Yes, it is the fourteenth day of February, but who asked fashion to be their Valentine? By the looks of it, no one
By Mao Shan Wang
On Valentine’s Day, fashion, like so many singles, stayed at home—ignored and, possibly, forgotten. Special occasion wear—if it still exists—has been relegated to some corner of the wardrobe, untouched and unloved. You’d think that on the day that celebrates love, fashion might be courted with as much fervour as this day is celebrated with so much ardour. That thinking is, of course, as intact as a pair of shredded denim cut-offs.
I would have been ensconced at home too if not for the urge to see what the trend among courting couples this year was. The girls, I had thought, would surely have something in mind to make them look good for their guy—more than good, possibly. Or did I have an outmoded idea of what it means to celebrate, or dress for, Valentine’s Day?
I decided to take my observation to 313@Orchard and Orchard Central, that continuous expanse of mall and the mass market that has a strange pull for the young and those on dates. The journey there, in fact, was a prelude to what I was going to see. Sales of roses, as a single stalk or as a bouquet, seemed to enjoy better business than clothes, if the number of peddlers (persistent as tissue sellers) on every street and corner is any indication.
On the MRT train, the casualness of every commuter’s attire was no different from that of Saturday afternoon rides. Seated in front of me, intertwined like a macramé knot, was a couple barely outside the border of teenage years. The girl sat in a manner that made it easy for her boyfriend to go all limbs over her, which meant that her body was aslant—hips jutting out into her neighbour’s space. This bodily intrusion was made more apparent by what the girl wore from the waist down: thigh-hugging micro-shorts that had a roughly two-inch zip on the side seam. Unsurprisingly, it was unzipped. Also unsurprisingly, her underwear was out to catch some air. Why, I wondered, isn’t seduction by Y-fronts a male practice?
What struck me most was the number of couples in shorts. Has this become a dating norm or is this just unique to our island? Sure, we’re known for our extremely casual sense of dress. And there’s always the punishing weather to blame, but isn’t there even a day in a calendar year that encourages one going out with a romantic partner to put in a modicum of effort?
As I stepped onto the escalator to reach the ground level of 313, I soon came eye-to-butt with a couple in shorts that fit only one description: ratty. The guy was in a pair of very crushed ‘berms’ that looked like it had spent most of its life in an urn used to salt vegetables. His girl was in a pair that could have been his sleepwear, cut so brief he would not have remembered it as his long pyjama bottom. Now, this is not a couple going downstairs from their flat to run an errand. I am sure of that because the girl was holding dearly a stalk of rose held rigid in a clear tubular plastic case, like a dozen or more girls did throughout the two malls.
This severely low in diversity quickly discouraged me from spending more time establishing the existence of fashionable couples. I thought I should go for dinner before it became impossible to find a table. At the upper, upper floors of Orchard Central, queues outside eateries were already too long to manage without affecting your patience, appetite or sanity, or all three. That’s the thing about dining on Valentine’s Day: if you’re not a couple, don’t! Even if you’re a couple, don’t!!! In any case, I was hungry; I was not going to give up without trying. I did not dress un-casually for nothing.
Luck came to me in the form of an empty (but not cleared) table, set on the corridor, no doubt to increase the seating capacity of the restaurant in times of a romance boom. A good table, I thought, since I could afford a view of the coming and going along the passageway. As soon as I placed my order, I was seized with pain-inducing regret. A queue started to form, snaking past my table as rapidly as Snake. It was not an unmoving line, and this was what bred annoyance: the queueing diners saw no reason to distance themselves from my table, and there I was in a posterior-privy position. Again.
One by one they passed by my face, a slideshow of shorts and thighs, of scantiness and unsightliness. A Valentine’s Day dinner date now really resembles supper at the most popular 24-hour nasi lemak stall. Just get in line. Nobody cares if you wear your sleep clothes; nobody notices, not, even sadly, your significant other. As people keep saying, love is blind. Totally.
Photo: Zhao Xiangji