Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Silent War

Nothing says Chinese New Year more than the gleeful handing out of red packets along with inappropriately probing questions on whether that steadfastly single someone's finally tying the knot!

Much to the utmost dread of the gay community here; who mostly deal with such horrific family reunion hurdles with staunch denial, persisting antagonism or perpetual absentia. Some even start making up increasingly preposterous excuses to avoid going home for the reunion.

Obviously I have been on the receiving end of the red packet interrogation this past three decades or so, embarrassingly so I'll admit. Especially when it has become quite apparent that my net worth seriously outweighs the elderly relatives who still dole me out spare change in the red packets. Almost impossible to refuse that wrinkled old aunt who presses that special red packet into your hand with renewed prosperity wishes for the year to come.

Which is why I usually reciprocate by singlehandedly subsidizing the family meals for the next few days. And the occasional pink packets for the really young kids.

Sorry lil kids but only oranges from Uncle Paul this year. 
Blame it on the fiscal cliff. 

But it's the younger cousins, those who are junior to me and already married in the heteronormative fashion, who sometimes irritate me with their assumed smugness.

Cousin : Do better next year yeah.
Paul : Compared to who? You?
Cousin : Well yes! Time to get married like me!
Paul : Please, that wouldn't take much effort. My boyfriend is a worth a dozen of that spoilt little princess you married. That pampered primadonna who currently holds your baby as if she were handling soiled garbage. 

Many are the times I've wanted to respond with a scathing rejoinder but for the sake of familial harmony, of course I keep mum. So I satisfy myself with the occasional eye-roll whenever the lil princess acts up in an unseemly fashion. Like when she squeals horrifically over the toddler spitting up on her designer dress. Or falls into a heady swoon from the sultry tropical heat.

Okay, maybe I do snicker a little as well.

And yes, I do feed the baby sticky chocolatey stuff to smear down her dress. Never said I was perfect.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You Look Fat

Think almost everyone would recoil from such a straightforward matter-of-fact comment.

Politically correct Anglophiles would probably squeal in horror over the opprobrious effrontery. For us plain-speaking Asians - only when it comes to family you understand, it would probably be just another shockingly brusque greeting at the dreaded reunion followed by the typical probing questionaire under the blinding interrogation lamps. Forget about political correctness or positive reinforcement. Think we can agree that elderly Asian relatives never are shy about offering their unsuitable ill-timed critiques.

Me, I'm not worried. Desultory comments, especially those concerning how I look, usually doesn't faze me much. Basically my prodigious self-worth is not inherently tied to my below-average looks.

And yes, I know for a fact that I have lost a couple of pounds.

Though the blench, cringe and drawback from such an inappropriate comment always makes me smile. You Look Fat. Why are so many of us disproportionately affected by such superficial judgements? Why do we even care what other people think? Gets much worse if you even attempt denigrating someone's looks.

Paul : Gosh, that's an ugly kid. 
Snow : You can't say that! All kids are beautiful.
Paul : Have you seen this troll? Look again.
Snow : Stop it, you can't say that.
Paul : It's the truth. 

And there's nothing wrong with it. I'm pretty ugly myself and I don't see the big deal about it. Beauty really is skin deep, in fact probably only millimetres deep. Cut us all up and we don't look very much different from that sculpted six-pack male model on the billboard.

You mean I'm ugly? And fat?

Doesn't make the kid any less. Doesn't make him or her less talented, less intelligent, less anything... just not as physically desirable as we would all hope - or at least not as close to the recommended standards of beauty dictated by the all-important arbiters of taste at Madison Avenue.

So what's wrong with a bit of tough love? Even when they say it, I don't think our decidedly inapropos Asian aunts and uncles mean it as a derisive slam. It's just a matter-of-fact, like claiming that the sky is blue or the clouds are white. So you're ugly. Or fat. Like our straight-talking, far more pragmatic Asian relatives would say 'So what though, just accept the indisputable fact and move on, will ya? Find something else to be good at.'

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Matter of Principle

Some boys have it made and just don't know it.

For instance the sweet sexy Shawn who finds himself regularly approached at the clubs, at the bars, at the roadside pitstops... well just about anywhere! This boy gets his share of fans. Quite a few enthralled swains willing to loosen their purse-strings to keep him happy as well.

