AUNT SOPHIA & UNCLE STAMFORD: WELCOME TO THE CO-ED JUNGLE

Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Not getting any help from RJ Confessions? Try out Raffles Press’ new column, Ask Uncle Stamford, and our resident agony aunt (and uncle) Aunt Sophia and Uncle Stamford will be glad to help you in your Rafflesian troubles! Submit your questions to tinyurl.com/UncleStamford and we’ll give them our best shot.

For this series, the Raffles Art Club has kindly contributed illustrations created by their talented members. The illustrations used in this article were done by Rachel Tay Xi Boon (14A01E) and Sean Chua (14S06O).

Uncle Stamford

“In Year 4 now and terribly afraid of going to JC. First time meeting girls and stuff. Advice?” – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Well for starters, there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I mean, it’s just Junior College – exams, lots of exams, A levels, relationships, friendships, your entire future hanging in the balance – no pressure right? Nah, didn’t think so.

Of course I’m just kidding. You aren’t alone, anonymous (oh how I wish you sent your actual name with this). If I had 10 cents for every boy who came to me because they were afraid of girls in JC, I wouldn’t be sitting behind this desk responding to your letter right now – I mean, I’d be very rich. So don’t you worry, I’ve got you covered. All you need to do is listen to me!

1. Be a man, for crying out loud.

Come on, you have got to be kidding me. The girls who you’ll meet in JC aren’t going to suddenly pop out of nowhere and eat you alive (although I’ve met my fair share of those, but that’s not relevant right now). Just man up, go up to a girl and talk to her. It’s perfectly fine. Remember that as much as you may dread meeting the opposite gender after 4 years in a male-only school environment, most of the girls you’ll meet feel the exact same way!

For some of you out there who will read this, however, this may be all too much pressure. Even more pressure than those 80% weightage promos that are coming. Yes, I’m talking about you, the one who stands in a corner, hiding behind a pillar smiling awkwardly, hyperventilating, with sweaty palms and the moment you get the courage to say hi to a girl in the canteen you clatter into her and knock her food all over her. Yes, I mean you. Don’t worry though, I can still help you (although part of me doesn’t want to – but since I’m an advice columnist, I’m contractually obligated to do so. You lucky buggers.).

PRESS JULY 2013 CANTEEN

2. Pause, and Breathe.

Sounds simple? I assure you, so many boys I’ve met with fail to remember the basic first rule of talking to girls – you forget to breathe. You get so caught up in envisioning all the different ways in which you can embarrass yourself in front of a girl that you end up doing just that. That’s perfectly understandable, it happens to the best of us whenever we get nervous. (except me of course, I’m too good for that kind of stuff).

So please, breathe. See a girl you would like to know better? Great! Take a deep breath. Take another. And another. Take more deep breaths until you calm your heart rate down (and hopefully she hasn’t walked away yet), and once you’re calm then go over and say hi. Remember to keep breathing, or else you’ll probably just die – figuratively and literally.

3. Don’t be conscious, but still be conscious of what you say.

Confusing? Yeah, that’s the point. But before you start firing off angry complaints to my 6 bosses about how lousy I am at my job (“his advice is confusing!” “I didn’t get anything he said!!”) let me explain.

You don’t want to be thinking too hard about every.single.word.that.comes.out.of.your.mouth. It’s painfully obvious to anyone (not just the girls). Your desperate efforts to hide your nervousness and make sure you don’t colossally mess-up this conversation end up making the girl in front of you want to leave as soon as she can. So don’t over-think what you want to say, carry out the conversation as you normally would with anyone else! Even the topic – don’t labour yourself to understand the inner workings of a female mind and say, her shopping habits, especially if you can’t tell high heels from flats (they’re shoes, if you actually didn’t). It’ll most likely make you look even more dumb anyway. By the same token, some girls may have non-stereotypical interests like sports – so by all means just relax, and go crazy over how Manchester United are dead now that Sir Alex Ferguson has left. In fact, it’s probably great.

That said, that doesn’t mean you go all-out, start pretending she’s a guy. For obvious reasons, she’s A GIRL. Now that doesn’t make her different – she’s still a person – but in the same way that you wouldn’t insist on talking to your best friend right after a traumatic break-up or barge into a -private- conversation between (certain) classmates, be tactful, for crying out loud. Common sense dictates that there are a few things you should NEVER mention in front of her.

A. Her weight – “You look like you need to lose a bit of weight?”

How dumb must you possibly be to say something like that?! (For those of you who have, I’m sorry, I’m judging you already.) One of the cardinal sins of talking to girls is clearly bringing up anything to do with her body fat – never, and I mean never, go anywhere near discussing that she might need to lose a bit of weight (even if she brings it up herself).

Bottom line – unless you want a slap in the face, a kick in the unmentionables or just in general receiving the hatred of a girl, stay well away from this topic.

Some of you might, however, reach the point in your life where you’re close enough to a girl that she asks you for fashion advice (don’t ask me why, especially if you can’t even match your socks in the morning). She asks you, “Do I look fat in this dress?” This might, perhaps, be the best time to tell a little white lie. Honesty isn’t always the best policy, especially if you have no idea how to deal with a girl who may be emotionally scarred upon finding out she’s put on a bit of weight.

