Uniquely (Uter)Us

“Give me ideas for a ‘U’ post!” I wailed to the sister-in-law over Whatsapp yesterday. This wailing normally starts much earlier in the month, but I think moving to India has given me quite a bit of ammunition this year in terms of having new things to talk about. Now that we’re in the homestretch, though, my brain is completely fried, so I turned to Sayesha for help.

Dependable as she is, Sayesha¬†threw a whole bunch of ‘U’ words at me, most of which I rejected because I’d either already written about them or couldn’t think of anything to write for them. And then, because we’re us and we can’t resist an opportunity to get ridiculous, this conversation unfolded:

Sayesha: Uterus!

Me: What about uteruses?! “I have one, I don’t plan to use it, kthxbye.”

Sayesha: Nice brief post. Egg-cellent idea, in fact.

Me: Ova-t an idea!

Sayesha: Womb-an, go for it.

Me: God-h will smite me.

[Sayesha: ūüėā We are punning in hindia now.

Me: It happuns only in hindia!]

Sayesha: Don’t say things on the sper(m) of the moment hor.

Me: If I don’t say anything, we will be left with pregnant pauses in our conversation. The soil of our conversation needs fertilising.

Sayesha: Use your fertile imagination.

Me: I knew you’d go for the same word!

[Our¬†‘fertile/fertilisation’ pun happened at the same time, because¬†our brains work the same way.]

Sayesha: ūüėĪūüėÄ Blast(ocyte) it!

Me: I’m going to get gas(trulation) from all this uterus talk.

Sayesha: Embryo-ce the truth.

Me: Are you planting the seeds for my next post? Ovule make me think of a new topic altogether?

Sayesha: You are s-o-vary talented, you can do it. I’ll cheer you on – for she’s a jolly good fallo(pian tube).

Me: The penis mightier than the sword. Wait… was that a double entendre?

Sayesha: ūüėā Yes-trogen.

Me: God, this feels like a test(osterone),¬†doesn’t it? If I pull this off, it will be a mighty foet(us).

[Long silence as both of us rack our brains to try and remember 12th standard Biology.]

Me: [giving up and aiming low] Balls!

Sayesha: Hi men!

Me: ūüėāūüėāūüėā There aren’t any men here. Are you sure you’re taking the same test(icles) as me?

Sayesha: That’s just your folli(cle).

Me: If I reproduce this conversation word for word, do you think I’ll pass the test? I’m hoping to get a (pla)centa.

Sayesha: In the words of the Japanese, u-ter-us!

Me: ūüėāūüėāūüėāūüėāūüėāūüėā

Sayesha: It’s a tough period in your life.

Me: It’s the lack of men(struation), I’m sure. Okay, zygote to go, dinner time! Thanks for the post!

Remember when I wondered why we are friends despite being very different people? The answer is obviously what we both have in common – uteruses and a love for puns.

Okay, okay, we’re ready for our pun-ishment now.

Punstars and Pundits

About two years ago, tired of turning to Facebook every single time I was bored, and sick of scrolling listlessly through articles I didn’t want to read, I removed the Facebook app on my phone. I figured I could check the website if I needed to, and that not having it handy on my phone would curb the addiction somewhat. I was right. I stopped checking Facebook often, and subsequently, I stopped posting as well. I had underestimated how dependent I’d grown on being able to post photos directly from my mobile, so when I stopped using the app, I stopped putting up pictures, and soon everything else also declined. These days, I only use Facebook¬†for the contacts, to be able to get in touch with people whose phone numbers I don’t have (and to allow people to get in touch with me for the same reason).

For the most part, I’m happy with the baggage I’ve shed. I don’t really miss Facebook. Instagram¬†has filled the need for pictures quite nicely, and I get my (relevant) news from all over the internet anyway. The only thing I do miss is interacting with people in the comments section, that too in a very specific kind of post. For a brief period in 2014, my Facebook wall became the hub of what I now refer to as “pun battles”, where something innocuous I would post would attract the punstars and the pundits among my friends and unleash a slew of punny comments. Myself, Sayesha and a few more friends were regular features on these posts (every other comment would be one of us), but my favourite part was always when someone random would sashay in, make a single high-class pun and waltz out in style. I go back to these posts once in a while to give myself a little chuckle, but I figured putting some screenshots over here would make them much more accessible for the future. (Excuse the terrible editing – I wanted to blur out the names.)

