Little Miss F(l)ab

Recently, one of those mild mellow monsters people I encounter at work asked me, quite innocently, and in front of the others: Are you pregnant?

I have to say I’m amazed at my own reaction. Perhaps this is one milestone I can celebrate in my journey of developing thick skin to deal with such job hazards in the form of innocent but tactless questions.

I put on my straightest unaffected face and answered: How can I be pregnant when I’m not married yet? (I know it’s possible but I have to play the ‘abstinence’ tune in front of such groups of people.)

And without missing a beat, I continued: I’m not pregnant lah, just boncit (what’s the most appropriate translation? ‘Pot-bellied’ seems more appropriate for beer-guzzling ah peks).

And that pretty much shut everyone up and we got back to work. Of course, I later sent a ‘wailing’ Whatsapp message to the mister about how out of shape I am that I got such a question thrown at me.

Standing at less than 1.5m, I have random distant relatives mistaking me for a still-schooling young lady. They think I’m in Secondary 4 and taking my ‘O’ Levels, and during the recent Eid visits one was even amazed that I do what I do (my profession) because according to her I “look like Sec 1 Sec 2”!

Thus, I fall in the petite category (which I have no problem with; I like being petite actually, because people think I’m all gentle and harmless, and then I get to surprise them when I open my mouth. I introduce myself to the new groups of people I meet every year with the Malay saying, kecil-kecil cili padi.) In my teens I used to be petite in the true sense of the word: short and totally small as in skinny. I used to be one of those skinny girls other girls would envy because I could eat anything and everything and never get fat! I was also one of those whom one would say “tak rugi belanja makan buffet” because I loved to eat (still do unfortunately) and boy, could I eat! I had great metabolism to thank back then.

Now, though, you can’t really call me petite anymore. Well perhaps you can, but you would have to add to that ‘curvy’, and by that I mean in the wrong places (for some of those curves at least). I realised the first onslaught of those pesky bits of flesh when I was in my late teens, in junior college. I was the least bit concerned, because as I said, those were ‘bits’. Youthful optimism also brushed all worry aside and attributed their appearance to my long hours being seated and mugging for my ‘A’ levels. Not that I was a very active teen in the first place; I actually hated PE because I didn’t like sweating and had really bad stamina (still do actually). Finishing the 2.4km to just get a measly pass was a mighty great struggle for me. I could never run fast enough nor for long enough; I always got stitches or would get breathless after just a round around the track.

During my university days, commuting back and forth between campus and home in the far east by public transport probably kept the onslaught at bay, as I was forced to go on walks, mostly brisk, up and down the overhead bridge, from bus stops to the train station and vice versa, across the expansive grounds of the campus. After I graduated, the sedentary lifestyle ensued and the bits, slowly but surely, grew into chunks, accelerated by the drop in metabolism as I passed my mid 20s.

So that’s how I got to being mistaken for pregnant. For a time I just lived with the growing spare tyre by hiding it, which I was very good at. I bought L-sized tees from Uniqlo when my built is more for S or M, just so the thick waist wouldn’t show. I have always loved babydoll tops, even more so when they hid my embarrassment while, ahem, accentuating my other more flattering curves. I bought a number of them online, be it the Bangkok ones or from Wetseal or Forever 21, which I wore layered over the tees.

Of course, ignoring the problem means it just got worse. More than just being socially embarrassing, I found myself going into couldn’t-care-less mode, turning to food for comfort. I ate and ate, and I got lazier and got easily tired.

I knew I had to exercise and eat healthier. The latter is easy yet hard; I love healthy food like whole grains and vegetables (I could turn vegetarian with lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, greens, mushroom, pasta, bread, wrap) but packing breakfast (and lunch) was something that required too much effort like waking up earlier in the morning. (I am not good with time in the morning. I am not good with time, period.) I do make sure I include vegetables to accompany the rice when buying breakfast from the food stall at work, but as we know refined carbohydrates like white rice are not as healthy as complex ones like wholemeal bread etc. (Why do I eat rice and not something lighter in the morning? Because my workload is most in the morning up til noon, so that’s when I need the most energy. Besides, the only other alternative I would have would be oily, bland fried noodles from the other stall.) As for lunch, the food always runs out by the time I get there and I don’t have much choice save for rice (again) or fried processed stuff like fries and breaded chicken.

