Homecoming Queens

Homecoming Queens

I used to wonder why school reunions made adults so wistful. Why did they keep playing Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko at these things? Why would all the other oldies inevitably scream and enthusiastically make for the dance floor? I couldn’t grasp it. It was incomprehensible to me.

We spend our youth wanting to grow up, and spend our adulthood wanting to be young again. There’s finally enough mileage on the old engine for me to think I get it.  Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko was to them what I Want It That Way is to us. Obviously cornball and ridiculously outdated, it’s the soundtrack to our youth – and sometimes music, like smell, evokes memories and emotions. It’s not so much being young, it’s feeling young, truly young, the way we used to feel when we didn’t have to pay rent and each day was an empty page to be filled with new and exciting stories, not a mindless slog to the office.

While I wish high school was the way it was in Clueless, the reality was a lot more grim. Thankfully, not Columbine grim – we didn’t fear school shooters as much as we feared mosquitoes that carry dengue – but teenagers always feel everything so keenly. High school for me was not always a fun time. High school is good to rich, attractive teenagers with seemingly effortless cool. It is very rarely kind to bepimpled, skeptical bookworms who don’t understand why always having the same things and going to the bathroom in packs are necessary.

I have always found it easier to befriend people with wills of their own, who have their own interests and aren’t afraid to pursue them. I felt fortunate to find people who – although way less awkward and bepimpled – were in their own way, iconoclasts. I like to think the friends I’ve made are all iconoclastic in their own way. We were all united in our shared respect for each other’s different interests. The main thing I have in common with all of them is a deeply twisted sense of humour, which we use as a crutch because life is absurd and laughter is the only way to get through it.

So our friendship, formed in our very early teens (and for two of us, childhood) and forged in the highly pressurized crucible we call high school, had miraculously survived the inevitable forces of growing up that cause us to drift apart. Things like college, career choices and immigration. Through it all we had stayed in touch and hung out with each other, but never as a whole. It had been almost two decades since our foursome had been complete, so like the first Avengers movie, we decided it was time. Boy am I happy we got together again.

What we don’t always realize is that high school forms the bedrock of our most cherished memories. The cruelty of it all is that we will never really get it back. One can only try to recreate it, which is why high school reunions are always a thing. We only decided to join this year because it was the 20th anniversary, and we all felt it was a milestone worth celebrating (i.e. join while your body still holds up to some extent and you still look relatively good in pictures.)

 

You can try to recreate a memory, but it will never truly be the same; the only way to get through it is to make new memories. And that, I think, we accomplished in spades.

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

When you grow up in a small town and cut your teeth on the Disney renaissance, getting out is always the goal. Not that getting out was never the goal, but all those songs about being part of some other world, there being more than a provincial life, a whole new world, going the distance while the wolf cries to the blue corn moon because it’s the circle of life? Come on. I was practically being programmed to leave.

At nineteen, itching to go out and explore the world, the sight of  four privileged women running around in expensive outfits, living out their thirties in the playground of New York City was an eye-opener. What the Golden Girls is to some people, Sex and the City is to me. Until then, the longing to leave was just that. A longing. Some sort of nebulous desire to go out and somehow, have the adventure of a lifetime. There was a goal but it wasn’t exactly defined, until SATC came along and defined it.

Living in New York City was not my goal. Neither was it to be a part of a fab foursome (I would be Miranda). But what I wanted was to be an adult with people who gave me understanding and acceptance, to have my own place, to explore the idea of brunch, buy whatever caught my fancy and do whatever and whomever I wanted to do, whenever and wherever I felt like it. Sure, in my fantasy world I also weighed less than a hundred pounds and there was little to no Netflix, but that benchmark aside, I think I got what I wanted.

So here I am, the same age Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte were, and I realize adulting is fun. It’s also a horrible ball of crap. You can’t just ignore the price of living on your own, blithely going through life and ten different credit cards in the hope of landing a job at Vogue as well as the eligible bachelor you’ve had your eye on since day one. Work has to be done. Bills have to be paid.

So what happens when you get what you want and all of a sudden realize you want even more because humans are never satisfied? You find something new to aspire to. And now, this is my new fantasy:

Yes, I know, another fab foursome of privileged white ladies swilling pinot and enjoying their hard-earned comforts, maybe I’m just too colonized for my own good. But hey, I’m with it.

Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be best friends with Jane Fonda, who is my current guru and life coach, although she really should lose that janky-ass wig… no. Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be with people I’m comfortable with, who I like, and respect, who love books, and reading, and who haven’t lost their zest to learn and discover new things, despite probably taking ten separate medications for ten separate ailments. It’s vital to still have enough joy and verve left to strap on the world’s most ridiculous push up bra, go out there and really grab life by the balls. So yes. Yes. This movie will be my Waiting to Exhale. And yes, I’m going to watch it. When it comes out. In theatres. And if I don’t, on Netflix. I think. Oh sod it all, I’ll set a reminder.

 

Image borrowed from The Mighty

The Theory of Me Too

The Theory of Me Too

“I remember being sexualized by gardeners – gardeners are the construction workers of Long Island, you know. I’d walk past a gardening truck and I remember feeling like wow, I’m way too young to be getting this kind of sexual energy from these guys. I only wanted that attention when I wanted it. I guess that’s what every woman wants. No one wants unwanted sexual attention.”

