the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Monthly Archives: December 2008

An improvement from the last

“2008 really couldn’t be any worse, could it? There isn’t anywhere else to go but up.” – Me, December 31, 2007

Another year gone by. A year filled with many transitions, and a great many more lessons. I remember ending last year and beginning this one on a slightly happier note, because I had sorted some parts of my life out and I was looking forward to the change that I had so badly needed, and because my life had a new addition that, although very new at that point, had given me reason to smile again after a long time.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say, “It was a good year.” In reality it kind of was; not estatically great, but not so bad that I would wake up wondering what the point of waking up was, the way I did last year. There were the hard times: packing to ship my life home, packing to move to Boston, and then finally packing to come back home, leaving behind the life, the places and the people I had loved for so long, and adapting to a new life in a different part of the world without the presence of one whom I had long grown used to and had to learn to live without.

There were moments when I felt like giving up, days when I got out of bed feeling in my bones that I wanted to run away, back to the life I’d had to give up, days when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I just didn’t see the point of doing so, nights when I lay awake and turned everything over and over in my head until I wanted to physically stamp the memories out.

But then there were the good times: welcoming my godson into the world — probably the closest I will ever get to having my own children — knowing that I would give up my life for him, going through an intense and life-changing five weeks in Boston, where I met people whom I can’t imagine never having met, reestablishing old friendships after a three-year hiatus, and practically falling into a job that I surprisingly like.

And there was that feeling: that feeling of knowing that come hell or high water, I had to will every fiber of my being to just hold on, that feeling of quiet pride when I told myself, “You’ve come this far, what’s a little further?”, and that feeling of anticipation that came with holding on to my faith and the belief that at some point everything would be all right. It was a feeling that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, that was never present at all last year.

So what if I had struggled for the life I wanted last year? So what if I eventually had to learn to let go of that life, coming into this year? So what if I had to pick up the pieces of a broken heart all over again — even though it was my fault — the way I did last year? The lessons I learned from those troubles would stay with me longer than the heartache would.

Back in January, Kate, my last tattoo artist in Buffalo, told me, “Sometimes it’s good to get a chance to regroup and think about your next step in life. Granted going all the way home to regroup is a little farther than you’d like, but there’s always something waiting for you regardless of where you go. If you tried to go to another country to teach, you might not make it as a teacher, but you could end up doing something bigger and better. If you’re going home mainly to regroup, you could end up doing something you’ve always wanted to do in a place you never imagined you’d be doing it. The memories you have now could be nothing compared to the memories you’re about to get.”

She was right.

It was a good year.


Sheer dumb luck


This deserves a post of its own. It’s very rare that the both of us look semi-decent in a photo together.

– Taken at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Sunday, December 28, 2008 –

Lessons from Bridezilla


Now that Bridezilla Weekend is over, it’s time to take an enormous breath and thank the gods that no one suffered a broken neck over the last 56 hours.

I guess I should backtrack: I just attended a wedding as part of the bridal party for the first time since coming back here. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a fan of weddings, much less wedding dinners, especially of the circus variety, and — after this past weekend — especially if the bride is an overbearing, simpering little diva who insists on making it one big freak show.

I know I have no call to be taking on so, considering it was her day and the one day when all cynicism and scorn for the ostentatious should be suppressed to the best of my (and Becca’s) ability. She once mentioned that since she was the first among us to get married, we could learn from her and put that education towards planning our own weddings in the future. It took all of my willpower to hold my tongue and not say that if nothing else, I learned how not to become Bridezilla.

Plan ahead. Even if you have only three months to plan your wedding, a good, feasible plan and maybe the help of a wedding planner will ensure your hair remains on your head. I find that making lists is the best way to plan for big events like this (not because I’ve ever had to plan a wedding, but because I pretty much make lists for everything in my life and I find they help keep me organized). Eliminate the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary.

Put aside your pride/vanity/ego. This is not the time to be nursing and bolstering any of those, even if you value them above all else. If you want advice, don’t hesitate to ask, be it from your friends or family; people have their own lives to get on with, and they will assume you have everything down pat if they don’t hear from you. However, if you don’t ask, then don’t kick up a fuss and act surprised and wounded when the results — and disgruntled faces — aren’t what you were hoping for. And if you do ask for help or advice, accept it willingly and with an open mind; it’s absolutely no point asking if you know from the get-go that you’ll end up doing things your own way.

Keep your demands to a minimum. Everyone knows it’s your big day,  and everyone knows it only happens (hopefully) once in a lifetime, but nobody’s going to notice how elaborate and extravagant your wedding is unless it borders on Vegas-meets-Broadway, nobody cares if you don’t have a red carpet for the reception, and nobody’s going to know that you went against superstition by appointing two divorcées as bridesmaids. Keep your priorities straight: make a list (see, I can’t get enough of the lists) of the things you absolutely MUST have, and keep it short. This will prevent you from becoming so confused with the 1001 things that you want to happen that you end up shrieking at everyone like a banshee; God knows there’s nothing tackier than a verbally aggressive (and drunken) bride.

Articulate your desires. Be clear about what you want, and be sure everyone understands why you want it; they would be more than happy to accommodate you if you were upfront because it saves time. If said dress is what you want your bridesmaids to wear, stick to that decision and work from there. Don’t  go back and forth between One Dress and One Color, because it takes time to shop for dresses, and nobody wants to be running pell-mell around town looking for a store that sells eight of the same dress in the same size or a purple dress that won’t make them look too much like an eggplant.

Maintain (or at least gain) perspective. It’s not all about what you see in the mirror, but what everyone else around you sees that you refuse to. Be polite and delegate duties, without sounding as though you’re imposing your wishes on everyone and it’s a given that they help out. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and think about how you would want to be helping out for a wedding: willing and somewhat excited, or irritated and under duress.

