Monday, December 31, 2018


I have just scheduled my first therapy session for Wednesday. My therapist just wished me a happy new year. Her name is Soraya, which is uncannily quite close to my previous therapist, Sonya. I really hope we click! My first therapy session of the year is on the first working day of the calendar year, I'm thrilled. I actually really like therapy. Happy 2019, you guys. I love you. Thank you for being in my life, one way or another. This is gonna be a great one. It is already the new year in Singapore, but thankfully I'm on New York time, so I still have twelve hours. I wrote down things like the past, self-doubt, overthinking, being afraid to love, trust issues, inertia, toxic relationships and a lot of other things on strips of paper and I burned them up. It's on my Instastories. I'm gonna write positive affirmations and visualisations and have them up. We've got this.


As the year draws to a close, it would be remiss of me not to mention the people who have made my year, my year. This year I feel like I kept learning and relearning the meaning of family, that chosen family is just as important as blood-related family, that what makes a family is what you choose to do to support one another. I want to mention first and foremost the people whom I'm actually related to by blood, the three sisters I used to live with in my household. I forget how lovely it is when we all took turns to buy each other ice-cream when one of us was crying over a boy, or using the "my vagina is bleeding" card to demand hot Milo (this is a yummy drink that I'm slowly starting to miss) and other things. There were times when y'all truly surpassed my expectations, my decade-younger sisters and my bbsis, telling me you'd spend half an hour a day with me to have sister time, to watch anything I wanted, so I would not feel so depressed or that life held no meaning for me. I will always love you three. My mother, the only one I have, I do think it has been a tough but monumental year for us. I think she'd been raising me the way she was raised, and I didn't challenge it until very late in life, until I realised I don't want to live with values I don't believe in, and it was very hard on both of us. I do see that she's been trying, the whole of this year, to let me be the person I want to be, despite her own thoughts on the matter, despite the flak she might face from others among our closed-minded community. It is not easy to be my mother, but she has made some effort this year, so I am grateful for that. My cousin Hazwani, who is by blood my cousin, but if I'd known her some other way I'd want to make her my sister and chosen family too. To have a peer who understands the pressure I have from within, but who's level-headed enough to give me advice like a friend, to have someone who knows me well and is close enough to justify getting me a pink typewriter for my birthday, I am eternally indebted to her for juggling familial and chosen-family duties. To my best friends, Han, Sha, and Tiqs. They don't usually read this but they're so good at reading me. The ones whom I've spent collective hours and months battling in wit and composure. When the four of us would engage in conversation about refugees or war, or HDB prices in Singapore, or potentially any area of controversy, and there's always an antagonist, and yet we always somehow manage to see past our different perspectives and be able to share about and gain knowledge from our vastly different lives. Thank you for keeping my brain on its toes, thank you for always being there to catch me when I fall. I would trust you three in a trust fall anyday, you have got my back. To every single person I met at LUSH, I have no words. There are too many of you, and I want to adopt you all as my children. I want to thank Aileen and her team (can't say my team no more *bawls*), for making sure work was a safe place for me, whether I was seeking solace from my house or from boy troubles. If I could, I would write a book about our Question(s) of the Day. LUSH Vivocity was the first workplace I felt I truly belonged to. Everyone else I met through Lush, via social media or events, I'm also glad we crossed paths and you each embodied an aspect of LUSH that I was initially drawn to. To my constant cheerleaders, Pamela, Viv and Chloe. Three of you have probably never met all together, I remember you all being at different birthday parties of mine. One thing I cannot take away from is how much each talk means to me, whenever I meet y'all one-on-one (or Viv with Andrea), I again felt relaxed enough to talk about anything on my mind. Thank you for believing in me, for cheering me on, for knowing me as a human being with strengths as well as flaws, and allowing me to be. Each of you has something very deeply admirable at how you approach life, the chutzpah you display, the manner in which you love, and I am deeply in awe. My circle of friends from polytechnic, I didn't get to meet very often this year, but somehow they always make their love for me felt. Somehow they knew, from the very first day of school, that I was the misfit that did not know how to navigate life, this duckling that needed monitoring, and somehow they've pushed me through every step. Pearlyn, Andrea, Cuifen and Tim, I'm super glad life has taken y'all where it has, and y'all will forever be my signposts of how to be relatively functional adults in society (or at least I can pretend to be). Bhavs, Ekta, Irene, and Shereen, all four Indian Goddesses I met from debates, all four I don't meet often enough. I know none of us has enough time in our adulting lives, but thank you for the chais, the pani puris, the ayam gulais, when I came over or went out with y'all. I love being the token non-Indian friend, I love indulging in your colorful clothes, I love your hilarious stories about dramatic families that all come from a core of heart and warmth. I love the connection we make, knowing from background experience that people can have families that are batshit crazy, but turn out to be wonderful human beings full of compassion, kindness and empathy. I want to thank Ben, Zack and Adam. They are all men I have dated, but that also means they are men I would be fiercely proud to be platonic friends with. For every seven female friends I have, I think I have one male platonic friend. Currently, my male friends are Zack, G, and Tim. That's three. I generally gravitate towards women because I do think women are much better human beings and they are great at empowering one another, or at least the ones I know are, which is a thing sorely needed when the patriarchy is out here to divide and conquer us. However, as said by Tina in the previous post, men are socialised not to have feelings, not to express their feelings, not to talk about them, except within their intimate romantic relationships. If men don't get exposed to people talking healthily about their feelings, they are never going to learn to do so, and both genders stand to lose out, in friendships as well as in dating, as well as just as a society. I guess what I'm saying is I would appreciate having more male friends to normalise the fact that men and women can without a doubt be platonic friends (it is still quite an astonishing idea in the pseudo-conservative Asian culture, so yes I indeed have to express it). Having said that, Ben, Zack and Adam all helped me feel okay at certain times of the year. I would spiral and they would remind me it is okay, it is human. Thank you for caring for me so much, for giving me advice on dating, for reminding me that there is hope for men. Thank you for putting aside the dating and complicated histories, to ensure that I as a person was heading towards something healthier, in terms of therapy, of moving to a place I would belong. Thank you for being my solid pillars of support and rationale. I must thank my therapist, without whom I might literally have done something bad to myself. She meant my life to me. And finally, I want to thank Tina, for helping me end 2018 on a lovely girl friend note and to start off 2019 on a good one. I'm already in New York, let's do this.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


I've been friends with Tina for about two to three years, we got to know each other through a feminist women of color group on Facebook, and I'm glad upon meeting up, to know that we have much more in common than just being feminist and Asian, because I've been able to feel a proper friendship growing between her and myself.
Tina: Sean and I normally just lay around but I thought it would be good for you to get out

Sarah: Yeah i think so too, i think i will have to be around people and that would be somehow better than not being around people, even if i'm still a little bummed

Tina: I always feel like there’s a delicate balance of being in your own head vs staying out of it when life upheaves itself
Tina: I’ll poke around and see if I can find a good bar!

