Friday, May 26, 2017

Social Grace

As a child, the infrequent social gathering, so beloved by my surprisingly sociable parents, has always been a source of much anxiety for me. Incipient bashfulness aside, there are always the endless rules and regulations of proper manners set down by the overanxious parents, seemingly obsessed with constructing the impeccable facade of a perfect family for all to gape over.

Or at least that's what I begrudgingly noted as a child.

Appropriate clothes to wear, polite manners in the company of others etc. - basically Cliff's Notes for the aspiring debutante in a select finishing school. Pretentious little precepts of proper behaviour that my inner rebel found absolutely infuriating - though like the perfect little boy I was, I kept my mouth primly shut following the popular maxim of 'Children should be seen not heard.'

And tried my best to bend the rules whenever possible.

It's only with the benefit of age and hindsight that I find what I learned absolutely educational and extremely advantageous in certain social situations. Though it has also become quite clear that the influential Emily Post Rulebook so well loved by my rigorous parents didn't actually make the rounds amongst the other less conversant members during their PTA meetings.

Such as the indifferent preceptors of a certain Silent Sibyl.

Persuaded by another friend to join one of our usual jovial dinner gatherings, this stonefaced sphinx reluctantly mumbled her unintelligible greetings, nodded almost imperceptibly to no one in particular and then brazenly turned her back to the others for a private conversation with her friend. Henceforth not another word from Sibyl apart from bluntly monosyllabic replies when questioned by the others on the table.

Paul : Gracious, where do you find such lowly impudence!

Just. Plain. Rude.

So much for keeping the conversation light and gracious with your dinner partners on your left and right. Getting information from a hardened spy under torture would have been easier.

Perhaps if she were an ignorant child, I would have been far more forgiving. But the ill-bred wench didn't even have youthful naivete to lend her grace. Really there was little expectation on my part for a gregarious barrel of laughs drowning us all in uproarious hilarity but I would have expected at least a modicum of civil conversation to drip from her precious lips.

As the night wore on with her plainly ignoring everyone else on the table - she might as well have stood facing the wall in a timeout - I started to think Sibyl might well have been brought up by vulgar philistines in the lowliest of barns. The others could plainly see my growing consternation and were all ready to hold me back in case I rashly backhanded the crass lil creature off her dining chair. Even her friend who valiantly tried her best to direct her attention back to the rest of us was starting to feel acutely uneasy with the shocking conversational faux pas.

Friend : Maybe she's shy.
Paul : Maybe she's rude.
Friend : Be nice. 
Paul : Perhaps you should tell her that instead.  

Needless to say, I was less than charmed by her insolence.

Manners maketh man. Or woman as this case may be. Apparently Sibyl still has lots to make up for.



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mad Dogs and Gym Boys

With the far from salubrious heatwave relentlessly steamrolling across the entire region this May, it shouldn't come as any surprise that most of the sober minded citizens have elected to remain safely indoors leaving only mad dogs and Englishmen roaming the steaming pavements. Hellish temperatures hitting the mid regions of the thirties shouldn't even be considered safe for any possible outdoor activities; perhaps even time to consider an immediate curfew!

Enough to make me fall into a swoon like the fragile belles of the South.

At least that's what I thought... till this afternoon when I fled desperately into the presumed safety of an indoor gym only to realize that it had been replaced by an overheated oven. Basically from the frying pan of the unwelcome streets into the blazing fire of the ever more hostile gym environment. Lest you ascribe such wantonly primitive practices to the state I'm in, let me remind you that the gym here actually comes wholly equipped with modern air conditioners.

That the hardened gym members are somehow loath to use.

Though I ignored them and wilfully switched them on anyway.

Mad dogs, Englishmen ... and now Gym Boys.

Perhaps in cooler times of the year - that precious sliver of time in January maybe - the thought of possibly eschewing the air-conditioned comforts could be considered. Though I would wonder why not avail yourself of the freely available open-air gym by the park instead. But in the unforgiving burn of May... there would definitely not be any kind of compromise. And before you say anything, no, working out in a hot, humid environment doesn't burn more calories. Being uncomfortably drenched in stinking sweat isn't a proper gauge of the calories burned.

Wait, why did he send me outside again? 

Seriously if you adore the burning temperatures, could I suggest a quick sprint around the parking lot? With the soaring temperatures hitting close to 40 degrees, I'm sure you'll be feeling the cherished burn very, very soon.

If you're not literally fried to a sizzling crisp on the tarred roads of course.

And if that's still not enough to convince you of the sweltering heat, maybe consider locking yourself up in the ubiquitous gym sauna for the perfect simmer, sizzle and stew.

Otherwise just leave the air-conditioning alone.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Friendzone

Though not exactly the Friendzone most of you might automatically assume; the conventionally known friendzone where an ineligible someone is unwillingly relegated to the platonic friend dungeons utterly forgotten by the other.

That's not what I mean though. For this, I mean regular friendships - the kind that precludes regular perfunctory sexual intercourse. 

By friendzone, I mean that peculiarly indiscernible line that separates those we count as dear to us, almost like part of the family, to the other less distinguished acquaintances. The significant BFFs from the plain generic Fs. Almost immediately I can feel the rising rancour of those who vehemently insist that all their chummy compatriots lie on the same side of the line with none on the other. Really though, let me ask you a question - who would you call to ask for help if you've inadvertently committed something grossly unpardonable? 

