Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Elusive Beauty and the Beast

In the days of yore, I was always conscious of how unpretty I looked and I took pains to hide the flaws and downplay the hideous. Maybe it had something to do with being the ugly sister to four pretty, younger girls and a very critical mum. I was always reminded that I was the older sister, the one who'd age first while I watched my younger sisters bloom.

It wasn't only blood relatives who'd comment about my age, and lack of  appeal. When I was twenty someone told me, "You are losing your bloom... soon people will be looking at your sisters and not notice you. You'll be an old maid if you don't marry me."
Did I choose to be his wife? No. I thought ending up as an ugly, old maid was a better option.

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But that did not mean I was willing to embrace my physical flaws. I still wanted to look attractive so I'd have many friends... like my sisters. I guess I often had a permanent scowl on my round-as-a-moon face and looked like I was ready to pounce on anyone who crossed me. People were scared of me!

I bought beauty aids I could ill-afford. I'll never forget the day I went to this store to buy much needed underwear but ended up paying for a handful of powders and creams which the salesgirl said would magic away my ugliness. Of course they didn't work. But desperate people believe anything they are told.

I kept my hair long. I had it cut short. I had it curled and styled by professional hairstylists only to go home and be greeted by my kids... my own flesh and blood... with "you look like a monkey... or kangaroo" or other similar animals. When we went to church Mr Hubby refused to sit near me and the kids so his friends wouldn’t know he was married to the monkey/kangaroo.

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I gave up on my face and hair and thought I'd concentrate on the rest of me instead. I jogged. When everyone was still asleep I was already out jogging and was back home in time to make breakfast. Unfortunately, I had to stop when thieves and robbers also went jogging. I took up tennis and bought rackets for the whole family. That didn't last long partly because Mr Hubby's idea of fun was hitting the ball with all his might so I'd miss it and had to run and pick the ball up instead of catching it with my racket. I ended up just picking up all the balls he had hit.

Oh well, I thought, at least I can paint my nails and make my hands pretty. My nails were shiny and pink when sis-in-law dropped by… to ask me to sew her a blouse. Instead of getting compliments I was chastised!

My hand is for working

God gave you hands to do work not to look pretty,” she said. I picked my jaw off the floor and turned my face so she wouldn’t notice the tears that threatened to fall.

I gave up chasing beauty long ago… after years of trying to look pretty so at least no one can accuse me of laziness. (“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”)

My dear reader, you may not believe this but being ugly can be an advantage—sometimes. Ugliness can be used like a veil behind which you stay safe and secure because people leave you alone.  And it is also fun when you turn around suddenly to face a stalker and see how he stops in his track, his eyes widen in shock and his mouth hangs open. And you have done nothing except turn around to look at him!

You can blame your ugliness for keeping people at bay, when in reality you’re crippled by the thought of letting another person close enough to potentially scar you even more deeply. (Jodi Picoult... The Storyteller)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Housewife's Tale

It's the same old subject: clutter. I spent a precious half day Sunday clearing up and cleaning the room of the number one hoarder in this house—Mr. Hubby. By the time I finished, I was too exhausted to do what I had really planned to do: make a batch of butter cookies for baby and me.

 I began as soon as Mr. Hubby had left for his favourite pastime which is spending a day at the races—because the only time I can work in peace, and without getting all worked up, is when he’s not standing around and breathing down my neck. Or watching me with eagle eyes and arms akimbo but never lifting a finger to help. Just watching like a boss. It must give him great satisfaction and pleasure to assume the position of the 'mandor' and to see me as the 'coolie'. Some folks think they have been created to lord over other people... so this smart mouse works when the cat is away.

First, there's that dust-laden, 8-foot two-piece lacy curtains to take care of. While they were in the washer being 'super-cleaned', I wiped the window ledge with a damp cloth to remove the kilos of black dust that has migrated from the road below. (I'll have to tackle the glass panels another race day.)

Then there's the bathroom to clean and scrub. It's the most spacious bathroom in the house but somehow the space just translates into a bigger area to conveniently let rubbish accumulate. I found two empty 'tulang' (the inner cardboard cylinder of toilet tissue) on the floor; an empty package which had once housed a shaver; crumpled pieces of silver foil; a bunch of unidentifiable objects and enough dust to stuff a floor cushion. I scrubbed the floor and poured bleach into and all over the toilet bowl. Btw, only Mr. Hubby uses this bathroom and he's the only one who uses all the three bathrooms in the house. Maybe I shouldn't grudge him the pleasure of seeing me cleaning after him as he's the house owner while I'm just a lowly penumpang.

Next, I removed the bedsheet and all the pillow cases... Mr. Hubby uses four big pillows and still needs the two cushions I happened to put in his room. The pillow cases and his two blankets went into the wash. The bedsheet I judged to be beyond saving or would take too much time and effort to clean and repair so I threw it away. I removed a single bed mattress lying on the floor because I thought Mr. Hubby shouldn't feel the need for this when he has a spacious double bed all to himself.

After rearranging a few more things and taking away some of my precious books, the room looked more spacious and airy. When I’ve mopped the floor and all the dusty surfaces, the bedroom looked clean and the stale air smell was gone. By late afternoon I have hung up the clean curtains, put a new sheet on the mattress and slipped the pillows into fresh pillow cases.

What did Mr. Hubby say when he came home to a clean, fresh-smelling bedroom? If he had noticed any difference, he didn't say anything. I didn't expect him to say thank you and he didn't. It is sad when the effort goes unnoticed and unappreciated but that is my life.

Dear reader, Mr. Hubby chastises me for being fussy... cerewet, he says... when I insist on 'rubbish in the rubbish basket, toasts on plates and not on parked on bare table, pee aimed into the toilet bowl and not sprayed all over, clothes not hung on backs of chairs, etc' Although my cerewet-ness has helped to prevent us from drowning in clutter and dirt, I sometimes wish I could turn a blind eye to all the mess and learn to live with it… and not feel I have to ‘put things right’. 

Some people have a major house cleaning once a year, around this time (Chinese New Year). Maybe it's something I should consider!