Sisyphus’ Lament

Dates from hell

/ 12:10 AM February 13, 2017

Singapore—No date is better than a date from hell. Tomorrow, I will smugly visualize every potential bullet I dodge by not asking anyone out, all the way to traffic and inflated prices.

The most straightforward bad date ends with both of you refusing to speak to each other for the rest of your lives and in the hereafter.


A first date once ended with an invite to join her on a trip. Which turned out to be to South Africa.

We realized we absolutely did not get along even before the plane landed, even before I heard all about her exes. We made separate trips to Table Mountain and Robben Island. A mixed-race couple I met bought me dinner after I described her. We called a truce to travel to the airport.


Worse, I later had dinner with her best friend without making the connection.

I was once smitten by a girl who was more than 10 years younger. We had lunch at the old Gayuma ni Maria near Ateneo, where each dish has a kinky name. She blushed alluringly trying to order.

Another couple with their own age gap once joined us for dinner. Before even sitting down, the husband asked if I was a friend of his wife’s uncles. Ten separate times, he shifted the conversation back to her graduating the previous year. After dessert, he exclaimed she was young enough to be his daughter.

Some bad endings are tragically unpredictable. A date sometimes gives a long kiss good night then refuses to speak with you again. Once, I asked a mutual friend to ask what happened, and the friend stopped speaking to me, too.

A girl once gave me what I thought was the longest, most incredible kiss ever. Then she confessed she and her ex were not yet over. Then she gave me the longest, most incredible kiss ever.

Fate can simply conspire. Once, I abruptly never heard back from a non-Filipino date. A year later, she explained she had a visa problem and we went out again.

Once, a friend pushed me to date her sister. Her husband immediately cautioned that the two sisters were polar opposites. Sure enough, her sister was adorable but we clearly had nothing in common.


Her husband said I told you so. My friend invited me to her sister’s wedding.

A date that could have become a Jollibee hugot ad may end up wonderful. Once, a date changed into a T-shirt in the middle of dinner. Another had a third of a glass of wine and became completely tipsy.

Another brought bodyguards and three men in polo barong stared at me through the restaurant window the entire night. Another creepily recited lines from my CV and explained why we would get along because she had done something that paralleled it.

But I ended up listening intently to each talk for hours about taking classes to learn how to mix products for her family business, planning weekend road trips to lesser known adventures within driving distance of Manila, plotting a silly food trip that would start in Nobu but end in Jollibee, and convincing me that her life is really a parody of Les Misérables (it helped that she could sing the songs like an angel).

I make a living telling people at length what to do with their lives, so it is a relief to simply listen to a date talk.

Good friends are key to bouncing back. Doctors prescribe treatments. Lawyers outline counterclaims. Bankers cite probability theory and say next.

Logical, process-oriented and incomparably practical engineers are the best. One such friend has mastered analyzing why she was likely a complete flake.

So gather your unattached friends instead of risking a date from hell on the year’s most commercialized, cheesiest night.

Once, I gave a speech in Malacañang shortly before Valentine’s Day. My best opening joke idea was to invite then President Aquino to be my wingman.

The President missed the event, but his proxy, then Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, confirmed that the President also had no date and my message would be delivered. He cautioned, however, that President Aquino does not drink and we might end up looking for dates in an ice cream parlor instead of a bar.

Maybe he has more time for ice cream this year!

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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