Paul : So he asked you out?
Shawn : I said no.
Paul : Why?
Shawn : He offered me a car and an apartment.
Paul : I don't see the hitch here.
Shawn : I would be his toyboy essentially.
Paul : I still don't see the problem here.
Shawn : I can't do that!
Paul : And what's stopping you? You're sexy, free and single.
Shawn : It's against my principles!
Paul : If someone offered me the same, I'd jump at the offer immediately.
Shawn : You're pulling my leg.
Paul : No I'm not. I think I would enjoy being a toyboy.
Shawn : But why? Don't you want to use your brain? Work hard to earn your passage in life?
Paul : Umm. No. I would prefer to head for spas and massages, do my manis and pedis... I think I must have been a concubine in my past life.

Use my brain? Work hard? Earn my way?

Such surprisingly high ideals from a pretty boy. Seriously, do people still aspire to do so?

Boy : I wanna work hard and earn my way in the world!
Paul : Seriously?

Sure, we've all heard that particularly tedious sermon of Work Hard and Prosper in all its many wily guises throughout our dreary schooldays. But dear God, why would I ever choose such tiresome back-aching drudgery when I could have it all simply handed to me on a shiny silver platter? Albeit with a few teeny tiny possibly G-strings attached but hey, it's not all that high a price. A little bit of charming TLC for an elderly gentleman in exchange for a sweet life of  pampered concubinage seems like the perfect barter.

Hell if I were even half as good-looking, I'd be a man for hire. Sure it might smack of cheap prostitution but I've always been supportive of the world's oldest profession. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year Predictions

Oftentimes it doesn't actually come true but who can possibly resist listening to the yearly predictions? Based on the ancient Chinese astrological charts, the renowned masters usually come on stage to deliver their scholarly predictions for the different zodiac animals around this time of year. 

Better luck with work and business this year? Guess they should have added the fact that an unbalanced overemphasis on career would probably mean far less time for the home and family.

Which is why I'm not going home for Chinese New Year.

Never thought it would bum me out but it certainly has cast a disconsolate pall on my everyday activities for the past few days. Draping Netherfield in auspicious red banners and lighting up the decorated lanterns just isn't the same now that I know I'll be spending the festival day itself here - all me, myself and I. Possibly weeping as I peel my one and only mandarin orange. Blame damned unceasing work at the hospital and a serious lack of locum tenens to provide cover for me.

Orange for one anyone? 

Marking the first time in my more than three decades of life that I have not successfully returned for the Spring Festival. Curses!

Paul : Dammit, I can't go home for Chinese New Year! *sob*
Calvin : Well I'll be back home anyway. We can see each other.
Paul : But there will be no reunion dinner for me! My Fuzhou red wine chicken! *sob*
Calvin : Can't provide you that but I can offer you some Hakka delights.
Paul : Is that a kinky sex proposition?
Calvin : No. 
Paul : What is it?
Calvin : Why don't you join my family at the reunion table?
Paul : What?!
Calvin : There would be some of my relatives there of course. But not too many, maybe four or five tables.
Paul : What?!

Certainly never saw that coming.

Trust Charming Calvin to come up with the right thing to say as a serious distraction. Me? The controversial persona non grata making a late appearance at his family reunion with fifty of his indignant relatives sitting in judgement? Not to mention his seething mother, the antagonistic Madame Borgia, balefully scrutinizing me from across the table?

Even I couldn't predict what awaits me there.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bed Full of Peas

Bet you've all heard of the princess who mysteriously wanders the streets in search of desperate shelter from the pelting rain, only to find herself dumped onto a stack of mattresses with a single annoying pea underneath.

Never could empathize with the princess and the pea.

Even with twenty soft mattresses of down and feathers layering the measly pea, the spoilt lil brat could still whine, wail and whimper about the excruciating discomfort. Me, I would have dragged her out of bed and walloped her thoroughly.

Maybe even stoned her with a hail of frozen peas.

Unless it was a prince who looked like this - and then I'd offer a different form of torture. 

Really... what happened to being thankful? What happened to being satisfied? Are we a crazed culture of ceaseless cravings always wanting something more?

I ask for wealth, I ask for fame
I ask for glory to shine on my name
I ask for love I can possess
I ask for God and His angels to bless me

No doubt many have learned from that particular fairytale since there are so many I know who find themselves endlessly dissatisfied with their particular lot in life. Rather than focus on the twenty mattresses of comfort, they end up griping, grousing and grumbling about the insignificant peas - so much so that I am starting to think there are far more pampered princesses hiding in plain sight than even I knew! Getting discouraged, distressed and disgruntled - basically endlessly emo - because their boundless needs can never ever be met.

Me, I am a rather optimistic fellow. Always try my best to think that the glass is half full rather than empty. Seen far too many worse tales than my own - with the daily dose of human miseries served at my workplace - that I thank God each day for the blessings I receive.

