E had a tarot reading.

Okay. More like I fired up the tarot app in my iPhone and did an impromptu reading.

But first, I guess I should mention how it came about to that.

I think it all goes back to this mutual friend my elder brother and I share, though more his friend than mine. She got married earlier this month, at the age of 25/26.

Now just to put things into context, she’s brilliant. She works in the army now because she is a Mindef/SAF scholar, went to school in UChic and Cambridge, was from S’s alma mater, a dancer, violinist, simply, put a driven, outstanding young woman for someone her age. And her husband, equally brilliant and awe-inspiring.

Needless to say, it came as a surprise when we learnt that she was getting married so soon.

And it got me thinking, would I do the same if I were in their position? If I had a stable job, someone I loved, would I take the next step, and say my vows at 25 years old?

I can’t say for certain what I’d do to be honest. It could be that I was always some sort of a marriage skeptic. Or that I think I’m way too much of a commitment-phobe. But these days, I’m not so sure anymore, I’m not so sure about one too many things.

It’s not that I’m longing to be a relationship or anything. I still do enjoy going out on my own, and doing my own thing at my own time. But increasingly, I’ve been experiencing this sense of meaninglessness to everything. That there’s really no point in life if there’s no one to share your joy with, or talk to when you’re down or upset.

But anyhow, that’s how I finally decided to do something about it, I took out my iPhone and the results are below (don’t judge).

pents10

So this is what the future holds for my relationship woes. What do you see?

After a quick search on google, apparently the ten of pentacles mean:

Interpretations for love and relationships

Ten of Pentacles shows a woman staring at a man in a satisfied manner. Meanwhile, both of them are surrounded with ten coins, two dogs, a child and an old man. All this can be taken as a very good omen for a relationship. Just take a look at the indirect terms associated with all that is described earlier.

· Man and woman staring at each other- Attraction
· Ten coins- Wealth
· Two Dogs- Strong guards
· Child- What every couple wants in the end
· Old man- Wisdom
For a relationship, such terms represent a wise investment because they are linked to love, happiness, security, vision about the future and thoughtfulness. In other words, they show that the two people are together because they just know that they are fit for each other. Another meaning associated with the card is growing bond. This can be used for a relationship which is reaching the maturity stage. But the good news is that although the honeymoon period is over the two lovers do not hesitate to dream about having a future together. Consider yourself lucky if you receive this tarot card for your relationship.
Unfortunately, that was not what I saw.
· Man and woman staring at each other- Attraction
· Ten coins- Wealth
· Two Dogs- Strong guards
· Child- What every couple wants in the end
· Old man- Me, old, lonely, looking at a young family in love with everything going for them.
Does it not look like that? Or is it just me?

The double sex standards

Sex equality still remains a concept that has not materialised in many areas.

More women are able to enjoy access to more rights in life now because of the foremothers who fought against sexual discrimination. There is not much dispute, at least in our society here in Singapore, that women are as deserving as men to receive education, work opportunities, etc.

History will not be erased simply because there is progress. Practical concerns are easier and neater to tackle. The mentality of the people, however, is not.

Coincidentally, after I read E’s previous post talking about love and sex and cheating and what it means to be married and having to accept the commitment of monogamy, I read this article written by one Silpa Kovvali about what sexual exclusivity means to her.

Imagine the rich, successful former outcast who’s now struck it big and is at the height of his career. Imagine the triumphant expression on his face; think of the descriptors onlookers might use. “Eligible bachelor” springs immediately to mind. Now imagine a woman in a comparable position, and think of the sympathetic looks she will no doubt have to undergo if she shows up without a ring on her finger. Or, worse still, the whispers of the feminist-minded, who might comment in hushed and rueful tones, “Wow. I guess women really can’t have it all.”

– Silpa Kovvali, Sexual Exclusivity Means We Overvalue Physical Beauty (Thought Catalog)

This is something that is literally manifested in real terms in language systems.

There is bias in some linguistic systems against women. (I don’t know about the other 6000 languages in this world that I have not heard of. I only know three.)

There are many gender-neutral words that have gender-specific associations and there are generally more derogatory terms for females than there are for males.

