web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: November 2004
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Talk to Me

There's only one woman in my firm ( me, lor) but for some strange reason, we have lots of girly (as opposed to girlie) magazines lying around in the office. And I didn't buy any of them. In fact, I would hardly fork money out for any female type publication. Once a year, just to see what the fuss is all about, I might want to check out the list of Cleo's Most Eligibile Bachelors, but I'd stand at the newsagent and thumb through the pages, and put Ms. Cleo back on the stand once I'm finished. Then I shell out 30 bucks for Fast Company because it has a picture of Carly Fiorina on the cover.

When it comes to journals for women, I often feel left out. You see, I haven't seen one that speaks to me : a rather conservative, English speaking, thirty something woman too frazzled to care what colours are in for Fall. (There is no Fall in Malaysia, in case you haven't noticed)

Women magazines, generally talk about two things : Sex, and What You Should be Buying/Having/Doing. They're a collective form of peer pressure, brought on, not by the forces of feminism, but the fascism of the fashion and beauty industry. Harsh? Let's be real : flip open any female magazine - most articles are there because they're crafted on the cornerstone of sponsorship and advertising. Advertisers want a certain demographic (the most sought after demographics- it would seem- are the skinny, Oriental girl who shops at Padini &Co, but might save up for Guess; and understandably, the skinny, Oriental tai-tai who shops, errr..full stop.) Editors contrive to attract said market segments with articles like "Man Manual : Your Quintessential Guide to Understanding, Loving and Getting Your Way with Men" or directly plug products through "make-up how-to's" and "Follow the Stars Fashion Workshops".

Maybe it's me, but reading pure fashion journals, like Harper's Bazaar or Vogue or the uber mod Malaysian rag, Glam is akin to watching the popular girls in school go by, and being reminded of what you ain't got. Nope, I can't afford the clothes nor the corrective surgery.

Although more benign, magazines meant for the "older woman" like Female or Women's Weekly, don't interest me either. They're terribly trivial ("Sex : positions to flatter your flabby bits", proclaimed one, ha ha so maybe I should buy) or they make me feel guilty about not exfoliating enough or raising my kids wrong. Also, benign often means kinda boring.

And what about the new magazines that try to fill the tudung niche, you say? They still talk about sex : "Kamar Suami Isteri : 10 pesanan untuk Pengantin Baru", says one article. Or they're pedestals for us to fawn over this month's featured politician-businesswoman, who would inevitably be pictured behind their huge desks or next to their cars and houses. Always included : a grainy photo of the family on an overseas trip, a marker that this Malay woman has indeed, arrived. (When I look at it, I often wonder how many overseas trips the husband took with the mistress)

Female magazines on TV are even worse - I can hardly bear to look at these, and this is exacerbated by the fact that I actually know the people behind them. These people -my friends- are tired women pulled in all directions, each week just making do with what's available to shoot. So you get the humdrum of scriptwriting : "gaun makan malam ini sesuai untuk majlis santai", for example, as though the makcik that's watching has twelve soirees lined up in her social calendar. Maybe one day, they'll realise that they can glean material from their own lives, and then, start getting in touch with real women.

Are real, ordinary women not a desirable demographic? Let's see, if we're married, we decide on most of the big-ticket purchases and that's why in Australian home magazines, for example, an ad for white goods would usually feature a nice-looking man (if not half naked) Ordinary women, (okay, I know that needs to be defined) are the largest purchasers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, and FMCG companies are usually, the biggest advertisers.

If we ignore the tai-tai's and the glam Datins, (they're a small percentage of the population, anyway, unless I'm missing something), women in their thirties and fourties with at least tertiary education have the largest purchasing power compared to others, and they have lots of things that they have to buy - from household goods, to furniture, to stuff for their children. And we're not even counting personal posessions, like cars or investments or a tube of lipstick. We buy our own mobile phones and our own lap-tops. We read more novels than men. We get to pick the movies to watch over the weekend. We plan the family holiday. The single among us buy apartments and spa treatments, sometimes abroad. And we have retail therapy for every occasion : depressed? shop. happy? shop.

