Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vignettes of life (part 3)

The Case of “Been There, Done That”

I have always felt that one of my most endearing and admirable trait is how steadfast I can be in my goal to find true love. I do not set goals easily because I know once I do, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will auto-pilot my way towards the target. My past goals include getting a good university degree, a good body, leaving Singapore for greener pastures, and of course finding true love. You will see that I have achieved all those owing much of course to my OCD. However the thing about goal-achieving is once you have done that, what else is there to do? Well, one can always start enjoying the fruits of his labour or make goal-setting the next goal. These are all good advice but there is more.

I was in the Gold Class cinema lounge watching “The Mummy” with Ision the other night and a plus-sized black woman came and sat beside us. Immediately after that, she asked if we were married as she overheard us talking in married-couple-lingo (about my ugly cuticles being a manicurist’s nightmare). It was such a sweet question and both of us started talking to her as she went on to express her views against the opponents of gay marriage.

That scene in the cinema lounge was what I have never ever imagined being something accessible to me just a few years ago and now it is all happening. The bits and pieces of life seem to be falling nicely into place. When you have fought so hard and wanted so much for something to come true, you cannot help but feel a vacuous sensation in your heart when that dream is finally realised. Other than happiness and contentment, what else is there in the pipeline? What then can fill that void? In the first place, is there really a void and even if there is, is that void really a problem? With regards to my goal of finding true love, is it a clear-cut case of “been there, done that”?

Fortunately (“fortunately” might not be the right word) as Ision and I start our new lives together, there are new challenges that we have to face and they become nice distractions to fill that void. One perfect example would be the maintenance of my lean, toned body. When I was still living in Singapore and after my periodic Sydney visits, I always find myself having to work extra hard to lose the weight I have gained during the vacation. It is no different this time round except there is no post-Sydney space and time for me to starve and exercise all that fat out of me. Mind you, I am doing twice as much cardio as in Singapore but the fact that even that does not help prompts me to conclude that there is something fundamentally fattening about Sydney or for that matter, living in a Western country. It must be the food portions, the cold weather, cheap comfort food (as opposed to more expensive health food – especially when your wallet is suffering from the shock of a surge in cost of living), my feeling happier and more well-adjusted or all of the above. Since I have arrived, I have put on more than 2 kgs and I have lost a little of the definition of my pride and joy – my abs. Luckily the weight-gain seemed to have stopped but unluckily this means that this unsatisfactory new steady state might have to be my future from now on.

And here lies the conflict that has been playing in my mind for a long time. Years ago, I started making the gym my church to boost my self-esteem (shallow I know, but it did the trick) and also to land myself a partner with the improved body. I have always wondered whether I should ease on my gym-OCD now that I no longer have self-esteem issues (I think I might have issues of narcissism now – ah, the wonders of OCDs) and nights lying alone in my bed. Should I be contented with my body’s definition-loss or should I continue to work hard to improve it for the sake of myself (ie. to feed my ego)? Sometimes I think I should choose the latter as we all need to maintain our looks to keep ourselves attractive to our partners but I also get bogged down by thoughts of starving myself and slaving in the gym. I have a big ego, don’t get me wrong but in the face of a change in one’s phase of life (new country and new “married” life), should one’s self-pride be quelled in tandem? I find myself continually trapped in the middle of this tussle.

I used to always lean towards the working hard side but of late, I am heeled to let myself go with the flow of life. But then again knowing myself, can I possibly stand losing something that I know I have absolute control over? I think it is now evident how such mental struggles can serve as perfect distractions to the “been there, done that” syndrome.

Even if I do attain no clarity on this issue, I know in my heart that life is made up of both goals as well as the paths that lead to those goals. More importantly, I know that most goals in life (at least the important ones) are non-static. You can lose the love of your life, lose your figure and lose all the successes that you have toiled day and night to achieve in an instant. Once you can see this, there will be no such thing as “been there, done that” because “there” and “that” are such fleeting concepts that they simply do not exist.

So Ision, I will strive hard not only to preserve but to fortify our love using all means possible. And body, I will continue to make you proud of your owner (and vice versa).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vignettes of life (part 2)

The Case of “The Betrayal”

A few weeks ago over lunch with a girlfriend, I innocently asked her why wasn’t her husband there, she told me that they were having some kind of a disagreement. To many, “disagreement” might be too casual a term to describe the situation. You see, she has recently found out that he has been surfing gay porn sites as well as having a correspondence with a friend he got to know from Gaydar (a gay personals website). The said correspondence actually stopped at “let’s meet up for coffee and see where this goes.”

If you were the wife in question, how would you feel right now? What should the first thing be done towards handling or even solving the problem?

The most important issue is not a matter of trust in this case. Although theoretically the husband has been doing things behind her back, we should not focus on that. The problem is a multi-layered one and even if you managed to rectify the issue of the lie, you have a much bigger problem in your hands – the problem of your husband’s sexuality.

Most people would take the side of the wife in this domestic conflict but we should see how this is painful for the husband as well. Imagine a man forced by society to hide his sexuality all his life. Living a lie is far worse than telling one. I am not saying that suffering the darkness of being in the closet absolves the crime of lying to someone you love but being the recipient of that love, you should step back and look at the big picture.

The first thing that the couple can do is to start a communication line going and this is dependent on whether or not the husband has accepted his sexuality. If there is no acceptance, there is a lot of work to be done on his part and this can take years. The wife must then ask herself if she is willing to wait for him to come to grips with it. The last thing anyone should do is to try to change his sexual orientation because it is impossible. With or without the resolution of the husband’s sexuality issue, the couple can seek counselling to try to handle that communication that is so important yet so hard to kick-start at this moment.

