing machine, then moved on to the big rubber ball. Beats me what it’s for. When I got off the bike, I noticed a poster with someone on the ball with the words, “Don’t hurt your back.”

Perhaps they should say the same thing about the weights. By then, Amanda was tugging on a bar attached to a chain, attached to the weights. “See how strong your baby is,” she said to me. “I can get the weight all the way up there.”

His Royal Highness strode into the room. He was still refusing to talk to me. I continued rowing, oblivious to his frostiness. After another couple of minutes, I decided to go upstairs.

“I’m leaving, Amanda,” I said, before going out the door.

“Ok,” she said.

It must have been boring without me there, because they came up minutes later. At nine thirty, I decided to call it a night. I was beat from running around the whole day.

“Good night,” I said to His Royal Highness, my face inches from his.

His demeanour softened. “You may kiss me,” he said.

“Say please.”

“No please. You may kiss me.” See, that there, is why he’s called His Royal Highness. If he were a cartoon character, he’d be The Lion King, standing proudly over his kingdom.

“Say please,” I said, inching closer.

He turned his cheek up to me in response and seeing as this was as close as I was going to get to a royal pardon, I leaned forward and gave him a quick peck.

“Good night,” he said and I skipped off to bed.

Fingers crossed, he’ll be in an improved mood today, the incident completely forgotten. If not, you might have to send me care packages to eat in my dog house.







The Ghost of Boyfriend Past.

Perhaps spurred on by my single oblique reference to him, my first boyfriend, Michael, has LIKED By Estella Dot Com’s page on facebook. While I welcome readers from anywhere and everywhere, it perplexes me that someone with whom I have no discernible mutual interest wants to read all about me. The last I checked, Michael was all about the money, with nothing but derision and scorn for the less practical among us; yours truly included.

Granted, we’ve both grown older since we broke up in 1999, but why now and why me? Do you make it a habit of staying in touch with all your ex-girlfriends or do the others not have a blog? Friends tell me that being affected by one’s ex is a sure sign of still holding a torch for him or her but I beg to disagree. I, for one, lack the necessary motivation to maintain an association fraught with painful reminders of the past and staying connected, however remotely, exposes me to that. 

I get that you’re curious to know how I’ve done, especially since you taught me a lot of what I know about relationships. “There’s no romance without money,” you once said and having lived long enough to experience a weekend with $2 in the bank, I totally agree. You also once said that Australia is no place to get rich, and having been here over a decade, I must agree with that too. But unlike you, there’s more to me than money, which you would have realised if you had paid any attention to what I had said while we were together.

In hindsight, we never should have dated. You were too old for me, or for a first boyfriend at any rate, and as exciting as Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James makes the experience of dating a rich, worldly, older man out to be, I found it highly depressing: it exposed me to a world of cynical adults, jaded with life, which at 18, I wasn’t ready for.

I was also unprepared for how manically jealous I would feel about you keeping my predecessors photos by your bedside. Until today, I can’t go pass a pair of black handled metal scissors without recalling the day I shredded your precious mementoes, one by one. The perverse part was that I knew even then that I was going to dump you, once I’d worked up the courage to accept what I’d been avoiding: that I didn’t love you.

Throughout our one and a half years, I had not even come close to being vaguely attracted to you. I thought that these things improve with time, but I was wrong. In the years that followed, I came to realise that my frenzied outburst was a direct counterpoint to the unexpressed anger I felt towards myself, at giving myself to you. I’ve since become a lot more self-aware and self-preserving, and in doing so, spared many the angst you have gone through. Now, if someone fails to hold my interest, I simply walk away. I suggest you do the same.


My worst nightmare: men who kill their wives.

Last night I had the mother of all nightmares. Mind you, my dreams usually feature a tsunami or two, angels, and deceased Cantopop stars, so on a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 10. Perhaps it was induced by all the arse-burning sambal I consumed on Friday and Saturday, and the conversation I had with my friend, Janaki, as she drove us down to the Gold Coast. Her husband, Mehan, was riding with His Royal Highness and Amanda.

Let’s cover this dream first, so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I am travelling downhill via bullock-cart along a bumpy country road. The next thing I know, I am in my friend’s house where she promptly informs me that my boyfriend is a serial killer and he’s left all his hacked bits around as usual. She thought I needed to know – that he is so messy. And she would appreciate it if he were to clean up after himself.