I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I

So yes, I do get a tad irritated when that perfect prince who seems to have it all whines about that one vexing pea in his life. Don't we all know that one prince charming, who by all rights should be on his knees daily thanking the Lord for all the blessed gifts received, but instead wails incessantly about his supposed misfortunes? Has he forgotten all about the twenty mattresses?

In comparison to him, I'm practically the hideous serving maid swabbing the kitchen floors but I'm still happy whistling a happy tune with little complaint. Could be worse. Really.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Secret Allure of Kid Brothers

Gotta admit I sometimes have the devil in me which certainly prompts me to all manner of mischief. Some quite inexplicable. Others quite despicable.

Especially when it comes to shocking some of my really old friends, such as Honest Harold. Ever since I came out to him a while back, he has been gingerly tip-toeing his way around the controversial topic. Partly fearful of inadvertently offering affront since I've always been infamous for my acerbic tongue. The other part possibly deathly afraid that I might have had a wildly inappropriate man crush on him back when we were naive schoolboys.

Look, I certainly won't deny that Harold was kinda cute back then in a sweet aww-shucks boy-next-door way, and yes he does have shades of what I look for in a man - but somehow I never did come to fancy him. Not then. Certainly not now.

But our straight brethren are always highly suspicious of us randy gay fellows perpetually dreaming up wicked ways to jump their bones.

Harold : So this gay thing...
Paul : What do you want to know? Anal sex is it?
Harold : No! Well not exactly...
Paul : What is it then?
Harold : You never... I mean, with me... umm.
Paul : Whether I had a crush on you?
Harold : Yeah.
Paul : Well, not you exactly.
Harold : What? What do you mean by that?
Paul : Actually I used to have a crush on your younger brother.
Harold : What the... he was just a kid back then.
Paul : Hardly. He was hot. And liked to walk around half naked. Had those sculpted six pack abs.
Harold : He's at least six years younger than us. I'm not listening to this.
Paul : Must be all man by now. Does he still have a cute ass?
Harold : La la la la I'm so not hearing this.

Bet he's still freaking out.

Boy : Oh hi, you don't mind if I go shirtless, do you? Kinda hot today.
Paul : Why stop there! You can take off your pants as well.
Boy : OMG You're so naughty!

Seriously though. Cute jock brother with an athletic physique that just wouldn't quit. Even at the barely legal age of seventeen, he was a droolsome wonder. Simply adored strutting around in the living room sans shirt most times while I, the college student, was sitting there staring agog at the premium male flesh on display. Often wondered what I would do if I got the boy alone.

Hmm... wonder if he's married. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

The New Model

Staying in the limelight is impossible especially when there's always something brighter, newer and possibly better coming just around the corner.

Imagine having one you'll always have to deal with for the rest of your life. Sibling rivalry usually starts right after, - or sometimes even before - the arrival of the second child. And it gets so much worse when the second child is not only younger and cuter, but so much more lovable in his own way.

So I don't doubt that my poor niece Chatty Carmen does feel a bit out of place sometimes. For someone as reserved as Carmen, it must be doubly hard to compete with a kid brother who's sweet, funny and so lovingly affectionate that everyone - even complete strangers - automatically warms to him.

I'm a second child as well but I totally understand how Carmen feels. There were times growing up when I felt overshadowed by the overwhelming shadow cast by my older brother. Not only the first grandchild but also the first grandson as well so you can imagine what a big deal that was. As the eldest in our generation, my astonishingly meritorious brother was held up as the shining paragon for the rest of us to follow - while I was usually the... forgotten kid brother unworthy of further attention.

Oops, what was his name again?

Shit, even my dog doesn't remember my name!

Got even more lost in the crowd once my other louder cousins came into the picture. Think until lately my grandmother probably remembered me only as the second fellow after my brother! Like in any traditionally conservative Chinese family, what comes first matters most while the rest are just insignificant also-rans.

It was alright for me since I had my very own spotlight at school and with my friends, so the brief moment in the surpassing shadow was still relatively manageable. And with my nascent homosexuality still largely clandestine back then, it seemed better not to have too much familial attention focused on me.

Just hope my niece Carmen manages to find a way to make peace with the situation!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Carpe Diem

Guess the most frequently asked question from relatively clueless house officers would be which medical discipline they should ally themselves with after finishing their grueling internship. Hard question to answer since very few of us are sure of what to do right after that last day of housemanship, hell, most of us are just ecstatically glad to still be alive and sane after the harrowing ordeal.

