In every relationship, there are distinct key first time ever moments. The first glance. The first handshake. The first smile. The first phone call. The first date. The first kiss. The first fight. The first make-up. And on it goes.
But the most crucial ‘first’ is the moment someone says, “I love you”.
Three simple words where love’s the central theme, as the song goes. And yet, some couples never say it. My sister once asked our mother if she’d ever said “I love you” to Daddy, and Mother replied, “Oh, don’t be silly, darling, we’re not Americans!”
Michelle later said that with parents like ours for role models, it’s a miracle we and our baby brother didn’t end up in a monastery and a nunnery. “I think it’s important to tell someone you love them. Otherwise, how will they know?”
Leave it to my flatmate Saffy to put things into perspective.
As regulars of this column will know, after years of fruitless dates (including one Henny Hartono who really was a fruit, if you know what I mean), endless Friday nights at home consoling herself with the DVD box-set of Sex and The City and a huge plate of pasta, Saffy recently met the very lovely Bradley.
Bradley, as it turns out, is not only extremely sweet, he’s also unfairly good looking and thinks the world begins and ends with Saffy. His devotion to her recently reached a fevered pitch when he bought her, without being asked, a bottle of Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair serum.
“Good Lord,” Amanda sighed when Saffy came home from her date with Bradley, carrying her little Estee Lauder pouch, “where did you find this guy?”
“I know,” Saffy said with immense satisfaction, her bosom inflating. “Any man who will voluntarily walk up to a beauty counter and spend half an hour discussing the merits of various facial creams for his girlfriend, which would be me, is basically a walking lottery jackpot.”
Amanda’s eyes were dewy. “That’s amazing. Has he said ‘I love you’ yet?”
“No, and I don’t think he’s ever going to,” Saffy said.
Amanda sat up straight. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve said it many times, and he just blushes and hugs me and kisses me,” Saffy said. “Once he replied, ‘That’s sweet of you!’ and then he did that thing he does with his teeth and completely distracted me, and that was that.”
“You’re ok with that?” I asked, mentally taking copious notes.
“I just don’t think he’s an ‘I love you’ kind of a guy, you know? And really, what does it all mean in the end? They’re just words. It’s taken me a long time to work this out, but there was a time when having a guy say ‘I love you’ to me was the single most important thing in the relationship. Because if he doesn’t say it, how will I know where the relationship is going?”
I was startled. “Have you been speaking to my sister?” I asked.
“We’ve had this conversation so many times before,” Saffy said. “And, anyway, the last time a guy said ‘I love you’ to me, he turned out to be married with two kids.”
And not only that, he was also having an affair with Rommy, his Indonesian maid. Saffy took great satisfaction in reporting him to both the Ministry of Manpower and to his wife. When news arrived that she’d ditched him in a very expensive divorce, Saffy took us all out to Morton’s to celebrate.
Which, of course, then started everyone on a romantic retrospective when we thought back on all our past relationships in which “I love you” had been uttered and realized that they were exactly that: Past.
“Remember the time, I said ‘I love you’ to Andrew Pang and he said, ‘Thank you’ and how pissed I was?” Amanda said. “Gosh, maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.”
“No, he was a jerk,” Saffy said firmly. “Any man who is still splitting the bill after the fourth date is not someone you want to walk down the aisle with.”
A few days later, when the subject came up at lunch, Sharyn said, “Aiyoh, why you people always must say ‘I love you’, one? I tell you, hah, tok is cheap! Anyone can say ‘I love you’! I go Andy Lau concert, I scream ‘I love you’ also, but mean nothing, right? More important is how the man treat you. If he buy you Estee Lauder, he sure love you! When he buy you Louis Vuitton, confirm he will marry you!”
Amanda says someone should give Sharyn her own talk show. “She’s Oprah with a Singlish accent!”