Last week, I confided to Keith what had been bothering me. Keith, a good friend who shares many of my flawed traits, shocked me. He told me to be risqué. Nothing major, these flaws of ours but at the same time, they can be rather annoying. We are almost like peas of the same pod, so similar are we with our jaundiced views of the world. But, Keith can cook really well whereas he jokes that I, being one of very many accountants in our chat group, can only cook the books. Most of us were from the Science stream of our school – how so many of us ended up being fastidious and “very exact” accountants is a mystery. “Purely accidental”, Chip, a rather fastidious chap, said. Someone as punctilious as he surely would not have resigned himself to an accidental event to determine his career, I thought. People like him do not take such risks. Chip wanted to be a hotelier but he too ended up as an accountant. The penny suddenly dropped – Chip could have been talking about me. Yup, that is one of my flaws – leaving it to fate (or accidents) to decide which path to walk. A gung-ho trait, come what may – just deal with it. Keith was also like that. In my case, I was destined to go into Dentistry, except that my dad withheld the letter of offer from the School of Dentistry and the rest is history, as the popular saying goes. Keith became a loss assessor instead. He was so lost at the time, he said. It was the only job available to him as his MCE results were so poor he did not qualify to do the A levels. Aloysius, another fastidious chap in the conversation said he responded to a job ad in the Straits Echo for audit assistants. At the time he was clueless what audit was. All he knew was that his folks could not afford to put him through uni. Aloysius did not realise education was free in Australia during those short but wonderful years. My 4th Sis told me, and I assumed everyone knew. No need to share news that the public already knows.
What I confided to Keith was the drop in my WordPress readership statistics.The numbers looked bleak. I thought he, with similar flaws like mine, would be sympathetic. After all, he understands what narcissists love – they seek adulation or at the very least, appreciation of everything good about them. They need to satiate their sense of their own importance or popularity. For bloggers, vital numbers such as visitor numbers and numbers of views per visitor reveal a lot. The bloggers who are concerned about the popularity of their writings may very well feel deflated when those numbers drop like bricks. My stats are awful. They are like bricks. I started blogging in 2019. Then, the views per visitor was a low 2.52. Rather than being dismayed by the low number, I told myself it would only get better with time. The following year was a bad year – the pandemic struck. But, the number of visitors dropped 40% when one would have expected it to improve, given that people, forced to stay at home, went online in droves searching for content to keep themselves occupied. Not only did the number of visitors drop, the number of views per visitor also sank, to 1.93. Demoralising, surely, to a narcissist. 2021 has been even more devastating, the new low is now 1.60 views per visitor. Yup, numbers do not lie and my falling popularity is sticking out like dog’s balls.
Keith and I have too many flaws to mention here. One thing we have in common is our lack of concern about how others feel about us. We are not afraid to be seen to be annoying so long as we are true to ourselves. You may say that is the opposite of a narcissist. Yet, sometimes, I think it is precisely because the chap is so confident in his own skin that he simply doesn’t care what others think of him. So, he calls a spade a spade. He is always prepared to speak the unvarnished truth. It is similar to cooking a dish, he does not add extra spices to disguise a rotting piece of meat, just as he would not add icing to a stale cake to make it presentable.
I was therefore taken aback when Keith suggested I should take more risks when I write. “Don’t be staid”, he advised. “You’re not an accounting firm”. “No one wants to read about numbers and stats”, he echoed The Mrs’ remarks made to me a few weeks ago. Remarks that cut me like a sharp razor. Yet, when Keith said it, I felt non-plussed at first. After pondering on it for a few seconds, I replied in bold. “Stats matter!” I argued with total seriousness as only an accountant would. “Be risqué”, Keith continued. He suggested that I write about my sexual exploits during my youth. “Share with us nitty-gritty tales about your girlfriends in school, for instance”. We all know sex sells, but I was a virgin in school. Nothing to capture anyone’s attention here. “Maybe some explosive scandalous gossip”, Keith persisted. If only I had lost my trousers in a hotel room, I could surely share all the saucy details here.
I could write about the Girl Guide I met in a Jamboree. But, that’s risky, I decided. The facts weren’t risqué but my thoughts were. I remembered her as Janet. Her pigtails were unforgettable. In fact, she remains the only girl I have met with the cutest pigtails. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. She flicked them side to side like how Cheng Pei-Pei flicked her daggers with her pigtails in The Flying Dagger. I had the hots for that Kungfu actress even before adolescence gave me pimples and a croaky voice. Janet had the sweetest smile reserved purely for me. Her alluring pout captivated me instantly and those full glossy lips of hers made me crazy. I discovered what priapic meant after that moment. Her glittering and deep-set eyes laughed whenever I spoke to her friends. She didn’t say a word but I felt she was screaming for my attention. When our eyes finally met, the whole world stopped and everyone stood still with eyes shut as if to allow us the privacy to say hello for the first time.
