the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Monthly Archives: May 2010

Spell it, don’t quell it

“I had an email from someone this week that read, “Da ut ov 2day are really annoying me!” Ut? I had to say this 20 times before I understood it. Youth has now become ut. Haven’t we taken enough from them – now we have to take their letters?” – Shazia Mirza

Me: Why are you living with people still?
Julian: Coz I like living with ppl. Didn’t u know I dun really like being alone? Pretty sure u knew that.
Me: Not liking to be alone is one thing. Not liking to share a bathroom and living space is another. I thought most adults like their own space.
Julian: The property market in Syd(ney) is insane. N I’m not willing to fork out dat much cash to live alone.
Me: Fair enough. I think I’m too much of a hermit.
Julian: Well, wouldn’t it b easier to just rent a room from someone if u want to b a hermit? So much hassle if your name is on d lease n all d bills.
Me: My name was on the lease and all the bills for 4 years…
Julian: U rented a place for 4 years?!! I’ve moved about 3 times in d last 4 years! Look who’s d hermit now. Lol
Me: I rented 2 places in 4 years, but I lived alone in both places. And moving a lot makes you a nomad, not a hermit.
Julian: Hahaahh. Yes Ms Foo. Once again I stand corrected. Dun think I’ve ever met anyone who is so uncompromising with d English language.
Me: You wouldn’t compromise on your Chinese, would you?
Julian: I meant u never let a mistake go uncorrected. N has anyone ever notice that u never EVER use “chat” language. No brb’s, no lol’s, no smiley face. Always prim n proper good ‘ol fashioned English. I think if u were an english teacher, ur kids would either have perfect English or they’d just quit d language.
Me: I do use brb, like when I have to rush off to a meeting or the bathroom.
Julian: But dats driven by productivity, not laziness or just pure slack. Which all we other mere mortals r guilty of.

In my defense, I only became a spelling and grammar Nazi two years ago; prior to that I only watched out for my own writing and didn’t let others’ bother me too much. It started out as a mere idiosyncrasy when I first got to know Greg and corrected some of his mistakes, then it became a habit when I was studying Linguistics in college and undergoing my TEFL training in Boston, and now it has become something of a sixth sense because of my job. That I only correct the people I care about is a sign of self-restraint from correcting every other mistake I see or hear around me.

My stand on not using the ‘chat language’ has remained unchanged ever since I learnt to use IRC and ICQ some 12 years ago: English, and every other language, for that matter, should be written and spelt the way God — or at least the dictionary — intended.

In an age where texting, Instant Messaging and emailing have become so much more dominant than writing letters by hand, I suppose it would be inevitable that people would become more inclined to use such abbreviations. But when they start sending text messages that look like this: “Hi, I ope you av a gr8 day. Call me La8tr,” it’s difficult not to feel something very like contempt because something, somewhere, has gone wrong. On one hand, the sender was simply texting the way they speak (dropping the voiceless fricative [h] is a common phenomenon in British English), and on the other, they were just plain lazy. In that message, 10 characters are actually spaces, so at different points during the construction of the other measly 34 characters, the sender simply could not bear the task of keying in a few extra characters to make themselves more coherent and less juvenile. What’s worse is when such messages are sent via email; if you have time to sit at a computer, wait for pages to load due to an abysmal Internet connection, and type on a full keyboard, you have time to type out a intelligible email message.

It’s not that I don’t condone the use of the ‘chat language’; God knows I would eventually have had to get used to seeing it the way I had to get used to the fact that Malaysians will insist on using the horrifically redundant ‘double-confirm’. I just don’t believe in using abbreviations like ‘LOL’ and ‘TTYL’ because ‘hahaha’ and just plain ‘later’ make more sense to me. I do, however, use ‘BRB’ because under normal circumstances I would say, “I’ll be right back,” and I switch to the abbreviation when I have only just enough time to do so because I have to run to a meeting or my bladder refuses to be still.

I suppose we all have our own ways of being lazy. Some will type, “Itz rainin and jam so we r goin 2 be la8. Sorrie!” I’ll just go, “Rain. Jam. Fuck.”

And, for all its intents and purposes, I hate the word ‘chat’.


Brown sugar

“I’m at the duty-free store buying chocolates, but you don’t get any. Now, what kind of chocolates does Afham like?” – Mom

My new motto in life -- or at least until I've lost enough weight to keep the film producers happy

courtesy of Greg

Three weeks after the Call of Shame, I — or at least my desperate subconscious — am finally beginning to see the most infinitesimal progress in my despondently halfhearted attempt at a diet. This is not without many sighs and threatening tears over having to pick through food that would not lead to a severe regression and the re-thickening of my waist, and eliminating as much rice (or other forms of carbohydrate) and sweets as possible from my food intake. But I’ve been slightly happier ever since:

1. Su Yin told me I’ve lost weight, a fact which I still have to take with a tub of salt because she tells me that every time she sees me, regardless of how much I’ve gained.

2. Fai, Su Yin’s boyfriend, told me I’ve lost weight, a fact which I take with just a pinch because he sees me far less often and it’s easier for him to judge.

3. Rhubini told me I’ve lost weight, a fact which I’m tempted to take at full value because she rarely sees me and she’s hardly the type to take the mollycoddling route.

4. My jeans, as recently as two weeks ago, were less of a chore to get into, although I suspect it was also because they haven’t seen the laundry since I last wore — and stretched — them.

5. I weighed myself, fully clothed, shod and fed, at a blood donation drive merely two days ago and found my weight to be fairly satisfactory.

