16 March 2011

Silver Feather


Everybody’s getting married these days. Those who aren’t getting married are, for career-related reasons, going to Singapore. No, really. I’m Facebook serious.

It usually applies to friends of the same demographic. Twenty-five, like me, twenty-six. Twenty-whatever: they’re not counting too importantly, but thirty does appear terrifying, and it looms on the threshold like an in-law. Also, a college degree. Each has watched and liked at least one art film, not including Lost in Translation; knows at least one huge local celebrity, but outrightly rejects the connection as a claim to fame; has zero experience in manual labor; pledges support for, instead of against, the proposed Reproductive Health Bill, all while feigning utter annoyance at having been unable, for one unamusing reason or another, to do anything to express that support.

Now, mother, you are free to lift an eyebrow over me beginning to talk of being left behind. God knows I did, too. “They’re blooming too quickly for their own good” was what they — we — had pronounced early on in a worry-free game of Chinese whispers among twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three-year-olds. “Seriously, how do you make a lifetime commitment to another person at such a young age?” And then one by one, tuxedo by tuxedo, Facebook album by Facebook album, in a series of creatively executed (and often also very silly) engagement announcements and bad dance floor photography, we — they — got married.

Upon receiving these good tidings I now cannot help but feel a growing sense of alarm. Like I’m running out of time or something. Even running out of friends. It’s like armpit hair in high school: you start to look under your arms once you’ve found out that everybody else is growing it. Everybody’s planning their nuptials and buying closets for their new homes, while I’m coming out of the old, I’m-so-normal-and-straight closet and planning this new sort of life. Persecuting congratulations and similarly bitter double entrendes have thus suddenly started to get old. The situation has become a lot less laughable. It’s true that only few of us are left to blurt out devastating quips about the institution of marriage, and about those who chose to protect their love lives under it.

Of this few, a number have left, or are about to leave the country. Which is understandable: anyone who is young, or anyone who hasn’t outgrown restlessness, and who has had to habitually breathe the Manila air is bound to try out some fresh pollution. Regardless of smoking bans, Singapore will seem like a good choice. A dollar there holds thirty-three times more value than does the Philippine peso. The Ministry of Manpower-issued EPEC — or Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate — can be obtained for free by any foreigner with professional qualifications, and it’s valid for a year. Movie stars in Singapore don’t shift to careers in dirty politics, because there are neither dirty politics in Singapore nor movie stars. Ask me any number of times, mother, and I will tell you every time that venturing to support the next left-wing movement or getting involved in any form of politics is going to be so much harder than just buying a plane ticket.

So one by one, kopi tiam by kopi tiam, Facebook album by Facebook album…

I walked into your bedroom the other day to borrow a handkerchief and saw you sleeping. I stopped and thought to myself, God, you’re a beautiful woman. I couldn’t imagine father having married anyone else. There was something about the way you rested your head on the pillow and clasped a rosary in between your hands, something about the way the afternoon wind let a faint silver streak of your hair sway in one soft, natural motion, like feather, made me want to cry, which I did, right after dashing frantically downstairs and shutting the bathroom door. I splashed my face with water and thought that if there’s no other man in the world to do it, I wish I could be the one to make you a grandmother.

I wouldn’t, after all, be twenty-five if you weren’t fifty-nine, and if you hadn’t been twenty-five yourself. Once, you too had to concern yourself with the legalities, the conventions, the sacrifices of surrendering to love. You had to manage what your namesake, Edith Wharton, once wrote of as not being the safe anchorage people were taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas. Still you sailed through without being robbed of any of your goodness, to which the crowning touch should be, without a doubt, a grandchild.

Unfortunately, I am in an unpleasant enough position to even think of what it would take for me to help you in that department. I’m probably doomed to be heirless, and – pouncing on the armpit analogy a little bit harder – it’s all because I’m hairless.

Someday — maybe not today, but someday — I will learn to think less of being left behind. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get married; it may never be to someone I met in a bookstore hunkered over a copy of Vile Bodies, and my getting engaged may never take place on a gondola, as I’ve always imagined it would. Any form of account of how it all happened, you can be sure, will not be published on Facebook. But by then, I think, I’d have ceased to care. The belief that everything was so urgent at twenty-five wasn’t my fault, and it certainly wasn’t yours.

8 comments:

  1. dear...it's all in the mind. believe me. fb album by fb album, you will see :)

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  2. I know! There's no rush, right?

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  3. What started out as a lament turns into a touching tribute. I don't think I'll ever get used to how you write so beautifully, you always get me every single time!

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  4. Amen to the craft!
    Life isn't a race, don't feel left behind. Half of those who got married might end up breaking up anyway! And, 80% of those yuppies working at Singapore and elsewhere would surely go back to Manila and die from too much pollution.

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  5. Wow. Thanks guys. Appreciate it. I'm gushing. And, in this Manila heat, fanning myself with a one-way ticket to Singapore.

    Kidding.

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  6. It's just as hot here... just cleaner. hehe.

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  7. hey migs, i'm in lah-lah land and just got married too! =)

    that's why I thoroughly enjoyed this entry of yours. don't worry, we all take different paths, i guess i just took the one most travelled. =)

    take care and love that your blog can make me smile here in SG lah! =)

    lanie (eastwood colleague)

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