A friend of mine who is in his sixties suddenly surprised his friends by changing his profile page on Facebook with a picture of an attractive young lady. My first reaction was that his profile page was hacked and that somebody had changed his profile picture with a random girl. Sure enough, his friends also commented whether the Facebook page had been hacked. The strange thing is that my friend insisted that she was his girl, which was then upgraded to: his wife only in a matter of days. I remained a silent observer – although I was really bemused and bewildered by this revelation, I thought it would be better if I reserve my judgement.
My friend, who shall remain nameless, is a respected member of his community in the northeastern part of the United States. I have known him for close to twenty years ever since I was a lonely Computer Science students who chatted in numerous IRC chatrooms and joined many mailing lists just to interact with different people all over the world. So we have pretty much sussed each other out in terms of our characters as well as our likes and dislikes – so his sudden relationship with a youngish girl spooked me as well.
However, it got me thinking.
What if it was a true relationship – that he had found a soulmate in somebody forty years younger. Who am I to judge that it is not genuine, or to suspect that the girl is an opportunist or a gold digger? The stories that we hear from the media strengthen our stereotype of such intergenerational relationships. Then it got me thinking again, if one party in a relationship is in fact a gold digger, what if the owner of the field doesn’t mind that his or her gold is being dug up – for a price that is agreeable to him or her?
Our relationship is some kind of trading contract, within a set of accepted boundaries, whether societal, religious, or legal. One party usually agrees to: finance, love, respect, honour (in sickness and in health) in exchange for love, respect, honour, support (in sickness and in health), and so forth. Unfortunately the “till death do us part” – whether formally spoken or not – is optional in a lot of cases nowadays.
So, what if one party is being milked for his or her money, in exchange for love, support and affection?
Maybe to the person involved, the large amount of money, the shopping trips and the bling-bling are a fair exchange rate for the simple love, respect and support that he or she gets in return. For bystanders, we may think that the exchange rate is horrendously unfair and that one party is being shortchanged. There was a play that I watched many years ago in Singapore about an older gentleman who started a relationship with a younger partner. In the play, all sorts of issues were discussed in the open, such as the age difference, society perceptions, and the fact that the relationship was so out of character for the man involved. In the play, the sister of the gentleman tried to talk some sense into him, as well as into the younger partner. I still remember his answer, “I don’t care if they say that I’m old enough to be the father in this relationship. I don’t feel that way. I feel alive – I feel young and loved. I don’t feel like an old man whenever we’re together. I thought you would be happy for me.”
As I get older and as I try to curb my judgmental side, perhaps I should let them be – so what if the age difference is enormous if both parties are genuinely happy? Even it looks strange superficially, what if the ‘trade contract’ fulfils the emotional or physical requirements that both parties crave for? I just hope that both parties honour the agreement, i.e. not to abandon the contract after one side of the agreement is performed. Naturally there are other elements that need to be considered such as the impact of the relationship on friends and families, and even whether such relationship gels well with their belief system or the society.
Maybe my post today sounds like a clinical assessment of the complex human relationship – maybe I am just trying to rationalise what is happening, in my attempt not to be judgmental. I know that whenever I am in a strange and unfamiliar situation, the least thing that I need is somebody who preaches and points fingers at me. I would prefer somebody who continues to support and be my friend, even if he or she disagrees with my decision. If I fall and learn my lesson, or even if the decision that I’ve taken proves to be valid, I would value his or her friendship even more.
So, if what I see on Facebook is actually his attempt at a social experiment, or even if it is a true relationship or it falls mid-way, it has made me reassess what I think about human relationships.
Furthermore, it shows that there are always different sides to the people that you know.