It makes sense to woo us, don't you think? It makes sense to figure out what we want, what we talk about, and what troubles us; and here's a hint, it's not always sex. Ordinary women around the world made Oprah the most popular, (and richest) talk show host, ever. We read other ordinary women's blogs. Surely, therein lies the big clue.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Procrastination, An Island Nation

Ever had days when you had tons of work to do and your mind wanders somewhere far, far away? It's a daily occurence to me. To assist me in this goofing off episode, I have dreamed up of a list of people (men, but not specifically) I would want to be marooned with on a desert island. Oh, you know the deal, you've played this game before. So here it goes.


  1. Tengku Saiffuddin Abdullah
(He reads my blog now, okay, so I have to get this done and over with. Happy? Happy? Happy?)

OTHER YUMMY MEN ( in no particular order)
  1. Aidan Quinn
  2. Gabriel Byrne
  3. John Corbett
  4. Carlos Spencer
  5. Frederik Ljunberg (Oh my God)
  6. Fabien Galthie
  7. Eric Bana as Hector
  8. Hugh Jackman
  9. Liam Neeson (I'm a sucker for the bapak orang look)
  10. Sting
  11. Armand Maulana
  12. Blair Underwood as Dr Leeds in Sex in the City
  13. Vincente Wolf
  14. Takeshi Kaneshiro
  15. this gorgeous Japanese guy I saw eating ramen across my table in Kyoto
  16. and everyone's favourite, Ralph Fiennes as Count Laszlo de Almasy

  1. Gwen Stefani
  2. Emanuelle Beart
  3. Zaharina Zahari (I'm in love with her, but don't you dare tell)

  1. Bono
  2. Husam Musa
  3. Rehman Rashid (to be fair on the other side of the ideological divide)
  4. KS Jomo (actually, he's kinda cute)
  5. Brig. Gen Lee Hsien Loong (it's sick, but I think he's cute, too)
  6. Farish Noor
  7. James Rubin (the former spokesperson, not the treasury secretary, or otherwise known as Mr Christiane Amanpour)
Sigh. Back to work. At least I have one of them to take home.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004
A Simple Kampung Wedding

How long does it normally take for one to get into the swing of things after Hari Raya is over? It's Wednesday on the second week of Syawal, and I am still in malas mode.

(Okay, okay, I hear you : malas mode is the swing of things as far as I am concerned)

On the third day of Raya, we took a trip to Terengganu. A young cousin, still in university, was getting married, on the 17th of November, of all days. 17th November was also my wedding anniversary and incidentally, I too, was a student-bride. I had great empathy for my cousin : her wedding plans were about to be overwhelmed by the Conjugal Contingent.

Weddings are cue-words for my mother and aunties to get into battle-field gear. Each wants to play General, regardless of resources or the (small) number of soldiers. (Oh, guess who gets to play soldier?)

On the third day of Raya, we travelled - and with three kids the journey had to be punctuated with stops at the Genting Sempah McDonalds (that's barely 50 KM from our house) , at various pump stations for leak breaks, and once because Aiysha and Aliya were fighthing over who gets to sit in the last row in our Unser and Aiysha pasted chewing gum on Aliya's hair for good measure. We stopped by Chendor to admire a friend's house and eat nasi dagang (the only time in our entire trip). We stopped in Batu Rakit at 11pm because my mother wanted to buy keropok ikan tamban and the stall was still open. Those kind of things slowed down our pace, and by the time we reached the bride's house in Alor Lintang, Besut, it was just after midnight.

Time is of no importance to the Conjugal Contingent. The Conjugal Contingent never sleeps, or at least, it expects that its soldiers do not. (Scratch those plans of checking in at the hotel)

Upon arrival my mother and her co-general, Che' Ngah, discovered that none of the wedding gifts have been decorated or completed, and there in a corner, was a pile of brass pahars (traditional tray with a central stand) cobwebbed and tarnished. They complained, they worried and they fussed, in that typical way Kelantanese mothers are wont to do. My husband, bleary eyed from long-distance driving, took up a rag and Brasso and started polishing. My mother, Ayah Sa and I sat ourselves among purple organza and satin ribbons and started to conjure up hantarans, while my children fell asleep around us.