Sarah: Okay thanks Tina, and i read a really nice post today about female friendships and i thought, hey even if i'm not spending it with a romantic spouse this new year's, i would gladly take being with a potential good girl friend
Sarah: You might like this

Tina: god I wish I could find it but I saw a post not long ago that has heavily been on my mind
Tina: About feminism, and how stereotypical gender dynamics hurt everyone. The piece itself was talking about emotional intimacy and how women are very fluid and aware of our emotions. We’re socialized to be one with them, to talk about them, to fully feel them. Women can be emotionally intimate with anyone, man or woman, platonic or not. We can talk about our feelings.
Tina: But that’s not the case for men. A lot of men are socialized to not feel fully, to be “strong”, and the only time men are emotionally intimate are in romantic relationships.
Tina: It talked about how this leads to the confusion when a woman views a friendship with a man as platonic and a man assumes because there’s emotional intimacy, that it’s romantic. Both people get hurt when those relationships come to a head.
Tina: It’s why women can cope with heartbreak better, and snap back, because they have other means of emotional support outside of romance.
Tina: But men don’t. It even talked about articles citing that if a husband dies first, the wife tends to live longer than if the wife dies first.
Tina: I have just been thinking about that a lot lately and how that means
Tina: In a way I haven’t really talked about with other people before
Tina: You almost have to be more delicate with men  if you think about that context
Tina: Which yeah
Tina: We should be delicate with everyone we love
Tina: But it just made me think about all my amazing female friends
Tina: And the different men I’ve been with who’ve pinned too much on me
Tina: And I’m sure you can relate, anyways I’m rambling
Tina: How are you doing?

Sarah: I totally relate, and i know it wasn't your intention but i just started tearing again at your texts, because they are true, but also because yknow, i'm inclined to crying every few hours in this period of my life.. but i've been coping as best i can, i watched something light-hearted, i showered and have been having my meals, etc
Sarah: I'm trying to remember to allow myself to feel, because i know it will help me heal

Tina: It sucks to cry, but it’s important.
Tina: Sometimes when I’m having a really bad time
Tina: I’ll walk around the city and just cry
Tina: And it’s kind of nice because you’re alone but you’re not
Tina: it’s very important to just
Tina: Let the pain out and let it breathe.
Tina: ❤

Sarah: ❤

Tina: the one thing I can tell you is that
Tina: No matter what happens
Tina: It’ll be okay.
Tina: Okay always comes.

Sarah: I do believe it
Sarah: Thank you Tina ❤

Tina: Well I’m glad you live here
Tina: And I’m so looking forward to what I think will be a most charming friendship

Sarah: I'm glad i live here and you live here too, and i also do look forward to something special unfolding and bearing in mind all the things we've been reading, put in effort and care into nurturing our friendship
I do want to cultivate some healthy platonic friendships as well. I also just registered myself for therapy, so. Fingers crossed I get along well with my assigned therapist.


As a child of a dysfunctional family, I am not an entirely healthy individual who knows how to show my love. This is both a reason and an excuse. I know there are some ways in which I am capable of love and of loving, I accept people and make them feel comfortable when they are not at ease with other people, I forgive most shortcomings, I remember small details and cater to each person's needs and wants when the occasion calls for it. There are ways in which I am entirely maladjusted and unsuited for love and loving, though. I have been honest about my mother, and my father, and various men, and I've always tried to hold each person accountable for what they've done leading up to the person I am now. I know it must be tough, my mother reading my words about her and feeling like she's not a good-enough-mother, that she hasn't done a good job, that she's failed me. It's time I applied that same accountability to myself. When I was growing up, I wasn't shown healthy examples of love by a person's first and primary role models, my parents. They were almost always fighting, but somehow through the hysterics and histrionics, they would make up and stay together. As I learned recently, my mother engaged in emotional guilt to control me, which she thought was love, so I thought was love. My father says he loves his six kids, but there are still oddities with his behavior and responsibilities, especially financially, that I can't get past. It is not a love that I see from other parents and well-adjusted adults. Having grown up accustomed to such examples, on the rare occasion that I do find myself in a healthy relationship, I am not immediately cognisant of the fact that this healthy, smooth, stable relationship that makes me happy is one full of love. I demand more, I want a larger-than-life sign that this person loves me. I push them away, I second-guess their actions and intentions, and I even compare them to other people because in my head, to make up for the lack of love in my early past, everybody must pour in heaps of love for me, to repair all the damage done, but that is of course, not an onus on anyone else, but myself. In my head, I think, if I cause trouble in this relationship, and they still accept me, that is real love. I asked Adam for a break-up yesterday, because I was anxious about my own life here, and it was pouring into our relationship. I am a social creature, and I haven't made that many friends, so I felt mopey and depressed. Adam tried to help me by suggesting some of his friends that he thought I would get along with, but I said I didn't need his friends as pity, I just wanted to whine and for him to listen to me. Everything that he did for me was not enough, and it must have been exhausting. After having asked for a breakup on the whim of my anxieties and insecurities, I asked him to take me back. However, while I was at his place, he decided he could not handle it anymore, and he had a panic attack. This was at midnight, where I Googled how to help him through it. He was hurt and upset and angry at me, and I understood it, but I sensed that he was still not letting me see him at his most vulnerable. I left his place to come home, once he said it was really and truly over, and as I walked down his apartment building, I heard him sobbing in his shower. It was only then I realised, how selfish and callous and blind I'd been, that while assuming that I was the only one who had mental health issues to attend to, I'd forgotten he has them as well. That he's a human being with feelings and stakes in the relationship, that everything he'd done for me was out of love, and I responded with wanting and needing to be loved. As a person who's been hurt by so many things in my life, I am very rough and sharp around the edges despite having a warm, gooey center. I am as capable of causing as much pain as I have received, and I don't want to be this person. I want to go back to therapy while I'm here, to remind myself to be kind, to be kind, to be kind. I went to sleep a few hours ago, and then I dreamed that he called and said it was okay, and that he had forgiven me. I woke up realising that reality still hurt and I had to face my consequences. I want to do better and to be better, but if I am to be brutally honest about other people about their flaws and shortcomings and expect them to improve themselves, I have to start doing the same for myself.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


