This is what it has come to

In my neighbourhood is a name-brand primary school, the kind founded in the colonial period by some rags-to-riches chap, whose reputation in Singapore over the years has calcified into some kind of saint-like symbol of generosity, philanthropy and all-round goodness. As I was walking by the school at lunchtime, a large MPV, the kind that costs S$70,000-120,000 brand new, pulled up. An elderly man got out from the driver's side, the kind of elderly man who has a head full of white hair and wears jet-black socks with sports shoes. He looked healthy enough, but he was moving at that decelerated pace that's not quite doddering but not quite spry, either.

Waiting at the pick-up point was a boy, seven or eight years old and small as they come. He got into the front passenger seat, while the elderly man made his way to the spot on the pavement where the boy had left his school backpack, picked it up, walked back to the vehicle and placed it in the back seat. And by school backpack, I'm talking about one of those units that come with little wheelies these days. It didn't look impossible for the boy to pick up.

So the boy leaves his backpack for his grandfather to pick up. Which grandfather does. Because, I dunno, boy is small and precious, or something.

Just yesterday I was catching up on my Instapaper reads, which included Nancy Gibbs' "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting" in TIME. The second paragraph reads:
We were so obsessed with our kids' success that parenting turned into a form of product development. Parents demanded that nursery schools offer Mandarin, since it's never too soon to prepare for the competition of a global economy. High school teachers received irate text messages from parents protesting an exam grade before class was even over; college deans described freshmen as "crispies," who arrived at college already burned out, and "teacups," who seemed ready to break at the tiniest stress.
I do admissions interviews for freshman applications to my alma mater, and every year on average they're getting more well-prepped and less able to talk about anything that wasn't scheduled into their lives. Being alternately coddled and prepped-for-life clearly isn't a "uniquely Singaporean" experience of growing up, but you know, who I'm worried about is not so much the boy, but all the other people who are going to have to pick up after him for the rest of his life.



Solo efforts

It's not every evening that you walk into a friend's birthday party, only to be greeted by a look of dismay from the birthday girl. "I brought you wine!" I said cheerily, waving the bottle of Shiraz.

"Yu-Mei Balasingamchow," she intoned in her distinctive singsong way, albeit with a tinge of disapproval, "you were supposed to be here earlier."

"Yah, sorry, I had dinner with some friends and ---"

"No, you were supposed to be here earlier." She gave me a look. It turned out there had been a Very Nice Man at the party whom she'd been hoping to introduce to me, but he'd booked it for another party before I got there.

Nonetheless, she proceeded to tell me several significant details about him, which now makes me wonder if I'll be able to keep a straight face if he and I ever get round to meeting (nothing wrong with him, just my friend's enthusiastic description).

Unrelated to this, a couple of months ago someone asked me what type of guys I like. In response my mind went completely blank. One doesn't simply walk around with a list in our heads, do we?



Be kind, Rewind

It's an odd thing to have an acquaintance come out to you as you're on your way out of a jam-packed inch-sideways-through-the-crowd gay bar --- not odd as in "I don't need to know", but odd as in I guess him seeing me in a gay bar made him think, ah, she's hanging out here, she must be okay to come out to, and so he did, half-shouting it so that I could hear him above the music and crowd noise.

Of course, it's even odder to have another friend introduce me to his gay friends at that same bar, only to follow up every introduction with an emphatic, "But she's not a lesbian." He said it's so that they know to introduce their eligible straight friends to me. I said it made me feel like I should have a disclaimer plastered to my forehead.

Not-odd was stumbling across another acquaintance's birthday party at the same bar. I didn't clink any champagne, but I gave him a hug and it was very nice to see him surrounded by the people he loves and who love him dearly.

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It just goes to show you

On Sunday, the friend I met for brunch was someone I hadn't seen in over two years, so in the middle of catching up, I mentioned that I'd split up with my ex, to which he said, "Yes, I know. It's not exactly a secret." We have some mutual friends so his statement wasn't exactly a surprise either, but I still said, "Well, I'm not going to take for granted that everyone knows."

Today, I had dinner with another old friend whom I also hadn't really talked to properly in over two years. But I'd invited her over to my flat during the Chinese New Year, so I knew that she knew that I was single. Then towards the end of dinner she tells me that before the Chinese New Year visit, she'd mentioned it to a mutual friend whom I chat with more often, and she'd gushed, "I wonder what's new with her? Do you think she's had a kid?"

To which our mutual friend had said, "Er ... you know she's separated from her husband, right?"

[Insert your own kua kua kua sound effect here.]

I told her tonight that I really thought she'd heard the news from someone before this year. But I guess our informational paths don't cross that often.

As my 35th birthday inches up on me, I find myself thinking about when I was 25 (the year I got married), and that when you're 25 you don't really know what you'll be doing at 35, and that everything around me now --- writing, cats, singlehood, Marine Parade view --- is so remotely not anything I could have imagined when I was 25.

None of it's bad. It's just ... different.

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