Words with(out) meaning

It was on a tipsy night filled with bravado and celebration that I popped the question to some male friends: “Would you ever tell a girl that she’s a good kisser if you didn’t mean it?”1

“No,” they all replied, unequivocally. One added, “why bother saying something like that at all? It’s really not that hard to get laid.”

As a person who works a lot with language, words mean a lot to me. As a member of Hong Kong’s under 30s generation, I know that all people say certain things sometimes, without meaning all of it. I, myself, typically come prepared to first dates (especially set up through that internet app thing that uses the thumbs) armed with an excuse as to why I have to leave at a certain time2. I recognise that being told that I’m a good kisser or that I look hot might not necessarily mean that my lips have unprecedented prowess. It may, very well, be just an indication that the other person would not mind seeing me naked.

So where should we draw the line between “things people say to get laid” and “things that people actually mean?” How can we tell the difference in sincerity between a badly spelled text saying “ur butts hot”3 and a seemingly genuine, face-to-face “I think I’m in love with you”4? My suspicious brain works itself to smoking status as I construct theories about ulterior motives and possible miscommunications. Can I even really trust my male friends who have told me that they wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it? Should I have questioned their motives further?

But while my mind is speeding ahead and I am growing more and more wary of the power of words as a tool to tell lies, I begin to fantasise about the the improbable but amazing hypothetical situation whereby all nice things are said out of pure honesty. Could it be possible that the same person who thinks my butt is hot is also falling in love with me, for real5?

I hope it’s possible6. Perhaps it’s true that actions speak louder than words, and that I should protect and arm myself with a fashionable trench coat of cordial scepticism. But I don’t want words to lose their meanings. I am jaded enough to question every statement, especially every positive thing, that a man says to me. (Un?)fortunately, I am also just enough of a romantic to truly want to believe it all.

1. The bravado and celebration for this evening came from, well, being told that I was a good kisser. It was flattering, to say the least, and I may have had wanted to give the idea a little more empirical experimentation.
2. Excuses I’ve used in the past: “need to attend a birthday”, “roommate is upset at boyfriend and needs to talk”, and “have to be up early to pick up relatives from the airport”.
3. Although our blog has “tall tales” in the title, roughly 99.9% of all content that we write about is truth. This example is not an outlier.
4. And does it matter if this is said before, during, or after sex? Is there a difference in intention based what is about to happen, or had just happened?
5. Throw in a pet beagle and a mutual love for Oscar Wilde and beer and we have the formula for the perfect relationship.
6. All other insecurities aside, I’m ass-proud. It’s a good quality. (Just let me have this one)

Anatomy of a Tinder Greeting

Dear Men of Tinder,

When you send me that first message, please use half a brain. Here are some examples of greetings that I did not even bother to reply to, and thus, did not get you laid:

  • “Hey”
  • “Hey I’m Efy nice to meet you.”1 
  • “Hey Bean! How’s your week going?”2
  • “Hello!”
  • “Good morning!”
  • “What’s an expat?”3
  • “I love. Terrible puns as well!! Why are you reacfliwt. To the U.S. Of The”4
  • “Ever had a threesome”
  • “Esoteric that word is such beautiful grammer. As beautiful as an Oriental like u.”

The last one takes the cake. 1) That’s not what esoteric means. 2) Horrific grammar. 3) Leave me alone you fucking white boy with Asian fantasies (but apparently not enough sense to understand that Oriental is racist and not a compliment). This is what I get for being a bit shallow and swiping right on a cute guy.5

Now, here are some that worked. Let me preface this section by saying that my profile explicitly mentions my having a badonkadonk6, my love of weightlifting, a random country I’ve been to, and an enjoyment of terrible jokes.

  • “What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college?” (Bison)
  • “You look exciting.”7
  • “What’s the fastest thing in the world? Milk-It’s pasteurized before you see it.”
  • “That’s pretty good use of forced perspective with the fountain….is that Singapore?”8
  • “Pancakes or waffles?”
  • “A lifting booty? congrats! How long have you been lifting for?”
  • “Nearly everybody has the same number of Tour de France titles as Lance Armstrong.”9

Men of Tinder, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you make the slightest effort to half-heartedly gloss over my profile, I’ll most likely reply10. I’m not asking you to give me your heart to me on a silver platter (I’ll probably be creeped out because this is Tinder we’re talking about), but I also don’t have to give you a chance in hell to put your penis in me unless you try just that tiny bit.

