Surprise! We’re over.
I’ve never had high expectations for my love life. That way, I can be pleasantly surprised by the smallest gestures and events. And yet, men somehow still manage to disappoint me—time and time again. From being told by my high school boyfriend that he would like me better if I was transgender (I have no explanation for that one), to my university boyfriend asking me to give him a Yelp review on his performance as a partner after destroying my mental health and self-esteem.
It’s clear I’ve never been lucky when it comes to dating, yet none of these experiences really mattered. I wasn’t in love with any of those guys, so they became a joke between me and my friends. I was willing to keep my love life as a running joke, but then I fell in love with a boy—let’s call him Harry.
I was introduced to Harry by a friend, one who vouched him as being a great guy. To be fair, he was. Harry was never the type to be overly affectionate, or any amount of affectionate for that matter. But in the rare moments that he did show affection, he put me on cloud nine: like when he nonchalantly told me he had an album on his phone of just my pictures, or the time he referred to his cat as my future daughter. You can imagine my surprise when he asked me if I wanted to go on a date for Valentine’s Day.
We promised not to get each other gifts, but being me, I got him a gift: a collection of magnets in the shape of cat butts to commemorate our shared love for cats. I prepared my outfit a week in advance, and of course it included Doc Martens—his favourite shoes of mine. I wrapped his gift and waited for Valentine’s Day to arrive, like a kid waiting for the dismissal bell on the last day of school. Four days before Valentine’s Day, my phone rang.
“Hi, can we talk?” asked Harry. The tone of his voice sounded serious. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I don’t think we’re right for each other. I think I want to break up.”
“Oh!” I gasped. “How long have you been thinking about this?”
“About two weeks now.”
“So, when you asked me out for Valentine’s Day, you already knew?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
I didn’t dare to ask for the reason. I still don’t know it. Instead of enjoying a nice evening on Valentine’s Day, I bawled my eyes out in bed. I still have the gift I got him. It’s sitting on my desk, just like another cruel joke about my love life.
How to lose five guys in 10 days
With the Valentine’s Day themed semi-formal coming up in a few days, love and desperation were in the air. Couples ran around asking each other to the dance. In my case, six of my guy friends asked me out—something I never imagined could happen. Not once was I asked to any school dances in middle school, not even to last year’s semi-formal. I did what any other girl in my position would do: I said yes to all six of them.
The semi-formal arrived ten days later. At the entrance, I realized what I had done after seeing the heart-shaped balloon decorations. I panicked.
What kind of person says yes to six different boys for semi? I’m in way over my head.
Before the doors to the hall opened, I approached each of the six guys individually. I started with the one who asked me out through a tortuous scavenger hunt. With the least possible finesse, I rejected all of them on the spot. Luckily, no one took it to heart—except for Sam. Sam and I had known each other since grade seven. He was one of my closest friends and knew I wasn’t the type of person to reject someone the day of an event.
Sam messaged me after the semi-formal. We talked it out and I discovered I had true feelings for him. We started dating shortly after. Who would’ve thought saying yes to six guys and then rejecting them all would’ve landed me in a relationship? Not me.
A meagre Valentine’s Day
It was a regular Sunday morning. I got ready for work while my boyfriend prepared his gear for ice fishing. Once ready, we gave each other a kiss and parted ways. On the way to work, I passed by many Valentine’s Day advertisements, but I was tired, so I didn’t take them in.
When I arrived at work, I overheard my colleagues talking about their post-work Valentine’s plans. My jaw dropped and my eyes widened. I forgot it was Valentine’s Day. I called my boyfriend panicking. He forgot too. I didn’t even get him anything!
On such short notice, all I could do was buy candy apples—his favourite. On the way home, I picked up takeout.
Maybe he’ll surprise me, I thought. Perhaps forgetting was part of his plan, and I’ll be greeted with rose petals and candles.
Instead, I was greeted with a messy apartment and fishing gear thrown everywhere. I sighed in defeat, put my stuff down, greeted my partner, and went to get changed. When I came out, he was lighting candles on the table. He had spelt out “I <3 U.” The flickering candlelight illuminated his apologetic face. We smiled, then burst out laughing. In our messy, candlelit apartment, we happily ate our takeout.
Modern Valentine’s Day rituals have turned into celebrations of materiality and performative love, rather than a celebration of love and partnership. The absence of grand gestures doesn’t mean love is lost. Valentine’s Day should be about spending time with and appreciating your loved ones. When you are in love, every day should feel like Valentine’s Day. Romanticize each day, instead of just one day a year.
A warm night with my blushed teddy bear
How about we go for a stroll along the Avenue of Stars before a drink?” Chubby says.
“Aww, yep!” I smile.
We leave La Petite Maison restaurant. I hold Chubby’s warm hand, our fingers interlaced. He takes off his coat and covers my shoulders. The gentle breeze caresses my face. Hong Kong’s city lights shimmer on the other side of the Victoria Harbour. I never get tired of this view.
Chubby gives me a peck on the cheek. I hug him back like a teddy bear. As we saunter along the promenade, we get near to the Victoria Dockside and the grandly-built Hotel Rosewood Hong Kong. I’ve long told Chubby that I want to try out the new Rosewood’s DarkSide bar.
As we enter the hotel’s main lobby, we follow the escort’s direction. We take a seat at a table close to the window and I look up at the ceiling. The triangular decor soothes my soul. I gander the drink menu but hesitate on what to order.
“Which drink will you recommend today?” I ask the waiter.
“The Almond Blossom Crusta,” he says. “It’s sweet but not too sweet.”
“That sounds great.”
“A Grande champagne cognac please,” Chubby says. The waiter leaves with the drink menus.
“Hon, I like the ambiance here,” I say as I warm my hands near the glowing heater. Chubby agrees.
The window reflects the distinct night view of Victoria Harbour. The bar’s ceiling mirrors the extensive library of rum, whisky, and calvados.
I glimpse at the stage. A lady in a red sparkling dress dances to Jazz. A bearded man plays the viola alongside. I bob my head in time with the music.
“Cheers!” We clink our glasses and take a sip.
Chubby’s face becomes indistinct in the dark. “You’re blushing!” I tell him. He smiles and kisses me. It feels gentle—like the sea kissing its shoreline. I nod to the beat of the soothing jazz music. I turn my head and take a sip of my cocktail.
When saying “I love you” goes wrong
I love you. These are the words we all dream of hearing from our loved ones. But when I heard those words from one of my best friends, I gave her a blank death stare.
I have never been good at forming bonds or affirming my emotions with people. Back in primary school, Isabella, one of my closest friends, told me that she loved me. My face froze and my brain stopped functioning. Instead of reciprocating her feelings of platonic love, I blanked—I truly did not know what to say.
After a few minutes, the bell rang. I dashed to the classroom, making sure I didn’t have to sit next to her. My reaction hurt Isabella. She constantly avoided eye contact with me, and we barely spoke. She remained distant until I finally spoke to her a couple of days later.
We talked about our classes, classmates, and teachers. Though gossiping wasn’t usually to my taste, being best friends, I knew Isabella loved to. I was hoping it would make our conversation more entertaining and we could move past our hiccup—and it worked.
My reaction and behaviour were so silly. Evidently, I felt awkward, which made her feel even more uncomfortable. In hindsight, I hope this exchange didn’t make her wary of expressing her feelings. That is one of Isabella’s qualities that I find admirable—one I wish that I possessed more of.