Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Yes, I Do Want To Add A New Member To My Family – Deborah Tan

Has Deborah Tan finally succumbed to all that incessant nagging about when she’s going to have a baby?

A couple of days ago, I posted up on Facebook that I’m thinking of doing an MBA. I hashtagged the post #nextchallenge because I saw it as the “next new thing” to obsess over, after having (1) quit my job (2) start a business (3) get married (4) learn to bake (5) run a half-marathon, etc. I was bored and I needed something that wanted my time and energy.

Then came a comment from my sister, “How about a cousin for (my kids)?”

I have said a while ago that the husband and I have no intention of having children. We feel that it’s more important to invest in ourselves to ensure we are assured of a good retirement than to pour money into raising kids and having to deal with the uncertainty of whether they’d turn out well despite our best intentions and efforts.

But lately, I have been wondering if the need to grow a family has been “programmed” into us all. That it’s not just our parents and grandparents who want us to “expand the family”, but we ourselves kinda want it.

For me, I DO want a new addition to my family.

Just last Sunday, as I was dozing off on the couch, I found myself entertaining this thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a chubby bulldog is nestling in my arms and we are both taking a nap together?”

I am now obsessed with the idea of acquiring a bulldog and I’m making it a point to tell my husband once a day, “I really want a bulldog.”

But is this a precursor to something more insidious? I also wonder.

Could it be that the thing I actually want isn’t a chubby bulldog but a chubby baby?

Do all married couples wonder – at some point in their marriage – whether they want children?

I must admit, I am curious as to just what kind of kid my husband and I would be able to “produce” – would he be argumentative and annoying? Would he be creative? Would he be a left-hander? Would the child inherit both our innate disrespect for authority and status quo? Vanessa and Lili are of the opinion that any child of ours would, first and foremost, be very talkative – I am inclined to agree with them.

Curious as I may be, does it mean I have changed my mind about being a mother? I still don’t think so … sorry to disappoint those of you who have been hanging on the edge of your seats.

So every time I find myself veering dangerously into “maybe baby” territory, I’ll remind myself that I personally still prefer a pet by looking at these cute pictures:

bulldog2

It’s a hard fight in the Who’s Cuter contest but I have my winner …

bulldog3

Seriously, who can resist those folds of skin!?!?

bulldog4

Check out the butt!!! The tail! The frown! So cute!

bulldog1

At the end of the day, a bulldog does, “It’s ok, bro” best!

I want a baby. I want a bulldog as my baby.

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. She’s going to talk non-stop about bulldogs until her husband succumbs and allows her to adopt one. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Love In Lines, Marriage, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Should I Take His Name? – Deborah Tan

Newly married, Deborah Tan writes about the first of many problems about life as a wife. Today, she asks if she should take her husband’s name.

just married
This is my first Love In Lines post as a married woman. We ROM-ed last Friday. The actual wedding party, however, will happen at the end of the month. One of the things I get asked a lot is if I’d be taking on my husband’s name. You see, he’s got a rather interesting last name and everyone is waiting with bated breath to see if I – The Girl Who Loves Her Black Dresses – would change my name to …

Deborah Pink.

Yep, my husband’s last name is Pink.

It is quite a big thing – in some cultures – for the wife to take the husband’s name. The wife’s own last name is called her “maiden name” and that is why, in marriage, she is expected to assume her husband’s last name. Some women do the double-barrel thing and combine both last names. In my case, if I wanted to go double-barrel, I’d be called “Deborah Tan Pink”.

There is a growing debate whether women should still be expected to take their husband’s name. In the United States, it has been found that the number of women opting to keep their maiden names is shrinking. From 23 percent in the 90s, the number has fallen to a paltry 8 percent in 2011. Some feminists find the trend disturbing because it is akin to a woman choosing to lose her own identity – the one she was born with.

For the women who have chosen to keep their own names, often, the reason is professional. If her name is already a well-established one in her industry, it seems counter-intuitive to change it. This is the biggest reason for me as well for not wanting to change my name. I have been publishing under my own name since I started working in magazines. “You have no idea how much work I’ve had to do to get onto the first page of Google!” I’d tell my friends. There was a period when if you had Googled “Deborah Tan”, you’d get the principal of a girls’ school.

