Saturday, October 17, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 7.

by Camille Langtry and Monica Graz

I was so tired! I was in bed for over an hour and I couldn’t fall asleep. My whole body was aching and my cheap cotton nightie was clinging to my skin because of the everlasting heat and humidity. But my mind was racing, thinking how my life had changed once again since my arrival in Singapore as a FDW.

I wasn’t certain anymore how long I have been in Singapore. I have lost track of time completely, but it should have been well over a month. The tropical climate wasn’t helping either since there was no change of seasons and the days were repetitive and, for a FDW like me, full of the same mundane chores which were endless and of all kinds.

All the past month’s scenes of embarrassment and frustration were coming back to me as I was lying in bed dead tired but with my eyes wide open and my mind in a race mode changing from one scene to the other like being in the middle of a very lively dream. I remembered how embarrassed and stupid I felt when Mr. Singh took me to the settling-in program, the traumatic visit to the health center and to see a plastic surgeon the day after...

I was up at 6 am every morning except for Sundays when I was allowed an extra hour of sleep and after more or less 14 hours of constant work I was able to go back to my room at about 9 pm. I was also getting really experienced as a maid - things that took me hours back in Milan I was able to do now in half that time like an automaton without too much thinking. Still, there was endless work at the Moretti residence  - and when I wasn’t busy cleaning one of the four bathrooms or washing the floors I was doing the laundry or cooking or looking after the children when they were home after school.
Of course looking after the children meant for me that I was simply watching them not to do anything stupid or dangerous. Signora was quite strict when she said to me during my early days in the house, 'I don't want you to talk to them very much, Molly, your uneducated English with the funny Filipino accent might corrupt their knowledge of the language. Just stay to the basics with them and simply make sure that they stay safe and out of any mischief. Do you understand what I mean?"
I was very hurt when I answered with my usual small curtsey, "Yes, Ma'am, understand Ma'am."

At the end of each day I was back in my tiny room where my only entertainment was a small TV tuned to a Filipino satellite program playing soap operas, comedy shows and Chinese and Malaysian movies dubbed in Tagalog. That was all my access to the outside world now.

I had no access to a computer or a laptop, no mobile phone except for an old talk phone that Signora Moretti had given to me so she could always find me when I was shopping in case she wanted to add something to my shopping list. I could see, this was a deliberate action from her part to cut me off from the literate Western world. It was almost natural for me now to speak in my Pidgin broken English and hearing so much Tagalog sitting in front of the TV screen every night improved my Filipino accent a lot. I was quite natural now as a Filipina FDW. I didn’t have to pretend anymore to speak that way; it was gradually becoming second nature to me like everything else in life if you are constantly exposed to it.

Another thing that helped me accept who I now became was  the cosmetic procedure that I, on Signora’s insistence, had to agree to. On her instructions I met Dr. Cheng, who seemed genuinely surprised that someone would want to get more pronounced Asian eyes. After all, all his clients - and they must have been quite a number judging from looking at his expensive and vast clinic - wanted the complete opposite - to achieve a more Western look, even if they not always phrased it like that because of political correctness. Bigger unslanted eyes and porcelain skin were seen as signs of sophistication, that’s how the rich and successful wanted to look  - including many of the Filipina celebrities that I now knew by name. Darker skin - such as the one I had now due to the constant use of bishop’s weed - and pronounced Asian facial features were seen as signs of crudeness, simplicity and lack of money.

Dr. Cheng had to spend a considerable amount of time studying my face and taking detailed measurements which he had to introduce to a computer generated program until he said that the surgery that I asked for was indeed possible. He warned me though that it wasn’t a standard procedure, but he liked the challenge and was up to the task. After all my employer Signora Moretti asked him not to worry about the expenses, she wanted the best for her maid. I just sat there nodding - apparently it was something already decided between Dr. Cheng and Signora Moretti and my approval was purely a formality. The surgery was scheduled for the following day. I didn’t like the speed with which events were unfolding, but again, without any protest, I simply nodded, thinking that I should probably bring it up with the Signora when I was back home.

Of course when I tried to bring up the subject in my broken English she quickly dismissed all my concerns with a wave of her hand simply saying,

“You shouldn't worry, Molly; this is for your own good. Last thing you need is to be exposed as a fraud. And this will help you maintain your new persona. After Dr. Cheng’s is done with you no unneeded questions about your background are going to be asked. Furthermore, I believe this is of utmost importance when it comes to you accepting your station in life.”

I couldn't sleep the following night thinking about the surgery and, at the end, I decided to go along with it once more feeling frightened and excited at the same time. Signora was right. A procedure like this could make acceptance of my new life so much easier. And - as much as I found the thought scary - I really had no other option anymore. I could not afford to make Signora unhappy with me. I was completely dependent on her now, I was allowed to be in Singapore for as long as she was content with my performance. The only thing standing between me and a deportation to the Philippines was my employer's good will.

The next morning Mr. Singh drove me again through the city to Dr. Cheng’s clinic. I was given a dozen or so consent forms with lines upon lines of legalese fine print to sign. After trying to read them thoroughly I quickly gave up and just signed them all. The Chinese nurse led me to a room and gave me a hospital gown to put on. Dr. Cheng soon appeared and led me to the surgery room and very shortly after another nurse administered to me a couple of injections I was completely unconscious.

