Before I begin, want to thank you all for sending your care and thoughts. It has been an exhausting, grueling past few months that I wanted to convince myself would end the way many of us, the majority of us, hoped it would. As the world looks to my country in shock, dismay, awe, or just utter disbelief, I look towards my friends and family, many whom are those who felt particularly targeted and/or affected by our new president, and my focus is on protecting them, providing for them, and working for them. Now more than ever, it is important that we all see each other as equals and human beings deserving of respect, care, compassion, and dignity. A single man does not make a country. We do. Though we may have elected a man who believes in certain things, it is important that we show to the world that we are not all like that.
Having said that, it feels good to be writing again about positive and beautiful and hopeful things. And because I had to make up for lost time and words, I apologize for the length of today’s post. I hope you will find the time to read though and, as you all always have been, are as generous with your feedback and criticism. Thank you.
In fact, I would argue that it was the meeting that really influenced me the most to fall madly, deeply, head over heels in love with Beautiful. The greatest things about her that I would ultimately fall for, there was no way for me to know, indeed no way for anyone to know, simply from sight. There were some snap judgements made based on her appearance (fair skin, nice hair, well dressed were all signs of certain positive and advantageous physical, socioeconomic, and mental traits) and also the context of where we were (meeting at an Asian club hinted at her background and upbringing, college campus suggested well-educated and sophisticated), but it was that interaction that pushed me over the edge. How could I fall in love with the rise and fall of her voice if I never got a chance to speak with her. How could I fall in love with how excitable she was and how expressive if I did not take the time to talk to her and find out about her passions. How could I have known the great, seemingly endless amount of care, compassion, warmth, and adventure this incredible woman had if love at first sight hadn’t compelled me to meet her and fall in love at first meeting.
It might seem like splitting hairs, parsing off these two events because they happened practically simultaneously, but there is a significant distinction to be made here that can be expounded upon further when you consider stories of people who might have seen each other at one moment and felt a certain intense attraction but weren’t fully convinced of love until having the opportunity to meet in person and more in-depth much later on. There is of course the humorous example of a woman saying to the man she loved, ‘of course I liked you when I saw you, but then you opened your mouth’. Love at first sight is just like anything else, it is a decision based on surface level traits with surface level implications. It is the meeting where we can either reinforce or dismantle those preconceived notions that really set a relationship up for either success or failure.
I know this feeling all too well as it relates directly to what happened between me and Beautiful. There is no denying that I was immediately physically attracted to her but aside from the physical aspects that I believed to be components of my definition of beauty, I was attempting to attribute much more elevated and sophisticated emotions and values to the very simplistic physical evidence I had to go by. There was enough, more than enough really, to compel me to find her irresistible that I just had to get to know her. And as I did, it was ultimately fortuitous (or not, along the line) that what I was hoping to find in her emotionally, morally, mentally, was indeed part of her.
This distinction, sight versus meeting, is critical to what raw material, what fuel, is used to drive a relationship. Love at first sight provides bright, blinding, fast burning romantic intensity. It lights up something in us that unlocks a passion we might not even know we had. We can bypass so many of the reservations and restraints we sometimes put up as a barrier or the blockade to protect us from harm so that we can move forward much quicker and get to deeper levels of relationships in less time. Love at first meeting is the foundation of romantic profundity. Whereas romantic intensity puts the relationship in hyper-drive, romantic profundity puts the relationship in terms of length and distance and possibility. When we meet someone for the first time and feel that undeniable connection, that electric connection, that physical and mental desire, we are creating mental images, forecasts, of our future together. We see possibility and potential that reaches far beyond just this night, just this meeting, into the rest of our lives and indeed possibly, the lives of our future generations. While love at first sight helps us make decisions based on what, if any, this person has that is desirable or attractive to us, love at first meeting helps us make decisions based on what, if any, possibilities this person has for our future. Indeed, I could speak very personally to this example.
