The questions they ask women
I had a brief visit with relatives recently, and as all gatherings with families go, especially those that take place after two years because of the pandemic, talk of one’s love life and how far it has gone, if it is luckily existent, is inevitable.
I have long reached and am now arguably overstaying at that age where everyone most often asks about my plans.
Do you have a boyfriend? Why not?
When I am in a relationship, I get: When are you getting married? Followed up with the even more controversial declaration: You should get married soon. What are you waiting for? You are not getting any younger. You should be having kids by now. It’s such a mouthful that oftentimes it’s difficult to digest.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, such questions and prodding never really bothered me. And although I am still not bothered, I have to admit that lately, it has been a cause to pause and reflect.
My friends and I have always wondered what the future held for us, and by the future, I mean love and family. Some friends have shared about what kind of weddings they wanted and the perfect destinations for them; what kind of wedding dresses are perfect for brides and the entourage; the dreamiest getaways for honeymoons, and eventually, how many children they want and what names to give each one, etc.
Most often pressured, I naturally jumped in and randomly shared my answers. I was never a fan of grand weddings and have always preferred an intimate gathering at a tiny chapel, preferably somewhere outside the city but still considerably near and accessible. My honeymoon destinations constantly changed from time to time, and in my daydreaming, I have traveled the world, but my current preferred destination is South Korea (I blame my ongoing love affair with all things Korean), with Japan coming in a close second.
I seemed to have always been decisive about marriage or a union with my yet unknown significant other. It was as if I have always known that marriage was in my future. And although my dream wedding and honeymoon have not yet happened, I seem to be just as sure that it will happen soon.
When it came to sharing plans about having children, my engagement only came as far as me knowing and choosing a name for my future daughter. I have consistently claimed dibs on the name Anya, which was Audrey Hepburn’s character in one of my favorite films of all time, Roman Holiday, and another option, Amélie, from a French film favorite with the same title starring Audrey Tautou.
I have always loved children. I simply enjoy being around them, conversing, and even exchanging views about nonsensical topics with them, most of the time and more than I do with adults. I love their noise as much as I love their mess. I love kids so much that I decided to pursue teaching, for more than ten years, after having only observed one preschool class in college.
Unfortunately, my vision of the future with my own child/ren ends there. When I was much younger in my 20s and 30s, I never envisioned myself bearing my child and being a mother.
I think I may have gotten scared of giving birth. In college, we were made to watch this short film that featured footage of a woman giving birth. It kind of freaked me out watching that, considering my low tolerance for pain, and when I see something that seems painful, I quickly fold. But that’s just me finding humor in it, and clearly, that reason alone is petty and trivial.
I am amused at the perception of my peers, and some people had of me in high school and college. I was probably one of those who would most likely settle down early. I was probably someone who seemed like she would almost immediately jump at a chance to be in a relationship, get married, have kids, and because I was not an achiever in school and was average at best, I did not seem career-oriented.
But I was career-oriented. The lack of achievements I had while I was studying, I think made up for when I was already working. Even before graduating from college, I was certain I was going to teach in a reputable school and pursue my master’s degree at the same time. I eventually ended up with what I had set out for and achieved it, and some more, in a considerably short period.
Reflecting on it now, society seems to dictate that being in a relationship or having a family takes the backseat to finishing one’s studies, building a career, helping the family, and later, enjoying the fruits of one’s hard work. And as I was experiencing, and to some extent, enjoying all of these, I did not see the need to rush into that other aspect of life: settling down.
There were a couple of relationships in between. My first was when I was already working, but it is nothing significant enough to sway me from my goals and dreams. I came close to planning a future (read: getting married and relocating) with someone, but the Universe had other plans for both of us.
Do I regret anything? People often say we should live with no regrets. Now that I am in my forties, I often find myself reflecting on the questions that are often asked and the choices I have made over the years. I cannot help but think about how my life would have unfolded had I made different choices and had different priorities.
Although I am not easily bothered by people’s opinions about me and the choices I make, perhaps if I am allowed to regret one or two things from those choices or circumstances, these would be losing the chance to have my dad march me down the aisle for my wedding, for he has passed on; and failing to have let my mom feel the joy of holding her grandchild. Aside from those, I think what is making me reflect on not being able to give those kinds of joy to my mom and dad is also the fact that I am their only daughter.
I don’t know what the rest of my life would still be like, whether I’d remain unmarried or childless, but I have faith that I will be okay with what is destined for me. It may or may not be what I had dreamed or expected, but I know I will accept it, and that all will be fine.
I was scrolling through my Twitter newsfeed the other day and saw someone ask: What would you change about your past and what advice would you give [your] 20-year-old you?
Knowing the things that I “regret” or wish I could have done for myself or others like my parents, I would probably not change anything, considering that the good and bad of the past helped mold the person I am now.
But perhaps, there is a need for me to constantly remind myself that life is short, too short. There had been times when I got too caught up with one life event that I completely disregarded the others.
Of course, knowing that life is short does not guarantee that I would have different priorities or choices, or that life would significantly change, but there will be that tinge of hope that just maybe life will have lesser questions, regrets or what-ifs.
Doreen M. Gutierrez is a language editor from Quezon City. She loves to write, read, take long walks, watch films and listen to music.
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