Convoluted space

Em and I made plans to visit a gallery and Em would like another friend of hers, Venus, to join us. I have not met Venus before and I don’t mind getting to know a new friend so I thought why not? On the day, I saw Em at the entrance and asked about Venus. It was then I learned Venus and her boyfriend, Vin, would be at the gallery together. While we were in a queue, I overheard Em said she would try to ask her sister along for Tokyo, a free-and-easy trip which Venus and Vin would be going too.

I went through the paintings slowly and was the last to emerge from the hall. I only saw Em waiting for me at the foyer. It would have been an uneventful day until Vin suddenly let go of Venus’ hand when he spotted his ex-wife. What a small world. Vin’s act of letting go Venus’ hand and going up to his ex-wife repeatedly for small talk set Venus off. In her displeasure and anger, Venus left the gallery with Vin hot on her heels. Em was caught up unwittingly as a reluctant voyeur.

There are potential, unforeseen minefields to tread when only one person brings along a partner in a group. I am sure females won’t mind if the guy is in the same league as Chris Hemsworth or Hugh Jackman. The dynamics in that social gathering inherently undergoes changes. You might suddenly find yourself in an uneasy, weird spot with all the melodrama playing out, when any cracks between the couple are exposed. You shouldn’t be caught in unrelenting and inescapable awkwardness during sideswipes and snarky quips, nor should you end up being a mediator. Wouldn’t it better to leave your significant other out when hanging out with your mates only? There is a time and season for everything.

Over lunch, I related to Em a similar recent experience I had with a couple. Pam and Paco were divorced many years ago but remain close. They have no children from the marriage. Paco recently finished a work stint interstates and was staying temporarily at Pam’s place. Pam wanted to do Zumba . She was looking for company so I signed up with her. We would go for lunch if we are both free after the class.

One day Paco came along with Pam. While we were both doing Zumba, Paco was at the gym. Being sporting I went with them for a bite afterwards. I was having a banter with Paco after he commented the light cream top I was wearing brought out my fair complexion beautifully. Paco is an amateur photographer and would like me to be his model. I jokingly asked Paco, ‘What should I charge for modelling fee?’

‘Hang on, people pay me when I do photo shoots for them,’ Paco protested and suddenly out of the blue, he turned towards Pam and asked, ‘Is it okay with you? Can I ask your friend to be my model?’ I wasn’t paying attention to Pam until that moment. Pam looked at Paco and didn’t reply. A moment silence and we changed topic. I recommended another cafe for them to explore when Pam’s mother comes overseas for a stay. Paco chimed in that would depend whether Pam behaved herself.

Em cringed after I finished relating my story. Though Pam and Paco were divorced many years ago, Paco still felt compelled to seek his ex-wife’s permission instead of my permission for a photo shoot. There are unique challenges to negotiate as a third wheeler when you establish a friendship with your friend’s significant other, be it current or ex. Paco is like family to Pam. I learned more about Pam, and peered into their exquisite relationship during that one meal than all the years combined. It is fascinating to pore over the rationale and motivation behind humans thinking, feeling and behaviour — such complexities and intricacies.

When I was renting a long time ago, I got to know some semi-retirees in the neighbourhood. They were all in their late fifties to early sixties. One of the them decided to go on a road trip with a seasoned married couple. Two’s company, three’s a crowd. The road trip was not enjoyable at all from the third wheeler’s point of view as she was outvoted at every turn of the journey. What was she thinking? The husband would always go along with the wishes of his wife. They made decision as a bloc, naturally as one would expect. A wise husband indeed.

I suspected Em was the one who asked Venus about going to Tokyo with her, and Venus in turn wanted Vin to come along. Sometimes it is not you whom your friend wants to spend time with the most. Em then decided to ask her sister to accompany her. If her sister couldn’t come along, Em’s husband is willing to take their young toddlers along for the trip. I am sure that will not happen, Venus and Vin would ditch “the family” and go on their own.