As for exercise, it’s always “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have the time” or “I’m too tired” or plain “I want to go but I’m lazy.” Recently it was “my old and mostly disused sports shoes have decided to file for divorce from their sole(mate)s”. (Haha ok lame I know.) Well the last one’s a valid reason, the rest are all excuses. If I want to do something bad enough I would make time for it. It’s not about losing weight (at 45kg I think my BMI is still in the acceptable range, right?), it’s about losing fats. More than just about losing fats to regain visual attractiveness, it’s about losing the visceral fats (fats around your vital organs) and avoiding clogged arteries (if they aren’t already beginning to clog) and keeping ideal blood sugar level so that I won’t be diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes at 35. (My mom has the former, my dad has the latter; I’m not sure at what age they got diagnosed, probably much older than 35 but I suppose my indulgent diet could accelerate things.)

Sometimes all we need is a triggering factor. I scare the shit out of myself when I think about this and that possible diagnosis, but the fear ebbs away. And then, the are-you-pregnant incident happened. And then, today (or rather last night), the mister mentioned that I would need to model the white wedding dress I bought, after getting alterations done, in front of the FMIL to get that one last nod of approval (literal nod now not just virtual ones after seeing photos of the dress worn by the mannequin sent over by email). Although I did mention that the dress fits well except for the length, it did fit a little too well below the bust. If I don’t do something about that spare tyre now, the dress might be axed (which means close to $100 wasted!) or come next December I may not be able to fit into it at all! Or I might still be able to fit into the dress but his relatives may wonder if I’m a pregnant bride. Oh, the horror! No amount of straight face can undo the psychological dent done to their impression about myself and my family. (As usual, I couldn’t care less about what people think, I am caring only because it would affect my parents.)

So! It’s still something as superficial as looking good that is triggering me to take action. But better something superficial now than something serious (and irreversible) later, right? Anway I have always been meaning to start, but now there’s an urgency. Things are on a roll now; I got myself brand new sports shoes last week, in July I got myself those online vouchers for 15 sessions (kickboxing, Zumba etc) at a fitness centre, 5 of which I have made bookings for the month of October (I didn’t redeem earlier because voucher terms state I must use up all 15 sessions within 3 consecutive months, so I held out til after Ramadan and Syawal.)

I’m giving myself two months, October and November to get myself from Little Miss Flab to Little Miss Fab, all toned and trim and fit! By December I’d go send the white wedding dress for alteration, and then, it’s the ultimate fitting session for the queen *cue rolling and rumbling thunder, and flashing lightning*!

PP will get FnF (Pengantin Pelik Fit and Fab!) Tell me I can do it everyone! Tell me if you know some proven-successful tips for tummy trimming too!

A post on posts (and eventually gifts)

There isn’t much to update, except that it’s Friday night YAAAYYYYYY!!! Who doesn’t like Friday night, you tell me? Time to party to kick back and watch TV without worrying about work the next day (although technically I am still heading back to work on an entirely voluntary basis).

I guess I kind of missed this space. There have been ideas for wedding-related posts, such as my ideal wedding songlist (but that would require me to post from my laptop rather than my iPhone which is what I have been doing for the previous few posts, lazy blogger that I am, and ambitious me wants to do Malay-to-English translations for the lyrics because I get a kick out of it, so that would take some time), my opinion on wedding sponsorship inspired by the latest wedding-of-the-year announcement (which would so make me out to be somewhat of a sour grape, if phrased without care, which means that it would also take some time to not make it so), and more 4P (pengantin pelik punya persalinan)-related ideas.

I guess I’ll just update about the latest concrete thing I’ve done for my wedding: I’ve purchased my very first hantaran gift! Make no mistake, it’s my hantaran gift, which means it would be on one of the trays that I would receive from my mister. Yes, I am totally into being practical; I buy what I would use, he buys what he would use, then we’ll just pass the gifts to each other to be decorated. (Although I suspect that I would end up buying his gifts for him too, me being the shopperholic that I am, and if he stays as nonchalant as he has been so far about wedding-related matters.)

