Chapter 22 – Fried Rice & Meat Pie Combo?

By our tenth wedding anniversary I had to accept the sad realization that Rick and I were incompatible. Perhaps it had something to do with our sun signs – I am a Scorpio and he is a Leo – two pretty strong signs that do not compliment each other. Like Fried Rice and Meat Pies – nice on their own but not as a meal combo on the same plate! I guess I had finally grown up and realized way too late that we had married for the wrong reasons. In my naivety I thought that by marrying Rick I could finally ‘escape’ from mother’s domineering ways. Why did Rick marry me so hastily? Dare I say it was because he had never met a virgin before me? Or perhaps he had the notion that a submissive Asian wife would mean a perfect marriage.

Due to my upbringing, I did start out as a “Yes, Dear,” “No, Dear,” kind of
wife, sort of like a puppy eager to please her new “master”. However, slowly
but surely, the real me began to surface – the Scorpio began to resent Rick’s
uncalled for criticisms and scarcely-veiled sarcasm. One particular incident
stayed in my mind to this very day: I accompanied him on one of his rostered
month-long work-trip in Jambi, (Sumatra, Indonesia) so I could have a bit of a
break away from the kids who were put under Brother’s and Rahimah’s care.
Shortly after our arrival, Rick found out that one of the visiting Japanese
clients would be celebrating his birthday in a couple of days so he suggested
that I cook a special dinner for everyone as this would certainly earn him a
few “Brownie points”. Although I didn’t come prepared for a cooking marathon
(cooking for 17 hungry blokes), I agreed and went with him to his workplace the
following morning. I ventured into the mess kitchen, politely introduced myself
to the cook and kitchen hands and explained my reason for the intrusion. A look
around the not-so-modern kitchen made me realize this cooking project would
indeed be a challenge but I should manage okay. Besides, it was a bit late to
back out now anyway… So bright and early the next day, it was off to the
market with the cook to buy the ingredients I needed. We raced back to the GSI
(Geophysical Service Incorporated) premises and after lunch had been served,
the kitchen became a hive of frenzied activity. Just about everything had to be
done by hand, including beating the eggs for the cake I was making. Oh how I
wished I had brought my Kenwood along… Just as well the kitchen staff were
eager and willing to help, frantically peeling prawns, cutting up fruit and
vegies and so on. I guess it was a bit of a novelty for them to have a hands-on
“Nonya”
(Indonesian term of address for women of Western or Chinese
origin) in the kichen instead of one who just stood about issuing orders left,
right and centre.

Everything went like clockwork and that evening, we triumphantly brought out
the special dinner of Fried Rice with Chicken, Crab Foo Yong (omelette) and
Sweet & Sour Prawns. For dessert, it was Drunken Oranges and for the
birthday dude, an amateurly decorated Black Forest Cake. To this day, after
cooking a meal, I have a habit of always asking my diners, “Is it (the meal)
OK?” and naturally that night was no different. To my utter dismay and
embarrassment, Rick replied with, “It’s okay but it’s not the best, is it?
Something is missing – soy sauce or something…” The Japanese birthday dude
broke the stunned silence that followed – he stood up and made an impromptu
thank you speech, raised his glass and proposed a toast to me. As I struggled
to control tears of humiliation, everyone realized how upset I was – everyone
but Rick! I excused myself from the table and hurriedly left before the tears
overflowed while the PM (Party Manager) came after me to offer words of
comfort. His explanation for Rick’s behavior was simple: Rick was jealous that
the attention was focused on me… One cannot begin to imagine how hurt and
angry I was when Rick later claimed that I was merely “over-reacting”!

Adding insult to injury, I inadvertently found out from the cook that morning
that Rick had been eating pork when I wasn’t there. This fact came about when I
greeted the Muslim cook with “Assalaamu Alaikum” (peace be upon you).
After delightedly replying with, “wa ‘Alaykum Asaalam” (and on you be
peace), he quietly asked why I was married to a non-Muslim as “Tuan” (Indonesian
term of address used almost exclusively for white expatriates) Rick regularly
ate pork. I was dumbstruck! All along I had thought that Rick was genuine…
but upon reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised as he was dishonest from
the start, right from the false circumcision “certificate” he had purchased to
show my mother.

From that moment on, my fond feelings for Rick dwindled but I stayed on for
several reasons, mainly because of our three beautiful children and also to
save face. Last but not least, my foolish pride prevented me from admitting
that I had failed as a wife. Rick drank even more and more often than not,
would end up with “Brewer’s Droop”. My low self-esteem was compounded when Rick
fell asleep “on the job” on the night of our tenth wedding anniversary! I went
to Dr Lee to discuss my feelings of inadequacy as a woman and he recommended
that both Rick and I should seek counselling if we were to save our marriage. I
tentatively put forward the idea which was of course promptly rejected with a
vehement claim of, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with me!”