To change my name to Deborah Pink would – in the words of my inner-geek – mean losing my search engine juice! And just what would happen to my personal domain, deborahtan.com? My ego is telling me to keep “Deborah Tan”.

The Pinks wearing black.

The Pinks wearing black.

The first complication I foresee arising out of my decision to keep my name would be if formal invitation cards should address me as “Ms Deborah Tan” or “Mrs Deborah Pink”. Obviously, I’m not a Ms but it would be weird to call me Mrs Deborah Pink if I’m going to introduce myself as Deborah Tan.

Earlier on, I mentioned how some women go double-barrel but for me, I cannot consider it an option. “Tan Pink” is just asking to be made fun of! If I happen to spend a minute too long in the sun, I’m going to have to sit through all manners of sunburn jokes because I’m Mrs Tan Pink!

The arguments supporting “Deborah Tan” are mostly professional, based on my crazed need to keep my identity. The arguments supporting “Deborah Pink” are most certainly more emotional. The women who have opted to take on their husbands’ names often say that marriage is not the place for personal egos. Rather, it is a partnership where two people have promised to work as a team. Of course, we can discuss why can’t men take on their wives’ name but this isn’t the point of my post. What messages would I be sending out if I chose to remain “Deborah Tan”? What messages would I be sending if I chose to become “Deborah Pink”? Does it even matter?

To my husband, he has said no, it doesn’t matter to him if I become one or the other. I guess the reason why I’m bringing this up is because I’d love to hear a second, third, fourth … tenth opinion. I’ve heard the, “It’s so cute to have Pink as a surname” argument, I’ve heard the, “Deborah Pink will also get you on page 1 on Google. How many Deborah Pinks are there?” consolation.

Beyond saying, “I do” and putting on the wedding band, I think many women struggle to establish what their new identity really entails. As a wife now, should we set aside our personal ego and recognise that we have to work with our husbands now to build a new life together? As a woman, should we remind ourselves that we shouldn’t forget our own person just because we are now married?

I think I’m only just beginning to scratch at the surface of a whole new personal growth topic. But tell me, what do you think I should do? Stay as “Deborah Tan” or be “Deborah Pink” or thicken my skin and just go by “Deborah Tan Pink”?

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. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She does openly wonder if people would take her seriously if she goes by the name, “Deborah Pink”. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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1. [Love In Lines] Wedding Woes
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Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] My Untold Fears As A Mother – Elisa Woodward

About The Author: Elisa Woodward, a career-focused wife and a mom of two active boys, is a Jack of all trades, who enjoys flummoxing people. She likes getting her hands dirty (figuratively and literally), yet enjoys dressing up just enough to “look acceptable”. She embraces wholeheartedly the concept of getting older. In this post, Elisa candidly shares the fears she faces as a mother. 

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

On our recent ninth wedding anniversary, my dear husband said to me over dinner, “You make me feel bad, cos you look good (physically), and I am getting old.”

(Trust me – my husband is far from looking old and bad-looking).

Of course, my reply to that was, “Don’t be silly, you are far from looking half-bad yourself”, but inwardly, I was highly pleased that I was still attractive. (Fine, it might be only the biased opinion of my husband, but a married woman with children will take compliments wherever she can get one!)

Like many mothers, I am always busy trying to ensure I provide physical and emotional support to my family and household, while grappling with a full-time job. Being a working mum comes with the burden of managing the many facets of being a wife and mother.

The responsibility and changes to our lives that come with motherhood creates trepidation for many of us liberated women in this modern age. This fear is grounded in the possibility of losing touch with the world, our friends, and probably even ourselves.

The fear of becoming unattractive

As a mother of two, and working full time in a senior role, I have always wondered if I was squandering my “womanliness” away. After all, us women have always been conscious about the way we look, and the way we might present ourselves to others.

material world_tired moms

It’s tiring enough looking after kids. Now we have to worry about our looks too?!