1. Tinder already gives me your name. No need to reintroduce yourself.
2. You might seem friendly, but really, why should you give a rat’s ass about my week? You don’t even know me. Don’t ask me how my week is going. That is reserved for friends I don’t really keep much in touch with.
3. http://bfy.tw/1u5L
4. Sloppy drunk texts are the equivalent of finally working up the courage (by drinking) to talk to the cute girl or guy at the bar. Then you vomit all over them. There’s no coming back from this.
5. Tinder informs me that he is now 1548 miles away from me. Thank goodness.
6. Don’t judge. This is Tinder. Badonkadonk is also really fun to say.
7. This is an amazing compliment. No one ever wants to be boring, and how often do you ever get called exciting??
8. +1 for correctly identifying a city from a partially obscured statue and a hotel
9. +2! Random trivia + bad joke!
10. Sometimes I might be too creepy or weird in my replies though. Case:
Tinder guy: I can’t wait to introduce you to my mom!
Me: Already? Cool! I’m so honored! (Your mom is cool right?)
*I have thoughts of maybe he is a serial killer who uses Tinder to find victims (Has there been a Law and Order episode of this yet?)
Me: Also, I hope she isn’t dead because that’d be a little creepy.
-END OF CONVERSATION-

All the world’s a daydream…

The Bean’s and my favourite bar in Hong Kong is a British-style pub, complete with leather couches, a few dozen craft beers, and substantial pies1 on the menu, set in a homey atmosphere. We have had drunken nights, work lunches, and even wedding receptions at this place; most recently, however, I have taken to perching myself in a bar stool and writing my latest thesis drafts. The people who would bring their laptops to a pub at 6 o’clock on a Monday2  are few and far between, and are nearly always IPA drinkers who look purposefully unkempt3 , but I always wonder if I would ever find myself having a conversation with one of them about our work, our choices of beverage, or mutual love of MacBook Air computers.

We all have fantasies about meeting the loves of our lives in our favourite places (or places in which we spend the most time), doing what we so often do. Perhaps it is a fantasy about two teenagers reaching for the same book in a library. Maybe two individuals will look up and lock eyes from across a crowded room4. When I worked the cashier at campus dining halls back in college, I had just the perfect daydream that along would come a well-intentioned, handsome, young future lawyer who would be acting as the sole caretaker for some fraternity brothers on student clubbing night. He would be sheepish that they were holding up my line again, and offer to buy me a coffee as an apology.

Every cafe, bar, and cold-pressed juicery we walk into is a place to meet our soulmates. After all, we can’t do any better than perfectly-aligned mutual interests, right?

It would be incorrect to say that I never meet anyone here — after all, I have been coming to this bar a couple of times a week for the past few years. But none of those interactions have ever checked all my boxes. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was asked, as I was carrying two pints of beer from the bar, “are you going to pay for those yourself, or is some gentleman going to do it for you?” I frowningly tried to enquire if he was offering to pay, and received the baffling reply “oh you look like a woman who makes enough money to pay for her own drinks, I’m sure”5.

I’ve reached the end of this post, and I just looked up from my position at my booth. The couple who was on the next table just walked out after an exceedingly awkward date, in which everything seemed off except for the physical contact. The place is half full with rowdy, middle aged, white businessmen, and a few friends I dragged here with me on the pretence of “hanging out”. No one new has approached me yet, but an old man at the bar did mistake my wave at the manager for himself as the recipient.

But despite the lack of mutually beneficial meet cutes6, this still the place I love to be. I may not be settled on one eligible bachelor, but at least I don’t have to date around for a favourite place.

1. I am talking meat pies here — juicy, savoury artistic creations that are topped with gravy and served with thick cut chips. Nothing screams comfort food more than good, old fashioned, steak and kidney.

2. Also known as “time for two drinks before happy hour ends”.

3. I believe that I also fall into this category, but my unkemptness often lacks the elegance of these hipster freelancers. My raggedy look comes from spending hours at a time translating old documents and taking notes — it’s something that I can personally be proud of, but will never become a fashion statement. (In other news, I’m awesome at drinking IPAs)

4. Recent works of popular culture have made use of this highly-cliched, but very sought-after, trope. Notable examples include the pilot of How I Met Your Mother. Also relevant: the music video for “Jizz in My Pants” by The Lonely Island.

5.This reply was baffling because I was wearing plaid and flip flops. Also, as a graduate student, receiving comments about my presumed affluence really makes me very sad. 

6.”Meets cute”? What’s the correct plural for this rather saccharine internet-age adage? Or is the term actually a verb? Please comment and reply!
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Women Merely Glow

I never expected to be the girl who falls really hard for the first guy she dates.

We met at a party that I never really wanted to attend: the friend who convinced me to go and socialize ended up not even attending, but I met A. As the slightly socially awkward person I am, I decided to make small talk about the weather (hot and humid; this was a Hong Kong summer after all), to which A had the most dashing reply in the most charming British accent.

“Horses sweat, men perspire, but women merely glow.”

