29 July 2012

Martians and Venusians - Part 2 火星人水與星人-下卷

From New York and Tokyo to Shanghai and Hong Kong, single women in big cities around the world are united in their gripe about being luckless in love. Educated, intelligent and financially independent, they excel in everything in life except for the one thing that really matters to them: finding Mr. Right. The twin goals of marriage and motherhood – things that women a generation ago took for granted – have become ever elusive. Cinderella and Snow White might have had their fair share of heartache before they got hitched, but all the chores and poisoned apples in Fairyland pale in comparison to the blood, sweat and tears of the single woman in the real world. For who wants to die alone in a musty apartment with five cats and a ball of yarn? 

They made it look so cool

Ever since Sex and the City glamorized the life of the bachelorette, being female, single and over 35 has never been so cool. But behind the martinis and witty one-liners, the girl power and lipstick feminism, is the lingering fear of spinsterhood. Nowhere in the world is that fear more acute than in Asia, where...

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Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.


23 comments:

  1. I like the ending part "After all, men read fairy tales when they were boys too"

    Cherie

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  2. It's not so much pride or rejection that I fear.
    It is the fear of getting hurt and disappointment after putting in all this time and support into a relationship, only to not work out. Don't want to be stuck there for too long.

    Thanks for your sensitivity & encouragement in your article.

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    Replies
    1. I guess the phrase "better to have love and lost than never love at all" fits you. When we are in love, we always have something to look forward to everyday, we feel young. Perhaps you may get hurt, but that's part of the deal.

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  3. Thanks for your heartfelt comment, Anonymous.

    Think of it as riding a bike, I suppose. Everybody falls in the beginning.

    And remember that famous line from "Batman Begins"? "Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."

    Best of luck!

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  4. Jason, what u wrote does reflect the reality. One thing u didn't mention though is some women stay single by choice not because they expect a prince charming but men in modern days no longer possess enough manhood and integrity as a result of social changes.

    Even we should move with the times, genetically women still need that chivalrous protection and emotional haven no matter how tough and successful we are. But many women choose to cling on to a hurtful marriage for fear of becoming a "leftover", until they realize one day they have wasted a whole life on the wrong person and not lived a better life they should have, and already too late.

    Of course to be fair, women these days have lost their traditional virtues which men crave for. Time has changed, but some norms still remain intact hence gender war continues. So who to blame?

    NaNa

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  5. Hmmm. Some of the most interesting and creative women I know are single - lifelong, or from divorce or death of a partner. A shortage of men in HK? Well, there's a shortage of women in the mainland. But with local prejudice being what it is, the imbalance will not help. No-one is guaranteed a happy marriage, or loyal and loving children. Men and women need to be their own person first.

    Ross

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  6. True enough, Nana. One thing I would point out is that men too worry that "they have wasted a whole life on the wrong person." It cuts both ways.

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  7. Ross, I couldn't agree more that men and women need to be their own person first. But I always felt that in age of excess, too much emphasis is placed on finding oneself. The focus on being special, seeking your unique path and 'living life to the fullest'.

    Often, patience, sacrifice and taking a step back is seen as a sign of weakness. Happiness is not a sum zero game. You can not gauge it with a weighing scale via the availability of selective attributes such as 'income', 'maturity', 'kindness', 'six pack' etc. The assessment is ongoing and the projected P&L constantly updated.

    It doesn't have to be that complicated. You don't have to keep score. If you like a person, you give him a try before anything else. Have the courage to roll the dice and commit. Because when you are old and alone in that quiet room tucked in the corner of a building, the worst thing you can say to yourself is 'what if'.