– Amy Schumer to Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head (Random House, 2015)

 

Because 2017 was the year we lifted the rock and found a maggoty nest of perverts, it’s gotten to the point where we wake up in the morning utterly unsurprised to find another famous, powerful man outed for being a creep. Nothing new, no big deal, just adding a little more grist to the #MeToo mill.

I am not discounting the stories of women who were and are victims of sexual assault, rape and harassment. These are situations many of us hope never to experience. #MeToo is about women (and men) who were abused by men in power, who can no longer stay silent or tamp down their rage at being made to feel helpless. #MeToo was born out of victims forced to do or accept things they found abhorrent because the perpetrators held all the cards.

But say I piped up and said #MeToo because a motorcab driver wolf-whistled at me as he drove past? #MeToo because I’m having fun on the dance floor and some rando comes over uninvited and starts dancing suggestively with me? Or #MeToo because a neighbour was peeping over the fence into our kitchen while I was washing dishes, happy being completely unsexy in ratty house clothes not even worth donating to the Salvation Army?

Do I cower? Do I say I’m never going to dance again, Careless Whisper? Do I say I’m scarred for life, am emotionally unable to function and that my dreams are dead? Or do I stealthily grab one of my Dad’s very legit looking air rifles, haul ass over the kitchen sink, crouch down, wait for the guy’s head to appear again, then pop up and point the barrel of it at him like a vengeful harpy bent on bloodshed?

(Incidentally, I never saw that neighbour again.)

Take the pigeons outside of my building. All day, every day, males waddle after a chosen female, flapping their wings, ruffling their feathers, trying to get the female to mate. They only stop when someone throws them stale bread. It’s a biological imperative – male birds are programmed to mate, thereby ensuring their DNA doesn’t go to pot, while female birds are programmed to ensure the DNA they get is worth the hassle of gestation and subsequent baby pigeon rearing. While humans operate on a higher level than pigeons, you can’t deny the similarities when it comes to finding a mate.

Flirtation is one thing, out and out harassment another. There’s really no grey area when it comes to sexual harassment. It’s wrong. You know what makes it worse? Harassing people if you’re not gifted in the looks department. It’s just too risky. Females do not want unwanted sexual attention. And no one wants unwanted sexual attention from a dud.

I think a bit of the subtext behind #MeToo that no one wants to admit is that harassment is offensive because it cheapens the receiver by undermining their view of themselves. If we’re going to be hit on, we should be hit on by Mr. Right, not a corpulent gasbag with a bald patch. In other words: maot man ka, (you’re ugly), how dare you.

Put it this way: if I show up to audition for Tom Hardy in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… I’ll purify my black soul later. If I show up to audition for Harvey Weinstein in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… maot man ka, how dare you.

Every red-blooded female has had her fair share of eager males looking for a little something something. It happens, and I’m not saying it should be ignored, but crying about it is a waste of time. Let’s not be the girl who went on a date with Aziz Ansari and blabbed to a media outlet about how crappy it went because she didn’t get to pick the wine of her choice and he kept trying to get her to have sexy times and somehow “didn’t read her nonverbal cues,” therefore #MeToo. Her career wasn’t on the line. She had nothing invested. He held no cards. He didn’t force her to get naked.

We’re in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot if we trivialize the #MeToo movement by raking over every perceived sexual slight we’ve ever experienced, however trivial. Let’s not turn the #MeToo movement into a witch hunt.

Women are not powerless. Neither are we weak. There are some things that don’t need the intervention of the local militia. We can stand up and walk away. We can say, directly and unequivocally, to the offending party, that we don’t like what we’re seeing, hearing, or experiencing, without resorting to the public spectacle that is the internet. I won’t say it’s easy being a woman. I will, however, say it’s not as hard as we’re making it out to be. 

Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger

Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger

My birthday is coming up(!) and as is usual, I like to indulge in a little bit of self-searching. Today’s post is brought to you by the memory of St. Ives and a tiny room in a boarding house, many moons ago when the Earth was young (and so was I).

Continue reading “Epiphany of St. Ives the Younger”

Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet

The truth is, you will wake up and realize the old life you had, as you knew it, is gone. And the truth is, you will want it back. You will want it back with all your heart, and it will hurt, because that is what loss feels like.

The truth is, even if you did find a way to go back, things are never going to be exactly as they were because you aren’t exactly the same person anymore. Neither are the people you left behind. There will be parts of you that you recognize, the core of you that makes you who you are, like your love of books, of adventure, of the absurd, and your ability to put things down and walk away for good. There will be parts of you that you will lay to rest, like your need to writhe unabashed under flashing lights with strangers, to stumble home with addled wits and equally addled friends. There will be parts of you that are new and surprising, like your increased capacity to compromise and the true extent of your caring. The truth is, the march of time is inexorable, and the change it brings is inevitable for you, and for everyone else you know.

The truth is, you will get tired. Of each other. Of the sameness. Of the monotony.  You won’t always like the same things, and want to do everything together because the truth is, sometimes sharing space – your space – with another human being gets claustrophobic.

Continue reading “Spandau Ballet”