Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Life is not meant to be lived alone

Aunty is not just talking about any Tom, Dick or Harry. It’s husband material she’s looking for!
  - Life is not meant to be lived alone. No matter how many friends and relatives you have, there is nothing like someone to grow old with.

MY daughter just changed jobs. I called her at the end of her first day to enquire how it went. She started telling me about how pleased she was with her new office and her immediate supervisor.

I couldn’t contain myself and interrupted her: “Okay good, but are there any nice guys around?”

That stopped her in mid-sentence and after a moment of silence, she sighed and said, “Oh Mum, give it up, will you?”

Yes, I was more concerned about my daughter’s dating prospects than her job prospects.

Why am I worried? Because she’s 25, single and not dating. As my friend intoned: “If they don’t meet the right guy in college or university, it will be very hard for them to do so later on.”

This may be true once but it is now debatable since women overwhelmingly make up the number of undergraduates in our public universities.

So London mayor Boris Johnson couldn’t be more wrong when he said Malaysian women were entering university in droves because “they have got to find men to marry”.

He made the quip upon hearing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak say women make up 68% of the latest public university intake at the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum.

And that is really the biggest obstacle to the dating-mating game – this changed power structure between men and women.

As I have said before, thanks to education, job opportunities and contraceptives, women have the means to shape and control their own destiny.

They are on the rise and taking over in many fields. I attended a meeting recently at a top local bank to discuss a project and in the room were representatives from the bank, the advertising agency, a TV station and my own media company – all women except for one chap who didn’t say a word throughout the meeting. I never found out who he is and what he was doing at the meeting.

That meeting wasn’t the only one I have attended that was dominated by women; it happens all the time.

Women are so high-achieving at a relatively young age – VPs or senior managers before they are 35 – that they are leaving the guys in the dust, both in the career and marriage stakes.

A dear friend who is very pretty, has a great personality and just turned 40 is a top manager in her company. She is single and, over coffee, she agreed that dating in the 21st century is complicated for this very reason.

Because she is able to more than provide for herself, she isn’t willing to settle for just any guy. And she doesn’t think it’s worth the effort.

And really, where have all the men gone? They can’t all be chefs or mobile phone salesmen and repairmen, can they?

According to a 2011 report, globally, attitudes to sex and marriage have changed under the pressures of wealth and modernisation.

In Western society, it has led to divorce and illegitimacy; in Asia “later marriage, less marriage and (to some extent) more divorce”.

The Economist goes on to say that in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, women were marrying later (at 29-30 years old) and more and more are simply not marrying at all. In 2010, it was found that one-third of Japanese women in their 30s were single.

Not only that: 37% of all women in Taiwan aged 30-34 were single, as were 21% of 35 to 39-year-olds.

“If women are unmarried entering their 40s, they will almost certainly neither marry nor have a child,” said the report.

It went to say that the “Asian avoidance of marriage is new, and striking” because 30 years ago, just 2% of women were single in most Asian countries. Now it’s closer to 25% among women in their 30s.

Basically, Asian women are quite content to stay single because they don’t see a lot of benefits in getting hitched. They seem to take quite well to the celibate life too. At least that’s what the Economist says.

And it shows no sign of levelling off, according to Prof Gavin W. Jones of the National University of Singapore. In an April 2013 report, he says this East Asian trend in singlehood has accelerated in Japan and South Korea over the past decade, leaving the governments “nonplussed” as to how to reverse it.

In Malaysia, the situation may not be so dire but I am anxious for my daughters (my other daughter is 22 and not dating either) who, I think, are just not trying hard enough. They would rather chill at home than party or go clubbing.

I thoroughly irritate them with my attempts at match-making but I persist. After much prodding and telling them they were getting fat and unhealthy, they both joined a gym. It hasn’t helped in getting them dates though. Maybe most of the guys who love working out are not into girls.

Why do I persist? It’s not because I have no faith in my girls to take care of themselves; they are well educated and already hold decent jobs.

It’s because I believe life is not meant to be lived alone. No matter how many friends and relatives you have, there is nothing like having someone to grow old with and to be there for you no matter what.

True, marriage may not be for everyone and it doesn’t always work out. But I want my kids to have a shot at it. Like the wife of the protagonist in the movie, Shall We Dance?, says: We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet ... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage ... You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”

Where have all the young men gone? 

SO AUNTY , SO WHAT? BY JUNE H.L.WON

> The writer confesses she would be a much better witness to her own spouse if she didn’t spend so much time at work. Feedback to junewong@thestar.com.my or tweet #JuneHLWong

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