Right, good thing she’s telling me so I don’t end up as a hacked bit too. No, we wouldn’t want that. Whaddaya know? I hear crazy serial killer boyfriend in the house.

“Quick,” she says passing me a dress and shoving me into the shoe closet. “Get dressed. You’re supposed to be going out for dinner. You don’t want to make him mad.”

Certainly, now that I know he’s a serial killer. Where did I put that pepper spray?

“Oh honey, I’m home,” he says to me in a silky voice on the other side of the door.

Why is there no button on the door handle to push in?  I spy a bolt and just before he can open the door, I slide it across, my heart almost breaking out of my rib cage. I can see him through a small gap between the door and the wall. Who built this stupid house?

“I can still see you,” he says in a slow spine-chilling drawl. “What are you doing in there?”

“I am uh…getting changed. I’ll be out in 5 minutes.”

God, where is the phone? Where is the police? My heartbeat is now deafening. In the far distance I can hear something ringing. Thank God it’s my mobile phone’s alarm. It’s 7am. I bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat.

I don’t know how we ended up talking about serial killers, but Janaki and I are of the agreement that being killed by one’s husband is the worse fate that can befall a woman. Yes, I think I remember now. We were discussing that poor woman, Allison Baden-Clay, whose husband, Gerard Baden-Clay, has been accused of killing her. She was a mother of three, much loved by the community in which they lived and he was a respected realtor, Lord Baden-Powell’s great grandson. Her body was found on the banks of Kholo Creek, 11 days after she vanished.

“Their poor children,” said Janaki.

“What astounds me is him killing her. To think, in all the world I choose to be with you and you turn out to be a killer!”

“It wouldn’t be as bad if he was a serial killer.”

“Yes, that’s because victims of most serial killers don’t know their killer intimately. This is an astounding level of betrayal.”

“If he were a serial killer, at least you could say, ‘Well, I didn’t know about his psychotic tendencies. When he was with me, he was a very good husband.'”

“But when he’s your husband!!! Of all the bad luck in the world, you had to choose to marry your murderer.”

It made me feel sad for the institution of marriage, for love. How do two people go from wanting to spend their lives together to one wanting to take the life of the other?

“It’s a pity they abolished the death penalty in Australia. They should reintroduce it for wife-murderers and child abusers.”

“Definitely. Why lock them up when they can pursue a law degree at the tax-payers’ expense, then file a case against the state for supposed miscarriage of justice? What about the victims? Have you heard the latest, about prisoners complaining about the quality of their food? Hello, goal is not the Shangrila, ok?”

“In cases like these, I admire Singapore. They just execute murderers.”

“Me too. Forget about damn prisoners rights. Why support murderers and pedophiles for years on end when there is no hope for them in the outside world?

What do you think? Is there any crime worse than murdering one’s spouse and is a prison term – however lengthy – fair punishment for crimes like these?






Banana republic: my one-day quest for tight abs and thighs.

Yesterday, my friends on facebook were amused when I announced I had eaten 7 bananas in quick succession. My inspiration? This youtube video I came across featuring “banana girl” Freelee, in my search for a raw cake recipe. I saw her taut midriff and her protruding hipbones and I thought, I’ll get me some of that. For those who’ve never heard of raw cuisine, its cuisine based entirely on uncooked produce, most commonly vegetables and fruit, but also incorporating seeds and in some cases, meat.

It didn’t take too much searching for me to stumble across “banana girl’s” boyfriend, Harley aka “banana boy.” They are both named thus because of their unusually high consumption of the tropical fruit and their fruitarian lifestyle advocacy activities; in addition to running website “30 Bananas a Day” and peppering youtube with fruit-based recipes, vegan diet and lifestyle tips, the Australian-based duo also give talks over in the States.

If my one attempt at fruitarianism has taught me anything, is that a diet based on consuming only fruit, and only one fruit-type at a time, is definitely not for me. I have no idea how “banana girl” and “banana boy” stomach it – actually I do, they both like bananas – but I was practically gagging by the time I finished my sixth banana.

