Warning: this post is deeply personal, might contain snarky ideas and pessimism about the future. This is also quite a long post, so prepare yourself.
It has been more than a year since I wrote a blog post titled “Pacar-Pacaran“. I don’t even know how to translate pacar-pacaran into English – “relationship” maybe?
Anyhow, I don’t want to spend much time or words to explain a past blog post. Bottom line is, sometime last year I wrote about my thoughts and feelings about romantic relationships and how I never felt the need to have a boyfriend. At the end of the post, I came up with series of questions about the legitimacy of having a boyfriend: do I really want one? Or do I want one because everyone around me is pressuring me into having one? This boyfriend, in everyone’s mind, would hopefully and eventually lead me into a marriage. I wrote the whole thing in Bahasa Indonesia and now, a year after, I’m revisiting the idea and pouring my thoughts and feelings in English – just because I feel like it.
A year ago, I was all confused and started feeling all the pressure from everyone about boyfriend/marriage. So, despite all the uncertainties and questions that I had (and still have) in my head, I decided to give it a go. I decided that I was going to (at least) try to be in a romantic relationship. Turns out, it is extremely harder than it seems. Well, I guess I kind of knew that it would be hard. The thing is, I never really tried it before – heck, I never really cared before. During this quest of finding a boyfriend (and I mean, I didn’t intend to marry that boyfriend right away, I was trying to find someone and see how I handle a real serious relationship), instead of finding a boyfriend, I’m finding thoughts and ideas and prompts to wonder and write about. That was when I realised: this quest is no joke, it’s going to be painful and all of my girlie hormones would/could work like crazy, which irritates the heck out of me everytime it happens – and it happens once in a very rare blue moon. So anyway, these are some ideas that I encountered during the quest. I’m going to list it chronologically, from what I do/feel before I enter the emotional battle of being in romantic relationships, being in that battle, to little snippets about my efforts to move on.
- Being vulnerable – huh?
I read so many articles and listened to so many advices about relationships; they all said that I have to show my vulnerable side in order to find love. Everytime I heard that, I always wonder: what is this vulnerable side?
I mean, am I supposed to be girlie – wear skirts and dresses all the time? Do I have to wear make up?
Do I have to soften my voice? Maybe moderate my temper? Tone down my habits of being extremely opinionated?
Is it more about feelings? Do I have to show people how I feel all the time? Do I have to cry in front of a crowd? Do I have to parade my ability to empathise? Or worse, do I have to tell people every feeling that I feel?
Bottom line is, I already failed in the preparation test, which is preparing myself to be vulnerable. I don’t even know what vulnerable is, how do I become one? Furthermore, if I’m not already one, do I want to be one? Does it mean I’m changing myself? Do I want to change myself?
(I typed in “vulnerable woman” on gettyimage for the purpose of illustrating this post – and also to understand more about vulnerability, but what I got was disappointment. I saw many images of women who were ill and depressed. This just shows that illustration isn’t always helping.
I decided to go with the above image because the woman looks as confused as I am.)
- Appearance matters – double huh?
In April 2015, I went to travel abroad to visit a friend that I haven’t met for years. This friend, a girl, has the same problem with me: no boyfriend. During our meet up, of course the topic of “having no boyfriend” came up and I asked her why she didn’t have any at that time. Instead of answering me, she asked me back.
“Does appearance matter in Indonesia? Is it easy for ‘normal size’ women to find boyfriend?”
Being oblivious, I answered, “appearance matters. But I think it is easy for ‘normal size’ women to find a boyfriend. Why?”
My friend, who is pretty and can be very girlie if she wants to, told me that it is hard for ‘normal size’ women, like herself, to get a boyfriend in her country. We started talking about the kind of girls that attract most men in our countries. Both of us are Asians and we agreed that Asian men are generally attracted to one type of Asian girl, who is tall, has nice tan and long hair, and ultimately SLIM! Throughout the conversation, I realised more and more, maybe it is hard for ‘normal size’ women to find a boyfriend in Indonesia. Many Indonesian women are quite petite and the ‘normal size’ women can look abnormal in some occasions. Then, what about me? I’m heavier than ‘normal size’ women – is this why I haven’t had any boyfriend?
I never realised that this can become an issue for me. So far, I feel that the men who have liked me before did so because of my other qualities. I am smart and intelligent, well-travelled, openminded, and I have so many other positive qualities. I mean, I never was involved with a guy who told me to lose weight. My involvement with men in the past did not work out because of other issues (i.e. different religions, cultures and academic backgrounds, etc.), never because I am overweight.
I never have any problem with my body. I have always been a large kid throughout, not necessarily the largest, but I am heavier than my average friends. I come from a large family too, people are usually in awe when they see me and my extended family enter a restaurant. But this never bothered me in the past. I never think that there’s something wrong with my body. I always thought that if I were to find the man, he would like me just the way I am. Overweight and all that.
However, that brief conversation with my long lost friend, has touched me deeply. Is it possible that my difficulties of finding a boyfriend are caused by how I look? Is it all because of my body shape? Because of my curves? Has it really come down to it? Is there something wrong with my body? Have guys overlooked me because I’m larger than the average women around me?