It all started with an innocent link to a pun battle on Buzzfeed (article is over here if you want a laugh), but some of us were feeling competitive already:

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 17.27.35Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 17.27.54Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 17.28.08Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 17.28.38

Almost a full year later, I made a momentous discovery at work:

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.54.29Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.54.50

Soon after, I ate something suspect:

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.52.24Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.52.50Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 17.24.10Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.53.56

Then this happened:

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.51.22Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.51.47

The last pun battle happened a while ago (I guess you can only take Russian humour so far):

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 16.50.05

I only have one thing to say: take me back to Punderland, please!

Of Kith And Kin

I love having a brother. Older brothers can be a bit of a stereotype in TV and movies – they’re always overprotective, always a bit macho, and they say things like “You better not hurt her” to the incumbent boyfriend or husband. In truth, my relationship with my older brother is closer to what I have with my parents – absolute, unconditional trust that he will always have my back and that I can always, always count on him.

We do, however, have six years between us. I’m a girl and he’s a boy. ¬†We never studied in the same school, and I spent all my teenage years by myself after he left for university in another country. All that put together, and I think it kind of makes sense that we never really became “friends”. We love each other, and we’ve been able to warm up to each other much, much more in recent years (the age gap becomes less and less divisive the older you get), but we’re still way too different to really be friends. If we weren’t related, I don’t know if we would make much of an effort to get to know each other. Because of that, I spent a lot of my teen years daydreaming about having a sister. Younger, older, it didn’t matter, I just wanted someone to talk to (my brother’s never been the chatty sort), to relate to, to get advice from (or to give it, even), to do girly things with.

I didn’t expect to get one at 18. (In retrospect, I should have expected it, but teenage girls don’t really think about their shy, introverted brothers getting married.)¬†When I first met my (now) sister-in-law, some 12 years ago now, ¬†I was immediately envious of her cool, chic haircut and her elegant style. I don’t remember all the details of those first few months, but I remember that she was warm, funny, introduced me to blogging, took me ice-skating, let me ramble and generally did all the things a good sister should do. I approved of her, of course, and let my brother know as much. She was a keeper.

Fast-forward a decade, and my relationship with her has only blossomed. People are sometimes surprised that we have such a solid bond, and I don’t know whether I should be offended (why is it a surprise that two non-related female family members get along well?) or agree with them about it being a bit of a minor miracle. Not in a “women can’t stand each other unless they’re related” way, but¬†in a “how are we good friends when we don’t even have that much in common?” way. Because, honestly, if I really think about it, we’re very different people. We like the same broad things – books, music, writing, movies – but our tastes are polar opposites.¬†Our personalities are not that similar, and our lifestyles are definitely on the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum (and not just because she’s a married woman and I’m single and ready to mingle¬†fine as I am, thanks).

Still, we’ve managed to make it work. I say jokingly that we’ve spoken more in a decade than my brother and I have in three, but I think, more and more, that’s actually pretty accurate, especially if you include our ridiculous Whatsapp history. We’ve managed to bond over the most random things (book clubs, nail art, TV, online shopping) and found similarities in our love for the beach, picnics, Scrabble games, funny memes and new recipes (she makes, I eat). We’ve talked crap, we’ve talked philosophy. We’ve talked boy problems, work problems, people problems. We’ve¬†laughed over badly-written matrimonial ads and made many, many (so many) terrible puns.

