Annoyingly, the landlord wants us out of our fabulous Emerald Hill Road shophouse by the end of July because apparently saying we’re not sure if we’re staying doesn’t cut it. What now, now?? Is chivalry and general politesse truly so dead? I mean, the guy must own half of the island so like, what’s the big deal…?
The implicationses of this are that we’ve been forced to accept viewings of the property. I abso hate having strangers – even Expaterati strangers – traipsing around my inner sanctum, delving into my most personal nooks and crannies, and checking out my vast collection of shoes and such. Can’t bear it. And some of them want to come before midday! Imagine!! It’s very stressful for me, as you will no doubt sympathise, dear readers, and it interferes quite intensely with my roof terrace relaxation and meditation.
I got the time of a visit wrong yesterday morning and was faced with an horrific rush to stash the Veuve empties behind the ornamental pool towel cupboard, pour the remainder of a glass into my fabulous bourganvillia bush (utterly wasteful and I loathe waste when so many people in this world have so little – even if my bush is the finest on the street), and shimmy into some elegant resort wear. I’ve only my sharp wits and perceptiveness to thank for my rapid response. Otherwise I can’t think how embarrassing it would’ve been for the potential tenants, particularly the wife, to stumble upon me in all my hotness.
Anyhoo, today we had another couple round and on this occasion, I knew exactly when they were due to arrive. I’m almost certain that the reason I got it wrong yesterday was because of those pesky relocation people not telling me. Don says it was my mistake, but he says that about so many things that it can’t possibly be truesome.
They seemed nice at first – loud American wife (loud in that lovely way that only Septics can truly carry off) and beige Belgian hus. They really liked the house and she asked me lots of questions about the neighbourhood and living in Singas. Little did she know how privileged she was to be picking the complex brains of an expert expat and celebrité blogger. Some people don’t know they’re born, honestly. As a kind soul though, I was happy to give her the benefit of my wisdom. I even gave her a cup of tea. Apparently they drink Earl Grey now, these Americans… Funny that, after all the hoo-ha they made about our tea.
Then she started to get all personal and up in my face! Gently at first, so I didn’t even notice. She said, “Soooo, Mrs Austen-Jones, God I love your name!! It’s so British! So cute!!! Kinda royal, and classic! But so loooong. Is it ok if I call you Emma?”
“Errr well it’s Emma-Jane really, so I’d prefer EJ… You know, like your OJ or your PBJ and stuff…”
“Sure Emma, sure. I hear you. EJ it is!”, she said, and I thought gosh I really love Americans.
“So Emma”, she continued, “You’ve been here for a few years now. What’ve you been up to? I mean, I know you’re a mom, which wonderful – I’m a mom too – and I understand from your husband that you used to be a lawyer. Me too! Funny, huh?? And I’m thinking about what I’m going to do with myself here if I’m not practicing, so I’d love to know how you’ve spent your time.”
“OMG, you’re a lawyer too! It’s like totes contagious among corporate expat spouses… law and accounting. Bizarro!! Ummmm, well what I’ve been mainly doing is taking some time out to explore, and you know, get to know the real me, who I am as an awesome person.”
[At that point, I did a moving rendition of the song, I’ve been to paradiiiiiiiise, but I’ve never been to meeeeee. It was a beautiful moment.]
The woman, Kelly, appeared alarmingly unmoved, and asked, “So what have you actually been doing?”
“Well, as a life-long yogi and dedicated meditator, that has taken much of my attention. Plus I go to the gym a lot, and I work out with my personal trainer. And I think it’s important to look one’s best in flip flops, so regular pedis are essential. Very time-consuming. And it’s totes vital as an expat wife to have a strong social network, so I meet up with my Expaterati girlies as much as poss… And I write a blog… Maybe as a newcomer you haven’t heard of it… You should check it out. Diary of an Expat Somebody. It’s all about sharing my glamorous life and the profound insights I have with the universe and beyond.”
“Oh, ok”, she said, and this is where it got nasty, “So you don’t have a job, you’re out all the time exercising or partying” –
I had to cut her off, “No babes, I’m at home sometimes, being a really great wife and mum or having me time so that I can become a better wife and mum.”
[This mom sh** has to stop. But it won’t!!! It’ll only get worse! It’s being adopted everywhere I look. Even the Aussies ffs. What would the Bard have thought about the systematic slaughter of our language?!]
“Sure, Emma, I get what you’re telling yourself, but we’re moving here from India, where I had the chance to be involved in some incredible charity initiatives. We really did some amazing work, so vital. Now ok, maybe here there’s less need, but I’m sure there are plenty of volunteering opportunities. Don’t you think you could’ve used your time here a little more… constructively?”
Enough was starting to become very much enough. This complete stranger was sitting in my kitchen, interrogating me about how I live my life! Rood. She didn’t even know what a generous, giving, hugely-empathic person I am. Hold my tongue, I no longer could.
“Well, Kelly, it’s really super-nice that you did all that helpy stuff. Super dooper nice, and you obviously find yourself to be a more important person because of it so it’s just marvellous that a few orphans or whatevs gave you the pleasure of being holier than thou. Now, what did you say your husband does for a living again? Oh yes, he’s a banker – yes, aren’t they all? So effectively, babes, as the wife of an evil capitalist, sustained by a system that exploits and robs the less fortunate, all you’ve been with your do-gooding is your husband’s conscience. It happens all over the world, spoilt rich wives consoling themselves with a supporting role, pretending that fannying about in soup kitchens will compensate for the social crimes to which they themselves are accessories!”
I was on a roll! Words were pouring out of my mouth in a stream so amazebobsly smooth and coherent that I even surprised myself!! I suspect I may be a gifted orator. And I seem to know a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t even know I knew! I’m a gorgeous mystery.
She tried to interrupt, but I was havin’ none of it.
“And an accessory is precisely what you are in this life – just another gaudy bauble – so don’t you forget that. Don’t go thinking that your tiny contribution to poor people has any more value that a tacky piece of costume jewellery. Your husband’s, and therefore thusly your, contribution to everything bad in the world faaaaaar outweighs the feeble attempts you’ve made to give back. It’s a drop in the ocean. All you’ve really been doing is making yourself feel good about YOU. And that, my girl, is a shameful and narcissistic thing to do.”
I paused, and then added, “So there!”, to further emphasise the power of my oration.
Kelly looked blank, and asked, “And what does your husband do exactly?”
“He’s a banker. Of course. But that’s on him. Unlike you, I am my own person. I don’t need to be his conscience. So that’s why I don’t do charity work. I’m no hypocrite. And anyway, actually I have done a bit of volunteering in my capacity of Events Chair with the Singapore International Women and Trailing Spouses Association. We raised a ton of cash for Ebola last year thanks to moi. But I did that as a favour to a friend who positively begged me for my skills, not because I needed to feel good about myself.”
The beige evil capitalist then entered the kitchen with the letting agent.
“I think we should go now, Stephane”, said Kelly, “This woman is insane. I could never live in a house where she has lived.”
Good. Now GET OUT, I thought.