No girlfriend since birth
When I turned 18, it was starting to hurt that I had never had a girlfriend, ever. While my friends and cousins were all piled up in the “romantic squad,” I was lying on my bed staring at the canopy and thinking of ways to catch a girl’s attention, or, better still, of excuses why I had failed to live up to society’s standards for a male teenager.
In the neighborhood alone, teenagers on average have had at least two or three girlfriends or boyfriends. They walk by our house holding hands, or I see them in the plaza taking selfies with faces pressed together. Some have even made it to the other edge of romance—bearing children and forming premarital families. Of course, I hold no prejudice or disdain against them, but at the mere sight of them I feel a sharp sense of urgency that I am falling so far behind in becoming an “ideal” man.
Perhaps I should lay the blame on how I was raised. When I was eight (when children normally go out and seek friends, and play in the streets with other children), I was locked up within the fence of our home, basically like swine for slaughter, to grow into a person my mother and father wanted me to be — a professional who will carry their surname and bring honor to the family (sounds like Tywin Lannister, right?). Their view was that playing with the grimy children of the neighborhood would bring me more harm than benefit; they feared I would be hurt by our relatively barbaric neighbors, or get run over by a vehicle racing on the road. So I played on my own, often speaking to myself, and concocting plant extracts and mud pies, as well as burning toys inside the house to portray a vehicular accident like the ones I usually see in the evening news (imagine my mother’s red, angry face).
My parents showered me with books, told me to read aloud to increase retention (which in fact was correct), restricted access to television, and required me to sleep before the dogs started howling. Obviously, what they wanted was for me to excel, not in play or socialization, but in academics where my father thinks my future is assured. He was right, and it was only a matter of time before my medals and certificates come pouring in. They were happy and proud, and I was happy and proud, too, every time a neighbor mentioned my might and “legendary talents.” Thanks to my years of exclusion from the complex and highly interesting society I should interact with more frequently, I became known for brilliance.
It was only when I entered high school that things changed a bit. I became involved in the student government, which increased my exposure to high-density gatherings and, of course, made me meet a lot of people. I met a lot of girls of all kinds of personalities, each with their own kind of pretty. It would be absurd not to finally find someone, right? After all, who wants to venture into the adventure of puberty and adolescence without someone to share your experiences with?
But guess what, I finished high school without anyone making the list of my girlfriends. Though I was increasingly immersed in venues with a lot of people and equally numerous opportunities for interaction, the purpose was not for the quest of romance. It was more for finding a purpose in life, exposing myself to the ideologies of society, and laughing. As the sight of girls laying their head on the lap of their boyfriend become more frequent, the chances of me catching a “fish in the ocean” became more and more obscured and improbable.
With that improbability has come my ever growing sense of “selfishness.” I am now more concerned with my welfare, and extending that wellbeing to the people I want to serve as a public servant. I seek for myself enlightenment on the confusions of the world, so that in the future those who search for the same knowledge would not scavenge in the uncertainties of today. I dream of myself leaving a legacy of helping this country emerge from the mud in which it has immersed itself. I want to learn more, for myself and for others.
The idea of a family, with a supportive and loving wife and little children, is gradually losing vibrancy in my mind, not because I do not want it to happen, but because my capabilities are not at all attuned to courting and serenading. Now that I’m older, I slowly realize that I have come past the usual stage when boys learn to court girls coming before them. I have developed a sense of disconnection with the ideas of sweet, silly love, which in my perception is society’s commonplace idea of a normal life.
But I am not normal. Right from the start. I was raised away from the usual commotions life has to offer. I was trained to be a man destined for professional competence, with his handsome looks locked in a cabinet filled with honor and distinction, away from the eyes that they are supposed to attract. Right now, my fear is that there will come a time when my strength alone will not be enough to hold me up to stand, or walk, or even feed myself. Time will come when the company of others will be the best that I could have. My fear is that my life will not give me the skill to lead me into a family man of many dreams, both for my family and for my nation. Now that I am almost 20, I have realized that life is not solely to seek prosperity for oneself. It also involves being able to pass down your gifts and dreams to the people that matter most — family and children. I have realized that as a person raised in a responsible family dedicated to rearing outstanding citizens, I must return the favor, and in the future make a family that shares my ideals for the nation.
That seems odd to hear from a person who has never had a relationship, but careful observation helps. You see, love is more than kilig and “cheesiness.”
These fears will most probably go. I just hope that before I turn three decades old, I will stop saying I’m too busy to court a girl, or even think of doing so.
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K. A. Toledo, 19, studies at the University of Southeastern Philippines (Tagum Mabini Campus).
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