We’re friends, but like any good sibling, she’s also been an incredible source of inspiration. She’s dedicated, driven, organised and disciplined, qualities I’m always striving for in my own life. When we write our new year resolutions, I always wonder what she could possibly need to work on. She fires on all cylinders, she’s living proof that it can be done. At any point in time, she’s juggling a dozen balls, and doing it in a fabulous dress and kickass heels. She’s the complete package. In addition, she’s one half of the source of the smartest, funniest, most adorable little warrior princess I’ve ever met, the strongest glue any relationship could need.

She’s a wonderful sister-in-law, but more than that, she’s the sister I always wanted. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Happy birthday, BBG! ūüôā

Big Baby

So, a nice perk of the recent move to India has been the opportunity to live with my parents again, after being away from home for more than a decade. When I was first considering job options in India, my parents had professed their support by “offering”¬†to come live with me wherever I found work. At the time, the offer felt vaguely threatening, possibly because I was just not ready to give up the freedom I had found in living by myself in a totally different country. I couldn’t conceive giving it up to live under the same roof as my parents again. Sure, things would be different from when I was a teen – I’d have my own money this time, for one, and surely parents don’t chase after lazy 30-year-olds the same way they do after lazy teenagers (right?), but still, the thought was intimidating, to say the least.

They say things work out when they have to, and cut to two years later, I wasn’t finding the prospect of moving back home all that scary anymore. In fact, I was maybe even looking forward to it. I thought about all the practical benefits it would bring – having people around to take care of the cooking, to supervise household administration (maids, groceries, utilities, etc.), to be present in the house for mid-day deliveries, to help drive me around to places (I refuse to drive in Bangalore) – it would be a life I hadn’t experienced since I was 18. I wouldn’t have to do every single thing on my own.

And, of course, there was that intangible element – that of having my parents around at all times to talk to whenever I wanted, to seek counsel in person, to eat meals at a dinner table (as opposed to in my bedroom in front of a computer), to just be part of a family again. I think I was too wrapped up in the idea of freedom and independence when I was a teenager to consider what I would be losing when I left home, but coming back has brought some of those things back to me.¬†Do I regret going away? Not at all. If anything, spending a decade by myself has made me a stronger person and given me a kind of confidence in myself that I may never have gained if I’d never left. But, as a kind of bonus, it is also now helping me better appreciate the comfort, support and love my parents have always provided. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder, no?

Life is different now, but in an interesting way. Those practical benefits are nothing compared to just being around my parents again. It’s nice to know that no matter how much time passes, some things don’t change. (I still get told off for getting up late, albeit in much gentler tones than before.) I think a part of them still looks at me as the same child who left 10 years ago – it’s like time hasn’t passed in between. On my part, I’m starting to realise that as different as I am from my 18-year old self (I earn money, I make sensible, well-thought-out decisions, I’m nowhere near as lazy as I used to be), I’m not that much different in other ways.

Right now, my parents are away on holiday and I’m home alone, and I’m starting to feel the beginnings of a slight illness, and all I can think about is how nice it would be to have Mom around to hug me and feed me and take care of me. Really, in some ways, it doesn’t matter how old I get or how much money I earn or how independent I become. In some ways, I will always be their baby.

T is for Tootooie

When I learned the news that I was going to be an aunt, one of my first thoughts (after “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!”, of course) was that my little niece/nephew was going to call me “Athai” (the Tamil word for paternal aunt). Now, of the three aunt words I could’ve been assigned, ‘athai’ is the one¬†I like the least. It has nothing to do with the person the word has been assigned to (my own athais are all great). Rather,¬†it’s one of those words that just feels old. Athais are usually married (to athimberes), their kids are older than you, they cook yummy food and scold you if you drink too much water during meals – they’re motherly. I was going to be an athai, and, at 23, I was none of those things. I was going to be an anomaly in the world of relatives – I was going to be a young athai.

But this was a petty thing to be worrying about – I was going to be an aunt to an actual human being! And when this little¬†human being was actually born, all thoughts of impeding old age in the form of athai-dom went out the window. I had a niece! This tiny, tiny human was related to me! Not just that, she would be related to me FOR LIFE. I was going to be her friend, her teacher (English and Biology only, please), her confidante and partner-in-crime. What did it matter what she called me? We were linked by blood (say that dramatically, because that’s how I’m saying it as I write it), and nothing could change that.

