PhDs on LDRs

According to a 2017 survey, there are 2.3 million OFWs or overseas Filipino workers; and in another survey it was found that the Philippines is 3rd in the world when it comes to receiving the most amount of remittances at 30 billion US dollars (the 1st is India at 72 billion and the 2nd is China at 64 billion).

I was thinking of these numbers today because I was watching a CNN documentary in Netflix featuring Christiane Amanpour on the topic of Love & Sex around the world.

So far, she has gone to Lebanon, India, Japan, Ghana, Germany and China to find out the current mores and conditions pertaining to marriage, love and sexuality among these countries’ population. She has not visited the Philippines yet; which makes me curious as to how she will portray my country in her stories.

I have an idea, Christiane — and it is that of all the nations in the world, it is Filipinos who are the experts on long distance relationships (LDR).

If PhDs on LDRs will be endowed to anyone, it will be Pinoys who will graduate at the top of their class.

We have turned long distance romantic relationships into an art form.

A story: there is a woman named D who is married to a ship captain named M. The two of them were married just before M went into his first voyage overseas as a sailor (“seaman” is how we Filipinos refer to these men who run the world’s shipping vessels). Out of every year, M and D would meet and be together for one or two months; so 10 months out of 12 they would not be physically in contact. Before the days of internet, D and M would communicate with telegrams and snail mail and long distance phone calls (in fact, D was the first person in my neighborhood to have a telephone back in the days when only business establishments have phone lines; and in fact, my mom owes a lot to D and her telephone because my mom would communicate with her sisters in Canada using this device). Today, D and M have been married for 39 years. They are still together. Ten years ago, M stopped working and settled with his wife in their condo near a mall. Their only child (my childhood playmate K), has finished her studies and was about to get  married. So there is no more need for M to hop into a ship again. I  am curious though — how does it feel for D to now be constantly around M’s presence after him being gone all those long years?

D & M’s story is one that has been happening hundreds of thousands of times among Filipinos. Ever since the government made it a policy to send foreign workers abroad in the 70s to supplement our much-needed dollar reserves, the story of couples who have to sustain their relationships from thousands of miles away has been a quintessential Filipino story (or at least, Filipino middle class story — the class D and Class A have a different one, a topic for another blog post).

It takes a certain faith and resilience to make an LDR work. Especially an LDR that spans years or decades even. Not a few relationships that I personally know have crumbled because the male or female partner was abroad.

There is a song in Tagalog by Joel Ayala (I mentioned in a previous post that it was by Noel Cabangon; well I was wrong — my bad) which I think is the theme song for Pinoy OFWs and their significant others. It is called “Walang Hanggang Paalam”. It’s melody is a sad guitar, accompanied by what sounds like a banduria, and the lyrics go like, “at habang magkalayo, papalapit pa rin ang puso/ kahit na magkahiwalay, tayo’y magkasama sa magkabilang dulo ng mundo.” (we move farther apart though our hearts grow together, and meet from different ends of the world — my awkward translation)

Needless to say, I am a hopeless romantic. I believe that love prevails in the end. And despite the difficulties that distance or time or financial/resource constraints will impose, Pinoys will find a way to care for those they love.

Dubai Creek at night, from a boat. There are over 400,000 Filipinos living in Dubai at the moment, which is more than the population of Baguio City. Go figure.

 

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Another Cut-and-Paste Blog Entry

The following words are from this website.

And while the details of the author’s life are different from mine, I share the sentiments she has towards her significant other.
*****
I Could Do This Without You, But I Don’t Want To (A Letter To My Husband)

by Amanda Elder

Image from Marriage.com

Image from Marriage.com

There were times I felt bitter toward you, especially when you were a medical student, and I was transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom. You didn’t understand my struggle. I ate, slept, and breathed our child, and felt consumed and alone.

You had a life outside of parenthood to continue, and while I stopped mine, I accommodated yours. For a period of time, we moved often and lived out of suitcases. Once, we even resided in a single bedroom of a Staten Island basement. For years, I manned the night wakings and offered my breasts around the clock as the only consistent comfort amidst constant upheaval.