Maybe it is easier if I write about myself, but who am I to think I can hold a reader’s attention? I don’t have personal stories about underage sex or drugs or rape. Even if I did, who would bother to be interested? I could paint myself as a villain perhaps and describe all my flaws that make me an ugly person. Expose the possibility that I could have been gaslighting my colleagues? It is easy to destroy a person’s reputation but it is manifestly much easier to destroy a person’s sense of self worth. Just drum into them they have an inferior complex and they will begin to believe they are inferior. Or maybe if I confessed to my readers why I am an idiot and a fool? Show them the scars in my mind and the psychological baggage I have been carrying ever since that night when I was almost sexually assaulted by my school chaplain?
I could fake a crisis in my life and create a dilemma that requires my urgent decision to either end the boredom of a rather mundane daily routine that bedevils my mind and disrupt this life that has been kind to me, or continue with the secure and peaceful existence that has provided me with a long-lasting marriage and three wonderful sons? Create some uncertainty in the reader’s mind about my well-being? Pretend all is not well with my marriage, for instance? Keep the readers hooked. Get them to wonder if The Mrs will divorce me? But that’s too risky also. Let’s not give any more ideas to her. She won’t need too many reasons to encourage her!
I considered writing about my health. Recently, I went for a medical checkup. I had been neglecting my own healthcare. My previous visit to a doctor was almost three years ago. At a time when I should have had a digital examination to check for any prostate problems, I avoided it like how a chook would avoid being wet. It was scandalous a few years ago when a politician said he chose a young female Chinese GP for a prostate examination because young Chinese females have small hands. But, really, can you blame him? I would not want a doctor with massive hands to examine me either!
My blood test results were perfect. The doctor said perfect, not just good. Perfect! And not merely perfect for my age. Perfect for any age, I think. Well, it was perfect until the LDL cholesterol reading was read out. “5.8”, a really bad number that any doctor would unhesitatingly prescribe a permanent dosage of statins. I refused my doctor’s advice like how a naughty boy would refuse to go to school. “I would just flush them pills down the toilet”, I said. As a compromise, I agreed to sacrifice full cream milk, cheese and butter. The other bad stuffs to avoid aren’t big in my diet anyway. I hardly eat bread, so avoiding butter is easy. I am not a big meat eater, so saying no to red meat, fatty meat and cured meats is easy to do. The only thing is I have to settle for skim milk instead. Skim milk is as boring as having sex without a wild imagination. Keith, is that risqué enough? If not, I am out of good ideas.
Lastly, the only other thing to grab my reader’s attention or eke out an emotional response has to be about death. Write about the drama of death. All good stories often involve the hero’s death. Jason Lee, a jolly good friend who was one of my best pals in Form 5 rang me earlier this week. We went to the State Library every day in the last 8 weeks before our MCE. There were distractions in the library but for once, pretty girls ranked lower in importance than the quest to pass our exams. By then, my pimples were popping violently like shaken champagne and I learned that libido was fun, unlike judo. Jason said we are all born to die. Death is not only inevitable but it is also the last thing all of us must face. Death is universal, it doesn’t discriminate. Alright, let me try to be risqué here. Death is universal but it can discriminate. A childhood hero, Bruce Lee, died happily whilst enjoying sex with his girlfriend. A nice way to write about death, isn’t it? Better that than write about Meghan Markle’s narcissistic personality about why she won’t be attending Prince Philip’s funeral. She said she didn’t want to snatch the world’s attention from the dead man. She is such an ugly Urghhling, don’t you agree?
Why do I write? It isn’t for a want of a big following. It isn’t even about the number of views per visitor on my WordPress account. Once upon a time, maybe briefly, I harboured that dream. Like how a Youtuber friend would eye the number of views and likes on a video he recently posted. The new hope to be an overnight sensation didn’t last long. There will be no Booker prize in my name or any literary award to aim for. I think I write to disturb. To disturb my own mind. In that respect, it is risky work, facing up to and then exposing my own psyche, my flaws, my prejudices. I write for selfish reasons. To improve my command of the English language. To organise my thought processes, to reach a considered conclusion about a subject matter. To build self-confidence. I don’t write to foment unrest in my mind but rather to put down in words my jumbled-up thoughts that sizzle inside my burning head at frenetic speed sometimes. The hope is of course to write something new, something interesting that a reader will turn the page and stay with me till the last word. That is all I hope to achieve – to disturb my reader, to touch someone emotionally or intellectually. If I can evoke an emotion or thought through my stories, I would feel very thankful.