I fear loving you less than you deserve.
I love math. I fucking love math.
In eighth grade, when my math teacher mentioned fractals in passing I brought up the Mandelbrot set. I would fantasise about proving Fermat’s Last Theorem or Goldbach’s Conjecture. I know the histories of John Napier, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal.
Of course, I was an excellent History student. Math, not so much.
It’s a big joke these days, my inability to multiply or subtract swiftly, how I can’t count money, how I can’t calculate time differences. Just yesterday my boss caught me counting on my fingers when preparing the EPL schedules – because I couldn’t add eight hours to London time in my head. He laughed. It’s funny now, definitely. Sometimes.
But I forget how bone-crushingly pathetic and awful and miserable I was in high school sometimes, because I’m so busy laughing at how I got lost because I turned left instead of right.
I went for tutoring for years. Different math teachers, different classes, different teaching styles. One would be kind and put things into context – the points of a triangle became geographic locations, binomial equations had personalities. Another would explain and explain and explain, and give up and make me do equations over and over without me understanding why I was moving figures here or crossing them out there.
When it came to math, my mother was very Asian – she forced me to take Additional Mathematics for my GCSEs – and couldn’t understand why her normally competent daughter was so goddamn useless.
I’m not going to pretend to be modest – you know me too well. I was a bright teenager. I scored consistently well in English, French, Literature, History. I wasn’t even a purely liberal art-y sort: I was good at Biology, and surprisingly all right at Chemistry (except for the bits with sums). But Math was the bane of my existence.
I remember not going to the bathroom if I had math next period, just so I could get out of class for a few minutes without lying when the class started. I scored a consistently shitty stream of grades – 52%s, 43%s, and on one memorable occasion, 13% (fuck you, Napier).
My highest score in a test was 73%. The topic was matrices and I had spent the term break learning them with my tutor. I firmly believe the only reason I passed my Math GCSE was because I used matrices and brute force to solve 90% of the questions. You can use matrices to solve horribly complex equations – and horribly simple ones too.
The best question on my Math GCSE was one where they asked for the number of minutes in a year. I was thrilled, only because I was a hardcore RENThead (525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?) - of course, I lost method marks.
In primary school, we’d have mental math drills. Every test you passed, you’d get a small fluffy toy with rattling eyes. It started at pink and went all the way up to my favourite colours – turquoise, purple, gold. I never progressed beyond pink (I loved it to death and stuck it to my bed and named it), and I always felt suspicious, like the Powers That Be had conspired to make the best colours the ones I could never, ever get.
My mother would hit me regularly, insisting that the only problem was my ‘mental block’. I was bad at math because I didn’t like it, she’d claim – but I liked math. I wanted to be good at it.
I have only dated men who are excellent mathematicians (creepy but true). I find it an incredible turn-on. In college, the only class I had trouble with was an Economics class. I firmly believe if I hadn’t been dating an economist at the time, I would have failed miserably.
My parents would threaten, incentivise, slap, ground, shout. There were meetings, so many meetings – my teacher telling my mother I was looking at Ungraded for GCSEs, my mother asking my teacher if I wasn’t attentive in class, or maybe she was a bad teacher, or maybe I needed to sit nearer the front.
Maybe it would have been easier if I had been less of a smartmouth – there’s often no sympathy for the confident children in, regardless of their learning difficulties.
I cried to my mother once, saying I was stressed out about the weekly math tests, that I couldn’t handle it. Her response was to tell and literally, literally throw a math exercise book at me.
During the holidays, I’d spend time working on my math. My mother is a primary school teacher, so I had access to books for grades 1 to 6 – which, humiliatingly, I needed and was sometimes stymied by. In high school, all the time I had for studying was taken up by math. Now I resent my mother because I realise I could have spent so much, SO MUCH fucking time doing things a little bit more useful and a little bit less hopeles.
My ability to reason mathematically never progressed beyond basic arithmetic. I do not know my multiplication tables for 6, 7, 8, and 12. I count on my fingers. I can’t do fractions. I only learned how to tell time on an analog clock at age 10. I can’t always tell my left from my right. I was a fair piano player – except for sight reading, where I’d have to count the spaces between the notes, count the lines (Every Good Boy Deserves Food, over and over and over) to figure out which key to strike. I do not know how to manage money. I can’t cut in a straight line. I can’t visualise distances – I gauge thinking of my father (it is sixty feet away, so it is six Dads, I’d tell myself). Every boss I’ve ever had has yelled at me for my inability to tune out distractions, my fractured attention span. If a number is in the millions, I can’t spell it out in words. I have to count the zeroes in numbers to figure out if they’re thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, millions.
There’s been nothing in else in my life I’ve desperately wanted to learn but couldn’t.
