Playing a lady who lunches

Two lunches, two different types of “comrades”.

I was so pleasantly surprised to be invited to a catch-up lunch by Gwen at her husband’s swanky new mod-Spanish restaurant Dehesa on Tuesday. She came late, so he entertained me for a good round of tapas. The last time I had seen either of them was probably over five years ago (I say that because they now have a five-year-old, and she was pregnant when last I interviewed her). I had always, only just known them for work, but they welcomed me to their dining table like old friends. Over smoked eel on chicharon, wet squid ink rice with prawns, and Iberico egg, we talked about work, the last five years, and what 2016 looked to have in store.

It seems odd, especially as Gwen gave me a warm squeeze goodbye, how comfortable we have always been with each other. We met as I was starting my career as a design journalist in Singapore, and they were considered up-and-coming architects to watch. Our first meal together, after a house shoot, was a local favourite known as yong tau foo in a hole-in-the-wall. I like to think that our immediate bond was formed because they saw me not as a reporter, but as a fellow graduate of the crazy-hard school of architecture. Although we’d gone to different universities in different countries, we knew those six-hour studio classes, the nervousness for presentation and critique, and sitting for board exams. And for Gwen and I, there, too, was navigating a construction site in heels. We were comrades.

Today I had a Chinese New Year dim sum lunch (with Lo Hei!) at Canton-i with another set of comrades. These were my art director, client manager and fellow editors at one of the most challenging arenas in publishing, Custom Publishing. We had been in the trenches together, battled with insane deadlines and sometimes-irrational clients, and washed our frustrations away with office cocktails. Although two of us had left the arena over a year ago, we still laughed over war stories past and present as we shared baskets of har gow, shu mai and char siew bao. It’s a really unique bond that’s formed when you’re in the trenches together. And while we had limited time, because the others had to go back to those trenches, it seemed as if we’d drunk copious amounts of tea to celebrate the fellowship we had.

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