Sunday, August 19, 2018

VPN

I'm back in Singapore, where the air is fresh and clean, or at least relatively more so, as compared to that of Beijing. Also, despite having very limited freedoms of speech about our government, we still have access to the Internet that the rest of the world has, without having to tap onto VPNs, so there's also that. Thanks for not sucking that much, Singapore. Thanks for not being worse.

Here are some memories in the form of photos.






It was actually a very good week.

I learned many things and experienced also many things, but one thing stuck with me. While walking on the Great Wall, there were many people from many different places who were all cheering each other on. Many of them also said I had on a beautiful dress, because I'd chosen to wear an Indian ethnic outfit (bc why not?).

Making our way down though, we chose to take the ski lift, the ones that are basically a bench with a flimsy metal bar over your legs. My cousin took one with her mum, because one lift only holds two people, and I sat on another one alone. On the way down, I knew it was relatively safe because it was at the Great Wall of China, a tourist attraction that millions of people have already been to, but still, I was dangling over perhaps a couple hundred feet of air, then forest, then the ground. I saw people who were taking the ski lift up, and most of them were in twos.

I know that having someone beside you doesn't make it any safer, but I'm guessing it would have felt a little better. You'd probably be joking about something or another, or sharing the moment with an anecdote, and then you'd forget that what you're doing is a risk to your safety. I thought it might be the same with life, which to me is confusing and overwhelming and unpredictable, and even if having a partner doesn't reduce the actual risk of going through its twists and turns, perhaps it might help it all go down smoother and better.

I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time today, on the airline's in-flight entertainment system. I was somehow sobbing at one of the scenes, and my face was really contorted and I was gasping for air, because I thought I was like, just watching a show, right? But then this flight attendant caught me, and she laughed and I laughed while crying and gasping, and she handed me a napkin, and I felt so great about that interaction.

I met a guy last week in Beijing, he said I write really well, and he joked that he had turned into a fanboy of my writing. I know a couple of men in Beijing, one in Germany, one in Paris, a couple in Brooklyn, a few more in California, very likely several in Singapore, someone in New Zealand, a person in Australia, and they all care for me to some extent. Given the public nature of my writing, they all monitor me to some degree and check in with me when they feel the need to. None of them cares the way I would like to be cared for, I'm so tired of things being transitionary. I want someone who wants to be on the ski lift with me, or on a boring bus ride home, or I don't know, someone who cares and invests themselves just as much as I do.

It was a good week. Beijing was good to me.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

CLAVINOVA

People like stories, and I write stories about people, so here I am serving a story about someone, that you might enjoy reading. Go crazy, why don't you. I matched with a Jon on Tinder. He had a photo of himself dressed as Jon Snow. I went as Daenerys last Halloween, but it's not one of my Tinder photos. Last I checked, Daenerys and Jon Snow are getting it on in the show, so I told Jon about it. I sent him photos of my silvery-blonde self from last Halloween, he said I pulled off Dany really well but I was cuter as my own self, so I thought, that was smooth. We met for brunch, where we talked about our families and backgrounds. He hails from the East Coast of the US (he says the East Coast because he's moved around a lot *cue eyeroll*) but can generally be localised to Boston and New York. He went to Harvard, which we didn't talk about but I know because of social media and because he's worn his Harvard tee and sweatpants at home (I also think I've worn a pair of his Harvard sweatpants). So apparently although I couldn't make it to Harvard in this universe and timeline, I've subconsciously decided to date only all the Harvard alumni and be second-hand smart and privileged, I dunno??? We talked about my wanting to move to the US, and he agrees it's not the best time to do so, and he's very apprehensive about Trump being re-elected, because it's usually been difficult to push out the incumbent president, etc. After brunch, we went on a whim to Windsor Nature Park, which I'd never heard of and he underestimated how long and tough it would be, because we ended up trekking 7km pretty much uphill. We did however, keep each other going by holding hands and giving each other kisses, and when we were at the treetop walk at the top of the rickety bridge, overlooking the canopy and the reservoir, I was stunned, so perhaps not a bad first date idea after all, apart from both of us having worn the wrong shoes for it. We talked about our expectations, and I told him I was sick of dating around, but he doesn't know whether he's ready for a relationship, he's extremely non-commital and he thinks caring makes people inefficient. He does think I deserve a nice guy, he says I need someone to help me push back when my family is being mean, but I told him otherwise. I told him I don't want someone like that, I think some men think my mother is a monster, which is clearly an impression I have fed, given that they have never met her themselves. I think my mother has lived half her life based on what she has been taught and experienced, and she might have made some mistakes with my upbringing and her treatment of my sexual activity and miscarriage. I also think it is too late to change her or push back, and she also spent the first 26 years of my life providing for me and making sure I got what she could get for me. She loves me, slightly conditionally and restrictively, but I'm looking for a man who respects my mother and the boundaries she has set for herself. Yes I will move out of this place when I have the means, but I'm not looking for an alternative to my mother and family, rather: a man who can support me and be an extension to my family. He played Dear Life and some other pieces on his Yamaha keyboard, while I sat beside him. I giggled when I first saw it, 'cos a week prior to this, the daily question at work had been what is your biggest turn-on, and I said mine was men who had talent with musical instruments. It doesn't matter whether it's the guitar or piano or drums, men who play an instrument know what they're doing with their fingers. I can attest to Jon's dexterity in his fingers, and he also sails, not sure what this all means (apart from that he's a privileged bro), so you can make of it what you will. This is why if I ever have kids, I am making sure they pick up at least one musical instrument so the boys can take care of the girls they date, and my girls can take care of themselves. Jon is an engineer, but he also does the crossword and reads longform prose (he insisted on reading aloud to me, a humorous piece about New York being evacuated by all its residents, as if he doubts that I have my own ability to read). He is somehow a cross of all the white men I've liked and dated so far. Last night, he texted me that he was a little intimidated by me and I asked why, I was so puzzled because I'd been quite soft and pliant instead of overbearing, but then he said "because you're very smart and cute and you seem to know what you want much more than I do" and clearly, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I met him and he was celebrating a co-worker's birthday at Cook and Brew, quite a snazzy little bar and restaurant, and somehow I ended up with them in a party mini-van for the first time, which was amazing. It was dark and there were tacky colorful laser lights and two poles, and loud music, and I have videos of all of us, taking shots and singing and dancing. Jon said he wanted to dominate the foosball table at the bar we were heading to, but the table had been removed, so you can guess what he dominated next. *shrugs* He kept saying fuck and that he was afraid 'cos he liked me and he was scared of what was coming next, and he's only working here till April so who knows what's down the line. Through the night, he kept veering sharply between saying "I love you" and "I wanna fuck you in the ass" so I knew he was well and proper drunk. At about 4am or thereabouts, I said to him this was the state of modern romance, women seeing the men they like admit some of their feelings only while intoxicated and being cuddled in bed, but Jon had a moment of lucidity and said that's been happening for centuries, it's not modern, and I stayed awake looking at him. If you're reading this, you must know I'm a sucker for falling for all the men who need fixing and I need to snap out of this, my life is not a Coldplay song. He wears Old Spice, like even my local ex-boyfriends did, before I dated white guys. This was a giggling matter because you can't find Old Spice in Singapore except at a tiny Indian grocery store, and Jon knows about this. I'll be in China for the whole of next week (my cousin Hazwani is there for a conference and her husband can't get leave days from work so she asked me to sightsee with her) and then Jon is gonna be back in Boston till early Sept for two weddings, so I won't be seeing him again until then, if we even meet again. I removed us from each other's contacts because he couldn't decide what he wanted, so he's apparently gonna think about it in our time spent apart. He knows where I work, so we'll see if I see him then. I honestly don't know what will happen because things change so fast and a month is a relatively long time but till then, this has been a story about Jon.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE

