Perhaps it began one day many years ago, when I was dumped by a guy via a text message a day before my birthday.
Or maybe it was somewhere around when I was stood up by the SAME guy twice (seriously, sometimes I wish I’m making these things up but unfortunately they really happened).
Or perhaps it was a string of bad luck on the dating front**, of false promises and falling for words instead of actions. Of being too gullible or becoming an accidental doormat (although these days I have come to learn that when people treat you the way you don’t want them to, it your own fault for letting them do so).
Whatever it was, on a lazy evening not too long ago, I was sitting across the kitchen bar watching a nice man make me dinner. He bought the groceries and made me a Greek Baked Frittata (which was delicious, in case you’re wondering), and then he did the dishes. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this picture. In fact, I was quite fully aware that I had probably hit gold and this was a good, happy thing.
But whatever it was, as I sat there feeling rather content I also felt a slow and steady crawl of troubled thought. The troubled thought was concerned that something catastrophically bad was going to happen next. Because there had been many incidences in the past where this trend was true, I was half convinced that this was the way of my world for me. It had built a cynicism in my head where I was always suspicious.
Oh my God, he just made me dinner, what will he say next? That he has an irreversible disease and will have to 'disappear'? That he has two other girlfriends? That his face was actually made in Korea? That he actually doesn’t like pasta (oh God no)? I ate my dinner with a wild mind wondering what was going to happen.
Nothing happened next. It was a normal, nice date and we had a good dinner, a good laugh and nobody revealed that they were an ex-convict.
The point to this story is the inevitable influence of your past towards building the your current perception of the world. You wouldn’t notice it, but it subtly and discreetly shapes you to make you who you are at this point of time. The downside is it can make you too cynical for your own good, too afraid or too careful. I never knew how much all these things have created the ‘crazy chick’ inside me that was often brimmed with hesitance when the time comes to let someone in, until that day I was sitting at the kitchen bar.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is that these crazy string of unfortunate events will also teach you how to know better. One should never think that the past was unfortunate. The past happened so that you learn from it (which, I suppose, makes it a fortunate thing really). Subtly, it will also show you how to spot a good one when you see one. Or what to appreciate in a person. Or what is worth fighting for. Or what behaviour is deemed unacceptable, something that you may not have understood before. Or in my case, how to fully understand that past pains happened for a reason, creating a myriad of pathways that you walk through to get to where you are today, as a much, much better version of yourself for others, and vice versa.
**PS: Of course they were the good guys too. Here I'm just highlighting the bad ones from the past.
Tinder. If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a social media outlet for people to meet other people, mostly for courtship purposes. If you’re a commoner like the rest of us, I know what you’re thinking. Tinder. A place for desperados, perverts and hookup-seekers extravaganza. And I completely agree with that impression. Or at least I did agree.
Recently a friend of mine decided to venture herself into Tinder. No, she is not old. No, she doesn’t own cats. Yes, she is a perfectly awesome, single, gorgeous accomplished girl. Her motivations were probably for a social experiment (lucky for me, the best type of social journalism is one that includes personal research, so in this piece she is my representative). She put her picture up and declared her criteria, and off she went into this brave little adventure.
First of all, you’re quite right. Tinder really does have weirdos with strange fetishes. People also use Tinder to look for hookers (even in Malaysia). We saw a married guy publicly announcing that he was married but looking for hook-ups that he will generously pay for (yeah I’m talking about you ‘Joe’. Boooo). This fed into my already tainted impression of online dating. It seemed like an internet black hole sucking in guys who are social rejects. But then this friend of mine gave it a shot to confirm/defy our initial thoughts, so here is where I got it wrong.
Tinder has a decent collection of normal people! As we browsed through we saw normal looking guys looking for normal relationships. There are executives and doctors and drummers and teachers, and they did not look half bad either. They look like the kind of guys you would otherwise bump into at a shop or library or at work. Some of them started saying hi to this friend of mine, and some of them were even transparent enough to give her access to their Facebook accounts to show that they are not creepy or the Prince of Nigeria.
She even managed to snatch herself a date with a cute doctor. Although the date, unfortunately, ended up as average and they didn’t further pursue it. They guy was nice and made an effort to drive all the way into the city to see her for coffee, and albeit the leather jacket he had on (perhaps to impress her) to the point of sweating profusely in the KL weather, it did not really work out. Nevertheless, the point to make here is that she did manage to get a normal, decent date out of a very sceptical-looking online dating outlet.
