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Monday, February 25, 2008
Milly’s Story

~ We're Not Gonna Take It, Twisted Sister

The old boys travelled for hours for a very testosterone filled party over the weekend. I, for one, sat in a car for 5 hours on Friday afternoon, to converge for this very special occasion. A 40th birthday celebration is a rather special occasion. Isn’t it?


‘I can’t believe he is hugging him!’ she gasped. She was the prettiest girl I have seen in the last three weeks. Which is a very fine compliment for a nation that is really challenged in the looks department. It has been three weeks since I lived here and I have not met a single man I had considered good looking.

And then there was Milly. She was blonde and beautiful. She was a show stopper, in her blood red coat, matching scarf, slutty red boots and a Gucci clutch.

‘Do you know that my husband hates men hugging?’ Milly said again. She rested her chin on her right hand. She observed her husband, Jerry and was caught by surprise. Her husband was publicly showing immense affection for his mate, the birthday boy.

Going old school, they played LPs on an antique recorder. Milly clapped her hands in delight (and utter surprise) when Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna To Take It’ played. The boys jointly stood up, gathered in a circle and chest butted each other.

‘I don’t understand why men behave that way,’ Milly said, just as the boys pointed their index fingers at each other and sang the chorus in unison. Birthday boy was singing into an invisible mic made out of his fist.

‘It’s male bonding. That’s how they… MEN… show love,’ I replied.


I have been caught by surprise twice since arriving here and going out with the locals. Maybe I value my privacy more than others. It is always surprising to meet people who are so honest and open during their first conversation with a person, who a minute before was a total stranger.

The first was the conversation I had with a 44 year old man, who is a confirmed bachelor for life. He talked about his relationship problem immediately after ‘Hi, my name is Tim’. His problem involved an ex-wife, 3 teenage daughters and a new slightly younger girlfriend.

The second was my conversation with Milly (with a short interruption by Lucca). Milly grew up with these boys. They were all friends, all part of the cool pack back in the 80s. They all laughed together, sang together and in the summers, swam naked in the lake together. And like ducklings taking to water, these friends naturally jumped into the sauna naked. Together.

‘Sometimes I feel that this isn’t happening,’ Milly said. ‘I am still very young. I wake up sometimes wondering why am I married to Jerry.’ She sighed, feeling almost at lost, in a situation that she had brought upon herself. ‘I’m going to divorce him.’ I am unsure if she was kidding or seriously considering the option.

She felt that she should not be married. Four years older than I am, she woke up one day and felt that the world was her oyster. She could be anyone she dreamt of being, if only she was free. Her life, according to Milly, was filled with ‘if only’-s.

‘If only I am single, I would be in another city’.

‘I love cats and would have a cat, if only Jerry was not allergic to cats’.

‘There are so many things that I can do with my life, if only I am free’.


‘Oh god, how long have we known each other?’ Lucca asked, after he gulped some beer from the fresh can.

The numbers popped up like mushroom after a rainy day.

‘Is it 10 years?’

‘No, it has to be longer. I’m married for six.’

‘Hmmmm, I think it was in ’93 that we met,’ Lucca said.

‘No, I was in college and I am sure to have met you before then.’

‘It must have been in 1989.’ Lucca’s voice trailed off as he reflected back in time. ‘Yes, on New Year eve of ’88’.

‘How long has it been?’ Milly asked aloud. ‘That would be 19 years now.’ She paused for a second before bursting out: ‘Oh my god! It’s been 19 years!’

And it was not a happy discovery. ’19 years and look what I have.’

Milly looked miserable. She bit her lips and looked at Lucca, who gave her a hug. ‘Look, I am with Mary for 7 years.’

(In all honesty, 19 years is a hell lot longer than 7 years but one must give the man some credit. He did try to pacify the realisation.)

‘Look, you have Mary for 7 years and you have a child together. What do I have? I have nothing for my 19 years.’

I glimpsed over to the noisy side of the party. There was Jerry dancing with the old boys. Oblivious to what was happening right here on the quieter side. Right here, where Lucca, Milly and I shared her story.

‘I have nothing for my 19 years. Jerry and I don’t share a child. We do not share a car or a house. I am 36 years old and spent 19 years with a man and I have nothing,’.


Now here is the strange bit. When it comes to love, human are ever hopeful. We talk about having each other in the evenings, sharing good times and building dreams and memories together. Ask yourself what are the benefits of being in a relationship and chances are you, like me, would quote reasons such as ‘hug each other’, ‘have fun together’ and ‘having a friend’.

We never talk about house mortgage or diaper duties. It is as if, a mortal sin, to talk about what you have gained (and shared) in terms of money, properties, pets and babies.

Here was was Milly, who equated her love to the above – sharing a car loan, house mortgage and lots of dirty diaper changes and milk puke. All the hugs in the world and “I love you” in the mornings do not carry the same weight at the end of the day.

Is it wrong for us to think what have we profitted out of a relationship? Does it mean that we are calculative (and thus insincere) in our love for our partners? Is it wrong to check our relationships and to ask what have we gotten out of the whole deal? Is it wrong to debit and credit our relationship, as if it is an account in the bank?

