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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