Cloaked under the guise of anonymity, I decided to write about something different. The stress of studying combined with the pressure I feel from being the only one who’s currently single in my generation in my maternal family (they kept asking me when I’ll find a lover (๑ˊ▵ॢˋ̥๑) !!!) made me want to write out a mix between a reflection and sort of an autobiography(?). I apologize in advance if my narrative seems over the place, I kind of vented out my frustrations on the keyboard. Buckle up for the lengthy ride and I hope you enjoy reading!
“When I called his name,
he came to me
and became a flower.”
I have come across this poem countless times ever since I started reading Korean webtoons and novels. By the time I had realized it, I have already found myself quite fond of it and often quote it to myself when I’m in the mood for love or feeling poetic.
I love talking about romance. Most of the novels and other forms of storytelling I consume are in the romance genre. I like listening to other people’s love stories, and I also enjoy writing some short stories about fluffy and lovey-dovey couples. I love the warm and fuzzy feeling I get. I think the fact that being single for ~9 years now contributes to my craving for some romance.
If you have read my previous posts and did a little guesswork, you might have realized by now that I came from a broken family.
The love story of my parents might have started like your typical Wattpad teen story. My father was good-looking (or so my older sisters tell me; I can’t recall his face from my hazy childhood memories). He was tall and was a basketball player representing the college both he and my mom were attending. My mom was studious and a little bit bookish than other girls. She casually played a bit of basketball, too. They both came from different places, but they had a common interest other than basketball: dancing.
So on one sunny Saturday morning, their gazes met each other at their college’s dance club practice. From there, their courtship began. I recall some tales about their youth: of my mom contracting smallpox and being quarantined inside her family home. A story of my father visiting her and bringing her some porridge and fruit. When my mom told me that story, she said she was touched by my father’s simple gesture because her family was avoiding her when she got ill. They’d go on dates for her to see if she liked him enough to say yes. She was confused if she should say accept or decline. My aunt, my mom’s older sister, said to her, ‘Why not? It’s only a boyfriend, enjoy your youth.’ So she agreed, and they became a campus couple.
They’d partner with each other and dance beside their friends during dancing competitions, relishing their youth and enjoying the time of their lives. But like other teenage couples in that time, they did the unplanned, and soon it bore fruit. I never heard them mention a word about it, or from my mom, but I know that they must have felt like their world was destroyed, their bright futures and dreams were over. They had a shotgun wedding and started a family of their own.
They fell in love with each other in their youth, but they grew apart as they grew old. Nine years of marriage and four kids later, my mom realized that their love story was different from what she expected. It was a far cry from what she knew from movies and books.
My father became addicted to gambling, and my mom was busy working to feed our family. She was tired of toiling the whole day away, and when she gets home, my father expected her to cook for the family and do some household chores. (He grew up in a strict, patriarchal household.) He was still the person she loved when they were young, but she’s the only one who grew up and changed when they grew old. She said he always called her ugly and that she didn’t feel the love from my father during those days.
And so she sought love from other men.
I had mixed feelings towards my parents. I understood how my mother suffered during their marriage and was angry at my father because of his neglect and irresponsibility. But I don’t condone what my mother did when she committed the affair. They could have talked to each other and communicated to work out their marriage. There must have been a solution to make it work, but they stopped trying and gave up.
I still feel sad and hurt when I recall the stories my oldest sister would recount to me about how difficult it was for an eight and a seven-year-old kid to live under one roof with our parents back then. They were physically abused by our father and emotionally neglected by my mother. I guess you could count me lucky to be a toddler back then. I wasn’t affected as greatly as my older sisters were when we grew up.
My parents might have known the beginning, but they have never guessed their ending. Because sometime later, they separated and decided to annul their marriage. My oldest sister would sometimes tell me, when we talk about our parents’ failed marriage, her memory of our father crying and breaking down when he learned about the affair. He looked devastated, she’d comment.
It has been a lot of years, and since then, we have lived with our mother. I had long forgotten my father; how he looked, how he spoke. They said he liked carrying me when I was a baby. I do remember about that time when I wanted to contact him when I was a kindergartener. I tried to remember his telephone number I managed to see right before I left his place and tried to call him through it, but I only managed to get to speak to a stranger. I called a few times to see if I could reach him, enough times to irritate the poor unfortunate fella I terrorized with my daily calls. She probably had enough, because she threatened to place a curse on me through witchcraft if I dared to call her again. Even today, I can still hear her shrill cry as her shouts echoed from the phone. That was the last time I cared about my father.
And now, when people come to learn of my family’s situation, they ask me if I miss him because it’s been almost a decade since we last talked to each other. How could I miss someone who decided to turn their back on me? I’ve stopped caring the day I hung up that telephone call.
When I was young, I looked up to my mother. In my eyes, she was like a hero propped up on a pedestal. It felt like everything she did was incredible and excellent through the eyes of the six-year-old me. I expected too much from her, and those great expectations I placed on her later turned into great disappointments when I became older. Now that I grew older, I realized that, like me, she was only human and was bound to make a lot of mistakes.