But I needn’t have worried. She¬†probably had an inkling about my athai worries as soon as she was born (she is my niece, after all), because when she was old enough to start talking, she started calling me “Thathai”. It was a mispronunciation, but I grabbed at the opportunity to change my destiny. She had inadvertently cute-sified the word (I was totally willing to be a thathai – it definitely did not have the same old-person ring as athai), and I wasn’t going to let the chance slip. I warned everyone not to correct her – thathai was what I was going to be. FOR LIFE.

But my little human being had other plans for me. Better plans. A year or so later, slowly gaining her own independent sense of humour, she decided to modify everyone’s names to make them cuter. First Mama and Poppy became Momsie and Popsie, then Patti and Thatha (grandmom and granddad) became Patsie and Thatsie. When I learned of this change, I confronted her about what my new name was going to be. I had thought she’d be a little daunted by the idea of making my moniker three-syllabled, but nope, easy as pie, she declared, “Thathaisie!”

It was a mouthful, so that phase didn’t last very long, but one day, without warning, I was Tootooie. At least, that’s how I spelled it in my head until she put it down in writing recently and spelled it “Thuthuy”, giving me a mini heart attack. My brain immediately conjured up images of her spitting at me in disgust (“thu, thu, eeeee!”), so I hurriedly got her to change it to the much cuter and less scarring “Tootooie”, and now I just have to lather, rinse, repeat the lesson until it sticks.

Anyway, the transition from Thathaisie to Tootooie (whichever way it’s spelt) was one I was gung-ho about, because I could tell it was taking me further and further away from ‘athai’. It’s catchy too – the official Tootooie song is sung to the tune of Ek Shararat from Duplicate (“tootooie-tooie-tooie-tootooie-tootooie-tooie!”).¬†Even now, whenever she runs towards me, yelling “Tootooie! Tootooie!” (a sight that is heart-melting in itself), and whoever I’m with turns to me with a bemused grin and asks me why she calls me that, I sigh contentedly, knowing the athai connection is slowly being broken. “It’s a long story,” I say. It is. It’s been an evolution.

People ask me if I’ll still like it if she calls me¬†Tootooie when I’m 44 and in actual athai territory (happily married to Tootimbere?), but I love the idea of being called something cutesy when I’m older. Knowing my niece and her endless bound of imagination, though, it would probably have changed by then, most likely to something even more undecipherable. God only knows what she has in store for me next.

I only know that I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

R is for Recipe

When it comes to recipes, I believe there are a few different¬†types of people. There are the ones who maintain recipe books, filled with either hand-written or cut-out recipes of every single thing they’ve ever cooked. There are the ones who use recipes from the internet (often from a favourite bookmarked site),¬†following every instruction in exact detail. Then there are the ones who browse the internet five minutes before they decide to cook something, find an uncomplicated recipe, take a cursory glance at the ingredient list, shut down their computers and then proceed to do whatever the hell they want.

It won’t come as too much of a surprise that I’m of that last variety. Now, while I don’t cook very often,¬†whenever I do,¬†I’m almost always pretty happy with the outcome. I can’t tell if this is a result¬†of me being a non-fussy food lover or because what I cook is genuinely good. I can’t tell what¬†other people think about my cooking, either – I’ve only ever cooked for close friends and family, and because they’re generally good people, they never have anything bad to say. (Rather, they don’t say anything bad.)

To be fair, I stick to simple, easy recipes, so there’s not much that can actually go wrong. I’m a religious follower of the one-pot lifestyle – if I need to use more than two vessels simultaneously, it’s not worth it cooking it myself. I do try and make an effort to make food presentable – I use a lot of different coloured vegetables in my cooking, for example – but I will also admit that I’ve made food that has looked great but tasted terrible. The incident that sticks out most in my head is the Great Spinach Soup Disaster of 2012, where I tried making soup out of raw spinach (I wanted it to look bright green, instead of the dull green it turns when it’s cooked) and as a result of which my stomach cut ties with me for a whole two days.

