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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Blonde Ambition


This post is about childhood ambitions, or ideas we had about our future selves.

I have to ask: did anyone else think they were going to grow up to become a blonde, white woman?

Yes. I did just ask that.

You see, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I was certain that when I grew up, I would be a blonde, blue-eyed white woman named Robecca [sic]. It wasn’t because I yearned to be Caucasian and hated my dark hair and olive skin. Nor was it because I planned to have surgery or bleach my hair.

I just assumed that’s what I would grow up to be.

Don’t ask me exactly why I assumed that; suffice to say, daily exposure to my mum’s Cosmopolitan┬ámagazines and American TV shows made my putty-like young brain believe that white was normal. White was status quo. White was people. And that it just eventually happened to you.

It’s funny how, despite being far wiser about these things (and happy with my naturally tanned skin and deep brown hair), that white is still viewed by the world at large as being the status quo. I mean, if someone was half-white and half-Asian, they are identified as Asian. Same with black. Or Australian Aborigines. And so on.

Why? Because being white is seen as being of ‘pure’ “race” and even a single drop of another “race”‘s blood means contamination and expulsion from the White-Only club?

Discuss.

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Random post, but yesterday as I parked my car outside my house, I saw school kids crossing the road to and from Garden City shopping centre.

I saw an little Asian boy (ok by little I mean maybe 13 or 14), walking out of Garden City, happily sipping his bubble tea. Then, a few steps away from my car as he was about to turn the corner, he hid his bubble tea in his jacket. I wondered why he did that, and then I saw.

From the opposite direction, a group of kids from his school (all wearing the same school blazer from Applecross Senior High, I think) were walking towards him. He didn’t want them to see him holding his bubble tea.

Why?

I imagine it was because he didn’t want to be stereotyped as a typical Asian kid who loves bubble tea. My first reaction to that thought was, who cares!

But when you’re a teenager in high school, you do care. You want your peers to accept you and think you’re cool (or whatever word or phrase kids use these days). You don’t want them to point and laugh, even if, in the grand scheme of things, their opinion really doesn’t matter. It matters here and now.

Perhaps a few years from now, he’ll think back on that incident and smirk to himself. Or he might not remember it at all.

I know I will.

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As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to do two things: draw and write.

Back in Year 1 (Standard 1), I recall we were asked in class by our teachers to fill out some form, and one of the questions asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wanted to put down ‘artist/writer’. Instead, upon seeing all my friends writing ‘doctor’, I chickened out and wrote ‘doctor’, too. What a wuss!

I love(d) drawing. I started drawing from the moment I had enough hand-eye coordination to hold a pencil and make some squiggly lines into a picture.

I still remember how my father would come home from work with heaps of computer paper – the kind that went into an old-school, dot matrix printer. Yes, with perforations and everything. Reams and reams of paper, all connected, to be ripped apart at the perforated seams by myself and my sisters for our childish doodles.

Only I didn’t stop there. I drew on art blocks my mum bought us specifically to draw on, in exercise books from school, and notepads that were meant for grocery lists. I remember I filled up one such notepad, cover to cover, with an illustrated story (an early ‘graphic novel’, if you will), about a boy snake and a girl snake who met, fell in love, got married, got pregnant. The pregnant girl snake demanded that the boy snake go to the witch’s garden to steal nutritious vegetables for her to eat (“Or my baby will die,” I remember were the girl snake’s words). Yes, I did not yet appreciate the fact that instead of pumpkin and watercress, snakes prefer frogs and rats. But I digress.

In the early days I liked drawing “friendly ghosts” – not really Casper, but just ghosts who had skirts and lipsticks and handbags. Later on, I drew more talking animals like snakes, rabbits, dogs and cats. Later still, I got into drawing unicorns and girls and people. I was always told how well I drew.

These days… I don’t draw so much. I doodle when I’m on the phone. I can really draw some interesting, nice things that way. But generally, as a way to pass the time, I don’t do it anymore. And it makes me sad. I always tell myself I want to draw more – heck, I even bought myself an art block so I would just start drawing stuff – but it still sits collecting dust in the shelf, under the Foxtel decoder.

Now, I want to talk about writing – something I am obviously more healthily engaged in (what with my blog, and having to fill out paperwork, tax returns, badgering immigration people, etc).

Back in the days of my childhood, the budding writer in me managed to write (and finish!) a few works that, when I revisited them as an older, more mature writer, made me snort with laughter. How unsophisticated and inane! But what can you expect from an 8-year-old? Or a 10-year-old?