Remember that when I was at that meeting for the very first time, I was a college freshman, new to the campus, new to this life, new to everyone around me. I was a loner in what felt like foreign territory, and I was desiring some form of connection, some form of interaction, that I could have and hold and foster for the next four years. What Beautiful gave me the first time we spoke to each other was the promise of a best friend. She was immediately engaging and interactive and I felt like I wanted to see her and be with her every day. I believe this is why so often people who are seemingly struck blind by Cupid’s arrow and fall madly in love upon meeting someone for the very first time often precede their stories with ‘I wasn’t expecting it’ or ‘I wasn’t looking’ or ‘I had given up on love or relationships or men or women etc. when I first saw the person’. What is happening here is people who are acknowledging a certain void in their life, a certain lack that they know is a part of them, are subconsciously being triggered on a nuclear level when they come across someone who just might hint at being that person who is what they were looking for and driving us to act with intent and purpose before we lose that potential. During the periods in between relationships when I was feeling particularly disappointed or disheartened by either lack of interest or lack of prospect, often times my very well-meaning friends and family would attempt to console me with the blankly dismissive ‘stop trying so hard, it’ll happen when it happens, you’ll find her when you least expect her’. Turns out, perhaps there is some value and truth to this. Because I was so focused on trying to find the ideal person and because I seemingly had all my sensors out at all times, I was becoming paradoxically numb and too sensitive at the same time. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, I have no doubt I know what I want. Most people with the least bit of self-awareness do. If I turn off most of my sensors, leaving just the bare amount to look and continue and maintain hope, maybe this is what is necessary to feel that exciting, shocking, rush of love once more.
Ultimately though, the most important question to answer isn’t necessarily ‘does love at first sight exist’, as biologically, psychologically, and even culturally, it is so embedded into our identity that in whatever form you choose to recognize it as, it undeniably does. And that’s wonderful. You’ve just been given clearance to believe in what is perhaps one of the greatest promises of romantic love hinted since the very beginning of civilization. The real question therefore isn’t about whether or not love at first sight exists, but rather if love at first is reliable. For as many stories we have of successful relationships culminating in long, lasting, fruitful relationships, there are perhaps equal if not more accounts of fiery passionate romantic trysts that began as love at first sight but ended, in the best of examples with some bearing of dignity, grace and awareness, but in the worst of examples with the same violent explosive temperament with which it started.
Sight is a skill. Our eyes are made of muscles and just like any other muscle, it grows stronger with use and development. If you have never seen fire before, you would register the image, investigate, and, upon burning your hand when you got too close, you would immediately associate fire with heat with pain and know better to avoid it. But perhaps the first fire you saw was the kitchen stove at home. You know no other form of fire. And then you attend a big bon fire at summer camp. Or you find yourself surrounded by tiny little votive candles lit for ambiance at a fine dining restaurant. Your mind has an inkling, a suspicion of what this might be and what it might mean, but maybe just maybe you reach your hand out one more time to confirm or deny your suspicions. Over time though, as you become much more experienced and much wiser, you are able to recognize not only fire but all of its various forms, sources, byproducts, and outlets. They may change their form or identity or be too subtle to recognize, but you can pick it out and no matter how it looks, it all equates back to fire, to burning, to hurt, and knowing to avoid it.
Such is the same with love at first sight and love at first meeting. It is something we get better at doing the more we do it. This reflex, this desire, helps us find someone who could potentially be a great match and source of great happiness in our lives. This is why sometimes first loves end up together forever. A finely tuned instrument or maybe one that got extremely lucky, but everything was doing what it was supposed to. More often though, these relationships fizzle and fail. But we learn and accumulate knowledge so that next time, we feel the same rush, the same connection, the same drive, only hopefully we have picked better. And so on and so forth. Love at first sight is as reliable as we choose to make it. If we exercise this reflex more and with time and experience grow a stronger and better sense of such things, we can trust this reaction more and invest more possibility and potential in those whom we find. When it fails, it isn’t a criticism against love at first sight nor is it evidence that it doesn’t exist or have any merit in an increasingly skeptical and cynical world. Remember that love at first sight is about helping us, in the face of overwhelming odds of finding the perfect partner, make decisions much quicker to begin romantic relationships sooner and develop more intensely and readily. There is credence and value in love at first sight and pursuing with all intent and purpose the ones we find through this magical experience. It is a natural and honest reaction to what our mind and body desires on a very personal and primal level. That intensity drives us. The profundity inspires us. And if it fails, for unfortunately it may, it is not the fault of the desire, it is not the fault of ourselves, and it is not the fault of the object of our desires. It is a matter of realizing that the characteristics that we had hoped to find and attribute to this person were unfortunately not there and that we need to practice that muscle a little bit more.
