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


Food News, Lifestyle

Food Review: Fish & Co. Under 500 Calories Menu – Matthew Fam

Enjoying the same great recipes from Fish & Co. without bursting your calorie budget? This is totally possible with the restaurant’s new Under 500 Calories Menu. 

It’s no secret that we love to dine out. According to a 2010 health survey, 60% of Singaporeans eat out at least 4 times a week. However, dining out doesn’t always mean eating healthily. Firstly, it’s hard to gauge how many calories you’re consuming when your meal is presented on a large platter. We tend to finish whatever is on our plates, as we psychologically feel full only after its been cleared. This gives way to consuming excess calories.

How then, can we strike a balance with maintaining our calorie intake while still enjoying our favourite restaurant meals? Enter the new Under 500 Calories Menu by Fish & Co.

Healthier Portions of the Same Recipes You Love

Fish & Co.'s Under 500 Calories Menu contains 11 portioned dishes so you don't burst your calorie budget.

Fish & Co.’s Under 500 Calories Menu contains 11 portioned dishes so you don’t burst your calorie budget.

Fish & Co. partners with the Health Promotion Board to offer portioned-controlled meals that are less than 500 calories. The restaurant’s Under 500 Calories Menu features 11 favourite Fish & Co. dishes that have been re-portioned to cater to healthier diets.

You are even given a choice on how you wish to have the dish served. Sides are interchangeable- so you can opt for a serving of steamed vegetables in place of rice, for instance, while still keeping the dish below the set calorie amount.

Plus, these portion-controlled dishes are priced at 40% off their standard counterparts. Set from $7.95 to $11.95, you can do away with the misconception of paying more for healthier food, and enjoy them at reasonable prices.

Clinical dietician, Jaclyn Reutens explaining the importance of portion control.

Clinical dietician Jaclyn Reutens explaining the importance of portion control.

Why 500 Calories?

Clinical dietician Jaclyn Reutens, was at the event to share how this magical number came into play. She tells us that the recommended intake of calories for females is pitched at approximately 1700 calories. Sounds manageable? A single food court meal can go up to 800 calories per serving. And that’s not inclusive of the desserts we usually enjoy after! With this set target of 500 calories per meal, you can easily fit three within each day and sneak in a snack- all while keeping within your calorie allowance.

The Taste Test

Seafood Spaghetti, 376kcal.

Seafood Spaghetti, 471kcal. $10.95.


When I first ordered the Seafood Spaghetti, I thought having smaller portions meant measly smatterings of seafood chunks. But instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find my plate dressed with ample servings of prawn, squid, and mussels.

Moreover, with the option of having whole wheat pasta, one serving of this dish gives you 7g of fibre (out of a daily recommendation of 20g). I liked how its tomato-base sauce had the right amount of tang to compliment the seafood.


Grilled Salmon Cajun, 443 kcal.

Grilled Salmon Cajun, 443 kcal. $11.95.


I was also pleased to know that the same great taste of my favourite Fish & Co. dish (the Grilled Salmon Cajun) was not compromised, even though its portion had been reduced. The fillet wasn’t overcooked and remained succulent on the inside.

Even though I didn’t finish one serving feeling completely filled, the portions are adequate. Fish & Co.’s Under 500 Calories Menu isn’t designed to be a feast of epic proportions, but is instead a sensible way to enjoy the restaurant’s tasty dishes without breaking the calorie bank. Be it an outing with family, friends or dates, these portioned servings will satisfy your cravings and keep waistlines in check.


Material World was invited for a tasting at Fish & Co. and was not paid for this review. All opinions are the author’s own.

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. Follow him on Instagram at @mattjfam.



Beauty & Shopping

8 Beauty Hacks For The Busy Woman – Matthew Fam

A beauty S.O.S can strike at any moment, but rushing down to department stores to replenish your makeup stock may not be an option for a busy woman! These 8 tips can save you valuable time so you can look your best while staying at the top of your game.

1. Revive dried mascara.
The recommended shelf life of mascaras are pitched at just three months(!), but constantly heading down to department stores to replace old tubes can be such a chore! Here’s what you can do when your old mascaras have gone clumpy and dry: Place closed tube in mug of hot water and leave for one minute. The heat melts the mascara fluid to its original consistency.

broken_powder_grande2. Fix broken cake powders.
Be it blushes or foundations, breaking cake powders can be a real drag- especially if they’ve been newly bought. Want to avoid the mess of a cracked cake? Try fixing the broken blocks by grinding them into fine powder. Then, spray some rubbing alcohol on crushed mixture. Fuse it into a moist (not wet) paste and let it dry.

3. Prolong the life of your favourite nail polish.
Owning a large range of nail polishes has its drawbacks. For one, it may take months before you re-use the same bottle! By then, air exposure would cause the varnish to become thick and clumpy. This creates an uneven coating dotted with tiny air bubbles (read: BAD nail jobs). Instead of tossing these bottles that have hardly been used, try using nail polish thinners. Add a few drops into your old polish to restore its original viscosity.

