Friends, Love, Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When You’re In Love With Your Best Friend – Tan Lili

Do you jump headfirst into a relationship or do you take time to build your friendship first? Tan Lili opts for the latter, but she reckons it shouldn’t matter either way.

As a writer and a reader, one of my biggest pet peeves is presumptuous writing. Very rarely do articles like “10 Signs She’s Wifey Material”, “30 Things You MUST Do By 30” and “Why You Should NEVER Date An Ex” paint an objective picture as they tend to be self-indulgent and filled with one-sided drivel. It’s one thing to motivate readers to better their lives, but quite another to unnecessarily plant a seed of doubt in their minds – and those articles have an inclination to veer towards the latter.

The most befuddling part to me, though, is that they often go viral and are well-received by majority of their readers.


A friend recently showed me one such article. It listed down 10 reasons why it’s a terrible idea to marry your best friend. One of the reasons: You’d likely just be settling for a safe option, secure in the assurance that he would never let you down. (It was written by a relationship counsellor, mind you.) And for reasons I would probably never be able to comprehend, my friend actually agreed with everything the writer said.

“Do you think you settled down too early?” she began. “When things get too comfortable between two lovers, the passion will fade and, eventually, all that’s left is friendship. And hey, weren’t you and Terry friends for nearly two years before you got together? Do you think that makes you guys even more susceptible to falling back into old patterns and seeing each other as just friends?”

To my friend’s defense, her intentions were non-malicious because she’s always been an inquisitive character. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly miffed by her line of questioning.

Because what’s wrong with taking time to invest in the friendship first? Call me old-fashioned, but for me, I’d rather have that rock-solid foundation upon which you build your relationship. As Vanessa very sagely added last night, the alternative would be to dive headfirst into the fiery romance then work on the friendship later – but when you take away the passion, what’s left?

In the same vein, I chanced upon a Reddit thread about a guy who went around the world to interview couples about love, and one of the biggest takeaways he gained was this: that the most madly-in-love long-term relationships are those built on friendship.

material world_best friend love

My boyfriend and I did start out as platonic friends, but somewhere along our friendship, the line blurred. Granted, it took us nearly two years of mindfuckery to decide that our feelings are mutual, but it was also during those two years that we got to know and genuinely like each other as buddies. And that – realising that he’s your perfect partner – is the best thing about falling in love with your best friend. Throw in romance and passion and, yes, definitely sex, it becomes a whole new level of amazing.

Of course, the world is not black and white. I know of so many friends who were lovers first before they became friends, and they sure aren’t any less committed to each other than any other couple who started out otherwise. When there are so many variables involved – your personality, your beliefs, your present psyche – what works for one couple may not work for another. My personal preferences may change in the future, but for now, I honestly do not see anything wrong with being in love with my best friend.

I suppose that’s what makes love so beautiful, isn’t it? There’s no one mould into which every couple fits; the way you start your relationship is irrelevant because, to quote Neil Gaiman, sometimes when you fall, you fly.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Tan Lili talks about building long-term relationships and the highs and lows of being in one. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. 

Friends, Relationships

3 Things I Love About My Friendship With Guys – Denise Li

Here’s why Denise Li can’t live without her favourite dudebros. 

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Is it possible for women to be platonic friends with men? Sometimes, it astounds me that people ask this question cos it’s a HELL YES! for me. And that’s why I hate the term “friend zone” so much … it stigmatises what could potentially be a healthy and valuable non-romantic relationship between two people. “Friend zone” is an unnecessarily shit-stirring term that should be retired immediately from popular lexicon.

It doesn’t mean that heterosexual male and female friendships are easy to define, uncomplicated, or free from sexual tension all the time. But that’s another story for another day. But I think to only stick to friends of one gender would be to restrict access to a whole world of perspectives, viewpoints and interactions. Here are a few things I get out of my friendship with men.

1. They don’t belabour conversations about emotions

Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for emo HTHTs (heart-to-heart talks), especially if I sense that a friend is feeling down and could use some cheering up. But sometimes, I also like how my guy friends just state the facts, and then move on. Let me give you an example. Recently I met up with a guy friend who was in town for a couple of weeks. We met up in a group with some other guys from the same university. We were all talking about regular stuff, what we were doing with our lives, movies and TV shows we’d watched recently, and so on. Said friend suddenly drops this conversation bomb from nowhere: “[Name of wife] and I are no longer together.” Just like that. I asked him a bit about it, he gave us the lowdown of how the relationship broke down, and five minutes later, we’d moved on from that topic and went back to talking about Breaking Bad. Between us (I was the only girl in the group that night), there were no long-drawn sympathetic looks, no “Tell me how you’re REALLY doing”. He had made peace with the end of the relationship, updated us about it, and moved on. Sometimes, that’s all that really needs to be said.

2. They don’t let things stew

Something else I noticed about men … if one guy has a problem with one of his buddies, he comes right out and says what it is without beating around the bush. They have a conversation about it, sort it out, then move on without any ounce of awkwardness. With women (and I think I can say it because I’m guilty of doing it too), we might act passive-aggressively towards the friend who has offended us, or we ask a mutual friend for advice about whether we should talk to the friend in question. Confronting the problem head on always seems to be the last resort when, really, it’s the first thing that should be done so things don’t become more complicated than they have to be.

3. They make fun of each other TO NO END

Have you noticed this? They always take ribbing to the extreme, sometimes to the point where it can get uncomfortable for the observing bystander. This trash talking is, apparently, one of the ways that men bond with each other, and supposedly, they only do it to other dudes they like. I find this kind of endearing, not to mention hilarious.

Do you think men and women can be “just friends”? What are some of the things you like about your friendship with guys?

