[Pixs of models for illustration only]
I take a sip of my vanilla sundae and put the glass down. “Ladies, any tips for giving Valentine’s Day presents?” I flick my gaze at Jessica and Wati. The scent of jasmine from the perfume of the two ladies wafts about in the karaoke room, blown by the cool air of the air-conditioner.
Chow Kah and Hussein are munching nuts and they each show a thumb-up. Hussein is sitting to my right with Wati while Chow Kah is snuggled in the far end of the U-shaped sofa, accompanied by Jessica (pix above). “Good topic for discussion,” Chow Kah says as he squirms closer to Jessica.
“First rule,” Jessica says, “is never ask your girlfriend what present she wants for Valentine’s Day.” Chow Kah places a hand on her lap but she brushes it away. “If you need to ask, it shows that you don’t bother to think or you don’t know her taste.”
Seated beside Hussein, Wati (pix below) turns sideways to face me. “The present must be appropriate to the level of relationship.” She crosses her legs at the knees, revealing satiny brown skin. “For example, you should not buy a sexy silk lingerie for a girl whom you’ve known for only three months.”
Jessica leans forward and takes a song menu from under the coffee table. “That should be common sense. No matter how filthy rich you are, if you’re not sure whether she has feelings for you, an overly expensive gift can scare your female friend away.” She starts to flip the pages of the song menu. “Worse, the gift may be returned. Which is like a slap in the face.” She presses the intercom on the side table. “James, one chocolate sundae, please. With kacip fatimah."
Chow Kah lifts up his mug, gulps his beer and nods in understanding. “What about live animals like a cute poodle or some exotic pet? Okay to give them?”
Wati picks up a sliced orange and stats to peel away the skin. “Giving pets is like walking on a minefield. Unless, she has mentioned about wanting to own a pet. You know, keeping a pet can be a hassle.”
I spear a slice of Solo papaya from a platter on the coffee table. “Flowers are the safest to give.”
Wati feeds Hussein the peeled orange. “Be aware of the significance of the different colours of flowers.” She plucks a tissue and wipes her hands. “Red roses symbolize love and romance. Ditto for pink roses. Yellow roses represent friendship. So it’s alright to send them to a female friend to test the water. If she reacts negatively, you can explain the significance of yellow and that you treasure her friendship, nothing more. There you are, you've saved yourself the embarrassment of rejection."
“Also be careful how you give them.” Jessica flicks her gaze at Wati. “Should you send them to the office or give them personally? If the girl travels by bus or LRT, it’s pretty silly to send flowers to her office. But even if she drives, a girl may not want to be the centre of attraction. Her colleagues may even tease her. Though it may be done in jest or good spirit, she may blame you for the teasing she receives.”
I take another sip of my vanilla sundae. “So far, all of you’ve been discussing presents between boyfriend-girlfriend. A married man should also celebrate Valentine’s Day with his wife.”
Wati nods. “True!” She grabs a handful of salted nuts and pops them in her mouth. “I don’t want a man who’s romantic when he’s a boyfriend but unromantic when he becomes my husband.”
“Any ideas for a married man to celebrate V-Day with his wife?” asks Chow Kah, slipping an arm over the shoulder of Jessica.
“Don’t even think of anything that has great practicality,” I say, gazing at the faces looking at me. “Avoid vacuum cleaners, meat grinders, mixers, ovens and other kitchen appliances.”
Hussein grins. “Not necessarily. If she’s anti-Valentine’s Day, the husband should give mops, brooms and floor polish. Maybe Cosway’s Powermax Toilet Bowl Cleaner or Amway’s Liquid Organic Cleaner! You get the drift? That'll teach her not to be anti-Valentine's Day."
Wati feigns a grimace and tugs her hair playfully (pix below). “You’re a horrible man. I wouldn’t want to be your missus. Or for that matter, mistress.”
Jessica rubs her forefinger and thumb. “The best V-Day present a man can give his wife is money.”
Chow Kah sits up straight. “But what if the husband doesn’t earn much?”
“In that case, the husband can offer to do the chores for one or two days so that his wife can relax,” I say. “Maybe he can bake a heart-shaped cake and some finger food to be shared among the family members. You know, a simple Valentine’s Day celebration at home.”
Jessica jerks her head back, and scrunches up her nose. “That’s romantic?” she asks and leans back on the sofa. A Myanmar waiter enters the karaoke room and brings Jessica her glass of chocolate sundae.
I spear another piece of fruit from the platter and bring it to my mouth. “There are ways to spice up the home party. The husband can compose a love poem and read it out to his wife in front of the kids.”
“Good idea,” Chow Kah says. “But a candlelight dinner in a restaurant is always more romantic than a home celebration.”
“Of course! That was what I did last year,” Hussein says, suddenly sitting upright. “I took my fat, ugly first wife for a V-Day dinner in Kampung Datuk Keramat. Followed by karaoke in Chow Kit." He takes out his mobile and shows her picture (right). “That always-nagging tigress asked why I chose that restaurant which is notorious for its lousy food and horrible service. I explained that the restaurant offered a fifty percent discount for customers who paid by Visa credit card. And I'm a Visa credit card holder!" He jabs a button on his mobile again and a video starts to play (below). “This is my fourth wife. Sexy eh? Because she's nice to me, I took her to Tanzini Upper Deck in G Tower. Phew! Cost me a bomb! Both wives deserve what they got!”