The next day was the day of the nikah, and in the bright morning light, my mom could better see what else needs her directions. The bridal room was in bright yellow, on the bed was a satiny cover, the colour of turmeric, with green ruffled edges. Over the bed was a pelmet with equally bright plastic flowers and behind them, a swathe of material that could have been remnants from a Brazilian (or Kedah) soccer fan club. My mother had a quiet heart-attack, but said nothing to the bride's mother, my auntie, Che' Yah. It was certainly ghastly, but Che' Yah probably liked it because she had paid money to the woman who decorated the room and who had put up the pelamin, too. (The pelamin, or the wedding dais, was in yellow and and purple)

No matter. As soon as Che' Yah drove off to the market, my mother whipped out her own bridal linens - white jacquard with little pearl beadings - that she had made for Elisa's wedding. She moved out furniture, ordered the rugs to be changed. She made me wrap ivy around the dressing table to tone down its Barbie Doll pink. Then she called Che' Nor, her younger sister, to bring in vases and flowers and lace table runners and electric stand fans from Che' Nor's mother in-law in Pasir Puteh, where people are presumably more civilised and had less darat tastes. (darat = peasant) .

My mother and Che' Ngah had instructions for everything and when nothing more could be done, both would sigh and go : "Tch, ho tulaaah, patutnyo wat gini.." (It should have been done this way). Che Yah could only go, "Ho ikut panda lah..", (Just do what you think is best). She was resigned to the fact that the Conjugal Contingent, who crowded her driveway with their big German cars, was about to crowd her eldest daughter's wedding with big-city frou-frou.

I can't say I wasn't guilty : I don't know why but it seemed important to me that the high table had bowls of flowers floating in water, and that the fruits were presented in a watermelon basket and not arranged simply on a plate. I can't help it. My husband ( an honorary gay at weddings) insisted on tall fluted candles in silver candelabras and by God, we went to every kedai bunga in Jertih looking for some. (We had to settle for the long ones you use in a black-out)

In the flurry of activities, above the din of commands and injunctions, I saw on the living room wall, a family picture of Che' Yah, a staff nurse, her husband Ayah Chik, a former army cook, and their six children. It was a photograph taken in a studio, and Ayah Chik was wearing a kain pelikat (sarong for men) and rubber sandals. Beside the picture, were plaques proclaming their daughters best students in STF and Sri Puteri. Here was an unassuming man, who was obviously proud of his children, and placed no importance in whether the lace for the bunga rampai (potpourri) was lilac or cream, and whether there were scented candles or fresh orchids in the house.

He wanted a simple kampung affair, with plenty of good food (which he cooked himself) and a welcoming host. After three days of ceremony - nikah (day of the marriage vows), bersanding (the newly weds blessed on the wedding dais) and menghantar ( the bride sent to the in-laws) - Ayah Chik was perhaps terribly exhausted, because he plain neglected to thank the Conjugal Contingent.

In the end, the wedding turned out fine, in fact, much better than mine. Mine was an unqualified mess : my parents were going through a crisis, my fiance had invested my dowry in the stock market, and my sister Elisa gave me an early wedding gift. Thanks to her, three days before my nuptials I contracted chicken pox.

Thanks to her, my husband has since promised I get another wedding. He is praying it is to the same man.


More than Head Wraps

I am ashamed to say that I have only recently discovered the soulful voice of Ms Erykah Badu -- defiant, sad, self-contained Ms Badu, and she's funny too. (Check out "Tyrone") She has a son called Seven, whose father was also a number - Andre 3000. Listen to "Green Eyes", a triptych of her heartbreak with the Outkast member.


Thursday, November 11, 2004
Breaking Out

Don’t you feel like trying something new
Don’t you feel like breaking out
Or breaking us in two
You don’t do the things that I do
You want to do things I can’t do
Always something breaking us in two

You and I could never live alone
But don’t you feel like breaking out
Just one day on your own
Why does what I’m saying hurt you
I didn’t say that we were through
Always something breaking us in two

They say two hearts should beat as one for us
We’ll fight it out to see it through
I say that won’t be too much fun for us
Though it’s oh so nice to get advice
It’s oh so hard to do

Could we be much closer if we tried
We could stay at home and stare
Into each other’s eyes
Maybe we could last an hour
Maybe then we’d see right through
Always something breaking us in two

Joe Jackson-Breaking Us in Two

Blogging is like confession, right?