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  8. Jason,

    Indeed. No fairy tales at all. Go to places with million new faces where women may increase the probability to meeting the Mr Right. Maybe ? The truth is that meeting someone is easy, but, can we genuinely “connect/click” that matters. Staying at home is no fear of rejection at all for some single women, and definitely it is the wise use of solitude. They were never less alone than while by themselves. 真正懂得獨處的人必然懂得享受獨處帶來的「寂寞」。

    I disagree that “single women are not like wine and Parma ham: they don’t get better with time. A bit humiliating said. Aging gracefully and wisely are not the sole patent for men. Finding the right guy or soul mate seems full of luck somehow ?? I doubt it ? 但我總相信人與人之間會有莫明的「緣」,但緣起緣滅,卻是随時隨流隨空轉。 Even the bible verses from Ecclesiastes: 3:1 said : “There is time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven….a time to love and a time to hate,….” Lyrics from the school old days’ popular singer, Sam HUI : 「命裏有時,終須有;命裏冇時,莫強求!」(嘩!好老套呀!嘻嘻!) instantly pop up from my mind. Serendipity may be the only answer to some women who stay single till the end of their life.

    Cheers,
    Jean

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  9. Thanks, Jean, for your thoughtful comment. No disrespect intended for the parma ham comparison, just to highlight the tough dating scene in Hong Kong and in other big cities for that matter.

    Jason

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  10. Jason,
    I agreed most with your articles, but not this one. Your comments were written from a man's perspective. Men believe that only they will give happiness to women.The truth is many couples are stuck in a loveless marriage. Wives have endless housework to do. Every day, they shouted at their children to finish the homework. Especially in Hong Kong, starting a family is a very expensive business. What a typical middle class family like ? Pathetic !
    The biggest love is to love ourselves. We have to live our own life, not someone else. Money and good health are far more important than a marriage.

    Ms D.Lee

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    1. Lee,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I made an effort to get across the point that women, like men, don't need to be married to be happy. See the following sentences excerpted from my article.

      "[M]arriage is but one of many ways to achieve happiness in life. Friends, family and the freedom to do things that married women are not at liberty to do are as good as the white picket fence. In fact, many would choose the former over a loveless marriage or a nasty divorce any day."

      Cheers,

      Jason

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  11. Husband told me that it is very interesting to read women's megazines to find out what is going on in our minds. It is interesting to read about this topic froma men's point of view. :) (A mental escape from feeling I should be reading the parenting books on the shelve to strive to be a better mom...)

    This social stigma about women should get married. Too much fairytale nonsense since we are young. A poor girl meets a rich prince and all her problems are solved. They lived happily ever after every single day?!!?? *sigh* That planted this illusion of an "easy way out" for many many sisters....

    "Shrek" is more for real people, i think. :)

    A single lady can choose to fill the emotional void in many ways. I am blessed with charming vivacious ladies who are great loyal friends and take good care of the rest of the family. I have 2 aunts, they are sisters, who chose to remain single. Over the years, they have been so nuturing to the family with their wise counsel, good company and yummy dishes!! Be it single or married, a person can choose to add happiness to people around them (and as a result being happy themselves) or not. In fact, my mom advised me against getting married! ha! Now I understand the 'hardships' she told me about being in a marriage. To qualify, in case my husband reads this, I am happy!

    Not all people 'make it' financially, I feel a very real burden of a single lady is in the money! For a woman, to think that she has to keep working and working and plan her retirment carefully all by herself, knowing that entirely out of her own pocket she will have to take care of herself in the old age, is a scary thought. It is not any easier for the male sole bread winner. I guess the traditional norm makes it more acceptable for men, and men are mentally more prepared to take on this role.

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  12. “Matchmaking is, after all, a numbers game.” I agree, and it’s good that you make that the very first point. After all, if the “supply” is short, the chance is slim for the next step: getting the date.

    On the date, I agree the woman should be open minded…and try to make it pleasant for a 2nd date. However, the girl can be a perfect date, but whether it leads to a real relationship can still be hard. The problem I see is not that the girl is close-minded or picky, it is “While he may not fit the bill for Prince Charming, chances are he is thinking the same about you.” Usually the better bachelors have a handful of other dates to select from simply because there are more females than male…and he can take his time and continue searching for that perfect “princess.”

    Out of this already short supply of men, a lot of these great guys also prefer men. I am not sure if it is more noticeable today because our society accepts it and a lot of them are “out of the closet” or wasn’t even in the closet to begin with, compared to a decade ago.

    With HK in particular, so many men don’t even try to date a HK girl simply because of the belief of “princess syndrome”…which I actually don’t believe it applies to most HK girls and I’ve seen much worst in girls from another country. HK girls need to work hard to do away with this image and stereotype!