4. Clean makeup brushes in double time.
Product residue on your brushes serve as a host for bacteria to grow, so it’s important that you clean them regularly. Need an easy, quick way to do this? Skip detergent- washing brushes with them will dry up their delicate bristles. Use baby wipes or wet towelettes instead. It cleans and moisturises brush fibres at the same time. Simply brush against the towelette and leave to dry.

The multi-functional usage of petroleum jelly.

The multi-functional usage of petroleum jelly.

5. Lengthen staying power of perfumes.
Some scents fade halfway through the day, but lugging around a fragrance bottle in your bag is a real hassle! Lengthen your scent’s staying power with petroleum jelly. Apply a thin swatch of the product on pulse points such as your wrists or small sections of your neck. Then, spray fragrance over as usual. The jelly’s oil traps the scent and stays on skin for longer.

6. Salvage your broken lippie.
You don’t have to junk your tube of lippie if it breaks. Store the broken tube of pigment in a small, air-tight jar. It’s best to use a lip brush to apply from this container. Not only do you save money, you get more precision when you apply it this way. Perfectly coloured puckers FTW!

7. Pump up your foundation’s hydration power.
Longing for that gorgeous glow? Mix one-part face moisturiser, and one-part liquid foundation in an empty pump bottle. The result? A home-made tinted moisturiser that creates an extra dewy complexion. Apparently, Jennifer Lopez’s makeup artist uses this trick for the pop star’s signature fresh face look.

Keep calm and look (a teeny bit) like Cara Delevingne.

Keep calm and look (a teeny bit) like Cara Delevingne.

8. Tame unruly brows.
For brows that refuse to stay in place- fear no more. You don’t have to make a last minute trip to the department store to get a brow gel. Simply use a tiny dollop of petroleum jelly to slick your brows in place. Now you’ll be able to have Cara Delevingne brows all ready!

So, what other beauty hacks do you rely on? 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. Follow him on Instagram @mattjfam.




If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. 7 Ways To Rock Pantone’s Colour Of The Year- Matthew Fam

2. How To Get Date-Ready In Under 5 Minutes – Vanessa Tai

3. Lust-Worthy Limited-Edition Makeup You Need This Season – Denise Li

Opinions, Self-Improvement

I’m Graduating. Now What? – Matthew Fam

Are you in your early twenties and still deciding what you do with your life? While staying focused on a single ambition early on can give you a headstart among corporate ranks, there’s nothing wrong taking your time to decide which career is right for you. By Matthew Fam.

There is a rumbling in the air: a brand new wave of people is surging forth into the workforce, like an impending tsunami. Alas, the first batch of post-80’s Millennials are done with university; Facebook feeds are being flooded with graduation gown selfies. And the top remark I hear from most of them?

“I don’t know what I want to do.”

Myself? I have a year till graduation, and- with my devotion of time to studies, copywriting, arts administration, and performing on stage for various young theatre groups- I have too many things to do!

Here’s where things get complicated. Friends advise that I should decide on a career path. My university lecturer tells me that I “need to focus”. When this happens, I’m thinking:



(Before triple somersaulting my way out of the NUS AS5 General Office.)

The fact is, graduates and students alike are facing the same pressure: pool your energy and resources into a set career path for maximum mileage. By principle, you would be able to devote your focus on work at hand, and rise up the ranks faster than someone else who takes her time to decide.

A one-track path to success

This early decision to decide on a set career path does reward people.

A fellow intern at a women’s magazine I used to work for- who has established her passion in journalism and the media industry early on- has landed a full-time stint at another publication since. Similarly, friends who have channelled their time into theatre have been awarded prestigious arts scholarships from government boards to study overseas.

At this point, I’m thinking, “Am I missing out on something??” Is it truly better to stick to a single path since it’s a more convenient route to success?

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to follow through with an early decision. But my contention here is that it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for everyone else.

5869903627_e8acd44f69_zI am a closet wanderer!

Right now, I would classify myself a closet wanderer. And despite dabbling with various jobs over the past two years, I haven’t made up my mind on what I want to do.

For example, I’m not 100% certain if I will work in a women’s magazine in five years time because of 1) the rapidly changing nature of print publishing, and 2) the long-term prospects of being a male working up the ranks of said publication type in Singapore.

This uncertainty scares me. It almost feels as though I will never be able to live life to the fullest if I keep up with this indecision.

However, for those who wander- fret not. Heed these three pieces of advice, and you have a shot at being just as successful as those who make early decisions.

junglegymSometimes, wandering can boost your career. 

According to Sarah Robb O’Hagan, President of fitness chain Equinox, “Careers are more like jungle gyms than ladders- sometimes a sideways or backward step can propel you forward.” Likewise, don’t feel limited to stick to a specific career path. Your exploration could reward you with the numerous transferable skills picked up along the way.

Your journey is yours to make, and should not be influenced by another person’s definition of success.