This year, I saw a therapist for eight sessions, I think. I miss her. Unfortunately, thanks to strange rules in Singapore, we weren't allowed to exchange numbers (my sessions were all recorded on tape), but if anyone knows Sonya from JCU Psych Clinic, please tell her I miss her and she's the best person for me to have met this year. I made some solid friends at my job, and many of those friends I consider to be my family members. They were supportive when they had to be, they gave me the leeway to settle myself when I was unbalanced, they checked in on me when I needed it. I was a bridesmaid for my cousin's wedding and was an emcee as well as a bridesmaid for one of my best friends. I got a tattoo, and it was the first time I did something I wanted while solidly disregarding my family's approval and anyone else's impression of me. I got into a short but very solid relationship, with a man who's sweet enough to remind me that he's also in the city and is a friend should I ever need him. I moved out of my mother's house for the first time in my life, a move that according to Westerners should have happened ten years ago, but to Singaporeans is a damn feat, because we don't move out until we get married, and a lot of people still stay with their parents even after marriage, because there is a lack of land in Singapore, and apartments are therefore extremely expensive. Additionally, if you move out before you get married, somehow it signifies to your family that you don't love them and are not filial (like it did with mine, go figure). Not only did I move out of home, I moved to New York. I went to the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, which was Christmas Eve, and I saw a man propose to the wild delight of his girlfriend. She cried and kissed him passionately and said yes, and everyone else there cheered them on. It was the first proposal I'd seen in my life. This is the New York I have always dreamed of, and this is what keeps me alive. This year, I met a man whom I'd been talking to for a year, and we got together as a couple two weeks after he picked me up at the airport. I was exhausted when I arrived after a day's journey, I'd had some trouble at immigration, and I was dragging two huge suitcases worth 50kg (which is almost my own weight) and I couldn't see him but he took me aside at the point I was ready to collapse. This year hasn't been the smoothest, it was indeed the year when I realised there is something immensely wrong with my mental health and I needed to seek help. I received help for a couple of months, and I would like to continue healing when I've settled in here. This year, I met and made friends and got close with more good, well-meaning people than the opposite, and I have received so much love, an abundance of real love from people near and far, and I would like to wish you all peace I've received this year. Happy merry love and joy.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


After almost, I dunno, three weeks, I finally met the people who live upstairs in the same apartment as me! I live in the basement so I go through a different door, and I don't know what their lifestyles and times are like, so somehow we'd never seen each other. I'm gonna cook something Asian, though, as a moving-in peace offering to them. So their dog, that I've been hearing but never seen, is a schnauzer-poodle, whose name is Pepper. I haven't seen Pepper but she sounds super cute and sometimes she just, out of the blue, scrambles around, I think. My housemates are Paula who's a designer and Jackie, who's a producer. Given that being gay is not as big a deal here as it is in Singapore, I don't know whether Jackie is a she/her Jackie or a he/him Jackie. Paula seems nice enough. She said "don't be a stranger" so I guess maybe I'll be a little bit more friendly from now.

Yesterday I cooked ayam masak merah, which is a quintessential Malay dish, and gave some to the people who work at the pharmacy down my cross street. I'd seen them in my first week here, and Tanisha asked me questions about Singapore and I stayed there for half an hour answering her questions. I'd promised her I'd cook something Malay for them so I did so yesterday, and Tanisha was so surprised I actually made good on my word she gave me a hug. I was in a rush to get ready for dinner last night, though, so I didn't stay to ask her/the other pharmacists what they thought of the dish.

I went to Kurt and Rachel's housewarming last weekend. Kurt is college buddies with Adam, and Rachel is best friends with Adam's ex, who was also at the housewarming. I tried to make eye contact with his ex to smile at her, but she would not look at me, I don't know if it's 'cos she thought I was always beside Adam, or whatever. As far as I know, they didn't end on the worst of terms, but I don't know. I mean, I didn't wanna be friends or whatever, I just wanted to smile at her. Sometimes I think I do things that are totally out of the code of conduct, but I guess it's just me. I don't see why you shouldn't be nice to your significant other's ex or your ex's future significant others, we both liked the same person, that must mean we have more in common than you'd think, right? Also, given that I am the Malay-Muslim girl who shunned her Malay-Muslim practices and have pretty much turned my back on "Malay-Muslim" customs no matter how much my community says they are "praying for me", you can tell I'm not one to follow traditions for tradition's sake. Adam took me out for an early Christmas dinner last night, 'cos he's going back to his parents' house for the week ahead. We went to Milk and Roses, and I had the best lamb ribs I've ever had in my 28 years of living. It was so delicious, and done so well, Adam broke his "no-sharing" rule and ate more than one bite of mine. I am happy. Happy holidays, y'all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


It hits you in the ways you don't quite expect it to. Yesterday, instead of watching The Good Place on my Netflix account like I did in Singapore, I watched the latest episode on NBC, because it's not available on Netflix here. Because it was on NBC, I had to watch the ads that were screened and slotted at certain points of the episode. I watched ads about Botox for migraines and fire tv, and car commercials and toys and UPS services, and I realise they were all new to me, we don't have the same services in Singapore, and things aren't marketed for similar purposes, and every single packaging is different. I felt so overwhelmed, I had never heard of fire tv before, and suddenly everyone here is using it. It was a sensory overload, and I needed much more time to process everything I was and am learning. If I mention all the services that I know of from Singapore, nobody here would know any of them, and all at once, I felt like an outsider. It was such a surreal experience, to feel like that from TV, of all things.

On my first weekend here (which was already two weekends ago, wow) Adam and I went for brunch, where I pointed out to him that many people here are overwhelmingly on the good-looking/attractive side. It's not even my attraction to white people, people here are Hispanic and Asian and Middle Eastern and God knows where else they're from, but they're all so pretty or handsome and have got such strong features. Adam looked around and he agreed, and he said perhaps he hadn't noticed it as much because he grew up here and he'd gotten used to it. I told him I felt a little intimidated and I didn't know why, but then of course, he says very honestly to me: I think you put a little stock into being attractive, and in Singapore, you felt assured by having looks, and it might feel like if everyone here is good-looking, then you don't have that much to offer --- but people don't like you because you're pretty, they like you because you're funny and sweet.

For all the trashy men I've gotten involved with, I think Adam negates all of the negativity and gives me hope for the male species. That's saying a loOoOOot. Ok bye.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


I don't know what everyone else is aware of, but sometimes I learn things much later than other people, based on the fact that I've been quite sheltered from the real world for much of my earlier life. I wish I knew everything that everyone else knows, this is a thing that I really do wish. I wish I knew as much music as Adam does, I wish I knew engineering and nuts and bolts like my best friend does, I wish I knew how to be patient and understanding and how kids work like my friends who are teachers. When I was spending time with Adam, I suddenly felt a strange feeling, I didn't want to tell him, because I was anxious that it meant I wasn't ready to be dating him, or that he would take it to mean that way. I started tearing a bit, and despite being overwhelmed by my feelings and not wanting to face them, Adam coaxed me to communicate. So I told him, I had a thought of missing Joey, whilst I was right there with Adam. Adam held me in his arms and told me it was okay and understandable, that the last time I was in the USA was with Joey, and being in the US evokes similar feelings in me, and yeah, I did like Joey a lot and for me to feel similar things while I'm with Adam that I did with Joey, makes sense. He said, we're not just our thoughts and feelings, and it's human to have very strong feelings about significant others, past and present. I went from feeling nervous and anxious, to extremely comforted. This is the man I feel safe talking to about what I think makes me a basketcase. We met his friends at a holiday get-together on Friday, and they were just as funny and warm. If you've been following my Instastories, you'd have also seen that he cooked chicken pesto linguine on Friday, and steak last night, for us. I know it's a thought that's been expressed before, but I feel it now: he's so familiar it feels less like we are getting to know each other, than it is like he's always been part of me, and we're getting reacquainted. I don't know how I can explain why it feels that way. We watched La La Land last night, and he liked it and appreciated it, maybe not as much as I do. I love La La Land the way Sebastian loves jazz, but I'm glad he finally saw it with me, and he likes the score and the colors and the old-timey feel. Next up, Hamilton! Adam is now my boyfriend, hehehehe what a lovely word to roll off my tongue. What a lovely Christmas present. I have something solid and healthy with someone who keeps me solid and healthy and so very happy, and I wish you all nothing less. Don't be afraid to catch feels!

