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Pam Pastor's little rant column "The next person who asks me when I'm getting married will get punched in the face" posted in the Inquirer this afternoon was quite interesting and illuminating, not just for its content but also for the varied responses to its content. In it, she describes in horrifically accurate detail what single women like myself are subjected to, not just during the holidays, but during almost every single family gathering.

I am, like Pam, also 30 (okay, 31) and not even the fact that I have two older unmarried sisters can insulate me from the inevitable questions and the consequent looks of pity. Just this past Christmas, at one of those aforesaid family gatherings, I was just sitting on the couch minding my own business when one of my older cousins sidled up and whispered, "O, ikaw, kailan ka naman ikakasal?" ("So, Mary Ann, when are you getting married?")

If she thought it was an ideal conversation-starter, well, it wasn't. If you're single and unattached and with no desperate immediate plans to rectify that situation... what do you say to something like that? I admit, a slew of responses similar to and yet more uncharitable than Pam's did go zip! like a bunny in my head. What stopped me from unleashing the full force of my withering sarcasm, though, was the tiny yet shrill voice of my conscience screeching "She meant well! She meant well!"

And that's the trouble, isn't it? Most people who ask this question always mean well. They genuinely are interested in and worried about your future. I remember staring at my cousin for a full five seconds, searching for some sign of malice aforethought in her face (Alas, there was none. She's from the branch of the family that wouldn't know deadpan irony if it goosed them on the backside. She honestly believed that this was The Right Thing To Do) before smiling awkwardly and saying "Walang oras, alam mo naman, laging busy." ("Oh, you know how it is, no time, waaaay too busy.")

And that would have been the end of that, if she hadn't added, "Oo, kasi para habang pwede pang magka-anak, di ba?" ("Oh yes, you should get married while you can still have babies, right?")

Goddammit so much.

You know what really irks me about questions like that? It's the assumptions inherent in them. The state of matrimony and motherhood is apparently the Holy Grail of being a woman, and anyone who makes the conscious decision to either postpone or completely write off one or the other is apparently someone that needs to be saved from themselves. And any protest, however mild, is looked at as hurtful and offensive towards someone who only wants what's best for you. Looking at some of the comments left on Pam's article certainly cements that impression.

(Some people on that comments board do make the point that it's part of Filipino culture, this intrusive questioning. Oh yes, it's right up there with "near-non-existent grasp of irony" and "no concept of personal space". To people who try to excuse that behavior by saying it's "part of the culture": Screw you. It's annoying in every culture.)

Here's the thing: Yes, I am single. No, I am not seeing anyone at the moment, but even if I was it sure as hell wouldn't be with the intent of dragging him down the aisle lickety-split. Quite frankly, dearest cousin, I'm really not interested in getting married at this time because 1) I dislike fuss and weddings are the very definition of fuss; 2) it will inevitably lead to questions like "O, kailan ka ba magkaka-anak?" ("So, when are you having kids?") or, more rudely, "O, buntis ka na ba?" ("Aren't you pregnant yet?"); and 3) I have no interest in enabling your self-validation.

If and when I do decide to get married, it won't be because there's this societal, cultural need to do so before the age of 40; quite frankly, I'm quite open to the idea of--dun dun dun! LIVING IN SIN--provided it's with the right person. I will get married because I and whoever I choose want to. And if that happens when I'm 55 with no possibility of having kids, well, that's fine.

Don't worry, I'll still invite you to the wedding. Don't be scandalized if I don't wear white, though.

WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?: The Philippines is one of only TWO countries (the other being Malta) where divorce is illegal. So basically (except under extreme extenuating circumstances): you break it, you bought it.

Date: 2011-01-02 03:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alto2.livejournal.com
1. I did not realize you were 31. Crikey. I feel really old now.

2. I remember being in Northern Ireland during the divorce referendum in the Republic. It didn't affect anyone where I was, theoretically, but we heard a lot about it anyway. I remember seeing signs that said things like, "Protect marriage! Vote no!" which not only sound a lot like what we hear here re: gay marriage these days, but is also so patently ridiculous. Nobody can protect marriage but the two people in it. The reason the situation affected people in the north is that one answer to the problem for an Irish citizen was to move north, become a UK citizen (though I bet that grated, like, a whole lot) and get the divorce there. Same thing happened with abortion, btw.