This week, I tried not to talk to Adam, but then he was repressed to my subconscious so much I dreamt of him, so I spent all of this morning chatting with him. I love him. As a friend, or more, I dunno, but I love that I can talk to him. I told him about my self-destructive behavior last week, and he is the only person who knows the full extent of it. He didn't even judge me for it. If my therapist knew what I'd done/I'm doing, I'm pretty sure there would be a bit of a stop put to it, even though therapists are technically not supposed to stop you from doing anything per se. I don't even know the full legality of what I'm doing. I sound like I sell weapons on the deep/dark web, which clearly I don't, but Jesus Christ I never thought I'd be here. I love Adam, and I'm so comfortable with him, just letting him know what I do and how I feel, and feeling happier that he's there to listen, and know that I'm valid. He's in a good place in life, and he says he's stopped drinking again (he should never be drinking bc it messes up his antidepressant meds!!!! But I'm not here to judge). I think I'm good too, like it makes me happy to know Adam is happy, etc. I'm gonna chill and take life as it goes. Today I'm glad I got to talk to Adam, even if I am intellectually and physically so fucking attracted to him and we can't be with each other. Life is okay. I think we have a very strangely balanced friendship because I was raised in a religious background so everything is a miracle etc, whereas Adam writes for Know Your Meme. Can you imagine? The man writes about memes, which some say is the ruin of our generation. Nothing is sacred to him. He teaches me to troll, and I am glad to have him teach me to just be comfortable and have fun. Today my college sweetheart of three years, my first real love, got married. It's nice, I'm super happy for him.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

AMBITION IS MY FOLLY


Today I watched this video again. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Cherru about swinging from a rope into a creek, which she's never done, so I showed her the time I'd done so, somewhere in Lake Tahoe. I find it incredibly sad that we don't even have creeks to swing into, in Singapore. If we tied a rope somewhere near a reservoir, we'd probably get arrested or fined and it would be removed pretty much immediately. My newer colleagues sometimes ask to see how the guy looks, whenever they find out I was pregnant for a short while, once upon a time. I don't know why they want to know, he's a white guy, and that's pretty much all you need to know. :P

But you get to see him if you want to, he's the white guy with dark hair (the one who's driving, lol), and a decent good-boy face, because that's actually legitimately the kind of look I like, I think. I like white guys with dark hair and good-boy faces. Why do I like white guys? I don't know, I'm just attracted to them, why don't you ask all the ones I've been out with, why they like Asian girls? Who knows, who cares, it may or may not have racial or political motivations, it may just be base desire, it happens. Today I saw us racing in Mulholland Highway canyons again, in the video, and I remember feeling contentment. I remember feeling contented very often on that trip of two months. I saw the Perseid meteor shower from Lake Tahoe, and I climbed Mount Freel, and I went to SpaceX (no photos bc they're private af), and I got to sit shotgun while a guy raced pretty much all through Cali, and I stayed in a house that might have been haunted, and with a musician and walked his neighbour's dog, and I had no money but all the freedom.

There are certain things I remember with no effort. I remember his nasal laugh, I remember when we were at Venice Beach with some people we'd just met at a house party, and some random guy we'd just been introduced to asked him what his plans for life were. He said "oh, you know, just do my time, cash out, get a wife, then move out somewhere cheaper" and it has stayed with me all this time, because the way he said "get a wife" honestly amazed me. To me, I think the heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and I don't mean it literally, I know our feelings and emotions don't literally emanate from that physical muscle we call a heart, but I mean in terms of love. Maybe it's just me and my rough upbringing that makes me feel like I need to learn how to love, I need practice, with different people, in different relationships, and I need to practise commitment, etc.

He said "get a wife" like you could pick one out at a supermarket and it was guaranteed they would love you back, and things would work out, and the commitment would last, because both people would be able to commit. I'm not bringing this up in terms of this man per se, I just wonder whether people do have this mindset of basically settling down when you're ready and it would work out. Or I wonder if it is somewhere in the back of these people's minds that it's a Stepford Wife/trophy wife situation, in which case you marry for the sake of a household, but then both parties would eventually seek out other partners to fulfill their own desires, outside of their marriage. Is that what happens? I dunno, ever since I was called naive, I just wonder whether everything I believe is a sham and doesn't actually happen, lol.

I miss the US. I just want to go everywhere, do everything again, as opposed to being in this tiny island country of 719 sq km, where there is nowhere to go, and you can't do anything. Forget drugs like marijuana (for which there is the death penalty --- oh yes, the UN human rights groups aren't particularly fond of us for any reason), you can't even buy chewing gum here, because we're not trusted to dispose of it properly. Why, how did I get born in this city state? How?

I wanna take a break and read all the books I own, and finally write my own.
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you. 
— Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

NUYORICAN

I spent the last ten minutes reading about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I believe I might have found my new favorite New Yorker/Puerto Rican, unseating Lin-Manuel Miranda only by a little, because of course she is female and by default she has had to work harder to get where she is. I love that according to most media coverage, her win was pretty much the biggest recent political upset because she was obviously the underdog, having spent a ratio of 1:18 to Joe Crowley's campaigns. Her political stances give me hope that there is a point to rocking the boat, and that the tides are turning. We'll see, but till then, imma still look to Lin's daily good morning and good night Tweets to lift my spirits. I had a brilliant, brilliant day today, the people I work with truly bring light, love and laughter into my life, even if the retail work itself does not inspire me on a minute or even hourly basis. I hope Demi Lovato is strong enough to get through what she is going through. Today I thought about the Central Provident Fund. This is the mandatory "savings" fund in Singapore, that takes away 20% of your monthly income. This money cannot be removed as cash or used for anything apart from HDB flats/housing, a housing board which belongs to the government, and the average prices of HDB apartments are around Singapore Dollar $330,000 for a 120 sq-metre apartment, and of course private housing is even more expensive. To illustrate the worth of this, sit down cross-legged on the floor and draw a square around you, that is about a square meter. To purchase a HDB apartment, you are paying $2800 (2100 USD) for that square of space and you own about 120 squares, usually. Also, you aren't allowed to purchase an apartment by yourself until you are 35, because the government believes in traditional "family values", so most people have to get married if they want to live in their own flat. This is why there is a trend of proposals happening whenever talk of purchasing a flat occurs. If you somehow happen to still have a value in your CPF account, you still aren't allowed to retire and take out the amount in whole, the government will ration it and give you like 300 bucks a month from, I dunno, age 65, till you die. This means that this money will never truly belong to you. I work in retail in a country that does not believe in or have a minimum wage in place, how much do you think I earn? I clearly don't earn enough. Whatever your wage is per month, divide it by four and that's my monthly income. Then take away a fifth of it, for my supposed "housing" funds, which means now I have four-fifths of my meagre monthly wage, which I have to spend on food, transport, bills, etc. What do I even have left to save? The only way I can retrieve the 20% of my cumulative wages I have earned so far in my decade of working life (it has chalked up to a couple tens of thousands), as my pure hard-earned cash, is if I renounce my Singaporean citizenship and have lived as a citizen of another country for a minimum of five years. Listen, whatever Singapore is portraying to the world, it isn't even the half of it. It likes to suck up to the powers that be, because we are tiny and have no power of our own. Singaporeans aren't happy, and even foreigners wouldn't be happy if they had to live here like Singaporeans do. I hate it here, and I'm out the first chance I get. I will not contribute to this atrocious North Korean dictatorship pretending to be a democracy when it's not. Again, though, I had a good day. If you'd like to find out more, you are welcome to read the Wikipedia page of the Singaporean CPF, although I'm pretty sure the Singapore government keeps tabs on it so that the controversy tab is kept to a minimum. If you Googled it, you are highly likely to find many more dissidents and much more dissatisfaction than is listed on the Wiki page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

BOYS LIKE YOU

Adam: Kidding, of course I care, but I also don't think you're crazy
Adam: I think you think you're crazy
Adam: I think you're very sensitive and a bit naive
Adam: But not crazy

Sarah: I didn't like it bc my mother has always monitored me and to have someone else do it was just like jesus gimme a break

Adam: You like have a thought and are like WOW THIS IS SO WEIRD I MUST BE CRAZY
Adam: and it's like
Adam: Nah dude
Adam: You good

Sarah: Very sensitive
Sarah: Means i feel too much?