For more articles on friendship, click here.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

Friends, Relationships

7 Girlfriends That Every Woman Always Needs – Matthew Fam

A life without girlfriends would be a very dull, depressing one indeed. From a friend who gives you honest fashion advice, to one who lends you a shoulder to cry on, these are the 7 girlfriends that every woman always need.

1. The Fashion Consultant:
Forget hairstylists or personal shoppers. Having a fashionista girlfriend on your side can save you from a dreaded style mishap. And we’re not talking about friends who would blindly praise any frock your don. This friend will be direct and honest with her opinions. Like that time when you decided to trim your bangs by yourself in desperation:giphy

2. The Love Guru:
This girlfriend has sagely dating advice without even consulting love horoscopes. She also has a good hint of which guy is suitable for you based on your recent dating history that she has effectively memorised. When she tells you to avoid drunk texting a guy who- in her spot-on guy analysis- is just a player, do yourself a favor and listen. To. Her.

3. The Travel Buddy:
Planning a holiday can be a stressful event by itself, what with hotel bookings and the sorting of itineraries. Can you imagine adding travel buddies into the mix? What you need is a girlfriend that either has similar travel interests as you- be it in shopping or museum hunting- or is willing to compromise (of course, you should be willing to do so as well!).

ABD4F1B04FFC41848426C609E578170E4. The Comedy Queen:
When you’re having a bad day at work or in desperate need for some cheering up, pencil this girlfriend in for a lunch outing- pronto. She can turn a quiet coffee joint into a riot filled with your guffaws. Yes, when you’re in her company, passerbys may even whip you disapproving glances at your boisterous conversations. But let’s face it: you’re probably having too much fun to care!

5. The Saint:
Friendships are bound to come with their series of conflicts and disagreements. But what makes them stronger is the ability to get through them with forgiveness and understanding. Unfortunately, not all friends are willing to start on a clean slate- especially when a dire deed is committed (you dating her ex, perhaps!). So when you find a girlfriend that graciously forgives, you must never let her go.

6. The Comforter:
This girlfriend’s contact is ever ready to be tapped on Whatsapp in times when you feel like this:tumblr_inline_mlqadytMmi1qz4rgp

A typical conversation with her usually begins with a string of crying-face emojis, followed by a total word vomit of your troubles. While some friends would simply tune off, this girlfriend will take the time and effort to hear you out- even to the extent of comforting you and offering a meet up. She is an angel.

7. The Daredevil:
She lives life on the edge and is the one to force you to try things you never would on your own- say, reverse bungee or bikram yoga. Often times, you will silently curse to yourself for even entertaining her insane requests. However, what you fail to realise is how she’s helping you get out of your comfort zone. A keeper? Definitely.


What kind of girlfriend do you think a woman should have? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and contributing beauty assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean theatre, and spends too much of his undergraduate allowance on magazines.


If you liked this post, you might also like:

1.Are You Being Critical Or Are You Looking For Flaws? – Tan Lili

2. Am I A Horrible Friend Because Of This? – Matthew Fam

3. How To Hang Out In a Group That Doesn’t Speak Your Language – Denise Li


Friends, Relationships

How To Hang Out In a Group That Doesn’t Speak Your Language – Denise Li

Hanging out with people who don’t speak the same first language as you doesn’t necessarily have to be awkward, says Denise Li. 

If, like me, you are chronically shy and/or introverted (I’m still not sure which adjective describes me best), having to attend an event or party where you hardly know anyone is the stuff of nightmares. Probably the third worse after having to speak in public, and being singled out to answer a question in a crowded lecture hall.

Me, in an unfamiliar social setting

Me, in an unfamiliar social setting

Over the years of attending events as “media”, I think I’ve learnt to somewhat disguise my awkwardness and I can even appear outwardly outgoing. But as I sit in a cab on the way to the event, I still play out worst-case scenarios in my head (no one I know attends the event; no one bothers talking to me, etc). Of course, it’s NEVER as bad as I imagine it to be in my head, and most of the time, I still manage to have fun, but the social anxiety has never really left me in all these years.

Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I’m currently in the town of Bruges, Belgium, to spend six weeks with my partner. As it’s summer in Europe, travel is prohibitively expensive, so instead of visiting the south of France and Berlin like we’d initially planned, Alain and I have been spending a lot of time punching things and rolling with sweaty dudes at MMA training. We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time with said sweaty dudes outside of the gym. And, if you think it’s awkward to hang out with a bunch of people you barely know, try hanging out with a bunch of guys you barely know who don’t speak the same language as you do. For the uninitiated, they speak Flemish (a Dutch dialect) here in this part of Belgium (Flanders), although most people here speak English well too. And while Alain and his friends do make the effort to switch to English some of the time, I certainly don’t expect them to do it ALL the time for my benefit. I get that it disrupts the flow of natural conversation if they have to switch to a less-familiar language.

Having been here for close to two weeks now, and finding myself in the situation on a semi-regular basis, I’ve devised a few coping strategies. I hope you’ll find them useful if you ever find yourself in the same situation!

Alright, so I'm not above having a pint or two to ease myself into the situation as well ...

Alright, so I’m not above having a pint or two to ease myself into the situation as well …

1. Go with the flow

Initially, I found it hard to keep a frozen smile on my face as Flemish chatter went on around me (with Alain pausing to translate every now and then). Then I realised that being in this situation is actually not too bad for an introvert or someone who suffers from chronic shyness. Why? Because you’re not obliged to fully engage in the conversation 100% of the time! Sometimes, I’m really quite happy to zone out, or observe people in their element. I started becoming more comfortable the moment I stopped overthinking things.