If the husband turns out to be bisexual (and not gay), there is still room for the wife to continue working on the problem. Many do not believe that bisexuals can be monogamous because they feel that one single gender simply cannot satisfy all the needs of bisexuals and we all know how strong men’s sexual urges can be. If you really love your bisexual husband and don’t want to lose him, the only route I can think of is an open relationship. I know this is unfair to the wife because she is the only strictly faithful one but it is very easy for a man to segregate love from sex (that is if the husband does love his wife). If the wife can be that open, the relationship will work out fine.

As you can see, there are so many layers to work through before this issue can really be resolved. More often than not, we either don’t have the patience or are not so open-minded. Also, there usually is no open line of communication when the issue of infidelity is involved because of all the lies and betrayal that has been thrown to the surface. The underlying make-or-break factor is love and I mean strong love from both parties. If you have it and let it be your motivating force and guide, there is a much higher chance of this working out.

So how can we avoid this problem from happening in the first place? I guess we can never do it, especially in a society that is not progressive and open-minded. When a bisexual or gay person lives in such a society, there is a very high tendency to hide his or her sexual orientation and this (not the gayness itself) poses real societal problems (gays getting into doomed marriages and families breaking up subsequently). Only when society opens up can we be truly honest to one another right from the start and maybe all this pain and frustration can be averted. But our lives go on regardless of how slow or fast the society progresses so I guess we just have to deal with it when it punches us in the face. Fortunately, gay relationships do not suffer this fate because we know for sure we are gay and get together without even realising that this could actually be a problem for many. I pity the straights that are in this predicament, I really do. But I blame the society and all the external factors (eg. government, politics, religion, etc) curbing the evolution of a progressive world.

I gave all the advice I could think of to my girlfriend and right now they are at the stage of sweeping everything under the rug as if nothing has happened as the husband is likely to have not come to terms with his sexual orientation yet. But do you think they don’t know what’s coming to hit them eventually?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vignettes of life (part 1)

As you all know, life is made up of nice (and some not so nice) little pictures tucked neatly into the 2 albums called the Brain and the Heart. And as with all pictures, they fade and degrade and after a long time, we can no longer know what the pictures are trying to tell us -- these pictures are the ones stored in the Brain album. If you really want to preserve pictures (especially the most treasured ones), be sure to put them in the Heart album. They will always be there for you to remember and enjoy for the rest of your life.

I will share some of these vignettes from my recent life with you over the next few weeks. They are still fresh in the Brain album.

The Case of "The Irritating Colleague"

When I left my job in Singapore, the company was going through (and still is) a very common problem, that is the influx of cheaper (and more easily satisfied) foreign workers. The company can pay them less because they come from poorer countries and they are also willing to work harder for the same buck than their Singaporean counterparts (who have risen above the "poverty level"). This influx usually makes the workforce less cohesive, leads to anti-harmony in the workplace and saps the already-dwindling fun out of it. However this is inevitable as a country progresses and so its people must somehow find a way to swim or sink.

Under this umbrella term "foreign workers" are a few major sub-divisions which differ in notoriety. I have always heard complaints from friends (both from the engineering industry as well as others) that foreign workers from a particular country step on their toes especially hard. I have always reserved judgement because I have not worked with these people on an intimate level. But this global sweeping workforce-conversion phenomenon has finally gotten to me and now I know the basis of these complaints. I will not mention the country in context but I think many of you will be able to guess it anyhow.

Irritating colleague trait #1: Always trying to get his face into the picture
Example: The boss and I were talking about me completing all the required online training within a particular day. He was not even in the conversation but had to force his way into it by saying "I also completed the training". In actual fact, I did more online training than him on that day.

Irritating colleague trait #2: Being ultra-friendly to colleagues but totally foul-mouthed outside
Example: He would be all friendly and Westerner-like to the people working in the office but he would be very quick to swear at things like slow drivers, late trains, etc. If you are a friendly person by nature, you won't swear like that. That is simply what I am trying to say.

Irritating colleague trait #3: Not respecting the privacy of others and being very rude
Example #1: I am at my desk writing on my work journal and he would pop behind me and look over my shoulder at what I was writing and then ask me what I was writing. Is that any of his business?
Example #2: He had problems with his computer and wanted to try something on mine. I was not using my computer then but was just beside it reading. He simply walked over and started using my computer FIRST before asking. What is this? The stone age?
Example #3: During one of the training sessions, I placed my handphone face down on the table where he sat as well. Without asking, he just took it up and looked at it. My goodness! Need I continue? Of course Ision's face was my phone's wallpaper and he had to ask who that was. I simply said that he is my partner (my mini coming out story) and nothing more on that came from him. Thank God! I wouldn't want to educate a caveman on human sexuality.
Example #4: We were talking to the boss in his cubicle and he just proceeded to flip through my boss' documents laid out on the table. This is rather telling -- invading the privacy of others with his rudeness is simply his innate dysfunctional behaviour (and not even the boss can escape from his "wrath"). He really doesn't know it is something very rude!!

As all of you already know, I am a person who tries to avoid conflict and awkward situations as much and as best as I can. So I did not really express my disapproval to all the things I cannot stand about him. One might call me a doormat... But I know I have a breaking point like every one else and once that threshold is crossed, I will make myself heard. So far it is still bearable because unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary, I will not talk to him and distancing myself from him like that (and in the process identifying him as a bumpkin from a third world country) has helped to make me feel better in his presence. We started as new employees on the same day and I guess we still have a long way to go and that is yet another reason why I refuse to blow things up unnecessarily. It also doesn't help that we get to and from work on the same shuttle bus and train line. Sigh. Why can't he be a cute hunky Caucasian?

How would you deal with a person like that if you were in my shoes? And have you guessed which country he is from?