Look around on the streets. There are many of us married mothers, who do not have time to worry about ourselves – how we look, how we dress, how we present ourselves to others – hence the unkempt hair, and dowdy clothes. What we tend to worry about more: keeping the kids well-behaved, and making sure the family has everything we need when we are out of the house.

So, apart from what I call the “celebrity” moms, most of us have the gravity of motherhood working against us i.e. sagging body parts. This is a result of carrying the excess weight of a little being in our bodies. We also experience the loss of brain cells (given to our lovely kids during birth – all mothers can attest to it), and changes in our mental and physical capabilities.

The fear of losing friends, and not having things to talk about

Ever hang out with friends or family with children? Most of the time, if a group of mothers end up together at a social gathering, the conversation would gear towards kids, home, and family topics. Some of my friends who do not have kids yet, told me they gradually lost touch with many good friends who have kids, as they were moving towards different directions in life.

What can we talk about apart from our kids and families?

What do mothers talk about apart from their kids and families?

When I was not employed for a period and had relocated overseas, I decided to attend a mothers’ group. While I admire the mothers for what they do full time, I definitely did not have much in common with them. It was at that point where I realised how lonely it was to just be a mom and a wife – without our husband or partner, the only conversation partners are our children. No matter how much I love my children, talking about toys, school, and whatever else interests them doesn’t really stimulate my brain.

The fear of losing our own identities

As a mother and wife, I encounter it all the time – “Hi, so you are so-and-so’s wife/mother.” It is the label that I get whenever I attend functions with my husband or gatherings with my children.

Who am I, apart from being a wife and mother?

What’s your identity, apart from being a wife and mother?

What happened to knowing me as me? This is the reason why I need to work. I need the identity that I create for myself at work – even to prove that I can still hold my own, outside of being a mother and wife.

So many mothers I know are proud of their children and husband, who have achieved much in their careers and lives. But whenever they talk about their families’ achievements, what amazes me is how they’ve dedicated their lives for their families, and become housewives, and are contented with the accomplishments of their family.

I cannot fathom how someone, especially in the Singapore context where most women are well-educated, can give it all up for the sake of her family. This is truly admirable that even in today’s context of modern moms, there is still a large percentage of women who believe in giving it all for their family.

These fears I have are definitely not unfounded, but I’m thankful I have a partner who believes in pitching in to help with the family. I’m blessed to have married a man who loves spending time with the family, and teaching the kids (he toilet-trained both our children!), understands my needs as an individual, and is a great help in the house! 🙂

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Deborah Tan, Opinions

I’m A Singaporean Woman And I Don’t Care If I Intimidate You – Deborah Tan

Singaporean women marrying foreign men: everyone has something to say. Singaporean men marrying foreign brides: it’s the fault of local women who think too highly of themselves.

You know what? I’m sick of people blaming US, SINGAPOREAN WOMEN, for anything that has gone wrong with their love life, or the lack of it.

We have been labelled SPGs who love foreign men because of their money. We have been dismissed as materialistic, shallow beings who can’t tell that the foreign men we love are, according to popular urban legends, “losers” in their countries. We have to accept flak for being educated, for being good conversationalists, for excelling in our careers, and for being too independent.

It’s our fault that we try to make something of ourselves. We are so unmarriageable in the eyes of the Singaporean man that we should be crying at home instead of looking at other options! O.M.G!

As Singaporean women, we should feel so ashamed our men don’t want us that heaven forbids we should fall for a foreign man! [Note the sarcasm, please]

I’m not going to launch into a comparison between local and foreign men because that would just take us all into the same ridiculous territory a certain Mr Goh wants us to go into.

I’m not going to talk about why love is more than just about nationality, about money, about jobs, about status. Many people out there marry or date for the wrong reason AND, surprise! It’s not a phenomenon limited to Singaporeans only. Ever heard about schools in China teaching women how to attract rich men? If you are so cynical as to think Singaporean women are incapable of love, perhaps the concept of love is beyond your depth.

As a woman, I refuse to be blamed for not being “attractive” enough to men who find my education, my career, and my personality too intimidating. As a Singaporean, I’m disgraced by this continuous whining and moaning about why you are forced to remain single because you are too poor/uneducated/unsuccessful/disadvantaged/[insert whatever other crosses you bear as a local man]. People everywhere in this world struggle against bigger issues every day and still they continue on with life with dignity.

