I am pleased/horrified to say that I have done very little work over the past week, which means that the original plan of having a complete draft of Chapter 4 has absolutely died. I've pretty much finished the theoretical bit; now all I need to do is to write about Singapore. Pretty easy, right? It's actually not. I find that it is a lot harder to write about something deeply familiar than something that is merely of interest, especially of the intellectual sort. I know it so well that I don't even know where to go to look for sources to back up my claims; and when I do go looking for literature, I find next to nothing. It is actually shocking how little critical work has been written on Singaporean nationalism/the Singaporean nation/the Singaporean national identity, etc. Note the keyword though: critical. And so I'm not talking about boring descriptive shit that repeats the government's version of events, which is also the 'official' version. I read one such piece of work when I went to the Central Library (which I hate going to) for research. It was called Understanding Singapore Politics, and there was a chapter on the nation, so I read it, hoping for some critical insight. But it just basically repeated everything that was taught in Social Studies class.
I think there is a grand total of two or three books on the subject that I haven't read. Including the one that I have read, there is a grand total of four books. I guess I should be happy that there's less reading for me to do, given that I am literally unable to read everything that my PhD covers over the next ten years, let alone within the rest of my time at Cambridge; but having too little critical material is a bit scary too, in a way. Or maybe not. Maybe it'll be all fine when I start writing. When am I going to start writing? Why am I such a shit-ass useless mug?
Anyway, enough about that. In lieu of working on my PhD, I have been spending time with my parents and friends, and also went on a Tinder date on Friday. For New Year's Eve, I stayed home and watched TV with my mom, as always, and complained about the shitty Mediacorp coverage of Singapore's NYE countdown, as always. It struck us as quite ridiculous, the way the cameraman cut away from the fireworks to focus on random people in the crowd whom no one cared about, not when the fireworks were still lighting up a rainy, cloudy sky. We also wanted to watch the countdown show in Taipei but for some reason, it was not on any of the cable channels, so we watched a countdown show in some random Chinese city because A*Mei happened to be performing when we switched over. (Oh my god, I love her voice, but her songs are so seriously shit. Really brainless and bland and cheap boring, repetitive synthetic dance beats.) When she was done, the next act came on - and I was just horrified by how absolutely, irredeemably unattractive those boyband dudes were. They were like Korean popstar cardboard cut-outs: girly, unsexy haircut, SUPER PASTY SKIN, terrible nasally voice. How can any full-blooded female find a man like that attractive? So we switched back over to Channel 5 and watched the Sam Willows, a Singaporean band. They were actually quite good. I enjoyed the songs.
I spent New Year reading Raffael's paper. Hahaha. Had lunch at Li Bai with parents before that, then coffee at Crown Bakery or whatever where I had a yummy mini pain au chocolat. My morning tennis was rained out by the storm from the South China Sea, which was disappointing. Murphy's Law dictates, of course, that when I didn't want to play tennis, the weather was super nice and warm (i.e. not raining); and when I finally wanted to play again, it had to rain almost every day, for the whole day. At least I got to play on Wednesday evening. It started off badly, and I behaved like Andy Murray, but I kept my mouth shut after a while and started playing better. But shortly after that, my tennis strings, more than a year old and frayed beyond comprehension, finally snapped. I had to use my friend's spare. I couldn't be arsed to restring it for just two more sessions, so I borrowed my other friend's racket again when I played on Saturday morning. It was an advanced Wilson racket, 98 square inches, and significantly heavier than my Head racket. I didn't really like how stiff it was but it was better than nothing.
I really do not want to be writing about tennis, so I will just get to the point. Two more things, then. I had a great time meeting Rui, Mag and Ven for lunch on Friday, even if it was short. They are the ones that I miss the most, apart from my parents, when I'm not in Singapore. I wish I could spend more time with them. I wish my life weren't so drastically different from theirs. Because it struck me how much they mattered when, over dinner just before 2017 ended, Ven told us that she'd made partner at her firm, and I felt genuine pride. This is significant because I am very self-centered and don't really care as much about other people as I seem to care, and so this feeling of pride for someone else's milestone or achievement, or whatever one wishes to call it, meant something. And so it makes me somewhat melancholic, to think about how different our lives are, how I can't relate to what they're doing, how they can't relate to what I'm doing. But they're still the ones who matter because despite the disconnect that inevitably exists, I still care deeply, and hopefully always will; and hopefully, so do they.