Recognizing the impulses and reflexes of love at first sight doesn’t take away from the immense romantic impact that it has. Much like knowing that stars are nothing but giant flaming balls of violent and chaotic gas doesn’t preclude us from camping out underneath them at night and staring wide-eyed with amazement as we watch them shoot across the sky and pin our wishes to them. Yes, love at first sight is a seemingly random and more hopeful than factual firing of synapses in our brain. But knowing that it is the firing of our natural and true desires gives us the power and conviction to believe in what we feel and to pursue it. For the person who has felt this desire but has always felt unsure of putting any merit in it, I would say trust what your heart and mind are trying to tell you that you need. It is so much more than just raw physical or sexual attraction. I joke often whenever I travel and find myself in a new city that I fall in love thirty times with every beautiful woman who locks eyes with me between sights. This is of course an exaggeration. If that’s all love at first sight really was, we’d be exhausted and too afraid to leave our houses from the intense emotional draw of constantly falling in love. And to those who have experienced the bliss of love at first sight but have had to endure the pain of loss and disappointment, I would entreat them never to lose hope in such a beautiful and noble part of the human experience. Do not, out of fear or bitterness or sadness, turn away from one of the brightest moments one can experience in life. Knowing that it is a matter of wanting and finding, rather than assigning and defining, means that if the person you thought was ‘the one’ has left you or if there is a former lover you simply cannot find it in yourself to get over, you can free yourself from this pain and pressure. What you felt wasn’t about them in particular, but about your mind looking for something you wanted and needed and pinning it on someone who could have been the best bet just so that you would find the courage within yourself to approach them and open yourself up. Knowing that love can always be inspired in you means that what you once felt for this person, you will feel again.
Part Three: Dating Your ‘Type’
After seeing Beautiful for the first time and then getting to spend more than just that first meeting together, I knew there was something deeply profound and potentially life-changing between us. I had trusted my instincts and all the nerves firing in my brain and I was so glad for it because for all intents and purposes, I believed Beautiful was perfect for me. She was in fact, ‘just my type’.
We’ve heard this phrase before, especially when either predicting or explaining romantic partners. Our ‘types’ are mental checklists, a set of standards from which we believe we would like our partners to measure positively against. This is a combination of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, moral, and various other characteristics, traits, or beliefs that we highly value and thus invest in ensuring our partner shares with us as well. If I had to define my ‘type’, I think it would go something like this:
- Of Asian background. I will not apologize for this or make any excuses for feeling as such. Love is a matter of the heart, not of political correctness. I am capable and willing to love and accept everyone. But if I could, I would prefer, and tend to first favor, women of Asian background. Beautiful was Chinese, and she had to me, all the trademark characteristics of Asian beauty. She had beautiful almond shaped eyes, long thin lips, and exuded a natural beauty (she rarely wore makeup). More than that though, I found that having a similar background meant I could take certain liberties and assume certain things about shared values and upbringing that to me, meant we believed in the same things and wanted the same things out of home, family, and love.