There are times in a relationship when things are just centred around one person, that this person's distress and affliction become the walls and the roof and the world that you have to live in, when his words and thoughts become your words and thoughts and you immerse yourself in his misery, because well, you're in it together, aren't you? At the same time, your Self is drowning, drowning, drowning but you feel guilty for wanting to come up for air, to breathe in air that is not tinged with dissapointment and failure, because you realise that at this point, you have to be the Strong One. You realise that you do love him in sickness and in poverty, much, much more than you thought you would, but you want him to look at you just once, and see you.

My arms are tired from pretending I'm not drowning; but waving.


Monday, November 08, 2004
When It Rains, It Pours

Seriously, this is a boring entry : an entry that you shouldn't care about. If I read this in someone else's blog, I go pffft, maaacam dia sorang je sibuk.

But what to do, I am a boring person, so here is the blog equivalent of a shopping list - My to Do List :

Monday : 9.30 am Pitched another hare-brained scheme to a big organization in the hope they'll give us money. Ashran and Kamarul did their usual charm thing, I cracked a few self-deprecating jokes, even the Debt Ventures people seem to have found their sense of humor. Maybe they'll think our proposal is crazy enough to work.

At the moment : I know I'm blogging but I'm supposed to be doing work! We have a client's "Social Responsibility" Event (that would gel nicely with their branding) on Wednesday and there are speeches and media releases to write. I'll get to it soon, really. Really.

Later : I have to find time to buy aboout 60 cases of kuih raya and 30 boxes of cakes to distribute to Editors and journalists, on behalf of another client. And because we are a cheapo PR company, we'll do all the dressing up and delivery ourselves. (That's why we cost less than regular PR outfits)

Tuesday : 6 am Shopping at the wet, smelly dark, but ultimately cheap Pasar Old Town for Hari Raya spread, which my mother says : "Eli, you do!". End of story.

10 am : Voiceovers with a frazzled, but otherwise very nice Producer at a TV station. Her mantra : "I want to finish 13 episodes before Raya". Yeah yeah, Eli, you do.

Later that day : Send a revised proposal for a massive on-the road campaign for a client, which will include double decker buses, plasma screens, satellite connections and hopefully, Misha Omar (Misha Omar has absolutely no idea we exist) Best of all, all these gear, it's the client's idea. Sign here, please.

Wednesday 11 am : Press Conference! Hopefully every one turns up. Hopefully I'll stop blogging and finish them speeches.

Sometime 0n Wednesday and I have to get this done on the pain of death : Buy trellises for my mother at the human cesspool called Carrefour and buy her tickets to Kota Bharu ( yes, I'm nuts for putting that off)

You get the picture. I have work up to my armpits, and my armpits are pretty high up. In the meantime, my kids don't have Raya shoes and my living room looks like its hosting a warren of rabbits. (Talkative bunnies, too) Saiffuddin and I are recycling our Raya clothes, this year because we haven't the time and money to buy new ones so you'll see my husband in my grandfather's beautiful indigo samping and me in a songket tabur baju kurung bought for a mere 5 ringgit at a mosque jumble sale. (The lady asked for 3, but I was feeling charitable)

I think it'll be a wonderful Eidul Fitri. Here's hoping you'd have a great one too. And a bright bright Diwali!


Thursday, November 04, 2004
You're the Prognosticator*

John Kerry was done in by the bible belt. It's another four years of Dubya for America. My son was livid.

"I can't believe it's still the devil President!", Adam lamented.

I swear we didn't teach him this. I can't really see Kerry as Commander-in-Chief, anyway - the man tried too hard to channel Kennedy, but didn't have enough charm. At anyrate, the door's now wide open for 2008. Bring back Hillary to the White House, I say.

