Despite the growing statistics of modern-day Asian women choosing to delay marriage or not pursue it at all, Asian culture and history’s deep roots concerning marriage still propagate a pre-existing notion that scorns at single women. The communal perception towards this choice for singlehood continues to be frowned upon, and given societal expectations and pressures over such a personal decision, it begs the question: why are some women still firm about singlehood? Here’s what four single women have to say.
Why choose singlehood?
If you do a quick Google search about 'why women today are choosing to be single', at least 300 million search results pop up. And even after sifting through hundreds of these search results, coming up with a definitive answer is almost impossible. Sure, there are common denominators to some narratives that we came across, but these are still not enough to encapsulate women's decision to choose singlehood. However, contrary to popular belief, one thing’s for certain: it’s not because of misandry. It’s not because women hate men, want to be like men or are intimidated by men. Women who choose to be single simply choose to be for themselves.
For Jeli, 21, the choice to be single “doesn’t feel like a burden at all” despite being surrounded by people her age in romantic relationships. She stressed that she’s currently “focused on building” herself and not any amount of nudging from her peers or family can deviate her away from her decision. She highlighted, however, that to some extent, the consequences of choosing singlehood and “growing to be an old maid” still crosses her mind from time to time, considering its social and cultural "implications.
Mariane, 27, shared similar sentiments, saying that “adulting” and “having too many things” on her plate made her choose singlehood without any inhibitions. She also mentioned that her faith, along with her goal for “steady, independent growth”, influenced her decision. Seeing some of her friends start their own families sometimes make her think twice about her decision, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to her chosen “direction in life, as well as the priorities for personal growth” she has at the moment.
Meanwhile, *Jesse, 34, confessed that her decision to be single started at a young age. She said that even as a kid, she was already firm about not getting married, which might come off as “weird” to some people.
She said: “When I told my parents about this in primary school, they thought I was joking, probably thinking I was ‘immature’ or ‘naïve’. They also probably thought I made this stand as a passing remark. They used to tell me, ‘aiya, you will get married and settle down when you get older. It’s a normal part or phase of your life, just like papa and mama.’”
Jesse expressed that as she grew older, her choice was reinforced further when she slowly earned the “financial means to survive” and learnt to take good care of herself “without the need for a guy.”
Finally, for Rain*, 46, choosing to be single doesn’t root from "not finding anyone attractive or not being able to stand the idea of relationships." Rather, it is because she feels uncomfortable with the thought of being with someone who has the possibility or tendency to “wrong her parents”. As someone with a very close bond with her family, she said that "even the slightest argument” concerning her parents might be enough to “tip the scale” and put her off with the person she chooses to be with. With this mindset, one that started in her early 20s, she decided that being single is the best option.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Rain simply said. “I’m happy with my choice and I’m happy to live for myself and my family. My brothers and sisters all have families and my [brother-and-sister] in-laws are also great so I have nothing against that. It's just not for me.”
Dealing with the pressures of being single
No matter how firm they are with their choice, however, the buzz from other people still take a toll on them from time to time. All four ladies shared that questions such as “You’re still not thinking of getting a boyfriend?” or “Still no plans of getting married?” continuously pop up from time to time. To some of them, such queries stopped after a while, but to others, it is still a regular occurrence.
Mariane simply humours people by replying, “Okay, where’s my groom?”
For Jeli, a mere “Not my priority,” sufficed.
Still, they agree that they do not find such inquiries invasive, considering that it is part of our culture, societal norms, and just innate curiosity.
“Making a clear decision not to get married is pretty unconventional, even in today’s society. Again, not like it’s a bad thing; just unconventional and not the norm,” Jesse explained.
Regardless, Jesse expressed that while people simply give up after asking over and over or are more sensitive to even bring up such an issue, the general view about singlehood still presents general downsides on how women of such status are perceived.
She continued: “I would say that in Singapore, it is a lot less severe than other Asian countries, like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and even China. I do hear stories that in Beijing, some parents are so worried that they would personally go to Zhongshan park (a famous ‘matchmaking’ place over the weekend) with their children’s photos and credentials, hoping to find a suitable partner for them. In Taiwan, once you are not married by, say, 30, you would be called a ‘leftover’ lady (剩女). These are ugly, stereotypical tags that need to go away.”
Rain agreed, stating that “both Asian and Western history has painted single women with many disapproving names” so it’s no wonder why “it’s hard to erase people’s negative views about unmarried or unattached women”. She also highlighted the double standard of how “men ageing independently are positively labelled as ‘bachelors’ while unmarried women get terms such as ‘old maid’, ‘spinster’ or ‘past her prime’.”
“We need to apply critical thinking skills here — such as value assumptions or normative labels — where there is an implicit preference for one value over another. This needs to be questioned,” Jesse noted.
Choosing to be independently happy
While it may seem like these women are ‘challenging the norm’, it is more apt to say that they are simply living their best life according to their own choices.
Rain said: “I don’t think I’m doing the world disservice or making a statement by choosing not to get married. I am doing this for myself just like how married couples choose who they get married to. Choosing to be independent shouldn’t sound like a big deal because patronising it tugs it even further from being treated ‘normally’.”
Furthermore, all of them consider the decision to be an ongoing learning process, much like any other choice made in life.
“One thing I’ve learned from being and deciding to champion singlehood is that I should be firm in my decisions as this will build me later on,” Jeli stated. “I’d rather be single than to commit to someone temporarily.”
Mariane seconded this: “I learnt how to be more confident with who I am. That I am wonderfully made and that I don’t need someone else to make me feel complete.“
Despite this, she made it a point to stress that this does not mean women who choose the marriage path are any different. “Marriage isn't something you just dive into. It is something that requires sacrifice and commitment. Get married for the right reasons, and not because you are lonely, old or pressured.”
Finally, Jesse said: “Be happy and at peace with yourself, no matter what choice you have made. But know that decisions can be reversible. One does not need to always stick with one’s original decision, especially when circumstances, values, beliefs or other factors, change."
"Do not feel pressured to be on either side — one can always change sides when deemed fit. Again, no matter what decisions are made, whether to be married or to remain single, just be happy and know that the decision should only be made because you want it — not because someone else did.”
Speaking of choices, here are more inspiring stories of women sharing their own change-making decisions.