Adam: But I think being in a society where you don't fit in isn't helping
Adam: Of course you'll feel crazy if everyone around you is acting very different and they have a certain set of values
Adam: That you don't share
Adam: But they're not insane
Adam: Like I think if you were in like, 1800s England they'd say you're insane cuz you read books and are generally dissatisfied with things
Adam: Point being you're not insane but the culture around you isn't built for you

Sarah: It's weird tho
Sarah: Why do i have to go against the grain and make things hard for myself
Sarah: I should stop reading books and feeling dissatisfied :p

Adam: -_-

Sarah: Can i just say
Sarah: Money cant buy class

Adam: U r right

Sarah: Men are alrd the worse gender and having so much money doesnt help any
Sarah: You need to educate your fellow men

Adam: Ur right the rich should be guillotined

Sarah: I mean
Sarah: I never put it so harshly
Sarah: But you were always the one who hoped the trump would die of heart attack
Sarah: V extreme

Adam: Yeah really hoping that happens soon

Sarah: It wont
Sarah: Why would it
Sarah: Also if he dies what happens

Adam: Cuz he's old and fat

Sarah: Please tell me not pence
Sarah: Bc thats not a consolation

Adam: Unfortunately pence
Adam: I know
Adam: He should die too
Adam: Of a boner

Sarah: Yeah deffo
Sarah: For a man
Sarah: And he dies of shock of finally coming to terms w being gay

Adam: Gay joke, nice

Sarah: Whaaaat
Sarah: You can do it but i cant??

Adam: I didn't make a gay joke!

Sarah: Tbh cant tell if ur sarcastic

Adam: I am lightly teasing

Sarah: You always make such r00d jokes
Sarah: I make one and its like gay joke, nice
Sarah: Geeeez

I unfollowed Adam and told him to unfollow me on Instagram 'cos I knew I would continue liking him if I kept talking to him, and yet. This week, when I had a late-night existential crisis and yesterday when I'd done something humiliating (like, possibly in the ranks of getting knocked up by a jock who barely cared about my miscarriage), I went to tell Adam.

Yesterday I told Adam I don't want to trust any man, and I go around looking for the least trustworthy men just so I can prove my point, and he agreed it does seem that way, but then I think, I do trust Adam, despite not wanting to. Yesterday I told him sometimes I think he cheated on his ex so she dumped him, because I'm wired to think that is just a thing all men do.

We've known each other for almost a year. Last year, after the Lush Singapore staff party, we told each other we loved each other for the first time, which is strange, because we hadn't met, and we still haven't met. Yesterday, my manager just said my name was drawn to be our store representative for planning this year's staff party (we have a great theme in mind, and I really hope it's picked).

It's been almost a year, and I still like Adam. I mean, yeah, I don't know how he smells, he's a smoker, I don't know how his hands would feel in mine, I don't know if he has sweaty palms, I don't know if his tongue is a nice size (AHAHAHA) or all the weird things you should know about someone you like, but I also know how he feels when he comes down from doing drugs, I know what he does when he's sick, I know he goes to Vermont to get off the grid, I know he's a proponent of therapy and even though he hates that I run to him only when I need him instead of just talking to him as a regular friend, he's still sort of my minor therapist who undoes some of the damage done by my parenting, etc.

If I had any sort of discipline I would really stop talking to him, because I clearly have no control over my feelings.

Friday, July 20, 2018

THE VOICE INSIDE SINGS A DIFFERENT SONG
(WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?)

Whose idea was it to make me cry so much? This definitely goes into one of my most important favorite Youtube videos. I love this so much, I love the kids and the song and their harmonies and choruses and the performance and the reaction. This fills my heart. Oh Jesus, I love this.


I've been staring at the edge of the water
long as I can remember
never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
but I come back to the water
no matter how hard I try

every turn I take
every trail I trek
every path I make
every road leads back
to the place I know
where I cannot go
where I long to be

see the line where the sky meets the sea
it calls me
and no one knows how far it goes

Thursday, July 19, 2018

GOD IS A WOMAN

you, you love it how I move you
you love it how I touch you
my one, when all is said and done
you believe God is a woman
and I, I feel it after midnight
a feeling that you can't fight
my one, it lingers when we're done
you believe God is a woman

God is a woman
God is a woman, yeah
when all is said and done
you believe God is a woman
you believe God (God is a woman)
God is a woman, yeah
it lingers when we're done
you believe God is a woman

*

It feels like I haven't been here forever. Life is still the same, somewhat, always inching forward but never feeling like it goes anywhere. I got a tiny pay raise at work, and my manager gave me a chart of progression to work towards, so I can move up, which was nice. You know, it makes you feel like you're not just stagnating in life. Bigger, better things are happening in future, yadda yadda yadda.

One time, after my closing shift at work, I'd brought down the rubbish as well as recyclables to the main garbage disposal centre at the hidden basement of the mall I work at, and I'd separated the cardboard and plastics from the rubbish, right.

I then saw one of the people who work for the mall management, either as a janitor, or with garbage disposal or something, chuck them all together into the huge rubbish/waste bin thing, I'm sorry I don't know what it's called. I don't know if all of them do it, I don't know what they're taught to do.

I just want to play my part, in this tiny way I can, to impress upon anyone reading this, that plastic is problematic. First of all, there are about 100 million tons of plastic debris in the oceans, and this kills about 100 million sea creatures in one single year, by strangling them, or accidental choking, or trapping them, whatever. I mean, these animals don't have our so-called developed human brains to know what is food or what isn't. Also, when you are a whale and swallowing a ton of water for your food, you can't be picky about what you consume or do not consume.

Even if you give no fucks about these animals (because why should you, right? you've evolved and now it's all about survival of the fittest), you're still being harmed. Sea creatures consume tons of plastic that have been broken down by the sun, and are therefore being poisoned by plastic microparticles, and guess whose plastic ingestion is increasing via eating all the seafood that we love? That's right, us motherfuckers.

Here goes: a plastic bottle takes 450 years to decompose. You can do your part in separating your recyclables from your waste, but you still can't guarantee what goes on down the chain of events. I work at Lush, and we are major proponents of recycling and using natural products, and I still can't ensure that your step in recycling, goes anywhere in the long run. Recycling still requires energy, and many recycling facilities reject plastic into waste, if it is contaminated with the food or cosmetics or whatever particles used to be in your plastic containers. Not clean? Not good enough to be recycled.

This is why the slogan goes reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycling is supposed to be your last-ditch attempt, and instead you should be reducing any kind of single-use plastic that you currently still use. That grocery plastic bag you just accepted (if you forget to bring your cloth bag) should last you at least ten more grocery shopping trips. Single-use plastic straws? Never again (I've got my steel straw, by the way, just FYI).

Come on, people. You know how the boomers left us with nothing but insane college debts and rising mortgages from their fucking up the housing market? Can we as millennials please not be the generation that leaves a plastic-polluted Earth for future inhabitants of this godforsaken planet? Please, let this not be our legacy.

My friend from Lush was telling me about how she'd want to create a zine about plastics and going zero-waste, and she said she'd ask me to collaborate, and I hope this happens! We can talk about Earth Overshoot Day (previously known as Ecological Debt Day)!

*

In the past week or so, I've met quite a few friends for different things. One of them told a story about their best friend, who is in what I would say is an emotionally unhealthy and abusive relationship. So she's only dated this one guy her whole life. This guy doesn't post any photos of her on his social media, then when he's asked about it, he just says "I don't have to display my love for you to the world" which is like, you know, okay enough, I guess. He gets caught sending Instagram DMs to other girls, and all he does is turn around and engage in negging and gaslighting her, asking why she's keeping tabs on him --- which she wasn't, by the way, her Instagram app had his account logged in on her phone, and he forgot about it. But then, then she somehow gets caught in a threesome. Look, I'm all for sexual freedom and adventuring, you do you, boo. But don't do something you never wanted.

So this girl, right, she was having a sexytime session with her douchebag fiancé (that's right, they're engaged), when a mutual girl friend of theirs arrived at their place or wherever, so she leaves the room for a while, to do God knows what, but when she gets back, her fiancé is fucking the other girl. She then feels pressured to join them???? By this time, I'm like, what even the fuck is going on????? Girl, if your boyfriend, no, fiancé is fucking someone else, without your prior acknowledgment and consent, that's not even a threesome, he's fucking cheating on you.

I've been wondering what could motivate her to stick with this fucking dickhead of a man, and the person who was telling me this story, said he's the only guy she's ever dated, and she's given "her all" to him, meaning she lost her "virginity" to him. So now she probably feels like she has no more worth to offer to any other man, and she is of course a Malay-Muslim girl, and this, this is precisely why I think the patriarchy is so insidious and so harmful to my community.