Friday, November 30, 2018


Somewhere in my 24 hours of transit, I looked at my entertainment screen tracking our flight progress and it said our ground speed was 870km/h. I looked out at the clouds and the same clouds seemed to be beside us for a while. I wondered whether it didn't feel like 870km per hour because that hadn't factored in wind resistance, or because the aircraft has been built so you don't feel the velocities at which you move. It doesn't account for the fact that the clouds seemed to be moving with us. I wish I'd been travelling and that I am here with Han, my best friend the aircraft engineer. She would have had an answer, she was geekily excited at telling me the aircraft I was going to be taking, it was the one she's currently learning about. It has been one day and although I don't even meet her that often when we're in Singapore, I suddenly miss her. The perfect foil character to my life. She deals with the technical, and I maneuver the emotional.

Where I'd previously arrived in LA both times in the day greeted by pinks and oranges in the sky, New York by night is a sprawling, tangled web of pure gold and silver. Is it all street lights and traffic? Perhaps, but within those cabs and buildings I imagine dozens of conversations happening between families, friends and lovers. It is simultaneously less and also more romantic than LA is. I'm still 35,000ft in the air and I can already see this is the city that never sleeps. While I'm still elevated in an airplane (that handed me a sandwich with a sticker: Served with clouds on the side), New York I Love You, But/And You're Bringing Me Down, has never been more apt.

Adam already seems a little unnerved by the fact I've been comparing every detail in LA to every detail I've seen in New York. He is defensive of New York, though I would not say oddly so, because everyone I've known from NY is protectively proud of New York, and everyone I've known from LA is protectively proud of Los Angeles. It is the most intense yet endearing rivalry I've seen. Adam and I are navigating what seems to be the most major-scale first date in the history of first dates. He smells really good. All this to say, Brooklyn has been a dream and I hope it continues to be.

I'm in the midst of adjusting all my timezones to EST. This post and everything else will now follow my time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


so they're cheering for me now
in the streets, hear them cheering for me now
right up Broadway, they're cheering for me now
and one day, all the enemies I've made 
might hold their own parade
but not today

I came here with nothing
like hundreds before me
and millions behind me
you know you can find me in New York
where everyone's different
but share the same island
polluted and loud
but you're safe in the crowd
here in New York

today it's my city
tomorrow, who knows
today we're a country
let's see how that goes

upstate doesn't trust us
they're safe in their sameness
they're scared of what's strange
but each corner means change
here in New York
where else can you wander
and hear every language
we fight like a marriage
then share the same carriage
we suffer the weather
we bind and we tether
this nation together

I'm just getting started
and time's of the essence
I can't say I've made it
but I'd never trade it
they've thrown a parade
ha! in my New York

cheering for me now
can you hear them cheering for me now
Obviously Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a new song for Hamilton and releases it the week before I move to New York. He's reprising his role as A. Ham in Puerto Rico. If anyone brings me to watch it, you have my loyalty forever.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Today was the heaviest and probably most important therapy session I've had so far. After having taken all her notes of me and written a case file, my therapist shared my formulation with me, roughly how I became the person I am. She says I went through multiple forms of rejection and abandonment when I was just a kid, from the divorce and then my father not really being around, having the subconscious knowledge that my parents hadn't planned for me and thus I wasn't very accepted by the wider community. Apparently I also had to grow up and assume the role of an adult much earlier than I was mature enough for, like perhaps when my parents fought and I saw my mother being hurt, I would have been much more protective of my mom and little sister at the time, or when my mother would ask me to mediate for alimony transactions from my dad, or when I was approached by the stranger who told me to advise my dad about his philandering ways, or when my mother had cancer and my sisters were still tiny, and at the time, my mother didn't tell my sister and my sister was upset for months and I was caught in between. Those are possibly the things that cultivated the protective instinct in me. My therapist also said these form part of the confusing juxtaposition of my existence, or at least how it is when I am at home and interacting with my mother. My mother engages in emotional manipulation, a thing that many parents do, but that most are not aware of, because parents rarely, if ever, know what they're even doing as parents. When I was telling my therapist about my childhood history, I said my mother and I used to be best friends, I could confide most things in her and we would laugh and cry at the same things, perhaps also because she was and is a very young mother (currently I am 28 and she's 46), but that after I had gone through the miscarriage, my mother was much more distant and closed off from me. She withdrew her emotional support for me, to signal that I was only worth her care and concern if I do things that she approves of and agrees with. Although most parents actually use some forms of emotional manipulation when raising their children, apparently this affects me more than with other kids, because since I was young, I only recognised my mother as my singular parental figure, and without her emotional support, I felt like I wasn't validated or acknowledged as worthy, by anyone. This was why, in the past two years, I went through the emotional turmoil of being up and down, because I craved my mother's validation, but she barely gave any sign to show that she noticed my depression. My therapist says we have an enmeshed relationship, and a rather complicated one. Although at many points in my life, I have been subconsciously expected to assume a mature adult role in the family, at the very same time, my mother also treats me like a child, and shows her displeasure very clearly by cutting off her emotional support for me, when I do things like act out for not having my own privacy, or wear clothes she doesn't like, or get a tattoo, etc. I am at once an adult and a child, and I have been very confused, apparently, until now, when I decide that I will make my own decisions, as my own adult. My therapist spent forty minutes just talking about me, asking if I was okay, because she brought up things that I'd probably known and buried deep in my subconscious, and I wanted to tear at some of the things. She talked about factors that are called predisposing, precipitating, perpetuating and protective factors, and I hoped to retain all of the verbal information as best as I could, so that I recognise what is within my control, and what remains beyond. Before I left, she kept asking whether I was okay, because she didn't want me to be so strongly affected by her "raking up my past". I told her I was fine and I liked knowing it all, but I do think I'm feeling a lot of things and I should acknowledge it. I had ice-cream with Pamela tonight, though, at my therapist's suggestion I treated myself to something I like.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