The ones on the short list are the real friends. Everyone else would be ignominiously lumped together on the other side of that invisible line that separates the two.

So are we back in the Friendzone? 

Regrettably also dumped into that inglorious bunch would be the rare few whom you might have tried very, very hard to befriend - and yet inconceivably it just never happens. Sometimes not from a lack of trying but from the bewildering circumstances surrounding that particular person at that very specific moment in time. 

Just no feeling as a friend of ours would say. No matter how hard you try. 

Not only does Diffident David probably not understand this - and disagree wholeheartedly with the theory, he also tends to lump all his friends into one indistinguishable zone, regardless of intimacy. Even his most distant co-workers and random acquaintances begrudgingly trip, tumble and topple into that sadly unworthy crew. 

Something he is trying to change - most probably because of the occasional mockery. 

Paul : Oh so who did you meet up for lunch with? 
David : Just a friend. 
Paul : Oh who's this friend? 
David : Did I say friend? I meant co-worker. 
Paul : Oh who's this co-worker. 
David : Did I say co-worker? I meant a nobody.
Paul : Somebody that you used to know? 

Really. If he backpedaled any faster, he might end up yesterday. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

13 Reasons

Or maybe not all that many.

Although the oddly ironic paean to self immolation post relentless bullying that is 13 Reasons Why certainly brings back some bittersweet memories of high school. Not that I ever seriously contemplated suicide way back then but I could certainly empathize with the tremendous rush of emotions experienced by the overly hormonal teenagers in the series.

With that heady cocktail of adolescent hormones, is it any wonder that they behave fucking irrationally at times?

Me, I would probably stand out as the least emo kid in the series. Even with that bothersome gay cloud looming thunderously over me as a teenager, I still remained relatively upbeat about most things. Basically threw myself wholeheartedly into extracurricular activities and random tutorial sessions; even managed to meet a few girl friends that I, apparently still in denial, foolishly asked out later. Not that difficult to brave the infrequent rejections when there's not much riding on it. I was hardly the angsty, guilt-ridden gay kid stereotype portrayed by most CW teen dramas.

But then thankfully, I was rarely the target of ceaseless schoolyard bullying.

Bashful school wallflower I may have been but I wouldn't have taken a beating lying down. Literally or figuratively. Never could imagine the role of the cloyingly sweet K-drama heroine being repeatedly set upon by her malicious oppressors. Like why would I? Turns out it was the right move to make since in retrospect, playing the amenable victim ever ready to take a kicking only seems to rile the boneheaded bullies more.

Clearly that's like painting a Kick Me Sign permanently on your back.

Umm why are you taking this lying down? 

Even in 13 Reasons, the hopeful schoolkids seem to think that all that sophomoric name-calling and talking trash would have been left behind in high school but I can certainly assure them that it doesn't magically disappear. It just ups its game. Just picture this; a gang of tense, highstrung personalities tossed together into a stressful work environment - now that's a true breeding ground for the nastiest of monsters.

Though in the more sophisticated workplace, the bullying tends to be a tad more insidious.

Something Curvy Carenina apparently agrees with since she's been on the receiving end of some workplace malice, artfully couched in syrupy political correctness but no less venomous in its painful sting. What puzzles me is the unexpected lack of combative belligerence on her part. Burn me once and I might dismissively shrug it off, but try it again and there'll certainly be hell to pay.

Why play the nobly suffering victim? Doubt they would be handing out prizes for the most deserving underdog.




Wednesday, May 03, 2017

SuperBitch

It's a bird... it's a plane...

Sometimes it can get really hard to tell especially when you're the non-superpowered being being watched from way, way below with crappy nearsighted vision. Some heroes have super strength. Some can fly. Some can walk through walls. It's really enough to make any normal fellow turn utterly green with jealousy.

Fear not though, folks. Every now and then, what we all think is perfectly normal can turn out to be our very own mutant ability instead.



Think it's evident after all this time that I abhor bullshit; which is why ever since high school, I've kept the company of a select coterie of generally sharp, straight-talking mates. Though the preferred members might frequently change with time and place, the conversations we have rarely do; usually shockingly unpolitically correct, no-holds-barred discussions about everything and all under the sun including topics wildly taboo that frequently shocks our gentle listeners.

Intense they call it.

Coupled with the occasional stinging zingers - inadvertent bitchiness really - I can understand why the stunned newbies usually require a sedative or two before returning for the next bracing session. But they all get used to it after all. Being frequently bombarded with such explosive comebacks has certainly toughened our hides, so much so that we do on occasion miss the less imaginative responses.

Carenina : OMG.
Paul : What? 
Carenina : Did you hear what she said? 
Paul : Yeah? 
Carenina : And? 
Paul : You mean that was meant to be bitchy? 
Carenina : Yes!
Paul : She calls that throwing shade? 
Carenina : Yes!
Paul : You call that a bitchy remark? Yeah, she's got a whole lot to learn. 

And that wouldn't be the first time I've found myself puzzled over seemingly catty remarks.

Karenina : I swear she meant it in a bitchy way.
Paul : Still don't see it. Maybe if I heard it in a stern Russian accent? 

Seriously, either I've become quite thankfully zen to dismiss such little affronts - always a nice sign of maturity - or I've become such a raving superbitch that too minor a diss just bounces off. Or perhaps they should have put a lil more intelligent thought to their petty insults?