Even when¬†I’ve made dishes that people have expressed an enjoyment of, however, I can’t replicate the success exactly¬†because of my agar agar¬†way of cooking. So it will happen that I’ll make a dish that someone likes and asks for on another day, at which point I’ll get stressed about being put on the spot, try to remember what I did the previous time, invariably bungle up a few ingredients (I can never wrap my head around the idea that leaving out¬†one little ingredient can change the taste of a dish), and end up serving that poor person something sub-par, after which they never ask me for anything ever again.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I genuinely do have a tough time with recipes. It’s probably because I guesstimate a lot (if you’re guessing at an estimation, that’s twice the inaccuracy), because I’m very bad at measurements (I’m still mystified as to whether 100g should¬†feel¬†heavy or not), because I have only a rudimentary understanding of physics (“Why does it matter if you add excess water¬†– if you cook it long enough, it will evaporate!”), and because I tend to ignore numbers in recipes and focus just on the words. This applies to word-of-mouth recipes as well – my brain will pick up the list of ingredients mentioned, but I’ll either filter out or forget to ask about how much of anything I need to use.

And that brings me to now – I hurriedly asked my mom for a cabbage recipe this afternoon before she went off for the evening, and now I’m sitting here, halfway done, not sure if I’ve used the right amount of cabbage, let alone all the secondary ingredients. Then again, the upside to not cooking very often, at least where my mom is concerned, is that when I¬†do cook, it’s such a miraculous event¬†in itself that it overpowers what¬†may be lacking in, you know, taste and general edibleness.

At least, I hope that’s the attitude she takes when she comes back tonight to cabbage mush. Hey, it was her recipe!

K is for Karaoke

For someone who loves music and singing as much as I do, it’s surprising that I only heard about karaoke when I was in my 20s. I can’t remember the exact circumstances now, but I know that once I had learnt that it involved singing with actual backing tracks like a real pro (or a semi-pro, at least), I was itching for an opportunity to do it. My university friends granted me one when they took me blindfolded to a karaoke pub (the old-fashioned kind, with a central, common stage area) for one birthday. Unfortunately, while I remember the experience of trying to walk straight with a blindfold on and five girls holding on to me but being absolutely no help, and I remember the dark, seedy atmosphere of the pub, I don’t have memories of the actual karaokeing – not what kind of music was playing or whether any of us actually went up on stage and sang.

When I started working as a teacher, I was placed in school with one other new teacher. We both became good friends, mostly because the pressure of being a first-year teacher causes you to run quickly to the only other person in school who looks as terrified as you do, but also because we shared a similar sense of humour and taste for music. We sat back-to-back¬†in the staff room, a long aisle between us, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to be chatting to and/or singing with each other without even facing each other. Teachers around us, in our aisle and the ones nearby,¬†used to comment on our chatty behaviour – mostly, people were amused by us, but I’m sure we pissed some people off as well.¬†My point is, this colleague and I were always bursting into song at random moments – all we needed was a single line of utterance¬†that just happened to also be a line from a song, and both of us would be belting the song within seconds. We were often on the same wavelength, so it was easy for us to predict what line of thought (or rather, music) the other was taking.

It made perfect sense, then, to go for the first of many closed-door karaoke sessions with this friend – a concept I had not realised existed until that point. I don’t know if karaoke joints are like this all over the world, but here in Singapore, you can pay a pre-determined amount for a fixed number of hours (usually two to three), and you get a cushy, soundproof room (the size of which depends on the size of your party) equipped with a large screen¬†and an attached karaoke set (mic, controller, etc). You can sing as badly as you want, and no-one has to bear it except the people who made the mistake of going with you. No drunk strangers, no secondhand embarrassment, no stage fright. It’s a pretty good arrangement,¬†although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also want that quintessential American TV show karaoke experience, where I meet a handsome stranger after drunkenly embarrassing myself¬†on stage and we get married and live happily ever after.

