Singaporean Brenda Lee, a 23-year-old senior at Harvard University, has admitted that she “can’t even” after trying and failing to explain BTO across two hours and several glasses of wine.
The ordeal began when Lee excitedly announced to her American friends that she and her boyfriend James had agreed to apply for BTO together. Instead of the congratulations she expected, however, she was met only with confusion. “None of them knew what I was talking about. Pancho asked me if build-to-order was some kind of Whole Foods special. I tried to tell them how wonderful it was to hear the words ‘eh, want to BTO?’, but once you have to explain it, the romance disappears.”
Lee said she got so frustrated she eventually accused them of deliberately being obtuse. “Look, they’re all pretty smart – when I explain how migrants are subalterns confined in liminal space, they get it. How hard is it to understand that in Singapore, when two people love each other very much, the first thing they do is rush to exploit a hundred thousand dollars in government grants?”
“They kept asking what’s the rush, why don’t you wait, you’ve only been dating for a couple of years, blah blah blah,” she continued, interrupting our attempts to ask questions. “We’re not even engaged – we’re like, engaged to be engaged. They don’t get that once I finish my Anthropology degree and start working at Goldman Sachs, my income is going to put us over the ceiling.”
“But,” she said, forestalling attempts to ask whether she needed BTO grants with a Goldman job lined up, “James wants to do a PhD, bless his soul. So if he’s not going to generate any cashflow, then we need that resale value to really come good.”
When contacted, Lee’s friend Pancho confessed he was still confused. “Okay, so, what is this HDB? Why do 85% of people live in public housing? Why is Brenda getting money from the government when she’s working at Goldman? Who the hell waits five years to get their keys? What happens if they break up before that? Are they getting married or not? What kind of bizarre system takes young couples and ties a hundred thousand dollars to their relationship?” After spending an hour scouring the Housing Development Board website for answers, Pancho announced he was going to buy more wine.
At press time, sources reported that Lee had locked herself in her room after another friend asked, “Hey, so, Singapore has really low income taxes, but I saw that there’s some CPF thing that’s automatically deducted from your pay. Isn’t that some kind of tax?”