“You need a boyfriend to have a baby.” Actually, the entire sentence said to my face was, “Even without a husband, you need a boyfriend to have a baby.”
“Nope,” I replied before turning away from my dad’s cousin (in his 60s, gay, Filipino) to make note of the conversation in my phone. And this was actually the end of the (albeit brief) talk he had with me at a ticketing counter at the Manila airport.
Let’s back up a bit. I am the daughter of two immigrants who came to the States in the 1970s. I was born in New York and for all intents and purposes am American through and through. Yes, I’m technically Filipino-American, but it’s never more clear than when I go to the Philippines just how American I am. The way I dress, my humor, and most importantly, the culture of interpersonal communication.
But I am no stranger to Filipino culture. Growing up in western New York, there weren’t a lot of us, but I still was around people who looked like me week to week. And every five years, my parents and I would go back “home” – aka what Filipinos in the U.S. call the Philippines – to visit family. So I knew what the top question was going to be before my trip back in May. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
FTR: I do not. And if I did, I am not the type of person to just openly and freely talk about my relationship status with cousins and second cousins and my dad’s cousins. We are not close and I’m just not comfortable sharing that with strangers.
Knowing full well that the mystery of my love life would be the top talking point, I decided to keep track of how many times I was asked if I had a boyfriend. 8. 8 different times. Other tallies:
“Do you want a husband?”: 1
“When are you getting married?”: 1 (my response was immediately, “when are YOU getting married?”)
“No boyfriend? Do you have any suitors?” 1
Apparently it’s still a common practice in the Philippines for potential suitors to court girls they like. And I guess if you’re a Duggar, this isn’t that much of a stretch. But I am not a fundamentalist Christian, nor does my name start with a ‘J’. I’m also assuming “suitors” in the Philippines means someone more serious than a dude I’d swipe right on.
The cousin who asked me when I’m getting married is one that I talk to the most when I’m in the homeland, so I didn’t feel bad by firing back at her with, “When are YOU getting married?”. But a few days later, she was sitting next to my mother and I in an airport. While we waited to board, she followed it up with another inquisition about my love life, telling my mom not to listen so we could have full disclosure. Yeah right. I know better than this. I ain’t answering a damn thing. The most notable part of the interrogation was if she asked if I wanted a boyfriend who was Filipino or American. Filipino or American? “Those are the only two options?,” I thought to myself. Still thinking about her question, she turned back to my mom and asked for her opinion. “Probably Filipino-American,” my mom said.
A) Why are you assuming I’m choosing a potential mate based on race?
B) What is “American”? Anyone who is White?
C) Because we’re all Filipino means I also am attracted to only Filipinos?
Look, I’m not one to discriminate against any race, but I’ll tell you this much – Filipinos nor Filipino-Americans usually aren’t the top criteria on my ISO list. Slash WHY ARE WE STILL DISCUSSING MY LOVE LIFE?
Want to know how many people asked me about my job? About 2 people. For us Americans, when you first meet someone, or catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while, the first thing you ask isn’t if they’ve got a significant other, right? It’s always, “So what do you do?” That simple difference in pleasantries drove me mad.
So this brings me back to the airport conversation I had with my dad’s cousin (why did all these convos happen in the airport?). There are so many conclusions he jumped to in the short span of our 5 minute talk. In the Philippines, family is first. Women are supposed to get married. They’re expected to have children. They cook for the husband and take care of the kids. Traditional through and through. Which is why, I’m assuming, me bearing a child would be the top concern for all of my family members. Because that’s just what you do. And of course, there are many families in the U.S. that believe the same thing – but that’s not me.
I subscribe to the Modern Day Woman lifestyle, where my top priority has always been to have a job I’m happy in. The M.R.S. Degree never really appealed to me. I am my own person. I don’t believe I was put on this Earth just to give men children. I am not a Handmaid (yet, I suppose). But if I have a kid, then great. It’s just not my number one goal in life. Was I too rude in being curt by saying, “Nope” then turning around? It’s not like I could carry out that anger. It’s just their culture. And my – Traci – culture is the opposite, but they just don’t know that because they don’t know me.
I don’t need a boyfriend. I don’t need a baby. I just need to be happy. That should be something we can universally agree on.