- Long hair. I very enthusiastically prefer women with long hair. I find it so elegant and so alluring when a woman has hair that goes beyond her shoulders. This is certainly in one way in part because I have never had long hair and therefore attribute it more with femininity and elegance. I also love the versatility and variety that comes with long hair. There is a classiness and sophisticated grace in a woman whose hair can fall in waves down her face and flow to her shoulders. But personally, I am absolutely weak for a woman in a ponytail. Simply tied up, it is my favorite way to see a woman handle long hair. I used to love watching Beautiful tie her hair up in a ponytail. There was this adorably focused expression of attention on her face as she manipulated her hair. Her mouth playfully nibbling on her hair tie, waiting to be called into action. I admired the deftness with which she did everything without looking and the nimbleness of her fingers. The magic moment was when her hair would finally be lifted up and start to be tied, and the nape of her long elegant neck would be exposed. Like getting a peek at a secret, forbidden area that was usually hidden to sun and sight. I would get lost tracing the elegant curve of her neck with my eyes and even sometimes, with my lips.
- Physically affectionate. Most people who know me would characterize me as reserved, restrained, and reclusive. They see a very private man who often does not express much, especially physically. There is value and honesty in this, but what most do not see is someone who, because of this, craves physical touch. I am very restrained even with friends and family and really only ever get the sensation of physical touch from romantic partners. Science and studies have proven that humans need physical contact every once in a while as a form of camaraderie, compassion, and care. This could be something as simple as a hug, holding hands, a pat on the shoulder, an arm’s embrace, or yes then we get into kisses and romantic touch. I tend to be starved of this through no one’s fault really, just not something we do. But it is because of this I usually tend to find women who are the opposite and are generous with physical affection. I feel cared for, wanted, and at peace holding a girl in my arms and having her hold me back.
- Good humored. So two hunters are out in the woods one day when one of them suddenly collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips his phone out and immediately, frantically, dials 911. ‘Help,’ he gasped. ‘I think my friend is dead! What do I do?!’ The operator goes ‘calm down sir, I can help. First you need to make sure if he’s dead.’ Silence on the other line. Suddenly, a loud gunshot. Back on the phone the guy says ‘okay, now what?’ I was 12 when I first heard that joke. According to my father’s monthly Reader’s Digest, studies found that this was the funniest joke in the world. I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I did have a huge crush on this bookish girl with black rimmed glasses, barrettes in her hair, and a bright red jacket. I walked up to her one day at lunch in the library and tried to tell her this joke but it came out more like ‘sotwohuntersareoutinthewoodswhenoneofthemsuddenlycollapses’ as I stumbled through it in one long drawn out harried breath. She was in the middle of reading in the quiet library when I approached her and was so engrossed in her book that I actually scared her. I apologized for startling her and tried to make my shameful retreat when I accidentally tripped over the chairs and fell over myself. After the shock and not much damage (except for my pride) she actually started laughing and couldn’t stop. We started talking, and she became my first girlfriend. Ever since then, I’ve been, or tried very hard to be, the ‘funny guy’. So I love a woman with a good sense of humor, can tell a good joke, can appreciate one, but most importantly, likes mine.
- I come from a middle class family of two Filipino immigrants. When my father first came here he was a gas station attendant. In the Philippines my mother was a bank teller. In high school, because I wanted to be independent and buy my own things and take girls out on dates with my own money, I cleaned offices after school. From my parents’ stories and my own personal experiences, I know how important it is to be someone who is caring and understanding, and how hurtful it can be to encounter judgemental people who never learned that lesson. I went to a magnet school, the top school in my county and consistently one of the top 100 high schools in the country. But because I looked ‘ethnic’ and because I was cleaning bathrooms and collecting trash and vacuuming to earn money, these college-educated professionals, accountants, lawyers, dentists, even teachers’ union reps, would make assumptions about me, ask if I ‘worked for someone who could speak English’ (I started the business with my own money and was self-employed), and expound on the benefits of returning to school and how I should focus on my studies (I maintained a solid straight-A average in all four years of school while working four nights a week). As a result, I wanted to make sure the person I was with was someone who was caring and compassionate, and not just towards family and friends. I always, and recommend others do as well, watch how the person I am on a date with treats those who serve her. Servers, bussers, bartenders, cashiers, tellers, it is easy to be friendly and nice to those who matter to you. I want someone who extends that compassion to everyone.
Of course it stands to reason that if I can set a certain standard of positive traits to search for in a person, I would most likely also have a list of negative traits that would be for me ‘deal-breakers’. And I do.
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