The one thing I haven’t been able to relinquish from my diet is coffee, but I’m rationalizing that with brown sugar.

– edit –

Ever since I published this post, I’ve been asked more than once if I’ve been working out to aid my weight loss. The answer is No. Ever since my gym membership expired I have made no effort to renew it, simply because at the very core of my being, I hate working out (even though I was on a roll for nearly a year), and I genuinely doubt it was helping me lose weight or shrink. And my ultimate goal right now is to shrink. And shrink. And shrink.

My unconventional mother

And the top 10 things she taught me

1. It’s perfectly acceptable not to be married. It’s just one less wedding people have to attend.

2. Always be a lady (at least in public).

3. Always put others first (unless it’s in front of a speeding train/bus/plane or similar).

4. Learn as many languages as possible, but know what ‘revert’ and ‘usurp’ really mean. In English.

5. The difference between a cold and the ‘flu (if it’s just a runny nose, then it’s the cold. If there’s a fever and sore throat as well, then it’s the ‘flu).

6. It’s your first day at school, your first piano lesson, your first day at a summer etiquette school in a completely foreign country, and your first time going abroad for college. If you don’t know how to handle all this on your own, now is the time to learn.

7. Keeping the house perpetually stocked with sewing thread, Panadol, Sharpie pens and power adapters will save your life.

8. Attend every wedding, birthday, housewarming, wake and impromptu call with a gift in tow.

9. It’s easier to reverse into a parking spot than to enter headfirst.

10. Unless the deathbed beckons, there’s no reason not to go to school or work, especially not when Panadol, Augmentin and Clarinase exist.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My assessment findings

In the past few years, when I’ve hit a particularly low point in my life, I’ve taken to putting myself through an assessment phase, where I look at my life from as many aspects as possible — professional, romantic (if and when that aspect actually applies), mental, and occasionally — though very rarely — familial. The last time I did it was nearly two years ago, when I decided to stop asking God, “Why doesn’t he (whom I thought at the time was the love of my life) love me?” and just look at the big picture and figure out the answer for myself. Even though that answer never quite materialized (or I just refused to accept it), I was able to take a good look at myself and the things about me that had changed, remained the same, and desperately needed remedying.

So, today, when I thought about the fact that in a month I would have been at my current job for two (two!) years, in my relationship for one (one!) year, and very likely going blind from all the proofreading that my job requires me to do, I decided to begin a new round of self-assessments. And, as is the case with all my previous assessments, I did not like what I found.

1. My tolerance for many things has dwindled at an alarming rate. I have lost all patience for — among many, many things — laziness, incoherence, loquaciousness, and bad driving. This is very bad because three years ago, I don’t remember ever being so impatient and short-tempered over such things. Except perhaps bad driving.

2. I no longer feel the need to make new friends. Not that I ever felt an overwhelming desire to, but when I was in college, I made some semblance of an effort, because of the Royal Pitches. These days, the handful (literally, one hand full) of friends I have, and the people in Afham’s absolute closest circle that I’ve come to know over the past few months, are the only ones that I am willing to be around. This is, also, very bad, because it only serves to reaffirm the impression everyone has of me as a disdainful bint, and I think on some level Afham wishes I would be less of a sociopath.

3. I have made (metaphorically) silent adversaries of people I do not know — a statement which is in and of itself an oxymoron. I’ve heard of people who came across this blog and, from reading some of my entries, made up their minds on what kind of a person I am. I’ve heard of people who work in the same company as I do — though not necessarily in the same building — who appear to know who I am, but of whose existence I know nothing. And they have all formed some opinion or other — usually negative — about me. This would be a bad thing if I actually cared exactly what people are saying about me, but the fact that I don’t care is in and of itself a bad thing as well.

4. I have become immune to anything even remotely related to my job. My will to get out of bed and go to work can be gauged by the hour I walk into the office and the number of hours I spend in there. My love for my work can be determined by how many errors I bother to correct when proofreading; to this day I doubt if I have missed out a single one. My relationship with my colleagues can be measured by the length of our conversations and how much regard I have for their gossipmongering and politicking. The good thing is that it allows me to block out the unnecessary drama and focus on doing what I am paid to do. The bad thing is that I am still on this job.

5. For the first time in my life, I am in as close to normal a relationship as I can be, free of overpossessive, domineering, cheating, vapid narcissists. And yet, not for the first time in my life, I am in a relationship which entails spending every waking (and sometimes sleeping, as indicated by, yes, actual nightmares) moment of my day wondering if I am ever good enough, if I will remain good enough in the years to come, and if I have ever managed to measure up to my predecessor(s).

6. I really, really do not handle knowing, hearing or talking about past relationships and partners, both his and mine, well. In spite of the creed I have tried so hard to live by, my intolerance for all conversations or even insinuations about former halves has reached new heights. This is probably brought on by the fact that from the day I met Afham my world has been growing perpetually smaller and I feel as though I can’t breathe without this diminishing world closing in around my ears. And this is a very, very bad thing, because I know that my insecurities, my anger and the old baggage will become this relationship’s undoing.

7. I have become slightly less cynical about relationships, thanks to my own normal-to-me relationship. And if my new lease on love is anything to go by, the slow demolition of the Wall of Cynicism is a good thing. But, knowing my luck in all things love, I will just have that much more to build up all over again at some point in my life (maybe there hasn’t been that much demolition after all?).

Of the seven (seven!) findings I have listed, there are only two that I would not change. As for the rest, I’m not sure how soon the necessary changes will come, but I have a feeling that by my next assessment they would probably all be irrelevant anyway.