When the flick “Pretty Woman” was released back in 1990, I immediately rushed to the local theatre to see it. Everyone I knew did too. It became my all-time favorite and I have watched it no less than 20 times. I fell in love with all the characters. Edward Lewis, Vivian and Hector Elizondo’s gentle “Barney” role (He reminded me of Dad). I especially liked Kit de Luca’s “Cinde-fuckin-rella” blurt, that became the rave for many years after that.

The movie had a deep impact on me. It dared me to hope of love. But it made me wish to be stinking rich too, as did so many teenage girls who, reportedly after seeing the movie, wanted to become prostitutes in order to seek their own Mr. Lewis. Of course, I didn’t dream of being a prostitute, I just dreamed to be married to a Donald Trump clone. I thought if I only had a fairy tale life like Julia Roberts in that flick (access to an obscene amount of spending money everyday definitely wouldn’t hurt) I’d surely be a very happy girl.

`Love is what’s important. It’s a natural feeling and it has nothing to do with his good looks or money. I, for one, would never stay in a loveless marriage, and that (love) is the secret to happiness,’ Grace, the hopeless romantic, whispered seriously to us while we were sitting in Bistro Garden Cafe in Plaza Senayan several months before I left for Brussels. Dewi, our famous sugar daddy chaser, added: `Nope, I seriously think love can be produced. It’s not natural at all. I can fall in love just like that (while clicking her middle-finger and thumb to create a sound) with, hmm.. let’s see ..that man over there.’ (she pointed to the manager of the bistro who was, indeed, very good looking)

We were all having an early dinner that day just to get away from all the traffic and commotion outside our air conditioned heaven better known as “Plaza Senayan”. There were already 5 of us, the other two (Tom and David, two of my very best gay friends) were running a bit late. Helena, who is a bisexual (though she e-mailed me last month announcing that she is now a heterosexual again having fallen very much in love with a successful Canadian old enough to be her dad – though I seriously doubt it because she is known for her falling off the hetero wagon one time too many) said, `I agree with you, Dewi, I do think love can be produced. But I agree with Grace too. For me, love can be naturally produced, come rain or shine, men or women, as long as it clicks, it clicks. And when that happens I am usually pretty happy.’

Listening to them ramble on and off about love and money made me think again about our favorite subjects. Can money buy love and happiness or can happiness survive without the existence of either love or money playing an important role in the background?

Ellen, who was an even bigger slut than all seven of us (by this time Tom and David had gracefully appeared and joined our table, both equally engrossed in the discussion), squealed with delight, `SEX! (this turned the heads of several people sitting around us and made Grace turn crimson) Now that’s the most important element in happiness. Without good sex, there can be no love, money is number three, but without all three life would suck big time! I can fall in love with a bum if he knows how to send me to Kamasutra land! Seriously guys, he could be the Hunchback of Notredame (but then she would have to keep him locked in her basement because I doubt she’d be seen in public with someone remotely ugly) and I would have nothing to complain about.’

As if love and money weren’t confusing enough for me to comprehend, she just had to add sex to the perplexity of the subject. I was toying with the three subjects in my head, the top three things almost all of us (except Grace, whilst I have not agreed nor disagreed) agreed on, as key elements in search of eternal bliss.

`Whatever happened to true love? Whatever happened to prince charming whisking us away and rescuing us from the big bad dragon?’ asked Grace innocently (rather too innocent, I thought, because I knew for a fact she was seeing a married guy who just bought her those Prada shoes and matching tote, and he couldn’t have been poor to buy her such extravagant gifts). To which, David, the queenest of all queens immediately replied, `Daaaahh-leeng…get real, will you? Prince Charming hey? Name one prince who hasn’t got a gazillion dollars in his private account, and if his name is Charming, then he would certainly not be a double bagger!’ And with that remark, Tom added his two-cents, `Yes, and if you truly, truly love him, cross my heart so help me God, than the sex wouldn’t matter, would it? From my experience, sex is the best when you do it with the one you love.’

(Double bagger /’dabl baeg(r)/ n. a person so ugly that when you sleep with him/her you have to put a bag over his/her head and yours in case his/hers falls off)

I was stuck throughout the evening discussing the three subjects. Love, money and sex. I developed a headache thinking about it as then I haven’t yet all three but just one (will keep you guessing which one it is). We ended our get-together at 10pm and we did not agree on anything. Everybody had their own theory of happiness, except me.

That night I went straight home while the guys went to “CJ’s” (I didn’t want to go, plus, I was still blacklisted from the place since the “Puking Kirsten” incident) and when I arrived home, I showered, put on my pajamas and watched “Pretty Woman”. Again.

While watching the movie, I had an epiphany. Sure, I believe that money can help many people, but I’ve seen a lot of people with money that are unhappy. And as for sex, I don’t think sex is an equation (along with money and love) to happiness.

By the time the movie ended, I have downed half a pint of my strawberry cheesecake Haagen-Dazs, and smiled dreamily, happy. Which was funny because at the time I had no great love, I had no great love who had lots of money, and as for the other thing, well, that was the only one I had plenty (so much for wanting to keep you guessing, huh?). But I was happy.

I honestly think that being content with what you have and have achieved is the answer to happiness. I suddenly remembered a string of words (or lyrics to a song? I forgot) “And if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. That my friends, is the true key to happiness.