This is How We Do It These Days

A few months ago a boy liked me — a fairly common occurrence. But being slightly ambitious and maybe a little drunk as well , he decided to ask me out on a date.

This was a weird choice, as I’m not sure I know anyone who has ever had a real date. Most elect to hang out, hook up, or Skype
long-distance relations. The idea of a date (asking in advance, spending rent money on dinner and dealing with the initial awkwardness) is far too concrete and unnecessary. As the adage goes: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Why pay for dinner if you can sit around watching TV? If you stay at home, you hardly even need to stand up, let alone put on a nice shirt.

Despite misgivings, this particular foray felt legitimate, a coming-of-age moment straight out of a John Hughes movie. I had always wanted to go on a real date: flowers, dinner and all that. I thought that maybe in doing so I would feel more like an adult and less like a dumb little girl.

In my 2 decades, I have had my share of trysts. I’ve been in love. I know it was love because I shamelessly clung to him. I have had my share of ups and downs but have no idea if I’m doing the whole love thing right or wrong. We don’t tend to define it that way.

In this age of cyberselves, with hookups just a Craigslist ad away, the game has evolved to the point of no rules. It’s not the ’50s where you can be asked by some boy to wear his pin and take a ride in his daddy’s car.

For my generation, friendship often morphs into a flirtatious encounter and then reverts to friendship the next day. And it’s easy as long as you don’t put yourself on the line or try too hard. Don’t have a prospect? Check Facebook. Afraid to call? Text.

With so many avenues for communication, one might expect an onslaught of romantic soliloquies, but that isn’t the case. Casual is sexy. Caring is creepy. You don’t want to show your hand, and you certainly don’t want to fall in love. At least until you do, and by then it’s too late.

Planned romance is viewed as nothing more than ambition, so it’s important that things be allowed to happen naturally.

Relationships are great but not to the point that they should be actively pursued. It’s hard to even flirt with a boy without feeling obvious and embarrassed, since the greatest displays of cheesiness come from the pursuit, making it disgusting: “Oh, you drive a Volvo? What’s that like?” Realizing I’m flirting, I cringe and do my best to restrain myself. An encounter is best when unsullied by intentions, leaving lust or boredom to take over.

The typical sequence goes like this: Friends meet up at some sort of bonfire or impromptu game of night volleyball. Maybe that boy from your history class is there, and you start to talk. Neither of you has expectations. But just hanging out and swapping stories, laughing a little, creates a spark and the attraction builds, eventually leading to the big wet kiss (or what have you) that changes everything and nothing.

This is the perfect hookup, a pressure-free surprise. With a stranger, everything is new and acceptable. His quirks are automatically endearing. This first encounter is the perfect place, but where does it lead?

In the best case, nowhere at all. The next time you see him in class, you act the same as you did before, and so does he, except for the knowledge you share that what happened last week might happen again. If it continues, you have an understanding, physical chemistry and great conversations. You meet two or three times a week for no-strings hangout and long-winded philosophical talks.

Most importantly, you aren’t lonely. Maybe deep in the recesses of your mind you think about possibly loving this person. What’s the standard response? Nothing. If he asks, “How do you feel about me?” you answer from the heart: “I see you as an unexpected treat from the heavens. I don’t know how I deserve this.”

Your relationship is good. Your relationship is strong. But it isn’t a relationship, and that’s the key. You aren’t hoping he will become your boyfriend, and ideally he is not looking for anything more, either.
A friend of mine, a normal girl who is neither especially social nor aloof, engages in hookups unabashedly — she’s just doing what she wants and doesn’t regret or overthink it. Except for one time when she woke up in some guy’s embrace, got out of bed and noticed his bookshelf.

I’m not sure what it was about the contents that impressed or moved her; maybe the books suggested a gentle soul. All I know is what she told me: “I only felt bad after seeing his books.” The books had made him a real person, I guess, one she liked. Or pitied. Because then it was on to the next.

I might not be a typical youth, and maybe my friends aren’t typical, either, but hardly anyone I know aspires to be “that guy” or “that girl,” those once-dynamic individuals who “found someone” and suddenly weren’t so cool. On some level, we envy the scope of their feelings, but we certainly don’t want to become them.

But staying out of relationships can be just as much work as maintaining one. After hooking up with the same person several times I’m sometimes haunted by the “Relationship Status” question on Facebook, and I’ll linger over the button, wondering whether to make the leap from fun to obligation. I envision holding hands, meeting his parents and getting matching t-shirts.

Then I come to my senses and close the window.

Maybe this disconnect has always existed. As one 60-year-old said to me, “Every generation thinks they discovered love.” Which might be true, but I’m not sure any previous generation has our plethora of options and utter lack of protocol. This may reflect how our media obsession has desensitized and hypersexualized us.

But I think it goes beyond that. Our short attention spans tend to be measured in nanoseconds. We float from room to room watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing Frisbee and finding satisfaction around every corner, if only for a moment.

Out of fear, we shrink ourselves. There have been many times I should have cried but stifled the tears. Instances where I should have said, “I love you” but made a joke instead. I’m fairly certain I could have saved the entire endeavor with a soul-baring soliloquy of what was true and what mattered to me, but I couldn’t muster the courage. I don’t know many who can.

We’ve grown up in an age of rampant divorce and the accompanying tumult. The idea that two people can be happy together, maturing alongside each other, seems as false as a fairy tale. So when a relationship ends, it isn’t seen as bad. It’s held as evidence that the relationship was never any good to begin with.