Try being a freelancer first before deciding to go full-time.

Grounding yourself in a desk-bound job straight after graduation can be daunting- especially if you later find out that this isn’t a career you like.

Try freelancing. Take up an internship and (politely!) ask your supervisor if there are opportunities for you to contribute on a part-time basis. Don’t feel as though you need to dive head-first into the corporate jungle. Who knows? You might even enjoy the freedoms afforded by being a full-time freelancer!

Sharpen your skills.

Wandering can be seen to benefit you in more ways than you think. But how can you match up to other people who have been taught skills in their vocation-oriented university course? This is where self-teaching is crucial. You need to do your homework. Be proactive in eating, sleeping, and breathing the very industry you want to try out; talk to people who are already working in them.

That old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’? Your new mantra.


Sure, at some point, a focus on what you want to do would be beneficial (you can’t do 20 things at the same time!), but don’t succumb to the pressure of making that decision right now when you don’t feel ready.


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. Follow him on Instagram @mattjfam.

If you liked this post, you might like:

1. 20 Things You Will Learn In Your 20s – Deborah Tan

2. 7 Lies You’ll Hear About Millennials – Matthew Fam

3. Myth: Job Hopping Is Career Suicide – Tan Lili

Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

4 Things I Am Grateful For Every Day – Denise Li

Once she realised how much she really had, Denise Li began enjoying life so much more. 

Despite my constant whinging, bitching, whining, and complaining about how swamped/tired/achy I am (as my partners at Material World will vouch that I do on a regular basis while rolling their eyes), I am, on the whole, a pretty positive person. I’m the kind of person who believes that how happy I am and can be is dictated solely by me, myself, and I. And while that may seem like a simple statement, TRULY believing in it has completely changed my outlook on life. Instead of stewing in a pool of negativity, I proactively take steps to improve my situation if I’m unhappy about the way things are going, and I get annoyed at friends who always bitch about the same things but refuse to do anything to help themselves.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days where I feel like just lying in bed to cry when I contemplate my neverending to-do list. On those days, I take a deep breath, then spend the next five minutes reminding myself that I am actually really fortunate. Try it: It’s a really uplifting exercise.

Related: Before You Reach Breaking Point, Read This.

Related: The Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

Here, the four things I am grateful for.

1. That there are people who love me

My family at my sister's recent birthday celebration

My family at my sister’s recent birthday celebration

On weekends, when I wake up, I know that my favourite fishball noodles will be waiting for me on the kitchen table. Why? Because my mum knows how much I love it and, despite the fact that I am 31 this year, she still worries that I am not eating well or enough.

My dad always volunteers to play chauffeur to me on weekends. Yes, again, I’m 31.

There are some days where I get really grumpy and am truly unpleasant to be around. I don’t feel like talking, and when I do, it’s to complain about how hard my life is (I know, terrible). Despite this, Alain still takes time out of his day to talk to me on Skype. He just lets me be.

Sometimes, I wonder if I must have done something right in my past life to be surrounded by these wonderful people.

2. I have full use of all my limbs

I've also had the chance to go on numerous fitness vacations.

I’ve also had the chance to go on numerous fitness vacations. Here I am with my boxing coach in Chiang Mai.

Being able to run, jump, kick, do burpees, kettlebell swings … it’s such a joy to be able to move. I’m always acutely aware of the fact that I won’t be young forever, and while I am, I want to enjoy my body and what it can do.

3. I like how I earn my money

The hoary old cliche goes “Do what you love, and you never have to work a day in your life.” What an overly simplistic statement. I mean, if that were true, I would be paid for going for training and watching sports on TV. And as much I enjoy writing, it sometimes feels likes painful, laborious, painstaking work. But on the whole, I find what I do meaningful and I love my current working environment: No office politics, no incompetency to deal with, and the best part is knowing that those late nights will eventually translate into more cash for me.

I think the best part of being your own boss – despite the irregular income streams – is that your day-to-day living situation greatly improves. When you are no longer obliged to arrive at the office at 9am, and you stop expending your energy fighting fires and instead channel that into productive work, the feeling of liberation is truly unparalleled.

Related: I Bought A Designer Bag, And …

4. Pizza

Pizza. Need I say more?

Pizza. Need I say more?

There hasn’t been a lousy day that hasn’t been made better by a delicious pie. THANK YOU, ITALY!

What are YOU grateful for?

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. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

Beauty & Shopping, Branded Content, Contests, Makeup

[Material World x Maybelline] The #OOTD Challenge – Denise Li

Denise Li was issued a challenge by the folks at Maybelline to create 5 OOTDs using the new and improved Maybelline Hyper Sharp eyeliners. This is the result.

If you were to ask women in Singapore about the one beauty product they can’t live without, I’ll bet my last dollar that most of them will say it’s a liquid eyeliner. Gel liners can be a bit unwieldy – it’s hard to draw a thin line and they dry up too quickly; pencils are great for smoky eyes but they aren’t the best if you’re running around for meetings cos they smudge way too quickly.