I felt full, slightly queasy, and would rather chew on my thumb than down the eighth piece. I looked at the remaining bananas I had bought at $3.40 per kilo from Coles for this exercise and wish I had bought apples instead. Delectably sweet, crunchy Fuji apples.

I reported my findings to my good friend Tania who I saw for dinner and she chuckled. Since I have known her, I have been a vegan, a vegetarian, a raging carnivore rebounding from all the vegetables, who occasionally scoffs down paw paw salad meal after meal. Whenever I announce my new diet plans to her, she regards me the way an adult does a child who says that the dinner table is now  a shop and the couch is the restaurant. She knows I am serious about finding a meal plan that will allow me to eat as much as I want and lose weight but she also knows I love food too much for this to work.

“But you’re already slim!” most of my friends in  real life tell me.

“Oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” I chide them. “For a Chinese girl, I’m a hippo!”

They look at me aghast, before I point out the likes of Singaporean blogger Xiaxue who’s the size of one of my legs. Even Dawn Yang, her rival, is only half of me. Looking at them I wonder, do these people never eat?

His Royal Highness affectionately calls me a “chubby Chinese girl.” He once tried pulling my spare tyre which disappears when I stand up. “If you were one head taller, you could be a model,” he tells me. “Shame about the height. You have a great face.”

Oh, gee. Thank you very much. So since I can’t get any taller, I have to find a way to get slimmer in order to look taller. What have I not tried? Yes, I know. Surgery!

“You should take that cosmetic job in Sydney,” I say to His Royal Highness. “The pay is great and I can get free lipo!”

“I can’t operate on you,” he says.

Damn rules about not treating family or friends.

“I’m sure you’ll have a partner. He or she can lipo me,” I say, making sucking noises while pretending to vacuum my bum. “Just imagine. I’ll be proportionate for once.”

“Yes, you will,” he says with a smile. “But I’ll miss those spongey bits.”










The mummy mafia and what it means for parents with girls.

The hottest social topic at the moment is schoolyard bullying among mothers. That’s right. Just when you thought your days of being picked on were over, along comes the so-called “Mummy Mafia” to show you otherwise. Mothers form cliques to wield power over other mothers, using arbitrary parameters to discriminate like they did when they were in school.

It’s made some mothers reluctant to come out of their cars to get the children and others sweat big drops over what to wear for school drop-off and pick-ups the night before. Admittedly, I have never been bullied by other mothers  because I maintain a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances. If one group excludes me, I simply move on to another. If anyone dares gossip about me, I’ll march up to them and set them straight.

It probably helps that I’ve been wandering around like a Gypsy, so I’ve learnt that every experience, no matter good or bad, is transient.  I also have the hide of a elephant from being ostracised and bullied in school – twice in my entire schooling career, actually – so I have better coping mechanisms than most.

The way I see it, there’s no point losing sleep over the mean girls of the world. Even if they never come back to tell you, they’ll experience their comeuppance one day as no one stays in the same circle forever. We’re all bound to be newcomers at some point.

As a mother of a girl, I’ve seen to it that Amanda shuns the game of control via inclusion and exclusion girls seem to know from young. I’ve told her that if she doesn’t want to play with so and so, then she shouldn’t be thinking about their clothes or toys either. I’ve encouraged her to mix with everyone and in exchange for keeping her at her present school, she has to make at least one new friend a week. This is the result of a small drama we had with her best friend at the end of last year. As I explained to her best friend’s mother, Amanda being sidekick to her daughter’s Queen Bee is harmless at their age, but in ten years time, peer pressure won’t be about who gets to play dress-ups and Barbies anymore. It’ll be about drinking and doing drugs to hang with your best buds.

Similarly, if we, mothers, show our daughters it is all right to indulge in cliquishness and exclusivity, by modelling such behaviour to them, don’t be surprised if they face undue peer pressure as they grow older since they subscribe to being part of a herd. For it is by watching us that they learn how to treat and be treated by others. Just as no one is always at the top, no one is always at the bottom either – the wheel of social hierarchy being in constant motion. In being accepting of others, we find our own voice and revel in our uniqueness, and it is in modelling this tolerance to our children that they become delightfully amiable adults. It’s as much as we can hope for as parents.