A Latter Day Fairy Tale :When Harried met Sullied
- Twink Macaraig () - September 12, 2004 - 12:00am
If you think that to be single, over 35 and female diminishes with each passing year any chance that you may have of finding a worthy partner in the Philippines, then consider the lot of the single, over 35 mother.

Total strangers will come up to you with intimate questions. You elicit comments of pity clumsily passed off as well-meant concern. You take an inordinately long time to fill up a personal information form because you wonder that some minimum-wage office clerk might judge you.

You’re paid strange compliments – you can be standing in a supermarket aisle comparing tuna fish brands and a passing acquaintance will laud you for "bravery". You hear the most bizarre rumors about yourself – some untrue – firsthand because the deteriorating faculties of the old biddies spreading them makes them forget you’re in the room.

Widowers come out of the woodwork. Rusty armors newly-polished, they pay court with long-stemmed roses and an earnestness of purpose that might be mistaken for valor. They know nothing about you. Yet they offer you their retirement nest eggs wrapped in lamentable poetry. They prepare a repertoire of jokes to fill the many gaps in your conversation. They ask you to karaoke bars to croon maudlin songs while trying to lock you in meaningful stare. To them, chemistry was nothing but a briefly-fun-but-ultimately-useless High School subject (unless he happens to be a chemist). They assume that what you want – and all that you want – is someone to be a good father to your child. They offer fidelity. They offer expediency. They offer to make an honest woman out of you. And it’s because you do not lack for honesty that you say – with some regret, because you understand the maddening ache of loneliness – No, but thank you.

The single mother attracts more heels than either Carrie Bradshaw or Imelda. Like the playground bullies who immediately pick off the littlest kids in dodgeball, the single mother is viewed as an easy mark by mean, macho, married men. They will have some silly-ass story about how he and his partner have an "arrangement", or how they share a roof but not a bedroom, or how they’ve been physically estranged but haven’t bothered to make it legal. And you’re expected to take this because a girl like you should be grateful for anything you can get. You’re expected to overlook that he has no looks, takes kickbacks for a living and has the integrity of the Ruby Tower. Somehow, the too-expensive gift he gave your son, the third-hand BMW he drives, and the desire he will profess for your "ok pa naman ‘a " body, should throw your doors wide open for twice weekly visits. To them you also say No. And no matter how early you said it, you regret not having said No sooner.

Then there’s the babies. The ones with an untreatable drug habit, unresolved sexuality issues or unbroken string of small-business failures. Mr. Santos will ask you to be Mrs. Santos. And ostensibly, because you so dearly want to be a Mrs. you’ll forget that he’s not looking for someone to be his wife but his madir, the woman who nurtured his fatal flaws to maturity. He mistakenly thinks that the maternal instinct can kick in even for those beyond 12 who were not extracted from your womb. You say, No, I already have a son. And that will be the best riposte you can muster because at that point, being a single mother in the Philippines has wrung all the good humor out of you.

Is there hope? Yes. But only when you stop hoping. Because he will not come galloping on a shiny steed, leaping over all barriers (many of which you’d erected yourself). He will not fight your battles, excise your past or form a preternatural bond with your child.

He is a friend you’ve known from way back whom you’ve always liked but respected even more. Like you, he’s suffered a failed marriage, taken care of the paperwork, rebounded with a new relationship, and promptly failed at that, too.

He works himself obsessively – juggling commissions, speaking engagements, a teaching load, (along with parental duties to his own child) all to avoid doing the horrible dating thing again. He will have reaped plenty of professional recognition because no one is more productive than when driven by the need to compensate for the absence of a social life.

Don’t try to catch him because it will be impossible, what with his rushing off to make another deadline that he’s already late for, as well as escaping some persistent intellectual groupie. Rather, trust that the cosmic force that had you bumping into each other again and again over the last decade will continue to hum.

And then, when the gods decide that they’ve had enough fun messing with your head, when you deserve a reward for all the times you managed to say No, when you’ve finally recovered you sense of humor, he will appear as this luminous being: under-dressed, glowing through the chalk dust that he’s perennially covered with – the only one making sense at a cocktail party.

When it strikes you that that he alone understands your oblique reference to West Wing, shares your delight in everything ironic, that he alone sees you as the person you’ve always been – before, beneath and beyond the single mother label – you drop a subtle hint.

You say "Oh for God’s sake, why the hell didn’t we ever go out?!"

He won’t have an answer for you then but he will give it due consideration. He will put that question on the top of the heap of his pending assignments. He will tackle that problem with the rigor he applies to all his scholarly pursuits.

Soon, he will show up at your door, daisies in one hand for you, ice cream in the other for your son.

He will not offer you the vacant place at his dining table, an education plan, a car purchased with dirty money, or his family name.

Just then and there he will offer – and that is all he will need to offer – to give love another chance.

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