Take the term ‘bachelor’. It enjoys this shiny connotation of being some happily uninhibited carefree dude who can’t care less about being tied down by marriage. The term ‘bachelorette’, however, is more often used to describe the party for women who are about to get hitched than to conjure up the image of some happily uninhibited carefree lady who can’t care less about marriage. More people go straight for the ‘spinster’, a word that alludes to the sad stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed.

Somehow the male equivalent term for the term slut doesn’t sound as bad as slut does. Wait, what is the male equivalent term for slut? Womanizer? Philanderer? Casanova? Don Juan? They all sound so much sexier and romantic compared to the livid vehemence you can chant slut with. Or contemporary inventions like man-slut and man-whore that attempt to make up for the disparity but doesn’t take away the fact that there was no such term to express the same kind of sentiment?

There is a fair deal of unequally derogatory terms to describe men and women. In some way, this linguistic imbalance seems to reflect that there seems to be greater moral imperative placed on women to stand by an all-or-nothing principle about sex. If you’re a woman and you have sex with different people, you’re a slut/whore/etc etc. If you’re a man and you have sex with different people, you’re just being a man.

Who took away women’s rights to have free rein over our sexuality without being judged unduly harshly as compared to men? Why does it seem as if there is some form of a double standard for women and men when it comes to expressing our sexuality?

When you marry you are, after all, consigned to sleep with one person and one person only for the rest of your life. Meanwhile, you can always join a book club. It’s outrageous to pretend that such rigid definitions don’t lend themselves to an outsize emphasis on sex appeal when we evaluate potential partners, and that such an emphasis wouldn’t have a subtle spillover when we evaluate people generally.

Still, it is women who bear the majority of this burden, for it is beauty which they, by and large, are perceived as bringing to the table. Exclusivity is the closest you can come to ownership these days, and monogamy is a means by which men can lay claim to the power a woman might otherwise be able to obtain via her beauty, and resultant sexuality. Simultaneously, men are left in complete control of their most valued commodities, and can deftly wield them to their advantage without fear of judgment or reprisal. It is a grand delusion, then, that men, and men alone, find this whole mess unsatisfying, when it is women who are so clearly getting the raw end of the deal.

– Silpa Kovvali, Sexual Exclusivity Means We Overvalue Physical Beauty (Thought Catalog)

The onus to undertaking the commitment of monogamy in a relationship or marriage lies on both parties, but sometimes I think that people tend to judge the woman more harshly than they do the man.

Is this just because of the difference in expectations that are founded on the persisting aged bias mentality of the past? Do love and sex really go together as mutually inclusive requisites for women or were women just taught and conditioned to think that since a long time ago?

In theory, it’s always going to be neat to think that that would be the case, because that’s what, in theory, people should go for expectedly – go for the love first then have the sex, not the other way around. But in reality things sometimes don’t happen neatly in sequence. There are factors of attraction, fortuity and circumstances that come into play that end up testing the strength of your composure, especially when you meet someone that induces the thought in your mind that (s)he is more The One than the one that you previously thought was The One.

And also, in non-theory, like E mentioned in the previous post,

You can be with someone who gives you all the attention and love that fills you up emotionally, yet he or she simply cannot satisfy you in bed. Where does that leave you? Deprived certainly. Is the problem with you, or with your other half? Is it love if there is no physical attraction?

So what if you got the love but the sex is horrible despite remedial efforts to rectify the deprivation? (Which might put you in a very susceptible position to being seduced by external temptations.)

Is the love worth chaining the person as your one partner by your side if there is no physical attraction? How is that different or more satisfying than just having a good platonic friend?

Will it make you a horribly shallow person if you decide that you want to seek out physical attraction first?

Who should THE ONE be?

Reading Anais Nin recently has got me thinking about the question. Even though she remains one of the most prolific (? I don’t know how to describe her precisely) lovers documented in literary history, she was very often confused and bewildered by the most perplexing question in the world of relationships – the grand question of Who Should The One Be?

I am Hugh’s refuge and he is mine. Is that the love that makes one less alone, the loyal secure one, or the passion that fuses bodies, or the tender love, devotion, desire, intellectual harmony? Which one am I closest to? Henry, yet not close in the trusting way. Closeness to the Father, to the lover, to the brother. So many kinds of closeness! What is it that annihilates loneliness?