When it comes to liquid eyeliners, the one to beat definitely has to be Maybelline Hyper Sharp. They’ve just launched a new and improved version with an even finer tip – 0.01mm! What this means: Greater precision, so you’ll be able to create more diverse looks, from the classic wingtip to something a little more dramatic.

With the launch of the new Hyper Sharp, the folks at Maybelline issued Material World a challenge – to come up with 5 #OOTDs (outfit of the day), and create a variety of looks using the three eyeliners in Brown, Soft Black, and Intense Black. Despite the fact that I’ve always thought of my wardrobe options as limited – I am a dress and sneakers girl – I took it on. Challenge, ACCEPTED!

The Everyday Look



This is what I usually wear on harried mornings when I’m rushing to get out of the house and don’t want to think too deeply about throwing together an outfit. Foolproof skater-cut dress, no accessories. I brightened up my eyes with a subtle wash of yellow, and finished it off with Hyper Sharp in Brown. Though the default colour of eyeliner for many of us is black (as was mine), I permanently made the switch to brown a few months ago following the advice of makeup artist Larry Yeo who noted that black can actually look too stark against Asian skin, particularly if we’re not going for a dramatic eye makeup look.

The Look That Says “Trust Me, I Write Creative Copy!”



Just before meeting a client last week, I experimented with a more punchy look. The razor-thin tip of Hyper Sharp is perfect for graphic eye makeup, so I went all out with this one. I was afraid that it would go south, considering my less-than-steady hand but I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s definitely not something you can achieve with a lot of other liquid eyeliners. I finished it off with a swipe of shiny pink lippie.

The “WOOHOO, TGIF!” Look



I’m usually pretty spent by the time Fridays roll around so to perk myself up, I’d put on my favourite canary yellow dress and Melissa heels. On my eyes, I used a shimmery light blue eyeshadow and gave my peepers definition using Hyper Sharp in Intense Black. On my lips is a berry lipstick-gloss. All set for the wine bar and, if my friends are up to it, grooving the night away at a club.

The “Saturday Brunch” Look


I don’t usually do “themes”, but I was feeling particularly inspired on this day. The particular theme in question? Flora and fauna. I paired my super-girly Topshop dress with equally girly makeup. On my eyes, I used a yellow cream eyeshadow as a base, and layered on a green cream eyeshadow (flora and fauna, forest … get it?!), before lining eyes with Hyper Sharp in Brown.

The “Casual Friday” Look



Honestly, the term “Casual Friday” doesn’t mean that much for folks in the creative industry …. every day is Casual Friday for us. Despite that, I’m not usually in the habit of wearing T-shirts to work. But I was DETERMINED to wear my new favourite Beastie Boys tee at all costs. So as not to look too sloppy, I threw on this grey cardigan and finished off the ensemble with a leather bag. This deviates quite a bit from my usual look but I’m really really loving the androgynous feel of it. It’s actually quite an accurate reflection of my personality. To balance out the boyishness of the outfit, I dressed up my face a little more. On my eyes, I used all three Hypersharp liners. I lined my top eye line with Intense Black, and layered Brown on top of it, up to the fold of where my double eyelid begins. On my bottom lashline, I used Soft Black to balance out the heaviness of the look. A little coral on cheeks and on the lips adds a soft, feminine glow.

My thoughts on Maybelline Hypersharp:

They weren’t kidding when they said it was really easy to use – drawing the perfect wingtip was a cinch. If you’re a makeup newbie, this is definitely the eyeliner to get. Because the tip is so thin, you can get very close to the lashline – it’s very nifty for filing in sparse lashes. I also thought that the Soft Black was the perfect shade for the lower lashline – it will further define eyes, while ensuring you don’t stray into “Auntie” territory. They are also relatively waterproof and smudge-proof. The colour didn’t migrate even when I was out and about for meetings in high humidity.

I must thank the folks at Maybelline for issuing the #OOTD challenge too – turns out my fashion repertoire is more diverse than I initially thought!

Material World worked with Maybelline to review its Hyper Sharp eyeliners. All reviews are the author’s own and were not vetted by the client. You may read our advertising policy here.

Win one of three Maybelline hampers worth $100 each!

From top: Brown, Intense Black, Soft Black

From top: Brown, Intense Black, Soft Black

Now, it’s your turn to take up the #OOTD Instagram challenge. Here’s how to take part:

1. Create a two-photo collage (like the ones above) showcasing (1) Your favourite daytime OOTD (outfit of the day) (2) A close-up of your daytime makeup.
2. Upload your collage onto your Instagram account (which should be set to Public), and tag @maybellinesg and @materialworldsg.
2.The top three posts will each win a $100 Maybelline hamper, including the Hyper Sharp liner of your choice)
This contest ends Wednesday, 4 June 2014, and is only open to followers of Material World. Please read our terms and conditions here.
Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Shame: The Red Flag In Any Relationship – Denise Li

All relationships may entail some form of compromise, but under no circumstances should your partner make you feel bad about being youself, says Denise Li.

