I used to think I had style. My sons taught me to look after my appearance, not just for appearance’s sake. You will feel good about yourself. It’s about self esteem, another chimed. When you respect yourself, others will too, added the third. Dress well, walk straight, and don’t smell like an old man. Have some style, old man. For all my married life, I hardly peered into the mirror. Why bother? My peers don’t care, The Mrs certainly doesn’t, why do I care? Even when I was the Financial Controller of a consortium that developed retirement villages, it did not occur to me to be stylish. Sure, I may have held meetings dressed in my ill-fitting sky blue Roger David suit, strode intently along Pirie Street with matching scuffed brown shoes and a scuffed brown briefcase containing dreaded white bread sandwiches for lunch. Dreaded it so much I avoided opening my briefcase wide open. Back then was my heyday, my catchcry was make hay whilst the sun shines. Style wasn’t trumpeted by me, it was always about content, content, content. As long as I spoke with substance, there was no need for bespoke suits and shoes, right? I had it all figured out. The emperor without clothes is still the emperor. Hans Christian Andersen was absolutely correct to write about the emperor’s invisible clothes. It didn’t matter to the masses, for they feared they would be considered dumb and unworthy if they pointed out that he was naked. Likewise, in my case, everyone would be too respectful of my position to scoff at my poor fashion sense. My job offered me the status and gave me the self belief to speak with authority. It is remarkable how far illusions can take us! I only stopped The Mrs from cutting my hair after my sons squealed and successfully protested against being subjected to their mother’s elementary haircutting skills. They were still in primary school, whereas I was well into my thirties. We all had the same haircut, we looked clearly from the same family. The Mrs knew how to cut only one style, friends called it The Coconut. I am still amazed at how the sons knew to dislike that style at such a young age. In my thirties, it looked quite alright to me. If my sons reckoned they didn’t look good with the coconut cut, it made sense to follow them, three votes win. Since then, I have been quietly copying them, no one would be so discerning to know, I assured myself. If they looked good in a Boss shirt, I’d go buy one too, in a different colour. If long hair was in, I would be even happier. No need to pay the Korean barber anymore. I never did like her garlic breath hissing down my nape. If they excitedly shared their free sample of SKII facial cream, I’d rush out and get a Jurlique cream, the best local equivalent. When Zara came to town, they all got excited. Who’s Zara, I asked. She must be pretty. I even got myself a Zara V-neck white shirt which I wore to Penang for my recent holiday. My friends wouldn’t know it’s five years old.
I blame Murray for my stye. I knew I did a no-no as soon as I rubbed my eyes on the weekend. Murray had licked my hands earlier. Murray! Bad dog!! No teeth, no licking from now on. Alpha males don’t lick. Especially hands. Despite the science blaming Staphylococcus bacteria for giving us styes, some still say voyeurism causes it. The last time my left eye spied a stye was when I was a little boy growing up in Penang. That was a long time ago, did I peep at the next door’s daughter? My memory fails me, sigh. I still don’t understand the science behind it but my Ma knew exactly how to cure it. First, you wipe your eyes clean with mild soap and warm water. There is no need for antibiotics for now, Ma is averse to unnecessary antibiotics. There is no need to visit a doctor either. Ma is averse to doctors too, they generally will prescribe some costly medication, unnecessary or otherwise. Just get the needle box out, pull a black cotton thread, a length enough to tie it around your middle finger. Count, make sure you tie seven knots, behind a door. Left eye, left finger. Hey presto! The stye will disappear within three weeks. I might just give that a try, even though Mr Google informs me a stye generally will go away by itself in about three weeks. I am anxious to drop my stye as it is starting to cramp my style. I couldn’t even look at the pretty salesgirl straight in the eye today; she furrowed her eyebrows and asked if my “pimple” was contagious. I pretended to mishear her and said I don’t have a dimple. Urghhling.