2. Pay attention to nonverbal cues

Related: How To Be a Good Listener

Researchers say that body language accounts for between 50 to 70 percent of all communication, so actually, you’re not missing out on EVERYTHING just because you don’t speak the same language as the rest of the group. In fact, I think not being able to speak the language sharpens your observation skills. When I started becoming less fixated on the language barrier, and started paying more attention to body language, I found that I’m still able to follow the general flow of conversation. When I clarify with Alain about whether he’s talking to his friends about a particular incident that happened recently or discussing a certain subject matter, he’s always surprised at how I “get it”. And nope, it certainly wasn’t because I magically picked up Flemish overnight.

3. Nevertheless, a little effort will help your cause

Related: Should We Speak the Language of Locals?

I’m no cunning linguist: I can barely speak Mandarin despite having learnt it for 12 years in school, and my attempts to learn Thai and German have yielded little more than me being able to count to 10, and ordering fried rice and schnitzel. But now that I will be spending an extended period of time in Belgium, I might as well try and pick up as much Flemish as I can. Now that I’m starting to put in a little more effort into it, I can catch a few commonly used phrases, and I can count to 1o in Dutch … I just need to get over the self-consciousness of putting to use what I do know in everyday life. From my experience, however, people usually appreciate the effort no matter how broken or halting you think it comes across.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

Friends, Love, Love In Lines, Marriage, Relationships

[Love In Lines] The One Thing You Won’t Expect Your Wedding Planner To Be – Deborah Tan

She’s been married for almost three months now. Today, Deborah Tan talks about the one person who might have actually saved her from becoming a runaway bride.

Both the husband and I can be extremely stubborn when it comes to the way things should be done. Over the course of four years of our relationship, we have worked out that there are certain things we won’t do together because the ensuing arguments will most likely lead to the outbreak of another world war. We don’t actually spell them out but I think we can both agree that …

1. We will not run a business together
He sees only the “big picture” and I’m all about the details, obsessed with the nitty-gritty. Whenever we talk about starting a business, he accuses me of being “all doom and gloom” while I shake my head at his eternal optimism.

2. We will not use the kitchen at the same time
I don’t think we can be inside the kitchen together and hope that both will emerge from it alive. It would only be a matter of time before either of us puts a knife in the other person’s heart.

3. Sometimes, we just have to go our own way
I count hitting the karaoke with friends as one of my favorite things to do, he loathes singing in public. Fitness is his life while I only do the minimum required. We have learnt to leave the other well alone when pursuing our individual hobbies.

And in a way, I’m grateful we decided to accept the help of wedding planner Rubina Tiyu of Inside The Knot. Contrary to popular belief, wedding planners are not a luxury. If anything, given my temperament, I think using a wedding planner probably prevented a big day walk-out! I can just see it in my mind: me, all flustered and stressed over the wedding logistics, he, just going his own merry way telling everyone they can wear whatever they want. Not a pretty picture – literally and figuratively.

The color theme was Black, White and Pink. Guess WHO didn't follow the theme?!?!?

The color theme was Black, White and Pink. Guess WHO didn’t follow the theme?!?!?

And in case you think hiring a wedding planner equals spending more unnecessary money, allow me to explain why you can’t be more mistaken:

1. A wedding planner can open your mind to options you would never consider
When we decided to get married, our first choice for venue is “somewhere in Bali”. I’m the sort who expects people to reply to my email like … NOW. So when the wedding vendors in Bali proved too “relaxed” for my liking, we found ourselves suddenly at a loss of where to hold our wedding. In came Rubina to save the day. She asked, “Why Bali? Why not Phuket? Or, Penang?” It was as if the sun had broken through the clouds. She told us she knew the bosses of Mansion 32 – a seafront restaurant – and could help us check if it was available for the wedding date. Within a week, we locked down a venue – something I had been trying to do for two months!

Mansion 32 in Penang, Malaysia.

Mansion 32 in Penang, Malaysia.




2. A wedding planner can save you money! 
I bet this is something many people wouldn’t expect. You are probably thinking, “A wedding planner is probably going to mark up everything so that she can pocket the difference.” That’s not true. In our dealings with Rubina, we made it clear that we were not a couple with money to burn. We gave her a budget and she did a marvelous job keeping to it. I told her that I did not wish to spend more than $1,000 on my gown and she hooked me up with a dressmaker who made my wedding dress from scratch for $800. How awesome is that!?!?

Bridesmaid Madeline showing off DIY social media paper fans made by Rubina.

Bridesmaid Madeline showing off DIY social media paper fans made by Rubina.

3. A wedding planner has the resources to make your visions a reality
At our second meeting, I told Rubina that I had a challenge for her: Except for bouquets for the bride and the bridesmaids, and a basket of petals for the flower girl, I don’t want to spend money on flowers. I’d rather the money went to where it would really count – alcohol. She did a fabulous job decorating the venue and very, very little flowers were harmed in the course of making my wedding happen. I wanted a black and white wedding cake and … BINGO! It’s done!

I wanted a simple black and white wedding cake. DONE!

I wanted a simple black and white wedding cake. DONE!

4. A wedding planner makes your wedding party feel welcomed
As a bride, the last thing you want is to worry if your friends are enjoying themselves. For me, I’ve always been a bit of a worrywart when it comes to events and parties. I worry if people are enjoying themselves, I worry if they are getting along, I worry if they are being taken care of. On my wedding day, while my wedding team was busy getting everything in order, Rubina zipped out to buy Penang char kway teow to feed everyone. She really made sure I didn’t have to play “mother hen” so I could enjoy my big day.

Meet my well-fed makeup artist, hairstylist and photographer in a selfie before the ceremony.

