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Friday, February 27, 2009

Friends for life

Friendster proved more successful than an online matchmaking service to newlyweds, Chew Phye Boon and Shirley Ng

Before the birth of Facebook, Friendster was the social networking website to find old friends and discover new ones. Four years ago, Chew Phye Boon was browsing through Friendster when he found Shirley Ng’s profile. Her job title – nuclear energy analyst – piqued Chew’s curiosity so he shot her a message asking "What exactly does a nuclear energy analyst do? Ng says, "I thought this guy was trying to pick me up. That he was trying to be funny. Obviously it wasn’t a real job!"

They didn’t hit it off but fate intervened and the two found themselves connected via Yahoo messenger. This time, the conversation was interesting enough to warrant a face-to-face meeting. But Ng was apprehensive about the idea. She says, "I called my friend and told her I was meeting this guy and if you don’t hear from me, call the police."

Ng found the 31-year-old IT analyst a little cocky online, "But in real-life he was so tongue-tied! He was really different. Very nice." Unfortunately Chew felt his date talked too much and had a mean streak. Once more, sparks didn’t fly and the 27-year-old marketing executive told friends that nothing would ever happen between them.

Nonetheless Cupid’s arrow hadn’t given up on them and somehow the two started talking again. Their phone banter would last until the wee hours of the morning and on one particular morning they were still chatting away when the clock struck five. At one point during the conversation, Chew thought Ng was hinting that he reveal his feelings for her so he confessed, "Actually I kind of like you." He heard crying on the other end of the line and by the time things got sorted out, it was 6am.

The next day, Ng had doubts about whether Chew was the right one for her. A newbie to serious relationships, she wanted to make sure this one lasted. At the very least, he fulfilled her first three criteria – doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble. His patience eventually won her over. "We’ve never quarrelled because he’s patient. He doesn’t retaliate. You can’t argue with someone who doesn’t argue back," says Ng. "The one thing that made him stand out from the rest is that we could talk about anything. We share the same goals like having a family. We don’t have secrets. I can tell him things and not feel embarrassed."

Chew, on the other hand liked the way his girlfriend made him smile and laugh. "It’s nice being with her. I never get bored because she always entertains me." The couple finally decided that being good friends just wasn’t good enough and last year, Chew proposed to Ng.

He took his girlfriend to a restaurant and presented her with a huge box. Inside the box lay a 3-D replica of Roald Dahl’s "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" and a stack of cards which read, "10 things why I love you". On each card were anecdotes about all the instances the couple had shared during their three years together. When Ng reached the final card, it bore a question mark. That’s when Chew retrieved the ring from the "factory" and proposed. Instead of responding with an enthusiastic "Yes!" Ng laughed and asked her boyfriend whether he had sought her mum’s permission. Luckily, Chew had done the necessary and approached Ng’s mum who quickly fished out a Chinese calendar and gave her blessings, agreeing that it was a good day.

The couple decided on a traditional Chinese wedding which meant the groom had to battle through the time-honoured "chip san leong" (retrieval of the bride) ceremony. Chew and his friends were made to take something sweet (strawberry milk from a baby’s bottle), sour (lime), spicy (wasabi) and bitter (bitter gourd) before the bridesmaids were willing to let Chew take his new bride home!


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