I was reading in the library today in the only way I know how, i.e.
on my stomach with my face in my hands. It was in one of those colored acrylic boxes sticking out of Bishan library where you pretty much get the entire box to yourself and it was long enough to accommodate my body stretched out. Until a librarian came up to me and mumbled “Scuse me, you have to sit.” And i didn’t catch her the first time, accent and mumbling and all and she repeated the same thing to me.
I could have asked her why, but I didn’t. i don’t understand why though. why is lying on your stomach and reading, a practice acceptable in nearly any other culture, socially unacceptable here? I’m not baring any skin. I’m not making anybody uncomfortable. Nobody would complain. I’m not being loud, or antisocial, or anything by lying on my stomach. I am simply reading a book in the most comfortable position I know how. Yet somehow social propriety in my nation seems to be built around the concept of “The more uncomfortable you are, the better.” You must wear your most uncomfortable dress suit to the office to look like a professional. This is adapted from Western culture, although in Western cultures it is actually cold almost year round, and this multi-layered dress code makes sense to keep people warm. We follow this temperate dress code in our tropical country like lemmings. You cannot have public displays of affection (this i actually agree with.) and you cannot loll around in public like you are enjoying yourself. Life is not about enjoying yourself, it’s about being as uncomfortable as humanly possible and not gloating about the fact that you are still a student on vacation and have nothing to do all day but read books in the library.
I remember reading to liangze in a square in Peru. there was a fountain in the middle of the square and he was sitting on a park bench and I was lying in his lap, reading assorted short stories by Chekhov. Nobody there cared. Street vendors came up to us to try to sell us various knick knacks and sweets for a sole. Old men sat on the opposite benches trying to keep within the shade. Everyone was very open and comfortable and simply clad. They have better things to think about than “why is that tourist reading a book lying down on a park bench?? Books have to be read sitting up!” Clearly our librarians do not have more significant concerns on their mind.
why does our country try to instill so many inhibitions in us? Is it cultural? Or carefully designed into our education and policies? Why do we have nonsensical rules like this whose sole purpose is to make each person uncomfortable with who he is? To dictate what position we shld use to read our books? Are there similar rules for what position we should be in when we eat? How we should sit at our desks? How we should have sex? A Dummy’s Guide to Government Approved Body Positions in Public?
I don’t think any average Singaporean yanked from the street is at all aware of how inhibited he is.