Meet my well-fed makeup artist, hairstylist and photographer in a selfie before the ceremony.

5. A wedding planner can potentially save your relationship
So, the husband decided to celebrate his stag night in Phuket a week before the wedding. However, he realized he would be missing the flight to Penang because his return flight from Phuket was arriving after it. If I had been the one working on this wedding, Mount Deborah would have erupted. Instead, my darling wedding planner saved the day, and my marriage, by offering to drive the groom from Singapore to Penang.

The role of a wedding planner is more than just a coordinator. She is the couple’s closest ally in the months before the wedding. This person has to be aboveboard in her dealings with you and you have to feel comfortable enough to tell her your concerns and limits. With Rubina, we never once felt lousy that we didn’t have a large budget for the wedding. We were able to air our concerns very openly with her and she never downplayed them or waved them away. Simon and I not only got ourselves a fabulous wedding, we gained a very close friend in Rubina.

So the groom and his best man made it to the wedding on time ...

So the groom and his best man made it to the wedding on time …

So, couples, if you think fights are part and parcel of what it means to get married, I strongly recommend you work with a wedding planner. Your marriage will thank you for it.

Deborah’s Wedding Team
Wedding Planner: Rubina Tiyu and Clarissa Chiang of Inside The Knot (Tel: 9151 5535)
Photographer: Raymond Toh of Vineyard Production (Tel: 9679 7087)
Makeup Artist: Eric Tan (Tel: 9791 7133)
Hairstylist: Edward Chong of Evolve Salon (Tel: 9777 7128)


[More stories like this?]
1. I Refuse To Be A Size 2 Bride
2. Learn The Ropes From Val Lee of Blessed Brides
3. Should I Take His Name?

Friends, Relationships

The 9 Girlfriend Greetings Decoded – Matthew Fam

Girlfriend meetings are a major event. But does she secretly hate you? Or is she a genuine friend? With a dizzying range of implications that can be read from a single gesture, here are 9 hilarious interpretations of the many ways we say ‘hi’.

1. The A-line Hug 
Torsos that lean towards each other without actually touching. Sounds insincere? Guess again.

In our humid weather, a mere 10 minute walk in the muggy heat means damp bodies that don’t translate to fuzzy (and dry) girlfriend hugs. The last thing you want is a sweaty embrace! To compensate this, she’s giving you an A-line hug paired with gentle pats on the back as the best way to express affection without getting you drenched. Crown her the Considerate Girlfriend of the Year.

Not a fan of touchy greetings?

Not a fan of touchy greetings?

2. The Side Hug
Not everyone is all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to meeting people. Some of us just don’t like the excessive physical contact- and that’s okay. This adaptation of the full-on hug keeps touchy feely-phobes at ease with minimal contact. It’s also her way of saying, ‘I like you enough to let you lean against my head without seriously freaking out’.

3. The Air Kiss
This European greeting go-to might leave the average Singaporean girl a little taken aback. But when your girlfriend gives you air kisses across your cheeks, be flattered! She really just sees you as a fabulous queen diva worthy of such royal treatment. Sure, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but after a couple of beers on a Saturday night, actual propensity to perform said greeting increases ten-fold. Cheers to that!

tumblr_mubaiitjDx1sj5mzpo1_2504. The Bear Hug
Performed with two arms wrapped around a person, this method of hugging is usually accompanied with a gentle squeeze. However, don’t squander this warm greeting, lest you come across as being insincere. Or really annoying. The bear hug, best utilised after a major HTHT (heart-to-heart talk), speaks volumes of your assurance, comfort and protection.

Everybody now: a one, two, and—awww…

You are so darned cool with each other. Greetings are for losers.

You are too darned cool with each other. Greetings are for losers.

5. The Casual, Non-Touch
You’ve known each other for so long that niceties in greetings become superfluous nothings. When you do meet up, you’re both too darned hungry for a ceremonious ‘hello’, and just want to make a beeline for that empty table at lunch.

Forget hugs. Forget kisses. You love her to bits and she knows it already. And that’s what true BFFs are made of.

6. The Single-Arm Hug
Weekends are great for hanging out in town and shopping (Great Singapore Sale, anyone??) And with our Little Red Dot so tiny, it’s no surprise if you bump into a long-forgotten girlfriend! So what do you do? You appreciate her presence with a hug- great. But doing so with a single arm, and from the other dangling your shopping bags, could send a signal that she’s not worth the effort to lay. Your. Bags. Down.

Word of advice: Give her a good, heartfelt cuddle to show that your friendship is not half-off!

tumblr_inline_n6rahgXI1h1rwjrx37. The Glance-Over
When you find yourself being greeted with the– WAIT… Why are you even friends with people like this?? We’re talking about a Grade-A biatch move over here!

It’s all in the eyes. If she says ‘hi’ using a forced smile with eyes that remain unchanged, chances are, she’s not being sincere. Approach with caution and guard up, girl!



No, I REALLY didn’t notice you!

8. The Pretender
You know that awkward moment when you see someone you know, but can’t quite tell whether to say ‘hi’ because she’s barely an acquaintance? You avert your gaze, but… uh-oh, too late. She calls your name, and you respond with an enthusiastic ‘HIII!!” (‘Was that too much?’ you ask yourself.)

Quick. Cover up! So you say, “Oh, I didn’t see you there!” (Liar.)

9. The Screamer
With our busy schedules, meetings with girlfriends are precious. There’s too much to catch up over a single sesh! YOU try to squeeze in entire love updates over power lunch- dare you. What the squeal does is to charge up your body for the intense amount of attention you’re going to be giving your girlfriend over the next info-packed hour or so. It’s a different kind of war cry.