Whenever you were off from work, I took our toddler out the minute he woke up so you (and our roommate) could sleep, but not always without resentment. I remember one morning, as I walked to our local bakery yet again, killing time with our little guy attached, I muttered, “I can do all this by myself.”

Because of life’s inherent uncertainty, I’ve actually considered the truth of that statement. I’ve now been a stay-at-home mom for five years and have wondered if I could actually survive on my own. Emotional well-being aside, would I even be able to provide food and shelter? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, being the self-sufficient woman I thought myself to be, but the honest answer is yes, I’d be fine. After all, I’m a go-getter, and that’s the reason all this staying home has been hard in the first place.

I’d make it, although there’d be details to figure out. You’re the dreamer, and you build our lives on the fantasies you manifest. Your doctor job is the one that would allow us to live a life of freedom and adventure in Costa Rica. I don’t have a vision for life without you, and the only notion of home I have is wherever we are. But I certainly wouldn’t head for the jungle on my own, and I wouldn’t do New Jersey either. Even though my sister lives there and I miss her when a single day goes by without conversation, I’ve been in Florida too long and have grown accustomed to bare feet and outdoor play all year long.

You’re in your residency now, and because you sometimes work 26 days a month, and 27 hours a day, I know that technically I can do this by myself. I pack bags and load babies like a boss. I clean toilets and play hide-and-seek simultaneously. I disguise trips to the grocery store as outings for cookies and have prepared many a meal with one hand. But despite my capability, I count down the time for you to come home, not because I so desperately need you to change the next diaper or fill the next sippy cup, but because I want you.

I don’t necessarily need you to carry scooters and tell the boys when it’s time to find a new climbing tree while out on family walks. I need you to hold my hand and talk to me.

I can put all the dishes away and find the missing shoe by myself, but with you, farts are funny, and coffee tastes better.

I can certainly walk the kids to sleep by myself, but when we stroll together, the full moon looks fuller, and I’m inclined to admire it longer.

I can take our son to karate by myself, but when that cute little girl beelines to be Javin’s partner, and another boy helps him perfect his jump kicks, I notice the sweetness, but I don’t giggle like I would with you.

I don’t need you to share parenting responsibilities with me out of fairness or survival, but for the joy of doing so. With you, the funny moments are funnier, the cute moments are cuter, and contrary to the pattern, the terrible moments are less so. Life is simply better with you.

We don’t only co-parent, we co-experience life.

We create and reflect on the same reality, and that somehow deepens the meaning of it all. When I see a beautiful sunset, and you say, “Look at that!” you validate what I see, and all of a sudden the colors become even brighter and more captivating.

I don’t necessarily need you for practical or worldly reasons, but I need you to know me. When I laugh, you’re aware of exactly why. And when I don’t say anything at all, you read my mind. You love my insecurities as you do my strengths, and your understanding gives me confirmation of myself. We’re like two beings from the same source, who get to witness more of themselves through each other.

It’s true that I don’t need you to survive. I need you for so much more.

 

How To Fake an Orgasm (or Orgasms, plural)

(Ana’s POV)

Image from strongafrocentricmindsets.blogspot.com

Image from strongafrocentricmindsets.blogspot.com

Meg Ryan gave you a general idea. And her performance should have earned her an Oscar if the Academy were all females.

Faking an orgasm is just like any other worthy endeavor. One has to perform it with sincerity to pull it off.

First, one has to know what an orgasm feels like to be able to fake one.

And yes, I have had it, thank you very much. A lot of girls haven’t though. Or they may be unsure, confused if they have had it or not. Believe me, girls, you will know. No ifs or buts about it.

Orgasms are like that perfect pair of strappy high-heeled shoes, they defy explanation. They fit your feet like a dream; they make you feel sexy and they don’t give you calluses afterwards. I haven’t found the perfect high heels yet. But I am optimistic that I will find one. Eventually.