I hated how she was a bit of a narcissist because she can do no wrong in her eyes. When we try to call her out every time she talks us down and calls us hurtful names, she argues back and justifies herself. She looks at us like we are her housekeepers, expecting us to be at her every beck and call. At some point, I wanted to be a real housekeeper. At least they got paid. She always argues that she fed us, clothed us, and sent us to school, so it’s to be expected of us to follow her every word with no questions asked. She likes to lord the money she spent on us over us, me and my siblings have no choice but to fawn on her for survival. I know how much my siblings wanted to leave her side, but we can’t as of now. Not yet. I hate how she treats her coworkers and other people better than how she treats me and my siblings.
I notice that she treats me slightly better than my other siblings. I know it’s because she likes how I can be of use to her. She likes to tell my achievements in school, and the fact that I studied at an international school, to other people. She gets high off other people’s praises when they compliment me because, by extension, they’re praising her as well. She likes to attribute the fact that I am textbook-smart to her genes, but she insists that my laziness and stubbornness came from my father.
It’s not like I really hate her that much. I’m old enough to know that a person isn’t wholly evil or good. People are humans; they are often a few shades of gray— a color in between. There were times when my heart feels full when I talk to her. I cherish those times when she speaks lovingly to me. I feel bad when I see her cry. I used to seek her compliments when I do something. She seems to treat her daughters better when we’re physically distant from her. Really, some people are best loved from a distance. I love her more when I don’t live with her under one roof as well. To this day, I’m still working out my complicated feelings towards my mother. It’s not much, but I believed I have progressed compared to how I was 7 years ago.
My parents’ marriage had an enormous influence on my views on romance and relationships. Even if I am a hopeless romantic and basically consume romance novels on a daily basis, I know that reality is different. I have trust issues regarding romantic relationships, and I tend to close my heart before I start liking someone for real. I only had one relationship I considered ‘serious.’ Though it only lasted one day shy of a whole month. Since then, I have only had some flings here and there.
The continuation of the poem I opened this post with goes like this:
“Like I called his name,
will someone please call my name
that suits my light and fragrance?
I, too, long to come to him
and become his flower.
We all long to be something.
You, to me, and I, to you,
long to become a gaze that won’t be forgotten.”
Like what the poem signifies, I want to mean something to somebody. I want to have a real, genuine romantic relationship. I want to have a special someone I can be there for during hard times, and that person will also be there beside me when I am down, someone I can cherish and love. I want to be lovey-dovey with that someone and treat that person lovingly. I know that it takes two to tango, and a relationship will only work if both parties put in an equal amount of effort, dedication, and commitment to building one. But I don’t think I have found someone I am willing to take the risk of breaking my heart and picking up the pieces they’ll leave me with for. Every marriage in my maternal family had an affair, and knowing that doesn’t help me in believing that I can be in a genuine, loving romantic relationship.
For me, to start a romantic relationship alludes to marriage as an endgame. Why would I go through all the hardships in maintaining one if we’re not gonna end up with each other in the end? One might argue that the point of a doomed romance is for the persons involved to progress in character and grow as a person, but… I might as well just be friends with that someone. At least friendships last longer than romantic relationships. We still get to be there for each other when we’re down. We can tell each other our deepest secrets and biggest fears. We’ll be friends in victory and in defeat. Now that I think about it, isn’t marriage just like having your best friend live together with you but you get to do some other stuff? (o’ｕ≦o)
I believe that ’til this day, I still haven’t had a proper ‘first love.’ All those times I had some sort of romantic relationship with other people, they liked me first, so I liked them in return. There was only one time I liked someone who didn’t like me back, and that was years ago. Since then, I haven’t found someone I genuinely like.
And so, that is why I drown myself in romance novels. If I can’t get it in reality, I’ll just supplement it in other ways. I still believe that there can be a real loving relationship between a couple in this world. It just might not be the time for me right now. Or maybe ever.
If there is one thing I’m sure of though, it’s that I am consistently inconsistent. I am growing as a person, my opinions and thoughts about various topics will change as I continue living in this great, big world. For now, I’m having a great time being single and getting to know myself quite well. I’m starting to be comfortable in my own skin and learn to accept my imperfections, to forgive myself when I fail. I’ve started to learn loving myself properly, to be patient towards myself, and to treat myself as I would a dear friend.
I do feel lonely sometimes, especially when I look around me and see my siblings and cousins with their partners during holidays and family gatherings, feeding me dogfood (a Chinese slang for PDA). Sometimes, I might want to hold someone and throw dogfood to other people too, but for now, I’ll just hold my actual dog.
I’ve learned to just talk it out with my friends when I feel lonely. I noticed that most of the time, I just needed someone to talk to when I feel the familiar embrace of loneliness.
I find it funny when the people around me are more impatient than me to find a lover. They always tell me, ‘Xiao Yun, get a lover!’ I feel pressured every time my older maternal cousin would ask me if I had gotten one yet.
Everyone seems to want to rush me, but I kind of want to take my time. I’m still young and blooming in the middle of my best years, thank you very much. My love will come in time, if God meant for me to be married one day. As of the moment, I just want to focus on my education and career goals. I also want to be financially stable in nine years’ time, so I might as well focus on that right now instead. Even if I end up single at the end of my life, I don’t think I’d feel that sad. A little bit lonely, maybe. At least I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. No human love can ever replace His.’