I woke up today to an email from an old friend based in Australia. The email only contained a subject line “Me being done with shame and loving that you’re my friend”, and a link to a blog post she had written a few days ago.

In the post, she chronicled her past toxic relationship – which entailed not just verbal and emotional abuse, but also physical violence – as well as the process she went through cutting all ties with this man and how she learnt to move on.

I am so happy and proud of her that she has managed to move on. I know it’d been pretty tough on her – I’d been urging her for awhile now to cut out this tumour from her life, but it wasn’t in my place to force her to do so. It was a decision that she had to make for herself. And if she was anything like the strong-willed, opinionated woman I knew her to be, I knew she would do it eventually.

But the thing that struck me the most about her post was her describing the sense of shame she felt during this traumatic period. I’m not exactly sure what she felt ashamed about: Is it the low self-esteem brought about by the endless name-calling by this horrible dude? The fact that he continually made her feel worthless, not just within the context of the relationship, but also as a human being? Or did she feel ashamed of the fact that it took her four years to take action to make things better for herself?

To this friend (who I’m sure is reading this right now), I would like to say: If it’s about the last point, you have nothing to be feel ashamed about. Sure, things might have taken a turn for the better sooner if you had done something about it earlier, but it’s pointless mulling over those lost years. If you didn’t go through them, you wouldn’t be the brand new you you are today. All that matters is that you’re in a better place right now and proactively taking steps improving your situation.

But if the sense of shame is related to how he made her feel about herself as a person, there are no two ways around it: There is no place for shame in any relationship. 

Honest self-reflection, yes, but not shame.

Damn right.

Damn right.

My last relationship wasn’t abusive in the same way my friend’s was, but there were many instances where I was made to feel like my emotions didn’t matter. To be sure, I was more unstable and suffered from mild depression back in the day, but the worst feeling of all was being met with stony silence whenever I tried to open up to him. Being an emotional person has always been and still is a part of who I am – though admittedly, I am less prone to bouts of depression these days. The ex never came outright to say it, but it felt like he saw the part of me that couldn’t deal with my emotions logically and rationally as “disabled”. I felt ashamed of myself for being “out of control” and “psychotic”, and to a certain extent, it was as though I wasn’t worthy of being loved because of my “handicap”.

These days, I have a slightly better grip on my emotions, though sometimes, I still have no filter. When I am tired or emotionally drained, the worst of me rears its ugly head, but I have to say that Alain deals with it quite well 90% of the time. I have talked about the importance of picking your battles in this column, but I am not able to practise what I preach all the time. I sometimes fly off the handle over the smallest of things (we recently had a small argument over, of all things, Facebook “Likes”, don’t ask) and, unless he is himself under great pressure or stress – he always takes the time to talk me through my little tantrums.

He listens to me without judgement and stays calm to talk me through the process, without belittling what I have to say or what I’m going through. If I do feel any guilt at all, it’s all self-imposed, because I feel bad for putting him through the wringer.

It’s the best feeling in the world to know that he doesn’t just love me IN SPITE OF me being “damaged” (note the inverted commas), but that he truly he loves all of me, good, bad, whatever. When I Skype with him, he often tells me I look beautiful, even though I’m feeling anything but in my Chang beer T-shirt and with my uncombed hair. Best of all, I KNOW he’s not patronising me – he really means it.

And you know what? I don’t think it’s wrong for anyone to want to be in a relationship where the other person thinks that the sun shines out of your ass. Too many of us think that we are somehow not worthy of love, that there is a part of ourselves we first need to improve on in order to  be deserving of the other party’s affection.

No. If we want to make a change for the better, we should do it only for ourselves, and not for anyone else.

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 Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] What Is Your Language Of Love? – Deborah Tan

Each of us knows just how we like to express our love for our partners, but today, Deborah Tan wants everyone to stop and think about what YOUR partner’s language of love is.

Is this the look your man gives you every time you speak your love language?

Is this the look your man gives you every time you speak your love language?

“What’s your language of love?” I asked my friend one night when she was lamenting to me about her boyfriend.

I got a lost look.

“Well, according to what I learned from Vanessa and Lili (co-founders of Material World), there are five love languages.” I went on to elaborate, “Acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, spending time and gift-giving.”

More lost look from my friend. I sighed in exasperation. “I’m not trying to play relationship counselor here but it seems to me that the both of you are speaking entirely different love languages. Your boyfriend expresses his love for you by buying you expensive presents. You said you’re into gardening, he went out and got you tools sophisticated enough to build a house! So, his language of love is clearly gift-giving.”

I looked at my friend and waited for her to absorb what I had told her. “I’m guessing, yours is words of affirmation?” Her eyes lit up and she nodded vigorously in agreement.

