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)

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