So I stayed up following people who went out to vote. In fact I've been following it since people went out to vote early. Adam sent me a ballot that his niece wrote on, she said "mommy is the winr I love you" which is the most precious thing I've ever seen. I'm so proud of the citizens participating in the democratic process, y'all are so sexxxxy. I went on a bit of a ramble to Adam, on how you can't lose hope and just call out fascists as fascists, thinking it will change anything, because that's not how you change and tackle fascism, although of course I'm not living there and feeling the real bleakness of the future yet. Adam joked that he wanted to commit voter fraud and vote in like Florida, I think. I have 22 days till I leave here, and also 22 days till I arrive at JFK. Timezones are amazing. I am looking forward to the cold, and the ice-skating, I think. I have a midnight shipment tomorrow that will probably end late, Friday morning and I'm already tired thinking about it. There is something pressing that I'm not thinking about and it's giving me a stress headache and I don't know what it is. My sister Lyssa turned 22 yesterday, and she said both "I love you" and "I'm gonna miss you" multiple times to me, although she isn't the type to usually express her feelings. I wish I could take her with me. Aigoo, I wonder if all elder siblings think too much about their younger 'uns.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


I have a better memory than most, so I remember things from ages ago. I have not let go of things from my childhood, and they weigh me down in my bones. However, I try to give credit where it's due. My real father sent me a text while I was working a late night, and while doing stock inventory, I started crying. This was what it said:
Hello dearest.
I don't know when or if we'll get to spend together before you go to LAX, so I thought I may as well just send you a message.
You've made your decision to move and for better or for worse I have to accept your decision, not that I don't want you to go, but I wish we'd spent a little more time together before you left. Mostly because there have been too many things left unspoken between us.
Of all the things I've wanted to say to you, the most important thing that I think you should know is that I'm sorry. For all your Dad issues. For all your insecurities regarding men. For all the things when you should have had someone to listen to you as a child/adolescent. For not making you feel like you deserve to be held & heard as a daughter.
I know I've never been close to being an okay father and I definitely didn't even seem to be trying. But seeing you hurt so much that you just had to leave yr family to be somewhere else definitely tells me I should have done better.
When you were pregnant, you didn't come to me. Obviously you didn't feel like you could confide in me. That's one time I failed.
When you had a miscarriage, you didn't tell me. Failed again.
You went to have yr uterus evacuated at my workplace. You didn't tell me. Obviously, you didn't think you could trust me. That alone shows how much I've failed to be yr father.
I do hope you'll find your inner peace and happiness wherever you decide to go. And no matter where you'll be, I do hope you'll know that there will always be people here who care about you and love you. And I do hope you'll realise that I am one of those people.
I showed it to the people I trust, and of course they asked me how I feel. One asked why I cried, and what about it made me feel sad. I think there is some truth in that most people don't want to move far away from their families, and there must be something not quite right with my situation that I yearn to move very far away from mine (although, don't get me wrong, there is also the shiteously controlling government who hold my 25k SGD/18k USD in an account that I can only spend on governmental housing, and which goes to complete waste if I decide I don't want to live in Singapore, which I don't --- plus I think it's this account that probably holds a lot of people back from moving elsewhere, because they don't want to burn their money?). I also feel a lot more things than sad. I thought, it's a bit late, that he writes all this because I'm making a major move to leave the country. On the other hand, I also finally feel extremely validated at the text, because, hey all those decades of suffering were not made up in my head, yes they were caused by some inconsiderate actions made by either my mother or father. I am exhausted. I haven't replied to the text, but I do intend to, once I have processed everything. My next therapy session is in six days, which means I have all the time to think about this before I offload it to my therapist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Last night, I formally told my mom about my plans to move, although I'd guessed and heard that she already knew. It didn't go well. She brought up LA, and the fact that I betrayed her trust by getting pregnant, and I hurt her as a parent. She asked why I think she doesn't show her love for me, when she's willing to die or kill anyone who hurts me, and I told her she was being dramatic. I said she has these fantasies of her idea of protecting me when all I need from her as love is to give me space, and she can't and won't even do that. I reminded her that the betrayal of trust actually happened in the form of her finding out about my miscarriage by opening my private hospital bill. To date, she insists that she had an instinct, that her god wanted her to find out and so she opened it. I snapped at her to take responsibility and own her own decisions, that she had chosen to betray my trust and my rights as an adult, by opening my bill. Also, just because I got pregnant in LA in no way means it was the only time I was sexually active, obviously, she's living in denial and I'm sick of it. My cortisol levels are through the roof, I don't sleep well, and I'm constantly on edge. I've been in a toxic relationship for so long that I keep second-guessing everything else, sometimes I talk to Adam and I wonder if he's being manipulative, and I'm wary of all the people I talk to, because I have internalised all the toxicity and now my head and heart think that everybody is nice to me on the condition of gaining something from me. I have a headache. This is unhealthy. I read a quote recently, "if you don't heal what hurt you, you'll bleed over people who never cut you" and I Need to remember it and remind myself of it. I'm out of here.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


I've now been to two therapy sessions with my current therapist at JCU. The first two sessions were for her to get to know me, so I talked about the whole mess that my life has been -- the parents, the dating, the school, the everything. My therapist read my blog and saw my tatt and she likes it! She said her partner was getting a tattoo at an apparently famous tattoo studio in New York, called Bang Bang (where JBiebs and Riri get their tatts done), and my therapist was also tempted to get one, but she didn't. She used to be a model so she hasn't got any tatts yet. She's a model turned therapist! I am in awe!

She asked me what activities I used to do in school, so I said I debated in polytechnic. I said that changed my life, because after debates, I never stopped questioning everything and not taking things as they are. She said that was what made me different, her clientele are mostly local Singaporeans, and she says she doesn't usually see the streak of questioning whether something is the best for them, like there is in me. I still think I would be a much happier person if I didn't question the status quo, but again, I guess the fact that I don't accept the status quo perhaps also means the happiness I would attain for myself is a much higher level of happiness than I have staying here. I told her of my plans to move, so if we do keep up with one session a week, I will have gotten eight sessions with her, for some course of therapy, before I leave.

We talked about LA, she also loves LA, and I knew instantly that we would click. We also talked about New York and my move. She asked me about my book, and I said I wanted it to be sci-fi, and she asked if I watched Black Mirror, which is obviously one of my favorite TV shows ever, and we talked about our favorite episodes and Jesus, I felt it was love at first therapy session. In my second session, she asked me to talk about the relationships or men I'd dated that I found most significant. I talked about my second boyfriend, the one who was the president of the debates club while I was vice-president, my best friend for three years with whom I was really happy. I also talked about Graysonuvabitch, who somehow cheated on his fiancée with me, 'cos I am so naive. I told her that really gave me trust issues, because I'd told him I hated my dad cheating, but he manipulated me with the things I'd told him instead. We talked so easily, like we were friends, that when she next checked her phone, she said "how has it been an hour?" which was how I felt too, like, what, my time is up???!?!!

