[Note: This article contains spoilers of “Our Times” (2015)]
Before I tell you about Hsu Taiyu of “Our Times,” let me tell you these first.
Whenever I catch Gen X folks or Boomers blabber about how our generation has everything easy, there’s a tingling urge in me to immaturely retort, “Except in finding love, right?”
Blame the stories I learned as a kid. They’re not even the Disney fairytales I didn’t believe in. They’re dinner table anecdotes shared by my family, meet-cutes told in different versions just to deny who made the first move—eventually trailing off with banter and laughter as they put down their plates, giving me some kind of bait.
My grandparents instantly clicked the first time they saw each other, while my parents knew they were endgame after a few interactions as accidental neighbors. Heck, my aunt and uncle have known each other since grade school, a grand story looking down at mine—a single 23-year-old who’s written an indirect love letter to Joshua Garcia. (Well, at least he responded.)
I’ve wanted to experience it myself. According to movies, the meet-cute happens when you least expect it—no matter if it’s push/push, pull/pull, push/pull or neutral/nervous. Whether it’s in a train station, a library, an aquarium (hello, Romeo and Juliet), or a concert. Everywhere I never got mine, basically.
The quest became trickier and trickier, especially when Tinder and Bumble started terminating people’s memberships from The Meet-Cute Club. “I’m on a dating app now,” a friend giddily told me one day. Another one bites the dust.
Look, I respect and root for everyone who’s looked for love in these apps. But the pressure to click “download” as I saw my peers getting dates and SOs online—never mind if they’re a fling or for the long-term—felt overwhelming for me. This is the new meet-cute, The Cut said in 2016.
Surprisingly, I experienced the same but also in a different light. I met someone who swept me off my feet just through our first exchange of tweets and DMs. Our mutuals—who served as bridges—somehow assured us that we can live up to each other’s expectations.
But we didn’t. So even if I started going back to hoping there’s an IRL meet-cute for me somewhere, I felt more pathetic, hopeless and old.
Until I watched “Our Times” for the first time, that is. I saw this will-they-won’t-they rom-com-slash-coming-of-age four years after its release, and was instantly hooked when I met its protagonist Lin Truly (Vivian Sung/Joe Chen). I saw myself in her: empathetic but dense, not the first person you’d notice in a room, a delusional fangirl (in her case, of Andy Lau) and would never confess to a crush.
Because of her panic over a chain letter, high schooler Truly started passing it on apologetically. The school’s infamous bad boy Hsu Taiyu (Darren Wang/Jerry Yan) receives a copy. And voila, their meet-cute.
A few minutes into the film was enough for me to realize: Hsu is everything I want in a guy. “Just for that prick?!” Hsu tells Truly after seeing her in the swimming pool, mindlessly floating after being heartbroken. He’s spontaneous but reliable, ready to sit down with you and have a drink when you need to.
He’ll be your sidekick before you even ask for one. Whether it be for inspecting your crush’s deepest, darkest secrets or taking the blame for you, he’ll genuinely sign up for the job. Bonus: Flashing you his warm, reassuring smile or avoiding your gaze because he doesn’t want you to feel indebted.
He’ll remember everything you say, even the ones you’ll soon forget yourself. “What brought you here?” Truly asks Hsu when he drops by her house in an inconvenient hour. “Because you said, when a girl says she’s okay, she’s not okay. Nothing’s wrong, means something’s wrong,” he answers, fresh from hospital confinement.
He’s the bad boy trope in looks but defies all of them flawlessly. He’ll fight for you, not with you. He won’t play mind games to feed his ego. He won’t guilt-trip you into proving he’s the best. This sweet summation made me realize what kind of meet-cute I really want and deserve. It’s the kind with a full follow-through—one that isn’t only a meet-cute.
The time you waited for Hsu Taiyu’s discussion in this essay? It’s nothing like the years he waited to grant his promise for Truly. “I’ll make him sing for you,” the high school Hsu promised Truly one afternoon, while the girl was holding onto an Andy Lau standee. “Yeah, right,” she said.
“Our Times” makes me believe—even in the most bizarre of times—that true love still waits for me. That wishing for an unexpected, mysterious but fulfilling twist is something I can still embrace. That the tension and progression can unfold beyond the virtual realms.
Weekends ago, I had a Zoom call with a friend. “I still want a meet-cute even if it’s impossible right now,” I unashamedly confessed. She said, “Same, maybe a coffee shop AU is good.”
On another Zoom call, a friend shared the reply of his new Bumble boo. I’d celebrate with him the way I celebrate the comfort of my hopelessness, lying in my re-watches of “Our Times.”
Art by Yel Sayo