Image from thefishybowl.wordpress.com

Image from thefishybowl.wordpress.com

So orgasms. Second of all, it’s not really about the penis-in-vagina. (Sorry lesbian friends; I can only talk  about the heterosexual perspective.) A girl can have an orgasm while washing dishes (although it is not advisable because one can drop a perfect piece of china and that would be a lousy day); or while watching Chris Pratt save the universe in a movie. One can have an orgasm in the shower (make sure you are using a bath mat so you won’t slip) or even in the library (the Reserve Section is a nice place because there are few people around; just make sure to tone down your vocalistic emissions). Still, the best place to have an orgasm is one’s bed preferably with someone you are madly in lust with. Please take note that one does not have to be in love to have the big O. Though, sex with a loved one belongs (in my opinion) in a different category of orgasms; or even a different category of sex.

I haven’t faked one with Christian (not that I know of). That would just entail too much work; requiring energy that I do not have inclination to expend. Besides, he knows me like the back of his hand so faking it with him will be like deceiving myself.

Image from mirror.co.uk

Image from mirror.co.uk

It is best to fake orgasms with a stranger or a new lover. However, a warning: faking it in the beginning of a relationship may doom that relationship even before it has started. If you can’t be honest with a man you are having sex with, what is the point of staying with him in the long term? Oh yeah, there is also money, power, security (emotional or otherwise) or self-deception. I get that girls — we gotta do what we gotta do. But then, don’t expect orgasms.

On a positive note, we don’t need orgasms  to live a meaningful life.

But it sure will be a life that is lot less fun 🙂

Sex Ed

She had known him for two years before asking him the questions she was really curious about.

These questions are not the ones discussed in school; certainly not in the one-semester health-education-knowing-your-body course she and other public school teenagers in her country generally have. What her high school teacher said about s-e-x boiled down to: 1. Don’t do it while you’re young; 2. It’s okay to do it if you’re married; 3. Children are its worthy by-product; all the rest (and maybe that includes orgasms) are after-thoughts.

That was circa 1990s, of course; and her teacher was a 50-year old straight-laced,  PhD-holding, tenured university professor, who always wore skirts.

Now she wonders, why do grown-ups never tell you the interesting parts about sex like:

* What is it like to lose one’s virginity?

* Why do people  who should know better (being educated and well-informed) claim that they do not want to have children and yet do not use contraception? Is it laziness? Being sucked in the “heat of passion” (a line she learned in a romance novel)?

* What’s the big deal about having children anyway? Does one really need to have one before one dies? For what? To fulfill a biological imperative?

* What do orgasms feel like?

What her skirt-wearing, well-meaning high-school teacher failed to mention; what all those who have had sex fail to mention when they talk about what you are and are not missing when you have sex, is the immense power-play involved among penises and vaginas.

Was it Andrea Dworkin who supposedly said that all heterosexual intercourse is rape? But that was just a myth, wasn’t it?

After Alice and Jonas first had sex (oh the word!), the emotions that overwhelmed her were:

1. feeling owned by and bound to this person who may or may not stay in her life for very long (“owned” and “bound” are such loaded words, very un-feminist, but that’s what she felt, no matter what Andrea Dworkin might say),

2. worry that a single sperm managed to pass through an improbable pore in the condom that they used and she will get pregnant,

3. a sense of wonder that sex was not as bad as they said it can be and that it actually exceeded her expectations,

4. curiosity about “where this all might lead to.”

***

Flash forward to now…

She is holding his hand, or maybe he is holding hers — they are lying down facing each other after you-know-what. And his eyes are closed. And Alice is thinking, his eyelashes look so much more nicer than mine, how can that be.

Alice: So I want to ask you a question.

Jonas: Uhhmm …

Alice: What did it feel like for you the first time you had sex? Were you worried, apprehensive, excited? Did you think it would change your life or change you inside? Did you have performance anxiety or were you just happy you were finally doing it? Were you concerned about getting an STD or getting the girl pregnant? Did you even think about STD or pregnancy at all?

It is a long time before Jonas answers that Alice thinks he has fallen asleep.

