So, Have You Found Your It Yet?

Driving along Grange Road towards Ngee Ann City one day, my heart hic-cupped.

On the other side of the road was a car which bore the licence plate of a former boyfriend. But the vehicle whizzed by too fast for me to see if it was indeed him inside.

Although that relationship ended on a bad note (he jilted me) many, many moons ago when I was barely 21, leaving me tear-soaked and seeped with sadness for a long, long time, the sighting brought back a rush of memories, which were mostly bitter. Luckily I soon reached the shopping mall. It's wonderful how bright lights and the prospect of spending money can cheer one up.

What a low-life that guy was and what a lucky escape I had had, I told myself, zapping him from my mind as I entered the On Pedder shop where an enticing array of open-toed sandals awaited me.

Love. Can it really be eternal?

The poet Robert Graves describes love as "a universal migraine", "a bright stain on the vision/blotting out reason".

If that were so, I must by now be quite blind and without reason, for I have been in love not a few times.

It is, after all, a thrilling sensation, with all the cliches about it ringing true.

When you're in love, you see the world with new eyes.

Everything feels almost unbearably light, and life can never be more right. Everyday concerns - the mortgage, job insecurities, family problems - seem so irrelevant.

What matter is being with the object of your affection - that hot rush of anticipation as you wait for him, the warmth that engulfs you when you are finally together, the smugness in knowing you are loved.

Can there be a nicer feeling than that?

The way I see it, there are four types of people when it comes to love.

The first finds a soulmate early in life. She marries him, they set up a home, have kids, and their life's pretty settled from then on.

The second type moves from one relationship onto another, and the relationships are more often than not fraught with woes. Life is one roller-coaster ride as she soars with joy and plunges into misery.

The third sort doesn't care for relationships, for she can be perfectly happy without a beloved by her side.

Then, there is the fourth type, who dearly wishes to be involved with someone, but can't find the right partner.

I suppose I fall into the second category, for I have had my share of turbulent relationships.

Love, I have discovered, is seldom a one-way ticket to the moon.

The journey can be aborted half-way and you can find yourself hitting the ground with a bump.

Sadly, I have had my share of being brought down to earth. And, if I look back on my relationships, there are some lessons in love I have learnt:

It is better to be dumped than to dump.

Of course this is putting it simply. Life is more complex than that - there are people who deserve to be dumped.

But if both parties haven't done any wrong, I'd prefer to be the "dumpee" than the "dumper" any day.

Of course, it hurts like crazy when you discover that a person no longer loves you. But feeling hurt is any time better than feeling guilty.

The former fuels a range of emotions - wretchedness, anger and self-pity chief among them - which are, actually, rather self-indulgent sensations and not totally unpleasant. But when you're the bad guy, there are no two ways about it - you've done something horrible to someone and the only way you can feel is lousy.

It's not love when it's stormy.

I used to think that true love had to be wrought with turbulent feelings, Wasn't this what Passion was all about? What was love without tiffs and spats, followed by dizzy kisses when you patched up?

These days, I regard a calmer life as the healthier option. Because, every time you quarrel with a loved one, you are tearing him down, and surely that can't be what love is? It should be about shoring up your partner, not bring him down.

Love just happens. You can't search for it.

There was a time when I went to parties in the hope that I'd meet someone I could fall in love with. Well, it never happened.

The relationships I treasure started from chance encounters, never through a blind date or an arranged meeting. And for those who are single, fret not. Serendipitous meetings do happen.

If you love a person, you would want to show him off.

If you have any qualms at all about the person whom you say you love - perhaps you're embarrassed by the car he drives, or that he's balding or that he stutters or doesn't have a university degree - it can't be love.

When you love someone, you'd regard him as a trophy and want to flaunt him to the world.

A sharp knife cuts the quickest.

It also hurts the least. When love peters out and it's time to call it quits, say your adieus snappily.

Prolonging the goodbye only lengthens the misery and leaves a lousy aftertaste. Besides, a short and sweet farewell is the classiest exit.

Love scars heal.

Yes, amazingly they do, though it takes ages to forget someone who has forsaken you. You will alternate between fantasizing about looking drop-dead gorgeous and winning him back, and scheming to wreak revenge on him.

But one day, you'll wake up, gaze at his picture and feel - nothing.

If it's really love, he will marry you.

Bah you say? What a stupid notion in this day and age? A woman doesn't need the man she loves to marry her? Besides, hasn't the institution of marriage been devalued?

I used to believe all that too. But now, I regard marriage as the ultimate test. If you truly love someone, wouldn't you want to belong to him and vice-versa?

When you find your It, go for it.

When you least expect it, the thought just descends upon you - you have found your It. He's the one standing in front of you and whom you've been staying single for all your life.

It's a truly amazing sensation, and if the other person feels the same way, then it is also a wonderful one.

And if you have found your It, well, congratulations! Life's great, isn't it?

Sumiko Tan
The Sunday Times, August 2, 1998

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