Languages Of Love
As mentioned above, there are 5 love languages. This is a concept first written about by Gary D. Chapman. The idea is that we each express our love differently and we also want love expressed to us in a certain way. If a relationship were to grow and flourish, both partners must be able to speak their partners’ language of love.

Hmm … What’s her love language here?

Language 1: Acts of service
If your partner’s love language is this, it means you need to express your affection by “doing things” for him/her. For example, help her with the dishes after dinner without waiting for her to ask.

Language 2: Words of affirmation
If this is the chosen language, you need to break out of your shell, no matter how reticent a person you may be, and make it a point to tell your partner EVERY DAY something that shows how much he/she matters to you. “Thank you for taking the car to the workshop, baby. I really, really appreciate it.”

Language 3: Spending time
If your fights stem primarily from one partner working too hard and being away too much, your partner wants your time and undivided attention. Even if you are away on business, make it a point to Skype with him/her for at least 20 minutes every night.

Language 4: Gift-giving
The price of the gifts doesn’t matter here, and it shouldn’t. If your partner’s love language is gift-giving, it means what he/she wants is the thought behind the action. With a physical gift, he/she is receiving the assurance that you have not forgotten a special occasion that means a lot to the relationship.

Language 5: Physical touch
Hugs and kisses, gently grazing his/her arms whenever you both are talking, having sex often and regularly … physical touch is how your partner wants to be loved so be sure you don’t shy away from him/her because that would be like a slap to his/her face.

In your relationship, do you think you are speaking your partner’s love language? As much as we think we are doing our bit to keep the relationship going, sometimes, we may not be fulfilling our partners’ real emotional needs. One way to find out what his/her love language is is to observe the way he/she expresses his/her love in front of you. Once you have that figured out, make an effort to change the way you show your love.

Of course, it is a two-way street. You need to make sure your partner understands YOUR love language. If you want him/her to know what your love language is, the best way to do it is tell him/her. My female friends overwhelmingly choose Acts Of Service as their language because they just don’t want to be the only ones shouldering the responsibilities of keeping the house in order. “It would make me less stressed knowing that I don’t have to rush home from the office because he will (insert household chore here).”

Rather than just stew in silence and push your partner away every time he/she tries to show his/her love for you because it isn’t the “right” one, I think it’s best to just come right out and tell your partner which love language you speak so he/she can start doing the right thing.

What is your love language? And what do you think your partner’s is?

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 Deborah Tan talks about the trials and tribulations of being newly married. Stay tuned for more!

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. Her language of love is acts of service. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Love, Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Is It Acceptable To Flirt When You’re Attached? – Tan Lili

Founder Lili’s stance on the subject: HELL, YEAH. In this week’s Love In Lines, she explains why it’s healthy to flirt outside your relationship, and where you ought to draw the line.

material world_couple

I should probably begin with this disclaimer: I’m happily attached, and I absolutely condemn cheating.

Having said that, I do think it’s perfectly normal – healthy, even – to flirt outside your relationship. But what constitutes flirting, exactly? Is the classic hair flip too subtle? Does maintaining eye contact count? Do I have to get touchy-feely with him to get my message across? Should I buy him a drink? Is making bold, suggestive moves pushing it? Admittedly, my definition of flirting is going to sound very chaste. I have only dated one guy since I was 19, so my flirting methods are embarrassingly outdated and awkward. But that’s fine, because everyone’s reaction to flirting is different – which also means we all set different boundaries when it comes to flirting. It’s subjective, it’s fun, it’s encouraged.

This is a picture of cardinal sin, according to some.

This is a picture of cardinal sin, according to some.

As for flirting with others when you’re already in a committed relationship, however, that’s where the lines are often blurred. Some people think the mere act of flirting – even if it is something as innocuous as paying a stranger a compliment – is a form of cheating. They believe there must be some underlying problems in your relationship, that you must not love your partner like you think you do if you so much as lock gazes with a hot guy at a bar.

I beg to differ.

I love my boyfriend. There is no doubt in my heart that he’s the one I want to grow old with. When I awkwardly flirt with others, the interaction between me and them is always short-lived; I have zero interest nor intention of taking it any further. But, I do know of attached friends who make a conscious effort to know the recipients of their flirting attempts. And therein lies the definitive question that sets harmless flirting apart from, well, flirting with danger: Why do you do it?

How you flirt is irrelevant; but if you flirt with intent, that changes things altogether. Here’s the definition of flirting with intent, according to relationships expert Jenni Trent Hughes:

Flirting with intent is the art of showing someone what you appreciate and like about them while introducing the possibility of a sexual element to the relationship. If you’re in a relationship … be honest with yourself that you aren’t pretending to be innocent when there is lightly veiled intent. There’s nothing more repulsive than someone slobbering in your ear, murmuring, ‘If only I weren’t married.’”

