So last Friday I found myself ensconced in the warm embrace of Singapore's "first members-only club", bobbing to the dull thud of what, on hindsight now, must have been music. It was a queer feeling, to be both an insider and outsider at the same time: I was unsure whether to feel sad about my initial exclusion (really a mean business concept), or happy at my intervening intrusion. This dilemma did not bother me for long, however, for soon I was caught up in the vicissitudes of "being happz".
Because this was the "first members-only club" in Singapore, everyone in the club was just that much more "happz". Never mind that half the people I knew there were not members; never mind that the other half were janitors at my office who had missed the last bus back to JB. It was MEMBERS-ONLY, so the ante had to be upped.
But first: what exactly is "happz"? It is a difficult concept to articulate. Let us give examples, first, of what is not "happz". Farting is not "happz", regardless of gender. A female admitting to bodily functions is not "happz". A bloke PayPalling you for $0.05 is not "happz". Supporting Manchester United when you cannot play football is not "happz". Oh, a good one: blogging about clubbing is not "happz".
Now that we have defined the concept negatively, we can move into firmer territory. For starters, who is "happz"? The answer, unequivocally, has to be Wolverine. Wolverine is "happz". Nobody will ever say otherwise. Can you think of someone who is more "happz" than Wolverine?
Gambit: I am more "happz" than you, wolf-boy.
Wolverine: I have adamantium erection. You have exploding penis.
Gambit: OK I lose.
I cannot. And so Wolverine sets the standard for "happz" - at least for the men. (I will talk about female "happz" later, or tomorrow, because I am so busy.) Now, what are the characteristics of Wolverine that lend him so well to being "happz"? I shall outline a few:
1. Wolverine kills people.
2. Wolverine cannot die.
3. Wolverine is attractive to women.
4. Wolverine is laconic.
5. Wolverine has a scarred past.
6. Wolverine can shoot out adamantium claws from his knuckles.
7. Wolverine smokes.
8. Wolverine is called Wolverine (and not, say, "Lupine-Man" or "Lupus").
1 is out of reach of most normal people. However, you can project the idea that you kill people. This is why guys wear tight t-shirts that barely cover their rippling muscles. Or you could carry an unsheathed knife all over the place with a crazed look in your eyes.
I sense objection. Someone is shouting: "A crazed man carrying a knife is not 'happz', he is just crazy!" This is a misguided counterpoint. A crazed man is the essence of "happz". Someone who does not change himself to suit the world is "happz". Of course, if subsequently the crazed man breaks down and sobs an apology into tissue along the lines of "My mama abandoned me I just want attention with my knifey boohoohoo", he becomes extremely "unhappz". Wolverine would never do this. Wolverine would say to anybody who asks, "Go fuck yourself."
2 is similar to 1, except that projecting it is slightly harder. You have to do stupid things, like drink 23746872 shots or bungee jump. And there is the risk that you might die. Therefore in general, it is cooler to be 2 than 1, if you can only manage one. But if you can only manage one, you are probably never going to be "happz", so you might as well give up and go back to supporting Manchester United.
3 is actually the end result of everything in the list.
4 speaks for itself (haha). The less you say, the more other people can talk and trip themselves up. In Wolverine's case, I suspect slight dyslexia and mental retardation but hey, if it works it works. Allow others to project themselves onto you; it makes them like you because you remind them of them.
5 is crucial. If you have no scarred past, nobody will be drawn to your hidden magnetic allure. Because of their shallow natures and inability to accept reality, people like to think that things have depth. Make a torrid past up if you have none; every scar can be turned into a story. To date my cleft lip has bestowed upon me all manner of heroics: bank robbery, skateboarding accident, "you should see the other guy" broken-bottle fight etc etc. If you have no physical scars, emotional scars work too, but be careful; don't whine. State matter-of-factly ("yeah my father castrated himself, then killed my mother"), steel your jaw and then down the shot you have in front of you.
6 - let's not waste time here, bub.
7 is fun. Don't think that Wolverine only smokes cigars; he smokes cigarettes off and on too. The key is appropriateness. When in the gutter, cigarettes; when photographed, cigars; when in a Victorian building, pipes. Let the smell hang on your clothes so the women you make love to can feel the difference between you (dirty scruffy badass cur) and them (pure silken fragrant tofu). If you don't actually like putting things in your mouth, you can find a nicotine scent to put on you. It does the job of hiding affairs just as well.
8 appears unimportant, but really it is very, very important. A man with a lousy name is worse off than a man with no name. Ergo, if you have a lousy name, just abandon it. Tell people you have no name, and see what happens. It will always pan out more "happz" than not. Consider:
A: What's your name?