Done. Sold. That was the end of my perpetual singledom. Who knew I could find such a nice English gentleman on the streets of Wanchai1 that are home to hookers, drunken shenanigans, and most likely a fair bit of bodily fluid.

Aside from the first date2, nothing really was ever very awkward between us. We got along fabulously, ate our way through Hong Kong3, and watched ridiculous internet videos together. He would always bring me shit cake4 from his work, and sometimes really great cupcakes. He also brought me foods I craved when I was in the hospital for 10 days. I was a bit delirious from fever and probably smelled a little unwashed as my body couldn’t muster up enough blood pressure to keep me from feeling dizzy all the time. But he dealt with that and kept me company for the few hours of visiting hours the hospital allowed.

However, all good things must come to an end. I suppose we had an extended summer romance5 where, aside from my hospitalization, we had all the great stuff you want in a relationship, traveling to exotic locales, trying out new foods, just having a good time hanging out and having sex, without the fights. Either that or we really were just that compatible.

Every time I go on a date with a new person now, I can’t help but to not quite subconsciously make comparisons. I know that’s not something any guy would ever want to hear, but it happens when the bar is set so high. I understand that I can’t create that first relationship, but at the same time, there must be someone worth dating for an extended period of time in Chicago, right? Right? Anyone out there?

 

1.Wanchai: historically, where American servicemen would throng the streets to let loose after spending months on a boat. The prices for prostitutes also increased when the sailors and Marines had shore leave.
2. We went to go watch World War Z because I am slightly obsessed with zombies. Turns out, he hates horror movies. I also somehow talked about trying to find a double ended dildo.
3.Getting sushi with me on a date will increase your chances of getting laid 1000%. Getting sushi + Indian food + Korean food in the same meal will basically guarantee sex.
4. Shit cakes were cakes his school would provide students for their birthdays. They were bland, dry, and somehow very dense, sponge cakes.
5. We only dated for a year. We both knew that this relationship had an expiration date as neither of us could envision staying in Hong Kong or moving to each others’ respective countries.
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Dear Mother

Dear Mother,

I must apologise in advance for letting you down – this note does not bring joyful tidings of the type you are expecting. I am not pregnant, and you will not be receiving a grandchild in nine months time, but please trust me in knowing that it is probably for the better. What I do want to address is that conversation we keep circling back to. You know, the one we had again last weekend, when I averted eye-contact and told you that I was definitely still very single, and you retorted by blaming me for my lack of trying, stability, or foresight about my future.

You believe that I don’t date because I don’t feel like it. This is not quite true; I tell you that I don’t date because I do not want you to know about even the top two inches of the cesspool that I have to wade through just to find a semi-decent dinner companion, not to mention baby daddy. I don’t feel comfortable telling you about the time my colleague criticised me of being “such a girl!” because I said that I did not want to be fuck buddies. I couldn’t exactly tell you about that guy from Coffee Meets Bagel who informed me “I have to tell a girl that the blowjob was good if I ever want a repeat”. I never heard from him again. And I really, really did not want to tell you about the law student on the scholarship committee who wanted to send a taxi to pick me up, and take me to his place for a “deeeeeeep kiss”. I probably lost out on a $2000/month scholarship because I said no to the booty call, but I still didn’t want to tell you about it.

The truth is, Mother, that dating kind of sucks. The other truth is that you live in a fantasy world where men are not sometimes assholes,  and it is very easy to land a tenure-track position in the humanities. I love you for your delusions, and I want you to keep them. I don’t tell you about the gropers, the sleazes, or borderline date rapists because I, ironic as this sounds, want to protect you from the plethora of linguistic perplexities of the modern dating world – “friends with benefits”, “sexual fluidity”, and “I don’t like labels!” – that can crush the self-esteem of even the most well-intentioned, optimistic young woman.

I don’t tell you about these men because not only are they not good enough for me, they are also definitely not good enough for you. I want to shield you from the bad feelings, ick at best and devastation at worst, that comes from knowing that your kid is making misstep after misstep. You told me to never second-guess myself, my attractiveness, or what I have to offer in a relationship; I can assure you that you do not want to be here when I prove time and again that it does not take much, or long, for that self-doubt to inevitably kick in.

Maybe I am also just really bad at dating. I may be too much of a bro around my actually-nice male friends, or frequent the wrong bars, or scare off Tinder matches with my tendency to use too-witty jokes. But please know that I am ready to trust someone – I’m just trying to avoid being stomped on, neglected, or otherwise mistreated along the way.

Love, your daughter,

The Bun

P.S. Please tell Cousin Marnie congratulations on her engagement. While you pass on my message, can you please also add that I was voted best speaker at the recent department conference? Actually, can you say that I dazzled so much that a cute postdoc asked me out? I can make a fake LinkedIn profile if I have to.