    Gloria

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  13. Very funny article. I saw the problems among single ladies in HK over the years. Soul mate searching is out of the question, most women just want a partner who ticks their (or their mates, or mother's) unrealistic checklist. They prolly worry more about what their mates gonna think about their blokes than whether the guy will truly make them happy or not.

    Love isn't a checklist or shopping list in a supermarket. "Is the guy well educated and well off enough? Is he a professional? Oh gosh, he's too sturdy, too short or bald!" I don't think it's as simple as about lowering their standards. Women shouldn't complain the guys they met were jerks and shallow if they're shallow and materialistic in the first place. Women, not only in HK, should really be truthful, honest and realistic about who they really are. The worst mistake is to think marriage is the solution to your unhappiness.
    Being in a loveless and abusive marriage can break any man or woman's soul, being with someone who doesn't share the same core values and aspiration in life with you is lonelier and more torturing than kicking your heels on Fri or Sat nights.

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  14. 很好,在香港很多美丽女孩正在找新男朋友,我马上去香港度假

    KD

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  15. Is being “female, single and over 35” really that cool? If so, you wouldn’t even have penned this piece I the first place! But I have to say I don’t see the point of driving oneself to the point of desperation over finding a partner. That is the surest way to give your man too much pressure and one will not be one true self before him, but only trying to live up to one’s surmise of what is “best” before the guy or what he wants. It’s like wearing a ball gown to the wet market to get a bunch of lettuce!!!

    Still, I admit the image is grim: spinsterhood alone in an apartment whether with cats or not and panicking as to how to exist through the coming days instead of living it to the full. Even single elderly ladies can live life to the full, but they’ll probably be pining over this and that and grieving over what they don’t have instead of what they have and can do. Sad… I can’t tell you how true that fear is in the minds of all single girls, including all those around me, whether they are stunning and educated and brilliant or just a “nobody” (as they would call themselves). Another constant lamentation I hear is how come those less pretty and cultured etc are already married with kids or with boyfriends when they are left in the cold and in the wind alone in face of a Katrina????

    As for the fact that single women are viewed as social rejects, I don’t mind telling you that I got the impression that some (or perhaps more than I think) are viewing me in the same way too. One not too friendly soul at a firm I worked in previously even slandered about me being a lesbian before (partly because I was helping out another female colleague with very serious family problems a lot)!!! As if she had the right to make judgments on homosexuals in the first place. And at the tip of the pinnacle, that piercing question, tell me about it. Even if they don’t say it outright they are murmuring about it behind your back. But hardly anyone ever asks the guys these types of questions, right? Nor are they considered as the leftovers after the girls are taken. Others may just think the guy may be a bit choosy and that he has these blah blah blah qualities and is entitled to do so. There is always the probability that some other females are weighing that single guy up as to whether he fits her bill (though I guess if she is this picky and dismissive, she probably can’t live with anyone, man or woman, for good).

    [To be cont'd]

    Christine

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  16. As for the TV program, “Brides Wannabes”, who in their right mind would go before the TV and be jeered at before all, I always thought. Do they honestly thing they will be able to find Mr. Right that way? The even gloomier thought is: even if you meet that person, out of nowhere with no knowledge of his background, can you be comfortable that he is not from the mafia or a lineage of serial killers or something? Maybe I am just paranoid. You are right, Hong Kong is a rough-and-tumble city for single women.