You know who else blame women for their problems? The same people who forbid their daughters to go to school, the same people who think women who go out by themselves deserve to be gang-raped, the same people who throw acid on women who refuse to marry them.

Are you like that? If not, then stop writing shit about Singaporean women who are dating, or married to, foreigners. We are dating HUMAN BEINGS. We are marrying men who appreciate us for who we are.

Maybe if you can drop your feudalistic ideas that women today still marry for green cards and a condo, you would be able to – FINALLY – appreciate what makes us Singaporean women special and desirable.

On behalf of all Singaporean women, I say STOP pretending you know how we conduct our relationships, how we live our lives. Instead of bitching about why we are NOT the ideal wives, try and be the men we want, for once.

Note: I reserve the right to delete any RUDE, DISRESPECTFUL comments about me, my friends, my fiance, and any women in relationships with foreigners. Just like how you have taken the right to state your unhappiness, I’m taking the right to protect myself and the ones I care about from xenophobic, misogynistic and racist comments anyone may make in response to my post.

STRONG-WOMAN

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. And yes, she’s engaged to a foreigner. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

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Deborah Tan, Love, Marriage, Opinions, Relationships

“Why” Is The Question To Ask Here – Deborah Tan

At what point does cheating happen in a relationship?

Is it when you catch your boyfriend/husband in bed with the other woman?

Is it when you see suspicious SMS messages in his phone?

is it when you hear from other people that they have seen him out and about with another woman?

Is it when you see flirtatious messages on his Facebook Wall?

Or, is it when he has decided that he’s going to try his luck and look around for someone to cheat with?

coupleonbedThe reason for my asking is obviously to do with news that a dating website targeting married people may be launching in Singapore and this has given rise to debates about whether the presence of such sites contributes to the erosion of family values and whether starting this service in Singapore undermines the trust between husband and wife. This contentious website is AshleyMadison.com.

Like there isn’t cheating happening in marriages and relationships in Singapore as we speak.

Off the top of my head, there are a number of ways I could cheat on my boyfriend, and he on me:

1. How about adding strangers on Facebook and Instagram and start exchanging “friendly” messages with one another? After all, 1 in 2 Singaporeans are apparently okay with adding complete strangers as “friends” on their social networking sites.

2. How about me resurrecting my partying habits and hitting the clubs at Clarke Quay every Saturday night? I’m sure with adequate alcohol and appropriate lighting, it is possible to find someone attractive enough to have a one-night stand with.

3. How about I sign up for dancing classes and start developing feelings for my dance partner or instructor? With the close proximity and sexy dance moves, I’m sure it’s quite easy for people to find love again under such circumstances.

4. What about just going to work and meeting new people every other day? Like, maybe I should start looking for a job in a male-dominated industry like finance and find myself a rich man to have an affair with.

My point is … ANY CIRCUMSTANCE and ANY OCCASION can lead to cheating. And whether or not a website that serves as a “conduit” for adulterous activities is allowed to launch in Singapore isn’t going to alter the fact that a CHEATER IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE ABLE TO FIND A WAY TO CHEAT BEHIND HIS PARTNER’S BACK.

I’m not condoning the use of AshleyMadison.com here. I’m not saying it’s OK to use a website to cheat. I’m not saying it’s alright to cheat as long as you do it discreetly.

What I’m saying here is there are deeper issues as to why people are cheating on their partners in Singapore and it’s been happening for a while. Hello? Have you seen the bus with the ad that says, “CatchCheatingSpouse.sg”?

If someone wants to cheat, he or she can do it just about anywhere.

The bigger question to ask here is WHY would someone cheat? Why would someone put their marriage, family and reputation on the line for a brief affair?

club dancingThey do it for the thrill. An overwhelming number of people are most likely to quote this as a reason why they would cheat. Many years of marriage have led to boredom, to your spouse taking you for granted. Sex becomes routine, predictable … and that is if you even have sex at all. The excitement of getting back into the “game” again makes a person feels attractive and desirable.

