Like any other Saturday night, my friends and I are hanging at Sauce bar near Esplanade. I have come to accept that it’s my Friend S’s favourite hangout, mainly because of the nice ambience, and cheap beer. Yes, it’s probably one of the super rare places in town where you can find a pint of beer going at SGD8/USD6.40 nett.
And I don’t mind, cos it’s a nice place. No noisy angmohs, no cigarette + air con smoke, and no Chinese KTV songs blasting in the background (yes your heard me ;P).
It’s past midnight, and we think of going to another bar. Friend X, a budding animator whose take home pay is about SGD1,500/ USD1,200 announces that he is finished with drinks due to his limited budget.
“Maybe we can hang out at another bar and you guys (pointing at us girls) can get a drink?” he said.
Now that statement, no matter how simple and matter-of-fact, didn’t go down well with the girls at that table.
Even though I knew he had a little more financial restrictions that the rest of us, I couldn’t for that moment accept that. It’s not the most Gentlemanly thing. And it far extends beyond the level of honesty that our friendship could “tahan” (withstand).
Of course, we girls weren’t expecting a treat or some sort. As I put it very bluntly to him, if we were expecting the guys to pay for our drinks, we wouldn’t have gone out with him. But I still think that 21st century social norms depict that guys shouldn’t hold to their money too tightly, much less suggest that a girl carry the tab. I don’t know how to explain it but it just seems very kiam siap (miser-ish).
And the fact that money has now become an issue, a determinant as to where we hang out can be a little iffy (weird). I mean we are completely fine with eating out at food courts, hawker centres, da paoing (takeaway) canned beer and drinking them at rooftop gardens, but after sometime, it’s only natural to long to chill in a different bar, which may be slightly more expensive.
My other friend shared with me how her colleague, despite having to pay multiple bills and support a number of family members at home, had graciously carried the tab of $200 for a night of drinks. “There is no such thing as the talk of money between us,” she said.
And I think it’s true. If you could share stories of heartbreak, life problems and happiness, $5 or $10 shouldn’t be standing between you both. That being said, it’s perfectly fine to be careful how you spend your money. But if it was me, I would spend it on the things that matter, and friends is one of them.
Everyone is limited by their current circumstances or the vastness of their dreams. But sometimes, we all have to make sacrifices in the name of friendship. As an animator, sacrifice could be in monetary terms. As a banker, lawyer or teacher, time could be your biggest sacrifice instead. But we all make an effort because of the ones that matter.
Rather than saving every single cent I have for some grand trip to South America or Africa, I have chosen to spend it on drinks and late night movies, in the company of my friends. Rather than scoot off to some unknown lands during the recent long weekend holiday, I spent it in the presence of my friends munching on truffle fries and weak cocktails, and delivering otak (a type of yummy fish cake) to my friend’s house on one of my leave days.
Big trips can wait. But friends can’t. As we grow older and gain more responsibilities, the opportunities to hang out until 4am diminish. And I want to make the best out of it. I don’t want to amass a huge fortune to end up realising that there’s no one to share it with me. And I don’t want to go all the way to Africa to see a lion, only to realise there’s no one waiting for me at home.
No monetary value can be placed on “The Silent Gift”. When given out, it’s seems almost like a natural thing to do. We don’t speak about it but we know it exists. No claiming midnight taxi fares from each other. A friend picking up the tab even though he is not earning as much as you. The shag face of a Banker friend who makes it to a gathering, no matter how late. Making a detour just to send you home.
And these gifts, are the greatest gifts of all.
This post was first written in 2012.