Most of us Singaporeans will be familiar with the figure of the “ah beng” — loud and often crass, he’s a symbol of our void deck gatherings and coffee shop chats. And it’s inevitable that we tend to pass some form of judgement on this ubiquitous figure.
Recently, Rice Media published an article headlined “This is Why a Rich Ah Beng Will Always be Seen as Low SES“. To sum it up, the lifestyle choices that others make influences the way we categorise them, in terms of socio-economic status (SES).
Think of someone who chooses beer and peanuts over wine and cheese, listens to manyao rather than jazz.
These lifestyle choices will probably lead you to infer that he isn’t cultured and has a less refined palate. And we judge people who are less used to the finer things in life to be of lower SES, and vice versa.
Considering my measly writer’s pay, I can’t really afford too many high society hobbies. And since I don’t have the ability to draw nor appreciate the Arts at all, I guess I’d fall under the category of low SES!
With this in mind, I decided to change the impression people have of me by participating in the Drink and Draw: Life Drawing event at The Hive Lavender, and publicising it on my Insta-story. “Fake it till you make it” is a motto I’ve been adopting recently, and I felt like it was pretty apt in this situation.
Thank God, the Drink and Draw event was something that I could afford despite my low SES. Priced at S$25, the event included nude model sketching, and some alcohol to loosen us up. S$25 seemed like a reasonable price — after all, it’s just the price of five lunches at the nearby cai png stall.
Armed only with basic art lessons from primary and early secondary school, I entered the art studio.
The event only had 10 patrons (four men and six women) half of which were expats. Ah, the high SES vibes were definitely in the air.
Just as I was soaking in the atmosphere, and hoping it’d stick with me after I leave, the nude model got up on the table and posed with both arms crossed behind her head while arching her back. Goofily, I thought that remotely resembled what Sir Stamford Raffles would have done if he was a lady — I suppose this unsophisticated comparison proves why I’m not quite high SES.
“Mmmm,” the 50-year-old Caucasian man exhaled with admiration after comparing his quick sketch with the model. He sounded like a renowned chef who was tasting a spoonful of soup which he just perfected.
Was it just me or was this place filled with pretentiousness? I decided to churn out the finest piece of art I have ever created in my life.
“Ver Vonché!” I came up with a fake French-sounding word to show my appreciation for my drawing with some theatrics. That should help me blend in with the people who are so cultured, you could mistake them for Greek yoghurt.
I wasn’t too sure if my work fit the criteria, but a fellow compadre came up and mentioned that he loved the ‘illustrator’s style’ employed in my amateur oeuvre.
I was sure it was just a friendly gesture amongst pretentious people, so I decided to take a peek at the drawings he did.
No way. The glow from his compliment faded, and I felt terribly subdued. Wow, part and parcel of being rich includes being phoney. I still appreciated the comment though.
The nude model was given a five-minute break for every 20 minutes of posing, so at least the rich here aren’t too demanding. Maybe they need a break from the self-congratulatory atmosphere too.
During the break, the participants took turns complimenting each other on their strokes, which were ‘mature’ or ‘carefully curated’, despite using a crayon instead of a pencil. One gentleman mentioned that pairing nude painting with alcohol was indeed a good choice.
I can’t deny that alcohol makes faking everything so much easier! On a more serious note, I think the beer I had worked well as a social lubricant. With so many conservatives in Singapore, alcohol would really help put newcomers at ease, since sketching a nude model definitely isn’t common for us.
As soon as the break was over, the nude model assumed another graceful pose and I went back to the grind of being a (fake) bourgeois.
This time I picked up an atas manner of shading. Just by observing my neighbours, I learnt that tilting your 2B pencil to the slant of the lead will add a tincture of perfectión by emphasising the chiaroscuro (an effect of strongly contrasting light and shadows).
And voilà! My primary school drawing had matured like fine wine. Wrinkles, rib bones, shaved pubic stubble were now well-represented in my very own magnum opus.
So what does it take to be considered high SES when you aren’t? Lots of pretension, a flawless ability in faking it, and probably some theatrics in your expressions. Not that tough, is it?
Since I was publicising my high society adventure on my Insta-story, Operation Nude Drawing indeed proved to push me up a rung on the SES ladder.
Your perceived SES doesn’t necessarily stem solely from your actual bank account statement, but rather from your lifestyle choices. And so, raising your perceived SES becomes a simple matter of altering your lifestyle choices.
If you’re interested in making a change in your lifestyle and being a little phonier than your usual self, nude drawing is a tongue-in-cheek activity to do with your friends! Keep a lookout for the next Drink and Draw event on The Hive’s Facebook page.
Prices: S$20 (The Hive members), S$25 (non-members)