Thursday, September 28

Relishing good times in wit and laughter


Lyn Ngui, an ex-classmate of the writer, laughing heartily upon her arrival for the Marian reunion.

IN my previous article, I described how my dear friend Datin Dayang Mariani Abang Zain gently persuaded me to model six-inch platform sandals in front of a crowd, just for laughs.

Thanks to the bulky sandals, they just whipped up our sense of humour and then, the shyness slipped away.

It had been a while since I had been doing such ‘stunts’ for a stage performance (I have grown shy).

The world really does revolve around humour!

Dayang Mariani (second right) gesturing after having pinned the St Mary’s badge on Watson’s blouse, with (from left) Morina and the writer looking on.

I have been told that laughing helps reduce your weight and tone your belly. As you laugh, the muscles in your belly expand and contract fully, which is like exercising your abs.

According to a study, laughter reduces the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which lowers the metabolism and stores fat in the midsection.

This means laughter can help improve your metabolism naturally, which in turn, influences your body to burn more calories and lose weight.

However, it does not seem to work for me even though I laugh.

I even make laughs. My belly is still threatening the buttons on my shirt!

Tears of laughter

Even when the joke is not funny, my friend can easily burst into tears of laughter, and she is still quite large. She must be relishing the additional advantages of laughing.

She does, however, appear wealthy. I used to think that people gain weight because they are happy, and I still believe that to be true.

They say ‘laughter is the best medicine’.

True. A good laugh makes you happy. It boosts your mood and diminishes your worries and pain. Being able to laugh frequently helps to combat problems and make for our well-being, both physically and mentally.

The good feeling you get from laughing is comparable to the ecstasy you get from scratching an itch, albeit the former is triggered by something funny and the other, by a skin condition.

That being said, now I am prodded to write a few more anecdotes from my memory box.

I cannot but hark back to our Marian classmates reunion when we turned 60 just six years ago. Our theme for the reunion was supposed to make laughs – ‘Sexie 60’!

Meeting old classmates

Even so, we had never felt ‘sexier’. Meeting old classmates since childhood at a class reunion rejuvenates your youth although you cannot help the excessive wrinkles on your face from laughing so much.

Having arrived there, 60 is not old after all, and I doubt 70 is.

The wrinkles are just skin.

We laughed non-stop all night. The antics of everyone were still present.

Georgina Ho gave the girls a hilarious surprise as an example of hers. She approached me as I was emceeing and garlanded me with a necklace she had made out of round, fresh green and vibrant red chillies.

The chilli necklace was my prize for being ‘the most notorious girl’ in school during our time, she said as she took the microphone, laughing cheekily. The girls laughed and rolled around in their seats in agreement with her clever idea.

“Was I? I thought it was you,” I quipped over the mic.

Georgina putting a ‘chilli necklace’ on the writer.

I could see that Georgina was loaded with laughter when she walked staggeringly back to her seat, looking very satisfied with her ‘yippee’ moment.

She just played a joke on me. Good on her, she must have burned thousands of calories with that victorious laugh.

The ‘Hot Chilli Award’ was so hilarious that it nudged me to give a so-called appreciation speech to the audience who were still in stitches. The medal just whetted our appetite for more laughs.

More awards were coming. Dayang Mariani went to the extent of ‘conferring’ an ‘Honorary Marian’ title (not that there was such a title in the history of St Mary’s School) to Juliet Watson, a friend of our ex-classmate Philippa Edwards who tagged along with her all the way from New Zealand to attend the reunion.

‘Loud’ Marian culture

It only took her a few minutes to assimilate to the ‘loud’ Marian culture.

Dayang Mariani performed the award presentation ceremony by pinning our school badge on her blouse.

Rita Lai’s cackle laugh was the loudest. Like everyone else, the pin-sized lady found the dry humour very amusing. Everybody knew that the loud cackle was from her.

