I’m 30 and unmarried. Needless to say, my mother is thrilled. She recently approached my auntie in Malaysia (without my knowledge), asking her to “find someone for me” because, despite a couple of long-term relationships, I haven’t been able to “lock one down”. I don’t know whether to be angry or amused.
I’m from a culture where arranged marriages are commonplace. My auntie says she will just facilitate the introduction to some “good, kind-hearted boys”, and the rest is up to me.
I’m of two minds about this. While I would like a life partner, marriage has never been the be all and end all of my existence. Is it right to enter this kind of set-up if I’m unsure about my level of commitment? I’m also probably not the “traditional” kind of girl that these men are looking for — I value my career and independence above all else. Is it fair to make those kind of assumptions about guys I haven’t met??
Plus it’s totally embarrassing that my Mum and auntie have to intervene in my love life. But you never know, my auntie has been known to be a good matchmaker. I guess this is just like Tinder, but for Muslim families.
I don’t know what to do, help!
– Sleepless in Sengkurong
Winnie: I’m gonna be straight with you — I am all in for this! If I had people offering to go out and find me my ideal man, I’d be like, “Where have you been all my life?”
But in all seriousness now, as a single woman in her 30s, I can relate to your reservations.
Firstly, I would be taken aback if my parents had asked someone to find me a suitor without telling me, because I truly loathe the narrative of “the pitiful single woman”: the assumption that every single woman is in need of a man, or that a single woman needs help to find a man, or that locking down a man should be the central focus of a woman’s life.
So, the idea of actions being taken to find me a mate, without my knowing, just reeks of that outdated, yet still pervasive tale — that to others, I am seen as incomplete and in need of some kind of intervention to rescue me from my single status.
However, if you are the one asking to be set up, that puts you in control. You are simply taking steps to make things happen for yourself. Sure, there’s a stigma that a woman looking for a husband is desperate, but these are gender biases that I’d pay no mind to. If a man were to say that he was looking for a wife, he would be applauded.
Wanting to share your life with someone is a completely natural, human desire — no one should be shamed for seeking it. Is it shameful to look for food when you’re hungry? No.
Now, you say you would like a life partner, but you’ve thrown in so many questions and concerns that it’s drowning out your true desire. So, let’s start with simply acknowledging what you want. Say it out loud, no ifs and buts. “I would like a life partner.” Own it. Revel in it. Sit with your truth. Try to quieten all your fears. How does it feel? Is it bringing you a sense of calm? Confidence? Does it feel right?
Next, let me ask you, what attachments and meanings have you placed on the action of asking someone to find you a mate, and how may that be deterring you from going for what you really want?
You seem to have a lot of preconceived ideas on how this could all play out, but a woman who values her career and independence doesn’t strike me as the type to sit quietly and wait for things to happen to her.
Perhaps you may be intimidated at utilising such a traditional medium of finding a suitor, but no one said you have to play by their rules — it’s 2017, flip the script! Define the rules yourself. Your auntie needs to be clear on your position. Since arranged marriages are commonplace in your culture, you must be clear that this is not what you’re after. Explain to her that you’d like to meet someone, but that you’d like to take your time getting to know him. Friendship first.
Also, don’t sell yourself short, and definitely do not worry about whether you’re the kind of girl they’re looking for. Hello, you should be asking if they are the kind of man you’re looking for! Your Auntie is going to look out for someone for you. She is on your team. Therefore, she needs to know your playbook.
Must have ambition. Must be supportive of my ambitions. Must be kind. Must be “woke”. That kinda thing. Though I’d recommend keeping it limited to the most important qualities, lest you end up intimidating your auntie! My father once offered to find me a husband, so I gave him a detailed list of what I want in a man. He took one look at it, and said, “Oh, I don’t think I can find this, Win.” He gave up before he even started! Let’s hope your auntie is more resilient.
I think once you let go of your anxieties, you could have some real fun with this. Treat it like Tinder, don’t take it so seriously. Whether it works out the way you want to or not, it’ll be an interesting experience and you’ll probably come out of it with some good stories to share. Just like Tinder, you might not meet “the one”, but you can still meet some cool people. And what’s even better than Tinder, is that your auntie is not going to match you with a slimebag douche.
Tiwin Aji is a Brunei-based comedienne known for her popular web series, #WinnieonWednesday. Equipped with empathy and a preternatural knack for doling out advice, she discovered at a young age that she loved telling people what to do.
If you’d like to get her take on your dilemma, fill out the contact form below or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers to reader-submitted questions will be published fortnightly in the ‘Winnie Wisdom’ column. All submissions will remain anonymous.