But, no, this sort of arrangement means you get to pick the friends who have a similar taste in music as you, sit in a cosy, private room for a few hours, and bellow your lungs out. After a few sessions, you know everyone’s¬†go-to karaoke song, the one they have to sing at least once every session because it’s practically become a tradition. (Mine is Zombie by The Cranberries.) People show sides of themselves in karaoke rooms you don’t normally get to see, especially if they’re friends from work –¬†surprising range, a penchant for rap, an ability to harmonise,¬†a taste for obscure music – and it’s fun to let loose and watch your friends relax, too, without having to worry about judgement.

My next mission is to find a karaoke place (of decent quality) that does Hindi songs – it’s been surprisingly hard to come by, making me have¬†to rely on the home-made alternative¬†– karaoke versions of songs from¬†YouTube projected on my flatscreen TV. And while it’s just as pleasant to sit around with a group of friends, no music, no equipment, and sing ’90s Indian TV ad jingles with the aid of only¬†nostalgia and memory, it¬†would be nice to get the same cushy,¬†high-quality experience for Bollywood music that is currently available with English music, and be able to share it with a totally different group of friends.

I know some people take karaoke very, very seriously, and for others, the thought of singing in public and/or group singing is their own personal hell. For me, it’s an activity that both allows me to indulge in a personal hobby and share it with a close group of friends, and I hope I get many, many more opportunities to keep doing it.

G is for Gourd

My mom tells me that when I was very young, I didn’t care for¬†vegetables. I know kids rarely do, but it’s significant to me specifically because¬†adult me¬†loves¬†them. I don’t know when exactly it began, but I went from preferring meals with no¬†vegetables in them, to them¬†becoming my¬†favourite things on the¬†plate.¬†These days, I enjoy¬†pretty much all varieties of vegetables, and meals feel incomplete without them. (For example, I much prefer to cook my pasta or spaghetti¬†with tons of vegetables than to have it¬†aglio olio.)

Growing up in a South Indian family, I¬†was¬†exposed early to vegetables that a lot of my North Indian and non-Indian friends have still¬†either never heard of or never eaten. As far as I’ve seen, South Indian cuisine makes use of some of the widest range of vegetables,¬†probably because being predominantly¬†vegetarian, we need¬†the variety more than others might. As a teenager, I was fond of the more typical stuff – potatoes, ladies’ fingers, cauliflower, brinjal – but as an adult, I find myself drawn to the less everyday stuff – beetroot, yam, pumpkin, etc.

A particular sub-variety of vegetables I really, really enjoy is gourd. There are many, many types of gourd, all with slightly silly non-vegetable-y English names – bottle, snake, ridge, ivy, ash, bitter – but each of which can be made in a bunch¬†of different ways in South Indian cooking. They were all a regular¬†part of my diet when I lived at home, but after I moved away for university, they became quite rare, mostly because I used my newfound freedom to eat out, and non-Indian cuisines at that. When I started working and consequently started cooking a bit, I stuck to the stuff available in the big supermarkets because I didn’t want to travel all the way to Little India to buy Indian vegetables. (Don’t judge – I know Singapore is a small country, but travelling still takes effort, OK?)

Anyway, a few years ago, I finally moved to a place that has an Indian mini mart inside the condominium complex, and found a few vegetable shops close by that actually sell a pretty good variety of¬†the more uncommon stuff. Still, it was Mom coming to stay with me that actually converted those findings into actual yummy food. We’ve been having carb-free dinners, and in the past month, she’s made something out of practically every variety of gourd out there. She and I are usually on the same wavelength when it comes to food – except garlic, which we have very differing opinions about – so eating¬†a more unconventional type of vegetable is never an issue between us.

They say¬†home is¬†where the heart is – but I think home is where Mom’s cooking is. These days, eating good homemade Mom-made food, I feel like I’m a school-going teenager again, except now I actually appreciate what’s being made and the effort it takes to make it.