After I left my second session, hours later when I was alone again, I thought, I didn't think about the man who knocked me up at all during my therapy session. I didn't think to mention him nor did he even cross my mind. Then I realised, even though it was a cog in the system, that put the past two years in motion, that led me to here, the person himself was not actually a character that mattered, it could have been replaced with anyone else to do the deed, and it would have done the same thing.

Also, my ex-schoolmate and friend Zahidah sent me a text saying she was glad I was seeking help, and it really made my day. I think it really helps when people encourage me to seek help, because it means they believe I can get better, and I really do want to get better and feel better.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Last week was an immensely long week for me, as is the one ahead of us. On Wednesday, after having gone for laser tag, I came home at midnight, and my mother and I had a meltdown with each other. She basically cornered me into saying that I was okay with "sleeping around" and somehow loaded each sentence to make it seem like being this liberal non-believing adult was the wrong thing to do, and I also cornered her to admit that I would never be a good daughter to her unless I was the Muslim daughter that she wants. We did this and cried and raised our voices, till 3am, while I was naked, because she'd entered my room while I was washing up after laser tag with my friends from the store. Friday morning, my mother and I had breakfast together, we went to CBTL and it was the first time I was having a meal alone with her since 2016. We talked about work, our colleagues and friends, the rest of my sisters and family members. She agreed to go for at least one session of therapy with me, although again, it all started with her being skeptical about it, and why I couldn't seek peace with God instead. My JCU psych has been calling me regularly, to find out how stable I've been. I was supposed to be on the waitlist, but she was so worried about me, she had a cancellation this week and my first session with her is on Wednesday! I cannot wait! We can have a wager on whether I cry. I met Han for steak on Saturday evening, and I formally told her about Adam. She said the white guys I've liked have all looked very different, so I was like ???? I don't know which photos she's seen of Adam, but again I have to consider that people who exist in my life all keep tabs on me just in case I do something reckless (or they just like being entertained), and that's how everyone seems to know everyone else. If you see a writing prompt anywhere that you think I would be interested in, please pass it on to me. I want to practise my writing. My colleagues have a task for me to come up with a "very strong story" for a photo essay to be posted over Christmas, and I'm like, whoa, no pressure there. Adam says (verbatim), he thinks my story would do very well with American audiences, like just from a marketing standpoint, the story of a woman from a formerly colonized part of Asia with intense life experiences longing for a better life outside of the sheltered upbringing with difficult parents, has a lot of potential. My best friend Han also says I should just write a book. No pressure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who wants to pay for my time off work?????? :D

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


So, a lot has happened since my last post, and I will try to place them in linear chronological order so you might be able to follow my thought process in the past, I dunno what, five days?

The day after it was posted, Luca (who happens to be British), the last guy I dated, said to me in a text: "just to offer a non-Singaporean perspective, a doctor here told me that they very rarely prescribe SSRIs to locals and also seemed to think that medication could be a hindrance to therapy. I think that Singapore is lagging behind in this respect."

Of course I'd already known that, but he was sweet though, and I appreciate it. I know pills aren't a surefire method, but the people here are still very resistant to the idea of medicating for mental health. It's like, if you thought sex was taboo here, I think they shudder at taking pills for mental health.

I think it's even worse in religious communities, where of course, anything you think or feel is usually pinned on you, for not being "close to God", because to them, God is the solution to anything and everything. I just feel like it's a double jeopardy situation, where my mental health is closely linked to my familial bonds, but even when I know I'm doing poorly and want to seek help, I can't find the moral support to treat it, medically.

I don't know if my manager Aileen read my post, but she could see on Instagram that I hadn't had a stable week, so she texted me too.
Aileen: Hi Sarah
Aileen: I hope you're feeling better
Aileen: With whatever you're dealing with
Aileen: I'm here if you need me to listen
Aileen: Even after three months
Aileen: But I just wanted to say thank you. You have a good heart. You're a good person, thank you for supporting our team. Your presence makes me calm and happy.
Aileen: Thank you Sarah. Thank you for being part of the best team I can ever ask for
We have a joke between us because the last time she had a personal story to tell me, we somehow never got to sitting down and talking until three months after I first asked her about it. I love Aileen, she is the best manager you could ask for, she's usually calm and composed and encouraging and so very accepting.

The team has been nothing short of amazing. I don't know if I gravitated towards Lush because it's a campaigning company, and we are one of the very few companies in Singapore that are openly accepting towards hiring the LGBTQIA+ community, etc.

Sometime on Saturday, I was like, this is it, I can't stay in Singapore, this is not the place for me, so I tried to open a Chase savings account so that less money I earn would be contributed to this goddamn stupid dictatorial Singapore economy. I obviously needed a social security number, but I don't have one unless and until I get my working visa, yadda yadda yadda.

I think if I apply for Lush in the US, I might wanna try to do manufacturing. We don't have a manu team in Singapore, 'cos we don't have a Lush factory here. I think it might be fun to make the products, instead of selling them in retail, I dunno. I think retail staff really do God's work, facing people all the time.

Viv then told me about a friend of hers who'd also received similar treatment (or lack thereof) at the Institute of Mental Health, who'd received much better treatment from JCU's psych office, and whose case would be expedited even with a waitlist, based on the same details she'd provided. I emailed JCU psych, and they called back within two days.

I told her my story over the phone, my tendencies for suicidal ideation, that I veer very easily between being okay, and my depressive moods, and the fact that sometimes I'm okay makes it very hard to catch me suddenly drop in moods for no reason. She was very worried, and she says she would also try to expedite my appointment, even though there definitely is a waitlist.

(I infer from the fact that there is a high demand/long waitlist at JCU's psych, that either the psychiatrists/therapists available in Singapore are not providing satisfactory services, too expensive, or there aren't enough psych resources, and also there must be more people who have mental health issues than you'd think there are.)

Between the last post and this one, one of the aunts I'm closer to, also checked in on me and told me I could talk to her if I ever needed or wanted to, as well as my real dad. My dad asked if I was still seeing a therapist, and whether I paid for it myself.

On Monday night, around midnight, my mother texted me that she loved me, so I texted her back that I loved her too. And then, I'm not sure how or why it transpired, I don't know if someone else had clued her in to my dispositions, or she just felt like it, but at 1.14am, she said "please forgive me if i haven't been a good mother" and I started bawling insanely, just by myself in my own room.

It reminded me of some pages I'd read in Educated: A Memoir (because of course I am one of the biggest perusers of books I know of in person).
There was a pause, then more words appeared—words I hadn't known I needed to hear, but once I saw them, I realized I'd been searching my whole life for them.

You were my child. I should have protected you.