Here’s what you could consider as a possible response tactic:
Her: “Do I look fat?”
You: “Hmmm… Why do you ask that?” (this buys you some time to think about what you actually want to say in reply)
Her: “Because I’ve been eating a lot, so I think I put on a bit of weight…”
You: “Is that so?” (still buying you more time.)
Her: “Yea I think so leh…. so how, do I look different?”
You: “No la! I think you still look just as good now.” (and then you’re free to change the topic)

PRESS JULY 2013 WEIGHT

B. That time of the month.

How much of a social outcast must you be to know the most awkward topic you could ever bring up in a conversation with a girl is that time of the month? (Admit it – some of you are out there.) You might overhear conversations between girls discussing this but there is NO reason on this planet Earth – and any of the other 7 planets in the solar system or the billions of other mini-planets – for you to go over and ‘make your presence known’. No, just no.

That said, there are some girls who do feel comfortable enough to openly bring it up around you. Then that’s fine – but tread carefully.

C. Anything that clearly affects her.

Don’t be a blind fool and continue talking when the girl right in front of your face has shown clear discomfort in talking about a subject. Even worse, if she’s said “I don’t wanna talk about it.” You want to continue this conversation and, potentially, friendship (provided she’s not talking to you just out of compassion)? Then make sure you recognise when to change the subject or just stop talking in general.

This also includes insults. I know, we guys have a habit of launching into insult wars on occasion, knowing full well none of us mean it (but actually we do), walking away friends and laughing at how stupid the other guy is. That doesn’t mean girls function the same way! They might, but it’s going to take so much more than a first conversation to reach that level of closeness. So tread lightly – she might laugh off a “omg why are you so stupid” but she could be torn apart on the inside.

PRESS JULY 2013 SAD SAD GIRL

4. Physical contact.

Yes, most of you guys out there, we know you usually resolve arguments or joke around by punching another guy in the arm, leg – or other places – and it usually gets the job done. It might hurt, but hey, we’re bros, what’s the big deal? Then you go back to laughing.

People may tell you to see girls as your guy friends too. Yeah sure, takes the pressure off sometimes, but please for the sake of all things good and holy, do not (and I repeat, DO NOT) attempt to punch a girl on the arm – especially if you’re 180cm tall and a member of, say, the rugby team. It’s not a good idea.

In fact, it’s probably still not a good idea even if she (viciously) attacked you first. If she thinks it’s funny, then tell her to stop (and reconsider why you’re even talking to her in the first place). If she doesn’t, she’s either definitely psycho or you might want to wear padded shoulder guards to school. Especially with girls, try not to solve problems with your fists.

However, I do know that not all of you out there are huge and buff, you’re probably more like this:

PRESS JULY 2013 WEAKSAUCE GUY

Even if you aren’t the type to resort to violence in order to build bonds of friendship, it’s important to respect someone else’s personal space. You may have grown used to friendly hugs or casual pats on the back, but that was because you were studying in a single-sex school. Again, unless you’re completely devoid of any social awareness, you should realise she’s a girl and common sense should tell you that putting your arm around a girl (who isn’t your girlfriend) is probably not acceptable. I know some of you out there are desperate and hormonal and touchy but please, keep that to when you know the girl well enough – and she’s comfortable with it – or risk a) hand imprints on your face from getting slapped, b) ostracisation for being creepy and/or c) getting accused of inappropriate touching. Any combination of the 3 is bound to leave you further from where you started. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What’s worse, this might even send the wrong idea to the girl in question. You don’t want that – unless you’re interested in her – and it doesn’t do anybody much good other than making everything extremely awkward. If you’re interested in her… wait, that wasn’t the question you asked. You really want to know? Send in a question or forever hold your peace. (You’re welcome.)

5. Be natural – just go with the flow.

In case you’ve picked up on nothing I’ve already written here, then all I can say is, just be natural. You’re not meeting or talking to an alien species – girls are but just human beings who are just slightly different biologically. Just let the words fall out of your mouth and eventually you’ll realise how unbelievably easy it is to just strike up a conversation with a girl. Just let it happen. You don’t need to put on a show, be some pompous -censored- or pretentious freak, or anything else for that matter that isn’t you. Smile warmly, relax, and things should be fine.

So yes, Anonymous, don’t fret. I think I’ve helped you plenty, but remember this list of tips is non-exhaustive and most definitely subjective. Those of you with more natural charm may find this easier, others might find everything goes horribly wrong. Don’t blame me or I will hunt you down and k- I mean, it’s normal for things to go wrong and don’t worry about it. Mistakes happen, apologise and get on with life.

On a side note, “and stuff” wasn’t specific enough for me to respond to. What on earth do you mean?! I’m ending this here, anything else, you’re going to have to send in another question for me to respond to.

Bye for now (good riddance),

(not so) Sincerely,

Uncle Stamford

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