Just like my point about being vulnerable, I also failed in my preparation test regarding appearance. If I need to change my body (read: I need to lose weight) in order to get a boyfriend, do I wanna do it? More importantly, is it really necessary?
- I don’t know how or where to meet men
So I don’t know how to be vulnerable and I’m overweight. As if I need more obstacles in my quest of finding a boyfriend, when I decided that I was ready for a boyfriend, another obstacle appeared: I realised that I don’t know how or where to meet men.
Here’s the thing: I have no interest in making new friends. At least, not anymore. I’m pretty sure I’m over that stage in my life. I simply like the handful of people that I considered to be my good friends and I’m not looking to add anyone into that circle. I like meeting new people, but I like them to stay being strangers. It’s like when I travel solo, I talk to as many people as possible, but we hardly exchange our contact information, most of the time we even forget to exchange names. That I like. Making new friends? Not so much.
With this kind of attitude, I realise that I am doomed. I mean, I don’t just go to random bars to pick up or be picked up by some random men. Hardly anyone in Indonesia does that (well, some Jakartans do, but they’re the ones who watch too many American shows and movies). My closely knitted friends are no use either – they know the kind of men that I would have liked but their circle of friends are just as closely knitted as mine. Plus, they don’t want to set me up with some random guys. They act in my best interest – they are trying to help me find the best man out there and that is not an easy task. Also, let’s not forget that they have their own lives to worry about and I respect that.
My mom and several friends actually suggested that I look through my contacts and see if I could reconnect with old friends. I just laughed. There is a reason that I don’t talk to my old friends and I’m not looking to start now when I’m being serious about the whole boyfriend thing. As for my close circle of friends, I could never think of starting a romantic relationship with the male ones. I mean, that would be disgusting, wouldn’t it? When I told my mom and friends that, it was their turn to laugh.
Because of this, I, like thousands of others, turned into online dating. Mostly driven by curiosity – I simply wondered whether online dating actually works. After trying a few sites and apps, I can conclude that it doesn’t. It may work in America, in London, and in several other developed countries and cities, but it doesn’t work in Indonesia. I think the people on it (both men and women) are just using online dating for fun, hardly anybody is using it to genuinely find a partner. Not yet, anyway, and I don’t know whether it will have a place in the future – most people are still very sceptical about it. (Fyi, for the records, I have deleted all my online dating profiles)
- Initial Meetings
After I found out that I failed the preparation exams, I thought, “the hell with it!” I decided that I should just go out into the world and see what it would throw at me. Results: I did met some men.
It has been an amazing process too. After I decided that I want to see if I can get a boyfriend, I started to notice men around me.
I have always noticed men around me but most of the time they were looking at my female friends. There was this one night years ago when I thought a guy (who I used to have a crush on for years) was looking at my direction during a dinner. My friends said he was looking at me, but I was certain that he was not. Turned out, he was looking at one of my female friends and they got married a few years after that.
This time is different. I notice more and more men are looking, not just at my direction, but directly at me. Several times, I had to look around to make sure some men were really looking at me – when I found out that I was the only girl around and they were looking at me, I felt flattered but also anxious.
At first, I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I have no experience on being checked out at all. But then I decided to be brave and face these men. I started to learn the kind of men that pay more attention to me (for some reasons, South Asian and Black men pay more attention to me). I learn how to look back at men who were looking at me and to look away after just a few seconds. Then I learn that I could give them a second look (if I think I like the guy) and if our eyes met, it would be a signal for us to start a conversation. Honestly, before I experienced it myself, I thought all these subtle stare down contests were just bullshit, but it actually happened in real life. I was (am) fascinated.
The thing about meeting men is that it is a freakishly exhausting process. I mean, in order to meet men, I need to be 1000% aware of my surroundings. I need to be extra alert about the kind of people around me and situations I am in. For me, that is too much effort. I’m the kind of person who reads a book while walking from my house to the bus stop. If I’m not reading, I would be checking Twitter. If I were somewhere with my friends and family, I would be so engrossed in our conversations that I would ignore everything else. Simply put, I don’t have the extra time and energy to be observant enough that it would lead me to initiate a meet up with a man.
- Just like women, men are crazy too
So, by some unknown miracles, I did actually meet a few men within the course of one year. Verdict: just like women, men are crazy too. Maybe men are simpler creatures: they act based on patterns and habits; they are also very visual and basically controlled by their sexual drive. But men are just as crazy as women – they just don’t express it as well as we do.
Man #1, for example, didn’t want to sit in a no smoking section in a cafe with me because he had to have cigarettes while sipping his coffee. Eventually, he chose cigarettes over me. Crazy, right?
Man #2 supported Donald Trump and his crazy idea of banning Muslims to enter USA. His defence was USA had banned certain people from entering the country before, years ago. I asked him whether we should just allow crazy things to happen again just because it happened before. He rambled on for days defending Donald Trump’s idea. I mean, what is that if not crazy?
Man #3 joked that instead of picking me up like a gentleman, I should pick him up at his house. I mean, come on! I know feminism rocks and equality and women empowerment and all that. But when it comes to dating, can a man hide from all traditional common courtesy of treating a woman like a lady behind the equality shield? Crazy thought!