Unless and until all the girls with my racial genetic makeup understand and accept that they are in charge of their own bodies, that we can all sleep around with as many men as we want and are comfortable with, that our worth goes beyond much, much, much more than our bodies, that we have our own brains and agency and that the person who came up with virginity as a physical concept and sexual/slut-shaming was very clearly likely to be a man, this community is fucked. Our mums and dads are telling us to keep ourselves "decent and clean and pure", so we find equally decent men, as if our girls' worth is in just the kind of man she gets to eventually marry. It really riles me up because it's 2018, and if you don't think I can sleep around, and still be able to date a good man, whilst also being proud of myself for just being the awesome, stellar human being that I am, you are dead wrong. Look at me, girls, I'm way past my so-called virginity, and I'm still worth more than most of the men I've dated, and I'm willing to bet, so are you. Men as a gender have to step up, and it is not on you to stay and settle for anyone who doesn't know what you're worth. Oh! Kyrene, one of my friends from work, said something that I really love. Although it's really simple, sometimes I think Asian parents really don't understand the concept. So Kyrene has many tattoos on her body, and her dad asks "what if you find a guy who doesn't like your tattoos?" and she just tells him "so you're okay if a guy looks at me for my body and my skin, instead of my heart and brain and what I can bring to the table?" And it made him shut up, lolol.

*

Mahirah saw that I was reading This Is What Inequality Looks Like, and she'd written a paper on it for school, so I read it, and now I'm putting it up here. If you ever wondered how institutionalised racism works in Singapore, here is the surface of it. I did tiny minor bits of editing for grammar and such, but otherwise, this is what it was.

Which groups in Singapore may be said to experience institutionalised racism and how does this influence their life chances?

The Malay community has long been known to be the race that lags behind in multiracial Singapore. Malays have been ranked the lowest in terms of socio-economic status, educational attainment and have been known for various social problems like high divorce rates and substance abuse (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007). Although the then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew himself said that it was due to the Malays’ refusal to integrate into Singapore society, academics like Alatas (2012), Rahim (1994) and Barr and Low (2005) have attributed this to the trickle-down effects of post-colonialism, where former British colonisers like Sir Stamford Raffles racialised Malays to be indolent. This was then exacerbated by the Malay community’s refusal to accept English education while the rest of the population had already advanced and cultivated an entire generation of English-educated workers (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007).

In 2010, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism and Racial Discrimination Githu Muigai concluded that the Malay community has been disadvantaged by certain government policies (Gomez, 2012). In light of his results, this essay will focus on Malays to be a group in Singapore that may be said to experience institutionalised racism. This essay will look into issues such as the tudung ban, Malay men and Military Service, the marginalisation of the Madrasahs as well as the cultural deficit thesis that has been propagated by Singaporean society. An analysis of how these issues will consequently influence their life chances will follow.

There are three concepts to take note of in this essay. First, the Malay community is understood as the Malay-Muslim community. This is because majority of the Malays in Singapore are adherents of Islam. The Malay race has been synonymous to being Muslim in Singapore, such that the Malay self-help group, Yayasan Mendaki, is known as the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim community. Hence, this essay recognises that any form of discrimination towards religious practices is also an act of discrimination against the Malay community as Islam is commonly accepted as part of the Malay culture in Singapore. Second, institutionalised racism is when racism is propagated by society’s institutions such as schools, workplace and the government through policies and practices that advantage certain races while discriminating others (Macionis and Plummer, 2012). Third, life chances will refer to more than just the Weberian concept of opportunities that an individual has to improve their quality of life (Weber, Gerth and Mills, 1946), it will also refer to the ability to meet one’s needs that are tangible, like material wealth as well as intangible gains, like inner satisfaction.

The Tudung Ban

The tudung is a headscarf that Muslim women veil themselves with as part of their religious obligations. However, despite living in a multiracial and multi-religious society, the tudung is banned from primary and secondary school students and frontline service jobs like police officers and nurses. The voices of the Malays to fight for their right to observe their religion freely remain ignored when the Ministry of Education (MOE) suspended several school girls for wearing the tudung on school grounds of a local government school (Mutalib, 2011). The banning of the tudung is in direct opposition to the Singapore Constitution that stands to let her citizens practice religion freely. Article 15 states that Singaporeans have the right to ‘profess and practice his religion and propagate it’ (Rahim, 2003, pg. 12).

The ban on the tudung is justified by the MOE on the grounds that standardisation of school uniforms promotes ethnic integration. In a statement, the MOE posited that, ‘The government seeks to expand the common space Singaporeans share. Schools require pupils to wear uniforms, regardless of race, religion or social status. Allowing exceptions would fragment the common space and invite competing demands from different communities’ (Barr and Low, 2005).

The reality of the matter is that there have in fact, been exceptions to this rule of social cohesiveness. Students of the Sikh faith have always been allowed to observe their religion by wearing the turban as part of their school uniform since colonial times (Tan, 2011). If the turban, a blatant symbol of the Sikh religion is allowed on school premises, it begs the question as to why the same exemption is not allowed for the tudung.

This act of discrimination has long been a grievance to the Malay community. Insofar as education is concerned, parents have sought to send their students to Madrasahs so as to allow their children to study without compromising their religious beliefs (Mutalib, 2011). A number of Muslim women have had to discard the tudung when it comes to keeping their jobs (Barr and Low, 2005)

Banning the tudung is a form of forced assimilation (Syed, 2013) as Malays have no other choice but to discard part of their cultural identity in order to integrate and be accepted by society. This form of “culture shedding” (Syed, 2013, pg. 430) violates human rights for freedom of religion and freedom of culture.

This adversely affects their life chances as it can be seen that their opportunities for a better quality of life and their needs to fulfil their religious obligations are not met. It is seen that the Malay community has to jettison part of their cultural identity in order to assimilate into the Singapore society. For the Malays who refuse to assimilate into the secular society and choose to hold on to their cultural identity, they will then have to find other means of education and occupation.

Malay Men and Military Service

Gomez (2012) found that Malays are underrepresented in senior positions in the Military as well as the Police force and the judiciary. He attributes it to the perceived notion that the Malay community is not loyal to the city-state. This can further be seen in how Malays are restricted from areas in the military that are seen as sensitive, including intelligence units and elite guards units (Walsh, 2007).

Literature on this subject has shown that two recurring themes are often the reason why there is so much distrust towards the Malays. First, Singapore is situated between Indonesia and Malaysia, both countries’ with populations made up of a large number of Malay-Muslims. Hence, although the Malay-Muslim community might be a minority in Singapore, they are the majority within the region. In 2000, then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confessed that the state is wary of the loyalty of Singaporean Malay-Muslims if a war were to erupt against their fellow Malay-Muslims from neighbouring countries (Kadir, 2004). Second, Malay-Muslims are not trusted to put the interests of their nation before the interests of their religion. Again, Lee Hsien Loong justified keeping Malays away from sensitive areas in the military by rationalising that the “government did not want to put any soldier in a difficult position where his emotions for the nation may come into conflict with his emotions for his religion” (Mutalib, 2011).

This form of institutionalised racism towards the Malay community is practiced by the military and government bodies. Life chances of the Malays in forms of opportunities for career advancements in institutions like the Military and the Police force are stunted because of their perceived disloyalty. Such discrimination also breeds feelings of being alienated from their own society.

Marginalisation of the Madrasahs

This essay will argue that the Singapore government, whether intentionally or not, marginalises the Madrasahs in Singapore. Madrasahs are private religious institutions that provide both religious and secular subjects. Barr and Low (2005) suggests that Madrasahs provide an alternative education path for female Muslim students to study in an environment that allows them to wear the tudung since it is banned in national mainstream schools.

Madrasahs do not receive any form of funding from the government, seeing as they are private institutions. They operate on the funds from wealthy Muslim families and Muslim organisations as well as donation drives that they initiate from time to time (Mokhtar, 2010). This results in a lack of resources to upgrade school facilities and skills of their teaching staff. Madrasah students are also not awarded the same subsidies as government school students, like Edusave, and have to pay their school fees in full, which is usually a hefty sum (Mokhtar, 2010, pg. 115).

Despite the lack of assistance from the government, it is seen that they are adamant on monitoring and patronising the education provided by Madrasahs. The Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) was drafted up as a registry for the government to keep track of the Madrasah teaching staff (Kadir, 2004, pg. 366). The government  started to impose requirements for Madrasah students to meet an average score of 175 for their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) for each Madrasah. Failure to meet the required benchmark would lead to the closure of the Madrasah (Mohd Nor et al., 2017). Such moves from the government caused tension amongst the Malay community, who felt that the government was adamant on the abolition of the Madrasahs altogether (Kadir, 2004).