And good gourd, my tummy (and I) could not be happier. ūüėÄ

F is for Feminism

These days, “Are you a feminist?” has become¬†a loaded question. Where once I would’ve expected all women to say “yes” without hesitation, now most people dodge the question, claiming that the word “feminism” has become associated with too many unsavoury connotations. And even though¬†feminism today clearly isn’t of the bra-burning, men-hating variety¬†it once was, a lot of us¬†have become far more self-conscious about associating ourselves with anything out of our comfort zone. I won’t get into the topic of feminist men, but strong, accomplished women vehemently denying being feminists always make me wonder what exactly has gone wrong.

So, am I a feminist? To answer that, let me rephrase the question. Do I want women to be treated fairly and equally and as a part of society on par with men? Yes. Then yes, I am a feminist. There are going to be ugly and/or extreme sides to¬†any sort of grouping, but for me, that’s not a valid enough reason to disassociate with it completely.¬†Don’t get me wrong – being a feminist¬†doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to rally on the streets or take part in parades (although there’s nothing wrong with that). But just associating with it mentally has made me a lot more aware of the world, and of the small, innocuous ways in which it tends to work against women.

See, for me, feminism means the freedom to look the way I want without judgement, to wear as much or as little make-up as I want, or the clothes I want, without assumptions being made about my personality.

For me, feminism means the freedom to choose between a family and a career, to accept or reject either as I see fit without societal pressure.

For me, feminism means the freedom to decide whether or not I want to take my husband’s name after marriage.

For me, feminism means the freedom to walk down a street at night without fear.

For me, feminism means the freedom from being the representative of my gender, to be able to do something and fail without being held up as an example of why my gender was not “made” to do something.

For me, feminism means the freedom to support other women, to study, work and play in an environment where being on top doesn’t mean having to¬†shove all other women out of the way.

For me, feminism means the freedom to have hobbies and interests regardless of my gender.

For me, feminism means the freedom from vocabulary that seeks to tear me down while condoning similar behaviour in men.

For me, feminism means the freedom from victim-shaming and victim-blaming.

For me, feminism means the freedom to experience negative emotions without them being attributed to PMS.

For me, feminism means the freedom to call myself a feminist and be taken seriously, without being branded as a man-hater.

So, in my opinion, at least, it shouldn’t be that difficult to answer the question, “Are you a feminist?” Because, really, what reason is there not to be?

E is for Earrings

I’m not much of a jewellery person. In fact, I’m the kind of girl who¬†takes the “less is more” attitude to an extreme. You know how there’s that common saying attributed to Coco Chanel that you should stand in front of a mirror after you get ready and take one thing off before you leave the house? I need the opposite advice – I often feel like I should be adding more things to myself, because I’m a serial under-dresser.

That’s not to say I don’t like accessories – I do. However, as attractive as they are, I have some pretty reasonable and practical reasons for avoiding them. One, it’s very, very hot in Singapore. Jewellery and sweat are not a great combination, and if you buy them cheap, like I do, there’s the additional risk of allergies and rashes when the two mix. Two, I’m fond of patterns and prints in clothing, and mixing a loud wardrobe with shiny jewellery really just feels like overkill to me. Third, while I know there are people who can make casual clothes like jeans and T-shirts work with jewellery, I am just not one of those people. And that’s why, even though I have a sizeable collection of assorted accessories sitting in my closet, it rarely ever sees the light of day.

That said, if there’s one type of accessory I freely embrace, it’s earrings. Studs, hoops, dangly ones, big and small – I’m fond of them all. They’re the least problematic kind of jewellery, they’re easy to coordinate with your clothes, and¬†over the years, I’ve collected so many,¬†I have an actual professional rotating earring stand to hold them all.

a60c6994-cb43-4121-bb21-61ad0a7f6d97

Those are just the dangly ones – the studs are in a separate box!

And the upside of being known for having a vast earring collection? Well, when my friends run out of birthday gift ideas, they don’t have to look very far¬†for that back-up option.