Sunday, April 22, 2007

Practical Love: A Consequence.

Al and May

Al and May is a typical middle class couple with typical house mortgage, car loans, personal loans and five children to care for. Lucky for them, credit cards were not yet the norm back then. So, that’s one less temptation and burden to face. Al is a government servant who moves around a lot and in most cases lived in government quarters where one of the favourite sport is playing the Joneses, you know, which team had the newest sofa sets, biggest TV (colour gets bonus points), latest curtains right down to who got the most and biggest Sarawak vases. In Al’s household, May is the stronger character and hence will make decisions. She is also a very competitive person, thus will do her best to win the Joneses games. Luckily, she does this with some sense intact, it was her struggle to keep up. She never made the family suffer, she never uses the marketing allowance, well not all the time, in emergencies perhaps. Like the time when her regular fabric supplier showed her the latest lace-like curtains. Al just follows along. Not because he is agreeable to all this but he is the type who would rather avoid a conflict than be right. However, her struggle to win the material race is not lost on the children. That is what this post is about.

Liz is their first born. She is pretty but not outstandingly so. What she does have however transcended that. From May, she learned how to be stylish, how to use make up and clothes to good effect and thus became a very attractive girl. On completing secondary school, she pursued a secretarial course – fitting choice – in her scheme of things. It was during the final year that she starts dropping hints to family members of her intention. When asked on why she did not yet has a boyfriend her response was that she has not yet met a suitable person. Once May tried to fix her up with her best friends cousin much to the consternation of everyone as the ensuing battle between the two hard headed women impacted everyone. Liz won by saying that she is not ready to go out with someone who does not come with financial security. Her argument was that, why should she get hooked up to someone with whom she might have to help pay off the mortgage and car ? According to her, if she were to get married, it was to be happy. Definitely not to underwrite half of her future husband’s liabilities. Everyone thought she is looking for or at least waiting for a rich man’s son to woo her.

At a subsequent family event, she designed it such that one of the younger family members saw her come out of a long, black, tinted Mercedes. She came dripping with Prada, Ferragamo and Gucci. No one dared ask. Everyone speculated. It was after this event that she came to her parents informing them that her boyfriend will come to ask for her hands. Enjoyment turned to horror especially for May, when Liz also informs them that her prospective husband is slightly older than May, had a wife with five children, the eldest of which is the same age as her. Then Liz tells them, with or without their consent, she will be married to this man. May went nuts, Liz is her first born, and she had already planned for a grand wedding for her. She had planned the colour schemes, gifts, guests to invite and everything else to make it a wedding to be remembered, now all that planning and scheming is going to waste. She’s still in the Joneses games you see. She tore her hair out trying to figure why Liz turns this way. She still does not see it, to this day.

She tried everything from talking, begging, shouting right down to engaging a witch doctor to get Liz to change her mind. No dice. Liz is much stronger and more stubborn even than May. Al, in the meantime just let the drama unfolds around him. May finally relented, so does Al. In the end, they agreed that the wedding will be done in the city with only some close family members invited. A reception was held at a later date in their town. It has to be done as May was concerned that if Liz were to become pregnant and no wedding in sight, what will the people think ? It’s always about what people would think...

Years later, it appears that Liz had made a good choice and a good life for herself. She now has a daughter. A house, a car, a maid, a fixed monthly allowance (which is more than a fresh Master's holder would earn) and never once did her wants and needs was not fulfilled. There is a price of course, like not having her husband around during the first day of hari raya but she was prepared and accepted all this. She is now close to one of her step child who goes to school in the vicinity of her domicile. It is such that, that particular step child became her ally as she is also preparing herself to finally come out to her other stepchildren and ultimately her “Madu”, the lady she is sharing her husband with. Apart from this, she recently went back to school to further her studies as her daughter starts going to school.

Liz certainly has made a practical choice based on the happenings around her as she was growing up. As for May, she still does not see where she went wrong that Liz made such a choice. Even though both of them have rebuilt their mother daughter relationship with May wrapped around the little finger of her granddaughter, she still does not understand why she has to be burdened with this shame that was brought upon by Liz.


den said...


how to pronounce this "joneses"?

{jon-ses}? {jones-ses}? {jooons}?

interesting, those were the "games" during th 70's & 80's, do they still play this kind of "games" today? I bet they don't, don't they? The world has changed or I'm wrong?!?!

Apandi said...

Well, no matter how you pronounce it, you got the concept right. Yes, I do believe that they are still playing the games now but on a more subtle and low key style i.e. more to do with events, gifts at weddings, etc.