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LAST_UPDATEMon, 20 Nov 2017 2am

30 And Unmarried, No Pressure!

Why should you give up to society's convention when it comes to the big decisions in life? Live in the moment. Pic: www.indiegogo.comWhy should you give up to society's convention when it comes to the big decisions in life? Live in the moment. Pic: www.indiegogo.com

“You should find someone before it’s too late.”

That was what my aunt said in a “heart-to-heart” talk when she conveyed her concerns about my marital status before I went to Europe for my Master’s. And my response, “Tak fikir lagi, nak sambung belajar dulu (I am not thinking about it yet. I am focused on my going away for my graduate studies)."

That was a little more than two years ago. After moving to three countries throughout my studies, coming back home, and starting a job again here, now, that conversation came back to me and I am dreading another “awkward” conversation in the next big family gathering.

Should I come up with another excuse, or just own my singlehood? (The tough decisions of being a ‘grown-up’ unattached woman who’s only attached to freedom, and her job).

But truly, despite turning 30 this year, I am happy being single. In fact, I have never felt better! If only you could see the glow on my face while writing this article.

Insults, And More Insults

What is the deal with the big 3-0 anyway? The minute you hit 29, everyone starts reminding you of the ‘noxious’ numerals that await you, as if your life is about to end if you don’t end up with someone. How tragic…not!

American comedy-folk duo Garfunkel and Oates even came up with a song ‘mocking’ those in their 20s and their 30s − giving 29 and 31 as an example.

The lyrics to their song goes like this, “29: For the first time in my life, I see it clearly…I realise the power of being a woman…twenty nine years old and time is on my side. I am in my prime, I’ve hit my stride…31: There’s nobody left, I’m all alone…”

(Video: Youtube)

To my surprise, I somehow didn’t feel insulted watching that. Because in our society, it is not far off. Perhaps, the expectations are probably worse, being the conservative, family-oriented and close-knit society that we are.

According to mapsoftheworld.com, as of 2013, the average median age of marriage among Malaysians is 26.9 years old, one year younger than the United States (27.9), and a few years younger than most European countries like the Netherlands (32.7) and the United Kingdom (32.5).

Here’s the reality: In your early 20s, you are free to do whatever you want (technically, but not really). And marriage, is more of a passing subject that the spotlight is not really about the bling on your finger.

It doesn’t take a Mathematician to equate that between both the numbers 20 and 30, there lies a ten-year-gap. That gap is what I would like to call maturity and growth in experience. So, why the double standards?

I guess it seems like the society, with partial influence of some Hollywood romantic chick-flicks make it a BIG deal to fall in love and find ‘THE ONE’.

And as you’re inching closer to 30, half your acquaintances have at least tied the knot, have at least two kids, or are seriously dating. That’s when matchmaking suggestions come bombarding, people start getting “concerned” that “nobody is interested in you”, some wonder if there is “something wrong” with you, in some extreme cases, even question your sexuality.

What more for a woman who is way beyond the “acceptable” marrying age? Society labels them with ugly connotations such as 'anak dara tua' (old hag) or 'andartu' (spinster).

It Is A Personal Choice, Though

However, in this modern time, most women are comfortable enough in their own skin and are independent enough to live without a man in their lives. So, is it still important for women to get married at a young age?Pic: Expatriate LifestylePic: Expatriate Lifestyle

TV/ radio personality, model and health enthusiast Jojo Struys thinks not.

“Don’t do it (get married) until you’re ready and when you find the right guy for you,” she told Malaysian Digest recently.

Struys, who married her longtime partner and business partner Michael Lim two years ago, when she was 38 couldn’t be happier that she waited.

Maybe so should you (all the single ladies).

Struys said she was with Lim for about eight years before they decided to tie the knot.

"We started a company together, so it became a challenge to compartmentalise the relationship. After a while, when we were able to survive working together and being with each other, I realised there must be something there. Nevertheless, there was always the question, how could you work together and still be a couple?

“But, through ups and downs, we are always more important to each other than work,” she said.

Struys, who also co-owns rising production house Kyanite TV with her now husband said the advantage of waiting before the next big step is that she really knew her man.

“We were already very together (working and living together). Marriage just solidifies our union, especially the people around us and loved ones. Still, even after we’ve been together for more than eight years, when we got married, it really renewed our relationship and I was a blushing bride.

“Of course, my parents were not thrilled about it, but in the end, I am glad I waited. If I got married earlier, it would have been with the wrong person. Sometimes, we don’t plan these things, you can’t find love, it will find you,” she said.

However, Struys clarified that she is not saying that her way (having a long-term relationship before getting married) is the right way. It is a personal choice.

“Modern women are marrying later and later in life as they don’t have the same goals as in the past (traditional ways fortified young marriage and having a big family).

“If the traditional approach works, go for it,” she quipped.

