Monday, November 10, 2014

At the End of Everything #12

“So I heard you’ve been trying out online dating huh? How is it?” I smiled awkwardly at the question, unsure of what to answer. The sound of people talking and eating filled the air, fueled by the dinner peak hour. Utensils scraped against plates and bowls around me.

I looked around the table, studying the faces of the people who were sitting on it. It was a gathering of university friends that evening, as we came together to celebrate the birthday of a mutual friend. Birthday gatherings were normally opportunities for friends to meet up and to catch up with one another, given how difficult it is to keep in touch after leaving school. A couple of them I have not met since graduating. It was good to see each other again. 

The guy who asked the question was seated in front of me, a glass of water in his hands. His name was Kevin, and we had been friends in university ever since our freshman year. Coming from the same country as me, we both stayed in the same hostel, along with rest of the people on the table. There were almost ten of us, all seated along the long wooden table in Marche, a popular western restaurant on top of Vivocity.

Kevin and I were good friends, having been neighbours for several term. He was a good friend, never hesitating to help those around him. We were updating each other about our relationship status, having talked about work and what we were currently doing. The both of us were still single, and hence the topic naturally drifted to relationships. It was a constant topic that everyone talks about when one enters the young adult phase.

“Yeah, I heard that too! Did you find anyone from there?” Another friend popped her head over, having heard the conversation between me and Kevin. She smiled cheekily at me, her eyebrows raised in a questioning manner. By now the section of my table fell silent, as I could feel several pair of eyes staring at me, waiting for my answer. I gulped uncomfortably, as I searched for an answer.

I scratched my head, even though there was no itch. “Err… Well I think it’s not bad?” Even after several times of answering the same question, I was still not used to it.

“What’s not bad? You gotta elaborate more please,” my female friend quipped, leaning her head towards me. I cast a annoyed look at her, sticking my tongue out. 

She shrugged back at me. “You still need to tell us more, you know.”

“Yeah, tell us more about your online dating story!” Another friend from the far side of the table suddenly chimed in. By now I was the center of attention on the table, with everyone focused on me. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and let me face turn into a grimace.

“Are you all really sure you want to hear what I have to say? It’s really boring, to be honest.” I tried to divert them. A not very successful attempt, judging from the loud “Yes” from almost everyone on the table. I gave a defeated sigh, and thought about what to say. It has been more than two months since I first joined the online dating site in hopes of finding someone new. By now most of my friends had already heard about it, and considered me a rare species of some sort, being the only person among our cliques who used it.

I thought about the first girl that I have met, about my drama with Phoebe, and the several girls that I was still chatting with currently. There was another two girls whom I went out with for dinner post Phoebe, but none of them lasted after the initial date. It was amusing, to see the speed at which online dating works. If the first date did not work out, there was this unwritten custom to not contact each other after that again. I changed my hand to scratch my chin this time, as I carefully chose the words.

“Well… it’s kinda different to be honest. Online dating gives you the ability to meet people that you otherwise you would not be able to meet in real life, and I think that is kinda awesome itself, because it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. With that being said however, there are so many choices available to you, to a point where it is tough to weed out those who are really worth your time. It can get pretty tiring sometimes.” The first sentence I quoted from a website that reviewed online dating providers, while the rest of it was how I truly felt as of now. Some of friends gave a knowing nod to what I said, while others continued to fix their eyes on me. 

They had not asked enough, I felt. And sure enough, the next question came immediately after. “So have you found anyone yet from there?” the girl next to me asked. It was not the first time someone asked me questions about my online dating experience, and every time someone does, the single most important question that they wanted to know was if I had found anyone yet.

I guessed it was because people wanted to see if online dating really worked, despite all the negative stereotypes that were attached to it. I looked at my friend and simply answered, “No,” before quickly adding, “But we’ll see how things turn out.” That was my standard answer to the question. It kills off the conversation, and is vague enough to not provide any materials for people to gossip on. Satisfied, the rest of the group turned their attention away from me. It did not take long long before the conversation drifted away from me, something which I was happy for. 

