2 March 2020

Hope for the Clueless

by misslampa

Every time I ponder on the lack of romance in my life, I’m reminded of this line from a dear friend who, in all likelihood, was also doing a bit of pondering herself when she posted it on her blog almost a decade ago:

Sometimes I think: What if I had found love, and I had foolishly missed it?

It’s typical of someone who identifies as socially awkward, I think, to keep missing cues from parties who appear interested. And I’ve written about this time and again, too. But what I’ve been finding out over the years is that even among friends who are as or even more socially awkward than I am, I’m still bottom-of-the-barrel when it comes to flirting. And it’s not because I don’t want to do it, either, but I just never seem to get what’s going on until after it’s over.

Is there still hope for someone as clueless as me?

* * *

I remember how men I met while backpacking would ask to hang out and buy me drinks which, as it turns out, was code for something. But I didn’t pick up on any of that and just took those invites at face value. So I’d say no to free alcohol but yes to hanging out with everyone because when you’re young and curious about the world but have no clue that turning down a drink also doubles as code for something else, that’s what you do.

It was only years after, while watching Penny from The Big Bang Theory repeatedly talk about all the free drinks she gets in bars, that I finally understood how my yeses and noes back then were probably taken. A sitcom about fictional nerds teaching a real-life nerd about the ways of the world, hmm. Now that’s a good premise for a stand-up comedy bit.

* * *

It took me even longer to realize that this guy who visited me at home back in high school was, as Filipinos would say, “umaakyat ng ligaw” (checking if he could court me). He and his friend rang our bell one Saturday afternoon. But when I went out of my room and sat with them, my father thought it best to sit on the sofa, too. I inquired about the nature of their visit because I honestly thought they needed help with a school project. *facepalm* But I didn’t get a clear answer so we all just sat in silence until they gave up after 10 minutes and left.

But here’s the rub: It didn’t register as anything to me. Not weird nor cute or even funny enough to tell my girlfriends about until maybe six or seven years ago, when the friend who came with the main guy in our story got in touch with me because he was visiting Australia, where I was based at the time. I thought it strange to be hearing from someone I hardly spoke with back in high school, but I agreed to meet up because when you’re in your late 20s and feeling a bit homesick and waxing nostalgic about all things past, well, that’s what you do.

I racked my brains for any interaction we had had because I was trying to find stuff we could talk about, but the only thing I remembered was that time he gallantly stood by his friend in our living room. It suddenly struck me, the strangeness of it all. More than a decade after, I finally understood why my father refused to leave us alone then and why, with him there, my guests didn’t want to speak up.

Oh well. As Filipinos would also say, ang tanga-tanga lang (how utterly stupid of me).

* * *

But my favorite among all the potentially romantic misses in my life was this nameless guy I met in Brisbane while helping raise funds for our university-based society of Filipinos and Fil-Australians. While selling sausages and adobo on campus, I saw a cute guy with a healthy tan park his bike near our booth and head to where I was. I got giddy when his turn to be served finally came up, and even giddier when he asked about our club and how long I’ve been a part of it as he was paying for his sausages.

He then apologized for holding up the line and asked if it would be okay to ask for a number he could contact for other questions he might have about the organization.

Smooth enough that I should have picked up on it especially because I also found him cute, right? RIGHT?!

And yet here’s how I took it: I gave him a puzzled look and said, “You don’t sound like you’re from the Philippines, but are you?”

No, I’m from Singapore. But I’m interested to know about your club more,” he replied.

His perfect answer made me smile, and I wanted to ask him for his name right there and then so I could look him up on Facebook later. But instead, I shot him a coy look and said, “Ooh, our club president’s here! You should get his number.” Then I introduced them to each other and went back to minding the sausage grill, hoping he’d come up to me after so I could also give him my number.

Of course, the poor guy left shortly after. And neither I nor anyone from my club heard from him ever again.

My friend who happened to be watching it all painfully unfold slapped the back of my head lightly as soon as he left. “He was trying to get your number, silly,” she said. I winced, but when I lifted my gaze from my sad, sizzling sausages to look for him in the crowd, neither he nor his perfectly tanned shoulders were in sight.

* * *

So, let’s see. Had I come face to face with the possibility of romance, only to foolishly miss it?

