My Valentine’s Day

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. There is this assumption that if you are a couple, or in a relationship that you would automatically be happy on Valentine’s Day. Or at the very least, that you would appreciate a day dedicated to lovers.

Honestly though, I can’t think of a worst holiday – intended to put pressure on couples already in a relationship, a day making singles feel worse than ever. I suppose there is only one type of couple who would enjoy Valentine’s Day, the same kind of couple who would enjoy endless attention on their wedding day, the sort that invite the press and the Tattler to cover the minute details and attention that they put into their wedding: ‘Oh, see those roses over there? Yes, I had it brought in from Cameron Highlands. They were picked at the peak of their blossom as the sun began to emerge over the horizon. Oh, but why talk about the roses when you can talk about my shoes? See these? These were designed by Dato’ Jimmy Choo. Yes, I know he had retired, I forced him out of his retirement for my wedding. I’m that important.”

I met up with my friend, N yesterday for Valentine’s Day. And I brought my husband along – I don’t want him to feel left out on such a special day. We were going on a date, N and I. We were going to eat burgers and then we were going to watch a romantic movie starring Bruce Willis. With lots of guns and bombs.

We were late to meeting her as it was particularly crowded at Midvalley yesterday. We had to maneuver around a number of couples, diligently holding hands because that is what is expected of them for the day, a number holding lifeless bouquets of roses and all of them, looking more bewildered and stressed out rather than genuinely in love. I suppose it’s difficult feeling like the feeling when you have to battle a swarm of forlorn couples, figuring out what to do. One couple began to quarrel almost immediately after the man gave his woman a bouquet of flowers. There was a long queue outside TGIF, couples holding hands waiting for their turn to eat at at the restaurant. I wonder how many of these couples will head home tonight, or to a hotel and make love, even though they don’t want to but because they are expected to.

I told N this and she had a good laugh. N said that we were cynics. I don’t know what gave her that idea.

My distaste for Valentine’s Day began early – it began in Malaysia where the government school I attended, a rather conservative secondary school I might add, sold roses to young lustful boys by enterprising students who would then distribute the flowers to their high school crushes during class. They made a grand show out of it even, coming into a class with armfuls of roses and announcing the name aloud: “Farah!” “Yee Ling!” and the girls would get up, and saunter as gracefully as a fourteen year old could to the front of the class to receive their roses like it’s the bloody Oscars or something.

And then for the rest of us, the not-so-popular and the not-so-pretty, we squirm in our hard seats, hearts pounding fast as we give a quick prayer to God: ‘Dear God, please, please, please let me have someone send me a flower. I know I’m technically not supposed to pray for someone to send me a flower because it might lead me to think about lustful thoughts and to lustful situations that I’m not supposed to be in, but please, please, please God, I’m not so sure if I can handle the humiliation of not getting any roses when two-thirds of the class have received flowers.’

I think the trauma of Valentine’s Day in High School is enough to put anyone off Valentine’s Day for life.

I have to be honest though. When I finally did meet that special someone, I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I really did. I wanted to see what’s all the fuss that Hollywood was talking about. But my special someone happened to be Eizwan. Eizwan is the best man for me, who else would patiently help me roll out sheets and sheets of pasta when I went through ‘I-want-to-make-my-own-pasta’ phase or watch a crappy Korean drama without judging me. You can’t have everything though, because Eizwan is not particularly romantic. I mean he has ideas on romance, just sometimes, he falters on execution.

Like the year when I hinted I want a Valentine’s Day celebration. It coincided with a busy period for him – but he tried. Apparently, he had this grand ideas of creating a paper tree made of hearts, with each heart containing a poem on how much he loved me. On Valentine’s Day, I was waiting for roses, or a nice night out but nothing happened. Every restaurant was booked and the ones that were not, were places like TGIF where you pay a whopping RM 90 per person for a set that you would usually pay RM 30 for on any other weekday.

And of course, nothing says romance more than celebrating Valentine’s Day in a restaurant where they make you stand on a chair as the waiters sing and stomp their feet for your birthday.

We ended up in KFC that night.

I was getting very agitated and upset, like if you love me, why don’t you do something for me? Finally, I confronted him about it and Eizwan broke into cold sweat and said, ‘I did! I tried! See, I wanted to make these paper hearts but I discovered, I’m not very good at arts and craft and every heart I made was ruined, so I bought more paper and I’m trying to cut them at traffic lights.’ He showed me the half-cut cards at the back of his car, together with sticky tape and scissors and the instructions he printed off the net on how to make them as proof that he tried.

The ever reasonable girlfriend, I burst into tears and refused to speak to him.

Clearly, it worked out okay, or we wouldn’t be here today, but we never bothered to celebrate Valentine’s Day since. After getting that moment of madness out of me, I’m done with Valentine’s Day.

I had been done with Valentine’s Day for years since. Last year Eizwan got me a small teddy bear for Valentine’s Day and I looked at him and asked ‘What is it for?’ and then he sulked because I had forgotten Valentine’s Day.

As we had our burgers, I thought about the couples who had made so much effort for this evening, walking around Midvalley aimlessly, hoping to find a restaurant that could fit them in. When they do actually find one, they would be seated a little closely to another couple, as restaurants try to pack in as many lovebirds on their biggest money making evening of the year. And then, said couple would inevitably overhear conversations about love from the couples surrounding them and feel pressured to outdo the couple next to them, to proclaim that, no, they love their partners more.