When put in perspective vis-à-vis the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, there seems to be a bias in the importance that is placed on education that is in the interest of the Chinese majority. SAP schools are government-funded private institutions that cultivate Chinese culture and proficiency in the Mandarin language (Barr and Low, 2005). These schools receive a lot of funding from the government, despite also being private institutions and are elitist in nature, accepting only the top students of each cohort (Rahim, 2012). Gomez (2012) argued that the existence of SAP schools further marginalises the minority groups in Singapore, especially since the minority groups were not given the same privilege to have a school that is government-funded and exclusive for their race. The implementation of SAP schools promote mono-ethnicity, which goes against the government’s vision of ethnic integration and social cohesiveness- of which their basis of banning the tudung was for.

The marginalisation of Madrasahs brings dissatisfaction and tension amongst the Malays in Singapore (Mohd Nor et al., 2017). It also limits their life chances as their education is not given the same privilege of being fully funded nor monetarily supported by the government. The creation of SAP schools shows that the government favours education in the interest of the Chinese majority. Furthermore, it marginalises non-Chinese minorities like the Malays who will never be able to enrol themselves and experience the high quality education provided by SAP schools.

Cultural Deficit Thesis

Zubaidah Rahim (1998) pointed out that the perpetuation of the Cultural Deficit Thesis by scholars and politicians alike influenced how Malays were being represented. The Cultural Deficit Thesis blames the underperformance of Malays (relative to other races) on their own cultural weaknesses, bad habits and attitudes (Rahim, 1998). The stereotype that Malays are indolent has been an orientalist perception that pervaded during colonial and post-colonial times (Bin Mohamed Nasir, 2007). It is then further propagated by politicians like Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir who suggested that the Malays would need to act more like the Chinese if they wanted to succeed (Rahim, 1992). Then-minister Lee Kuan Yew even went so far as to prove that Malays were biologically an inferior race (Barr, 1999).

The effects of such pervasive racism, propagated by government figures gave legitimacy to the Cultural Deficit Thesis. Such generalisation is problematic, especially for the Malay community. By racialising Malays to be inferior and lazy, they would be entrapped in self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1948), that is when an individual’s expectations of another person causes the said person to behaviourally conform to what was expected of them. This would then potentially cause the Malay community to accept negative stereotypes as the reality of their inherent selves.

The pervasiveness of the cultural deficit thesis also begets internalised racism. A research done by Annas Bin Mahmud elucidates that internalised racism is indeed prevalent amongst Malay youths in Singapore (2014). DuBois, a classical sociologist coined the term “internalised racism” as racist attitudes towards one’s own ethnic or racial group (Black, 2007). Double consciousness as described by DuBois, is “the state of having one’s own sense of self and also having imposed contempt for an ascribed self” (Black, 2007, pg. 394). Putting it in the context of Malays, they face double consciousness as they are first aware of their own identity and yet, they have come to terms with the indolent identity that has been propagated by society. Therefore, the propagation of the cultural deficit thesis is detrimental to the Malays as they become victims of internalised racism and by self-fulfilling prophecy, might end up as what society has deemed them to be.

Cultural theory of prejudice explains that racism becomes rampant as prejudice towards a race becomes widespread and practiced (Macionis and Plummer, 2012). Thus, another ripple effect of the cultural deficit thesis is that the Singapore society at large acknowledges that the underperformance of Malays is due to their own fallacies in their attitudes and values. It is shown in how there have been teachers with negative attitudes towards Malay students who are not on par with their Chinese counterparts academically and how Chinese employers discriminate against Malays (Li, 1989; Rahim 1998). This then promotes a culture of prejudice as racialisation of Malays becomes a part of everyday discourse in society.

Life chances of the Malays are then seen to be limited by their racial stereotypes. This is because they are racialised with negative traits like indolence and racial inferiority. This then not only breeds self-loathing due to internalised racism, but also by society itself due to culture of prejudice. This will have a negative effect on their academic and employment opportunities.

Conclusion

This essay has concluded that Malays are a group that may be said to experience institutionalised racism perpetuated by authoritative governmental figures and institutions like schools and the military. Instances of institutionalised racism were brought up by issues of the tudung ban, Malay men and the military service, the marginalisation of Madrasahs and the cultural deficit theory. How these issues consequently affect their life chances have also been outlined.

The limitations that this essay has is that it failed to show how the Malays have significantly progressed through the years with the help of government policies and educational support provided by the Malay self-help group, Mendaki. However, Rahim (2012) suggests that although there have been absolute socioeconomic and educational gains by the Malay-Muslim community, there is relative deprivation when compared to the progress of other races as the gaps between the races have not been narrowed. More ethnographic research and research can be done to explore how institutionalised racism has affected the lived experiences of the Malay community in Singapore. This could help policy-makers and relevant authorities in Singapore to find ways in which to help narrow the economic disparity between Malays and the other racial groups in Singapore.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

READY PLAYER TWO


I like this video so much I have it downloaded onto my phone (yeah it's a thing you can do on Androids). I like it so much I want it to be one of my wedding songs. So yeah, I've got the dress, the wedding sneakers, and the songs. All I need is a man to want to marry me. That's the easy part.... right?

Monday, July 09, 2018

SOMEBODY TO LEAN ON

Over the past week, I've had people from my past all check in on me and write me lovely things to make me feel like I'm loved and cared for and I love them all very much. This time I end off on a slightly better note than many other previous days, but while I read all these little cutesy things people did and continue doing for me, I still feel a little saddish. As much of a feminist I am, as much as I am independent and I don't like to feel like I am not self-sufficient and I love being opinioniated, I really want to find someone who will take care of me, so I can breathe and rest easy, like everyone who has found someone to take care of and who will take care of them. I am very tired, and I would like to have someone to lean on. Someone who is exclusively mine to lean on.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

BREATHE

I think I was pretty heavily dosed on drugs last night that I managed to sleep almost immediately after being in a car accident. It's not that my mum is a bad driver, she's been driving for decades and never crashed into another car, I've gotten to 28 without being in a major accident but somehow, when I was sick in the car, we drove into another car. It's almost like a sick physical representation of my relationship with my mother, and Jesus Christ, we had better really surface all the issues we've been ignoring before some strange sinister misfortune befalls us. Please, please, please let this relationship heal before I die. Please.

Friday, July 06, 2018

JFC

When I woke up today, I had excruciating stomach cramps and I vomitted and had the runs for half the day. I went to the clinic and was suspected of having appendicitis so got referred to accidents & emergencies. At the hospital, they decided it was stomach flu and put me on a drip to give me medicine. My mum was driving me home and I was sleeping in the car when we drove into another car. Both cars look quite bad. My mum is settling insurance claims with the other driver and I'm in a cab home alone. This has been the longest, strangest, most painful Friday in a while. What even......

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

AN EXERCISE IN IMAGINATION

Imagine that there is an 18-year-old girl who gets with an 18-year-old guy, and he gets her pregnant. Imagine that the boy's mother wants them to abort the foetus, but the girl can't do so because this was three decades ago and technology hadn't yet caught up to make it available at the term of pregnancy. Imagine that they are each from a conservative religious family, who care about what people say, so they get married to have the child. Imagine that when the child was born, she doesn't remember much from her toddler years, except shuttling back and forth between where her maternal grandparents lived, and where her paternal grandparents lived. She puts it aside. Imagine that when she was seven, and her baby sister was a year old, the original 18-year-old boy and girl, who are by now twenty-five, have a bitter and unhappy marriage, not least because the guy has cheated on the girl one too many times, and this time, he has a son. Imagine that the 25-year-old man now is asked by his son's mother, to marry her, which he doesn't, but this causes enough strife in his marriage, that they get divorced. Imagine that their daughter goes to school, completely unfocused and distracted from studying, because her family is dysfunctional and there are always money issues, and fights between her parents, even though they are already apart. She puts it aside. Imagine that, for between two to three years, in her transition from teenagehood to early adulthood, her mother is diagnosed with stage three cancer, which is not an individual struggle, and that her family, which now has two toddler daughters, now has to fight alongside their mum. Imagine, one day, at twenty-five, she meets a man she really likes, whom she confides in about her family, and how she feels about people cheating, and oh, how she feels an intellectual connection with him. Imagine she finds out that he is engaged to be married, and he was using her, without her even knowing about it. She puts it aside. Imagine when, barely a month later, the twenty-six-year-old daughter finds out her father is still cheating, something that has spanned at least two decades, from the time she was six, to the time she is twenty-six, and her youngest half-sister, her father's youngest child, was barely a month old. Imagine that the boyfriend of the lady who had been receiving sexual advances tells the twenty-six-year-old to mind her father's behaviour. She puts it aside, because that is all she can do and all she has been doing. Imagine that the 26-year-old girl finally decides to take a break, and she goes to LA, because she'd been there once with her best friend, and she really liked it. Imagine she falls in love with a man who was not right for her, something that was quite obvious to everyone else who met her on that trip, both that she had fallen in love with him, and that he was not right for her. Imagine that he got her pregnant, and then she had a miscarriage, and she feels about a million different things, intensely, because she has always been an intense person. Imagine he doesn't want the child, because it was not in his plan, and imagine that the man had the option of being nice to her, yet he clean ignores her except when it suits him and when he is feeling frisky. She puts it aside. Imagine that her mother, who was the person originally pregnant out of wedlock, tells her to be ashamed and apologise for having premarital sex, and imagine that her mother tells her it is a good thing that she miscarried, even though she started being really depressed only after her miscarriage. Imagine that, instead of feeling like she deserves to receive therapy for all the issues she's faced her entire life, all she feels is guilty and that she should pay her mother for existing, and for being a burden. Imagine that, as isolated incidents in a person's life, all these different things might be within a person's ability to handle, but imagine you were me. How much are you able to put aside?