“I felt that I was doing something right,” he finally says. “But afterwards, you were crying, so for a moment there I was worried that you will go to the police and report that it was rape.”

Jonas kisses her nose, opens his eyes and smiles.

Alice has her answer.

 

Half Truths

And so to bed. This is where the power shifts. If hes good for you in bed, youre now in trouble. If youre good for him, hes now in trouble. Bed is the fulcrum of the power shift.  (Erica Jong)

***

It is the truth – and like most truths, is only a half of the whole Truth – that the only time Jonas can shut Alice up is when he kisses her.

Alice has been musing about this hard-to-digest fact while reading up on the very dry, very boring topic of myths about gender as proposed by the American intellectual Anne Fausto-Sterling.

Fact: Jonas was the first male to have ever kissed her,  and the first person she has ever had sex with. True, she is probably limiting her education by not exploring other amorous options. However,  it is entirely possible to prove a point using one subject instead of a sample of 100.  Alice just can’t figure out exactly what that point is.

Fact: Sex with another person can rattle someone in a way that masturbation can’t. Maybe it is because of the foreign-ness of having another person’s body-part insinuating itself into yours. She has long dispensed with the requisite Catholic guilt and neurosis that accompanies masturbation. But still, a week, a month, 6 months  after you-know-what happened, she is still not sure if the experience had given her something, or if she’s simply been had.

Fact:  She considers it an act of kindness to have told him that she loves him long before she was certain what it meant to say “I love you”.  Until now, she is suspicious of this entity, this label, this concept that flows so easily from his mouth; and  yet so difficult for her to acknowledge.

Over-analysis has probably been the downfall of many women (and men) who cannot trust the truth that what they feel is what they feel; and, anyway, to hell with psychology!

Last night,  they were working in this apartment; he in his laptop, she in hers.

Kim was out (saving the dregs of broken humanity in the government hospital  where she was on surgical duty) so Alice and Jonas had the place all to themselves. Before she went,  Kim reminded Alice of the electric and water bills to be paid; and told Jonas that the pipes in the kitchen are busted again and can he “sweetie please” kindly see if he can do something about it. As usual,  Jonas was his usual cheerful self acquiescing with Kim’s request.

Alice felt it imperative to point out: “It really is not your job to fix our pipes; I can easily call a handyman;  there are a lot of them around Malate who needs the work.”

“It’s okay, I want to do it.”

“Have you fixed a broken pipe before?”

“No. But it’s pretty straightforward. I can figure it out.”

“Or you will just google it.”

“Correct.”

What Alice hates is the self-assured way he said “correct”;  the self-assured way he barges into her life.  Appearing and disappearing at regularly irregular intervals  with no explanations in between.  Telling her that he loves her and expecting her to believe it. She hates it that he appears to feel hurt when she put that so-called “love” into rational scrutiny.

She hates it that she can stay put when he can’t.

(Teaching oneself to get used to having another person around is as difficult as teaching oneself to get used  to not having him around)

Fact: what Alice hates is that Jonas can so effortlessly make her feel like a “girl”.

Defiance (or The Intricacies of Making Out)

boy&girl kiss

from telegraph.co.uk

There was this point during all  that fooling around; after he removed her bra but before he unzipped his pants. When they both came up for air after exchanging oral fluids for 30 minutes or more.

He saw her face and there was something there that wasn’t there before. Apart from arousal (dilated pupils, skin flushing); apart from curiosity, there was … something.

That moment, Jonas felt that Alice would walk on fire for him or with him, if he asked her to.

***

Years later, she would look back and remember that night. And her memories are the same yet different from his.

Alice can remember, besides the toe-curling, lip-biting, feel-goodness — well besides that —  what she was feeling was defiance. As if Jonas was her very own rebellion against years of self-imposed discipline and abnegation. Like he was that candy that one allows oneself to eat after a month-long low calorie diet. He was like that expensive silk blouse she allowed herself to buy with her first salary.

Making out (and what came afterwards) felt like her just-rewards for being such a “good girl”.