For a moment, I imagined the ‘Oprah Winfrey’ talk show. My co-host Morina Feenstra carried herself like Winfrey as she introduced and interviewed the award recipients in a relaxed setting – the television talk show kind of atmosphere.

The confidence level was high, and so was the level of craziness. Everybody was full of zest in line with the theme ‘Sexie 60’. We were already thinking of ‘Sexie 16 (Sixteen)’ for our next theme.

The ‘Sexie 60 girls’ all gathered and ready for a group photo.

As one of the main organisers of the reunion, Dayang Mariani gave her welcome speech.

She is the quintessential Marian who is our contact-person for old teachers and long lost classmates. She never failed to visit the late Miss Ruth Duncombe, former principal of St Mary’s Secondary School who was the last of the British teachers there, whenever she made a trip to London where Duncombe resided after retirement.

Cordial relationship

Dayang Mariani developed a cordial friendship with the elderly woman who now uses Duncombe’s intonation whenever she speaks. She now enjoys maintaining contact with other senior teachers who had previously taught us at St Mary’s and expressing her gratitude, respect, and care for them.

The other members of our group occasionally accompany her to visit with these remarkable women, whose devotion to their work had transformed us into whole beings with a holistic view of life.

It is good to catch up with old classmates and teachers. I recall a class reunion high tea where Morina and I were at a loss when an ex-classmate we did not recognise came and hugged us with much excitement.

“Your face looks familiar. I think your name will come next. Yes, it’s coming…” said Morina.

“Oh, you’re the one!” I exclaimed, giving her shoulders a friendly squeeze after the hug. Our memory did not come back.

After the exchange of pleasantries, we kept knocking our heads with our fingers trying to figure out who she was.

“Morina, are you sure we’re coming to the right reunion?

“Wait, it’s coming…” she nodded her head repeatedly and then burst into laughter.

Photo of the reunion cake, with the words ‘Happy Sexy Sixty Marians!’ on it.

Pleasurable activities

We all need some pleasurable activities where we can energise our mind and move our muscles, even laugh at ourselves, develop our sense of humour and simply have a life.

Many times my humour comes to my rescue when I get stuck in some difficult situations.

I recall a time when I was scouting for aspiring beauties for one of my ‘City Queen’ beauty pageants. I remember having sleepless nights for not having the beauties who could meet our criteria for the pageant.

I had to endure my silent uncontrollable laugh during a briefing session with about 20 aspiring candidates for the preliminary round, seated in front of me. Thanks to my official beautician and the then-reigning City Queen for saving the moment. They did not laugh.

Hilarious moments of pageant

Photo from the writer’s album shows Kuching City Queen 1991 winner Yolanda Entika being flanked by the first runner-up Eda Manan (left) and second runner-up Dayang Azizah Abang Zaidan.

I found it hilarious that most of the early birds did not have the physical attributes that met our criteria and yet, they were the enthusiastic ones. That alone was comedic to me, that I had to get up from my seat and walk out as I could not restrain my laugh anymore.

I left it to the two ladies to brief them on the preliminary round.

I managed to get help from some friends who succeeded in bringing in more potential candidates. I cannot help recalling some of the blunders and incidents that I encountered in the course of organising beauty pageants.

A candidate for the preliminary round responded: “I will tell her to be happy because life is short,” when asked what she would say to a patient who was suffering from a terminal illness.

One of the judges was unable to hold back her laughter and had to leave the room in order to do so.

Another time, I saw a woman cleaning her false teeth at a sink in the bathroom and I felt bad for her. Even worse, she turned out to be one of the contestants who came for my beauty pageant’s preliminary round.

Despite the fact that she was not chosen for the semi-final, I admired her tenacity and sympathised with her disappointment. Even that makes me laugh because I’ve learned to take things in stride and make the best of every situation.

According to studies, using your sense of humour may increase your lifespan and help you live a healthier life.

Another encouraging finding is that women with a strong sense of humour tend to live longer even when they are ill, especially when it comes to cardiovascular disease and infections.