Monday, July 02, 2018

CINQUE TERRE

I was wondering whether it would be possible to either cultivate a bacterium that would only eat all the plastic that has accumulated in the oceans, while harming no other ocean life, or if we could program something else that could function the same. Or we could collect all the waste in the oceans and obliterate it in space or just release it. Why don't we do that? There is massive amounts of space in space, isn't there? Why don't we do that? Actually, I think the launching-waste-to-space idea has already been asked and disproved of, so now we're down to creating bacteria that does exactly as we'd like it to.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

YONG TAU FOO

Sometimes I wish I had the guts to just say what I want to say to my mum. It's funny how everyone else has a different impression of me than my mum does. Sometimes I want to tell her, it's not on me that she struggles with money. She complains about not getting money (for like, a month) from me and I hate it, I know she's comparing me to perhaps my cousins or best friends or peers or whatever and sometimes I just want to yell at her, but I never do. I want to scream that all my peers had and still have parents who helped them out monetarily in terms of educational endeavours or whatever. My peers still owe and are paying off their parents for their undergraduate studies, or their parents never even regarded it as a loan, etc. I don't owe my mum for my education, nothing at all. And where my peers have parents that have saved money for their weddings, or for property for them, or generally whatever they might need, all my mum does is whine when I haven't given her cash for a month. Like it's somehow my fault she made the unwise decision to have two more kids when she clearly wasn't even financially ready to handle her first two. Also, as much as I'm ranting about my mum, my dad is just as useless. I feel like he treats my half-brother Ira as a trophy son. Ira deserves to feel like a trophy, I think coming from his own family background that was also just as broken as mine and not even knowing who his father was until he turned 18, he still did great in school and I'm proud of him. I just hate my dad lauding it sometimes, I feel like, hello you played no part in his upbringing nor his studies, so his success is his own and his mum's, and you didn't contribute to it except in his conception. I honestly don't know if I will ever be able to reconcile the fact that I do not respect my parents.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

IDGAF

Why do I even cry over men? I'm done. Dua Lipa is right, I mean, men don't want to go through the bad times with you, they don't need to be in your life. When you're finally happy and settled, they all come crawling back. Geez. I'm so done with this shit. My life is waiting for me. I have no space in it or patience for any man who can't go through hardship, which is all men. Bye, bitches.

Friday, June 29, 2018

GREY'S ANATOMY

Today at work, most of my colleagues asked if I was okay, without directly asking about what had happened. I talked to and laughed with them and I wanted to hug them, and every time I said I was okay, I know that's another day to add to my not being okay, and. And I love my family at work so much, and I wish we all enjoyed our job much more, as much as we love each other and each other's company. Every time someone asked if I was okay, I felt their concern and now I'm crying again. I have been left so many times, I feel more scared than anything else, of letting myself be vulnerable. I wonder if I can ever really say I will be okay with being alone. I wish I had had love, and felt unwavering love from my parents so that I would have confidence in my own self-worth. But I don't. I wonder if I am so different that I cannot be loved. I'm out.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

KEEP BREATHING

I want to change the world
instead, I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me
all that I know is I'm breathing
all I can do is keep breathing
all we can do is keep breathing

all we can do is keep breathing
all we can do is keep breathing
all we can do is keep breathing

Okay so it's back, I'm full on weeping while the world spins madly on. When I'm in New York, I hope to bump into Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles or the grand jackpot of Lin-Manuel Miranda. I mean, given the shitshow of the past three years I've had, I think it is high time my good juju returns. Please. Please, God, please. Or universe. Or other people. Just, please.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

CHEDDAR

Ben and I broke up. It is official, we just broke up because we're not in the same place and it's too difficult and there are too many things to figure out. I guess this is the healthiest thing for me now. It was a good run, now I'll just have to see how long it is before I delete the Instastory highlights tab I have of him. I sort of want to leave it there, because it makes me happy and I want to keep my memories of him, but I also know it might prevent me from moving on. I don't think I'll delete the things I have of him. I'm okay, though, better than I would usually be. I think it might even be because he's been such a good man and a good person and all around treated me so well, but I really do wish him nothing but the best. Obviously, I did cry after we broke up, but I've stopped. If you're my friend and reading this, please don't ask me about Ben, please, please, thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

PUSHEEN

Yesterday, while watching The Incredibles 2, I started getting period cramps so I left the theatre but before I could get painkillers or a hot drink, it just hurt so bad I had to go to the toilet. It was then even more painful and cold I laid down on the floor of a public toilet cubicle and stayed there for an hour, before I summoned the last bit of my energy to move to a nursing room and napped for another hour. I know not everybody gets such bad cramps but I wish everyone would, at least once, just so you can empathise what it feels like. Viv is flying back from Sydney, where Advil is available, so I'm asking her to get some for me for future periods. I don't know why even painkillers need to be unattainable for me before they work. My brain and body are in cahoots for me to want to die. Geez.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

YOLO

Last night, I was washing my face when it actually really dawned on me that life is short, and I only have one shot at it. My time is already very temporary, and if I end it myself it will be even shorter than it could, would have been. Regardless of whether it is my own doing, my life will end. Sometimes I guess I want to end it because life and the world get really difficult to live in and live with, but my death doesn't make a difference to it being difficult. I want to see whether it gets better, I want to see if the world can crawl out of this shithole, and if it doesn't, it's okay, because we are all going to die anyway. I don't know if this is the default mindset everyone has, and sometimes when I'm in the frame of mind to see my life through, I really hope it continues and I follow through, but I really sometimes get very affected by curveballs, and I can feel like two extremes of a rollercoaster, so although I do wish I could control my feelings and attitude, I am easily thrown off. That needs to get fixed, if possible.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

I WANT MY CHILDREN BETTER THAN ME

      American journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones writes about the racial segregation and inequalities of schools in contemporary USA. There are many things about the American case that are unique to that society, but there are also many inequalities there that are mirrored elsewhere. In a 2017 interview, Hannah-Jones spoke about something that was deeply moving. She had placed her daughter in a public school that is perceived as a terrible school even though she has the means to place her in a different, 'better' school. A lot of people thought she was making an odd choice. But for her, it is a moral issue—what is at stake goes beyond her child's well-being. If she put her child in a private school, she would be doing what many middle and upper-middle class parents are doing—undermining the integrity of the public school system with their flight. She puts it this way: "It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it's also upheld by individual choices. ... As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children... we're not going to see a change."
      A lot of my research and writing in the past decade have been about institutions and policies. I have talked primarily about how we need to rethink the principles underlying our policies if we want to see more equal outcomes. I still believe that if we want to see significant change, we need to have collective action, we need to work to alter big structural things—rules, regulations, criteria, principles underlying policies. But doing this more recent research, I am also continually reminded that life is lived at the micro level, at the level of everyday decisions, everyday interactions, everyday exercise of power and agency and responses to constraints and restraints.
      Nikole Hannah-Jones is a tough act to follow. She is right to say that inequalities are also reproduced by the individual choices of those who have the power to make choices. This implies an extremely uncomfortable conclusion for those of us in positions to make choices: the choices we make, even when we think are just about us, are in fact also about others.
      We who have the power to make choices disproportionately shape outcomes and limit options for people who don't have the power to make choices.
      It follows that if we don't share the power to make choices, we will never see a change to those things we say are bad or unacceptable to our society. When those of us who have the means maximize our own children's and our own families' advantages, we are contributing to strengthening norms about achievement, success/failure, that undermine our fellow citizens' well-being. Everyone may say "I want my children better than me," but not everyone can see this to fruition nor have the same impact on standards and norms when they do.
      As parents, we must therefore think very carefully about what we are doing when we demand that teachers assign more homework, when we ask questions about what standard our kids' peers are at, when we micro-manage our kids' lives, when we pay for tutors, when we fight to get our kids into certain schools.
      Equally if not more important, we must ask what we are allowing to perpetuate when we do not resist a system many of us can now see is deeply problematic. If those higher in the social hierarchy, ahead in the pack, refuse to pause and change their ways, the call to extend assistance to the low-income or to 'level up' will continue to ring hollow.