If I had my way I would do away with this tradition altogether as not only does it incur extra (unnecessary) cost to the total wedding expenditure, it also strikes me to be more an exercise in materialistic display than anything else. Designer bags, branded skincare, the latest geek gadgets, huge-ass cameras, the more expensive the price and obscure the name, the better as it supposedly shows how far you’ve arrived (or how you’ve scored a great catch of a husband). I would be the first to admit that I have been sucked into subscribing to this mindset before. I remember telling a younger cousin once that when I get married, I would have my groom put a C bag on one of the trays. That was the time before I could afford one; now that I could and have afforded a number of them and others like S and L and J – more because I love their designs and don’t believe in buying counterfeit – I don’t see the point in making my mister buy one more just for the sake of display. Yes, I would probably buy more in the future, or he would gift me, but that would be a personal act by an individual to indulge herself / between two lovers who would like to express their love through the act of gifting. There is no need for anyone else to know (beyond the usual few people you share such incidents of joy with because you know that they’d be sincerely happy for you).

If I had my way, I would do away with this tradition altogether. I am still abiding by it because it is one of those things that my mom says has to be in a Malay wedding. Since I have already ‘wrestled’ the steering of the ship of wedding planning from her through loud hints for at least one year before, I guess it’s only right I keep certain things to make her happy.

Despite the nature of my job and the vital role I play in supposedly preserving culture by transmitting it, I hold on to the principle encapsulated by the saying, ‘hilang adat tegal muafakat’; the customary way of doing things can be changed if there’s consensus. If we the younger generation all agree about the excessive nature that Malay weddings have become, by speaking up about it, we could change things in the next generation. I, for one, would not impose such tradition on my hypotethical son or daughter. Want to get married? Is he earning enough to support you? Are you both earning enough to support yourselves and contribute a portion to starting a family with your equal partner? Do you both see and treat each other as equal partners in the first place? Do you both love God more than each other? Do you both believe in working together to obey God to achieve spiritual highs (and not one of you obeying the other because that’s the easy way to heaven?) (Yes I can’t help but put my feminist take on things.) Those are the questions that I would probably ask before I say “Ok go get married and have your wedding the way you want – or just get the important part done without a wedding if you don’t have the funds. Bonda will just post an announcement on Facebook to tell the whole wide world that you’re married.”

The Perfect Venue – What’s the Catch?

Nothing’s perfect in this world, so what’s the catch? Indeed, in raving about the perfect venue, I did not mention certain restrictions. Since many have asked about it, I believe it is only right that I write about its restrictions so that no one gets too excited over it, only to be disapppointed later because this or that can’t be done there. (I guess I did make out the place to be oh-so-perfect, hence the many enquiries but it only seems so because I am aware of the restrictions and am perfectly fine with them.)

So here goes, a list of restrictions:

One.
Cooking of food there is NOT permitted. This is due to NEA’s regulations that prohibit open fires within the premises. When we went on our second visit there to make our booking, the lady officer who served us mentioned that they have already been fined a number of times by NEA because some caterers inconsiderately ignore the ruling and set up makeshift cooking / reheating stoves. We were informed, however, that there are plans to build a special area (inspected and approved by NEA) where caterers can at least reheat food without posing a fire hazard to the place or accidentally activating the smoke detectors, water sprinkler system and abang-abang CD rushing to the area.

This basically means that I have to either get my caterer to cook someplace else nearby, or get a caterer that has its own central kitchen. The former is a no-go, because after asking around, most established catering companies would charge logistics fees of $800 upwards for cooking elsewhere and transporting the food to my venue. And these are companies that won’t entertain my request to downsize the menu so that the cost would be cheaper, either. So I’m going for the second solution, and Alhamdulillah we found one alternative caterer that has always cooked at its own location and brought the food over, and whose menu is basic and fuss-free. There would be no extras like mi kering kontang lokek isi banyak taugeh je, bubur kacang pulut hitam segala macam, bruschetta meringue macaroons marshmallows cookies brownies smarties, ice cream candy floss corn-on-cob hotdogs keropok lekor roti john ayam percik, and other money-guzzling calories yang sewaktu dengannya; if anyone wants more than the basic menu, they can pay for their own buffet meals at a restaurant after attending my wedding. Or turun lif turun tangga pergi pasar malam depan mata.

There was another caterer that first came to my mind due to its seriously sedap food (that I got to eat at the mister’s friend’s bride’s reception) but I could not reach them via the phone number AND email given on their website. We’ll try to contact both caterers again (and perhaps another two to three that I recently found out about from the Bussorah Street Ramadan Bazaar / recommended to me by a colleague), and get food-tasting sessions before we finally decide on one.