At the end of the day, what matters in our relationship? Is it the invisible rewards such as security within a (hopefully monogamous) relationship? Or does the crux lie in the very basic human needs – physical sustenance and fulfilment of human needs.


As the night wore on, I gave up whatever music standard I had and started to dance with the boys. Obviously they stopped chest butting by 5 a.m. which made it all more convenient. And from the corner of my eye, I saw Milly nesting her arms in Lucca’s. Nothing wrong there, to be honest since I cling onto MiniBoyFriend R every now and then.

Her emotional dam burst and quietly tears rolled down her pink cheeks. She cried, shook her head and cried some more. She got up to take a piece of tissue from the kitchen counter and walked back into Lucca’s arms. He gave her a light kiss and wiped her tears away. Their bodies were aligned into each other’s.

In Jerry’s shoes, I would have spent some private moments with Milly. To talk to her and to show her that she was special. That she was not like the rest of us at the party. He could have publicly indicated that she was someone special to him and that she mattered.

I would have spent some private time with my wife, especially after finding her riding another man like a horse. It was not a drunk stunt one would pull after 8 hours of drinking. It was clearly an attempt to win little attention from her chest butting husband. Jerry kept quiet and let it happen. Maybe he wanted to look cool, that it was okay for his wife to ride another friend. Maybe he did not want to make the issue bigger right in front of friends. Whatever the reason, Jerry either stood and watched without much of any emotion or ignored Milly with continuous head banging, chest butting and merry making with the old boys.

Would you be Milly, in Milly’s shoes? I am more of the “storm out of the party after slapping him” sort but this is Milly’s story.


By 6:30 a.m. Milly had her hands, legs and head on Lucca’s hands, laps and shoulders. Everyone created an alternate reality by smoking cigars by the frozen lake. I assumed that Jerry could not take another minute of everything because he went to the bathroom for the longest time. He emerged much later, on the floor. Milly laughed just as Jerry’s snores transmitted from one end of the living room into the other end of the dining cum kitchen area.

Her eyes were swollen. She still sobbed a little, with a tissue in hand. Her head was still latched on Lucca’s shoulders when we all sat at the table to fill our growling stomach. I left the party immediately after that, without much of a word. I washed my face while looking at Zach, who passed out cold on the bathroom floor.


‘What makes you crawl back to your wife after all these years?’ I asked a long time friend. He was married to his wife for more than half his life. ‘What is your secret to a happy marriage?’

‘I share a romantic house mortgage and 2 kids with her.’ Not the sort of romantic reply that I had imagined and expected. ‘I will be financially ruined if we divorced. Plus the kids are lovely’.


I cringed when I first heard my father’s most memorable advice: ‘Find a decent man who loves you. Get married and have his children.’


Reflecting on my own life, if I can have a moment of truth, I know Milly’s story. I understand Milly’s story because I was Milly. I am still Milly and I am not the only Milly in the world.

I am from a different generation of women. Unlike my mother and grand mother’s generations, I have all the freedom accorded to man. I stand on equal ground. As long as I am willing to believe that I can, I know that I can. There is no boundary and no limit to what I can do or achieve. The key is finding the space in my heart and mind to do it.

While some women define their worth by being with a man and having a family, I believe in finding my own place in the world. I believe in carving my own name and future. I never saw the necessity of a man to complete who I am. I admit that I find myself lonely at times and lost for most of the time. I am still trying to define who I am outside of society’s definition: grow up, be pretty, study alright, find a suitable family friendly (good enough a job to mention during parties but will not take up your entire waking hours) career, catch the most eligible bachelor, walk down the wedding aisle, have children and raise them well.

One of the reasons (if I dare to be honest with myself) why I am in and out of relationships is because there was never an anchor in the relationships. Aside from preschool crushes and highschool secret boyfriends, I had 5 relationships in my adult life so far. Barring the starter relationship being mad and destructive, all consequent relationships were wonderful and healthy. So why did the love not last forever?

On days when I dare to be true to myself, I would say to myself that there was never a single thing that tied me to my relationship. Sure, I had fun and the relationships were good. Sure, we travelled here and there, did lots and lots of things. Sure, we laughed more than we cried. But like Milly, I too feel that there is nothing in my relationships to seal the deal. There are no jointly shared properties in our names and no children to call our own.


Milly is a young and attractive woman. There will be many men queuing up to comfort her and hold her hand. There will many men to reaffirm her and tell her all that she wants to hear. She will be awoken and she will realise the many things that once clouded her head before.

And when the time comes, when Milly is ready, she will find the courage to share a mortgage and children with someone special. If it is not Jerry, it would be some guy named Peter. Or Andy or William or David. All she needs to do is put her mind to it.


I woke up at 11 a.m. to go to the loo. Zach was still sleeping next to the toilet bowl. I returned to my bedroom and sat there for the longest time, just watching the snow fall, covering the old, dirty snow with a fresh layer of white fluffy snow flakes.

Life is like a snowy morning. You are fresh, white and blameless again.

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thank you. this is very well-written and it touched me.

4:30 am  

You are most welcome.

6:45 am  

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