the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Category Archives: Just Ask Her

Permanent residence

I’m not sure what brought it on: the tendency to get bored quickly, the sudden urge to try something new, or the mounting desire learn to conquer what other people seem to find so easy. In any case, after more than two years of having my blog hosted by WordPress and nearly four years by Xanga, I’m moving yet again to a new website, hopefully for the last time.

It has not been an easy process, and it’s still very much a work in progress, but with Jeremy’s help, WordPress’s extremely user-friendly software, some prior knowledge (i.e. the measly amount that I learned in school) of HTML and PHP scripts, and lots of reading up on other things like databases and cPanel, I’ve finally managed to set up house at a place that allows me to just be a http://www.[domain name].com as opposed to a http://www.[domain name]

That’s right; I’m self-hosted now. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now, but the many attempts at understanding the documentation and processes involved always left me too frustrated and confused to actually set it up. It was only after I realized it would be easier to learn from watching someone do it that I sought Jeremy’s help with setting up the web host and server. Then I paid Namecheap 9.28USD for a year’s registration of my domain name before I could change my mind and chicken out yet again on learning how to manage my own website.

As I’ve mentioned, this is still a work in progress — I have yet to find the perfect theme for the website and manually and painstakingly change ALL the hyperlinks in ALL my posts (right now they ALL redirect to this website) — but from here on out, I will be operating out of


And then there were Nine

Me: Did Jessie get her tattoos here or did she get them all in Australia?
She got them in Australia. Why?
I want to get new ones, so I’m on the hunt for a good artist. I didn’t like the one who did my last tattoo.
What! Why do you want new ones now?
Because I have 7, and my dad says to round them up to 8 because 7 is a bad number for Chinese. And I can’t decide between two new designs so I figured I’d get both and finish off with 9 tattoos. Do you know if 9 is a good number for Chinese?
I think 9 symbolizes completeness.
Oh really? You see — maybe my luck will change once I stop carrying around 7 with me!

It had been a while, longer than I realized, since I last felt it — that urge to get a new tattoo. Looking at my tattoos about 2 weeks ago, I realized I missed the adrenaline rush, the unforgiving screech of the needle, and the excruciating, yet intoxicating pain. And then I realized that I missed all that because I had relapsed into my pain-for-pain pattern, a pattern I haven’t gone through in more than two and a half years, since I got my last tattoo.

So I made an appointment with Julian Oh of Blackcat Tattoo Studio, who had been recommended to me some time ago, to have two new designs stabbed into me this past weekend. I’m not sure if it was because the foot is a much more sensitive part of the body or because I had forgotten how much the process hours, but the pain was blinding. Most of the time I was either sore from sitting with my leg up and foot twisted, or fighting the urge to twitch and kick, so much so that the next tattoo barely hurt in comparison.

I must admit that not since Kate Hellenbrand did my very first tattoo back in 2005 have I met an artist whose work I actually really liked — until now. Julian was extremely patient and allowed me to shift positions and stretch my leg when it was stiff and cramping, and he was nice enough not to tell me I was twitching and close to kicking him in the face. And so, besides being extremely effective in distracting me from all the things I’ve been ceaselessly worrying about over the past couple of weeks, these are the results of my 4-hour session with him:

It may be safe to say my tattoo-acquiring days are really at an end, because I’m of a certain age now and trying to embark on a career that involves people too young to be exposed to things such as tattoos and piercings. And even though I got most of my tattoos for a less-than-conventional reason, each experience was no less unique than the other, and if I could do it all over again, I would.

And here is the final tally of my tattoos, in chronological order:

Life cycle, perhaps interrupted

One of the bad things about being in a relationship is age. Consciously or otherwise, we allow it to determine for us what stage of a relationship we should be at. At age 12, we are supposed to be much too young to have even heard the word. At age 15, we are told that we are not old enough to understand what the word really means, let alone experiment with it. At age 20, we are thought to have far more important things to do and accomplish than add one more name to our list of conquests. At age 26, we (especially the women) are warned that time’s a-tickin’ and we should start thinking about settling down before the eggs are taken off the shelf.

I will stop here, because at age 26, I will also be told that I am supposed to know no better.

Of late, when people hear that I am in a serious relationship, the question they like to ask next is: “So when are you getting married?” My reply depends on whom I am talking to — acquaintances get the noncommittal shrug, friends get a slightly more privileged “I don’t know” or “I haven’t thought about it”, and close friends get as much of the truth as they can. But the general response from those who absolutely must know or quash their curiosity is “But… don’t you want any children?” My answer is usually met by surprise, bewilderment or sometimes outright dismay: “Well… I guess… but I don’t have to. I can always adopt.”