Two.
Now this next restriction is going to put a dampener on the wedding berangan-ing of all you brides-to-be out there with a Pinterest account. Why? Because if you have a Pinterest account that means you have been actively using it to pin all sorts of pretty and gorgeous and gush-inducing wedding decor you see online, true true true? (Either it’s a Pinterest account or it’s a blog where you post about all the pretty gorgeous gosh-inducing wedding decor you see online.) Guess what, if you book this venue, you would be restricted to a grand total of ONE wedding decor company. And it’s a little-known company at that. The kind that does void deck weddings in the same style as 5 to 10 years ago perhaps? You would probably be limited to 3 colours and just yards of cloth folded and twisted and hung up here and there. (Actually I don’t really know as I have not contacted the decorator yet; I’m just saying this based on the photographs of decor done by them as shown to me by the venue’s lady officer.) There goes your dream English rustic garden / Moroccan palace / Japanese zen / tropical Bali / American nautical / Mardi Gras carnival / playground rainbow colours – themed wedding. I can just imagine images of those weddings swirling round and round and getting smaller and smaller as they get flushed down the toilet bowl.

That being said, however, the appointed decorator’s work is still pretty decent, and fixed at a low price even lower than the one quoted by one decorator who did a two-colour decoration with some fresh flowers for an engagement reception at the void deck. (An engagement reception with decoration! I’m amazed how some Malay families find ever more extravagant ways to spend their money. Eh kalau dah terbanyak duit sangat kasi* akulah! Aku tolong kau simpankan sampai kau dah beranak-pinak jadi kalau cikgu anak kau suruh beli Kamus Dewan untuk belajar bahasa sendiri, aku boleh keluarkan duit tu bagi pihak kau dan cakap: tiada masalah, ada Bimla ada wangnya! Nak beli 50 buah lagi kamus pun tiada masalah! Lainlah kalau kau dah tak nak mengaku bahasa Melayu tu bahasa kau lagi.)

Excuse that rant above. Back to the subject, with the price fixed that low, being restricted to that one decorator is actually a blessing for this budget-conscious pengantin-to-be! It also saves me the headache and hassle of going around surveying for and comparing the rates of different decor vendors! (Didn’t you know, besides being budget-conscious, I’m actually a pretty lazy bride-to-be too? Why, I did a grand total of ONE on-site venue recce before declaring it the perfect venue! That’s how rajin I am, hahah…)

So, now you know why I’ve never gushed over pictures of pretty weddings here.

Three.
Ok, last restriction! Due to the nature of the venue, let’s just say certain forms of wedding entertainment would be inappropriate. These forms include, but are not limited to, sesi melalak sampai gelas retak karaoke singing, live band performances and cowboy wannabe sessions tarian kuda kepang . If you ask me why they are inappropriate, I would tell you it jars with the nature of the venue. If you ask me so what’s the nature of the venue? I’d be more than willing to share… Next year! ;P

This last restriction may also be a dampener to some of you guys (or your makcik pakcik with unfulfilled singing / horseriding ambitions), but has absolutely no effect on me. My idea of wedding entertainment consists of background piped-in music from a carefully selected collection of traditional Malay songs, contemporary love songs, spiritual songs, jazz, and the like. It’s called background music because when I attend weddings I hate to have to shout over loud music to be heard, or wish I could grow an extra pair of hands to clamp over my ears while my original pair of hands feed myself, so I am not about to impose the same thing on my guests at my own wedding. Perhaps, I could include one activity that my close relatives could occupy themselves with as they sit around enjoying each others’ company (nope, it won’t be the cliché photobooth or guestbook activity… It’s another one of my crazy ideas – in fact I’ve already done it in one of my earlier posts!). Minimal fuss, minimal cost!

So that’s it! I hope this post gives you guys a better idea of what to look out for when surveying venues in general. It helps to first have an idea of how you want your wedding to be like. That way you’d know what to ask, depending on what you need. Yalah mana tahu ada yang pengantin lelakinya nak datang naik helikopter, jadi kenalah tanya kalau tempat majlis tu ada helipad, kan? 😀

*’Kasi’, dalam Kamus Dewan, ditandakan dengan kependekan ‘bp’ yang bermaksud bahasa percakapan, atau senang cakap, bahasa pasar. Jadi dalam penulisan rasmi (seperti karangan dalam peperiksaan GCE ‘O’), janganlah digunakan perkataan ‘kasi’, faham semua?