Maybe you should listen to this song to set the tone for the rest of this piece.
I never wanted to be like those girls who dream of marriage and children because a long time ago I had decided that this wasn’t “me” and it possibly wasn’t going to be me. But a little bit of living later, I started to question this, “Actually, what’s so wrong about being that girl that wants marriage and children?”.
The world keeps on telling us that now, to be a strong, independent woman of the twenty-first century, you have to “chase after your dreams” and want a career, and we’re supposed to not want to be a housewife, because it is beneath you and demeaning to be a wife that serves a man. But these days, increasingly I’ve seen strong, independent “rule the world” type women who have these dreams. These are women who are intelligent, women who would thrive in a corporate environment, the type that are tough, or I never would imagine them wanting to be a housewife, and they have these dreams of marriage and children. Its a paradox, and its so interesting to me. No one ever asked society, that what if those “dreams” were exactly to be a housewife? We’re always defining and redefining empowerment, but when you ask the women what they want, what if they do find empowerment in being a wife and a mother? Its a dream like any other, and who am I to police “dreams”?
But I do need to be clear, I still do not want marriage and children, but I no longer oppose it. Which is why I don’t know why my brain keeps on cooking up this story of me and “dreamboy”. Let’s call him “Mike”.
I keep having this recurring daydream about this guy I encountered while I was in Melbourne.
He’s this guy that led worship in one of those mega churches, he looked like a superstar. He had a great voice, which is why I remembered him. Well, I half-lie. I remembered him because I thought he was cool. He dressed effortlessly in the style I liked seeing on men and had tattoos on his forearm. I imagined him to be a possibly reformed “bad boy” who found Jesus, which would explain the tattoos and the serving on stage. Either that or he was just the “artsy soul” who wanted to defy conventions and platitudes of Biblical verses on tattoos. Either way, I liked the contrast of church boy with tattoos. I’ve always liked opposites. I found contrasts interesting- Like quiet souls with loud fashion, or plumbers who have degrees on aeronautical engineering, and bakers of pink, flowery cupcakes in the body of a bald muscle-man over-stretching his death metal tee-shirt, that sort of thing. Its a profound curiosity in all these complexities of life, that we are all living, breathing, walking paradoxes, and that we are not defined by what we do and what we look like, and the two almost never has to correlate.
So I never met him, and he never knew my name, but in the daydream he wanted to marry me.
We were on the bed, in my room. I couldn’t decide if I wanted my house to look different, or if we should have it be a daybed, but I knew that the day was sticky because it was our motherland. A hot breeze manage to creep its way in through the langsir.
It was one of those boring, painfully normal days, which involved doing nothing, going to the shopping mall, buying nothing, eating something, then coming back. Then it was just like that, on the bed, both of us lying there, when he suddenly just rolled around to his front, looked at me and said, “Hey marry me.”
Just like that.
WIthout pause or change of inflection in his tone. Just a solid, sure, suggestion. Not even a question or a plea. Just a … “Hey marry me.”
My cheeks burned pink immediately. My insides shouted. I was hyperventilating metaphorically. I wanted to slap him. “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU YOU CRAZY!” Every feeling in my gut wanted to make a sure flight out the door and into the streets. It was as if we were in nature- “fight or flight?” I was quite sure I was a “flight”. As in, run away fast.
Instead I gave a long pause as I looked at him, and pretended to be thinking about it to spare his feelings. He is, after all, the man I love. “But how…” I said. It was a faux wail of concern to cover the nerves. ” We don’t even have any money…” I said pathetically. Money was never a ‘thing’ with me, so you could see how incredulous this claim was.
“Nowadays need a lot of money wan you know? No house. No nothing.”
He sort of laughed yet you could tell the nerves seeping from his normally cool exterior. He knew I would say something like that. He knew I was dying inside and wanted to run away. He knew it all, but didn’t let me go with a “just kidding” or a statement to alleviate the tension. He was really saying it. He wanted to marry me, he was giving me a “Nope. I’m not letting you get away that easy.” battle of the silences.
“I know” he shrugged finally.