I have nothing (much) against children — except those who resemble Jake from Two and a Half Men and who feel the need to scream, cry and vomit in full view of the public (hello, Madam Kwan’s KLCC!) — and have very occasionally considered taking my eggs (and age) a little more seriously. But, in an attempt to be as pragmatic as my age (there’s that word again!) — and perhaps society — will allow, I also have to embrace the very real possibility that I may never have children of my own. The beauty of this acceptance is that, after I told myself I may never anyone to will my bags and jewelry to and did not end up leaping out the window, I realized I could survive being childless, which may have made me a slightly rarer commodity to men whose biggest fear is the pressure of having to get married and reproduce.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t want to be too old when I try to have children. Not only will I not be in a position to support anyone but myself for a very long time, but I don’t want to be struggling at age 60 to put my children through college (when, let’s face it, I could be sitting at a mahjong table). Also, my scary age for childbearing is 30, which I have resolutely stood by ever since I watched my best friend back in Buffalo suffer pre-eclampsia at the age of 29 and my godson spend his first two weeks of life in intensive care because he was born several weeks early. It was nobody’s fault, but having seen for myself and knowing what I know now about the risks and dangers (and there is so much more than just pre-eclampsia that we may not know about) that come with having babies past a certain age, I could never risk putting my own baby through all that, or worse, rendering it motherless.

As for the adoption part, I have no doubt in my mind that I would consider it when the time comes. With so many orphaned children in the world, every case in which one (or even more) of them is accepted by a family or single parent is counted as a blessing, and dear knows this world could use as many blessings as it can get. I sincerely believe it is every bit as possible to love an adopted child and a biological child the same way, because at the end of the day, they are all children, untainted by sin and only trying to grow up among people who love them.

Who knows, two years down the road, I may actually have a change of heart and decide I simply must have a child to validate my existence, but for now, I’m perfectly happy owning a puppy — or a rabbit — and buying cute things for my friends’ children. Besides, sometimes it’s really not about what others think you should and shouldn’t do or what you think is the right, expected and accepted way of life, but about what will be good for yourself and the people around you who matter the most.

I should probably also tell you right now that before you even think of the nastiest name to call me for  not having a maternal bone in my body and having the cheek to put all this down in writing, you may want to go here.

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.

The skinny (or lack thereof) on me

“I basically stuck with fruit, vegetables and fish (to slim down for the movie). I wouldn’t recommend that. Emily Blunt and I would clutch at each other and cry because we were so hungry.” – Anne Hathaway on losing weight for The Devil Wears Prada

Two days ago, post-photoshoot-from-Hell, I received a call from the executive producer of the film, who had just come out from a meeting with the photographer. After very succinctly telling me that he didn’t like the hairstyle I had for the shoot and that there were, essentially, no photos that he found ‘perfect’ enough, he asked, “Have you gained weight since your last movie?”

That question, and the conversation that followed, is the very reason disclaimers exist. When he first informed me three weeks ago that he was going to arrange a photoshoot for me, I wasted no time in telling him that (a) I do not photograph well, (b) I have gained a significant amount of weight in the three years since filming The Wait, and (c) I am generally very uncomfortable in front of the camera. My protests very clearly fell on extremely deaf ears, because now, three weeks later, he’s saddled with a slew of photographs depicting a fat girl with bad hair.

Nevertheless, there were two outcomes of that conversation. The first is a severe diet over the next few weeks in an effort to diminish what the producer very tartly called my ‘chunky arms’ and ‘thick waist’. The second is that any belief I’ve ever had in my friends’ insistence that I look good in photos is now officially out the window.

I’ve always found it baffling when people — both friends and acquaintances — tell me that I should be a model. I find it even more baffling when we look at the exact same photograph of myself and see completely different things, especially since I have no illusions about my looks and have always made very transparent the fact that I am not photogenic. So when I met up with Yuh Wen, the girl who also acted in The Wait with me and whom I hadn’t seen since right up until last weekend, and she said that I should consider trying out for this year’s Miss World Malaysia pageant, I had to laugh. And then I was completely taken aback when I realized she meant it, not in the least because she had been in last year’s pageant and knew the thinner, taller competition I’d be up against, but she declared that I have the face, body, and verbal abilities for it. “You haven’t seen what’s under this dress!” I retorted.

Obviously, I am not about to be a part of any pageant, not only because I’m neither tall nor thin enough, but, more importantly, also because I’ve made it my lifelong principle not to be stereotyped as an events girl or pageant girl, two labels that are synonymous with the terms ‘uneducated’ and ‘Chinese-speaking-only’ (with Yuh Wen as the sole exception). But I’m still going to try to lose weight, if for no other reason than to stop the producers’ ceaseless complaints. The probability of this rather haphazard diet succeeding is, naturally, extremely low, due to the uncharacteristically big-boned frame and weight problems I inherited and battled all my life and my own aversion to diets, and the probability of me reneging on said diet out of rebellion is increasing exponentially.

