“Sam you can’t date until you’re 35 and by that time you’ll be married,” infamous words of my father whenever an aunt or uncle asks of my relationship status. As weird as this may seem, let me provide some context: at Filipino parties, talk of relationships are very common in the chismis (gossip) circle of the titas (aunties). These conversations usually start off with an aunt (could be blood related or family friend, everyone is tita) complimenting the girl she is paying a compliment to and then ending with a question along the lines “Do she have a boyfriend?” For some clarity, here’s a conversation I know all too well:
“Wow, ang ganda ni Sam. Dalaga na sha!”, my tita exclaims. “Ang tangkad!” (translation: “Wow, Sam is so pretty. She’s a woman now! So tall!!”)
“Salamat!” both my mom and I smile. (“Thank you!”)
“May boypren ka ba?” my tita asks. (“Do you have a boyfriend?”)
“Ay hindi po, tita!” I respond “I’m too busy!” (“No boyfriend!”)
There have also been those conversations where I talk about my passion of travel and a person in the conversation never fails to (not so discreetly) suggest that I get a boyfriend or a male companion accompany me for safety reasons. While I’m sure this suggestion might have the right intention, its effect is extremely insulting to me and my abilities to do things on my own. The double standard exists here because if I were a guy, no one would ever think to make this suggestion. In fact, if I were a guy, my plans to travel solo would be applauded. It is sad and frustrating that some people perceive female solo travelers as lonely people running away from their problems. Now I can’t speak for my solo traveling sisters, but the reason why I can’t wait to make my first solo trip is because I want to completely immerse myself in the culture of the country I’m trekking to. I would be in control of my itinerary and I would not have to worry about what someone else wants to do or see. While there are unfortunate stories of female travelers getting harmed during their trips abroad, this does not define our ability to seek out the world. If anything, it makes us more resilient, more motivated, and more resourceful about our approaches to traveling alone. Women are stronger and more insightful than the world gives us credit for, we don’t need men to keep us safe.
Another direction this conversation takes is the reason why I want to travel abroad. Some speculate that I want to travel to meet a man. I was absolutely appalled when I first heard this. I associate the statement “Travel to meet the love of your life” to “Run because men like women who run”. This does not make any sense and you are doing both for the wrong reasons. I want to travel to see and explore new places, not to meet my supposed “future husband”. I love to run because it is healthy and makes me feel alive and invincible, not because I want guys to notice me. My goal in life is to not follow societal norms of getting married for the sake of getting married and bearing children. My ultimate goal in life is to find what makes me happy and to give back to the community; my happiness does not lie in finding a man because I am the only one in charge of my own happiness.
Some will ask “Sam why are you so against relationships?” I am not, in fact I admire the aspect of developing great relationships, as there are different types. Since I was raised in a culture that highly valued familial relationships, the dynamic I have with my family is very close to my heart. Then there are the friendships where you and a friend remain close for a long time, despite living in different cities. These friendships are the best type of friendships because your dynamic never wavers from the distance or time, it stays constant. Others will probably ask “So are you against romantic relationships?” Again, no. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong marriages within my family. Take my parents for example, they have been married for about 22 years now, raised three children, and they still laugh at each other’s corny jokes. I am not against romantic relationships, I am against the patriarchal notion that romantic relationships should occur within a specific timeline and that the woman has to give up everything when she gets married.
Modern day dating practices are also quite perplexing to me. For example, what does it mean if you and a guy are “talking”? Too often have I heard the statement of “Oh me and [person’s name] are just talking, we’re not together.” Are you talking about the weather?! Are you talking about your finances?! (F.Y.I you probably should be talking about this, especially if you want to know what you’re getting into.) What exactly are you guys talking about? Urban Dictionary defines the term talking as “when two people like each other and are getting to know each other, but are still single and not ‘going out’ yet.” What doesn’t make sense to me is that this so called talking stage can last for weeks, maybe even months. Like how much time do you really need to determine if you like a guy or girl enough to promote to the going out stage? Also, doesn’t this beat the purpose of dating?!
I’ve have always seen dating as a way to get to know more about the person you like; the talking stage is redundant. In my mind, if two people who like each other are getting to know each other more and are spending more time alone together, they are dating. The talking stage is just a confirmation of mutual feelings and the agreement to continue spending time with each other. In my mind, I could run a mile faster than the talking stage lasts. If you are hesitant or even embarrassed to say that you are dating the guy or girl with whom you are in the talking stage, then maybe you shouldn’t be dating that person in the first place.
So “Why am I single?” or “Why aren’t you dating?” some may ask. I am single because I choose to be. I am not dating because I choose not to date. Yes, it really is that simple. Aside from the fact that I know my worth and will not place that in someone’s mind to validate, I do not like to waste time waiting and I don’t like to be told how to spend my time. No, I am not against guys, some of the best friendships I have are with my guy friends. I am also not against people who are in a relationship. I have close friends who are in relationships and they are happy!
My mindset about dating stems from the fact I aim to date with purpose and not for fun. Dating with purpose is dating with intention and not because your friends are doing it. In this crazy race that I like to call love: I am running in my own lane, focusing on making my stride strong and loving myself. Sure, I’ll look over my shoulder at times and become distracted but I won’t slow down if another person is running next to me. In a real race, a runner does not ever slow down at the expense of another runner, so why would it make sense in this metaphor? No matter how attractive, intelligent, or spiritual he may seem, if he is not running at my pace, willing to challenge me and make me a better, stronger runner (and I am not willing to do the same), there is no point for me to slow down. Am I looking forward to meeting a guy that is willing to travel, run, and explore the world with me? Yes! Am I looking forward to meeting a man that loves me as much as my parents love each other? YES! Just know that I am not actively seeking him out. Know that his presence would be a happy addition to my life, not an inevitable necessity. Until he comes into my life, I will happily stay single and continue to do what I want, however I want, and whenever I want. Just because I am alone does not mean that I am lonely.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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