I lived a lifetime in the moment I read those lines, a life that was not the one I had actually lived. I became a different person, who remembered a different childhood. I didn't understand the magic of those words then, and I don't understand it now. I know only this: that when my mother told me that she had not been the mother to me that she wished she'd been, she became that mother for the first time.
The thing is, I haven't actually had the time nor chance to see nor talk to my mom since that text, so I don't know what the text meant for the both of us. From the anecdote above, I also know that sometimes words are spoken but nothing changes, so I honestly don't know what it will entail. I want to believe it's a major breakthrough, and I hope it is, I hope perhaps that she and I could even go to some therapy sessions together.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


On a very bad night, after I am done crying, I write letters. I tell my grandma I no longer believe in a god, or heaven or hell, so she does not have to worry, I will not be in pain or suffering nor face any punishment. All I will be is gone. I tell my sister she can have my meagre worldly possessions, and I hope she appreciates the number of inside jokes I have included. I hope she remembers me by my jokes and all the things I did to make them laugh, even though I know she would be very angry at the onset. I write letters to tell everyone that nobody is to blame. My mother is not to blame. My father is not to blame. None of the men I have ever dated is to blame. Nobody is at fault. My brain is not wired the same way, that is all. It is so strange that for the only things in the universe that can try to make any sense of the universe, sometimes brains themselves just make very little sense. I have tried, and I can make not much sense of why my brain does this. Logically and factually, I know that I have nothing to be depressed about. I am an attractive person, people are always telling me to be a model or a flight attendant or one of those things. I also have brains, I use them most of the time, I have the capacity to change my life, day by day. I am also the person who throws her head back and laughs fully, I let things slide at work, I am witty and naughty and I tease and am able to play. But sometimes, it doesn't want to. Sometimes, when it's at its lowest, all it feels is that regardless how many people are next to me, or holding me, they will never be able to alleviate the dread I feel, the pointlessness of it all. I am scared of becoming Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf, writing often of their depression and simply dragging it on until one day they gather enough courage to end. I write and write and I hope that this pain doesn't spill over, I hope everyone who's directly related to me in my life doesn't think, oh it was something I missed, we should have done something more --- there was nothing to be caught. We all know I have depression, and nobody could have done anything more. I hope my best friends and all my loved ones forgive me, and forgive themselves, for everything. If there is one thing my words could do, I hope it is to convince everyone that I have always loved them, but sometimes I honestly can't say any of this is worth it. This is what I feel on my worst nights.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


There is a lot that I have to unlearn in order to learn new behaviors and patterns, and I try. The good thing is I do try, and I will try.

Not a single ounce of my value depends on how I attract others. I am not a thing made for other people's consumption. My worth isn't dependent on how many dates I get. Choosing to stay single rather than intentionally pursuing partners who are toxic, emotionally unavailable or just straight up wrong for me is a good thing. Know my worth. Take my time until it feels right. Savor getting to know myself and fall in love with That person.

Read. Rinse. Repeat. Read. Rinse. Repeat.

Monday, September 3, 2018


My family is at the airport now. My parents, sisters and I are waiting to board our flight to Bangkok while the younger sisters are having a week-long holiday from school. The last time I was here at the airport, it was quite a trip. I don't talk much about weird messy situations bc like, wtf, but my life has many of such moments, of puzzle pieces that don't fit, of the strange and the out-of-ordinary. So the night I'd gotten my tattoo, I went over to Jon's place to help him pack, 'cos he's moving to a new apartment and he was leaving the next morning for his trip to Boston. The next morning, I realised I had time before work so I got into the car he'd booked, and told him I'd spend some time at the airport with him. He then said he wasn't comfortable with me sending him off, 'cos he had work to finish, he gets anxious before travelling, etc, but I knew he was clearly hiding something. Eventually he admitted another girl would be sending him off at the airport, so then we both got flustered. We weren't dating exclusively, but I'd just spent the night packing his goddamn apartment with him and he wouldn't even tell me the truth. Throughout the ride we realised the depth of his non-commital issues, and then because I am me, I asked our driver whether he had ever heard of anything more absurd happening in his car, and the driver said no. When we got to the airport, Jon thought I left him at the curb but I'd just gotten my tattoo, and I realised fuck this shit, time to start a fire, so when he was checking in at the counter and the girl was waiting off at the side, I had bags of plastic from his place that I'd intended to recycle, I dropped them off in front of him at the counter and made the most dramatic exit I could, storming off. After he had checked himself in, Jon laughed gleefully in text, and said "that was way shady" and up till now, I'm so drawn to him even though he's not looking for someone to date exclusively, probably because thanks to my daddy issues, I only fall for emotionally unavailable men. Last night, I chatted with him again and we realised besides his issues of not wanting to commit and actively not seeking therapy, he also didn't like that I'm so intense, which made me think, maybe this intensity of mine that I'm so comfortable with, is a defence mechanism that drives people away and keeps them at bay. In any case, last week I had a date with Luca, who is the sweetest, but clearly I have very bad issues about needing unhealthy drama that I attract all of it. Somehow we happened to sit in the restaurant, at a table right next to Julien, a French guy I used to date (if you searched for it I think you could find a post of him showing me stars), and I was sitting facing Luca, who was seated adjacent to Julien, so I was looking at both of them. I said hi to Julien, and then proceeded to have a riveting conversation with Luca about how reverse racism Does Not Exist, because I inherently needed to prove that I was a better conversationalist than Julien's date. Luca and I laughed and enjoyed ourselves but truly, my life is a mess because I am a mess because I subconsciously feel like I don't deserve happiness and TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ --- I NEED THERAPY

Friday, August 31, 2018


I got a Kindle while I was in Beijing, and I've been reading much more than I did, prior to getting it. I finished reading The Hate U Give, which is set to be released as a motion picture, I'm very excited for! It is a sad story, based on very real events, about a black girl who sees her black friend being shot by a white police officer, and all the politics that happen after it. You know you see it in the news so often, but as a non-black person, usually like it affects you momentarily and then you forget about it and you're able to shut it out. Reading it as a novel, though, you really sort of immerse yourself into the feelings of a person who is living the experience, who can't escape the life they have been born into, and it's so sad, I teared every couple of chapters -- although, might not be the most accurate of benchmarks, I am very easily moved to tears. It's also written well, that despite the heaviness of the themes, I learned a lot about her specific black culture in her black neighbourhood, the pop-cultural references they make, her having to navigate being one of the only black students in a posh white school, especially given that she lives in a "ghetto". I honestly empathised with the black people she knew who fell into crime and drug-dealing, who did it because they had to, to save someone else they loved, etc. I would write an actual review, but I have no time at the moment. I currently just downloaded Educated: A Memoir and it starts off with a quote.
The past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, & thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. 
— Virginia Woolf
I don't quite know what the book is about yet, but I think I'll enjoy it. It's been a very good week, I've been quite busy at work, but also doing things for myself. My colleagues have nothing but praise for my tattoo, so yay. My mother does not know of it yet, so things are still civil at home. This weekend is the first anniversary of Lush Vivocity, so it's been a year of monthly overnight stock shipments and inventories, of training sessions at 8am on Sunday mornings, of learning to care more about people and animals and the environment, of me writing captions for @lushvivocity on Instagram (I always make a disclaimer that I don't write them all the time -- depending on my shifts, so if you see a pun, it may be mine, but it may also not be). We're having a pretty special weekend ahead, with compounding sessions for bath bombs and bubble bars. I think I will have a busier year-end period ahead, 'cos of the Lush Singapore staff party, and then I'm also involved in the Christmas showcase, and Christmas at Lush is a huge deal. I really actually like Lush a lot, and given that you can find Lush in many different parts of the world, I'm hoping it's my way out of here. So far, I've been looking at North America, but we'll see where things take me.