      Embedded in what I have said lies inherent conflict in class interests as well as the potential for class solidarity. Regardless of class, everyone is subject to state policies on education. It is becoming increasingly clear that a high-stakes, examination-oriented education system exerts costs on parents and kids across the class spectrum.
      We should care because we are losing potentially valuable human resources. We will all grow old in societies populated by other people's children; our well-being depends on their capabilities (economists such as Nancy Folbre have thus argued for seeing children as public goods. See Folbre, 1994). We contribute to public education precisely because there are collective returns on this expenditure. To enhance our shared well-being, we have an interest in ensuring that all kids growing up in our society can fulfill their human potential.
      The circumstances and experiences of low-income families reveal the deep inequalities embedded in our education system—the focus on narrow definitions of abilities, the demand for precocity, the reliance on parental involvement and commercial services, together undermine the democratic promise and potential of mass education. As a society, we speak loudly and proudly about meritocracy and equality of opportunity. As a matter of ethics and morality, we should all care about the undermining of these promises, and we should fight to resist this erosion of our shared ethos.
      The requirement of narrow ways of being, of precocity, are not easy to attain for any child. The financial costs, the time expended, the harms done to familial relationships, the stresses exerted on our children—these are significant. In the long run, all of us must ask: to what end? Is it worth it?
—reproduced from This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn

Ask me and I will lend it to you, or if you'd like, I will buy you a copy.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

TAHANI AL-JAMIL

Yesterday, Qis from work asked whether anyone had ever told me I was zen, because she thinks I'm zen. Cheryl thinks I'm mellow, Kyrene thinks I'm chill, and now Qis calls me zen. It's strange, because if you know me and read my words, I don't think zen is apt in describing me. Yet, for nine hours every day, the people I'm around think that is precisely what I am. I wonder why. Maybe it's my thoughts and disposition towards work that make me act more calmly and I could adopt that attitude in other areas of my life. I would love to be zen, though, my mother is still high-strung and dramatic, so I would love to be mellow instead. Perhaps it is that my mother is high-strung and dramatic that I reflect and mirror it in environments apart from work, I cannot be zen if my familial counterparts do not set an example for me to either mirror or absorb. In any case, I used to date a guy called Zack, and I bumped into him last week. Given how small Singapore is, it is a wonder he is the first ex-date I've bumped into. He read that I wasn't talking to Ben so he messaged me to make the first move to talk to Ben first. How quaint it is, to receive dating advice from someone I used to date. Does this stuff only happen to me? Ben said he needed space, and that's why he wasn't talking to me, but after this morning, we talked again, I think we've decided to give this a real shot, maybe until the next hiccup comes along. Zack and I said we might try to hang out platonically in future, and I'd never thought that was possible but perhaps if a mutual care and concern exists more than attraction does, it will work. Last night, I'd told my sisters I might have a bad night if Ben says he wants to end things and my sister Lyssa said "no way, he could not let you go" and I told Ben this morning, we had a right laugh. I love my Ben. (For some reason, my sisters have a pet name for him and it's Bernard - pronounced BerNard to rhyme with Hard.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

DAYA

My period is late. There is no cause for concern, I haven't gotten any since Ben left, hehehe. I'm guessing it's just delayed 'cos of my extreme lows in the past two weeks and I was kinda sorta a nervous wreck in the lead-up to emceeing for my best friend's wedding. I just don't like when my period is late 'cos then you feel bloated and whatever. At the moment, immigrant children are being detained, separated away from their parents and families, and I wonder why anyone would want to continue living in this precise world and timeline. The people I come into frequent contact with, the ones I interact with on a daily basis, I don't think they know what is going on. Or, on the off-chance they do know, I don't think they care, because they're still talking about other things. I don't fault them for it, because even if I were surrounded with people like myself, what can we do? Human rights issues have deteriorated since Trump was elected (not by the popular vote, I may never let go of this) two years ago, and people have protested, and called up senators and talked about it, but nothing much changes. Today I feel on the slightly more positive side, sometimes I feel so overwhelmed and heavy and drained and I want to end it all, but, when I'm not at the point of acknowledging the futility of life, sometimes I really think I am quite rare. I allow myself to think and feel the entire spectrum, it's like I am the mental health and spiritual epitome of "go everywhere / do everything". One day something might tip me over the edge, maybe not. Ben used to say (I say used to say because at the moment we are not talking), "you deserve the life you dream of" and maybe if I hold on just long enough, I will find I can achieve the life I dream of. Perhaps not.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CHECK OUT

I was an emcee for my best friend's wedding, my period is supposed to be here in the vicinity of today's date, so I feel really bloated, I had a fall-out with Ben (not to say that we don't love each other, because even now, even when we're not supposed to be talking, we do love each other and still say it), because that shit happens, I felt so many feelings along with being proud of Atiqah for having done it all, that include feeling really much like Phoebe, Joey and Rachel did in Friends, and that's being financially unable to keep up with my best friends, I want to really take a break from life and socialising, but there is one final wedding in mid-July I'm attending, and then I would really like to take a break. I want and need all the me-time.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

WELL DONE MEDIUM RARE

I wanted to write something like "1 like = 1 duit raya" - backstory for you Muricans: on Eid, Singaporean Malays give money packets (duit raya) to the younger ones once we start earning an income. Sometimes I envy people who can write sassy one-liners as their captions but then I think, well so I am not them. I am not carefree and snappily snarky, I am regularly depressed and I think and type in heavy run-on sentences. Yet sometimes people envy me so, to quote Houdini lyrics, "focus on your ability" - I will do what I can, and they will do what they can. In 2017, I lived in denial and I showed the world, especially the people who broke me, that I was just like the person I used to be and then I realised, I wasn't and I'm not. I came to terms with the fact that I don't have to live for the people who break me. Since putting myself back together and as I still continually piece my parts together every time, I have become a little darker, a little tougher, a little harder, but still incorporating my love for all things bright and colorful. I lost a best friend in the past year, I became even more cynical, and still I never stop looking for the person I'm meant to be. I hope we all live long enough to enjoy our golden hours. Shot on the Samsung S9, by my sister @notfuzzy. #eid #raya #houdini #fosterthepeople #malay #samsungsg #staygold #urbandecay #makeup
A post shared by Sarah Mei Lyana (@sarahmeilyana) on
I received a Facebook message from someone who'd read my last post. She said she received similar treatment at IMH, that it took barely five minutes for a senior doctor to say she didn't have depression. So, I suppose I will look into getting therapy somewhere else. I am so grateful that she wrote to me, because I'd already started to convince myself that maybe I wasn't depressed and was overthinking everything.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

