Back then, it seemed as if everything we did - or more precisely didn't do - would be followed by an entire period of agonizing nagging from either one of our critical parents. However with growing age and maturity, I'll admit there's a perverse sense of nostalgia attached to that former highly annoying parental propensity.
Though I seriously doubt the other tenants at Netherfield would agree.
With our annual Mid-Autumn soiree coming up, there are several essential tasks to sort out from the caterers to the decorations. Contrary to what others might think, we don't exactly source out the entire social event to the party planners here - since there are sadly few on this side of the Big Puddle. Besides, the decorators here have deplorable taste and I wouldn't even trust them to style the storeroom belowstairs.
So we usually do it all on our own. Very Martha Stewart Arts and Crafts 101 with simple everydau items at hand like the ubiquitous craft paper and scissors.
Not to mention a little bit of help which is unfortunately not all that forthcoming. Years of experience have taught me - quite painfully I might add - that the tenants don't place as much importance on the event details as I do. Whether the party decorations match or if the ordered dishes are enough to cater for all our guests doesn't seem to bother them quite as much.
Paul : Dammit I told Felix that the tablecloth should be in a shade of olive. OLIVE! Paisley : Does it matter terribly? Paul : Hush! You already botched up the invitations!
Yes, I'm a wildly controlling, micro-managing bitch. Something I've generally learned to live with which is why I only delegate the simplest of tasks to them.
Paul : I'll hire the caterer, set out the invitations and handle the decorations. Paisley : Alright. Paul : You are Felix are in charge of the chandelier. Just decorate the chandelier. Paisley : Okay. Felix : No problem. Paul : Get it done before the party.
Well at least that's what they say. Exactly two days later after I've already interviewed the caterers, picked my favourite and gone through several menus, I look up and see the barren chandelier with nary a shiny bauble in sight. Perhaps a friendly reminder?
Paul : Don't forget the chandelier yeah. Felix : Don't worry.
This of course goes on for several days as I keep myself busy with the party preparations. Two days before the party when I've spent several days going through pinterest boards and youtube videos to find DIY decor for paper flowers and lanterns - and experimenting with several intriguing choices, I walk by again and notice that there's nothing all that different about the chandelier.
Paul : It's two days more, yeah. Don't forget to do up the chandelier. Paisley : So done. Don't worry.
Really? Is it any wonder that parents start nagging? What choice do I have with the dates coming so close?
Admittedly it has been a while since we've had our regular soirees here in Netherfield. With the ongoing renovations over at the new demesne Hartfield to watch over and the building materials needed such as furniture and electrical items spilling over, Netherfield hasn't exactly been the proper place to host guests of any sort. Moving boxes fill up part of the house with the new - wallpaper, lamps and chandeliers - and the old - clothes and knick knacks - all mixing together in a disordered jumble.
Moreover it seems to be impossible to have an entire weekend where all three of us tenants are around. With the price of oil on a perpetual freefall, Fabulous Felix seems to be jetting around trying to solve all the ensuing problems - while at the same time balancing the demands of a new relationship.
What about the third, you say? Well, Pretty Paisley has been around even less than he has. Even when she is physically present on the estate, she seems to pull the oddest working hours in town, creeping home way past midnight with her sassy slingbacks in hand.
Yes, I do have my suspicions despite all her fervent denials.
Paisley : Did someone say a party? What shall I wear? Felix : Ooh drinks. Paul : Isn't anyone considering the caterers and the cleaners?
So pulling together a party hasn't been topmost on my mind, till just the other day when Charming Calvin made a mention of it. Ever since he's back, there has been little chance for him to meet all my friends in one gathering which had him wondering. Obviously the bucolic country air - and the sheer monotony of it all - has suddenly turned him into a social butterfly.
Calvin : It has been a while since you've had a social. Paul : Haven't had the time. Nor the inclination. Calvin : Well I'm around this time at least. Paul : You sure you'll even lend a hand? Calvin : I'll try. Paul : I doubt that. Calvin : At least it won't be worse than the miserable potluck the other day. Paul : Ouch. Calvin : At the very least, please cater. We aren't that common.