And suddenly I felt this burst of euphoria and superiority. I am superior, I wanted to shout aloud. I am superior over all of you. I have not been conned by this madness, I have not been conned by this capitalist holiday of making you spend and celebrate love even when you don’t want to. I am not a sheep! I am free to make my own choice, to celebrate love when I want to celebrate.

Of course, that feeling of superiority ended when I watched ‘A Good Day to Die Hard.’ In what is possibly the most cynical attempt at milking the Die Hard series, I felt like a real sheep herded into the movie theatre by a Hollywood producer shepherd. As it turns out, my date with John McClane turned out to be a real dud.

How did you celebrate your Valentine’s Day?

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A Cheapskate’s Guide to Beauty

The past January has been in a way, my benchmark for how I hope the year would go. I have been trying to instill healthier habits on myself. One of my goals that I gave myself was to actually take care of myself better. I am fast approaching the big 3-0 and sleeping with your make up on and waking up the next day with a simple face wash, and I was ready to go, dewy-eyed, fresh and dare I say it, sexy thanks to the virtue of youth.

Oh, youth. I can’t do the same anymore. If I do, I will look like a ghoul that crawled out of my own grave the night before.

After spending the whole of 2012 pretty much moping, I had a giant checklist at the beginning of the year of what I wanted to see happen this year. Most of it was personal, like how I want to live a healthier life – eat better, exercise more, take my writing career professionally and work on The Good Tea Company to a great degree of success.

And I wanted to take care of my face. There I said it. I am shallow. I’m approaching 30 and the thought of getting wrinkles terrify me. Growing old gracefully be damned – I am going to do all I can to look as young as I possible even as I approach old age. Growing old gracefully is for those who give up.

The beginning of January, I spent a long time researching on how to do this. I’m not too keen on buying products off the shelf. I’m sure they work very well, but they are also, insanely expensive. And I am a cheapskate. A really big cheapskate. And I had a friend in university, who had the most beautiful and flawless skin I’ve ever seen. Her secret was, ‘I never use anything artificial on my skin.’

So I wanted to give it a shot.

I found this site, Crunchy Betty on the various ways on making natural beauty products at a fraction of the cost of buying products off the shelf. While sometimes the site does veer into paranoia at times – I don’t mind having flouride in water or toothpaste, and having been to countries where they don’t flouride their water like Vietnam where you can see the extent of teeth damage compared to Malaysia – I love everything else about the website. Most of the time, it means that most of my daily skincare regime is in the kitchen as opposed to having to head out to buy new stuff.

Which works out since there are days where I’m too lazy to actually eat, much less get dressed and head out to the shops.

After going at it for about a month, this is my current regime that I am quite happy with. My face is very sensitive and prone to drying out, so if you’re curious to try it out, bear in mind that it is like any new product: your skin might like it, your skin might hate it so you have to experiment to find what works for you.

Daily regime

Cleanser
Honey – I use honey to wash my face in the morning. One teaspoon of honey, warmed up at the tip of my fingers before massaging it into my face and wash off.

Toner:
It used to be green tea with a bit of lemon juice. I used to tone my face until I realized it was the cause of my face drying out. And that Eizwan thought I looked rather ghostly, which I realized was due to the brightening (read: bleaching) effect of lemon juice.

Moisturizer:
Sweet almond oil from Culpepper. I’m going to experiment with jojoba oil and some other nourishing oils when my almond oil finishes. Which probably will be in about 6 months time since I only use about 2-3 drops a day and I have more than half a bottle left.

And boring old sunscreen to protect my face from those harmful UV rays.

Make up remover:

Eye makeup:
Plain old extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad.

Face makeup:
Haven’t needed it yet, I don’t really use foundation or powder anymore. But honey don’t work on getting rid of make up unless you add a bit of baking soda to the mix, apparently.

Exfoliate:
Almond-Oatmeal exfoliant. Half oatmeal and half almonds blitzed in the food processor. Add a few drops of water to 1 tbs of the oatmeal and almond mixture and stir into a paste. Gently scrub your face and wash off. Almost guaranteed super soft skin.

I use this about twice a week. On Crunchy Betty she says it is gentle enough to be used daily and indeed there are a few blogs that extol the benefits of doing it daily – but I can’t. My face feels raw if I use it more than twice a week.

Face masks (weekly):

Egg-white and lemon juice mask:
And on nights when I feel like scaring the husband, I put on an egg white and lemon juice mask. The way to do it? Take one egg, use only the egg white, froth it up and then add a few drops of lemon juice. I paint my face with the mixture and leave it to dry for about 5 minutes. What I usually do after that is I put on Kleenex on my face and paint the egg-white mixture on the Kleenex.

Apparently I look something like this when I have this on:

I try to look as evil as possible too.

I try to look as evil as possible too.

Leave to dry for 30 mins and then yank off your mummy face. Well, yank it off as gently as possible. Wet a soft wash-cloth and wipe off any egg-white that remains on the face.

And since my skin is prone to dryness:

Yoghurt-honey face mask.
Mix about 1 tbs yoghurt and 1 tsp honey together. Paint it on your face and leave it for 20 mins before washing off. Your skin should be supple and soft at the end.

Am I benefiting from this way of taking of myself? I’m going to say, a resounding yes. Honestly, you can’t quite tell the difference though. I am blessed to have very good skin despite not doing anything with it – it is only recently that I felt the need to actually take care of it. My skin has been soft, more evenly toned and dare I say it, I look better today than on my wedding day.

Best of all. It has been the cheapest journey ever. A true cheapskate win.