Can’t Take Him Anywhere

We went to see Platform65’s Rites & Regulations, a well-conceptualized and creatively staged doublebill of funeral-themed plays aWake (by Lin Mingyu) and Mok Cui Yin’s adaptation of Kuo Pao Kun’s The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole. The production was at 5 Foot Way Inn on Aliwal Street, and once it was over we decided to go to good ol’ Zam Zam for our murtabak fix.

Discussing the plays as we walked to Zam Zam along North Bridge Road, I admitted that my reaction to a particular situation which arose in aWake was not very compassionate. “The void deck was booked months ago for the Malay wedding!” I ranted. “If this Chinese family just went and started setting up for a funeral without even checking whether the space was available, then too bad for them!”

Alec then observed that, regardless of how crystal clear it may seem to people detached from the situation, he thought the reasons for the Chinese family’s refusal to yield up the space had been quite realistically portrayed as arising from a mixture of grief, fear and superstition.

As one might often do in a conversation as a way of expressing one’s point, Alec chose at this point to speak from the perspective of the Chinese family i.e. speaking in the first person as if he were part of the Chinese family.

Which is how, in the midst of channelling a distressed old Chinese lady who doesn’t want to move the funeral site because her mother’s ghost will get lost, Alec exclaimed “I don’t care about the Malay family!” Right next to an elderly Malay gentleman in traditional baju. Just outside the Sultan Mosque.


At Ida & David’s rather fabulous Halloween party on Saturday, my favourite costumes included the Statue of Liberty, The Chinese Teacher From Hell (with the most hilariously appropriate spectacles you could imagine), and every man dressed in drag (there were several).

I have a certain bias in what impresses me in Halloween costumes. Much like my disappointment at anyone attending a Bad Taste party who doesn’t make a good-faith attempt to render themselves as outrageously fugly as they can manage, I’m not drawn to Halloween costumes where it’s obvious that the wearer still wants to look hot. As Lindsay Lohan’s character so sagely observed in Mean Girls, “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

So my distaste for that general state of affairs is one of the reasons Alec and me went like this.

(For the benefit of non-Singaporean readers, the costumes are loosely based on two particular sorts of characters in Singaporean society that most Singaporeans would quite readily recognize, an “auntie” and “uncle“. It’s sort of impossible to distill the essence of auntiedom and uncledom into words, but I suppose their defining characteristics would be that they are middle-aged or older, decidedly unhip and unsophisticated, but generally good people who one addresses as “auntie” or “uncle” out of respect that they’ve had more life experience than you. Having said that, these particular depictions aren’t exact archetypes either. My auntie is more dressed up than usual, she’s put on her fancy clothes for the party. Alec’s uncle, on the other hand, has come straight from the neighbourhood coffeeshops without bothering to change.)

The second reason we chose those costumes was pure laziness. All that was required to put the costumes together was for me to walk downstairs and say “Hi parents, Alec and me are an uncle and auntie for Halloween. Can we borrow some clothes?”

My parents took it pretty well. My mum found some awful jewellery (all gifts, she swears) to wear with the leopard print blouse I pulled jubilantly from her wardrobe. My dad surfaced from the depths of his afternoon nap as I was rummaging through his clothes for a singlet to mumble “You want a torn one? Look deeper inside, sure got” and “Think they might be a bit small for him. But actually, like that will be better.”

So anyway, those were our costumes and I’m glad people seemed to like them. Apart from the fun of people wearing costumes, the party also included the fun of people removing their costumes. During the night an epidemic of male stripping somehow took hold and we ended up with almost every male in the place dancing shirtless in the living room, except, of course, some of the ones in drag – since that would clearly have been conduct unbecoming of a lady.

At some point a guy dressed as a French maid burst into the room where I was chatting with some people, pulling Alec along by the hand. “Honey,” he gushed to me, “your man is SO HOT! Omigod, and so are you!” Neither Alec nor I get compliments like this very often (assuming you ignore the attention Alec receives from the local prostitutes), and usually when we do the compliments are from people who could most kindly be described as…unfussy. But this guy had great hair and makeup and his dress fit him like a glove, so we were very flattered.

I shall take my leave with an anecdote from which it is hard to continue. At some point during the night I started chatting with a group of people I didn’t know, asking about their costumes and so on. One girl was a Raggedy Ann doll, another was The Chinese Teacher From Hell, the third was a cat and the fourth a Roman whore. Last was an Indian guy, wearing what looked like brown sackcloth underneath some white drapey cloth. I asked him what he was; he said to guess.

“Gandhi?” I ventured.

“Caesar,” he answered coldly, whereupon I excused myself quickly.