Disclaimer (because it seems so important these days): I am well aware that this is how the entertainment industry thrives — on the notion that one can never be tall enough, thin enough or pretty enough. I am also aware that no matter how bravely the rest of the world is trying to embrace women’s curves, the survival rate of women’s social lives in this country is still precariously linked to how not curvy they are.

Model for a day

Yesterday I was put through my first professional photoshoot for a new short film that Giovanni (the very same) is doing. Despite putting both feet down and insisting that I am not thin enough and do not photograph well, the producers insisted on getting some shots of me for publicity and film posters, and also to start my own portfolio (though what I would do with a portfolio is beyond me). So I sat and stood and smiled and pouted my way through five hours for a photographer who kept telling me to ‘seduce the camera’.

Several things that I deduced from this photoshoot:

1. I will never do this again.

2. If one is not photogenic, it does not matter how good the camera is.

3. My hair obeys everyone except me. Yesterday was the first time in possibly months that my hair actually looked good, thanks to the stylist, her teasing comb, and about nine ounces of hairspray.

4. Acting is infinitely easier than modeling. It was easier for me to play a prostitute in The Wait than it was to ‘look sexy’ for yesterday’s shoot.

5. The amateur work I did for some of my photography major friends back in Buffalo was nowhere near as difficult and nerve-wracking as it was modeling for a professional photographer.

6. Photoshoots are really not for people with bad and short tempers. There were moments when I almost let out a stream of expletives because I was tired of trying to act nice and cute with the girl who will be playing my friend in the film.

7. Photoshoots are also not for people who are self-conscious. Half the time I was busy wondering how I was going to strike any pose at all without looking at fat and unphotogenic as I knew I was. As the pictures below show, I failed spectacularly.

8. I need to lose weight. A lot of it. I hope the retouched photos will depict me looking at least 30% thinner.

Still, at the risk of facing the fashion firing squad — or just public humiliation — I am posting behind-the-scenes pictures anyway, because this is, after all, my first and last photoshoot.

At the end of all that, the photographer chirped, “You should do this more often! Build your portfolio!” which earned an almighty snort from me.

Race, relationship, reflexology

Last night Afham and I tried foot reflexology for the very first time in my life. I’ve always loved a good massage, but I used to think that foot reflexology would be redundant if I’m already getting a full body massage, and Afham’s tendency to be ticklish below the knee made him apprehensive about getting a foot massage. However, after spending the last few weekends going out on both Friday and Saturday nights, and feeling the snowball effect from wearing 4-inch heels every single day, I decided it was time to give foot reflexology a try. And despite his misgivings, Afham was willing to try it as well.

So after dinner last night, we made a wild stab at one of the numerous foot reflexology and massage outlets in Sunway Damansara and got an hour’s foot and shoulder massages. It was, by far, the most effective, and the most painful massage I’ve ever had, and this is coming from someone who has sat through seven tattoos and never told a masseuse to lighten the pressure. It was all right up until the masseuse started kneading my heels and calves, which hurt so badly that even the cheesy Taiwanese Human Tetris game show on TV could not distract me; next to me, Afham was cringing and huffing in the chair next to me as he was torn between pain and ticklishness, but could not tell the masseuse to let up because they were both Chinese nationals.

It was this that led to a conversation — in Mandarin — I would normally never have, much less with anyone I’ve just met:

Masseuse 1: Miss, why can’t he speak Chinese?
Me: Because he’s not Chinese.
Masseuse 1:
Oh, then what is he?
Me: He’s Malay.
Masseuse 1: Oh… But he can still watch that Chinese show and laugh?
Me: It looks funny enough to him, I suppose. But he can understand a litte bit of Chinese.
Masseuse 2: Waaah, but he’s very fair! And so good-looking. He doesn’t look Malay at all!
Masseuse 1: Is he your boyfriend?
Me: Yes.
Masseuse 1: But are you Chinese?
Me: Yes, I am.
Masseuse 2: Oh, really? You don’t look very Chinese. So if you marry him, you will have to convert, right?
Me: Oh, we don’t talk about that!
Masseuse 2: Why? You must talk about it. You are old enough to get married already!
Masseuse 1: And if you marry him and he wants to take another wife, would you be able to accept it?
Me: Um… I guess not.

From that conversation, I deduced that:

  1. My boyfriend apparently does not look Malay to anyone who isn’t Malay;
  2. Even without makeup on, I don’t look Chinese enough to be recognized as one, even by fellow Chinese (nationals, at that);
  3. Our religious differences, and my refusal to address them are apparently two things that have come to be of concern to everyone except myself; and
  4. As soon as one is old enough to be married — which, these days, can be anywhere from the age of 10, or whenever increasingly early puberty strikes — every relationship is automatically inducted into the Marriage Potential List.

And after all that, we took one of the center’s business cards before we left. I suppose now that the masseuses have satisfied their curiosity over our races, religions and relationship, a more peaceful session wouldn’t be too far off.