Back in the days when an Apple was something you could bite into and if you saw a man walking down the street talking to himself and laughing, you cross to the other side pronto. I, aged 14, was asked on a date by a boy!
Some would describe me as an ugly duckling but I prefer to say that I was a Tomboy. Until the age of 13, I was still wearing Chinese samfoos/pyjamas which mum sewed for me - Cotton, usually pink with flowers, short-sleeve blouse with plastic buttons down the front and matching elasticised trousers. Just to explain how “swa koo” (country tortoise) I was, I even ventured to the Esplanade on a public bus in my pyjamas with a bunch of TKGS classmates. I was in a clique of 4. The other 3 were pretty, petite and sexy and I was the odd-ball. But being in a clique, when a group of boys from St. Pats wanted to hang out with us and eventually decided to pair off, I ended up with one boy whom I didn’t really fancy. I was totally infatuated with his friend (isn’t it always the case) but the guy couldn’t see past my short hair and gangly legs.
Anyway, Chee Lick asked me out on a date. I know what you’re going to say. Nobody in their right minds would name their sons that! Google it, and you’ll see how wrong you are. I once saw the nameplate of a doctor in a Singapore hospital (famous for its VD clinic) with such a name and I almost fell off my chair. But just to clarify the issue, I wasn’t there for VD. I had hundreds of flea bites from a trip to an Indian village home in Kashmir which I reacted so badly to that all the wounds turned septic and I had to have an injection in every spot…but that is another story. Anyway, all names in my tale had been changed to protect the guilty. Now, back to this story… You know the Hokkien saying, “No fish, prawn also can” or beggars can’t be choosers, so I said yes to Chee Lick.
My first worry was the fact that my wardrobe consisted of samfoos in every colour. So breaking into my piggy bank, I collected every cent I had and went shopping. Back in those days, the only shopping centre near us was Katong Shopping centre. It certainly wasn’t the Orchard Road of its day but it was better than mum’s sewing machine.
I had no fashion sense then (or now as my husband pointed out) and I bought a pair of Dutch wooden clogs. I must have had my reasons but I can’t think why I thought it was a good choice at the time. Maybe I thought if the date turned sour, I could take off my clogs and use them as weapons?
Next came clothes – a skirt I decided – definitely a skirt to make myself look feminine and a nice matching blouse. I went into every shop, ruffled through every rack as we didn’t have choices back in the old days like teenagers have now. I ended up with a red-checked skirt gathered at the waist and a similar but not identical red-checked blouse. In hindsight, I must have looked like a walking table cloth that you find in Italian restaurants. But I was too naïve to see that.
On the appointed day and hour, I clumped my way to the bus stop to meet Chee Lick, who didn’t hide behind a pillar (bless him) when he saw me coming. We hopped onto a Number 12 bus which took us to Capitol Theatre in Stamford Road. When we arrived, Chee Lick started queuing at the Ticket Office. He came back a few minutes later and told me that tickets for the film we wanted to see were sold out. I looked at him and he looked at me. Maybe he finally took in my Dutch wooden clogs and the Italian Restaurant table-cloth clothes and thought to himself, “I can’t go around town with this …thing.” But I knew that as I looked at him, I asked myself, “Why the hell did I end up looking like an idiot in toe-killing shoes with this smelly pimply faced boy whom I don’t even like.” I then said in no uncertain terms, “OK. I am taking the bus home. Goodbye.” And off I went, clumpetty clump, never looking back and swearing never to go out on a date with Chee Lick again! It must have been the shortest first date in history (before the world had heard of speed-dating and the like).
Me in my most fashionable attire… while fly-fishing in Northumberland
After that embarrassing episode, I made a determined effort to extend the range of my wardrobe and began buying Levis, sport shorts, sneakers and blue denim shirts. I decided I looked awful in skirts with my pot-belly (yes, even at 14! Sigh!) and only when the minis came out, did I have the gall to put myself into a skirt again. As for dates, thankfully, I did eventually blossom (OK, had to wait till I was 40) and with the explosion of the Internet, I had (at one point) 60 men vying for my attention.
So, however disastrous your first date turn out to be, don’t worry. Just tell yourself that your time will come.