When we become comfortably numb

When we become comfortably numb

When my baby sister was 20 years old, on the cusp of her first degree graduation in Japan, she told me, with all the seriousness and confidence a 20-year-old could muster, that she couldn't bring herself to date men she didn't consider pleasing to the eye.

I was taken aback when I first heard it. As a pretty girl, my sister had every right to declare her physical preferences, and the possibility of achieving her dreams wasn't too far-fetched. In mere seconds, she reeled off a list of her desired mates, which included the usual blah blah blah that every girl dreams of.

I didn't want to tell her the reality of it all, or relate how I once wanted different things from a "soul mate" when I was younger.

Fast forward six years, my sister, who's now doing her PhD, has mellowed down on her list of a perfect partner, and is seeing someone who just makes her happy. 

In retrospect, we all know that we shouldn't have had "lists", and men aren't packaged products and neither are women. Everyone is fallible, and flaws are what make us human.

Physical appearances were never that much of a thing for me as I've always known where I fall on the scale of looks, but a sense of style, cultural awareness and "good" taste dictated my early youth well into my mid 20s. As a former music snob and book lover, there was no way I would consider anyone who didn't share my love for certain literature, or, more importantly an extensive library of music.

Anyone who didn't understand how amazing Red Lorry Yellow Lorry could have been, or why Joy Division made me cry (they still do after all these years) was just not worthy. I also expected them to dress the part too. What a foolish, conceited imbecile I was, right? Then I moved into my intellectually stimulating phase where I valued highly opinionated, well read, educated men of various calibres, where I thought music, books and all other cultural products could have just been my personal thing.

As you grow older, your preferences change drastically. Former deal breakers don't matter any longer. It's quite interesting to take a closer look at your desires through different chapters of your life, and how stubborn some of us were, as well as how someone who looked good on paper turned out to be absolutely empty disappointments.

We are constantly evolving, and our needs change with us, but sometimes I can't help but think if we're settling because we don't want to be alone, or our expectations would have never been met in this lifetime. Or all those wanted qualities were just projections of traits that we saw ourselves possessing, and in turn wanting others to see us the same away?

The cultured men turned out to be snobs like I was. What do snobs want? A better version of their perceived selves, meaning they would always look for someone better than me as I did them. Sometimes they shredded your confidence to pieces before setting it aflame. The intelligent men became volatile and egotistic, making you doubt your intelligence and every little move you made as you were judging them internally, and afraid that they were doing the same thing. Sometimes they ended up driving you completely off the wall, and you fell off into this inexplicable madness. Sometimes, just sometimes.

One of my closest friends recently asked what I now wanted from a relationship, if I were still looking. For some reason, my first response wasn't "intellectual stimulation" any longer, but "comfort". I caught myself gagging a little bit, but it was true. When you reach a certain age, the idealistic traits you once held at different periods of your life don't matter much any longer.

External qualifications from degrees, bank accounts, or occupation are far from playing any important roles. Now, all you need, it seems, is that feeling of comfort, of being able to just "be" around another human being without having to fret, analyse or impress at all times. Comfortable silence, a good night's sleep and playing silly computer games have won over for better or worse.

I can't really say which is better. I don't know if it's foregoing what you really want from life. But for the time being, I'll enjoy music, books, and arts on my own, and comfort can do, or be whatever it pleases. 


Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about music and contemporary cultures for Life.

Onsiri Pravattiyagul

Entertainment Editor

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