Note: Revised is in the blue coloured font.
It was a few months ago when a friend and I decided to people-watch at a coffee shop on a warm breezy day. I saw a group of three friends, for which I assumed to be teenagers, that had just seated at a table across us. It was two girls, that was sitting across each other, and one boy sitting beside one of the girls at the table. The boy was particularly sitting too close to the girl beside him and it was not hard to deduce that they were dating each other while the other girl seemed nonchalant to the obvious behaviour. Their happy greetings, stable eye contact and relaxed bodies indicated that they had quite a close friendship. Their faces were smiling widely while they laughed as they talk to each other. Each of them was giving their attention while each took turns of telling their recent stories each story was backed with the appropriate responses and the occasional silly inputs that erupted their loud joyful laughter.
After their laughter had died down, the single girl demeanour changed when the couple was talking perkily about how their relationship had gone uphill since their blind set up by, surprisingly, the single girl. The single girl was quiet, her posture was tense and rigid. This showed that she was uncomfortable with the couple talking about their relationship with her. This further justifies her discomfort when and her face showed sadness for a split second before acting naturally again throughout the conversation. She was smiling and nodding as they thanked her for the set-up blind date. It was quite apparent that by doing so she was being a considerate listener even though she clearly did not want to know about their relationship. She was giving non-verbal signs that she was happy and content with the couple’s relationship with her facial reactions. But, the way she was sitting and holding her drink with two hands says otherwise. Her tight holding grip on her cup displayed that she was controlling her inner emotions or thoughts from showing on her face as she listened to their conversation with such joviality. It was as if her cup was her anchor to keep up with her façade. However, her focus kept diverting on the couples held hands despite her friend’s repetitive gestures of attempting to get the single girl’s attention. It was quite clear that she subconsciously was badly affected by the couple’s affection despite her control of her inner emotions. After much boasting on their new relationship status, the conversation changed to a different topic.
Few giggles and laughter were shared and so was the constant physical display of affection(PDA) that was mostly initiated by the boy who was clearly disinterested in their conversation despite his timely responses. So, technically, oblivious to the boy, the single girl was perturbed by the open display of affections. She retorted by pulling her attention away from their conversation to her phone while still listening, nodding and replying in the conversation. At this point, it was quite apparent that her control was slipping away and she needed a distraction to help reduce her increasing discomfort with the constant PDA. This action made the paired girl annoyed because she snatched her phone away and placed it on her side of the table. This action made the paired girl was unaware of her friend’s emotional state since after snatching away her phone, she scolded her by increasing her voice and pointing fingers to emphasise her annoyance as she sneered away. Guiltily, the single girl apologised for her behaviour instead of telling her friends about her discomfort with their constant PDA.
Growing up in a – still, arguably – conservative Asian culture here in Singapore, most of us were probably told, or inadvertently knew, that some truth is better not to be told. This is because culturally, respect and understanding for the other party are placed in higher importance than self when comes to family and friends and this made us inclined to be accommodating of others when placed in a situation/environment that is more favourable to the other party instead of our own. This lead to us, in mostly conservative Asian culture, to lean towards the option of “sugar-coating” the truth so as to not hurt the other party’s feelings. Even though the three teenagers’ actions could be labelled as rude, ignorant or dismissive by other watchers of a different culture, but for us, it is not uncommon to be in the position of the single girl be it male or female and younger, older or same age. This inclined Asian culture habit, in turn, made us be socially influenced to not nit-pick on trivial matters and focus on the other person in the picture than our own no matter how awkward or uncomfortable the situation is for us.