Done with that? Okay. Now let’s get down to business: spill the deets!


So, how do you greet your girlfriends? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and Contributing Beauty Assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean Theatre, and spends too much of his undergraduate allowance on magazines.


If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. 10 Reasons Why It’s Great To Be A Diva – Matthew Fam

2. How To Comfort Someone – Tan Lili

3. The 8 Times You’re A Total Biatch Without Knowing It – Matthew Fam

Character & Soul, Family, Friends, Love, Relationships, Self-Improvement

The Key Takeaway From “The Fault In Our Stars” – Tan Lili

There are many lessons we can all learn from John Green’s young-adult novel The Fault In Our Stars, which was recently adapted into a feature film. But if there is one important message that everyone should take away from the book, Tan Lili reckons it’s this.

The Tale of Tears :(

The Tale of Tears 😦

For most parts of the movie, I was furiously blinking against the sting in my eyes and willing my lips to stop trembling. Then came the fake-eulogy scene. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’d know that at this point, resistance is futile. And so enter the puddle ocean of tears that washed away most of my not-really waterproof eyeliner.

This isn’t a review of the movie, because it’s a no-brainer that everyone has to watch this intense and profoundly brilliant masterpiece. This is about a very important life lesson all of us should know, even if you don’t intend to read the book or watch the movie.

Very briefly, The Fault In Our Stars is a beautiful story that revolves around two preternaturally mature teenagers – Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus “Gus” Waters – falling in love and grappling with loss and life’s uncertainties. It tackles the subject of cancer without glorifying it as most Hollywood depictions do (remember A Walk To Remember?); the author John Green forces you to confront mortality head-on with the constant reminder that life is no bed of roses, that “the world is not a wish-granting factory”. Death isn’t pretty, and it’s going to hurt like hell – especially for the ones left behind.

Lest you think The Fault In Our Stars is all gloom and doom, it isn’t. Quite the opposite, it is about hope – which, to me, is the most important lesson everyone one of us should take away from the story.

At the beginning, Gus feared oblivion; he wanted so badly to leave a mark so he’d be remembered after he was long gone. Hazel couldn’t disagree more. She told him, “There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you … There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.”

And this is where hope comes in. No matter how tightly we hold on to certain relationships, no matter how stable or solid they may be right now, they will fade into oblivion someday because nothing in life is guaranteed – except for moments. It is the right-now that is certain; we can either choose to wallow in despair because of the impermanent nature of life, or we can choose to celebrate and enjoy your right-now since it will pass anyway. The simple fact that it is within our power to find beauty in every moment gives us hope for a better future, no matter how short-lived it may be.

It seems wrong to quote someone unrelated to The Fault In Our Stars, but late actress-comedian Gilda Radner summed this up best:

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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2. There Is Beauty In Stillness
3. Do You Live In Fear?

Family, Friends, Love, Relationships

How To Comfort Someone – Tan Lili

When our loved ones are hurting, we often wish we could do something to take their pain away. But how can we ensure we don’t say the wrong thing? Should we even try to solve their problems? Founder Tan Lili explores a few ways.

how to comfort somone

Many years ago, my best friend burst into tears in the middle of sharing with me her family problems. Stuck between supreme awkwardness and full-body paralysis, I comforted her the only way I knew how – by silently giving her awkward pats on her back.

Five minutes later, she sniffled-giggled, “I love you, but you really suck at comforting others.”

I might have been offended if her remark wasn’t so acutely true. You’d think that, being a writer, I would have a way with words, that I would be able to bring peace and clarity through profound yet emotionally lifting sentences. Uh, no. While I’ve learned to get a better handle on my irrational fear of comforting someone, I am still terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing and making her feel worse. Apparently, we all are.

According to grief counsellor Val Walker, author of The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress, comforting has become a lost art of sorts in this day and age. Perhaps it’s got to do with our personal coping mechanism for grief or stress. For some of us, we tend to keep to ourselves a lot. So when the tables are turned, how do we know if they appreciate our quiet presence, or if they genuinely want to be left alone?

Give them time and space

As much as you wish to understand the situation, give them the time and space to digest their own emotions. If they want to talk, they will. The important message you’re conveying is that you will be there for them – if and whenever they are ready to open up. And if they do, the best thing you can do is listen, not shower them with platitudes.

Step into their pain

Be present, only then will you be able to empathise with them and feel a fraction of what they are experiencing – that’s why when our loved ones hurt, we hurt along with them.

It’s not about you

As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” We can never fully understand what another is going through because everyone responds to grief differently – for instance, what you experienced from your painful breakup five years ago is not the same as what your friend is experiencing now from hers. So, while well-intentioned, telling someone you understand exactly what they are going through can come across as patronising and insensitive.

Speaking of insensitive, few remarks are worse than “I told you so”. You’d be better off not saying anything at all.

You can’t fix their problems

When someone near and dear to us is hurting, we instinctively want to help them fix their problems. But sometimes, it isn’t a solution from us they are after; it’s acknowledgement. A simple “I’m sorry this happened to you” may not take away their pain, but it validates what they are feeling and tells them you are on their side.

There is no way to master the art of comforting someone. It is difficult enough to get a grip on our own emotional response to sadness, let alone figure out how to comfort someone else who is grieving. But by following the points above, you are essentially showing them they are not alone – and for someone who feels like they are drowning alone in their own grief, it is this very knowledge that keeps them afloat.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

[If you liked this story, you will enjoy]

1. Do You Take Your Loved Ones For Granted?
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3. “Sorry” Really Is The Hardest Thing To Do

Entertainment, Friends, Lifestyle, Relationships

The 8 Times You’re A Total Biatch Without Knowing It – Matthew Fam

Biatch moves that take you from girlfriend to Grinch from hell? Totally possible. And you might not even be aware that you’re committing them! While we may have every good intention to be Girlfriend of The Year, look out for these 8 common communication faux pas that can potentially slap an ugly biatch label on you.



