By: Alzen Santos, AARCCorner Contributor
“Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” has got to be one of the most notorious questions that are usually thrown around during Filipino family gatherings. It can be a fairly stressful question for me because for one, I’m not too open about my dating history with my family and also, my dating mechanics somewhat differ from what my relatives have taught me growing up. Also, the fact that I’m a gay, Filipino-American does not exactly fulfill my family’s ideal type of marriage. When I “came out” to my mom back in my sophomore year of college, the first thing she and I talked about was dating.
Initially, my mom had to sit down and relax for a bit because I’m the last person to receive her “dating talk.” My older siblings got the same treatment when they told her about their current “interest” in people. She told me that the first rule in dating is “DON’T DATE” (my mother specifically told me to put this rule in all capital letters) and that the second rule is to start with courtship, never pay for anything until the other person asks me out, and pick someone that is driven to accomplish their goals.
This made me think that my mother is some notorious gold-digger but my mom justified it with the following reason: a man who is really interested in someone should be willing to invest time and a lot of money to win. She also made an excellent point when she mentioned courtship, a concept I hardly hear about nowadays. My mother told me that when she was younger, the “hottest” method of courting someone was actually presenting them with a song or in Tagalog, harana. What happens is that the man who is interested visits the woman’s home and sings her a song, usually some traditional Filipino love song or a quick, sweet tune that the pursuer wrote. I told my mom that I can barely sing and I would destroy YouTube if I tried to sing songs to attract gay men all over. She told me that she and my father met around the time of the People Power Movement in the Philippines and that it took them a while before they became “dating status.” My dad actually visited my mother in her province (my dad lived in Pampanga and my mother lived in Bataan). I became confused and my mom told me that there are two types of people in the dating world: Those who wait and those who pursue. My mother recommended that I become a person who waits because apparently I have looks that can attract men. At first I thought it was an arrogant thing to claim but then again, I find my mother very beautiful and a lot of men pursued her so I believe in what she claims.
Of course, her somewhat outdated perception of dating can’t be sufficient for my future dating life. I started to ask my friends in college about their experiences. My Filipina friend Nina from DePaul told me that she pretty much plays the waiting game and she has the stereotypical “knight in shining armor” idea of dating where she wants someone to pursue and she prefers men who are driven. She likes the idea of a man having dreams and aspirations and he is actively fulfilling them one step at a time. She also likes it when a guy spoils her. The interesting thing about her perception is that it is somewhat similar to my mom’s perspective. They both like the idea of being spoiled and prefer the company of strong-willed men. The only difference is that my mom never really cared about a guy having a 6-pack, but Nina really likes a guy with a 6-pack.
The idea of being with a guy that has a 6-pack has always attracted me but historically, people who were more on the full-figured side of the equation were deemed more attractive because it usually represented a higher status. Also, I’ve always found older men to be attractive maybe because I usually relate age to maturity and experience so the idea of someone having experience makes me feel more comfortable. Nico, one of my fellow Filipino-American biochemists, agrees with my notion of finding comfort in dating an older man. However, he is not overly interested in the idea of being spoiled by another person. He prefers showing independence by being able to pay for the dates over being dependent over the other person. He told me that it does not make me any less independent if I prefer someone spoiling me but in a way, I can use it as part of the “trial process” where I can test if a man is truly worthy. Despite the differences with my friends’ dating mechanics, they all share one common theme: the idea of self-worth.
I never really have a set definition for self-worth; I usually think of it as a component of business. I usually think of self-worth as an enhancement to property value, the property being me in this case. My friends generally like people who have a lot of self-respect and have an idea of their self-worth. Apparently it is healthier to date someone who has a good idea of what their self-worth is. Sometimes, I feel like helping someone improve is part of dating and that if we can help each other improve for the better, it eventually evolves into love.
With the idea of self-worth and all the dating tips I have acquired from friends and family, it is still difficult to make a good fusion of each because I trust my mother so much but my personal beliefs do not exactly coincide with hers and my friends also do not exactly agree with how I want to tackle dating. Generation gaps could possibly have a role in how we all want to deal with dating. Culture plays a massive role with the perception of dating. Are these ideas rooted just in Filipino culture? Probably not. One thing is for sure though: my mother is right, I shouldn’t obsess over dating too much.