Top Image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo
Friendships can be messy, but almost never as messy or expensive as the one between Mr K Kawshigan and Ms Nora Tan.
It’s a tale as old as time—a friendship ruined due to unrequited love. What’s different now is the millions of dollars at stake.
Mr Kawshigan, who tried and failed to pursue a romantic relationship with Ms Tan, initially threatened to sue her for “emotional trauma” after she turned down his romantic advances.
Now, the man has a $3 million High Court defamation claim against her. His claim? For allegedly causing “damage to his stellar reputation” and “trauma, depression and impacts” on his life. A pre-trial hearing has been set for 9 February, The Straits Times reports.
Apparently, you can put a price on being so-called friend-zoned.
The journey to the pre-trial hearing is, like their former friendship, messy. Ms Tan first received a letter of demand in October 2020 from Mr Kawshigan, who threatened legal action against her for “monetary damages arising from negligent infliction of emotional distress and possible defamation.”
Love me or suffer my wrath, was the message.
Even after this spectre of legal action, Ms Tan (with saintly levels of benevolence, bless your kind heart, ma’am) agreed to Mr Kawshigan’s counsellor’s request to attend counselling sessions with him. She did this for one-and-a-half years with Mr Kawshigan; she had hoped the sessions would help him through the process.
Unsurprisingly, the sessions did not help. This is, after all, a man who is taking a woman to court after she rejected him.
Ms Tan then decided to start harassment proceedings in April 2022. Discussions between them to align their relationship ensued. Barely a month into discussions, Ms Tan decided to cut off communication with Mr Kawshigan later on May 7.
It has now come to the point that Ms Tan is seeking $480 in compensation after she was driven to install a digital door viewer, an alarm sensor and a smart video doorbell to stay safe—she alleges that the man harassed her at her doorstep before. According to her, Mr Kawshigan even approached her neighbours to ask for her home telephone number, CNA found out from court documents.
She’s also seeking $1,000 for expenses incurred from the counselling sessions together and more for her own counselling sessions.
After the initial letter of demand, Mr Kawshigan filed two lawsuits against her on two separate occasions—a High Court claim (for $3 million) on July 7 and a magistrate’s court claim (for $22,000) on August 27.
The August claim, which alleged that Ms Tan breached an agreement to improve their relationship, was already struck out in January this year.
The remaining High Court claim—the claim that Ms Tan allegedly damaged the man’s reputation and negatively impacted his life—is awaiting pre-trial hearing, fixed for next week. Mr Kawshigan claims that she made false allegations about him on an amplified speaker that other people overheard, resulting in the loss of business deals.
Of course, all this legalese accords a sense of legitimacy to the case. But at its roots, does this not seem like another case of a man who feels entitled to a deeper relationship with a woman just because he feels attracted to her?
The courts smell it a mile away; it’s hard to ignore something as egregious as this. According to The Straits Times, State Courts deputy registrar Lewis Tan responded to Mr Kawshigan’s struck-out claim, declaring that the courts will not be used as a tool to force Ms Tan to engage with him.
The Myth of the Friend Zone
The response is stern and hits the nail on the head. The man’s entitlement takes centre stage with an insolence so juvenile (“comply with his demands to deepen their relationship or suffer ‘irrevocable’ damage”, ST reports) that the courts had to address it.
In fact, the man’s obsession is just so off-putting. At this point, it seems like there is nothing the woman can do to his reputation that he has not already done himself.
Did the woman not suffer in the process as well? Unlikely.
It’s even more difficult when you need to get past a man’s sense of entitlement; trying to get through it is its own emotional roller coaster. Perhaps, an emotional roller coaster Ms Tan regrettably knows all too well after trying to appeal to reason. Nothing invites a man’s dogged determination more than a bruised ego.
In Mr Kawshigan’s case, that effort manifested itself into a fully-formed defamation lawsuit against the person of his affection. Surely, he must know the chances of now reconnecting with her—even as a friend—are much slimmer than winning the lottery.
And to think that she’s accused of causing $3 million worth of reputational damage even after the turmoil this legal badgering must have caused her. Amusement from the peculiarity of suing someone after being placed ‘in the friend zone’ dissolves quickly. In its place, anger and indignance.
When a woman is framed as a puppeteer toying with a man’s emotions and throwing him under the emotional bus, it teeters into perilous territory.
Dangerous narratives about women—that they are inherently erratic at best or manipulative and deceptive at worst—are socially reproduced. A closer inspection reveals a toxic undercurrent of entitlement and objectification, one we should have already gotten rid of in 2023.
From Funny to Insidious
The tip of this menacing current is the concept of the ‘friend zone’ itself. If we all stopped believing in this myth altogether, perhaps this could be the one step in banishing the sense of entitlement men feel towards women.
“In JC, I befriended this guy who seemed lonely. We’d study together,” 29-year-old Chloe* tells me. “But he started doing weird things like touching my hair. I told him I only saw him as a friend and the hair-touching had to stop.”
“But it continued even after I expressed my discomfort with the whole situation.”
‘Friend zone’ started as a catch-all phrase during the heydays of Tumblr and 9GAG to describe someone whose affections have been unrequited. By itself, it seems innocent enough; a tongue-in-cheek indication that one is placed in a category that will never move upwards into a romantic relationship.
But the term’s popular usage among men reveals something sinister and insidious. It objectifies and paints women as prizes to be won, often disregarding women as people—people who have every right to choose who they want to have feelings for. After all, if someone doesn’t value friendship enough to respect the other party as a consenting human being, an intimate relationship is most certainly out of the question.
Countless people employ the phrase simply to justify forceful behaviour towards those who don’t feel the same way about them—forceful behaviour which could be counted as a form of violence depending on who you ask. Like David*.
“I once got close with a girl after she broke up with her ex. I got a little upset and turned paggro when she didn’t want to pursue anything beyond friendship—despite me spending more time with her and making sure I was always there when she needed company,” he recalls.
“It took a year for me to realise that it was completely unfair for me to project my feelings and expectations of a relationship on her. And I was also ashamed to realise that all I wanted out of her, in the end, was… sex.”
The Controversy Magnet
Many men have yet to grow out (or grow up) of this mindset. There are other ways to recover from the pain of unrequited feelings, like therapy or just putting yourself out there to meet new people.
I don’t think suing the person of your affection was ever on the list.
But then again, therapy is a time-consuming process. This has been a busy news week for Mr Kawshigan, after all. It turns out that the man is also the CEO of D1 Racing, the organiser behind the failed New Year Eve beach party in Sentosa—a FYRE festival adjacent right here on our shores. But I digress.
Telling someone you only see them as a friend and somehow facing resistance to it is a common occurrence. This lawsuit is unfortunately one of the rare times it got so blown out of proportion that it made national headlines.
But if there’s something to take away from this, the myth of the friend zone has to go. It was once socially acceptable, but society has grown out of it. And we’re all the better for it.