CHECK YES JULIET

I went to the Institute of Mental Health this morning, accompanied by Viv. I told the doctor, who was a Singaporean Chinese male (which may or may not have contributed to his diagnosis), everything I had been feeling, and he says from what I told him, he doesn't think I am depressed. I haven't been feeling tired enough to remove myself from work and not participate in life, I still eat, and most importantly, I have not harmed myself despite feeling a lack of enthusiasm for life and living, so I am not in need of immediate attention. When he asked whether I had ever gotten into trouble with the police, I said my mum disapproves of me and she is a police officer. He clearly hadn't expected it and he guffawed loudly, so then I wondered whether he thinks I am not depressed also because I was cracking jokes, although sometimes I think the funniest people are clearly the most depressed. That he doesn't think I have a mental illness was somewhat a relief, that he didn't even really make any appointment for me to see a therapist was not comforting. I will not assume to know better than a qualified mental health professional to say I am certifiably depressed, but I wonder if he thinks the default state in life is to be aimlessly wandering, that he doesn't even think it's a problem that I don't find life fulfilling. Also, like in most other social aspects, Singapore is most definitely lagging behind in mental health, so perhaps I should seek a second opinion. I told Viv and Ben my diagnosis, and they were both also surprised. I also told Ben the amount I paid for the session, I said it more to like be sarcastic about how useful it was (I paid XXX for him to tell me I'm not depressed), but Ben instantly sent the exact amount to me on PayPal. In USD! Which means I made a profit??? I told Viv this and we wondered if he really went to Harvard. Perhaps his certificate is forged, his Spanish module cert is definitely dubious.. I am kidding, of course, I suppose he really wanted a buffer just in case my finances are tight, but I am just always so pleasantly surprised that Ben is so kind and so reliable. In my previous experiences with men, they do not often measure up to your expectations, which are usually the bare minimum you'd expect of a decent human being. Three nights ago, my sisters did the sweetest, most wonderful thing. The youngest knocked on my door, then said the three of them had something to say to me in the living room. When I got there, they said they had decided to spend thirty minutes each day, to have sister time with me, to help me to feel less depressed so I wouldn't want to end my life. That was the most adorable thing so that's what we've been doing, we watched Aladdin and Mulan and Alex Strangelove on Netflix, on three consecutive nights. After my session today, Viv and I had breakfast then I went to her office and read while she worked, before my shift started.


I have been reading This Is What Inequality Looks Like, by a Chinese female sociologist and university professor at NUS, the top university in Singapore. It has been making waves on local social media and has been lauded by academics even in the US, for the parallels that you can find regarding inequalities in many nations. On the one hand, I am glad that all the privileged Chinese people on my island are finally paying attention. The Singapore government likes to pride itself on being clean and green and shiny, it refuses to acknowledge the deep cracks in the system, the fact that meritocracy is not meritocracy if the starting line is not the same. The professor who wrote the book sounds almost surprised, while doing her research, that there are many families who struggle in Singapore, who have to make do with letting all their kids sleep on a single mattress in a one-room flat, that some of them, some of us have bed bugs at home, that we have to boil water to have warm showers, et cetera et cetera. These families being discussed are unfortunately mostly of my race. Of course, recently I have subscribed to the notion that you shouldn't have kids unless you can afford to, but if rich people and poor people actually really subscribed to it, the rich would continue to perpetuate and the poor would die off through not much fault of their own, and that is a true injustice. Also, it is funny that this Chinese woman says it and suddenly it's like the gospel truth when it has been said by my people for decades, and only taken as whining and complaints. Look, if I had received the same education that she had, I would be just as eloquent, and I would have as much platform and agency. But no --- my people are not heard because they are not well-educated enough to air their grievances in a way that, somehow, I have been blessed that I am able to. For months and years, I have said that I want to improve myself, I want to study, or get a better job, or a better-paying job. People give me advice as if I haven't been trying, as if it doesn't depress me every time I am told I interviewed well and yet am still rejected. People, usually Chinese people with paper qualifications, tell me that firms are no longer looking at just certificates, but it's funny, because despite that being the only difference, I have still not managed to level up. Why, if companies really believe that degrees are not everything, have I not seen it in any action so far? I am a smart person and I am aware of this, so before you give me well-meaning advice to exploit this, that or the other, please give me enough credit by believing that I have tried, and failed, and tried and failed, again and again.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY

After reading the last post, Viv texted me to say she would also assist me monetarily in seeking therapy, and I can treat it like a mental health Patreon (it's a platform for creators and artists) so she can keep reading my words on this blog and eventually perhaps even my novel. It wasn't her intention but I cried at her text. I agreed to see a therapist, so maybe later I'll go check the IMH website. I don't know what the trigger for this is, but I know from experience and from reading materials, that sometimes there just is no trigger. I keep recalling my mother saying it is a good thing I had the miscarriage because I would otherwise have had to live with the burden of a child conceived out of wedlock, and then I recall again that I was that child to her, and that she had to keep me because it was too late for her to do anything else. I think about my grandmother saying I shouldn't be saying these things on the internet, like these are shameful things, and I wonder if there is something wrong with me that I don't feel ashamed. I'm exhausted and I don't want to exhaust anyone else. Every night someone has to monitor me to see that I don't do anything to hurt myself. Every night someone asks me to make plans for the next day and the next day and the next so that I don't die that night, so that I make it to my next day's plans. But for what? What is this all for? I don't know what the payoff is. I feel like it takes a lot of effort to keep me going and I don't know if it's worth the payoff. I don't know if life sucks because it sucks this much for everyone and I'm weak or it sucks more for me because my brain and body just don't produce the same amount of chemicals that other people do. I had a talk with a best friend about this, I asked if she would forgive me if I took my own life, and she said she would be so angry at me, but she eventually would. I am very tired of being strong for anyone else and even for myself. This is exhausting.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

QWERTY

I was talking on the phone and crying about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Ben asked me to see a therapist, to which I said I just needed to save enough money to take a break. Ben said I could do both, so I said if I see a therapist, I wouldn't be able to save to take a break. He said he would send me money to see a therapist, and although I don't see myself accepting it, he told me to think about it and now I just keep tearing, by myself. He really does love me. I think when you have parents who haven't shown their love by being supportive and encouraging and solid, it is very hard to believe that people can really love you. One of my earliest memories was of myself at a single-digit age, perhaps 5 or 6, and my real dad scolding me and making me stand on my chair in the restaurant throughout the meal. I know sometimes people think kids don't know anything, but things like that can and will probably stay with your child for a lifetime. The thing is, while my father did that, I realise my mother did not even dare to stand up for me and stop him. What a weird man. I hope his five other kids have better futures than I do.

IMHO

I love Anthony Bourdain's show, Parts Unknown. I also love Kate Spade's bags and colorful designs. It sucks to know they both took their own lives this week. I used to be scared of committing suicide when I believed in God and hell, because I believed what they said, that taking your own life was the greatest sin and you'd be in hell for eternity. Now I no longer believe in hell. Now I think and think about how tired I am, and how I want to just take a break from work, I want to take a break from life, but I can't because I cannot afford to rest, I don't come from a family that affords any rest for anyone. I wish my eternal rest would come soon. I am in a cab home from doing shipment at work, today I wanted to write about the things I am grateful for, but I cannot come up with any and I just want to sleep.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

QUID PRO QUO

I am constantly growing and learning. I must be lenient towards myself, and towards everyone else, while they are growing and learning. Life is chess, not checkers. I like the person I am even if it is difficult, even when times are difficult and my life is difficult and even as I struggle. I like it, and I do not want it to end, despite my unending tiredness. There are a myriad of layers to my person and nobody else can be me better than I can. When I was much younger, I believed wholesale in what the government would tell me, things like prisons keep society safe, and then I realised I had close family members in jail, and that the odds are stacked, that sometimes it's so hard to make ends meet, even when you put in the same or more effort as anyone else but are not guaranteed the same results, that you turn to a life of crime, anyway. I mean, of course, if the system fails you even though you play by the rules, you will lose faith in the system. I used to believe in the concept of virginity, then I realised if anyone judges you based on what you do with your body, whether you sleep around or are a sex worker or you dress like a different gender from the one you were assigned at birth, then the person judging you needs to grow, because you are much more than your body, much more than just whether you touch someone's hand or kiss their mouth or allow their penis into your body. You are what your heart does and feels. I used to believe that some part of me must be a golddigger of some sort, because I heard tropes of Asian women going out with white men for their money. Then I realised, if I, as an Asian woman, have been brought up by people who still control what I wear at 28, who still tell me not to stay over at a man's place at night, if my best friends and most of my social circles get told the same thing, then no matter how much Asian men deny it, they have been brought up with very similar values, at least those in Singapore. And if my best friends and family members don't question these things, then chances are, neither do the men. Only I break out of this mold, because I'm tired of this. I'm tired of living in a country that tells its society it is ungrateful to be displeased, when there is no minimum wage in Singapore, when there is a government that raised the retirement age by 10 years to 65, meaning the 20% of our income that goes to them (the CPF) every month, will still never belong to its people, that means that its citizens will have to work forever, and never be able to spend and enjoy what is rightfully theirs, in their prime ages. I'm tired, I'm tired, I'm tired.