They do it for the connection. Often, people cheat with their co-workers and their bosses. Time together leads to emotional and physical connectedness, and given the amount of time we in Singapore spend at the office, I would posit that the OFFICE is a more conducive place for cheating than a website.

They do it because they have no respect for their partners. It’s easier to blame something or someone when a partner strays. But really, the crux of why they do it is because they have NO RESPECT for their other halves. They feel they are entitled to abuse the trust someone has invested in them, they believe they can get away with it because they are (1) successful (2) rich (3) good-looking and that their partners will stay with them for these very reasons.

At the end of the day, cheaters need validation. They do it to feel wanted, to feel desired, to feel loved, to feel special. Sometimes, it involves a change in attitudes and habits, sometimes, it involves you walking away from them. The fact is, once they have taken that first step to stray, they will find a person to do it whether it’s via a website or at the office.

Stopping a website from launching in Singapore isn’t going to stem the problem at its roots. It’s merely taking one option out of the many available to those who are serial cheaters, and delaying the inevitable for those who are toying with the idea of cheating. The website is not introducing into Singapore a new concept called cheating and that is what we need to be mature enough to acknowledge.

inception

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, Suits and thinks cheating is actually more tiring than it is thrilling. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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1. [Infographic] The Dirty On Cheating

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] The Memo About Marriage I Didn’t Get – Deborah Tan

three-babies-sitting-on-the-floor-dressed-in-diapers-beautiful-baby-wallpapersLast Saturday, while eating breakfast at the hawker centre, an old lady I was sharing my table with struck up a conversation about … kids.

“How old are you?” she genially asked me in Mandarin.

“30 plus …” I replied, not wanting to over-commit myself into the conversation.

“How many kids?” came the next question.

I smiled and shook my head. “None, none, I don’t want kids.”

Now you can probably guess what followed after my admission: a lengthy spiel about why I should have kids, why it is healthy for me to become a mother (something about how my reproductive organs will “spoil” if I don’t use them), and how kids will help me “keep” my husband. Throughout her well-meaning monologue, I smiled and nodded along. She did not need to be told why I thought she was a bit misguided to believe kids will save a marriage; I wouldn’t be able to explain my views fluently in Mandarin anyway.

I don’t want children.

I admit, sometimes I do get curious, but I usually recover quickly enough to tell my suppressed maternal instincts, “No.” Many friends have commented how Simon and I are going to have beautiful, exotic-looking children, and while it’s tempting to see if our offspring is truly going to be a winner in the genetics lottery, we have both agreed to remain child-free.

I could list out all the reasons behind our decision, but increasingly, I don’t see why I should. No woman has ever had to explain why she wants to become a mother so why should those who want to remain child-free be expected to explain themselves?

“Then why bother getting married?”
One of the things that irk me most is that people tend to link Marriage and Kids together. When they learn we don’t want to have the latter, we are often asked, “Why get married then?” Stupid me. I thought people got married because they love each other. Sorry, I’m afraid I didn’t get that memo. With so many single parents out there doing such a great job of raising their children, it’s mind-boggling why people continue to lump the two together.

A person does not have to be married to be a great parent. Similarly, being married doesn’t mean you are ready for parenthood. I’m happy to just spend the rest of my life with Simon (and I certainly hope he feels the same too) and I think it is important that we recognise that the “family” is complete when it’s just the both of us. If a couple needs a child to “complete” the family, what then does it say of their relationship with each other?

“What if one of you changes your mind?”
Every time someone talks to us about kids, I always make sure I ask Simon this, “If there is a chance you’ll want to have kids, you better say so now.” I don’t think we are completely closed to the idea but what each of us would appreciate is some form of warning. If there is a smidgeon of chance that he might change his mind, I really want to know now so I can prepare myself for the eventuality that I might have to deal with motherhood. If there is so much as an iota of doubt about my stance towards children, I’d make sure he’s agreeable to that too.