    As for the migration of local men to the Mainland, another reason someone has told me before was that the girls there are prettier and more docile and gentler etc. I can understand that as a man, he would certainly die for someone like that rather than a super-career-woman or something. I agree with NaNa’s comments, we women too may have lost a lot of the traditional traits or values men crave, like adopting a princess syndrome attitude. “Princess syndrome”. Tell me about it. I hate these brats (having some around me in different workplaces and occasions). I admit I might have some of these traits too (afterall, one is always blind to one’s own faults, right?). But I can’t say they amount to a syndrome (not yet, I hope). I just get impatient with irresponsible people and occasionally I’d lavish myself on an outrageous item, like a HK$90 + 10% coffee, when I am desperate for a treat after hard times from friends or work or other matters. That place has since stopped serving these types of coffee, I am not surprised. Guess where it is. As for having their men wrapped around their fingers, that is so true, but so wrong. I certainly did more for some of my men than they did for me. And I don’t mind at all, any relationship is two-way and we have got to accommodate each other. If you truly love a person you’ll just do something “for” a person without thinking. It isn’t even so much as a matter of doing something “for” a person or a sacrifice or something. We can’t just rip people (whether they are our men or not) of everything we want without regard to how they feel and what they need. And most of the men I know need a lot of space and freedom. All of us should stop putting our expectations/standards on others, be they of the same gender or the opposite.

    Your portrayal of the ugly stepsister and Cinderella and their biological clock is almost photographic, I can’t even find the word for its accuracy. That little girls picture you posted is sick. I certainly agree that youngsters should start learning proper table manners from a young age, but what is the point of dressing up in princesses’ gowns and expected to be waited upon? It certainly wouldn’t occur to any of the minds of those princesses that they should also serve the elderly and needy at the table first, right? “White knight”, I had to laugh, where do you expect the buyout for such a high maintenance brat to come from? Especially when there is no guarantee of return or the income they can generate, let alone the liabilities (contingent or not) attached to them? You can’t even put a discounted present value on them NOW.

    [To be cont'd]

    Christine

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  17. As for the choice whether to settle for less, or to remain single, that is always a hard question for us girls. I do notice that with lots of people, not necessarily with women only, the older they get, the more afraid of being alone they are. As for loveless marriages or nasty divorces, you won’t believe how many unhappy marriages I have seen despite the fact that the couples are still staying together, for one reason or the other. On the other hand, I bet you don’t have the figures for the divorce rate in Hong Kong, right? It was already an alarming figure a few years back, and coupled with the horror stories on the news and the court cases we are reading everyday, there is no way that figure is declining too. Yup, our biological clock is ticking away, though with recent technology we are hearing about older and older women giving birth to children. Whether they have the energy to rear them to adulthood is another matter. I don’t mind telling you that: whenever I hear the battle-cry or the genocide bombing in the background as I call my cousins up, that alone is giving me serious second, or even third, thoughts before giving birth. I thought they would grow out of it, but obviously I was too naïve. Or it may be another twenty years down the track before I can call them up and have a peaceful uninterrupted conversation with my cousins.

    As for your final advice, I can only say: that is certainly sound, but it is easier said than done for lots of us (from a female perspective). Just plucking up the courage alone is a fearsome task, given the traditional stereotyped indoctrination that we are succumbed to as a kid that we should not talk before being spoken to, remain docile and all that. We girls are probably “eating more lemons” than the guys, and certainly not for beauty purposes.

    I like your final sentence, “after all, men read fairy tales when they were boys too.” Is that right? This is a bit off the topic, but I found this so hilarious now after so many years I got to share this with you. I can only recall my brother reading superman or those Japanese heroes cartoons as a kid and beating me up every single day. According to him, 超人要打怪獸. That’s right, I am the怪獸 and it was his responsibility to beat me up or fight with me literally EVERYDAY as an act of God-ordained justice or something…

    Christine

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  18. You had me laughing out loud when you talked about being mistaken as a lesbian at work. That's pretty funny! :-)

    Jason

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  19. Jason,

    Glad you take it as a joke. I was slightly mad but my other colleagues who knew me well then thought that gal who spread those rumours about me was nuts. Was just joking about this over lunch the other day with 2 guys I worked with during my summer clerkship days and they grinned slyly that they could very easily prove that gal was wrong !!! Rascals : p

    Christine

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  20. Wow I would really be angry been labelled a lesbian in work, after been single for a couple of years (5+) it really scary getting back into the dating game. I had a couple of office rumours about me aswell, I think it just office work it promotes rumours as normally work is quite dull.

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  21. I think the real problem is that these women have deluded themselves into thinking that what men really want is a woman with a great career. So what happens is that they waste the best years of their lives 100% focused on school or work, only to realize in her 30's that she's single and men aren't biting as much as they used to anymore.

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