Memories of my recovery from the surgery gave me a shiver. The upper part of my face was covered in bandages and itched very strongly for days. Shockingly, in addition to doing a surgery on my eyes, the doctor also appeared to do something to my nose! Though I returned to the Moretti residence three days after the operation gradually resuming my maid's duties, it was almost two weeks before the swelling on my face eased and I could really inspect the new me. My eyes were now almond-shaped and narrower. In addition, my nose was reshaped to look less European - the nose bridge was now virtually flat and its tip was wider and fatty. 

No one could mistake me for a Western woman anymore. If my mother had a half-Filipina daughter this is what she may have looked like. It was amazing how I was psychologically affected after the operation. I started feeling much more at home with my Filipina persona and my old Julia self became an even more distant memory. I was amused with myself when I realized that I was so much looking forward to finish my daily chores so that I could go to my little room and start watching my Filipino soapies. I was addicted to them now like any other Filipina in my position!

Then I remembered the very embarrassing ‘hair incident’, as Signora Moretti started calling it. From the very beginning I started cooking for the whole family. My experience from Milan in preparing Italian dishes was quite a plus and the two kids - Federica, who was 5, and Francesco, who was 7 years old - like true Italian children  loved my pasta dishes. So one evening at about 6 pm when the children were having their dinner Federica announced in English with her sweet Italian accent, ‘Mama, mama, a black hair in my food, come and see!’

I was sitting with them supervising when she said that and the next minute Signora Moretti came into the room like a shot and looked at the black hair and then at me. I could see the anger in her eyes and I fidgeted uncomfortably in my chair, playing with the edge of my apron.

‘Molly, to the kitchen this instant,’ she said to me and then, turning to the children, ‘don’t eat that food children, Molly will prepare a nice sandwich for you.’

I followed Signora Moretti to the kitchen with trembling knees, feeling very worried.

‘How could you have done such a thing you stupid girl? Nobody else has jet black hair in this house except you!’ she said in a hissy, but truly angry voice, clearly not wanting her children to listen. ‘It’s really true what they say about Filipina maids in this town! Spoiled and lazy!”

‘I’m sorry, Ma’am,’ I said with a trembling voice, ‘I always carepul and keep hair in ponytail, I really don’t know what happen.’

‘I don't need your excuses. As of this instant new rules, Molly,’ she continued in her angry and hissy voice, ‘Either I’ll take you to the hairdresser and cut your hair really short like a boy’s or you will start wearing a plain white mob cap to cover everything. What is it going to be?’

I got panicked, I didn’t want to lose my longish hair, that would have been a terrible blow to my femininity, so I answered without any hesitation in my voice, ‘I preper mob cap, Ma’am, thank you por being so considerate.’ I said that with true humility in my voice, curtseying at the same time.

And she did buy a mob cap for me and not only. When she went the next day to the uniform shop she bought a couple of mob caps for cooking and a couple of plain white old fashioned maid’s caps for me to wear when in uniform, which in my case was nearly all the time. So in Singapore I became a proper maid in an apron and a cap, for the first time since I started working as a domestic for Signora Matei several months ago.
 I finally felt my eyes closing; sleep was coming at last. And tomorrow is Thursday, laundry and ironing day, the most difficult day of the week for me. That was my last thought as I let myself sink in that blissful emptiness of sleep.


  1. Great!
    The best chapter.

  2. Thank you both. This is such an accurate account of an FDW maid, from a former FDW. x

  3. I think you don't like my blog. No matter, I love yours :o)

    1. Hello. Can you give me the link for your blog? I believe it could be a very interesting blog. Thank you


  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I think there will be many readers who are happy that Molly finally has to wear a maid's cap.
    I loved it how you made it part of the story, instead of her employer just saying "oh, and I want you to wear a cap from now on".
    Thanks for this new chapter. Looking forward to the next one.

    1. Really wonderfull the way how Molly was told to wear a cap from now on. Hope she will have to wear a cap when she must go out for shopping. Probably her Mistress will provide few waitress cap style as well, to be worn when serving guests or when she have to go out.
      Anyway I can't wait to read the next chapters.

  6. Thank you all three writers for this story. Waiting for the continuation. p.

  7. fantastic work, love the accent and surgery aspects forcing her into her role even more. the maid outfit is a nice touch.

  8. So far. I am totally enjoying this work. The only problem I have is: If Julia/Molly is loosing her real self. As you wrote in Chapter 7. Why does she still think in her thoughts like a educated European? I would think her thoughts and words would change also. Along with her speech and deportment.

  9. To me Julia remaining present is a positive element. The discrepancy of her "station in life" and her life history.

  10. Well. So what your saying is that Molly/Julia, can retain her inner most thoughts an memories. But because of her training and lowering of standards. Now functions as Molly entirely, regardless how she thinks inside?

  11. Dear Camille and Monica, no new chapter? I was so much hoping this week end you might publish. But, anyway, this is our hobby. Love, P.

  12. Please publish the next chapter asap. Thx.

    1. Patience. It's on its way. This time from the original author!