Going blind on a date

When it comes to blind dates, tough guy Kee Song is a total wreck. We prepare a tactical plan for him

KEE SONG was in the Commando unit during his National Service days. He’s tan, with a muscled physique, like most Commandos. And he has been taught all kinds of special skills that the rest of us more timid creatures have not heard of.

So, how was it that on Saturday afternoons, Kee Song would usually be found in the video rental shop in the block next to his apartment block, borrowing movies to kill time over the long weekend hours?

You see, although Kee Song was taught many fighting skills, apparently no one taught him about applying them in the game of love. So what was a guy to do on Saturday night but watch three DVD movies, for crying out loud?

His uncle, Rock Hudson Gan, was my pal during recruit days in Blakang Mati Camp. If you haven’t heard of Pulau Blakang Mati, an island at the underbelly of Singapore that used to be haunted by beautiful female Malay vampires or pontianak, don’t ask – you weren’t born then. Anyway, one day Rocky called me to say we’d got to fix a date for his nephew. Kee Song couln’t be spending the rest of his life watching movies on weekends. It ain’t natural for his testosterone.

“All right, Rocky,” I replied, “let’s plan a blind date for Kee Song.” In our own army training days decades ago, Gan was so handsome that the sergeant in charge baptised him Rock Hudson, after the dashing Hollywood actor of the 1960s and 70s. We’d called him Rocky Gan ever since. (I learnt later that the American Rock Hudson was gay; but Rocky Gan was a serial womaniser even in his innocent recruit days.)

Rocky claimed he knew no unattached girl despite the fact that girls once upon a time swarmed over him like flies over an open jar of honey. So I turned to my aunt Mich, a self-proclaimed romance and dating expert. She called her mahjong friends, all middle-aging kaypohs (the Singapore Hokkien-English term for busybodies) like herself, and they soon identified someone who just might be suitable for Kee Song. The girl was still studying on campus, enthusiastic and cheerful, working as a temp during her school holidays.

Kee Song was stunned when Aunt Mich called him about the good news. “See for yourself,” she told him. “This girl’s a babe and perfect for you. Heck, you will like her. I swear, you can’t go wrong. We meet at Lido Cinema at 6. I will bring her and introduce her to you. I’ve already got the tickets for the three of us. But after the show, you’re on your own. Good luck!”

There was silence – the silence of the lamb being led away to an unknown fate, said Aunt Mich with a laugh when she told me what happened. Kee Song really had no idea what to do on a blind date.

To him, it was like entering enemy territory blindfolded (hence the word “blind”). You know precious little about the foe, I mean this girl. What if there was nothing to talk about? What if there was nothing you like about her because her face was covered in pimples and her breathe smelled? Worse, what if she laughed at you for stammering and being ugly-looking, and quoted the irritating maxim about a toad (the man) hoping to savour the celestial geese (the heavenly maid)?

Luckily, Aunt Mich remembered a thing or two about her own bachelorette days when she did go out on some blind dates. So she gave Kee Song “tactical” advice that I’m now passing on to any guy reading this who is clueless:

Keep an open mind. Remember this is a blind date. You have not seen this girl before. Don’t have any expectation or you will be disappointed. Don’t keep thinking that she has the shampoo ad girl’s silky hair and figure, and a musical voice.

All girls are pretty in looks and personality, or at least in personality, all my aunts used to say. When Kee Song heard this from Mich, he was genuinely confused. Was Mich saying all girls were good-looking but some girls were, maybe, eh, um, not that good-looking but this was not important so long as they have a charming personality? Personality be hanged! As far as I know, all guys like good-looking girls with curves on top and at the bottom; it’s part of a guy’s articles of faith.

Listen when she talks, and don’t interrupt. Talk on safe subjects like King Kong vs. Godzilla, Katong laksa vs. Penang laksa, or if all else fails, about Picasso’s Cubist art.

Forget Picasso if you haven’t heard of him and talk about your trekking tour in Iceland instead, and make her laugh by saying, You know, the only thing icy about Iceland is the name. It’s such a warm, friendly country. (Although Kee Song had not even heard of Iceland before this conversation, he memorised this line by heart before he left the house.)

Be warned though that some girls who are achingly sweet have nothing in their brains. They may be mildly interested in computer-animated monsters and fiery laksa but most of them definitely would not care two hoots about warm, friendly Iceland or arty-farty Picasso. You can’t always be so lucky to get a date who is both well-read and good-looking, a beautiful mind in a beautiful head, as they say. Girls like that don’t need to go on blind dates – they’re out in Iceland with unshaven Italian male models doing fashion-shoots between glaciers and volcanoes.

But it doesn’t mean that girls on blind dates are un-beautiful and un-clever. The world has 6 billion people, so there are lots and lots of attractive girls who are simply too shy to do any socialising on their own, and need friends and aunts to set them up on dates.

So listen and talk, listen and talk. That’s the tactic to make friends with anyone, including attractive girls on blind dates. But don’t veer into marriage or children or any long-range strategic subject. The girl will get the impression you are evaluating her, and nobody likes to be evaluated, unless it’s for job promotion and pay rise.

Warning: If the girl starts to moan about her ex-boyfriend and her lack of a love life at this first meeting, it’s time to bolt, says Mich.

Guys, you don’t want to be her “rebound” man (someone to be her temporary partner and dinner cashier while she’s on the rebound and looking for a more permanent boyfriend). I’m ashamed to say I once did served as a rebound man for a sweet-young-but-aggressive-thing who broke up with her boyfriend from Chicago. As there was unsuitable adult content in it, I can’t reveal the details.

Be yourself. One of the biggest mistakes you make when going on a blind date is trying to be someone you are not. Dress casual but smart. You don’t need necktie or long sleeves, but neither can you go in shorts, collarless T-shirt and sandals.

Don’t touch. You may have a strong urge to wrap your arm around her shoulders or to caress the twin moons that are half-covered by her blouse. Don’t. Some girls don’t mind being touched lightly, but only by long-time familiar friends. It’s your first date, so keep your paws to yourself.

Have an exit strategy just in case. The Americans are forever talking about it but someone forgot to plan one when they entered Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, they got stuck with suicide bombers and other unfriendly people, and it took them years to extricate themselves. So follow what they say and not what they do.

Mich likes to stress that in 99 percent of blind dates, the girl will turn up as you have expected – shampoo-advertised hair, slender figure and musical voice. But you need to arrange an exit strategy beforehand in case she falls into that (extremely, extremely rare) one percent, and you really, really are unable to develop any tender biological feeling towards her.

So, before the date, get your mum or uncle Rocky to call you an hour into the date and you can then make an excuse to leave. Say something “urgent” has popped up and you absolutely die-die have to go.

Pay the bill. Male chivalry still exists – so pay up. Don’t choose a place you can’t afford, like Chinese restaurants in 6-star hotels where they charge you $60 for a bowl of shark fin. When the bill arrives, don’t tell the waiter, “Wau, so expensive!” Girls wouldn’t want to hang out with guys who moan in front of the cashier.

Chope before you part. If you are interested in her (as in 99 percent of the time), tell her clearly you want to see her again and that you will call. You must “chope” her before she goes on another blind date and most likely meets a better guy.

“Chope” is the Singapore English-Hokkien (i.e. Singlish) term for staking a claim on something or somebody before somebody else makes a claim. 

Tell her nicely, if you are not interested in her: “Gosh, it’s fun to have met you, but I gotta go home early to watch my rented DVD movie of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy roaming the streets of Vienna as I need to return the DVD tomorrow.”

Poor guy, she thinks, preferring reel romance to real romance.

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