Everyone needs friends: Childhood friends who knew how you were like since you were young, school friends who went through exams and first crushes with you, and friends that help you at work. Like everyone else, I had different bands of friends, and with them, I was always kind and cheery, but at the same time, a liar and a hypocrite.
Amongst my different circles of friends, I had two groups that I spent the most time with: The first group consisted mainly of my former team mates from the secondary school’s netball team. We were the “bad girls from the block”; most of them were single, and we spent time hanging out at local tea spots, trooping to cheap sales, and going to “ladies nights” at bars, making dirty jokes and fools of ourselves at the drinks table. With them, I was rowdy and rambunctious, always game for cheap thrills and fun.
The second group was one that I termed the “ladies social club”, most of whom were colleagues from work. I liked that we spent time leisurely at brunches and high tea, sipping golden tipped Darjeeling tea, discussing work matters and also larger societal issues. They provided much advice to me, as they were my work peers who seemed more experienced at life. We went to classes at posh cooking schools and attended special retrospectives at film festivals. With them, I was more serious and paid more attention to manners.
I liked hanging out with both my “bad girls” and my “club ladies”, and had never once felt out of place with either of them. But they were as different as chalk and cheese, day and night. I never made the effort to have them mix. In fact, I made sure that they never knew of each other. There was a certain sense of shame and unease about being found out that I hung out with the “opposing party”, and because of these feelings, I had to schedule our group meet-ups such that they would never clash, lying even, if the need arises.
One day, the inevitable almost happened. The “club ladies” wanted to meet for a high tea at a hotel, but the “bad girls” had wanted to meet to talk about an upcoming all-girls weekend staycation at the very same hotel! I lied to the ladies that I was under the weather and so could not meet with them, and managed to convince the girls that we should meet at someplace more open and public.
I met the girls that afternoon at a popular local tea cafe, all nervy and fidgety. But just as I was feeling more settled while drinking my plastic cup of iced milk tea with pearls, I spotted from the corner of my eye, familiar ladies dressed in pastel and armed with luxury bags walking towards the cafe! Unceremoniously, I spat out the tea, but recovered hastily and told everyone I needed the washroom.
I walked briskly in the opposite direction from the approaching “ladies social club” to a washroom and managed to find a cubicle to hide in. Thoughts rushed into my head: “What if the ladies decided to meet at the cafe? What if I stepped out of the washroom and bumped into any of them? What would I say and how should I act?” After 10 minutes had passed, I calmed myself, deeming that such coincidences only happen in movies.
The movie coincidence happened as soon as I stepped out of the washroom. I saw Mrs Cecelia Ong* from the “ladies social club”. And Jennifer* from the “block”. And they were both talking to each other! Luckily they did not see me, so I stayed out of view while spying on them from behind a shop display. It seemed that they not only knew each other, but were comfortable in each other’s company, appearing animated and laughing freely! What in the world was happening?
A few moments later, I returned to my seat after Jennifer had returned to hers. She didn’t say anything about Mrs Ong, so I decided to pry. I told Jennifer that I had seen her speaking with a woman when I was coming out from the washroom. Jennifer was always frank and loose-lipped, so it did not take much prompting for her to reveal that Mrs Ong was a college friend. She went on to say that Mrs Ong was a tomboy, getting into fights with the boys, loved beer, and knew the best dialect curses to throw at the teachers. I was taken aback: The cardigan-wearing, salad-eating, ever courteous Mrs Ong was a foul-mouthed, beer-guzzling, teen terror? I spent the rest of the afternoon with the girls amused, and quite carefree of the worry that I will be spotted by the ladies.
Since the incident, I have decided that I should not keep up appearances and deceive either party. I joked more with the “ladies club” and even brought to the office takeaway cups of milk tea with pearls for all of them, since they have never drunk them before. I encouraged the “bad girls” to meet at wine bars earlier in the evenings for a change and treated them to expensive brunches. After all, true friends bond over experiences, and I hope to share my different experiences and interests with them. But I have yet to tell the once potty-mouthed Mrs Ong (or Ceci as I call her nowadays) about my good friend, loose-lipped Jennifer… but one day I will, and I am quite sure we will all get along just fine. W
*Names changed to protect privacy.
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