And The Living is Easy
Weddings, funerals and fortune tellers depress me.
Weddings, I’ve been known to say, make me linger too long on the idea of happiness. Not that it’s ever been bleak on the romantic front. The wedding type of happy simply seems worlds apart from the love type of happy to me, but then I was the odd one out in too many ways. I was that strange little girl who distressed, not too silently, over the idea that any impending happiness had to come from a Prince Charming, a white dress, a ring, or a HDB flat. I squinted hard in the horizon and tried to see some kind of prince heading my way. I made mental concessions, I had to. “If this prince has long hair, a beautiful face, and soft hands to hold,” I often wondered aloud, “then I guess it’s okay.” Maybe that’s why I didn’t have too many friends in primary school. I like the idea of marriage. But weddings, and ceremonies or rituals of any sort that spell out the rules of what can’t be done more than what can, just depress me. Gay people usually feel we have to work twice as hard in everything: to excel at sports even though you’re a faggot, to make it at the workplace even though you’re a dyke, to be happy even though you’re a sad homosexual. And now I have to work twice as hard to fly somewhere else, book a vineyard, buy two dresses, find the right girl, and fly everyone there and know not everyone I love will be happy for me? I don’t know. I don’t know how that compares to cold jellyfish, PowerPoint slides, sharks’ fin, yum sengs and bad singing from the groom. Maybe happiness doesn’t need other people’s approving — or disapproving — looks.
Funerals are something else altogether. Losing a loved one is a terrible thing and, I’ve been told, doesn’t get any better with practice. There is nothing pleasant about a funeral. Grief and loss is the sum total of the pain of heartbreak and disappointment, magnified. They remind us of our own mortality, the things not yet done, the things we will never do. Aspirations, ambition, dashed dreams, lost loves, happiness, the abruptness of death, what little time you have left and what you still need to do. Death makes every obstacle in life seem ridiculously small in comparison. My grandfather died a few days before Michael Jackson. It destroyed me. My ex is getting married in three countries to the same person, just a few months after my niece was born and a few days after one of my good friends gave birth. It’s supposed to be revitalizing. I find this all chilling. Exciting, eventful, but some days I crave normalcy. Yet I’m finding, rather late into young adulthood, that everything we did in English Literature class — love, loss, death, other such milestones and the cycles of life — are not overwritten cliches. How Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in Stoppard’s version, spent all their lives trying to find out their destiny only to be ultimately disappointed; trapped within the wheels of pre-determination?
And those high priests of pre-determination, fortune tellers. They are to most people, beacons of light. For the less superstitious like myself, they disappoint me greatly even if they have only good things to say. That’s it? That’s life? That’s all love is about? How the hell do you know this anyway? I’ve been to quite a few from Singapore to Dhaka to Antalya and Istanbul, just out of curiosity, and I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I just don’t want to know. Maybe all I want is to fumble my way through life attending as few funerals as I can. Travel even more. Give up smoking. Drink as much good wine and spirits as I can, not at the same time. Be a good person. Send my parents on nice vacations every now and then. Give my best in everything I do. Love bravely, truthfully, fiercely and without fear; not of anybody else, not of each other. Be loved in equal amounts. Have a long distance relationship only once, but make it count. Give to charity. Be kind to cats. Live in as many cities as I can. Turn 24 in three months time but not 10 000 kilometres away from the person I love, ever again.
Maybe even learn to be more optimistic about weddings if I expect to still have friends in my middle age. Or do a better job of pretending.