What did I learn from this? I learned that although I must admit that the whole concept of online dating isn’t still entirely digested by me, it is a completely legitimate, appropriate and fine way to meet new people. In a world of social media dominance where we do businesses, keep in touch with friends, read the news and even learn how to cook online, why is it such a taboo thing to meet someone online too? Granted, there will always be weirdos and creepy guys in that virtual reality, just like how there will always be weirdos and creepy guys that you meet in real life. You do your due diligence, be smart about it and take a leap of faith. Just like how you would do it in the real world.
By the end of it I concluded that Tinder is a decent idea, but one that I personally could not jump into for right now. I am a high anxiety person with a difficulty to decline an approach, too cynical to ever judge a person properly via views of an online profile, and certainly not ballsy enough to meet someone for a blind date without being able to check with his friends to see if he owns a secret collection of stuffed dead animals. But I did find a new type of respect for this friend of mine, as she had indirectly helped me to shed my initial impressions on the online dating scene. More importantly, she showed me that you should always do what you want for yourself, despite what may be a taboo review of people around you or a personal fear of trying something new in life.
This is a true story. You can’t make this shit up.
In late 2014 I was in Paris, and where else would I be at sunset if it wasn’t la Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower). The weather was perfect and there weren’t a lot of people around since it was summer ending. The sky was filled with streaks of purple and orange and the Eiffel Tower lit up every half hour, sending a sparkle of lights all over it, a shimmering delight. I was walking around the grounds minding my own business, and eventually I ended up at a spacious patch where people were sitting on the grassy floor watching the lights.
There was a girl who sat close to me, looking like she was in her twenties, with a brunette bob and cigarette jeans. She was leaning back and watching the last few minutes of the sparkling lights show. It ended and people started moving away, but she kept sitting and staring. A few moments later a young man emerged, slowly pacing himself and eventually stopping his tracks by this girl.
“Oh, I missed it,” he said regretfully.
The girl quickly paid attention and chipped in. “Yeah, you missed it by just a few minutes,” she said. The guy looked at her, surprised at her response (or maybe he’s just acting like he’s surprised). “I think they’ll repeat it again soon,” he said. “Yep, every half hour,” she said. He nodded in acknowledgement.
At this point I was actively eavesdropping. I felt bad at first, but after convincing myself that I am actually an unpaid social journalist, I carried on. “It’s really nice weather,” he said. This is the part where I knew he was trying to make a move. The girl giggled and agreed. This is the part where I knew she was responding positively. I set my phone to ‘silent’.
“My name is XXXXX,” he introduced himself. I can’t remember what his name was. She introduced herself as well but they didn’t shake hands. She was still sitting down, and he was standing awkwardly. The sunset was really at its peak and it was beautiful out there. “Is it okay if I sit down?” he asked. She said yes almost as immediately as that question ended. He sat down and saw her books and asked if she was a student. They carried on having a pleasant conversation.
I felt like I was in some weird, ideal world movie. A boy and a girl who meets in front of the Eiffel Tower? Are you freaking kidding me? I looked around to see if there was a camera. Maybe this is a filming of a reality show. Maybe I’ll be noted at the end credits as ‘Headscarf Girl #3’ (there were quite a few girls in headscarves there coincidentally). I wanted to take a picture of this pair but decided not to. There was a bomb threat in Paris a few days before I arrived and there were army guys looking out everywhere in public places, so I didn’t think me taking a picture of random strangers will look great given the circumstance.
As I evaluated that situation, I have to hand it to this guy for being pretty smart, despite the fact that the Eiffel Tower is such a romantic place that you could be hit by a homeless man and probably still feel charmed by it. Assuming that his intentions were sincere, I would say that he was an excellent strategist. First, he began with an open ended question. If she didn’t end up responding, he wouldn’t be embarrassed because hey, for all you know he’s just talking to himself. Then, he looked surprised by her response. Whether it was unintentional or deliberate, the girl will then use this to confirm that he probably had not been stalking her for the past hour (and maybe he did!).
He also brought up a series of generic conversations. This is important for him to gauge her temperament, whether she seemed open to talk to him or not interested. Finally, he asked politely if he could sit down. By this time the girl would be flattered at his manners. He could also use this opportunity to observe the way she her responded. If she said yes but sounded like she was dreading it then he would know to not stay long. But since she replied almost before the question ended, he’s got his answer right there.
Well played sir.
As I left the Eiffel Tower, the both of them were still animatedly chatting. I don’t know why, but I felt so glad to have witnessed it. It was actually one of the highlights of my stay in Paris. There is nothing quite like the excitement of meeting someone new and you click right into place. It reminded me of my past encounters and the delightful amalgamation of feelings, and frankly isn't that one of the big reasons why we love love so much? I wonder what happened to them. Maybe they ended up together. Maybe they never materialized. Maybe they part ways and never saw each other again. Whichever it is, I am pretty sure they won’t forget it too quickly. And neither will I.