So life went on – in the eyes of the world, I was a very lucky woman indeed,
with a good husband, lovely children, no financial problem to speak of… what
more could a woman ask for? Little did they know that behind the happy facade
was a lonely, scared and yes, I have to admit it, sexually frustrated woman,
unsure of what the future holds. I had no-one to confide in so I kept
everything bottled up inside. When I felt down-in-the-dumps, I’d go for a
girls’ night out with a few of my friends when their hubbies were also out of
town. It finally got to the stage where I actually looked forward to seeing
Rick going back to work again just so I didn’t have to pretend that all was
well!

I wanted to do something constructive with my time and not satisfied with
having done the hairdressing and beauty courses, I decided to once again take
up driving lessons in earnest. I failed the first test but much to my delight
passed with flying colours at the second attempt. Woohoo! A few days later, I
piled Rahimah and the kids into our ’69 Mercedes to take us all to Changi
Swimming Club for the day. Before he left, Rick had parked the car nose in, so
I had to reverse it all the way down a long and steep driveway which had a
small gutter on the left hand side (looking down from the house). I told myself
I could do it but in all practicality, I shouldn’t have listened to myself. The
next thing I knew, I had the back right wheel of the car on the verge of being
wedged in the gutter! By this time, the shopkeepers from the store directly
opposite my house had dropped whatever they were doing to watch my driving
antics but instead of help, all I got from them were exclamations of “Aiyoh!”
and “Alamak!” punctuated by gasps of disbelief! So what did I do? I
stepped on the brake, pulled up the hand brake and ordered everyone to get out
of the car. After the pounding of my heart had subsided, I decided to swallow
my pride and sought help instead. I carefully got out of the car and went next
door to ask my neighbour Mr Singh to help me out of my predicament. He gladly
came to my rescue and offered future assistance whenever I needed it. What a
top guy! I took him up on his offer countless times after that and by the time
we left Singapore, I’m pretty sure he ended up helping me reverse the car down
my driveway more times than I had chapatis!

On another occasion, I decided the best driving challenge would be to lose one
contact lens while doing a spot of netting shrimps with Brother, Rahimah and
the kids at Changi Swimming Club (without Rick around), before driving home
with only one contact lens in! I gave myself extra bonus points by having
Brother (who to this day does not drive), in the passenger seat acting as
navigator and my second set of eyes… Boy! That proved to be the longest 15
minutes drive of my life!

Despite these various attempts to keep my life interesting, I found myself
becoming more and more depressed and the hardest part was to keep up with the
pretence that I was a contented wife and mother. Rick and I grew further apart
and my resentment towards his alcoholism became more intense. In anger, I once
challenged him to admit he had a drinking problem but adamantly he denied it by
brusquely saying, “I’m NOT an alcoholic, I don’t drink until after 4 pm!” The
fact that he didn’t stop drinking till the wee hours of the morning did not
indicate a drinking problem, it was merely his way of relaxing.

For reasons unknown, Rick began experiencing E.D. (erectile dysfunction). Once
again, I suggested we seek professional counselling and finally, in early 1981,
Rick agreed. Unfortunately, he only attended the first individual session and
flatly refused to attend the following joint session. He declared yet again
that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him and laid the blame squarely on
my shoulders. I was to blame for his condition which was merely a form of
psychological punishment towards me for being a cold fish! He refused to see
the issue from my perspective and as far as he was concerned, the matter was
closed. This sad situation remained until his contract ended and we returned to
Australia for good a few months later.

As expected, there was no improvement after our return to Australia and the
facade continued in front of his family and friends. Each time I broached on
the subject of our failing marriage, he would brush it aside as being of little
consequence. As for his E.D. condition, he retorted with, “I have nothing else
to prove. After all, I have fathered three children, haven’t I?” When it came
to the lack of intimacy, he said it wasn’t his fault that I was a sex maniac.
He insisted that instead of being preoccupied with sex, I should concentrate on
getting the dust off the furniture!

His sarcastic remarks hurt me even though I tried to dismiss them as the
ramblings of a drunkard. On one occasion, after an afternoon of drinking at a
bbq with Eric and Prudence who were staying at St Lucia, (Qld) at the time, I
offered to drive back to the Sunshine Coast. Once safely home, I stupidly
sought approval by asking what he thought of my driving, to which he replied,
“It’s ok if you’ve got a bottle of Scotch inside you!” That was the last time I
drove him anywhere…

While Rick resumed work in Alice Springs, I kept busy by getting involved with
the school that our kids were attending. I became a helping mum with reading
classes, made friends with Deej’s teacher, (Janice L) and eagerly participated
in most of the school activities, from cooking for the international food day
to making costumes for dress-up days. Deej joined the Cubs and I was to take
over the duties as the Akela (Cub Scout adult leader) but it didn’t eventuate
as my marriage had irretrievably broken down just before the initiation date.
1983 saw the end of my first marriage.

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