A conversation with a 28-year-old on dating, societal expectations and being happy on her own
It’s been tried, tested and proven true.
Showing up to reunions with high school friends or extended family always involves me being on the receiving end of any of three looks: shock, worry or pity. All of these are the responses I receive when I reveal that no, I neither have a boyfriend nor do I want one. It’s a little ridiculous, especially when the one who fires the question feels the need to empathize with me. It’s almost as if they come prepared with an arsenal of comforting words and relationship advice. I don’t know what to do with the unsolicited empathy chucked at me when I’m genuinely fine on my own.
It’s 2018: women and men shouldn’t feel pressured to be in a relationship in their mid-twenties or heck, at any age. Being alone shouldn’t have to be taboo, which is precisely why I was relieved when a friend of mine pitched this story for Wonder.
Single and nearing her 30’s, she’s heard every iteration of the comfort-and-advice combo that nosy relatives seem so well-equipped with where relationships are concerned. As we settled down for a conversation, she bared a part of herself that by-the-book thinkers ought to listen to.
You pitched the idea for this piece. I want to know what was on your mind when you suggested we talk about this.
Recently, on my dad’s side of the family, my cousin got married. We had this reunion after the wedding and my relatives from Australia came over. One of them was my lola’s brother’s wife. She had all her children there and they’re either married or have families. She goes up to me and asks, “Hey, do you have a boyfriend yet?” The usual spiel, but this one had a bit of a jab.
Lola: Do you have a boyfriend yet?
Me: No, Lola. I don’t have one.
Lola: How old are you?
Me: I’m 28, turning 29.
Lola: Well, you’d better get on it. The clock is ticking.
That was it; that sort of pissed me off. I answered, “No, Lola. I don’t need a man to make me happy.”
Could you take me through your past romantic experiences?
I’ve dated four guys. I’ve used apps like Tinder and Bumble but I don’t know… I’m not sure if it’s because I’m introverted by nature or I stumbled upon people I’m not interested in, but it feels very taxing to me. It feels taxing getting to know people that way and I’m not one for small talk.
I met this guy online through Bumble. We hit it off really well; he loved the books that I loved but there were red flags. I’m clinically diagnosed with anxiety, but he didn’t believe that anxiety was a real medical condition. I don’t want someone who invalidates my faults.
I know myself and I know that I’m okay without that person.
Given that you’ve come to this realization about yourself, do you still feel that pressure to put yourself out there or that desire to have somebody?
From time to time, especially when I’m with my sisters at family gatherings and when my relatives have their significant others with them. But other than that, not really. There are waves of loneliness, but I ride them out. It’s never on a crippling level [where I think], “Oh, I’m not good enough for anyone.”
There are certain people who don’t know what to do with that feeling. Do you have any ways to keep the feeling at bay?
For me, the way I ride it out is to immerse myself in whatever hobbies I have. I distract myself on purpose. But it’s tough to give advice because I know I don’t take my own advice. [Even] if i say, “It doesn’t matter what people think,” that wave of loneliness gets to me because people tell me what they think about me being single. I guess it boils down to this: don’t lose hope, but at the same time don’t expect.
It takes time to come to terms with the idea of being single for the rest of your life. Was this realization brought about by dating being tedious or was it something you realized as you got to know yourself better?
It was a little bit of both. It’d be nice to have a partner, but also I know myself and I know that I’m okay without that person.
There are waves of loneliness, but I ride them out.
What do you think about those who say that people end up alone because they they don’t put in enough effort into their relationships?
I think that might be true for certain people, but not for everyone. For people who manage to force it or work through it and end up in a really good relationship, shit, I’m happy for you. But I guess it’s also brought about by circumstances you can’t control.
Most of the time, I’m told that my standards are high or the fact that I don’t put in the effort to meet new people. Maybe it’s my introverted self talking but I just can’t be bothered anymore. Also, I feel tama lang na mataas standards ko. I actually think my standards are pretty basic; it’s only right for me to have them. It is my life and it is a person I might spend the rest of my life with so I might as well make it good. It can’t just be, “Oh, I’m getting old and I need to get married.”
I don’t want someone who invalidates my faults.
I think that this tackles a bigger issue indirectly: this is a matter of conservative views versus modern thinking. That makes me wonder, what is your idea of a modern woman?
I guess for me the definition is me being a woman who is financially stable. Obviously you’d need a person with you for companionship but I feel if you’re self-sufficient, that’s what a modern woman is. You don’t necessarily have to be in a stable relationship or be a mother.
One thing we want to achieve with this conversation is letting women know it’s okay not to be in a relationship. What do you think are the benefits of being single?
I guess number one is I don’t have to spend money on anyone!
True, that’s a big plus!
Especially with the way we eat! Another pro is—it’s going to sound so cheesy—I get to know myself more. I mean that in terms of how I ride through certain problems like the loneliness or the family pressures of me being the eldest child and not being in a relationship.
RELATED: 10 Benefits of Being Single
So when somebody asks you where you see yourself in ten or twenty years, is it with somebody?
Right now, when you asked me that, I immediately saw myself as a mother with one child. I was thinking I’ll probably adopt but I don’t think I necessarily need a partner, so that’s open.
That says a lot about the way modern women think. Nobody understood back then when Angelina Jolie did it.
But today, it’s so different. You’re in control of your own life.
Art Alexandra Lara