– Anais Nin, Nearer the Moon (The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin 1937-1939)

The huge question of Who Should The One Be is of course related to what kind of Relationship one is looking/searching/yearning for. Of course, I don’t think someone that is the loyal secure one cannot provide you with passion or intellectual harmony at the same time. They are not all mutually exclusive concepts. But they are characteristics and facets of relationships that have to be weighed according to one’s needs, wants and priorities in life. Some prioritise a sense of security above all else, some can’t care less about that intangible passion, while some would rather die than suffer with an intellectually uninspiring partner in life.

Somewhat like religion and philosophy, I feel that there are these three main principles of faith that people follow when it comes to deciding Who Should Be The One for them.

Some people believe that the most critical factor in making things work is realistic compatibility. This is the Keep It Real school of thought. They’re well aware that the thing that happens in romantic comedies – where the good looking guy and the good looking girl meets, go through dramatic life-changing events and then go on to live happily ever after – is a reality that will never work in reality. They believe that life is about managing realistic expectations. They are just looking for a good honest companionship to offer them security in going through life humbly and be offered with the possibility of not having to die alone. They look for partners with sensible expectations, similar life goals and the probable capacity of being contented to live life that way till the end. That certainly sounds like a good way to live life.

On the other side of the mating pool, some people believe that the most crucial factor when choosing romantic partners is that they need to be people whom they feel attracted to – physically, aesthetically, sexually, psychologically, chemically, pheromonally, whatever etc. This is the Attraction Is Most Important school of thought. Because to them, the sparks are what sparks off the throes of romantic passion, which is the point of having a special someone, right? And also because they think, well, the difference between a friend and a boy/girlfriend is the additional act of interest, which makes sense.

And then there are the people who believe that above everything else, the most important factor to consider is the soul connection. This is the Soulmate school of thought. The one that posit that your mate for life should be your mate of soul as well. The people who marry their best friends to be their spouses. The other half that will complete them, make up for what they lack in and compliment each other in ways mutually beneficial and awesome. The people whom they claim understand them extremely well, which makes sense that they would want to connect them in their lives for good.

And of course, last but not least, there is the Wishful school of thought with people who want all three.

However, putting the joking aside, sometimes I really wonder whether relationships have got more to do with the people in them or the love.

The dreadful truth is that you don’t just end up with a love that is passionate and mutual at the same time. You’re never lead straight to the ones who could love you back, the ones with no buts, and the ones with whom you can actually be happy.

…Life would be so much easier if we were all capable of finding that mad, mind-blowing, all-consuming, extraordinary, lasting, and reciprocated love in a sea of about seven billion people on the first try. …Sometimes the external factors are just too exhausting that a love independent of space and time would be nice to imagine.

– Hazel Venida, We’re Not Supposed to Understand Love (Thought Catalog)

Many people would claim that the Soulmate school of thought is the least shallow one of them all. I disagree. I would love to claim some moral high ground and say that I am all for defending all shades of singlehood before I can find that one Soulmate that will complete my somehow purportedly lacking life as an independent single human being. Unfortunately, I think all schools of thought are equally valid and respectable as life choices that one may make.

Because maybe like religion and philosophy, there is the leeway to make wrong choices in relationships as well. Some people grow up and realise that the religion that they were born into were not the right fitting faith for them and they converted. Some people grow older and realise that YOLO is really not the philosophy that is beneficial for their aging hearts and they make some lifestyle changes.

Maybe this is why people have been going on and on about the pains of having met the right one at the wrong time or the wrong one at the right time.

Maybe it is all about meeting the ones who will never be before meeting The One.

And that for some people we might only get to meet the ones who will never be because we end up dying before getting to meet The One.

But that’s okay, because life would still be lived out anyway.

Life is what should always matter the most.

40 Days Postmortem

So, the exciting project that was 40 Days of Dating.

Lots of food for thought, because, let’s face it, there’s not that many people out there who are willing to try out literally in a social experiment the very trying notion of platonic friendships. Many people are willing to just accept the alleged impossibility of it. And some people use it as a basis for establishing romantic relationships. You know, the whole my-spouse-is-my-best-friend business.