*Bush quote, when speaking to reporters after voting in Texas.


Monday, November 01, 2004
About a Boy

An eighteen year old recently called me a mean, evil mokciknab because I left a particularly "mokcik" comment on her blog. She meant it tongue-in-cheek, of course (well, at least I think she did!) but it did make me think about the ever-expanding gulf between me and the age eighteen.

Eighteen is exactly half of what I am today. Ah, well. To feed the nostalgia, I downloaded songs that reminded me of my 18th year : Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Sex Pistols, the Ramones. Saiffuddin made a fuss about the noise, more so because punk rock dredges up memories of only one person : my first boyfriend, Stone.

Stone and I met when we were both doing our Australian Matriculation; before I knew of my husband 's existence. He was a straight A student with a premium scholarship - and perhaps because of my weakness in Math, I had a weakness for Engineering students. Stone was chaos - a conflicting young man. He had within him, boundless energy and a total lack of enterprise; a brilliant mind and a total lack of judgment. In the Fifth Form he was expelled from boarding school for taking part in a brawl, which eventually killed a prefect. Once, we had a massive argument, let's just break-up I said. He came to class the next day with a bleeding arm : he had written my name on it with a broken Coke bottle.

He was funny and different and impetuous. He had a yearning for complete freedom that was terribly virulent.

We lived for the weekend. Friday afternoons meant rugby at Padang Utara and at night we'd cram into a car with his friends, trawl all the gigs in town. There weren't that many, it's either a young Search doing the Kinks or Lefthanded going down on a Flying V. It didn't matter, all I wanted to do was go out, do something I knew my parents wouldn't have approved. (It's too late to ground me now, Papa). We'd sleep wherever - a cousin's house, in a car parked beside the Seven-Eleven in Bangsar, a bench at the train station. We even drove to Pulau Carey in the dead of night, because a friend's brother was a manager at the plantation and could give us a place to lay our hats.

Despite all appearances, I pretty much kept to the basic rules : no sex, no alcohol, no drugs. Stone was very decent about ensuring my boundaries weren't traversed, although later, he did make an exception about kissing in the back of a bus. It took him 8 months to finally muster enough courage to ask if he could hold my hands, and even when I said yes, he didn't know what to do with them. My best friend at that time, let's call her Ms Sheila E, suspected he was gay. Ms E thought little of him, of course, and this was something she would later come to regret.

We split after Matriculation : I went to Australia, and he was placed in the land of his idols : the UK. Long distance relationships among teenagers don't work; it wasn't a real relationship to begin with. I soon fell into a tangle with Saiffuddin, who insisted that I should inform my erstwhile boyfriend that it's now truly over. I didn't tell, and Stone remained loyal.

I wrote fewer and fewer letters, and called him rarely. By the end of 1997, I had confessed to my friend, Ms E that I was in love with someone else. It was cowardly, but I was hoping that Ms E, who was also in the UK, could break it gently to Stone. In 1988, pre-dawn on New Year's Day, he called me from Trafalgar Square and asked me if I still loved him. I didn't know what to say. Saiffuddin was sitting up in bed and I could see his eyes, even in the darkness, imploring me to come clean. No matter what I felt for this wild child, I could never marry Stone. So I told him it was the end.

Ms Sheila E said after the phone call Stone went on a rampage. I thought he would never want to hear of my name again - my name was a scar he wanted to be rid of. A few years later, I visited my friend Ms E at her home, and enquired about my old boyfriend.

"He's here", she said, brightly. She meant it literally - Stone came out from some back room, smiling sheepishly and shaking my husband's hand. Ms E married Stone soon after and they now have a couple of boys.

Stone is doing very well in his career and turned out to be a responsible father, after all. But recently the two went into trial seperation, and I bumped into him at Hard Rock Cafe as he was about to jump onto his huge motorcycle. Ms E tells me she's dating her much younger fitness instructor, but I can hear in her voice she's still waiting for Stone to calm down and come home. It's that streak in him - that yearning for complete freedom, that virulent thing that rages within the man that I couldn't count on.

I should really call Ms E soon to see if her husband's now home.