So, it all boils down to the intent. Whether or not you are actually going to act on your intentions, the deed is done – you’d have already led another guy on and, at the same time, disrespected your partner. With innocent flirting, on the other hand, you are well aware of your boundaries. In fact, harmless teasing outside your relationship can be good for you and him. Here are some reasons why:

1. It boosts your confidence, making you feel sexier in your relationship

Especially for those of you who have been in a relationship for eons, the knowledge that others find you desirable is unnecessary but totally welcomed all the same. To put it bluntly, girl, you’ve still got it!

2. It shows complete trust in each other

The confidence with which you flirt is actually pretty revealing about the strength – not weakness – of your relationship. You both know your limits as well as where your hearts belong.

3. It brings out the natural flirt in you … for when you next meet your partner

Channel all that positive energy that comes with flirting into your relationship. It’s a win-win. More importantly, healthy flirting with others reminds you the kind of flirting you’re most comfortable with – with each other. The best part? With your man, you can freely act on your intentions and unleash your flirting prowess on him. Nothing beats knowing that, after so many years of being attached, you’ve still got what it takes to make your partner go weak at the knees.

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. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Adventures, Entertainment, Lifestyle

The Happiest Place In Penang … – Tan Lili

… for cat lovers, that is.

So, the Material World team were in Penang, Malaysia, last week for Deborah’s epic wedding. It was six days and nights of (drunken) debauchery – but that’s a story never to be retold. What I can share is about the cafe I dub The Happiest Place in Penang.

A day before the wedding, Vanessa and I were aimlessly walking about Georgetown. I thought I’d seen it all when I was there with my best friend two years ago, but I fell in love with the culturally rich city all over again. Wall art is still wonderfully prevalent around Georgetown, with even more amazing works by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic exhibited at the disused Hin Company Bus Depot. Besides murals, this hidden gem also features artistically arranged old-school street items and discarded toys.

Vanessa does an impressive back bend.

Vanessa does an impressive back bend.

This time around, I also noticed many new “hipster” cafes around the city – and I use the word “hipster” very loosely, because the vibe these cafes give off is hardly pretentious but positively hip. One great cafe is The Twelve Cups along Beach Street. Their signature mille crepe cakes come in an assortment of yummy flavours, and they are served alongside adorable chocolate sauce art.

Check out the amount of effort that goes into each chocolate sauce art!

Check out the amount of effort that goes into each chocolate sauce art!

The next interesting place Vanessa and I stumbled across is a cafe along Muntri Street called Purrfect Cat Cafe (yep, it’s the aforementioned Happiest Place in Penang). Friends know how crazy I am over cats, so you can only imagine my sheer delight when we chanced upon the cafe.

After a moment of squealing and stumbling, we all but sprinted into Purrfect Cat Cafe, eager to play with the kitties. Opened in January this year, the ground floor is a retail store selling all kinds of cat paraphernalia, while the second floor is divided into two sections: a cafe, and the fun zone involving eight cats. I’ve been to a few cat cafes in Asia – Japan, Taiwan and, of course, Singapore – and I must say Purrfect Cat Cafe is my favourite one so far. You don’t have to pay a cover charge; you just have to order a drink and you are free to get cosy with the cats for however long you like!

Enjoy a cuppa at the cafe before entering the fun zone.

Enjoy a cuppa at the cafe before entering the fun zone.

As with most cat cafes, Purrfect Cat Cafe has certain house rules – no feeding and no carrying – and at least one staff member is always on hand to make sure the humans are obedient. The second Vanessa and I plonked ourselves down on the cushions, a couple of curious cats came towards us. Vanessa was immediately drawn towards the real-life Garfield, while I was particularly taken with this little fella, who kept trying to sniff at my face!



I can’t remember exactly how long we spent at the cat cafe, but it was one of the most relaxing moments of my life. Any worries I had before seemed to dissipate when I stepped into the fun zone; what was left was a state of peace, quiet and unadulterated joy. Vanessa, a dog lover, was also blissed out from the company of cats (“I want to curl up and take an afternoon nap with Garfield,” she sighed in lazy contentment).

Vanessa and Garfield.

Vanessa and Garfield.

If you adore cats or animals in general, be sure to check out Purrfect Cat Cafe at 53 Jalan Muntri, Georgetown, Penang. You’ll leave the cafe feeling incredibly light-hearted, for sure!

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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Character & Soul, Infographics, Self-Improvement

[Infographic] 10 Ways To Be F**king Awesome – Tan Lili

Appalled by Dove’s latest survey results, founder Lili reckons it’s high time we do something about our alarmingly low level of self-esteem.

“Okay, tell me honestly,” Debs started, “Do you think you are beautiful?”

Without missing a beat, Vanessa and I replied, “No.”

That was two days ago when Debs was working on her infographic based on Dove’s survey results. Even though we’d both said no, we were shocked to find out 98 percent of Singaporean women feel the same about themselves.

I would like to believe in my own ideals that beauty goes beyond physical attractiveness, and that when we feel beautiful, we will be. It’s easier said than done, no doubt. I’ve been grappling with self-esteem issues ever since I had my growth spurt at 13 but, even though some problems seem harder to chase away, I’m glad to report that I’ve gotten past most of my body hang-ups. My trick? Don’t focus on the bad; strive to be a stronger version of yourself instead.