So yes, no kids for us. No number of cute baby photos is going to change my mind, no amount of guilt-tripping is going to alter the way we feel about children. I love kids and I adore my nieces and nephews … but to have my own running around me all day, all night? I honestly don’t see myself enjoying 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, Suits and want people to stop showing her pictures of cute Eurasian babies. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Deborah Tan, Opinions

Should You Have Sex Without Love? – Deborah Tan

We all know it’s possible to have sex without love. But lately, I’ve been wondering, should we have sex without love? And when it’s a woman who finds herself in this conundrum, does it change the way we should answer this question?

We hear about a great number of men who have sex without love, and through years of social and media priming, we have come to “accept” that “it’s just men”. Lots of jokes float around the cyberspace about how men are ruled by their penises, so yeah, it must be in their nature to want to sow their seeds and sleep around with women whom they feel nothing – emotionally – for.

For women, the media has made it such that if we were to engage in sex without love, we are either doing it for money or we are sluts. For us to have sex, we must first fulfill the condition that we have to be in love. Being in love means we are offering our bodies unconditionally to the man we have promised to stay faithful to. Being in love means we want to have the man’s babies and that is why we have sex. Sex is an act of love, sex is for procreation … can women have sex for sex’s sake?  Should women have sex for sex’s sake?

SexLove

My first question is: Why must women have a reason to have sex?

See my Venn diagram above. If a woman’s only motivation for being with a man is sex, what would both men and women call her? If a woman never wants to have sex and believes only in love, pure love, which occupation would you see her in? The so-called ideal where sex and love happen in one place … what do you call that? Is that the place where Marriage also fall into?

I’m not encouraging anyone – both men and women – to throw their inhibitions out of the window and go have one-night stands with random strangers. Similarly, if you want to wait to have sex, you should be able to do so without anyone guilt-tripping you about it. You just have to ask yourself, “What am I waiting for? For love or for when I’m ready to explore my sexuality?” Once you know that, the waiting becomes a lot more meaningful.

What I’m asking is, is it wrong for us to have sex without love? If I don’t do it for money, if I’m not cheating on a partner, if I am fully aware of the arrangement and take sufficient precaution, can I have sex simply because I enjoy it?

Second question: Why is love so important whenever sex is concerned?

I am not downplaying the importance of love in itself. What I take issue with is how love and marriage are often used as a “moral leash” on women when it comes to sex. Often, the media is not allowed to talk about sex unless the woman and man are in love. In some countries, magazines can only write about sex if they start by mentioning something to the effect of, “… tonight, with your husband …”.

To fulfill a physical need women must meet an emotional condition. If they don’t, they are seen as immoral and promiscuous. Is this logical?

In my opinion, it is more empowering for a woman to understand that it’s okay to have sex as long as it is she who WANTS it. I’ll always remember the “sex education” we had in school where a teacher would sagely tell us, “If a boy says, ‘You’ll do it if you love me,’ do not fall for his lies.” There is a flaw in the argument.

It ties sex with love. At an age where most of us had no clue what love really meant, it was a bit vague and confusing. Then the second piece of advice came up, “You should wait till you get married.” She probably meant to tell us that (1) we will fall in love soon (2) when we do, we will marry the man we love (3) when we are married, we can finally have sex (4) we can afford to wait when it comes to sex.

OK. I’m 34 right now. I’m not married. I’ve found the man I love, I’m pretty sure I know what I want and how to protect myself … can I have sex already?

The tighter you tie sex and love together, the more you will find that it hurts more than it empowers.

The “love” guilt-trips us emotionally whenever a relationship does not work out: “Oh, we had sex already. Now that he wants to break up with me, does that mean no man would ever want me?”

When women are made to think that love and sex have to go hand-in-hand, they often get confused over the physical and the emotional. It is possible to have good sex with a man you don’t love just as it is possible to love a man who is average in bed. The sooner we make peace with that, the sooner we figure out what is more important to us, the less likely we are to find ourselves in a disappointing relationship.

At the end of the day, I do not think anyone has the right to judge a woman for wanting sex without the emotional bonds. What is wrong is when a man uses this emotional bond to exploit a woman sexually. What is wrong is when society labels a woman for not wanting to fall into the “ideal” place where sex and love should happen together. What is wrong is when we are made to feel bad for simply wanting the right to do what we want – sexually and emotionally – with ourselves. It’s not about whether we should have sex without love, it’s whether if we do, should we be made to feel like sluts?