Look beyond your wedding. This is the most important lesson of all. Regardless of why you’re really getting married, if you lose sight of the relationship — and the consequences — that will follow the wedding, chances are your marriage won’t survive much beyond the honeymoon. This wedding is about you and your fiancé, and (hopefully) the rest of your lives, together.

Oh, and this is entirely for your own good: find a dress that fits.

One down

The nightmare is half over. After tomorrow I can pretend this entire weekend never happened. Waking up at 5:30AM on a Saturday just to be ferried from Cheras to Kelana Jaya, Kelana Jaya to Tropicana and Tropicana back to Cheras — right up until 4PM — really doesn’t do anything for me.

On the bright side, my man is home!

Merry Christmas, Baby

For the first time in five years, I attended Christmas Mass this morning, at the church I had been going to ever since my family moved back to this country in 1998. I was a little apprehensive at first, as it had been a long time since I had set foot in that church, and I didn’t even know if the priest I had come to know as a friend and teacher would still be there, or if he would still remember me. But I saw this as a first step towards that road I had taken but strayed from so long ago, so I went anyway.

And it was as if I had never left. The prayers and Scripture readings, the hymns, the familiarity of the church itself, even the deep drone of the priest who, praise God, is still there, brought back a feeling I had long forgotten: the feeling of knowing that amidst all the happiness and strife, the one constant was the fact that in the House of God, all was at peace, and no one was alone. It started to remind me of why I had chosen this path in the first place, and it told me that, regardless of my own troubles, in a world and an age where peace has become such a rarity, the last thing I should do now was to turn my back on what I had believed in, and learn to embrace it all over again.

When Mass was over, I went up to the priest and said, in the informal and familiar way I had adopted with him since I was fifteen, “Hello, Father.”

He turned to me automatically and was about to say something, and paused. After a few seconds, he smiled and said, “It’s like time never passed at all, isn’t it?”

More work than a car

“Being a woman is worse than being a farmer — there are so many areas to be cultivated and maintained: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturised, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned that you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature — with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Denis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwwelpeter, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?” – Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary

It’s been a while since I had a full maintenance day, and by ‘maintenance’ I mean on myself. When I was in the U.S., I went for a Brazilian wax religiously every month, and in the summer I went for monthly pedicures. Every once in a while, when I remembered or when I was beginning to feel rather disgusted with myself for neglecting other aspects of feminine upkeep, I would go for a facial.

Another reason I don’t do maintenance days is that I just never had time. The only days when I really do have time is on weekends, but then all the places I go to would be booked up and I could never coordinate the times to all fit into one day. I would end up going for my Brazilian at the beginning of the month, and then the pedicure (not even manicure, because the work I do would ruin it in a day) some two weeks later, and a facial maybe once every three months, something which I’ve always been ambivalent about because I could never quite find a really good facial.

Until perhaps now. Becca discovered what is possibly the best facial either one of us has ever had, and this might have just added a facial to my regular maintenance list. I was even almost talked into signing up for an entire 10-treatment package, which I’m still on the fence about, but wouldn’t mind as it seems like a pretty good deal, if I can make sure I follow through with all the sessions.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt that all three aestheticians for my Brazilian, pedicure and facial are within 0.15 miles of one another. And right now I’m at Starbucks, in between my facial and pedicure. So maybe I can manage a full maintenance day after all.

From the days of old

“Rich or poor, you must always, always be a lady. Put others before yourself, listen to them, be kind, and go about life gracefully. Understand that you must never be selfish, and it must never be about you.” – Granny

Charles: You don’t have to please others all the time.

Georgiana: It’s what I’ve been brought up to do. Difficult lesson to unlearn.

Charles: Would you permit me an observation? I believe you do it so that people will love you.

Georgiana: What makes you say that?

Charles: From what I’ve seen. From your husband, your friends, especially Lady Bess… Even the public.

Georgiana: I never thought of it that way before. You make me sound so pitiable.

The Duchess

A pseudo-permanent fixture

“Well done, Angel. By surviving six months you’ve just made it that much harder for yourself to quit.” – He whom we call Charlie

It has been six months to the day since I walked into a new office, a new environment, a new world altogether. I’m officially off probation and a confirmed employee of this company, whose name garners a raise of eyebrows and an occasional “Waaahhh, so good ah you!” And my response to all that: a smile. No words, no fending off remarks, just a smile. Because I’ve learned that in the position I’m in, sometimes the best thing to do is just smile — and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Am I happy here? Yes and no. Yes because I have a good boss and good managers who have become more than just superiors, but friends who have helped me get to where I am and do what I do in these six short months. Yes because I really do enjoy my job — even though I have to rely on Vanity to stop me from tearing my hair out and bursting into tears every now and then — and every day is a lesson for me, not in this industry, but in life and how the world — this world at least — works, and the immense difference between this working environment and the one I was in last year never ceases to amaze me. No because I have been enmeshed in a world where politics, classism, racism and nepotism play a heartbreakingly big role in the decision-making processes of this company. No because I have been pitted against my principles, my beliefs and my own sense of self-worth, all in the name of getting the job done.

Are things likely to change? Of course. Are things likely to get better? Probably not. And where does this leave us? When we have to ride the wave of change, do we just go where the tide takes us and pray that we miss the rocks, or do we swim away and try and look for something less precarious, less consuming, less likely to set us wondering why we do it in the first place?

Right now I’m all right with the way things are. It’s difficult, but as long as I shut out the ugliness and not let it get to me too much it becomes more bearable. And in spite of my grumbling and grousing, I know that deep down, I really am grateful to be here and doing this, and everything I’ve learned so far makes all the other little things seem so much more trivial.

Let’s see what the next six months will bring.