A: What's your name?
B: I have no name.
A: How come?
B: Guess my parents forgot.
A: Oh dear.
B: Don't worry, they're dead now.
A: Oh dear.
B: Yeah I killed them. For forgetting to give me a name.
If this approach is too extreme, you can always give yourself a name. But here is the difficult part. You cannot give yourself a name that is obviously self-given. This is because it is extremely "unhappz" to do anything for yourself. Take, for example, photos that are put up on Facebook. People always try to make it look like other people are always taking photos of them and putting them up. "... Dude when was this taken? don't remember it ... musta been totally wasted ha ..." writes Wannabe X. Oh really? You don't remember? I took it after you failed to pay me back for dinner, farted and declared that you supported Manchester United. Remember now? Wanker.
So very sad but true, the very behaviour I condemn is the one that most closely approximates "happz" behaviour. Ideally, of course, you will already have a cool name, but if you don't, remember not to go overboard choosing. Classic English names are all the rage now: see that you adhere, Andrew. Go away, LeBron.
Now that we know what "happz" is, we can go back into Singapore's "first members-only club", where I am standing in a corner drinking ginger ale and being very "unhappz". I am watching people, watching for clues on how to behave. My eyes fixate on a singular man, who appears to be doing his best to be "happz", but I think he has only managed to "blend in". Have you ever stared very hard at computer-generated audiences in sports games like Virtua Tennis or Winning Eleven? OK, you haven't, but I have. Basically the illusion of a crowd falls away, and you are left thinking: it is really, really sad to be a piece of background looped animation.
That is what happens as I stare at this man (let's call him Bobby). Bobby is bouncing on his feet, looking here and there, a glass of alcohol permanently riveted to his left palm. He has the shoes, the shirt, the look; but he has no idea what he is doing. He is trying so hard to be "happz" it is clear that he is no longer enjoying himself. His conversations with his companions are meaningless ejaculations of less than 5 syllables; his drink does not so much hydrate him as it is supposed to validate him; he does not know the lyrics to any of the songs, but he moves his lips nonetheless (maybe he is deaf! alamak I am so cruel, but it is too late now). Actually, what would a deaf man be doing in a club? No, it cannot be possible. I do not feel bad anymore.
I am starting to enjoy isolating people and watching them. I find that the club becomes less intimidating when I do this. Nobody knows what they are doing. Everyone is pretending. Even Extreme Chiobu With Light Sticks has moments where she is standing there, staring into space, questioning her choice of activity on a Friday night. It is comforting, knowing that I am not alone; knowing that members and non-members alike do not find belonging in a club that has, from the get-go, been created to divide.
3 AM, the lights come up; one man is drunk beyond sentience. He sits alone at a sofa, abandoned by his friends (including Extreme Chiobu With Light Sticks). The security men are prodding him none too gently; no matter, he is dead to the world. Takeaway #1: alcohol is not a magic bullet that makes you "happz". You have to be "happz" first before you can rely on alcohol to enhance your "happz"ness.
A couple are still kissing (they came to the club together and pretty much made out the whole time). I gawk openly, but my thoughts are intellectual and deep. Why do couples come to clubs together? Are they so insecure that they must kiss in public? Why not set up a website and charge $14.99 for monthly subscription? Takeaway #2: a lot of your love life can be monetized.
I am sad at having to leave Singapore's "first members-only club"; given my status as non-member, I am unsure if I will ever be able to return to its hallowed premises. But my friends are impatient ("eh let's go wait outside the toilet for chiobu to come out!"), so I linger for only a little while longer before skulking outside.
One of my friends is impatient to leave. "Eh let's go lah," he says. I ask, Why? Did we not want to ogle chiobus coming out from the toilet? "No lah, let's go let's go." Had we not been ogling chiobus inside the club? "Yes but now is outside. Let's go let's go." Why is it that ogling can only take place inside the club but not outside the club? "Cos I say cannot OK?" OK.
As we part ways outside the club (I wave to the janitors from my office), I look over to the taxi queue. People still have their walls up; I can hear the pointless conversations that are being had, the posturing, the complete inability of every individual tumbling out of the "first members-only club" to simply be himself or herself. I want to go up to the girl who is giggling in her affected manner and tell her: "When you lie to others, you are only lying to yourself, fool! Now are those fake?" But I stop myself, because (a) I have no balls and (b) I hear another voice telling me - "This is how different people have fun, don't be so judgmental." (Actually this is the voice of Xiuhui, who likes to take the side of morons (for the challenge).)
And so I leave these people to be "happz"; I think I will be happy instead.