15 Oct

The Minister Mentor of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, once said,

“You either have the Western view: You marry the woman you love. Or the Eastern view: You love the woman you marry. I tried to match both and I think it wasn’t a bad choice.”

This quote became quite famous after the death of his lifelong lover, partner and soul mate Madame Kwa Geok Choo who recently passed away. Romance overdose yet?

But would I be able to replace the “woman” part with “man”? After attending a conference on transnational marriage and commercial arrangements and such (so called “mail-order brides”), I actually don’t even know what I believe in now.

OK, I still have the belief that nothing lasts forever other than plastic. It may sound a bit cynical, but my argument is that people change and the fitness for each other may change as well.  The two people (whether being in a heterosexual or homosexual relationships, partnership, marriage, whatever) are bound to change over time, right? But my best friend who’s already married and planning for my god children (right Mariam?!?) once told me (am paraphrasing): “But it’s a different type of love that you get to have once the relationship progresses- initially, it’s the type of attraction that blinds you, but later, it becomes more of a companionship. What Ben and I have are different from what we used to have in high school.” Or take my friend Loit who has stayed with her boyfriend for over 10 years.

And going back to MM Lee’s statement, I find myself in a bigger trouble. Of course I want to marry someone that I love (“Western” view according to Lee). At the same time, I am so obviously Asian, and when you’re marrying in “Eastern” context, you’re marrying the entire family, not just the guy. You love the guy you marry. Although you may not have had any “spark” exchanges, you will grow to love him, part of it because he is someone reliable and trustworthy.

The conference and years of anthropology training have given me the notion that marriage is “simply” an exchange due to human needs of reproduction and security (I won’t go all Marxist about this).  But even if I don’t go as far as marriage, even just the relationship stage, should I be worried about this whole big picture just because I’m “not getting any younger” or “getting closer to expiry date?” See, I know better than that, and I love myself enough to block such statements out, thank goodness.

This is absolutely not a bitter rant about how I’m pressured into a mold that I’m not (and there is almost no marital pressure from my family). Sure, if given the opportunity (a “Mr. Right”?- story for another day), I will commit myself to such a conventional social institution as far as marriage. I will fall madly in love with someone, make my (and his) family happy, and maybe we’ll have kids.

But knowing that I may become a person who will keep adjusting until I can’t recognize myself anymore so that I will be a better fit with my partner, knowing the social expectations of being a “good” Asian girl friend/ partner/wife (apparently Korean and Japanese women are popular in Singapore as they’re model wives; interesting stuff) and of being part of a “model” couple (well ruined one relationship before due to this), etc. this whole business seems really tricky to me.

Or maybe I’m just confusing love, marriage, relationship, and kinship, which have pretty sketchy boundaries anyways and may not always be related to each other.


One Response to “Love?”

  1. staylorellis October 15, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    I love you and I love this post. Birthdays bring on way too much overanalysis of life. I speak from experience. And yes, that’s also our Duke education talking. 😉

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