Even though I could already be considered as an experienced user of the dating site by then, it was still not something that I would talk freely about to my other friends. There is still this certain stigma attached to online dating, and I felt that whenever people ask, they were not really asking out of concern, but rather to judge you. There was this look from them that said, “Oh, you’re using online dating sites, what a loser.” It was something that I did not really enjoy.

Aside from the small interrogation, he rest of the evening went on smoothly without much incident, like any birthday celebration would. We brought out the cake, sang the birthday song, ate our dinner, exchanged any latest happenings and soon we were saying goodbye to each other, and promised that we will meet again. Perhaps during the next birthday dinner. 

Looking at the group of friends, I find what the review website was saying was indeed really true. There was no chance that I would get attached to any of the girls in my current circle of friends. It was either that they were attached or we were friends for so long that the mere thought of getting together sounded downright strange and weird. Some of us knew that we were not meant to be together. And therefore the best choice was to reach out from the circle that we had, and what online dating offered was the easiest and fastest choice available.

But it was true too what I said about being tired. While waiting for the bus home later that night, I found myself looking at my phone again, browsing through all the conversations that I had. The app tells me that there are hundreds of girls online near my area right now, but I could just not find the energy to go through all the introductions and small talk again. There are times where I wished I could be straight to the point, message the girl and tell them that I was looking for a girlfriend, and would like to meet up with them to see if we were compatible.

Sadly things never work this way. Call it sentimental or culture, but we humans still enjoyed the nuances that come together with dating. The slow chase period, the flowers giving, expression of love, all for the sake of finding someone to settle down together. It is inefficient, wastes time and not entirely effective as well. The high rates of divorce in our society is a testament to that, despite how our society has romanticized this idea of love. Could it be that love is only an illusion, just as how some scientist claim that it is? A feeling that trick us into reproducing?

My thoughts went back to the conversation that I had earlier with the friend who was sitting next to me during the birthday dinner. While talking about our work, she mentioned that she was currently working in a family service center, handling cases of domestic abuse, child abuse or any issues that involve family problems. Out of all the friends who were at the dinner that night, she was the only one working in a social service sector.

“Sometimes you don’t even know why or how on earth these people get married,” she quipped, when I asked her about the clients that she would serve. “It’s like they got married just for the sake of getting married, without even a single thought about their future children or even about growing old together.” 

It was a feeling that I well understood, being a teacher myself. There were parents that constantly gave you headache, whom you have no idea why they chose to become parents. It feels that the last thing that they were well equipped for was to be responsible for another person’s life, which in their case, was the lives of their children. 

The family service center friend made a very apt observation when she mentioned that, “If we are required to have license to own a vehicle, I don’t see why not we are required to own a license just to have children.” I could only laugh at her statement. Dealing with parents is not one easy thing, that I have to concur. And working with parents taught me the single most important life lesson that not many people seem to understand. That finding the mother (or father) to your future children was not a decision to be taken lightly. Screw that up and you screw up the rest of your life.

It was funny how much my brain could muse on a single bus ride, as a jerk on the bus broke me from my thoughts. A tiny beep on my phone made me pull it out, just to see what news my phone had to deliver. There was a message for me on the dating app, left behind by a girl whom I had messaged  earlier.

“That’s right! I am currently working as an accountant right now, which is quite a stressful job. How about you?” It was a reply to a question that I had asked a few days before, about her profile picture of her standing in front of the logo of a well known auditing firm. She had changed her picture since then, this time in a smart office wear with a slight hint of eyeliner and lipstick. If she had replied a few days before, I would have been excited and immediately show back a reply. But not tonight.

I closed the the app, and tapped on the folder that read “Games”. 

*****

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P/s: It feels like I'm on writer's steroid. Lets see if I can post another chapter by tonight


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