I remember my best friend Lin and I would create illustrated works of serious writing. Not bad for 10 and 11-year-olds. Series about teenage ghost fighters (culled from my favourite cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters – how ironic!). And about teenage space travellers, set in the future. With lengthy descriptions of their appearance and clothing. We even collaborated on some of these. I still think they’re pretty good.

Later on, in my teenage years, I would write romantic dramas about young people in hospices, dying of some incurable but noble diseases, the inmates falling in love with each other. My depiction of sex scenes were incredibly humorous. No other way to describe it, really. Just… totally out of those filthy romance novels Lin used to borrow from her aunt, bring to school and lend me (with the ‘good parts’ conveniently dog-eared for me to skip right to). Ahh, good times.

I have been trying for the last 5 – 10 years to finally write something coherent, and of substance. It is my dream to publish a best-selling novel before I get too old. Geez, but where and when to start? Here and now is the only answer.

But I am just too scared that my ideas are stupid and the story will stagnate. As it has done for much of my mid-to-late teens. Every time I hit upon something good, I’d advance full steam… then lose it all a few months later in tears of frustration. In my early twenties, I tried again and lost faith.

Now, I want to try again.

I have found these links pretty useful and humorous, not to mention inspiring:

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (Part 1)

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (Part 2)

I want it t be my project over the holidays to at least come up with a skeleton of a book for me to fill in with meat and fat over time. Fingers crossed.

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Kid Stuff


Just posting an old, old photo of myself and my sister Natalie when we were kids… I was probably 6 years old in this photo, though I’m not 100% sure. I was eating Baskin Robbins ice-cream by the looks of it!

 

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It’s Funny.


Back when I was a kid in primary school, I used to get a lot of shit from teachers and other students for having a ‘mat salleh’ mum.

The things people used to say to my sisters and I included name-calling (‘bohsia‘), with nosy ustazahs asking me if my mum prayed at home, and why didn’t we wear tudungs (hijabs). We got stared at a lot and were basically labelled ‘bad kids’ or at the very least, ‘naughty’, because we were doomed by having a white mother who was a ‘kaffir‘ as one kid in my class felt the need to inform me when I was around 8 or 9.

I remember one of my religious teachers pointing out that this one student, let’s say her name was Siti for the sake of preserving her privacy/anonymity, was a shining example and we should all follow in her footsteps. To be fair, during this particular incident I wasn’t being singled out by the ustazah in any way, but she was making a point to me and my group of little rascal friends that we should all aspire to be like this tudung-wearing, holy and solehah young Siti, who always got good marks in the religious studies class and was so polite and demure.

“Kan bagus kalau kamu semua boleh ikut teladan Siti ni?” the ustazah would say.

Well, fast forward 5 or 6 years and lo and behold, a teenaged Siti had a child out of wedlock. Hah! Right. Let’s all follow her example, be ignorant about sex, have lots of it with a useless mat rempit boyfriend, and have a bastard child at the age of fourteen. I personally have nothing against children being born to young, unmarried parents – what is the big effing deal?? as long as the child is loved, cared for and provided for, who gives a flying fuck what society thinks – but I would love to find that teacher and rub that fact in her face. I was waaay less experienced in that area compared to the previously-pure Siti, yet I was still looked at as a bad egg, or just a potential one, anyway, which was seen as being just as bad.

Seriously, compared to these so-called holy and ‘good’ girls, I was the real saint! I didn’t have boyfriends in high school, I didn’t go necking with them in the park, and I certainly didn’t give blowjobs and have frantic adolescent sex like these girls were doing – and getting away with it by virtue of looking the part of the innocent!

I used to feel like an outcast at school because I wasn’t Malay enough, and didn’t wear a tudung (not that I ever WANTED to!). The other tudung-wearing girls in my class had this air of superiority about them, no doubt drummed into them by their parents and the ustazahs, just because they had some cloth covering their hair. (Note: not ALL of them were like that; in fact, one of my best friends wore one and was never a holier-than-thou kind like the others).

Well, the funny thing is, now that we’re all grown up, some of these girls have cast the tudung off to shake their manes in the breeze – as well as wearing revealing, cleavage-baring clothes. Hooray for them! I’m glad they’re wearing what they want, and not something people tell them they should (except maybe the fashion magazines).

But seeing their transformations, I can’t say I feel 100% goodwill towards them, after the hell they put me through for being myself from the time I was a kid. Being teased for having an ‘infidel’ mother, being called a slut at the age of eleven when I was so far from it, I haven’t completely gotten over the unfairness and hypocrisy of it all.

Still, at least I know I was always true to myself.

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