Fifteen years ago, I’d have given you a firm maybe. But knowing all that I know now–including making peace with being utterly hopeless about certain things–I’m going to (wo)man up and admit that yeah, most likely.

For now, my plan is to just keep at it with a little lot of help from my friends. Maybe they’d know what to do with someone as clueless as me.😅

30 March 2019

Blessings Be upon You

by misslampa

Papa has always been more old-school about the Filipino tradition of pagmamano. Right after my siblings and I would tell him we’re about to leave. he’d offer us a free hand which we’d meet with an outstretched palm. We would then bow slowly until his knuckles lightly touch our forehead while listening to him say, “God bless.” And then we’d be on our way. That’s the classic way, which is also how I’ve done it with older relatives, my parents’ friends, and the parents of my friends.

But my Mama, she bestows her blessing upon us in a slightly different way.


This was way back when both my parents were still taller than my siblings and me. :-)

Mama used to have to bow down a bit to find our foreheads, where she lightly traced a small cross with her thumb while the rest of her fingers lay on top of our heads—much like how the priest does it when baptizing babies—before she sent us out the door. While doing so, she’d say a quick prayer and ask the Lord to bless her children and keep them safe from harm. Then she’d smile with her kind eyes and say “Ingat, anak!” (“Take care, my child!”) before letting us leave for school.

Our late teens saw my siblings and I all growing taller than my mother, and so we had to outgrow the bowing bit of this routine. Since then, she’d just raise her hand in front of her face and find our foreheads there, still waiting for her touch and blessing. She’d then hug us tightly then say “I love you” and “Ingat ka” and mean it like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

What I don’t tell them is that every morning, I still look back at my reflection in the mirror, lightly knock my knuckles against my forehead, and trace a cross on it with my thumb so I’d still feel like I’m getting their blessing.

Taking part in this parent-child dance is still one of my favorite things about coming home. At 74, Papa still knows the moves like the back of his hand and now adds a quick kiss or hug sometimes, to my sappy heart’s delight! Mama’s 70 and has been extra forgetful since she had a stroke three years ago, but when she happens to be up before I leave and I come into her room to ask for her blessing, she still remembers every step, down to hugging me with all her might and wishing me well like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

I hug her back but now, I trace a cross on her forehead as well, partly to make her laugh (my sister and I kid our parents about how they’re now the babies in the family) but mostly to beg God to please please give her peace of mind, a happy heart, and a good night’s sleep—things that haven’t been coming to her as easily. I do the same with Papa and I’m glad he also lets me, especially because I know I only have the rest of either their lives or mine to keep doing it.

I know tradition dictates that it always has to be younger one receiving the blessing. But because I’m my mother’s daughter, I’d like to think I’m also allowed to do things a bit differently.

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25 March 2019

On Not Knowing

by misslampa

What happens when three non-science majors agree on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as a blog prompt?

Nothing, that’s what. But only for a short time. We resisted and grumbled and agreed it was a bad idea, but in the end, we all chose to put pen to paper and write anyway.

It baffles me, this idea that you can never be simultaneously certain about both the speed and the direction of something at the microscopic level, and that there’s no way to accurately measure one without deliberately messing up the other. It’s like a guarantee from the universe that we can never one-up it.

That way, we’re sure to be a little unsure for as long as we’re here.

Which is actually how I feel these days, truth be told. For years, I’ve held fast to this dream of pursuing a Ph.D. scholarship abroad, but all my recent attempts at re-evaluating my life plan end up in this resolve to channel more of my finite resources (time and energy, especially) towards being there for my family instead once I’m done with JET. And since I’ve never been as clear about any other goal in a long time—except maybe about wanting to get down to my ideal weight, haha—I suddenly find myself not knowing where I am nor where I’m headed.

Pretty positive this is not the groundbreaking uncertainty that shot Heisenberg to fame, but it’s making me lose my footing nonetheless. 

To make myself feel better, I think about how I’m really just a speck in the galaxy and must therefore be governed by this principle, too. But it doesn’t work, and I am forced to acknowledge that it’s tough to be lost when you’ve been clear about certain things most of your life.

Way tougher than having to blog about the quantum world, definitely.