“Here.” He pulled out a silver band. “Its NOT your wedding ring. Its RM 24.95, but its just a little something to show you that I’m serious about this.” I was already shaking my head. ” I’ll replace it with the real one later, when I get the money.”
.” I don’t need a diamond ring!” I was furious. How dare he suggest that I was materialistic, though we both knew that he didn’t think so. I was just being difficult on purpose. “I don’t need anything!”
” Who said anything about diamond?!” He joked and I laughed.
At this point, I don’t even know why this daydream crept in my day. I am not this person. I am not this girl. I do not daydream about marriage. Boys, boyfriends and making out yes, but not marriage. As the daydream shows, my disposition still reflects this paranoia, even after finding someone that was the proverbial “it”.
He was “it”. We both knew we were “it”.
How did I know?
Someone famous once said, ” I think the moment you look at this person and know that it can’t get any better than “this”, and you’ve stopped looking, this is pretty much ‘it’.” But still, in my daydream, I had wanted to run away. I even had the perfect deterrent, I told him “But what if I don’t want children?”
“You don’t want children?” This time he was genuinely concerned.
“ah HA.” I had him this time. He was stuck now.
“Well, I don’t know.” A long silence.
I was being truly honest. I really didn’t know.
” I might change my mind.” I might.
“…Like ten years later. But you shouldn’t be waiting around for me to know. What if you marry me, we spend years down the road, and I still don’t want children? You’d be bitter and hate me forever.”
He gave me a face, something that said “No Way that’s NOT going to happen.” Yet his silence showed he was thinking.
” I honestly don’t think that would happen.” he said finally.
“How you know?” I challenged.
” I don’t know.” pause.
“But I know that I just want to marry you.”
” hmm… yeah s’okay lah, we can have accidental babies, then like, ah no choice.”
We both laughed again.
“Mike” was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, this much I was sure. I knew it, and he knew it. But I couldn’t say “yes”. I had a need for control. To control my own life, and define marriage and even boyfriendhood according to my own terms. To give myself to a man, is a lack of that control and I had a problem with that.
Mike was not real. But he was the face to the personality of the person I imagined I would want to marry. I thought about the kind of guy he could be, I imagined him to be in love with photography but is actually an accountant working nine to five for something corporate and something he hates. Years later he would leave his job to pursue something great. Not photography, that’s his hobby. But something truly great, of “save the world” proportions.
The details of this man are still cloudy, but he did have one thing, JUST one thing that made the difference from my “OH MY GOSH RUN AWAY HE WANTS TO MARRY ME NO!” into a “YES”. Metaphorical Mike was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with because he had the one thing I didn’t find in anyone else on earth, and it was “Compassion”. He had compassion.This was my surety.
It was just one word. The one thing that was missing in society and man. One word to replace what years of searching, thinking and refining my ideas about the kind of man I want was. Where previously I had wanted things like intelligence, passion and a love for people. Compassion is something innate that is more than the sum of these things. Its the driving force that moves ordinary people into action, where previously it would have been just static words and feel good sentiments.
Its the thing that drives people to far off destinations, building schools, alleviating poverty and hunger, doing all the unglamorous things to make sure someone else has their decency.Its a deep respect for humanity.
Even if it wasn’t done in a third world setting, compassion can be seen in the first world. It can be in the workplace, and Mike had that. He has a history of forgiving someone even when it feels so good to hold a grudge. Its the unglamorous thing that no one sees and the thing that comes at a cost to you, because its making sure a person had his decency, even after he had stepped on you to get ahead. Yes compassion is THAT unglamorous.
If he is to be a person that I would live out the rest of my days with, he had to be my partner in crime. Or rather, in a very cheesy way, my partner in “love”, my partner in loving people and compassion for people. He will be the person that makes me better, and I for him, and we will be the people that urges each other on when we grow tired of the impossible task of loving.
I no longer see compassion. But I have hope that it exists.
So who is this Mike?
I don’t see him, but I have hope that he exists.
Which is why I always said, the moment I see a man like this, that’s the moment I know he’s “it”, if I were already “it” for him too.