1. Tagging Unglam Photos Of Your friends

What you think you’re saying:
“Hey, I’m so glad we all hung out last night!”

What you’re actually saying:
“Hi, I don’t give a hoot if you look like crap so long as I’m the gorgeous one in this group shot.”

Use your discretion: if your friend is in an unflattering angle, be considerate and give tagging a pass. Or avoid even posting altogether. And, drunk shots are totally out of the question- unless your girl friend can rock a glassy-eyed look like its hangover chic.

I know you're talking about my dark circles.

I know you’re talking about my dark circles.

2. “You Look Tired”

What you think you’re saying:
“Are you feeling okay? I’m concerned that you’re not getting enough rest.”

What you’re actually saying:
“You look like crap and I don’t want to look at your face. Slap on some concealer and go. Home. NOW.”

Uhh… no thanks?? This is the single most innocent comment that’s totally not welcomed. Nobody (nobody!) needs to be reminded of their dark circles.

3. Laughing Over Friend’s Misfortune

What you think you’re saying:
“You’ve emerged stronger from this episode, and you’re bigger than it. Let’s celebrate by duping this incident.”

What you’re actually saying:
“Hi wound, meet salt.”

Some of us are extra-sensitive beings that need extra TLC, so handle with care! Teasing your friend may come across as you using her misfortunes as fodder for cheap jokes. So, ensure that she’s over it before you pull the comic card. 

Think you could ever share a crush like Betty and Veronica?

Think you could ever share a crush like Betty and Veronica?

4. Stealing Your Friend’s Crush

What you think you’re saying:

“With your looks, you can totally snag a guy way better than this!

What you’re actually saying:
“Move over, sweetie. I’m spraying my perfume all over and marking my territory.”

So what do you do when both parties are interested in the same guy, then?

Technically, the one who calls dibs lays claim first. Or if you reaaally like him, have a chat with your girlfriend. Hey, if Betty and Veronica shares, why can’t you too? (Then edge her out as the better candidate! Shh… subtly of course.)



5. Dishing Dirt

What you think you’re saying:
You’re in my little inner circle now. Besides, isn’t the enemy of your enemy your friend?

What you’re actually saying:
“If I can gossip about others, what makes you think I can’t do the same to you?”

Everybody loves a great gossip session, right? Wrong. Some people want to remain absolutely drama-free, and will take your goss as reason not to trust you. If you’re itching to get the latest 411 off your back, spill your caustic words to a group of friends you absolutely trust.

6. Comparisons

What you think you’re saying:
“I want to share my happiness with you. Ooh—and about that month-long trip to Italy I incessantly updated my Instagram over. Have you seen it??”

What you’re actually saying:
“Yes. Bow down to my fabulosity. I want you jealous- right now.”

Okay, please just stop. I’m not interested in your Balenciaga bag, or your social media-publicised vacation. You may, however, introduce all your hot friends made during said Euro trip, kthxbye.

7. Dissing People’s Appearances

What you think you’re saying:
“Well… If we’re both thinking it, might as well get the pink elephant out of the room!”

What you’re actually saying:
“I am hypercritical of everything- that includes you. Oh, yes- I’m also insecure about myself.”

Yes, I’ll admit that bonding over bitching is totally legit. But don’t go overboard, girlfriend! Nobody likes a bitter biatch. If you absolutely must, one nasty comment tops; then talk about other redeeming qualities of that person.

ewwwww8. Telling People What They Should Do

What you think you’re saying:
“I want to see you become the best version of yourself.”

What you’re actually saying:
“I’m not listening to what you’re going through. Everything that you’re doing is wrong and needs correction- stat.”

Sure, giving friends advice may come from a place of concern, but drilling the message home is a whole different ball game altogether. Listen to her entire predicament first. Respect the decision your friend makes, and use this as an opportunity to see matters in a different light!


Guilty of committing any of these potential biatch moves? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and freelancer. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, origami, and is passionate about Singaporean Theatre.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. 8 Things That Put Off Dates Stalking Your Facebook Account – Matthew Fam

2. Are You Being Critical Or Are You Looking For Flaws? – Tan Lili

3. [Infographic] Overcome Your Body Confidence Crisis, Please! – Deborah Tan



Friends, Relationships

Here’s Why You Are Invited To A Wedding – Deborah Tan

I know many people probably believe they are invited to weddings to “make up the numbers”, to “pay for the wedding banquet”, to “show face”. We probably tell ourselves all these reasons so that we won’t feel bad if we ever decide to drop out or be a no-show. But … I beg to differ.

Beyond all that charts about how much money one should put into their ang pows based on which hotel the wedding banquet is held, beyond all the talk about you are obliged to give the couple a red packet when it’s an overseas wedding, people generally follow ONE rule when they plan their guest-list:

Is it too much to wish for all your friends to be at your wedding?

Is it too much to wish for all your friends to be at your wedding?

Is this an important person in my life? Is this person someone I like enough to want to share such an important moment of my life with him/her?

When you back out of a wedding, and the bride gets upset, it is not because you have presented her with a logistical problem.

You are MORE than just a seat to fill. What you have – in effect – become is a presence she’ll miss. She’ll look back on what could be one of the most important days of her life and feel your absence. It is an emotional thing.

When you search, “Friends dropping out of wedding”, you get 44,000,000 results telling you how to do it properly, how to it without ruining your friendship, how to deal with it as a bride or how your wedding planner should resolve the logistical issues etc.