In class, I’d write ‘f’ instead of 4 or 5, ‘d’ instead of 2. Even now, when taking notes, I’ll write ‘tw’ instead of 20. I’d spend minutes perfecting the curlicues of the x in an algebraic equation to stall for time before having to solve it. I’d scrawl formulae and rules on my erasers or rulers before tests, and end up never using my eraser or ruler out of guilt and fear. Now I think if I’d cheated, my life would have been a lot easier.
When I did the GRE I scored at the 96th percentile for the qualitative, 99th for the written, and 46th for the quantitative. The GRE’s quant section is, for those who don’t know, ninth grade mathematics. I studied for six months, crib sheets and exercises every day – in between classes, before bed, and as the test date neared, during classes.
When I was 18, I realised I may have dyscalculia.
I told my then-boyfriend – a central bank economist with an IQ of 160 – and he laughed. I am here to do your sums, he said. In college, when I was away from R, I’d ask Michelle to count for me.
These days when I need to count something, I ask Anon. He is incredibly quick, and I am envious. If I had his aptitude for math, I’d exploit it. He, on the other hand, did an engineering degree and became a hack.
Dyscalculia is no fun.
From when I cannot count change fast enough, to when I fuck up on the job because I can’t add fast enough to know some corrupt asshole is lying to me, to when I get lost and yell at Anon for giving shitty directions although I know it is me, not him.
I understand that in some European countries, there is more understanding of and research done on dyscalculia. In the States, it is listed in the DSM-IV and you can legitimately be excused from certain classes and take special ones better suited to you.
I know it is stupid because there are bigger problems that our education system has to deal with, but I really hope that at some point we Malaysians stop idolising math and acting like is the only gauge for intelligence.
My mother told me many, many times that if I was truly a smart kid, I’d be good at math.
But it’s not, and all of us, collectively, should treat those with dyscalculia with the same compassion and understanding that we show dyslexics.
I’m not dumb. I have never been dumb. I am a smart person with a learning difficulty, and that is okay. There are more crippling learning difficulties, so on the whole, I am grateful.
But sometimes I wonder: If I knew then what I know now, where I would be?
|Me:||How are you going to ask me to marry you?|
|Anon:||I PUT IT ON THE AFP WIRE.|
Where you are and where you want to be.
Christmas is coming up, maybe this year I will learn the Grinch’s secret and my heart will grow a few sizes.
That would be nice.
There are worse places to be in life, I have a steady job and someone at home who does the chores and helps me out and picks me up in all sorts of ways and is everything an intelligent person would want.
I like how it’s easy for me to leave. I hope that never goes away. Baggage is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for freedom.
It feels like every day is part of this big countdown.
There are duller places to be in life, I am sure.
This guy I know told me once that it is was stupid to make enemies.
But only an individual without character has no enemies.
Moderation is fucking boring. Common sense is worthless if not paired with wit and instinct.
Taylor Swift, All Too Well
Most people are trying to sell you something - maybe not shampoo, but definitely selling all the same.
|Me:||What is 'Ahli Majlis Pimpinan Pusat KEADILAN' in English?|
|Anon:||Liberal Democrat central leadership council member.|
I had a ridiculously wonderful birthday. Li Peng kicked off celebrations on the 3rd by buying me a cake and bubble tea and getting most of my buds from the office to sing.
On the 4th itself, I slept in, I had breakfast in bed courtesy of Anon, and then got to strike Tok Pa off my to-meet list. Four more Cabinet Ministers to go! Had a great interview, and then the oh-so-
handsome-dorky Khai presented me with a dozen cupcakes. Then he promptly took one, leaving me with eleven. I still love him.
That night, Anon took me for the most amazing five-course foie gras meal - foie gras in truffle broth with eierstich and mushrooms, foie gras with smoked duck breast, foie gras chocolate mousse with chocolate ice cream, foie gras crème brûlée with mixed berries, foie gras pithivier with chicken. I’m all foie gras’d out! The only things that weren’t foie gras-y were the amuse bouche (mushroom flan) and the palate cleanser (mangosteen sorbet, I was in HEAVEN).
(As Khai said: Anon ada stayil.)
(Also I got to wear my pretty new off-white eyelet dress and those painful gold heels.)
The dinner came with this amazing second dessert - a mass of whipped cream and meringue with artisan vanilla ice cream right at the bottom. The whole thing was soaked in brandy and set aflame.
After we complimented the vanilla ice cream, and the sticky rich chocolate scoop that came with the foie gras mousse; Albert (the maître d’) let us try the specially-made ice cream flavours Millesime recently developed - nangka (jackfruit) and durian. Apparently they’ve also got kedondong (golden apple or ambarella, for my non-Malaysian/Indonesian readers), but it was sold out (unsurprisingly)!
Three desserts! And the best coffee and madeleines ever, and champagne.
And I wonder why I’m putting on so much weight…
Also, Anon got me a suit for my birthday. It will be gorgeous.