MAYBE it’s just that we have learned nothing can compare to the perfect moment of the unexpected hookup — wet lips on the beach, lying in the sand — and so we aim to accumulate as many as possible. Or maybe we’re simply too immature to commit. That has been the rap against guys forever, but now women think the same way. With the world at our fingertips, it’s difficult to choose, to settle, to compromise. But I do occasionally wonder: If we can’t get past ourselves and learn to sacrifice to be with another, then what is in store? A generation of selfish go-getters fueled by nothing more than our own egos, forever seeking that rare dose of self-esteem? An era of loneliness filled with commercial wants and mate selection based on the shallowest of criteria?

As a staunch proponent of my generation, I believe that, despite what it may seem, we appreciate the ways of love and affection but are simply waiting for them to take over. We might dally in the land of easy hookups and stilted text-message flirtation, but deep down we crave the warm embrace of all-consuming love.

I do, anyway. What else could have been behind my crazy idea to go out with someone?

24 September, 2012 16:56

This girl was eyeing me curiously with her forehead furrowed. I was okay with her stare though it seemed that she was seeing something in me that didn’t earn her approval. After much hesitation, she came up to me and said…

Jiam: Aye, ino ka baden di pagparebond? (Aye, why don’t you get your hair rebonded?)

So she was having a problem with my hair. Like as if it’s a big mess that she just got to fix.

Me: Eesh. Gia i tomoon aken. Balabaw igira gopen ako miakanaw ka feeling aken na saken si J.Lo. (Eesh. This is how I want it. Especially when I just got up from bed, I feel like I am J.Lo.)

The morale here is that stick-straight hair is so 2004 when San Cai of Meteor Garden was the rage. Kidding! What I really want to say is that self-acceptance is a beautiful thing. People can throw shit on you and you get over it with a laugh or a shrug. Sorry Jiam for dragging you here, I still adore you girl.

Lenses and Filters

I’m not on ganja. Not on coke either. I’m sober as a doorknob. But I see the world this way, like my eyes have Instagram filter.

I woke up this morning with a zit. My hair is always rebelling against my wishes. But I feel beautiful anyway.

This is the good life. Carefree with ragged edges, like a worn-out Levis denim button-down.

Sinabi na Ngang Riba Eh!

One afternoon, my guy friend and I were having coffee at the Village Bakeshop and there was this sexy maroon BMW parked in front of Jeco’s. We were looking at the gorgeous car, wishing we had one. Then my guy friend told me about Coconut bank. He asked if I wanted to “invest” and if I don’t ever get INGGIT of these investors parading around with their flashy cars and fat wallets.

 

“So what if I get rich by investing? What’s the point when I know that I did not get it thru honest efforts? Besides, the aleems say it is riba,” I told him.

 

Fast forward to today, the bank is bankrupt, agents are hiding, and investors are vowing to kill if they don’t get back their capital. This is what our aleems are warning us about. We could have at least listened to them, considered that they know best in Islamic law. The problem with us is that we are so into material things that we don’t mind the legality of our goldmines. Our morals have dipped so low that we don’t mind if we are committing grave sin. How grave is riba? It’s like committing adultery with your own mother! We didn’t care. We made our aleems liars because we covet our neighbor’s Montero.

 

What did we get? This. Clock ticking towards apocalypse.
And then we heard that there’s another Coconut bank in Ozamis and Pagadian. I heard many of us are flocking over there.

 

Walang kadala-dala.

 

“The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”

 

-Albert Einstein

The Fourth Shade of Disposable Love

I was reading Splice’s Three Shades of Disposable Love Yesterday and I thought that another shade wasn’t on the list.

You are sitting on a sticky plastic chair in your favorite internet cafe. You can’t give a damn to the hunderds of sweaty hands and sweaty backs that have been there in the station where you are now or that you can probably get smacked in the face by the rowdy high school students two stations from you who are about to start a riot. You look at them and remember what it was like to be high school, to be foolish yet you own the world. You can’t care because right now, on that sticky plastic chair, you feel like a high school again. You are giddy with love, the kind you feel after watching those overrated rom-coms, you know those are shit but you feel good anyway because the scenes remind you of a pretty face and those moments you shared with her and you desperately hope that you two will eventually end up like the couples in those in crappy rom-coms.

It’s been 55 minutes now. Five more minutes and your time is up, either you leave or buy another ticket to an hour of blissful scanning of pictures on Facebook–your pictures with her. You clearly remeber what transpired when those pictures were taken. But the feeling, you don’t remember anymore because the strength of your wanting for her now is clouding everything in the past like a strong liquor coursing through your veins making you clear-headed yet woozy, you know what your doing but you are too uninhibited to stop yourself from your whims. You have seen each picture already and have seen her timeline over again that you have memorized the lines of her face and the words she loves to utter. You are even musing on a love quote she posted. Was she talking about you?

You see on the chat box that she’s online. You badly want to chat her up but you are playing cool so you won’t even say hi. You don’t want to appear too needy nor too desperate. A red icon pops on the top of the web page. Another notification. You click it and see (insert her name here) is in a relationship with (insert the monkey’s name here). You feel nothing for the first 30 seconds and suddenly Big Bang exploded in your chest. Your chest muscles must have been injured because you can’t even take a single breath. You know from now on, every thing changes. You no longer can take her out to pig outs. You no longer can call her anytime you want. The distance that you have tried to close over the years parts like the Red Sea with the staff of Moses. You see that your time is ticking yet you can’t still decide what to do next.

The choices are:

a.) like her status change

b.) click the monkey’s name to check the competitor

c.) unfriend her

It doesn’t matter which one you pick. You can never go back to what you were anyway. You choose one of the above four seconds before your ticket expires.

You smoke the last millimeter of your cigarette. You’re down to the filter part now. It is of no use now. So you throw it away, stepping on it, crushing it thoroughly under your heel.