To look upon it as a “problem” that needs solving is just scratching the surface. The heart of the matter lies in the question, “We think you are important, do you think we are to you?”

Deciding to get married is a big leap of faith to take for many people. Yes, some women have planned their dream wedding for years. And yes, to some women, a wedding is a fantasy, a show, a flashy public proclamation of love they want everyone to see. But what about those who are looking forward to share the moment with you, it’s a bit heartbreaking to drop out without a good reason.

What is a good reason? Well, sorry to sound brutal but other than a late-stage pregnancy, a funeral, a death in the family, in the middle of a relocation, on the other side of the world, or you are under house arrest, nothing is acceptable – especially when you have already said you would be there.

Some websites suggest you tell your friend a white lie and say you can’t afford to attend her wedding. Well, I speak for myself, but I didn’t invite you for your money. You can come and not give me an ang pow. It’s not the gift that I want. I want YOU there.

Some websites list “work commitments” as a legit excuse to use. It’s not. Yeah, sure, you can’t come for a birthday party because of work, fine. We have birthdays every year. If you can’t come for a girls’ night out because of work, fine. We can always meet up again. But a wedding is – hopefully – once in a lifetime. As friends, you have both shared many conversations about your love lives and relationships, you have confided in each other about crushes, and you have consoled her when her heart got broken … you have been there every step of the way and you are now not going to be at the most important event. How do you think your friend will feel?

You are invited to a wedding not because you are proof of the couple’s popularity. You are invited because you are a major character in their story and things simply wouldn’t be the same without you.

In the grand scheme of things that matter to you, ask yourself this, “Is this person important enough for me to fight to be at her wedding?” When you’ve answered that, you both will likely get a better idea where this friendship really stands.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She will follow her bridesmaids’ advice and just let go. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

This is not the end …
1. [Love In Lines] Wedding Woes
2. Why You Should Hire a Wedding Planner
3. I Refuse To Be A Size 2 Bride
4. The One Thing Brides Shouldn’t Obsess About

Family, Friends, Relationships

8 Ways To Survive Family Gatherings – Deborah Tan

“Do you have boyfriend?”, “When are you getting married?”, “How are you doing at work?”, “Why are you still jobless?” … The festive season may be all fun and laughter, peace and joy, but it also comes with gatherings involving relatives and frenemies. So what can you do when forced to hang out with some of the most annoying people in your life? Here are 8 ways you might consider:

1. The Uncle Who Bosses Everyone Around Just Cos He’s The Oldest/Richest/Most Educated.

What he likes to do … He enters the house and the entire clan falls into a reverential silence. He seats in a chair, usually the one at the head of the table, and gives everyone a disapproving look. He points out what he wants, he orders all the daughters (doesn’t have to be his) to bring him tea/cake/food/tissue/his phone.

What you should do:
You could place a younger cousin or sibling between Jabba The Hutt and yourself so you would never get ordered to do anything. Or, you could invest in the best damn headphones money can buy and pretend to be the reclusive niece who’s constantly wired in:

2. The Overly Competitive Cousin Who Keeps Asking The WRONG Questions

What she likes to do … She is lil’ Miss Perfect in the family – perfect job, perfect boyfriend, perfect figure .. and she knows it. This annoying human being makes it a point to ask you all the wrong questions such as, “I heard your last relationship didn’t quite work out, what happened?”, or “My friend works in the same company as you, heard you didn’t get the promotion. You want a recommendation?” Her mission: To convey the message that everyone’s life is better with her in it.

What you should do:
By all means, put your knowledge of movies and young adult fiction to good use here. Sure, your life may not be perfect but it is way more exciting and interesting than hers! Talk about the boyfriend who wants to make it on his own without using his father’s millions, talk about the company that is super-keen on you but you have plans on becoming an entrepreneur … and then, act like it’s all nothing to do.

3. The Family Drama Queen

What she likes to do … Everyone pisses her off, everything anyone says is a pointed jab at her, anything is a reason to create a scene. If she doesn’t storm off from the dinner table in a dramatic fashion, she hasn’t done her job. And always, someone has to run after her to placate her. This year, it seems, is your turn.

What you should do:
Tell her that if she doesn’t stop her nonsense, you will silence her with a fork/knife/pan/pot/plate/chocolate cake … whatever is conveniently located close by. Or, be like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer and say …

4. The Super Spoiled Brat With Ineffective Parents

What he likes to do … Shouts at the maid, screams at his mother, takes whatever catches his eye and proceeds to destroy it, runs around the house making more noise than a horde of Mongols … this kid is the Devil’s long lost son.

What you should do:
Take the most attractive (read: something that looks HIGHLY breakable) object in your house, put it in a corner that is far away from his indulgent parents, and when he approaches it, speak to him in a really low and stern voice, “Hey, young man, this is my house and you’ll learn to be polite and quiet. You can go and tell your parents what I’ve just said to you but it just shows what a crybaby you really are. Are you a crybaby?” Yes … we are not above emotional blackmail.

5. The Guy-Relative Who Loves To Crack Dirty Jokes

What he likes to do … Your mum brings out the turkey and he goes, “Now, here’s a bird who got properly stuffed! Geddit? Geddit?” Or, you ask him to pass the gravy and he goes, “So, you want my gravy?” AARGH. This dude is Mr Inappropriate and you wonder why no one’s banned him from attending family dinners yet!

What you should do:
Make it clear that you are extremely uncomfortable when he utters a loaded statement. Instead of laughing it off or getting worried about being teased as a prude, call out on his bad behavior. Squirm uncomfortably in your seat, glare at him and scream, “Oh GROSS!” Someone will support you if your discomfort with this guy is justifiable.

