Birthdays and Noodles

This lunch hour, I went to a slightly discrepit looking Shanghai-style noodle house in one of Causeway Bay’s ever gentrifying streets, I think it was called “Noodlicious”, which I thought was rather creative, despite there not being an English language menu (Actually I think I just made that name up. It probably wasn’t that creative).

I sat, by my lonesome self, at a communal table for lunch today. Next to me, and taking up the rest of the table, was a table of three 20-something year olds, also on their lunch break. There were two girls and a guy, talking about relationships, and as I am newly in a committed relationship, I couldn’t help but to listen in on the conversation. Perhaps I’d pick up some insights into the emotional thoughts of young, working professionals of Hong Kong.

What they were saying was interesting. Specifically they were discussing birthday celebrations. I learned a few things about how these two girls see this occasion:

Birthdays are the most significant day for the individual (i.e. themselves)

  • Signs of time and effort is what’s most important to them. The boyfriend needs to show that he has put in considerable thought, and made an effort beyond his daily schedule. He basically needs to move a small mountain to impress her.
  • The monetary cost of the effort isn’t what is most important. Although, the following are a must.
    • Birthday cake; ideally at, or just after the stroke of midnight on the said date.
    • A restaurant booking is absolutely essential;
    • Some sort of gift. Flowers are preferred;
  • Over time, expectations change.
    • Initially, there is more leeway, where forgetfulness and general carelessness is considered cute and endearing.
    • In the medium term, things change. Expectations increase substantially, and any wrong step guarantees months of guilt tripping and reminders of how careless and forgetful the boyfriend is, sometimes this involves verbal abuse.
    • In the long term, things revert back to their natural state, whence, once again, forgetfulness and carelessness is endearing.

At this stage, my bowl of noodles arrived. It didn’t look very appetising. I’m sure I looked disappointed as I played with the contents with my spoon – at least it came with a failsafe iced milk tea.

Personally I didn’t think any of what my table companions were saying was unreasonable, though admittedly, I’ve never been very good at completing all of the above tasks. Then the guy at the table had to show me up with some input of his own.

Initially I thought it was one of those two girlfriends and their gay male friend talking about boys, but it turns out that he was straight and had a girlfriend. He told them about the biggest effort he had ever made. It was a birthday surprise back in 2011. Romeo had presented his Juliet with an impromptu flight to Taiwan. He went on to boast about his efforts every year on the 11th day of the 11th month. He always, without fail, heads to the light rail stop (I assume lives in the New Territories…) and buy several tickets at around 11:11pm so that he could get a ticket with a time stamp of 11:11”11. Then he would get it laminated and give it to his girlfriend. “There is no special reason for this date and time,” he said to the now cooing girls, “it’s just nice to have.”

“What does she do with the tickets?” The girls asked him. He ignored the question.

I wanted to tell him that that date was Remembrance Day, but I really wasn’t part of the conversation. Feeling my rising disgust – mainly at the noodles, and a little by my own pathetic efforts as a boyfriend, I slurped down the rest of my iced milk tea and took my leave.

That was 20 minutes well spent.

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