Yet, It Is Not A Rush

Sheriza, a successful career woman in the PR industry and owner of SHEGiftIdeas whose life revolves around her work and her very own business has learnt her lesson from a premature decision to get married.

The 37-year-old divorcee got married at age 28, and was divorced three years later.

“Before we were married, we dated for eight years but we were only married for three years. While we were married, I was a flight attendant so I travelled a lot for work and it was essentially a long distance marriage,” she explained.

Three years later, their marriage became a living hell.

“I decided to quit my job as a flight attendant to fix our marriage and start a family together, but it didn’t work out. So, we decided to get a divorce.

“Looking back on it now, I think everything happened for the best. Not having a child was a blessing in disguise too because I cannot begin to imagine how tough it would be with my busy schedule."

The committed entrepreneur described her regret in taking the leap before age 30.

“If I could rewind my life, I probably wouldn’t get married when I was 28. I’d rather stay single, and perhaps marry in my 30s.

“With our culture, there are lots of expectations as a married woman, but I don’t think one should conform to society, because, what’s the rush to get married? Besides, a matured relationship and marriage requires a lot of energy, commitment and time,” she said.

When asked about societal expectations, she added, “We can never please everybody. Even after marriage, people will keep on probing as to when you will have a baby, and even after giving birth, they will continue to ask when the next one will be on its way? There will be never ending questions.”

Pic: FlickerPic: FlickerWill marriage really determine your happiness then?

“If you feel the need to keep up to everybody’s expectations, you will never be happy. And when you are not happy, the happiness of your marriage too will be jeopardised.

“If you are not happy with yourself, how are you going to be happy with someone else?” she elaborated.

When asked if she would do it all over again? “At this point of time, no. It’s not that I don’t see marriage as a good thing. It is, but being in my current state, I don’t have time for an emotional attachment, what more unnecessary stress,” she said.

She concludes that she however still has faith in the constitution. But if she were to do it again, she would have done some things differently, “I will put more effort into my marriage and try my best to be there for my partner, even if my partner never asked of it.”

And, You Should Never Conform To Society

The truth is, Sheriza is not the only woman to experience a failed marriage. It is not surprising that the number of divorce cases in Malaysia has more than doubled in just eight years, where in 2012, 56,760 divorces were recorded, an equivalent to a marriage breaking down every 10 minutes, according to a report last year.

The more important question is, should women settle down only to conform to society?

31-year-old Alia Sarah is of the opinion that they should not.

“I think in whatever decision that you want to make, you should never conform to society because you might end up blaming others when things don’t work out.

“It depends on what you want. You could either be focused on being a wife and a mother, and feel like you’re missing out on an opportunity of having a good career, or you could be focused on your career, and go back to an empty house. At the end of the day, women should do whatever they want,” she said.

The free-spirited girl expresses, “Personally, I have never done things that I don’t want to do. I choose to be single because I don’t want to settle down.

“Before this, three men asked me if I am interested to get married, but I was not, because I don’t want to settle for less than what I deserve,” she said.File picFile pic

However, the senior project manager in an IT company, who is currently in a long term relationship with a younger man said she would love to get married and have kids one day, but, “On the other hand, I also like being single.”

“I am happy and my career growth is really good. I can travel and focus on my commitment towards my family. In fact, I think being single is godsend now, as my mother is not well and really needs me,” she explains.

Expectedly with her age, Alia received strong reactions for her single status − from both sides of the fence. Some are perplexed as to why she is unmarried passed age 30, while others (mostly married ones) are jealous of her freedom.

“For years, I am fine with being single. Deep down I know that if I don’t meet my 'jodoh' (soulmate) now, the time will come. Even if I will never meet my 'jodoh', maybe I will find ‘him’ in the afterlife. I leave it to fate,” she said.

Plus, You Decide Your Own Happiness

Ultimately, your marital status should not define you or your happiness. People may hang on to a hope and constantly dwell upon finding a lifetime partner to get married to, but I believe that you can always find happiness regardless someone putting a ring on your finger, or not.

The big 3-0 albeit your marital status should be celebrated because every journey in your life is beautiful, and your very existence throughout the years is a gift you should cherish.

Personally, I am looking forward to being 30 and single. I never discount marriage, but I sure can live with being unmarried. I am even considering an adoption, and aim to become a single mother at the age of 35.

At whatever age you are, what is more important is for you to love yourself more.

Argentinian filmmaker Paula Schargorodsky, published a personal short-film titled ‘35 and Single’. The video which went viral in 2013 and was published in The New York Times Op-Ed, shares her intimate search for love and answers: must she settle down or remain a free spirit in order to be happy?

What she said at the end of her video, perfectly sums up how I feel.

“Now I realised that everything I was looking for is much closer than I thought. Whether you’re with someone or alone, in those glimpses where you love and accept yourself totally, the world around you changes.

In the end, happiness is a choice, isn’t it?”

(Video: The New York Times Youtube channel)

 

- mD