6. The Well-meaning In-Law Who Keeps Trying To Share Her Faith

What she likes to do … Sit you down beside her and ask you when was the last time you’ve gone to church. Or, she wants you to free up the coming Sunday to attend Mass with her. Or, there is this great youth group you can consider joining first because, “It’s always better to start mixing with young people who can set a good example”.

What you should do:
Thank her for sharing, tell her firmly that you are not ready and don’t think you would in the foreseeable future. Let her know that while you may not go to church, you try your best to be a good person in your everyday life, to be a person your parents can be proud of. Then give her a reassuring pat on the hand, smile, and steer the conversation to something else.

7. The Friend Who Is Worried For You Because You Are Single

What she likes to do … She tells you she can’t believe a fantastic person like you is still single, laments how unfair she thinks this all is, and then demands you give her an action plan on how you intend to find yourself a boyfriend in 2014. This is someone who staunchly believes that there is no other way to be than be coupled up.

What you should do:
So she has your best intentions at heart, so she is genuinely concerned and not trying to be a humble brag … BUT if you have explained repeatedly that you do not think your Single status is a problem, there’s only one way to get her to shut up …

8. The Parent Who Is Constantly Comparing You To Your Sibling

What they like to do … Tell the relatives how inadequate you are, how untalented you are, how you’re not pretty enough … They go on and on about how your older/younger sister/brother is so much more sensible, so much better … Basically, you are Loki to your parents’ Thor.

What you should do:
Well, in this case, there’s really nothing you can do but suck it up. Make a mental note to yourself and promise yourself this ..

This post is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek piece on surviving the holiday season! We know you love your family and your family loves you. Have a happy holiday and make sure you have loads of fun with your folks! If any of them do fall into any of the above types, perhaps a Christmas card is a good way to express what you really feel. If they do care about you, they will do something about it.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She is lucky none of her family members belong to any of the abovementioned types. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.


Friends, Relationships

The 4 Toxic Friendships You Need To Rid Yourself Of By The Time You’re 30 – Denise Li

I’m in a very happy place right now where my friendships are concerned. But that didn’t happen without me culling some “unnecessary hanger-ons” from my life. For a lasting relationship to be meaningful, it has to be a mutually beneficial one for both parties and, as soon I realise that there is no such balance, I have no problems cutting that person out completely. It may sound harsh but truth is, everyone’s lives are so hectic and busy. You barely have the time to maintain the friendships that you treasure, let alone the ones that suck up your time and energy without giving anything back in return.

Start being kinder to yourself by cutting these four types of friends out from your life.

1. The Drainer

Conversation isn't a one-way street.

Conversation isn’t a one-way street.

“The Drainer” is what I call the person who makes it about her all the time. When you meet up, she’s always complaining about work, how much her life sucks, what a douchebag her boyfriend is being, how the world owes her a living. Of course, friends should be able to confide in each other. But something is definitely wrong if you’ve met up for her, and all she’s done is spent the last two hours talking about herself without asking about what’s been going on in your life.  “The Drainer” is an apt term to describe her because she has like a vampire – all she does is suck up your time, energy and goodwill. This person doesn’t need a friend – she needs a therapist.

2. The Barnacle

This is the friend who only seems to have one friend – you. That must be the reason why she expects you to hang out with every Friday night, and takes it very personally when you try to gently let her down. She has all these strange rules about all these obligations friends have to each other and has no qualms guilt-tripping you when you are unable to meet up with her. Being her friend is like being in a relationship – without all the fun parts. I mean, to start with, the reason why you became friends with her when you guys were still in school was because you felt sorry for her. Now that everyone has their own life to lead, this friend needs to grow a pair of (metaphorical) balls and stop using you as a crutch to make her feel better about herself.

3. The “Conservative”

She went to uni, landed herself a job in the civil service, got married by 27, and had two kids by the time she was 30. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that that’s not how YOU want to live your life. This friend, however, is critical of the choices that you’ve made in your life because she deems them “risky”. Her catchphrases: “You’ve got a great job. Why would you want to quit to go backpacking around the world?” “Why would you want to take Job A when Job B pays better?” “Are you sure you want to date Guy C? I don’t think he’s earning a lot.” This friend has something judge-y to say about every decision you make about your life that’s filtered through her tunnel, microscopic vision and she cannot imagine that someone else will want to live their lives any differently than from her “safe” existence. You don’t really need to justify your life decisions to anyone, so this friend simply has to go.

Unfortunately, real-life doesn't guarantee a fairy-tale ending.

Unfortunately, real-life doesn’t guarantee a fairy-tale ending.

4. The “Grey-Zoner”

I’ve nothing against the whole “friends with benefits” arrangement – we’re all adults here – just as long you’re clear about the lines that are drawn. But things can get messy quickly if you start to develop feelings and expect a more from him (like a real relationship, maybe?). He, on the other hand, seems … well, ambivalent. He often says things like, “I’m not ready for a relationship right now” or “I’m keeping my options open” to maintain the distance he wants, but he’s not exactly pushing you away either. When you decide to take charge of this situation and start to pull away, he doesn’t take the hint and, in fact, goes out of his way to be extra nice to you, screwing with your mind even more. I hate to break it to you, but just because you’re friends with this guy doesn’t make his douchebaggery any more forgiveable. In fact, you should take him to task for not taking your feelings seriously. There are no two ways around it: he wants the good things that come with being in a relationship while fobbing off the inevitable responsibilities that come with being in one. You don’t deserve to be treated with such disrespect. Put aside whatever feelings you have for this guy and cut him out from your life. TODAY.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She can safely say that she only has kind, generous and intelligent people as friends. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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