Stories

#LoveYourself

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!! The day to buy extremely
over-priced flowers and chocolates, have your feed filled with heart-melting or
cheesy af posts, and see an overload of pink and red in any given store. Don’t
forget, we have the simultaneously occurring Single Awareness Day- which I’m
not a fan of because it has the most depressing and degrading connotations ever.
What’s wrong with being single??? Why should we have to feel bad about
ourselves when we see others’ happiness?

Thankfully SK-II picked up on this ridiculous socially
constructed requirement and decided to say something about it in a short film
advert. SK-II is a famous and prestigious Japanese beauty brand who has
taken over the skin care market worldwide. The president Markus Strobel told
BBC that the advert was created as part of “a global campaign to inspire and
empower women to shape their destiny” and the company was adopting “a positive
approach in helping women face pressures”. Before reading any further, please
watch the video.

To provide a brief recap: they introduce a few single
Chinese women at different stages of their lives, and they share about the
social pressures they face about being single. Some say they’ve been called
“too picky and stubborn”, some are still looking for “true love” rather than a
“match”, and one even says that “not getting married is the biggest sign of
disrespect (to my parents).” We are then made aware of a “marriage market”
where people post resumes of their single children for prospective parents and
partners to look at. The women turn things around by posting personal messages
of affirmation for their parents to see like: “I want to take my time to find
the right person” and “I’m happy being alone”.

When I first heard the phrase “leftover” be attributed to
single women in China, I was offended to say the least. Who wants to be
associated with a skeletal fish hanging out of a garbage bag?! The term “剩女”
literally translates to “leftover girl”, which is how Chinese society views 25+
year old women who are still single. The term implies that single ladies are
unwanted or not good enough to be loved and chosen as a wife. “People think
that in Chinese society, an unmarried woman is incomplete” because the traditional
role and purpose of Chinese women were to get married, pump out babies and take
care of her in laws’ and her own household. Every girl’s life plan was carved
out for them, there was no need to think about what to do after they turned 20
(or even 18 for some).

Fast forward to present day, women have goals, ambitions and
dreams that may not involve being home, doing chores and buying groceries every
day. Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of respect for house wives. I was raised
by a stay-at-home mom, and her tireless dedication towards my brother and I
every single day is invaluable. But, it’s depressing to think our attempt to
break out of the boundaries still result in a derogatory label. The progress of
females in education and careers should be celebrated with the increase in
strength and confidence as individuals. Our identity no longer has to be tied
to a man, to be known as “Ms Y” as opposed to “Mr. X’s wife.” This shift in cultural
gender roles will definitely take time, as seen through the initial frustration and disappointment the parents felt about their “leftover” daughters. However, we can start normalizing the change
through such conversation.

What if there are women who choose to be single, independent
and free, yet can still lead very happy and fulfilling lives? Sure, we might be
wired to reproduce and you can’t deny this biological urge. But science aside, some
women may be able to find all the love, acceptance and support they need from
friends and family… hard to believe right? You are not lacking in any way by
being single.

I’m not praising one relationship status over the other.
Some need a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled, while for others it just
isn’t a priority. Who knows, maybe I’m telling myself these things to make
myself feel better and not feel like a sore thumb within my circle of friends. Of
course I feel the slight sting when friends talk about the sweet things their
significant other does for them, or the dates they go on. I also know that I do
not live in mainland China, nor have I been subject to gossip and stares for
being single at 40…But for the stage that I’m in now, I’ve realized being fully
comfortable with yourself, focusing on personal growth and being able to find
love, happiness and peace with yourself is what we should all be striving for
first. If someone happens to fit in that journey, then so be it. By no means am
I swearing off relationships, I just want to be at peace whether I’m single or
in a relationship. We all have
our own timelines; we don’t have to fit into others’. Don’t have others
tell you that you need a man/woman to achieve those things. It’s your life, your happiness and not
theirs.

So thank you
SK-II for reminding us it is perfectly fine to be single, that our
beauty is not contingent on whether there’s someone else to accept it. Now go enjoy your day with those you
love, just like any other day (ok maybe indulge a little more than you normally
would) …except it just happens to have Hallmark cards made for it.

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