***

from favim.com

from favim.com

There was that point while they were making out; after he took off her panties but before they were completely naked.

(That point, dear reader, was when Jonas stopped using his brain, and we all know that another part of his anatomy was doing all the thinking. Girls, give him a break … he’s a guy!)

That moment was crucial for what didn’t happen: Alice didn’t say No.

She was not drunk, she was not under drugs. She just didn’t want to say no because, what the hell, she had been saying no for 24 years and what did that prove? Besides, it felt fucking great to finally say yes.

Why “Long Distance Stuff Never Works” (or Why it is Preferable for Women to Date Male Virgins)

(Marianne’s Theory of Human Relationships)

It’s like this Alice:  when it comes to relationships men’s learning protocols are different than that of women.

Women are more hopeful … hence we become basket cases who never learn. Take our friend, Manda, for example, she is always falling for men who are attached. Her first boyfriend was gay who was attached to another guy; her 2nd boyfriend was a mama’s boy who was attached to his mother; and now the third one is married, attached to another woman. Sure he will get an annulment. In like what? A million years?

Men are different. What they learn gets imprinted in their CPUs. They are very efficient that way, and hence are not prone to deviations. We should strive to become like them, actually. So Jonas … well he used to be crazy about this girl with the pretentious name, Ligaya or Gaia or something.

Anyway, my brother was in the first stages of puberty, so that explains his bad taste in girls at that time.

His preferences have improved since then, as you can attest.

Ligaya strung him along for two years, or maybe three. She got herself knocked  up by one of their classmates and you know how Jonas is so much into the “knight in shining armor thing”. Yes Starfish Syndrome,  that’s another way of putting it. He skipped school for a year to take care of her. It drove our mom crazy. She had to go and confront Ligaya to leave him alone. Thank god she did.

Ligaya migrated to Canada. My brother wouldn’t give up on her. He wrote her everyday for months. I know, because I used to sneak into his room and read those letters.

And then, the letter writing stopped. Maybe Ligaya finally did something that got Jonas off her back. Or baka nauntog lang ang kapatid ko at natauhan. That, my friend, was my brother’s first long-distance relationship. You will say that the relationship was one-sided and you are right. But it really messed up his head; and you got the nuclear fallout from that one. The Ligaya Incident is the reason why Jonas is not into long distance stuff.

Yeah, it sucks. If I had known you before you knew my brother, I would have told you my theory of the perfect relationship and you would have been spared of going through this drama. But … if my brother hadn’t been your boyfriend, then you wouldn’t have gotten to know  me and we wouldn’t be bestfriends so … the universe has its reasons.

The perfect relationship — I have come to the conclusion that the first women who have the power to mess up men are their mothers. So a girl should check out the mothers first before buying into the men. And then, we should make sure that the guys we date are virgins – like emotionally. Physical virgins are preferable but that’s too much to  hope for.

Alice, don’t laugh. The perfect relationship is the one where two people have the least amount of baggage going in. They can accumulate their own baggage later.

The Myth of the Virgin and the Unicorn. Why is the virgin in the picture always  a girl? Marianne would like to know. Picture lifted from http://manbehindthecurtain.ie/2012/03/24/on-staying-innocent/

The Myth of the Virgin and the Unicorn. Why is the virgin in the picture always a girl? Marianne would like to know. Picture lifted from http://manbehindthecurtain.ie/2012/03/24/on-staying-innocent/

***

Reading Lists: 

http://time.com/117585/yes-all-women-virgin-killer-ucsb/

http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-09-22/frisky-rant-leave-male-virgins-alone/

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/problem-male-virginity-hesaid/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yourtango/7-huge-mistakes-i-made-as_b_6355374.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-joel/ten-wedding-vows-based-on_b_4762318.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000035

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/opinion/sunday/the-all-or-nothing-marriage.html

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/feb/13/self-discovery-marriage-psychologist-suffocation-model

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/elizabeth-gallagher-on-free-around-the-world-trip-it-can-t-be-that-weird-1.2153414

http://www.rappler.com/brandrap/stories/68701-long-distance-easier