I was very glad to read that they did not ruin their friendship by the end of the forty days, though in the long run, I’m not so sure if their previously untainted-by-the-experiment friendship would show signs of having been affected somewhat. I was also very glad to read that they did not end up together, because that just would have been incredibly cliche and might become unwholesome fodder for more pairs of good friends to try the experiment out themselves.

But, just like the adage goes, the most important point of the 40 Days is not about the ending.

It’s about the process. It’s about the wealth of self-affirmative knowledge, self-analysis and introspection that is drawn out throughout the days of reflecting upon the days. It’s about being serious and taking the time to deliberate an issue that by its very nature involves someone else, but oddly enough most of the time explodes out of proportion singlehandedly by one party. If you get what I mean.

Many of the issues that were raised through their daily reflections are typical ones that we hear about all the time and they certainly reflect the crazy complex of stressors in everyday life itself that exerts inescapable pressure on relationships.

I think the most crucial issue though, as raised by E in the previous post, is one’s family background.

Just like how people are always saying, the past will always come back to haunt us.

It is just like how people always talk about the way many kids, who were abused in their childhood, grow up to become abusers themselves or get trapped as resigned silent victims in another vicious cycle of abuse. When you grow up in an environment of abuse, an environment with abuse is all you know about. Comfort comes from a sense of familiarity, and if abuse is familiar, then that would be comfort. I suppose it is part of human nature that when we encounter something new, we always try to, consciously or not, source for something familiar to ground ourselves in, before we can feel alright enough to venture forth and drive the new and exciting unfamiliarity by its reins. In trying to make decisions about our future, we fall back on knowledge we’ve gained in the past.

I have always wondered if my family background is the reason why I am extremely opposed to wanting to start a family of my own. Growing up, every other day was spent listening to crazy ass arguments and heated bickering, all dripping generously with my father’s blatant disrespect for my mother. (Which I think might be the reason why I really hated guys when I was younger, but that’s another point for another day.) I didn’t understand (still don’t) why two people would want to stay together, for the sake of kids, if they were filling each other with so much resentment and unhappiness. To me, our own individual selves should always, always, always come first. Kids follow you, for goodness’ sake. How happy can your children be when they see you behaving miserably all the time?! (I also think this might be a reason why I definitely shouldn’t have kids of my own, but that’s also another point.)

I was the kid (still am) who wished everyday that her parents would get a fucking divorce to end everyone’s misery once and for all. But it never happened, though not because there were no threats made or no attempts made to do so. I honestly think it was because they got to a point where they are so filled with fucking indifference that they can’t care less about doing something about it. So they just left it as it is, like people leave dead leaves on a pile of dirt to disintegrate into compost and reintegrate as earth and morph into the nothing that they never were. I think this is perhaps one of my greatest fears of relationships. Not just for myself, but for everyone. I’m sure no one, except perhaps extreme pessimists, starts out their relationship with the belief that one day it would all fizzle out and die miserably. People begin with the yearning faith that their love will last and persist, even if it may get less intense and impassioned over the years, but that it would always be there – that’s what got the whole thing started in the first place, right? But to have witnessed so many failures of others and one very close to home, the depths of bitter resentment and wretched unhappiness that plagues many marriages just hollow out any wells of belief or faith that I have, not just in the institution of marriage, but also the notion of romantic love.

It is a fact of life that beauty in nature does not last, because part of the beauty that forms life is its transience. That’s cool with me, go ahead and die. Immortal beauty is not as precious anyway. What terrifies me is the very real prospect of relationships that could have appeared to be as promising as it could get, end up spurting jet black streams of toxic sentiments. It’s not the dying, but the breeding of hateful apathy, which I think is worse than dying.

It makes no sense to me why some people are so up for constantly seeking for the one and throwing themselves into relationships over and over again and still do it even after getting hurt or disappointed repeatedly.

I’m aware that asshole-ness is not genetically inheritable, but I believe that asshole behavior can be acquired and learned through environmental exposure. A part of me is perhaps fearful that I might end up like my parents – an abusive jerk or a gutless chump. I guess a part of my psyche is retrospectively fatalistic, that I don’t know how this whole hopeful-for-relationship thing works because I haven’t grown up knowing it.