Second: I met this Tinder guy - let's call him C - on Friday, primarily because he suggested going to Garden by the Bays to try to catch the otters - and so, in a way, he was a means to my ends of catching glimpse of our otters. I'd barely exchanged more than 10 messages with him, and didn't even reply to the one that he sent about my New Year or whatever it was, before he suggested this really fun activity.
Alas, we didn't manage to see the otters at all. But it was a very fun afternoon. I was really surprised when he showed up, looking 100% ang moh, and heard a 100% Singaporean accent. For some reason, I'd thought he was Australian; somehow, my mind didn't register the Singaporean part of his profile...or I'd made unfounded assumptions based on how he looks, which is precisely the sort of thing that I shouldn't be doing. In retrospect, I might have been a bit rude, expressing surprise the way I did that he sounded completely Singaporean, because he told me later on that he'd faced a lot of problems with how he looked when growing up. But after the initial surprise wore off, it became normal and I stopped thinking about it, so I hope he wasn't too put off.
Okay, who am I kidding? I know that he wasn't put off because we talked for like, four hours, and he said he'd thought of asking me to join him and his friends at a games cafe thing at 9pm later - and we met at 3pm. I was feeling tired, though, for it is not easy to be mentally engaged for hours, talking to a new person, in the heat with no air-conditioning, and so I said that I was going home for dinner.
He wasn't really my type, once again. I honestly wasn't impressed with his views on his meat-eating habit and how it is simply contradictory to eat meat and like animals, and I cannot date a pothead ever again (not because I have anything against pot, but it's just not my lifestyle and I can't date someone of such a drastically different lifestyle). But it was enjoyable. I don't talk very much, and I'm definitely a way better listener than I am a talker, and so it was lucky that he had interesting things to say. We talked about his flatmate's dog a lot and he showed me a lot of dog pictures, and I love dogs, so that was cool. It was fun overall so I'm seeing him again tomorrow.
What I find most interesting about my casual dating, though, is that I seem to have this ability to put people at ease. Maybe it's because I'm a good listener, and/or maybe it's because I'm not nervous or awkward when I go on a date; and/or maybe it's because I'm polite and non-confrontational and so I don't say it when something irritates me. Whatever it is, C said at the end that he enjoyed my company, he liked talking to me, etc. The only person that didn't say all this was the annoying Polish guy - no loss there.
It's also interesting that I seem to get along quite well with Singaporeans who aren't from my kind of cookie-cutter Singaporean background. Sam was in Normal (Academic) stream; the guy I met last week whom I was meh on dropped out of ITE; and C went to some random neighbourhood school and went to a polytechnic, I think. This sounds terrible but whatever: I'd never really interacted with Singaporeans from these kinds of background. The people that I know are all the top school/JC/university (especially law school) sort. So yeah, it's been an interesting experience.
A week ago, I asked Sam if he'd like to help me with a 10 million bottles of beer that my mom bought from duty free when we came back from Krabi but he didn't reply to that. Today (yesterday) he texted me asking me how the Jay Chou concert was and said that I was leaving soon, he hoped I finished my work and had a good time in SG.
I wasn't intending on not replying. But the more I thought about it, the less inclined I was to reply. I have nothing against him as a person or anything, and I'm not fussed about the way this has panned out because it was quite clear that he wasn't my type anyway. But I just don't feel like replying to someone who didn't reply to me. I don't like texting to begin with, and so it takes effort every time I reply to someone. If it's someone whom I don't feel like talking to, I usually don't bother making the effort - and I can't really be bothered making the effort to reply.
Writing about this is too much effort. I'm getting tired, and I've got to wake up early for a boring 9am dental appointment (blame Mom for this!) so I should sleep anyway.