Since my far-too-obliging caterers were all too deliriously happy to help - and surprisingly eager to give a sizeable discount, how could I possibly say no? Took only moments for us to work out a proper menu for the chosen clique that's coming by. Providentially the time coincides quite well with the coming autumn so all we had to do was come up with a fall foliage theme to match, all bright vibrant yellows, oranges and reds.
With the season upon us, quite a number of our acquaintances are back in the city leaving the countryside quite bare. By some fortuitous chance, both Fabulous Felix and Pretty Paisley find themselves in the vicinity for this short span of time - so what few friends left behind, we have brought together for our coming soiree to wine and dine together.
Since my painfully forthright opinions are always clearly spelled out for everyone within hearing range - and apparently I have little to no reservations according to my friends, it isn't that hard to know what I'm thinking. Growing old has some of its perks - and flatly saying no has to be one of them.
In fact Charming Calvin seems to excel in the categorical no - just like the famed Grumpy Cat himself - though he obviously only uses that particular technique on me. Saying no to everyone else - which includes his formidable mother - is something he has yet to master however.
But the art of the polite decline is an acquired skill I assume we shall soon have to impart on the clearly unschooled debutantes in town. Especially since it's clear they show very little tact in declining an invitation.
Suitor : Are you around this weekend? Debutante : Yes. Don't have anything planned. Suitor : Could I take you out on a date? Debutante : Oh ...
( three minutes later )
Debutante : Oh...
( three days later )
Debutante : .Oh ..
And so the awkward silence continues till the dreaded date aforementioned has already long passed.
Suitor : Oh dear, I can clearly see that you're quite indisposed at the moment.
Really like the song says, all I heard was crickets. Picture the crestfallen suitor standing by the public telephone anxiously watching the clock ticking. Maybe even with the rain pouring. Leaving him wondering if something untoward has happened.
Or whether he has just being friendzoned.
Which brings back awful, awful memories of watching my straight brethren schoolmates bravely attempting - and miserably failing - to court the curiously uncommunicative girls back in high school. The lady doth protest not at all, methinks! Think I speak for most men when I say fumbling an invitation and getting immediately shot down would be preferable to ... getting absolutely no reply at all.
Left hanging miserably in the wind.
Is it so difficult to say no? After the gentleman has foolhardily left his heart on the line, I find it quite inexcusable to leave such an overture unanswered. Perhaps an immediate refusal would leave a little chill in the relationship for a little while but at least there's that glimmer of hope for a subsequent resumption in relations.
However if you leave that question forever unanswered...
As someone hailing from an all-boys school, it wouldn't surprise anyone to know that we all used to think of the girls behind convent walls as exotic aliens hailing from another planet. While my straight brethren were all too keen to delve into their feminine mysteries, I preferred to do my clinical observations from afar. Far safer sometimes I should think.
Accordingly the passage of time with numerous platonic intimacies and workplace relationships has certainly served to open my eyes when it comes to the undeniable vagaries of womanhood ... but I'll admit they can still frequently confound me.
Even more so when one of the duennas told me of her experiences entering the marriage mart.
Mabel : I've been trying to date this guy actually but he doesn't seem to get my hints.
Paul : You do know men can be utterly obtuse most of the time, right?
Mabel : But I spelled it out clearly. In fact I told him to come here since there were plenty of work opportunities here.
Paul : That sounds as if you just offered him a job.
Mabel : But it's implied that I am here!
Paul : No, it's implied that you just offered him a job.
Mabel : But I was flirting!
Paul : You basically handed him a job application.
Though it has become quite apparent that none of the boys she likes can understand a single word of her unfamiliar language full of inferences and insinuations. From time to time, women tend to forget that the men really are from Mars - and they don't take subtle hints all that well. Stereotypically straight men would simply take the spoken words literally at face value without reading further into the hidden implications thereafter.
