Monday, September 10, 2007

A woman needs a man

09 Sep 2007, ST

I've come to the realisation that a woman isn't complete unless she has a partner

By Sumiko Tan

I NEVER thought I'd say this, but here goes: A woman needs a man to be complete.

Recently, a reader mentioned how she was feeling the pressure to get married. And she's not even 30.

I wrote back to her: 'Don't let anyone pressure you into marriage, although speaking from someone who's 43, single, and looking back at my own life, if you do find a soul mate and marriage is a possibility, do grab it.

'Singlehood has its many advantages, but to be able to share a life with someone who loves you and whom you love, well, that's a happy position to be in.'

My, how the tide has turned.

For ever so long, I've been anti-marriage. Well, 'anti' is too strong a word, but I've always felt that the institution of marriage was overrated.

Perhaps it was from seeing so many people emerge broken and bruised from bad marriages. Or it could be because I grew up in a home where domestic peace was rare (although you'd think that I'd have long stopped using childhood trauma as a crutch for anything that's wrong in my adult life).

Or maybe it was a defence mechanism, given I've yet to find a man worth marrying, or whom I liked enough and who'd marry me - you know, two people so deeply connected they are willing to become stakeholders in each other's lives.

In any case, I've never bought into that whole white wedding thing. (Babies, yes, for a while, but not marriage.)

Except for a brief and regrettable period in my early 20s, I've never wasted brain cells on the treacly trimmings that others dream about when they plan their Big Day. (Raffles or the Ritz-Carlton? Pachelbel's Canon in D or Etta James' At Last? Ten-course Chinese dinner or five-course Western lunch?)

Singapore women, I've always felt, should avoid being overly dependent on men. Don't go spoiling them (or peeling prawns for them). It's more important to be happy with ourselves and to work on being self-sufficient, self-aware, self-confident and all those other fierce I-am-woman-hear-me-roar slogans.

What has caused my change of heart?

Is age - shudder - catching up with me?

THE thing I have come to dislike most about being single is attending 'couples' events.

They include concerts and plays where you're the only one invited without a 'partner' because the organisers know that, too bad, you don't have one.

And dinner parties which you bravely attend alone only to suffer tiresome couples who seem to enjoy flaunting their twosome status to singletons the whole evening.

At lunch one weekend, I saw a stomach-churning display.

A good-looking couple with baby in pram were out having a meal - well, good for them. But they kept making goo-goo eyes at each other and couldn't stop smiling. When the food came, they said grace, then actually kissed each other delightedly on the lips before turning to their meal. He then proceeded to feed her from his dish using his fork. Oh please.

My lunch companion consoled me: 'They've probably been married for just over a year, lah. It'll fade.'

And then there's going by your single self to watch movies and the cashier kindly offering you that 'single' seat at the back of the hall, segregated for wheelchair-bound people and lonely, solitary folk like you (for your information, that's seats K2 in GV Grand's hall 4 and J18 in hall 5).

Such a relentless onslaught of this singling out of singletons is enough to make even the most self-assured of independent women lose their self-esteem when, really, they should be cherishing their freedom.

BUT the inescapable truth - one that I've finally allowed myself to acknowledge - is this: Life is really much nicer when you have someone to share it with.

As an unmarried friend in his 50s puts it: 'A partner is paramount when you're older. Having regular lunches with old schoolmates is certainly not enough. The isolation can be painful.'

I'm not even talking marriage and husbands here but just the idea of having a 'mate' - yes, that frankly rather childish concept of a 'boyfriend' - in your life.

When there's someone to love, and who loves you back, isn't life so much sweeter?

A colleague who married at the relatively late age of 35 says that she's slowly realising why marriage is such a good idea.

'It really is like having a 24-hour best friend,' she says.

'Wake up together, go to work together, come home to someone to complain to, have hobbies together, go to sleep together. Ultimately, marriage is not about sex, financial security or even kids. It's about companionship and having a 24-hour friend who makes life easier most of the time.'

I suppose you could argue that companionship and fulfilment needn't necessarily be from, and with, a man.

Surely what we all hunger for is just someone or something to love, and from which we get some feelings of love and appreciation back, and must this be in the form of only a husband or boyfriend? Can't it also be from a parent, sibling or child? From a pet, even, or an exciting career?

But, oh, who are we kidding? Let's be honest. Nothing beats the frisson of commanding the time and attention of someone from the opposite sex whom you fancy and who fancies you. After all, humans are hardwired to mate.

No amount of cake and coffee with your girlfriends (sorry, girls, but you do know what I mean), or a pet dog's unconditional love, can give a woman the same happiness as when she is in the company of the man she adores and who loves her back.

The caveat, of course, is that he isn't a prince you kissed who turns out to be a frog, but someone who's kind, decent and sweet and who watches out for you.

It does involve risk and taking a leap of faith in your ability to read people.

After all, many a match starts off well but descends into hell. And hell needn't be about fights and acts of meanness. It can be plain boredom - that trapped feeling when you sit down for a meal with a supposed loved one and discover you have absolutely nothing left to say to each other anymore.

So, yes, the life of a woman will be complemented and enhanced by the right male companion.

But as my colleague also said, she'd rather be single and alone than to be married and miserable - and there are an awful lot of unhappy 'happy couples' out there.

For her, though, it really is a case of finding the right partner.

If only we were all so lucky.

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