Man #4, the craziest one of all, actually ignored me all together after our dates. After giving me a huge bouquet of white roses. After writing me a 2-page love letter. For no reason, whatsoever. He left me hanging. No explanations. Not even a goodbye. I think, crazy is an understatement, really.
I met a few more men outside of those 4 above. All of them have different characteristics. Needless to say, some of those characteristics are easy to forget, while some other simply stick with me. One thing is for sure: meeting these men made me learn so much. However, it made me also realise that I know close to nothing about being in a relationship.
For example, when I had flings with Indonesian men, their opening lines whenever they were trying to check up on me was either “have you eaten?” or “have you had breakfast/lunch/dinner yet?” I groan everytime I received those texts. I mean, I love food – it is the only thing I splurge my money on. But is food that fascinating so you have to talk about it three times a day? There are so many interesting things happen around me everyday – ask me about the book I’m reading, the tv shows I’m watching, the movie I can’t wait to see, the one song on repeat on my playlist, the website I visit during lunch hour, my drive this morning, my drive home this evening, the most interesting tweet I see, the annoying Facebook post I stumble upon, the stupidest news, the most horrifying news, my plan this weekend, so so so many. Why do Indonesian men ask only about food everytime they want to check up on women? When I discussed this with my friends, they laughed. No one knows the answer to my question. Everyone just accepts this as a norm in the Indonesian dating ‘games’.
- Moving on
So I met a few men, but obviously none of them sticks around. I mean, I wouldn’t be writing this post if someone had stuck around. Or at least, the tone of this post would be different.
I guess the next question would be: how do I move on?
My answer: I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out.
Truth is, no matter how forgettable a guy’s character is and no matter how brief our fling was, I let that guy take a peek into my heart. I let these guys know how I feel about them (whether it was a possibility of like or simply contempt) and that is huge. I don’t just go around telling people how I feel about them. I told them what I think about them, my opinion about them, but not feel. Those are different things. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to completely forget about a person and simply move on.
During this moving on process, within the course of this one year, I also learned about being a bitch. Many time, I keep forgetting that men also have feelings and I am capable of hurting them. I learned how to rebound, as in using a man to forget about another man, which is bullshit because it doesn’t work. I didn’t and couldn’t forget about the first man and ended up being all mushy over two men, instead of just one. It’s problematic and troublesome – I don’t know how other people do it.
Bottom line, I could still recall every little thing about all the men I’ve encountered within this past year. They’re not in my mind all the time, but there will be times when little things happen around me would jolt those memories back (e.g. I was served the BEST cardamom tea by Man Z and I’m currently still looking for a match, the recent feud between Messi and Ronaldo’s supporters made me think about Man X, and so much more). All of these make me admit that as much as I have no idea about being in a serious relationship, I also have no clue about moving on.
I once wondered whether I’m being too sensitive, or simply too girlie about all of these relationship stuff. But then I remember stories from my girl friends who broke up with their then supposedly serious boyfriends. They still cannot move on. Well, maybe they have moved on, but there will be parts of their used-to-be partners that will never leave their minds forever. So I guess I am quite normal, eh? Either that or my friends are all screwed.
The point of this whole post is that I tried. I wasn’t fantasising that I would immediately get a boyfriend after a year of trying. Heck, other people tried/have been trying for years and years and they came out empty (at least three of my great aunts died without finding any partner, for godness sake).
Maybe my one year of trying was too intense. I admit I kinda moved on from one guy to the next – many times overlaps became inevitable. But I tried to be as honest as I possibly could. And I was all in, with feelings and everything. So you kinda have to give me credit. Besides, it is my quest and my life, so keep it to yourself if you don’t approve.
I just want to end this post with a few conclusions.
First of all, I’m glad that I decided to try to go on this quest. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of doing and feeling. There were times when I was actually in awe and I told myself, “so this is how it feels to miss someone,” or “so this is how it feels to be disappointed in someone,” or “so this is how you rebound”. I feel like I’ve grown a full circle by not succeeding in finding a boyfriend/partner and I’m glad about it.
Second of all, I’m not saying I’m giving up on this quest of finding a boyfriend/partner to marry, but I’m not going at it full force anymore, like last year. I’m now taking it slow, it will happen when it happens.
Third of all, I’ve told my mom that I did try finding my own boyfriend for one whole year and I’m kinda exhausted about it. I told her that if she (and my dad) wants me to be married soon, they should find me the suitable one. I’m kind of done – well, not really, but kind of. So, just as a fun information, my parents are slowly but surely announcing my availability to all of their friends and relatives. Rather than being upset about the possibility of being in an arranged marriage, I’m actually honestly excited about it. I wonder what the experience of being matchmade like. I mean, I could always say no if the guy turns out to be a jerk. But I believe that going through a match making process would be like a gold mine of stories and I’m always up for stories, especially love stories, both good and bad ones.
Lastly, let me leave you with this.
(I warned you this post is pessimistic.)
Here’s to everyone who is currently still in a quest of finding “the one“:
may the odds be ever in OUR favour 🍸.