In the wake of me being single again earlier this year, it was like a beacon of light that shone across the horizon to signal my family and friends that I was again ‘back on the rack’. Ending relationships always found me bruised and battered, slightly traumatized at the prospect of ever trying again, and frankly in a mood that resembles a closed-up clam. My friends, bless them, left me in my own bubble to recuperate and rejuvenate myself. However, there is a whole other group of noble people with good intentions who are just waiting to jump at the chance to match-make me.
This group is called The Aunties.
The Aunties is a group of select few that comprises of middle-aged women with grown children, with a wonderful sincere agenda that is to get you hitched and to get you hitched fast. Perhaps it came with the wonderful wisdom of age and being in marriages that lasted more than all of Madonna’s marriages put together. These Aunties never seem to run out of ‘potential’ candidates for you, and work tirelessly to ensure that you will be sitting in your wedding day with a fat smile on your face, because you can now be sure that you probably won’t end up being a 40 year-old singleton with 16 cats.
Unfortunately, the hard part is always when the person that you are set up with is not quite up your alley. I find that disappointing these Aunties with news that it is never going to work out with your ‘potential’ mate is a much, much harder task then disappointing the men themselves. Don’t get me wrong, letting a man down if you don’t feel the same way is also hard in itself, but you know he will move on eventually and find happiness with someone he is meant to be with. However, to actually tell the Aunties that you disagree with their choice of men for you is a much more daunting task. Especially if there is much hope from them that their hard-work and efforts will pay off.
I recently had an experience of being set up by some lovely Aunties with a nice boy. After a long thought I finally decided to just meet the boy to satisfy everyone’s demands to ‘just give it a chance’. I figured that if nothing else, I could at least make a new friend. But note to self and others – do not commit to such things if you are the only one with these kinds of expectations whereas the Aunties are already visualising you stepping down the wedding aisle. Half way through the date I had concluded two things. One, I was nowhere near a mind state where I wanted to be in a relationship again. Two, although he was a nice, decent human being, I felt no connection at all.
Now usually, a first date would be a make or break situation, and if it doesn’t seem promising, well then tough luck and you’ll move on without hurting many people, if not at all. But here I found myself stuck in this dimension where I was going to let down two parties; the boy and the Aunties. Letting down Aunties felt like letting your mother down, in a way. The disappointment they felt killed me. It was like promising your parents you won’t fail in college but you did. Twice.
So the lesson here is folks, when agreeing to such arrangements, know what you are getting yourself into and what you are prepared for. Otherwise, be warned that you might be struck by lightning for disappointing mothers (though not you own).
I wouldn’t say fairytales are completely lies. Yes, the part where all the princesses are always nice and pretty is a myth, of course. The scene where the evil witch is old and hideous is absolutely horrendous too (in real life, they can actually look like Megan Fox). But the part where the knight comes in and rescues the girl… well that’s absurd too, but I’ll have to say the concept is not too far off.
I saw an episode of Desperate Housewives and Susan Mayer said that “It is in a woman’s DNA to fall in love with guys who rescue us”. And she’s right. Women love being rescued. I learned this from my Mother, my sister, my girlfriends, and myself. Being ‘saved’, however, means differently to different people. A girl from a poor background feels ‘saved’ by a man with financial security. A girl from a broken family feels ‘saved’ by a man with emotional stability. A girl who’s just drifting about feels ‘saved’ by finding a man who has his feet firmly on the ground.
We all want to be saved in a number of different ways. I had a friend who came from a broken home, went through a rough childhood and grew up to become a resentful woman. One day she met a guy who had the same difficult upbringing, and through time she said he saved her. You see, being rescued does not necessarily have to be done by a superior hero with the power to fix everything. In fact, it is a common mistake we girls like to make, so says my Mother.
I noticed the truth of this as I went through the motions myself. Being saved can be as simple as meeting someone who seems to be figuring out things too, as you are. The knowledge of someone else who is in your shoes can sometimes feel like a great rescue. It signals that I am not alone in wandering about things and not always knowing what I’m doing. And being shown that you are not alone in this big scary world – is perhaps the most heroic gesture anyone can do. And it certainly beats the whole here-I-am-on-a-horse-with-a-giant-sword thing. That’s just too old school for me.
When I was in college I went on a lot of dates. Sometimes because I like a guy. Sometimes because the guy likes me. Sometimes because I needed a free meal (Well a girl’s got to eat. And scholarship money wasn’t that much either). And sometimes, even on rare occasions, it’s because there was nothing better to do anyway.
