Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do Not Klingon to False First Impressions

You know how some women are just so immaculate? Not a hair out of place. Flawless makeup. Gorgeous clothes cladding a well-cared, proportionate body. 

It's easy to make swift first impressions about such ladies but I've learnt that judging a beautiful book by its cover and dismissing it as such leaves you many pages short of an interesting novel.

I remember a lady from Hong Kong who seemed the typical brand-conscious, fast-talking, social-climbing yuppie. We were sent to a team- and leadership-building retreat and had to participate in a paintball tournament.

She grumbled incessantly when we got there. Her French manicure would chip. Her hair would smell. The uniforms were ill fitting and unfashionable. The helmets smelt funny and were uncomfortable. I was ready to shoot her myself before we even got on the field. I love paintball and dreaded having her on my team.

Then we got in there and the woman stopped squealing. She transformed into Rambina. She had my back and was our sniper. Boy, could that woman shoot. She personally took out 6 of the enemy's team. With her small build she could cower behind everything and sneakily zap an unsuspecting victim before they knew it. She had a killer instinct that made me beam like a proud parent.

She also had no compunction, besides a slight grimace of disgust, when I asked her to crawl through the muddy swamp to circle behind the enemy lines with me.

We won and she was the loudest and most ungracious victor I had ever seen. She did not mouth off a single complaint or whine about her bruises and whooped it up as obnoxiously as the rest of us.


That night, we bonded over beer and exchanged totally exaggerated "war stories" of our victory that afternoon. We had not been able to do that at any point of the retreat till then. Guess paintball does bring people together.

Then there is this really hard body dancer who has such tremendous muscle control she can pop her shoulder muscles individually in isolation and in total controlled rhythm. She looks rather hard and has the dramatic dark looks, wild hair of a vengeful gypsy. 

Her makeup is always dramatic and full-on. Bright red lips. Dark slashes of brows. Cat eyes makeup. Her hair teased and curled in a magnificent cascade of wild curls right down to the dimple of her back. Clingy, tight dresses in leopard spots or tiger print or some bold tropical floral design. She's a lean, mean drama mama.

Some people have even questioned if she was not a drag queen. I have not had much opportunity to speak with her but not being a gym bunny, thought I might not have much in common with her.

So it was with some trepidation of awkward silences and mild curiosity that I sat next to her for lunch. Made the usual ice breaking small talk. Then it started.

"Love your hairband, Raised Eyebrow! Where did you get it? It's so cute. Love, love the wide silk band with the tie on the side. Looks faboo on you with your long hair!"

I tried not to simper vacuously as I preened and petted my hairband. We immediately lapsed into the kind of girl talk that sends men to the pubs for fortifying pints.

She is phenomenally funny. Totally girly and not a half-crazed health nut and gym bunny as her look suggested. She is also not a brand shopper and loves visiting flea markets and finding obscure little shopping havens.

Still on the hairbands, she said,

"I may try hairbands like yours but not those cloth ones you know? The wide ones that cover your hairline."

"Me neither. I look naft in those."

"I look worse than naft, RB. I've got such a short forehead and strong features that if I wore those, I look like a Klingon."

Which sent the two of us into hysterics at the mental picture. Then I discovered another common bond. We both loved sci-fi. And we spent the afternoon annoying the rest of our table by mournfully toasting to Arthur C Clarke, making whooshing noises as we pretended to be Jedi knights and speaking like Yoda.

It's brilliant when you discover new things about people you never felt any real connection to before. And forge a bond, even if it is for a transient few hours as you share a meal.