Think no one can quite make that decision for an individual since it counts in several factors such as interest, capability, aptitude, serendipity etc. Even the lifestyle you intend to lead in the future. For me, I kinda stumbled into the entire anaesthesia and intensive care bit.


During my housemanship training, I already realized that medicine itself wouldn't be for me. Never even liked it much during my medical school years. Endless hours in the medical clinic doling out endless pills to patients who get increasingly sicker with diseases that never get better... No, definitely not for me. Not to mention the daunting thought of sitting through those horrid physician exams.

Same goes for paediatrics. Except distraught parents are even harder to deal with than the wailing infants. Definitely no.

Perhaps obstetrics & gynaecology? Thoroughly enjoyed that posting - since very little mental thought goes into the day-to-day job with obstetrics being a purely by-the-book discipline. Veer but a little off the meticulous predetermined course practically chiseled in stone and there'll be hell to pay. But though I love women... the very thought of facing hysterical mothers-to-be in the throes of labour on a daily basis was chilling.

And let us not forget... vaginal warts.

Psychiatry used to be one of my favourite subjects in medical school, even had recommendations from the head of department to join them when I finished. But I don't think I could deal with the more minor psych problems. Certain patients would probably irritate the hell out of me - which wouldn't help with their care and treatment in the least!

Dammit which way do I turn!

So yes, I originally planned to begin with general surgery. Slice, dice, chop and toss. Scrub hands. Problem dealt with. Butch as hell. Though I fully intended to specialize in plastic surgery. Not so butch obviously. No ear, nose and throat since their clinics had a distinct malodour. Opthalmology inadvertently poked into one of my deepest phobias. Orthopaedics seemed just a bit too painstaking.

Just two months into my surgical posting - and my very first couple of appendicectomies, there was a severe shortage in the anasthesia and intensive care department. And I was called in much to my dismay, distress and disbelief.

But like they always say, once you begin in anaesthesia, you get irresistibly sucked in. Apparently the anaesthetic gases can be wildly addictive. Falling deep into the vague seductive haze of sweet, sweet sevoflurane, you find yourself gradually losing sight of the other disciplines and gently slipping into the syncopated, almost sedative rhythms of the anaesthetic team.

With the occasional excited blips of the intensive care unit of course. Oh yes, though most laypersons wouldn't know of it but most intensive care units in the country are directly under the care of an anaesthesiologist. Sedation, pain relief, monitoring, dire situations and all that.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The New Year WannaBaby

Oh the room is too warm. 
Oh the lights are too bright. 
Oh the bed is too hard. 
Oh the pillow is too soft. 
Oh the water is too hot.
Oh the soup is too cold.

Seriously not trying out free verse for the new year's. Just the usual litany of complaints coming from a particular type of patient - I call them the wannababies. Like needy Goldilocks of storybook fame, these are the sickly patients who never seem to get anything just quite right.

There's always something too .... about everything.

Oh no, it's the latter day baby. It's your oncall day, right?
You call them that?
Yeah, they're adults who want to be treated like babies.

Which is why these whiny complainers are always accompanied by a reasonably large retinue of weary yet still sweetly solicitous caretakers who tend to their every childish whim, no matter how inconsequential. Quite a tired few who look as if they're barely moments away from committing homicide by throttling the said patient.

Especially when the impossibly demanding patient wilfully thrusts away every treatment offered - despite all the infantilizing cooing, coddling and cosseting proffered by the anxious caretakers. Even the most patient nurses have given up.

Caretaker : Come sweetie, just take the medicine. Only one little spoonful.
Patient : No, it's too bitter. I hate it. Take it away.
Caretaker : But it will make you better. Just a little. Come on. 
Paul : This is taking forever. Move aside. 
Patient : And the room is too...
Paul : Hush. Now take your medicine.
Patient : Oh the medicine is too..
Paul : I didn't ask.
Patient : But I ... I don't wanna!
Paul : You're not a child. You're an adult and I shall treat you as one.
Patient : But I ...
Paul : Just open your mouth. I won't ask twice.

No, my brusque bedside manner isn't their usual daily dose of sweet solicitude they're used to. It can be precise, forthright and matter-of-fact - almost astringent - certainly don't waste my breath in mincing words for anyone's benefit.

I'll grant you some leeway if it's the very first visit but to whine during your umpteenth visit, knowing that there'll be many more since it's a lifelong malady? Seriously! Look I know it's miserable being ill. Nothing gladsome about debilitation, disability or death. But seriously does treating them like little children and babying them help in the least?