To me, beauty – aka being f**king awesome – is all of these 10 things combined. It’s a constant work in progress, but one that will help you grow your confidence along the way.


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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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] 4 Awesome Things About Being In a Long-Distance Relationship – Denise Li

LDRs are hard, but they come with their own set of redeeming factors too, says Denise Li.

Can I just say it? I am absolutely miserable right now. I just sent Alain off at the airport the night before – he was here for two weeks over the Easter break – and as usual, I was a sobbing, slobbery mess when I came home from the airport and for the most of yesterday.

Long-distance relationships are funny things. I actually cope fine most of the time when we’re apart. When I’m not working, I’m at the gym or hanging out with my friends, so it’s not like I spend most of my time at home feeling sorry about myself and my situation. But every time we’re together, it is the best feeling ever, and whenever the time comes for us to say goodbye, it feels like someone is cutting off one of my limbs.

I do try my best to be the person who sees the glass as half-full most of the time though, and despite the pain and suffering Alain and I put ourselves through, I think there are some benefits of being in a long-distance relationship that some couples living in the same timezone are not privvy to.

1. When you meet, it always feels like the initial stages of a relationship

Yeah we're kinda like this when we meet at the airport, sans the dramatic thunderstorm

Yeah we’re kinda like this when we meet at the airport, sans the dramatic thunderstorm

My heart always skips a beat when I catch the first sighting of Alain at the airport. And when we say hello, it’s pretty close to what you see in the movies – we hug, and kiss and we refuse to let go. Even just the simple act of holding hands feels magical when you’re first reunited with your love. We’ve been together for four years now, and it always feels amazing when we first meet at the airport.

2. We communicate – a lot


I was talking to a friend who’d been together with her boyfriend for eight years. She lamented to me about how she’s been seeing him only about once a week and, the last time they met up, it was with another friend for dinner, so they didn’t really get to spend quality time together. She says, and I quote, “Sometimes, I feel like a single person.” I know how this friend feels because it felt this way in my last relationship. When you live in the same place, it’s all too easy to assume that the person will “always be there”. Even if you don’t get to meet up in a certain week, you’d just think: Oh well, there’s always the next.

I think this is especially true in Singapore where it’s not very common for couples to cohabit, and not seeing each other becomes the norm, rather than the exception. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for couples having lives apart from each other. In fact, I think it’s healthier that way. But you have to admit that it’s all too easy for it come to a point where you have to ask yourself: Are we taking each other for granted?

3. We get what we give

In social psychology, there is something known as “equity theory”. In every relationship, an individual gives and receives, and that he will perceive that relationship to be equitable if he feels that he is getting as much back (rewards) as he is sacrificing (costs). The theory states that if the individual perceives the relationship to be inequitable – that the relationship it costing him more than it is rewarding him – then he will do whatever he can to close that gap. This doesn’t mean nitpicking on every single tiny aspect of the relationship; it just means that, all things considered, you feel that things somehow … balance out between the two of you.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It is so much easier to tell if your relationship is equitable if it is a long-distance one. When all your interactions are done over Skype, you can more quickly tell if your partner is investing as much into the relationship as you are. Alain and I recognise that we each have to make sacrifices in order to make it for Skype time. With the 7-hour time difference, he sometimes has to stay at home even when he has errands to run; for me, I have to cut short going out with my friends at night to make it to my computer at a decent time. Being in an LDR, you’re always aware of the fine line you’re treading; any slightest perceived imbalance has the potential to cause resentment and derail the relationship. This means you’ll put in more effort to ensure the relationship is as equitable as possible.

4. You don’t sweat the small stuff

In the face of a 7-hour time difference, and trying to work out what’s the best way for one person to make The Big Move, it gives you a sense of perspective. Suddenly, a lot of the little things don’t matter. In my last relationship, I was constantly worrying about things like: Am I more awesome than his ex? Does he secretly think I’m fat? Why does he not text me to check that I got home safe when it’s late at night?

Perhaps hindsight and maturity have something to do with it, but it’s also partly to do with my making a conscious decision not to get obsessed over things that are beyond my control. It wasn’t easy initially, and we’ve had our fair share of fights over stupid things, but I can safely that’s (mostly) all in the past. Now, we’re all about picking our battles. Sometimes, when things get a little heated, one of us will stop and ask, “Do we really want to fight about this? Really? Are we going to waste our precious Skype time arguing about something stupid?” Usually, the answer is No. We take the next few moments to resolve it without dragging it out more then we have to, then we move on.

So, most of the time, being in an LDR sucks. But it’s not all doom and gloom all the time. In my darkest and most lonely moments, I remind myself that I’m very fortunate to be in a relationship with a man who’s willing to stick it out with me in this extremely trying situation. And that’s usually all the assurance I need.

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 Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

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