the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Monthly Archives: June 2008


“I grew up in Beverly Hills. The only Chinese I know is from a Mr. Chow’s menu. Besides, I’m Korean.” – Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy

It’s a very strange thing that’s happened four times over the past nine days. And it’s even stranger that it should happen in this country.

Thursday, 6/19/08, Corporate Communications Division, RHB:

Kim Ping: You barukah? (Are you new?)
Me: (a little startled that a woman so clearly Chinese is using Malay) Yes, I am.
Marina: This is Sandra. Sandra, this is Kim Ping, from Procurement.
Kim Ping: Sandra… Are you Chinese?
Me: Yeees…
Marina: Nampak macam orang putih ke? (Does she look white?)
Kim Ping: No, macam Melayulah. (No, she looks Malay)
Me: (thinking) Whaaaat?

Yesterday, Commercial Division, RHB:

Alwin: Sandra, you are Malay or Chinese? *
Me: (slightly incredulous) Do I not look Chinese?
Alwin: Actually, not really. But I saw that your surname is Chinese, but you don’t really look like it, some more today you are wearing baju Melayu *.
Me: (baffled) No, I’m Chinese.
Amanda: 100% Chinese?
Me: As far as I know.
Christina: Oh, we just asking *, because normally Chinese people don’t have double eyelids.

Today, Subang Parade:

Hana: While you were in the fitting room the salesgirl said you’re very fair for a Malay. I’m like, “She’s Chinese.”

Some eyewear store
Salesman 1: Miss, are you wearing colored contacts?
Me: Um… I don’t wear contacts.
Salesman 1: Oh, because your eyes can see have very hazel color. *
Me: No, no. No contacts.
(A few minutes later)
Salesman 1: Miss, are you mixed **?
Me: Excuse me?
Salesman 1: Yah, you look like mix with Malay. *
Me: (astounded) I’m Chinese.
Salesman 2: Pure Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…
Salesman 2: So you speak Chinese?
Me: Yeeees…

I’ve always thought I look as Chinese as everyone else, and it never fails to throw me off when people ask otherwise, and even more so when they’ve already taken a look at my name in black and white. Maybe if I wore my glasses and had absolutely no makeup on people would have less trouble telling my race. That way even the double eyelids can’t be that misleading.

*Grammar is deliberately erroneous to accurately represent the manner of speech
** The term used to describe multiracial people


Keeping on toes

The fear of inadequacy plagues us throughout our lives. We’re always afraid that we wouldn’t be good enough at our job, our relationship, our friendships, and pretty much everything else right down to lawn bowling. We spend our days wondering if we got that press release right, if our boss is silently scrutinizing us and thinking they might be better off without us, or if we’re really what the other person wants, or if we measure up to their expectations of us. Even if things were going all right, somewhere in the back of our minds the question will always lurk: Is it all enough? Am I enough?

When we feel inadequate, we try harder than we can afford to to show that given the chance, we can be good enough. Unfortunately this applies most to a relationship, because whether or not we like to admit it, no matter how bad a time we’re having at work, no matter how difficult everything else is, and no matter how self-sufficient we’d like to think we are, we just need to know that there’s someone we can come home to at the end of the day and who (hopefully) loves us just the way we are. Even then, twenty years down the road, we could still harbor the fear that what we say or do will never be good enough, and we might still be spending a good deal of our time looking at them as the person who second-guessed us so much before that we have to wonder if they’re still second-guessing us now.

We would lay down our lives to show the boss that we’re really not as inept as we may seem, to make the other person realize that we can really can get this relationship thing right, to comfort ourselves that we really can be good enough at life itself. This then begs the question: are we sticking to the job, the relationship, or whatever endeavor we have at hand because we know we really want it, or because it has reached a level at which we just want to prove our point?

The price we have to pay

We can’t afford it, but we would go to any lengths to settle the bill



Possibly the most famous quote from one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman:

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

– The Sandman, #65 –

* Picture is for visual effect only, and not a representation/depiction of my life. For that, a picture would never be enough.

Piece vs. Peace

Either one can make or break you

“Just give me a moment; I’m asking God to kill me.” Susan Delfino, Desperate Housewives

Sometimes just when we think that opening up and saying whatever’s on our minds and in our hearts could possibly make things better, it turns right back around and shoots us in the face. So we should know when we need to say our piece, or hold our peace. Because that determines how much deeper a grave we are digging for ourselves and how much we stand to lose from it, and it saves us a lot of unnecessary — “but healthy,” as Becca claims — mortification, humiliation, and heartache. And yet we never learn; we just keep stupidly and naïvely clinging to the belief that it’s best to say what needs to be said for everything to be all right.

No marks for guessing which one I tend to do.

What hurts the most?

Knowing how it really is, how it might never be, or how it could be?

Sometimes we think that things are slowly but seemingly taking a turn for the better, and before we know it, we start to let our guard down and try to ease into the change. But then it’s only when we cave — or in my case, implode completely — that the reality of it hits us (or is conveyed by the people around us), and the impact is so profound that we’re left kicking ourselves in mortified humiliation.

Slim pickins

“The most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of the man she loves. But for those who haven’t had the fortune of finding that happiness, I am there.” – Yves Saint Laurent

So a closet full of Yves Saint Laurent clothes, shoes and bags could be a sign of spinsterhood — or just well-channeled loneliness.

Capriciousness, thy name is man

“There’s nothing worse than trying to lean on someone who doesn’t want to be budged.” – Maddi

The scene that did it for Becca and me: Grey’s Anatomy Season 4 Finale

We all want that happy ending — or as close to a happy ending as we can get. We all want our own McDreamy, who knows what he wants in the end and goes for it with a clear conscience. But then we’re saddled with Mr. Big — completely unattainable, coming and going as he pleases, and leaving it all a little too late:
But I can’t help thinking that maybe — just maybe — the problem isn’t them. Maybe the problem is us. We know what we’re getting ourselves into, but we stand our ground, put our cards on the table and hope for the best. And when things don’t go our way, we blame ourselves and try to find a way to fix it, because we know we could have done better, or at least differently. That’s either a sign of unending patience, or unadulterated stupidity.

Paper roses

So take away the flowers that you gave me
And send the kind that you remind me of

Does this mean the tide is turning? Does it mean I can finally regain some control of my life? Does it mean a whole new life altogether? Will it help to make up for some of the heavy losses I’ve sustained in the past year? Will it take at least some of the burden off my shoulders and the pain out of my heart?

Here’s hoping. And yet…