Spell it out seriously. In bright neon signs if possible.
Mabel : Oh, he's holding my hand! Does he like me? Is he dancing with me because he likes me or because his parents have approved of me? What will this mean? Will he ask me out tomorrow? What will I wear? Hope I don't stain my dress. Is he a good man? Maybe I should ask around. Beau : I'm hungry. When's dinner?
Accustomed to the cruel, intricate female politics at play in the Domicile for Dogmatic Duennas, Mabel clearly assumes that all men play the same highly complex games. Apparently forgetting that the common man is assuredly simple with clearly defined wants and needs, and blindingly obvious likes and dislikes, which he probably has no qualms about articulating.
So in a bid to translate to Martian what she was thinking we all decided to write out an invitation for her much abused new beau.
Mabel : Don't make it too obvious!
Paul : Short of showing up at his doorstep brazenly dressed in a thong and raincoat, everything else might sail past his head.
Mabel : Really?
Paul : Yes, really. How about asking him out for the party this weekend?
Mabel : Isn't that far too obvious?
Paul : It's a party.
Mabel : But what if he thinks that it -
Paul : He thinks it's a party.
Mabel : But what if he thinks that it -
Paul : He will think it's a party. And that's it.
Really. It's simple. Don't read so much into it. The boys don't.
Let's admit that there's just not that much to do during lazy summer weekends on this side of the Big Puddle. Though the proud little town lays claims to the exalted title of a city, there's really not much on offer when it comes to family fun and social recreation - which is how we all fell into the board gaming hobby by default. Ever since that fateful moment when our gaming fellowship came together, it has been a wild non-stop board game adventure one after the next.
Which is how I like it. For me, playing games is more about the friendly camaraderie than it is about cut-throat victories - hence my long avowed love for convivial cooperative games rather than the cruel, conniving double-crossing bloodbaths much beloved by the likes of Diffident Dan and Mad Madison.
Since he has returned, Charming Calvin has yet to make up his mind on this curious new hobby of ours. Apparently our seemingly antisocial fellow isn't much into cards and board games but we all managed to talk him into trying out a game or two.
Paul : So what did you think? Calvin : It's an okay game. Paul : You like it then? Calvin : I'm not a natural player. Paul : Natural player? Calvin : Yeah, I need time to absorb the intricacies of the game, to appreciate the strategies needed to win, to analyze the entire concept. Paul : It's a simple card game. It's not all about the winning. Calvin : But I have to know all that. If not, I would be an unworthy opponent. Paul : Unworthy? Calvin : Yes, I might not be worthy of your time and skill as a player. Paul : WTF.
Talk about a mind-blowing epiphany since that particularly sage comment certainly explains much about Charming Calvin! And Diffident Dan! Could this be another peculiarly inexplicable foible to differentiate us from our more serious-minded Chinese-educated comrades?
Master : All these unworthy opponents dare to even show their face on the same street?!
Truly. Despite his whimpering claims otherwise, Diffident Dan also takes games quite intensely - almost as if his life might depend on the precarious outcome. At least now we know the real reason behind his befuddling stratagems. Not from a crazed single-minded desire to win but a desperate need to thoroughly redeem themselves in the eyes of their disgruntled companions!
Paul : You mean if you lose, we will all yell Dishonour on You! Dishonour on Your Family! Dishonour on Your Cow! Calvin : Yes. Much dishonour. Paul : No one does that. Well maybe Sober Sam. But it's just a game. Calvin : It's not just a game.
They simply cannot be seen as an unworthy opponent! The shame! The humiliation! The dishonour!
Master : You were utterly useless during that game. Unworthy of my time and skill, almost an insult to me. Go home before I cut you.
Like really. Does anyone talk like that in real life?
An overworked plebeian from Malaysia who imbibes caffeine ( though slowing down some ), drives dangerously ( same as prev. ) and writes bedtime stories about guys into other guys to indulge in wicked unfulfilled