It’s almost Valentine’s Day and my thoughts naturally turn to dating and finding that life partner. I’ve been struggling in this area and I know I’ve made quite a number of mistakes. I recall my mom telling me at some point in my life, “Joy, I know you’re intelligent and accomplished and all that, but when it comes to love, medyo tanga ka talaga!*’
The dating game has completely changed from the time when I first started dating. I grew up in the 1980s, in a city south of the Philippines where people practically knew each other and certain norms have to be followed. It was the era of dalaw** - where the guy visits the girl, best done at home, or sometimes at school while waiting for the ride home. Girls who met up with boys just anywhere were considered loose or easy. A guy, if he wanted to be with a girl outside of the home (to take on date or attend a party, for example), would have to ask permission from the parents.
It was also the era of telebabad*** - where people talk on their landline phones for hours on end, which sometimes turned hysterical since it was also the era of party lines (shared lines). This meant other people can hear your conversations and would sometimes ask you to finish the call since the party line has an important/urgent call to make. Since we didn't have a landline at home til my senior year in high school, I was pretty much limited to the dalaw norm.
Fast forward to now. I became single again a few years back and after some self-appointed cool down period (several years in fact), I became open to maybe dating again. My principle then (and I think til now) was that if someone is truly out there for me, then he will find me.
And oh boy, did they find me! Why did I even think it would be exactly the same as before? Dating in the digital age is radically different! The market place is global, everything is instantaneous, and quite frankly, promiscuous and somehow alienating.
It is global. The social networking apps which are supposed to connect you to family and friends are used as entry points to lurk and find partners. And I’m not even talking about all those dating apps, which I haven't tried at all, just the normal social networking and messaging ones. Yes, it’s up to me to accept and engage if I want to. But sometimes, even professional apps like LinkedIn, are used for this purpose, and it’s a total turn-off. The fact that I am an expat and travel quite frequently make it easier for me to meet people, some of whom turn the table and try to be more than just friends. On one hand, it becomes scary because you never really know what lurks behind the profile and persona some stranger from across the globe is showing. On another, it is quite interesting to know other people from all over the globe. Some have become real friends. The mindsets are quite different, the cultures diverse, the age range wide. It’s a learning experience and make for some good conversations as well as funny mishaps. But, I still don’t let it go any further than a friendship.
Everything is instantaneous. Swipe left or right. A message away. A photo too soon. Sometimes too much or too little information. And in most cases, too long a digital conversation. I sometimes think to myself, “why are you still messaging when you live not many minutes away and you can just come over for a real conversation?” Or for someone who lives in a different country or city, “Why not call at least?” I sometimes think people hide behind the messaging apps to carefully present themselves vs being real. And I know most do multiple conversations and prospects at a time, which makes it feel superficial and shallow. It’s not really getting to know someone, but more like who will give in sooner. And if things turn sour, or there's someone more interesting, there's always that unfollow, block, and unfriend option which I find petty, brutal and funny all at the same time. How can you simply turn off what was supposedly a friendship? Then it wasn't really friendship to begin with? And really, what's to hide if you are indeed who you say you are? Even if things didn't pan out as originally intended, aren't people mature enough to at least maintain a cordial relationship?
Which brings me to the next point – it’s quite promiscuous. I cannot count the number of married guys who’ve tried. I can also not count the number of not-so decent proposals. Everything has become so casual and non-committal, it’s sometimes hilarious. If I were dead, I'd turn on my grave! It also confuses me, the casualness of it all. And the juvenile behaviors of some, even those who should be old enough to be comfortable in their own skin, are one for the books. Where's the gallantry of asking the right questions, or saying the simplest of intentions? Where's the honesty and vulnerability of letting others get to know the real you? Call me old fashioned or traditional, but yes, I am not after a quick thrill. I have partying, dancing, and running for that. I am also not after something so casual that it goes on and on, it will boggle the mind to find the right words to define the friendship or where it's heading. So I always appreciate the simple coffee or lunch where real conversations happen. Thoughtfulness counts. So does simple gestures of kindness. But it comes few and far between. I can almost always see or feel when a guy is a player. There are a lot of them and I am wary of those types. I think I have other, better things to do than play.
And so, despite all the progress and prospects, dating these days feels alienating and I remain single. Maybe my walls are too high up, or maybe I am just a hopeless romantic, but I do want it all and will not settle for anything less. Over time, I have learned to love myself and treat myself right. And the guy who will win my heart needs to treat me better than I can treat myself. And that’s just the basic requirement. I want a true partner. Not a perfect one, just a real one.
Hence, even with all the technology now available, dating is still a jungle for me. Lots of crocodiles, hyenas, and flighty birds but I haven’t found my King Lion. Or my King Lion hasn’t found me yet. More often than not, I end up scratching my head and laughing at myself for even trying; or at the situations that seem so ridiculous at times. Maybe I really am stupid at this thing called love. But I remain hopeful.
In the meantime, it’s Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Love abounds, in many forms and not just the romantic one. We should be grateful. I am grateful. I am loved.
* medyo tanga ka talaga: Filipino phrase which means 'you are really a bit stupid'
** dalaw: Filipino word which means 'visit'
*** telebabad: a Filipino colloquial compound word using the words tele (telephone) and babad (soaked), which means talking on the phone for a long time (or too long)
About this post: I wrote this while having lunch on Feb 12, 2018, as I try to destress on an otherwise crazy Monday.