A commenter (one of the 5 or 6 we have) recently told the story of an ex-girlfriend. Seems in a moment of pillow talk he asked her why she was with him, a middle-aged foreigner, rather than a young Pinoy. She responded with something like she “wanted to eat better than dried fish and rice every day.” He wasn’t moved by her response.
Now personally, as I’ve blogged before, Janet loves dried fish and rice and would probably eat it every day if she could get it – and if the rest of us could stand the smell.
But the reader took the response to mean that not only his girl, but all Filipinas, are with their Western partners for only one reason – more dried fish 🙂 No no, I suppose he really meant – for money.
Being on more forums with expats and travelers to the Philippines than I should be reading, I can say that this is a common, if odd, opinion. Guys move to the Philippines with their wives, or move there and find a wife or girlfriend, and often declare that most of the women there are only interested in a man’s cash. Of course they are quick to add that their wife doesn’t fall into that category. They were smart enough to find “one of the good ones.” More likely they are smart enough not to give their true opinion on a public forum that their wife or her infinite number of friends and relatives might read.
So, why are they with us? Why are we with them? What is this thing called love? If you’ve read any of my other wiseassed blog pieces you know I won’t be answering the last question.
But it reminds me of the fact that Janet often asks why. It’s night, maybe we’re in bed, and we whisper loving words to each other. I tell her “I love you very much,” and she asks, “Why do you love me?”
I have no good answers. I mean, saying “you’re cute/hot/a good lover,” not only isn’t an accurate answer to the love question, it could be considered insulting. “What, you only love my body!!! What happens when I get older and put on 5 pounds?”
“You’ll still be hot to me, baby.” You can imagine that this conversation (and any subsequent nighttime activities) will not end well.
Usually when Janet asks the “why” question, I hem and haw, come up with something, but it’s pretty inadequate. I’m a writer but not a poet. I know that I love Janet, but am not completely sure what that means, nor if an adequate “why” even exists.
So why do people love each other? And does the answer have anything to do with marriage – or money? After all I was in love when I was 13 – and 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 – all with different girls. And thank God I didn’t marry any of them.
I think our parents and grandparents and their predecessors, in previous eras in which most marriages actually lasted successfully, if not always happily, innately understood that you needed two people to make life work. Somebody had to make money, somebody had to care for the children, somebody had to cook, somebody took care of the house, somebody had to make sure you could afford the house and keep it from falling apart, somebody had to hitch the team of horses to the wagon or later on look under the hood of the car with a knowing “ah ha.” There was no way out of the realization that it took two adults. I suspect that in those days also, connection was more important. Today people live alone more often than ever in the U.S. and seem OK with it; in the Philippines and much of the world, living alone is almost inconceivable, emotionally and financially .
Now, I’m not an anti-feminist, so unlike some men, I’m not going to blame it all on feminism. But I will say that at some point people figured out that with modern conveniences, one adult could do it all, albeit badly: work, hire child care, throw packaged food in the microwave, throw the dishes in a dishwasher, hitch up the team of horses (aka drive the car), etc. You could do it alone, especially if you only had the standard 2.01 children per household that the CIA says we have in the U.S. Why the CIA keeps such stats, I am not sure; tracking the number of enemies I suppose. They also say that the average in the Philippines is 3.06 and 6.08 in Somalia. My guess is that there are not a lot of divorces in Somalia!
So way back when, people chose spouses with whom they not only had an emotional connection, but who they hoped would make a good working partner. Expressions such as, “he has a good future,” were common and meant the guy could take care of the family and ultimately they’d be driving to soccer games in a Cadillac Escalade.
The guy might equally say, “she’ll make a good mother,” meaning she had a big pair of tutoys to feed the brood. By the way, I love the word tutoys and tease Janet that she has “two toys.” OK, I’m a bit immature for 61.
But as I say, somewhere along the line, as a society we went from believing that marriage is partly about love and partly pragmatic, to the current notion that it should be totally emotional. Smarter anthropology types have talked about romantic love being a modern, Western concept. Is it any wonder that most modern marriages fail; the emotions fade, or at least change, and what else is there? OK, there’s still the Cadillac and the tutoys but you get my meaning.
But it strikes me that in many Fil-Am marriages I know, the connection grows over time as the two realize that the spouse they chose is a true and reliable partner. I know it’s very old fashioned but Janet believes that part of her marital responsibility is to take care of me and I believe the same about caring for her. As time goes by and I see that this core belief is true, our bond grows stronger. I know that she will in fact care for me, and hope she knows the same about me toward her.
So let’s get back to the money thing, shall we. If an old fashioned girl believes that marriage is based on partnership, won’t she judge the guy first and foremost on how well he takes care of her?
And I can’t leave this subject without remarking about the food thing. Most Western guys as they get to know Filipinas, either online or in the field, remark at how strange it is that Filipinas seemed obsessed with food. Chats with Janet always began with “how was your lunch” or “what did you have for dinner.” In the U.S. where we take steady eating for granted it’s hard to relate to the notion, but eating is pretty damn important. And eating in the Philippines is an entirely social occasion. Before Janet arrived here I don’t think she ever ate a major meal alone in her life and to this day struggles when she has to eat alone. Me? I ate alone often and never thought twice about it.
In essence, food and what you had for your lunch/dinner is a pretty damn important thing to know. So in the Philippines asking what you ate is equivalent to saying, “hello, how are you?”
Is this so odd? In the U.S. two guys get together and one greets the other with, “how’s it hanging?” Frankly, I’d rather know what he had for lunch.
So guys, it’s not always about cash. Get your girl as much dried fish as she can handle. She’ll feel loved beyond conception – and well, you’re likely to get some tutoys that night.