The other night, I went out on a date with a Taiwanese guy in his late 30s. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a date with a new guy—the last one must have been in February—and normally, I’d be chill and relaxed during these things, but for some reason I started panicking when I was waiting for him to arrive at our meeting spot.
With only one photo of him on my phone, I wasn’t that sure about how he was going to look like in person. There was a parade of Chinese-looking guys who went back and forth my general direction and they didn’t look attractive to me; I was afraid I might have gotten catfished.
But he did arrive, looking a lot less like his golden boy photo, but still the same person. Even on text, he was already having trouble with his English, and it was more evident in person. We went to Coffee Bean and just explaining to him that I preferred Starbucks for their soy milk was such a burden. It’s not a hipster thing, I said; I’m lactose intolerant so I must have soy because otherwise, I’d be making constant trips to the toilet. This is exactly what I had to explain to him as I tried to retain the nuances of my language, lest I go all-out graphic about diarrhea. But guess what—due to the language barrier, I eventually had to go all-out graphic on him.
He had his phone on the table with the Google Translator app open—it’s one of the few good excuses to have your cellphone out during a date. I’d enter the English words which he didn’t understand and he’d do the same with the traditional Chinese words he couldn’t translate into English. At one point he asked me for the Tagalog translation for “I miss you.”
“Miss kita?” I ventured as I doubted even myself.
“You mean you don’t have a Tagalog word for ‘miss’?”
Embarrassingly, I admitted, it was time to Viber my friends.
Nangungulila ako sa ‘yo. Nasasabik ako sa ‘yo. These were their responses and naturally, they were followed by a string of lol’s and haha’s. I felt it was my patriotic duty not to teach him these phrases.
I explained that there were Tagalog words for ‘miss’ but that they were formal or that they denoted something more. The equivalent was like craving or yearning for something or someone.
“Crave,” he entered the word on the app. He got it and laughed.
The laughter would almost always be delayed by about 5 seconds; the jokes, the “getting it”—the spirit has long left.
That night, he texted me an entire joke which he translated from Chinese to English. It was funny. I told him he translated it pretty well.
“You are so kind ha,” he replied.