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, Suits, and hates it whenever people try to label women. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Guest Writers

[Guest Star] On Beauty and The Secret To Taking Great Photos – Danielle West

Danielle West

Danielle West

Material World’s guest star this week is Danielle West. She’s all about living life to the fullest and she’s the shining example of doing just that. Danielle is the author of All Change Please (which she wrote over seven years on her Blackberry), an MMA fighter, coach at Juggernaut Fight Club, mother and full time office worker.

I noticed Dove recently launched this great campaign where women were asked to describe their appearance to a forensic artist and then describe a peer’s appearance. Unsurprisingly the difference in the sketches was dramatic. It’s no secret that we judge our own appearance more harshly than others do, though it seems now more than ever that we as a society seem to be obsessed with our appearance. Whether it’s posting photos of ourselves posed in front of landmarks, at parties or even in front of our mobile phone cameras we no longer have the expense of buying film or paying for processing so we take more photos than ever before. I see so many of these photos getting taken while I’m out for a run or dinner or simply living and they always look a bit fake or stiff when they turn up on my feeds. I am never quite sure who these photos are meant for, either. Are they for us to remember the moment? Are they to show off to friends and family or strangers on the internet?

Whenever I see these pictures I am often reminded of a dear friend whose wedding I photographed many years ago. I was outside as she was getting ready to start the ceremony and on seeing me with my camera froze and assembled her features into this posed and affected smile. In real life, I think my friend is gorgeous though her photos never do her justice. What often ruins her pictures is her self-conscious posing and it was that moment I had realised it. I lowered my camera and explained to her that I was there to capture the day as it happened and that I wouldn’t be doing any stiff portraits. I urged her to forget I was even taking photos. Her features relaxed and I began to shoot the ceremony. She remarked later at how great the photos looked and I explained they looked great because it captured her mood and spirit of the actual day. In the photos she is happy, tearful and full of optimism the way every beautiful bride is. It has nothing to do with my photography skills, either.

Often when we look at photos of our youth some of the best pictures are the ones capturing a moment of surprise, intimacy, humour or excitement. They are often pictures with tearful embraces, giddy expressions after being soaked in a water fight or surprise downpour or photos of you or friend/family member sound asleep in a strange place/position. These photos capture beauty. Contrary to popular belief, perfection does not equate beauty.

This doesn’t just hold true with photos but in life as well. Happy, confident, optimistic and friendly people radiate beauty. You remember their smile, their eyes and all sorts of other details about them. This beauty improves with age and is never reliant on having a good hair day or the perfect capsule wardrobe. We seek out their company and always have a great time when we’re with them. They are attractive not because they are wearing the perfect outfit or look like a celebrity. Their laugh is infectious and their enthusiasm is undeniably attractive. Think of the last party you attended and you won’t recall who looked perfect but you will remember who made you laugh or convinced you to dance.

If we only focus on an aesthetic ideal we sell ourselves short. No one would dare to call Mother Theresa ugly. That being said, she wouldn’t exactly have been used as a cover girl for a fashion magazine. Her beauty came from her work, her kindness and accomplishments. When we think of our friends or family members we find beauty in them not just in flat pictures but in real life where their essence is what endears them to us.

And yet when we appraise or evaluate ourselves we tend to focus on the narrow area of appearance. We neglect to recall all the amazing things we’ve accomplished or are capable of and instead obsess over wrinkles, fat, sagging or a myriad of perceived imperfections. I’m not saying I see perfection whenever I look in the mirror but I really don’t care. I am too busy with work, writing, family, friends, travel, training and enjoying life. I enjoy getting a manicure or spa treatment just as much as anyone but I don’t do them expecting to be transformed into some fashion model, I do it because I like treating myself. And as for taking good photos I think more so than good lighting or the right foundation, it’s important to smile, relax and enjoy life.

Danielle's book, All Change Please

Danielle’s book, All Change Please

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