Attack Decay Sustain Release

It's all in the cards

Published on 22 December 2019 in the Philippine STAR.


How well do you really know your friends and your loved ones? How in touch are you with yourself and your own feelings?

We live in strange times — never have the stories of our lives been more readily available for the perusal of others, friends and strangers alike. But at the same time, never have we been more isolated. Yes, social media allows us to share our lives with so many people, but mostly only on a surface level. What we put on the Internet is, to some extent, still just a performance. So rarely will you happen across real depth and true vulnerability. (It’s there, it’s just hard to find.) And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing — it’s wise, to be smart about what you allow the Internet to know about you. But sometimes, our real friends are relegated into the same categories. When social media becomes our primary form of communication, a lot of intimacy gets lost along the way.

Does the Internet make you feel lonely, too? Of the hundreds — or thousands — of people you follow on Instagram, how many do you feel you really know, and really know you in return? There is a yearning for deeper connections that is more common than any of us imagine. I know I feel it.

I consider myself fortunate, in that my friend group isn’t afraid of a ‘deep chat.’ In fact, we seek them out. We’re the kind of people who, at a party, will find a quiet corner in which to sit together and ask each other the kinds of questions you don’t really get asked very often in more casual conversation. “How are you, really?” “What has been your biggest regret in life?” “Are you who, or where, you thought you were going to be by now?” (This is exactly what we did at a pool party the other week. It was, perhaps, a little antisocial to break away from the main party to find some lounge chairs and talk to each other, but I think what we ended up doing was ultimately of more value than some forced superficial niceties over gin-based cocktails. We got to know each other better.)

It’s why we’ve all been so excited for a number of items that I ordered online recently — decks of cards, of all things. The mechanics of each are different, but their purpose is the same: to encourage openness, facilitate deeper conversations, and foster intimacy by gamifying it. One of my resolutions for the coming New Year is to make better connections and to build real relationships with the people in my life that go beyond a casual hello at the club. I said I didn’t want to play any more games with people in 2020, but for these games, I’ll make an exception.


We’re Not Really Strangers

I discovered the Instagram account @werenotreallystrangers through a few other friends who followed it. It’s been a favourite ever since, mostly because its posts say many things I feel I need to hear, or need to think more deeply about. Vulnerable statements that anyone who’s ever lived a little can relate to. In the course of following the account, I learned that its creator also produced a card game meant to encourage meaningful connections and ‘deepen your existing relationships and create new ones.’

We’re Not Really Strangers is optimised to be played by two individuals, but can be played by up to six. The card game has three levels. You draw a card, the other person answers. You can opt to answer the same question yourself in turn. There are clear ‘Dig Deeper’ cards that every player can use once per round to ‘encourage transparency if you feel your partner is holding back.’ Sounds simple enough. The depth is what you bring to it.

Level 1, Perception, which, with questions like “What was your first impression of me?” and “Do I look kind? Explain” is all about exploring initial impressions and challenging the assumptions we make about others, and others make about us in turn.

Level 2, Connection, goes deeper, and asks questions that help you get to know each other better, and explore your own emotions in the process. “Have you ever told someone ‘I love you’ but didn’t mean it? If so, why?” “What is a dream you’ve let go of?”

Level 3, Reflection, is about looking back on the previous two levels and the new connection you’ve hopefully made. It’s meant to explore any new understanding of each other that you and your partner might now have after allowing yourselves to be open and vulnerable with each other. “Do you believe everyone has a calling? If so, do you think I’ve found mine?” “Why do you think we met?”

And the final card involves a bit of writing — each player writes a brief note to the other, that can’t be opened until they have parted ways.

The game isn’t always in stock (it’s currently available for pre-order), and shipping to the Philippines is quite expensive, but if you can manage to ship it to a friend in the US or have it shipped home through services like MyShoppingBox, it’s well worth having on your coffee table for the next time you have friends over.

US$24.99, werenotreallystrangers.com

Continue reading
Standard
Non-fiction, Vignettes

Summer daze

I think I just saw someone who looks like you, you text me on a Sunday morning in Berlin. Are you here somewhere?

Not yet, I reply. That’s not me. Still getting dressed. But I’m coming.

Eleven in the morning is a little too early for Berghain when you aren’t trying to catch a particular DJ set, even for me, but what I don’t tell you, and what I’m trying not to admit to myself, is that I was not yet dressed when I said I was getting dressed — I rushed the process to see you, the handsome new friend I have an embarrassingly huge crush on. Luckily, the club is easy to dress for.

Berghain is at that strange transition time on Sunday morning, when I arrive. The tourists of Saturday night have either hooked up or struck out, and are now slowly filtering out of the club, spent, making room for the next wave — the real Berliners — to take their place after brunchtime. It’s far emptier than I’m used to, but having enough space on the dance floor for myself and both of my hand-fans is a rare and special privilege that I intend to enjoy. Two last minute stragglers approach me — a couple, from the looks of it. A little too close for comfort given how much room there currently is. “You look like Rihanna,” the girl tells me. I do not look like Rihanna. Smoky black eyes and blue lipstick do not Robyn Fenty make, but it’s a compliment and I thank her awkwardly, mildly bemused to realise that they see me as a prospective unicorn — a potential third in a threesome. I am also very uninterested and I don’t quite know how to escape this conversation.

You and the three black crows on your shoulder swoop in out of the smoke and shadows like a dark daydream and sort that problem out for me. She’s spoken for is the message that doesn’t need to be said to be made very clear when you take my hand. They say goodbye and head for the stairs behind us, presumably for the exit.

You and I, we dance.

Weeks later, after we’ve fallen in love and refuse to admit it to ourselves or to each other, I will tease you relentlessly about your inability to tell one Asian girl from another. “Remember that time you thought you saw me in Berghain? I mean, come on, I don’t actually look like every other Asian girl.”

“You idiot,” you’ll tell me then. “Didn’t you get it? I knew you weren’t there. I wanted to find out if you were coming but I didn’t want to make it obvious.”

For all that I consider myself clever, I’ll be surprised by that revelation. I’ll think it’s the sweetest thing.

Continue reading
Standard