Monthly Archives: February 2010

Love will lead you back

Love will lead you back

A good friend of mine got engaged on Sunday (I’m sure it had more to do with the fact that it’s a long weekend and therefore more convenient for the out-of-towners, than that it was Valentine’s Day; we’re not that cheesy), one out of a string of people I know who have gotten engaged or married recently. I woke up on Sunday morning with two thoughts blaring in my head: that it was the first day of Chinese New Year, which meant I would have to drag myself out of bed to go back to my own house to be with my family, and that it was her engagement day.

So in my groggy stupor, I sent her a text message along the lines of: “As much as I may laugh at you, I’m still a closet romantic. So congratulations, darling, and have a lovely day today.”

Because when I remembered that it was her engagement day, I also thought, She’s really going to do it. This was a woman who, not six months ago, was proclaiming quite firmly that she wasn’t looking to get married again, having tried once before and come out of it with nothing to be glad for except her two sons and her freedom from her in-laws, and she was even more determined not to have any more children. She was, at the time, also not too certain about where she wanted to stand with the man she had just started seeing, content with keeping things as casual as society can view ‘casual’ to be.

So when she told me last month that she would be getting engaged soon, my inability to be anything other than candid made me blurt out, “That was fast,” and then try not to laugh because she looked as though she had agreed to marriage at gunpoint, and also because it was set for Valentine’s Day. As the weeks went by, she appeared increasingly agitated when talking about the engagement or wedding, and there were times when I was tempted by candor, but knew better, to ask if this was what she really wanted.

But when I saw a photo of her and the man who has been bestowed the greatest gift of all by God, I realized that it didn’t really matter what I wondered. It didn’t matter if she had agreed to marry him to dispel the insecurities he harbors, a trait that makes men so unattractive, or to put an end to her parents’ fear that she may become a cat-rearing spinster when her sons are all grown up. What mattered is that she did, that she was willing to try again, despite all the failures and the disappointments, to give love another chance.

We often spend so much time trying to heal from failed relationships and pulling ourselves up from the depths of our own dark places that we sometimes forget that no matter how low we’ve been brought down, there will always be a way to get back up, and always something to remind us that we can be as happy as we deserve to be. It may take a few failed relationships along the way, but those failures are the risks we have to take, and can only be lessons for us to learn so that when we finally find what we’ve been looking for, we’ll know it was worth the loss, and the pain.

So this is to Eza, who made her journey and came out on top, who believes (or at least tries to) that some things are worth trying for, again and again.

Fighting the System

Fighting the System

It had been a good day so far: I was up fairly early, a result of having consumed alcohol the night before, and was able to dash out to 1Utama to pick up the dress I had put on hold at Topshop before going to Bangsar Shopping Center for my manicure. Traffic was smooth, the single greatest advantage of living in a city which is subjected to large-scale exoduses during the festive seasons, and I didn’t have to prowl the parking aisles for too long before I was able to find a spot.

And then, as I made my way through Sri Hartamas towards Bangsar, wondering quite accurately if the speed traps that highway is so famous for would be set today, the eve of Chinese New Year, I was waved to pull over at the side of the highway, where several policemen were running the roaring trade they are so well-known for, especially during the festive seasons. So, knowing I had been going well over the speed limit, I pulled over, driver’s license already in hand, hoping I wouldn’t be held up too long as I was fifteen minutes away from my appointment.

Cop 1: Miss, you Chinese?
Me: Yes.
Cop 1: Oh… gong xi fa cai (Happy New Year), ya…
Me: Thank you.
Cop 2: You want pay saman (summons) RM300?
Me: (horrified at the amount) Now?
Cop 2: You want settle now?
Me: Well… no, because I don’t have cash. Just give me the ticket.
Cop 1: How much cash you have?
Me: None. I don’t carry cash.
Cop 1: Cash don’t have?
Me: No. Nobody’s stupid enough to carry cash these days. I only have my debit card.
Cop 1: Oh… Miss, are you stewardess?
Me: (highly indignant at the insulting stereotype) No, I do P.R.!
Cop 1: Mana you kerja (Where do you work)?
Me: Bank. Now, can you please just give me the ticket? I have to go.
Cop 2: OK, OK, we send saman to your house.

Obviously, I had been lying through my teeth when I insisted I hadn’t any cash on me, because that is part of their roaring trade: forcing bribes out of people who don’t want to be slapped with a speeding ticket and a hefty fine. But I refused to give them the satisfaction of getting what they set up the speed trap for and perpetuate the blatant, shameless corruption that goes on in this cursed country, even if I had to swallow the violent urge to say, “I’m not about to bribe you, if that’s what you’re asking.”

On another note, I realized the most effective way to get the cops off your back in this country is to speak English, and only English, to them. Their completely inability to converse in English cripples their intention of being intimidating, and they realize fairly quickly that it would be easier to extort money out of someone else who will speak their language.

And maybe someone else stupid enough to work with the System.

Uncharted territory

Uncharted territory

It seems that as we grow older, there’s just no escaping it.

Last weekend I caught up (via Gtalk) with an old friend, who announced that she had gotten engaged in January and is planning to have the wedding in the summer (I suppose being weighed down in a big white dress and having her makeup sweltered off in Charleston, South Carolina’s 90°F weather is her thing).  With her parents in Queens, New York, and relatives in other parts of the U.S., they decided that anyone significant enough and who doesn’t live in the U.S. would have to fly or be flown to Charleston for the wedding.

I wasn’t surprised that she would be getting married. She is only my age, but had been with the man since we were all still in college, and even then they were already talking about tying the knot; I was only surprised that they had waited this long — three years, to be exact — after graduation to even get engaged. And although I’m happy for them, I’m only sorry they have to dive into  the wedding planning immediately to meet the summer deadline, instead of having a little bit of time to just enjoy being engaged.

What really surprised me is that they are going to have both the church wedding and the Chinese ceremony, complete with the trend of humiliating the groomsmen when the groom comes to fetch his bride, so favored by Malaysian wedding-lovers these days. It’s a trend that, my friend assures me, has been both explained to and approved of by her all-American fiancé; she suspects he agreed to be put through it because he’s never heard of such a thing and figures it would be no harm trying.

On these unusual terms, part of the planning would also involve coaching the groom-to-be and his family, in the most tactful way they can think of, on the customs and traditions of a Chinese wedding, from the tea ceremony to that-part-I-don’t-know-what-it’s-called that involves a whole roasted pig. It would certainly be a learning experience for the groom’s retinue, and also a chance for the bride’s own family to have the traditional wedding that our race so unconditionally demands.

So when I commended my friend for having the patience to put up with two versions of a wedding, and for having future in-laws who were willing and respectful enough to be put through the ordeal, she said, “It’s really not as bad as we used to think. I think it will be fun, watching them do something that is so completely alien to them. Now that you’re in a serious relationship, you should seriously consider changing your mind about not having a wedding.”

I didn’t tell her that now that I’m in a serious relationship, a wedding — or lack thereof — would be the least of my problems.