Many people think that having an awareness of such a possible pitfall is one of the best ways to prevent falling in. Sure, it could be. But I don’t think it teaches you how to get out should you fall.

And what if you don’t even survive the fall in the first place?

Healthy cliches

I spent today at my grandma’s house watching Taiwanese dramas on cable. Yes, the one that the long-running 愛 is categorised under, the one we always lament about, about its length, its lame-ness, its bizarre comedic effects and how they do not get tired of their own cliches. The only thing that kept me watching was the fact that they were shown in their original dubbing in Taiwanese Hokkien, which is really the bulk of the fun because some things just sound so much funnier expressed in Hokkien, which sadly is something our local free-to-air TV channels are deprived of. (It is the reason why many kids now can’t even have a proper chat with their grandparents about topics more profound than their current state of hunger.)

Let me get back to the point. The point of today’s post is: cliches are necessary. As stupid as some might appear to be, they are essential because they keep us in check. It’s like deviancy. Without the presence of deviant behavior, it would be difficult to tell what is not.

This evening, my sister left to attend her friend’s wedding. I think this is her 5983749587345th friend who’s getting hitched and I think she doesn’t have any more unhitched friends left. Cue strong waves of social pressure and awkward glances from friends who already have two kids in tow.

Some of my friends know that I do not approve of her current boyfriend, for reasons that are at times too infuriating to even try to describe or think about. But if you trust me as a person with sensible judgment, you’ll agree with me that her boyfriend is not approvable. A huge flat-out no. Not with someone like my sister. Not that my sister has great character traits or an amazing personality or a lot of money or talent, but some people, you can just know, with one look or after five minutes, what kind of person they are, and that person is one of the worst I’ve ever come to know.

Now, before you think my sister is plain stupid, because if her sister (that is me) can see all sorts of faults with that person, why can’t she? Well, I was previously puzzled about that too, but I’ve come to realize that the reason that she can’t is because she can’t. Simply put, when it comes to that person, she is, from the perspective of someone who is not her, seemingly stupid. You can think of it as the old adage that goes, “Love is blind”, but honestly I don’t think so. I don’t think she’s blind; I think she chooses to not see.

Sometimes I don’t know if she’s still with that person because she’s afraid she’s not going to have enough time to find another one, a better one, which I must add is not very difficult, because a better one will just have to be 10% less idiotic than an average being. But I think the fear is more daunting when you’re the one searching. I think I’ve no right to judge the fear and the (lack of) attempts to surmount it.

Sometimes I don’t know if she’s just throwing it all away because she’s tired of the search, the perennial search for the one person who will understand what you like, what you are talking about and are passionate about and what you are looking for in life. I grew up listening to her answer, in response to my aunts’ questions about when she is going to get married, that she’ll stay single her whole life and open an old folk’s home (where she will presumably reside towards the end of life). She doesn’t say that anymore now (it’s just awkward smiles now) but I’m not sure when my aunts will be able to stop asking.

I suppose the TV shows with their sappy happy endings all strive to do one thing: reinforce our belief that one day perhaps it will happen to us too. We reasonably know in our logical minds that we don’t all get happy endings at every stage of our lives and not all of us will get a good-looking and understanding other half who owns wads of cash for us to spend, but it is difficult to deny that indulging in happy sappy what-ifs feels good. And we watch TV to feel good, right?

I think a companion true to ourselves for life is substantial. For some people, maybe that companion is just our own selves. And for some people, maybe that companion is a decent man or woman who they are friendly with and spend a lot of good times together, but their relationships don’t ever go past into marriage and that is okay with them and their relationships remain uncomplicated from legal matrimony issues, real-life logistic issues (housing, money matters) and human drama (family, relatives, children). For some other people, that companion drives them up the wall sometimes and other times make them feel so happy that they remember less vividly the times they were driven up the wall.

Whatever you want, man. Whatever you want.

See how much rumination watching cliche TV has induced in me? Maybe that is why they are necessary. I’m not sure. I have a feeling that cliches being necessary is a cliche too.