The other solution was the "Irish divorce"--you split up, divide your possessions, and move into separate homes, often with other people, while technically still being married. I have never understood why that arrangement is not more an affront to marriage (and to Catholicism) than being honest about the fact that it's over, but this is what happens when you let supposedly celibate men dictate other people's personal lives, I guess.

Date: 2011-01-03 03:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wheresmycow.livejournal.com
1. Turning 32 in a month, I'm afraid. Eeeek.

2. That is pretty much what a lot of wealthy (non-political) people do here, actually (the ones who aren't hide-bound traditionalists, of course--there are still some of very very old-money feudal barons and oligarchs lying around here). If they hold dual citizenship or hold green cards or such or are engaged to American citizens, they can get married in the U.S. and get divorced later on. BUT if you get married in the Philippines, even if you and/or your partner are American citizens, you STILL can't get a divorce. So if you get a divorce in the States, you're still married here.

The only other legal option is to get an annulment from the State. And, if what my cousin is going through is anything to go by, can take YEARS (in his case, he's about to hit the 6-year mark) and involves a LOT of intrusive questions from people who really have no business asking them.

The "Irish divorce" is what usually happens here, too. No other option for a lot of people, really.

Date: 2011-01-03 03:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alto2.livejournal.com
That you're turning 32 in a month really doesn't make me feel all that much better, you know. We're within a decade of each other, but good grief, I thought we were closer than that!! ;)

The "Irish divorce" is what usually happens here, too. No other option for a lot of people, really.

As soon as I saw that it was illegal, I had a feeling that was the case. Stupid. Stoooooopid. I read something about how the clergy in Spain were all beside themselves when divorce became illegal there and all these people started taking advantage of it, and the world was going to end because the sky was falling, yada yada fishcakes, and I thought, "Duh, it's all the people who were miserable for years finally getting to go out and free themselves from living in hell. It was always there and you were just too full of your own BS to be willing to recognize it. DUH." I'm not pro-divorce in the sense that I'm no pro-abortion (deliberately doing either just for the sake of doing it is pointless, to say the least), but you can't watch a marriage like my brother's first one and see what it did to him and think that divorce is inherently evil and should never ever happen. You just can't.

Date: 2011-01-02 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eve11.livejournal.com
Holy smokes, divorce is illegal??? That is really frightening actually. 0.o Yeah, okay, I can understand the desire to not get married even without that finality hanging over your head, jeez. And I am 33 and have been living in sin with my boyfriend for 13 years now. We're doing fine. No kids, but we have a house, cats, a joint bank account, and neither of us feels the need for the fuss of a wedding.

"Oh yes, you should get married while you can still have babies, right?"


Date: 2011-01-02 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eve11.livejournal.com
PS I just watched that ep of Sherlock (from your mood icon) last night. ♥

Date: 2011-01-03 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wheresmycow.livejournal.com
Heehee. I find that "the Blind Banker" does kinda grow on you after a few rewatches...

Date: 2011-01-03 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wheresmycow.livejournal.com
Scary, isn't it? And just to show you how ridiculously influential the Catholic Church here is, birth control is (technically) illegal here, too. As is abortion. Not that it stops anyone*, really, but even trying to get a sensible family health bill passed around here is stupidly difficult.

* Anyone part of the middle-to-upper class, that is. Which is only about 10% of the population, unfortunately.
...and I just realized that that sounded horribly classist. Argh.

Date: 2011-01-03 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inklingfair.livejournal.com
The question is no less annoying even if you have a boyfriend. :P

Date: 2011-01-05 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kurosawabride.livejournal.com
There's also that "Kelan ka susunod?" question I get that makes me want to smash things.

Really, I have no plans. And when people smile and tell me that I'll change my mind as if they themselves mapped out my life, it pisses me off even more.

There is no way in hell I'm getting hitched with this kind of pressure. Blegh.

Date: 2011-01-06 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunbursts.livejournal.com
I'm only 21, but I adored Pam Pastor's article, and your post was the perfect follow-up.

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