31 January 2013

Letter No. 13

My age didn't hang over my head till now. Till now, I was "20-something," figuring it out, taking my time, planning only as far as a year in advance. But last year, the year I turned 25, everything seemed to happen all at once. Or rather, the worries that simmered at the back of my mind all started to bubble and whistle louder for attention.

This isn't the first time I've written about my family getting older or the rest of my life being ahead of me, but this is the first time in years that I can remember feeling seriously pressured to do something about it. "When will I have apo?" sounds a lot more urgent now than it did when I was 20. So do, "What are you going to do with your career?", "When are you coming home again?", and "So, are you [two] next?"

I don't want to have ready answers to these questions just because other people are asking them. I keep fending them off with, "It's early," and "There's still time," but they've gotten deeper under my skin somehow.

I think the biggest thing that bothers me is having — or rather, not yet having children. Since the start of the year, it's like the universe has dispatched a pro-use-your-uterus front against me: my mom, my brother, a trend in articles against motherhood after 30, couples mentioning their future children in their wedding vows, people at weddings asking about my own plans, and Metro Manila's bottomless supply of adorable infants and toddlers in public places.

Sometimes, their attacks are combined. At Ba Noi's on Ken's last night in town, he, Cris, and I saw one wide-eyed infant boy getting handed from one person to another at the next table. Ken piped up, "So, do you guys want kids?" And after a long, "Uh — " from me, he backpedalled with, "I ask the couple that's been together nine months," but it was too late; the awkward bomb had dropped. Just last Saturday, one little stinker I nicknamed "Dumpling Baby" entertained me and Cris through the wedding ceremony of his friend.

The other day, I had kind of an emotional response to one blog I've been following. I followed dover/Callai after reading some of her posts on an American freethinkers' blog, at around the time she and her husband Andrew were just thinking of having children. It's been a few years since then, and Callai and Andrew now have Eleanor, a lovely, funny, clever near-two-year-old whose face just brightens up your screen and your day. But it was the moment they took the plunge and decided to have her that really got me hooked on dover's blog.

In the post I responded to, dover related how she felt like an odd one out at a recent meeting with her peers. She was the only 20-something in her book club who'd decided to be a stay-at-home mom, and she expressed discomfort at being seen by the other women as a big "What if...?"

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that her blog hasn't given me that "What if...?" since I started following it. We're around the same age, have similar social backgrounds, and ask ourselves a lot of questions about where our lives are going. And I also wanted to have kids that young. Through dover's blog posts about pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing, I've gotten to imagine what my life would have been like if I'd had my own dumpling baby, instead of working till I landed backwards into a comfortable job and started entertaining thoughts about further studies.

She occasionally reads my own posts, so dover, if you're reading this, I hope you don't feel bad. You and your growing family are an inspiration to someone here across the Pacific, and I wish you, Andrew, Eleanor, and whoever's next all the best. I am happy for you and, often, jealous.

Anyway, in my own Tumblr post, I ranted a little bit about how sad it is that career and motherhood still seems like an either-or thing. I was thinking of this article about the pending global population decline, and I was mad that it "blamed" educating girls for the fact that fewer women are having fewer kids at the best reproductive age. But after the post, I realized that it had never been an either-or thing for me. I'd said it myself: the opportunity to have kids had never presented itself. And now, I'm 25.

God. You know what 25 for me feels like? It feels early and late all at once. Late because I wanted kids for a long time, and two years ago, I was in a relationship with someone I thought I'd have those kids with. Early because I can't even write my boyfriend's name into this sentence because I'm afraid of scaring him off, because I have no fucking clue if or when it's safe to move past admiring other people's babies to talking, really talking and really thinking (again) about having one.

(I mean, never mind the fact that I want two.)

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