I think it has been a long time coming, but I finally see where I am, where I can be, and am happy with it. I learned a lot of my triggers for anxiety and depression in the past two years. First it used to be my periods, because blood would make me think of the miscarriage. Then it would be delayed periods, because obviously one time, when I didn't get my period, it was because I was pregnant. Then it was falling sick, because when I met the man who got me pregnant, it was when I had just gotten better from being really ill. Then it was sex, because clearly you can only get pregnant if you're having sex (here is a life lesson for all you kiddos: pulling out is not protection! if you're a girl and you don't want to get pregnant, please be smart enough to either be on birth control, and if you're not because you grew up in a weird sex-taboo environment like I did, be sure that your partner is wearing a condom! good luck!) and I kept learning and learning, that a lot of situations had the potential to spin me out of control. But now it's been almost two years to the day I left LA (we're seven days away from it), and I think I have learned and know enough. Enough to realise that some things are triggers, and I have the ability to either be triggered by it, or compartmentalise it as a thing that happened once because I wasn't aware, but then put it aside.

I subscribed to the New York Times crossword, but a lot of it is American-contextualised, so I'm not very efficient at doing it yet, though I do think I'll get better. We all get better from somewhere.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


all the shine of a thousand spotlights
all the stars we steal from the night sky
will never be enough
never be enough

towers of gold are still too little
these hands could hold the world
but it will never be enough
never be enough

Jenny Lind, who was born in 1820, was an illegitimate child, and she was semi-fictionalised for The Greatest Showman, but she was someone who actually lived, and historically, she really was born out of wedlock. Two hundred years ago, it was something shamed upon and two hundred years later, it still is something shameful in my community, and two hundred years from now, it will still be the same, unless something changes in between. I have lived 28 years, and in 28 years, my mother still lives with the guilt, and she has not forgiven herself, which is something I have carried within me ever since I learned it was something contextually bad, at maybe six, or seven or eight, whenever it was that I found out. In the Muslim community, women are encouraged to veil themselves, and the partial basis of this is actually a positive thing. When you are veiled, it takes away the realm of superficiality, and incentivises people to look beyond your clothes, that everyone is similar when you're not just looking skin deep, and it forces you to judge people based on their characters and personalities, not just how they look. People being people, this got bastardised, and the Muslim community are just about as superficial and judgmental as everyone else. Suddenly, the veil and having tattoo-free skin were the only obvious marks of being good people. Muslim women are not allowed to paint their nails, as it prevents ablution and prayer, so if you see tutorials by Muslim women, if they happen to show a bit of hair, or are wearing nail polish, you can bet your bottom dollar, there will be comment feuds about these things. Zayn Malik, who has tattoos on his skin, has similar comments on his Instagram, which highlights only one thing, instead of the non-Muslim community being judgmental towards Muslims, it has just become about Muslims being judgmental within themselves. It doesn't matter that Zayn is a philanthropist and could donate millions of dollars of his earnings, the one thing people will be fighting about are his tattoos. I have a major problem with traditional Muslims and other religious people believing in such rigid codes supposedly set by their divine being/s. If you believe the god you have complete faith in will judge someone based on whether they have tattoos, or whether they were born to a set of married parents, whether you are conscious of it, you will tend to have double, triple, quadruple standards in dealing with people. I watched a local Malay drama recently, in which this lady was evaluating whether a Malay man would be deemed suitable of receiving funds from community aid or something like that, she thought he had tattoos and was apprehensive of him, until they found out it was temporary henna and his sister had just been practising on him, after which the social worker instantly softened towards him. I was so irked by that, as if if he'd had real tattoos, it instantly meant that he wasn't a good, honest and hardworking person. These are still the values being perpetuated in Malay drama serials, these are the things that my family members still think. When I talk to my friends and colleagues, I know in Singaporean society, a majority of the older generation are still not accepting of tattoos. I tell them about how long I've been thinking of getting a tattoo, and I tell them that my family will look upon me differently, and my peers who already have tattoos always seem a fraction colder towards me. I know they know that I don't judge them differently based on what they want to do to their own skin. Yet, every time I talk about how difficult it is for me, I know it seems like I am just like my family with their old values, that I would still judge someone based on the superficial, instead of the facts that they are the most motivated people at work, the bravest with their businesses, the kindest and most accepting with their hearts. I know there will be conservative people who will look at me with my tattoo after this, and think my mother has failed in raising me, and if you are one of them, I would like to assure you, my mother has done no such thing. She is now a staunch Muslim, she is very hard on us when we are not, and she has done nothing to let me know that she would accept me with a tattoo. However, based on the fact that I am the illegitimate child, I will never be enough for my mother. I have been pretty much depressed on and off for the past two years, because of my miscarriage, and despite living in the same apartment, under the same roof, my mother has not acknowledged my condition, no matter how many nights I spend crying myself to sleep. I live in a family and community that would rather impart their own beliefs and worldviews to their children, instead of validating their children's individual mindsets. This is why I think a lot of people shouldn't have kids, if you think that the kid will always remain a kid and not become a person of their own, and if you will disregard your kid if they believe different things. This is also why I want to move out of Singapore. Singapore is not the most liberal of societies, that's true, but a lot of people in my generation have come to terms with it, because they have individual freedoms within their family units, and I don't. I don't have the freedom to wear what I want, to do what I want with my body, to stay out whenever I want with my own time, so I conflate the lack of freedom in Singapore, and the lack of freedom from my mother, and I think, I need to be at the first place I grew up learning was a place of freedom: the US. I am not happy here. This is also why I look for love from man after man after man, because I have never felt enough here, I don't feel like I belong and I have never felt enough for myself. I want to be somewhere else, where I can feel enough just as the person I am. I'm not saying my mother doesn't love me, but if she had the choice to only have conceived me after marriage, she would choose it every time. My mother is disappointed in herself, so I know the choices I make with my body will always disappoint my mother, but I would like to accept myself for my choices in life, I want to know that I own my body and I can do what I feel is right for me, and I am enough for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


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


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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


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.


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.