In that time all the boys were still in college too, and we couldn’t afford expensive restaurants, so many of these dates will take place in a Mc Donald’s, at some hawker stalls by the street or at some dodgy-looking ethic deli. During these occasions I would fantasize that one day, when I have a big shot job and are asked out by proper working guys, I would be taken on dates at nice restaurants where people would keep refilling my glass. That would be perfect, just as I had seen them in the movies.
Now that I am X years old, I can say that I have indeed been to a date of this kind. The perfect looking man with a perfect looking car who took me to a really nice restaurant at a really nice place where people talked in hush whispers and the waiter looked like he could qualify as a Calvin Klein thong model. But it was during one of these very dates that I suddenly recalled a memory in college when I went out with this particular guy I really liked. He asked me out and we ate at an A&W. I couldn’t remember what I ate or what we talked about, but I remembered vividly how I awesome it felt. On the other hand, as I sat in this fancy restaurant with this fancy schmancy guy, I was happy to be at the place, but I was not even nearly excited about it as I had been back then. The place was amazing, the food was tres delicious and the whole going-on-a-date-protocols were followed closely, so what was wrong?
The answer is, as I've come to realize, a date is not at all about these things, or these protocols, or who’s picking up who at the front doorstep with a dozen flowers and candy and moonlight. For years I have convinced myself that a date is not a perfect date unless it is exactly how I had fantasized it in my head based on too many misleading Western books and movies. When truly, a date is simply about one thing and one thing only.
A date is about THE GUY.
I remembered a date at a hawker stall I had about five years back. There were some loud obnoxious guys sitting next to us that made us feel like we sat in a circus, the food was forgettable and the cook looked as dodgy as one of those ‘Wanted’ men at the airport checkups. But I can clearly recall how excited I was. I really liked the guy and he turned out to be amazing. I remembered how happy I was, and despite the bad lighting and the dangers of being run over by pickup trucks zooming past down the street, we talked for hours and before I knew it, we had been sitting there for six hours. It was worth every butt cramp from sitting down for too long. On the contrary, sitting in that perfect restaurant with a plate of gourmet was all well, but I found myself to keep glancing at my watch and checking how long we’ve been sitting there. And with every subject being brought up about business, world economics and politics, I found myself fantasizing that a hole would open up on the floor and I will be swallowed by it, like Alice in Wonderland (on second thoughts, maybe that was why she ‘fell’ down that hole. She was probably actually on a really bad date).
So I guess a good date is like a hamburger. The guy is the meat patty and the date is everything else – the buns (pun intended), the mayo, the lettuce and the rest of the sides. It will never in hell be a good burger so long as the meat patty itself is of no good. But if it’s delicious and the bun and sides too are amazing, well, ta-dah! You’ve got a perfect hamburger. And by 'hamburger' I meant date. D'uh.
I was cleaning my room last weekend, and came upon a stash of old books. One of them is 'He's Just Not That Into You'. I remembered the day my girlfriend and I bought it, right after we saw its movie adaptation. Somebody told us that the book is ten times better than the movie itself.
There is an excerpt in the book that particularly stepped out of the book, grabbed the book, and slapped me right across my face. It said;
"If he doesn't give a crap, it's because he really, really doesn't give a crap."
Or something like that. Dude, I can't memorize every single word!
I suddenly recalled an event when my friend was seeing a guy, but they were not officially dating, but she thought he really liked her, but she wasn't too sure, especially when he called her only once every three days. "Oh, you know, he's probably just busy. I'm sure he really likes you." I said to her.
I wish I can go back to that time and douse myself on fire. What fiction!
Lesson: We should stop reading things 'between the lines'. What lines?
I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends, which accidentally, happened to be all guys. So of course they ended talking about this hot chick and that hot chick while I ended up sipping on soup.
One guy complained that it is hard to approach girls because he just doesn't know how to. That, and the fact that he was scared of rejection. "You just gotta do it, man," one guy replied. "I have an office colleague, who's not that good looking at all, but he just puts himself out there, and buy the end of the day he will always end up with a phone number or a business card."
Well, that is sort of true. Sometimes when a girl says no, it just means, "try harder, stupid." And if you try hard enough chances are she might give in. I know I would.
"But then," I chipped in. "You still have to know when a girl is subtly rejecting you. Sometimes she wants to say no, because she's really not interested, so you have to know when she's being subtle about it out of respect for you." The guys looked interested. "Usually," I carried on. "When you ask a girl out to dinner, and she accepts, but at the same time tries to invite other people to join you, that's most probably her way of entertaining your offer while rejecting you at the same time."
At this point my friend looked shocked, and as if a sudden revelation had fallen on to him. "Son of a bitch," he said, flabbergasted. "That happened to me so many times before! I had no idea that's what it actually means!"
You're welcome, guys. Glad to shed you some light on this matter.