You Can’t Hurry Love – Deborah Tan
I feel a special affinity for her story and I want to tell her that she was very brave to have made the decision she made.
Breaking your promise to marry someone is not something you wake up and decide to do while you’re brushing your teeth. You would have spent countless sleepless nights weighing your options, thinking about the consequences and, being tormented by the fact that you will be breaking a lot of hearts.
It was something that happened to me too. But fortunately for me, I didn’t get to the stage of applying for a flat and booking a wedding banquet. Nonetheless, the ring was bought, and we had paid the deposit for a car.
Logistically, we were ready to get married. We had been together for five years. Both of us were progressing well in our careers. While we weren’t in the rush to get a flat, there was a pressure to start a life together … to be “normal” Singaporean adults who got married before they hit the big 3-0, who got married so they’d be eligible for that HDB flat, who needed to get a HDB flat before upgrading to a private property so we could make use of the $30,000 grant …
And, I realised I wanted none of that.
After my breakup with the ex, I decided it was only right to pay him the money he spent on the ring he was going to propose with. We cancelled the car and I paid for the forfeit of the deposit. Of course, I also paid for the emotional outbursts that came with the breakup. My mum was near inconsolable. The family had to hide the news of our breakup from my grandmother. Most of all, there was the guilt.
Even though I felt I was doing something right for myself, I could not escape the guilt of having broken the heart of someone who had loved and cared for me. In the story of the runaway bride, the aftermath is really worse than the when the news first broke.
But I’m glad I did it.
I did not want a queue for a flat to determine when I should get married.
I did not want to live in a flat simply because I could get a grant for it.
I did not want to get married because everyone felt we were “ready”.
I wanted to get married because I want to spend my life with that special someone. I wanted to get married because of love. You know the joke about how Singaporean men propose by asking, “Should we go and apply for a flat together?”? I wanted none of that. Call me a hopeless romantic but I don’t want my marriage to start because (1) we have to factor in time for a flat to be given to us and, (2) we have to book a banquet soon cos hotels get booked up so quickly.
Love is not something you plot on the timeline of your life!
When I became single again, I decided that I would buy my own place. Of course I was ineligible for an HDB flat because (1) I wasn’t married and (2) I wasn’t 35 yet.
But I refused to let the system run my life. I took a loan from my aunt and I bought my own apartment. It was a small 1-bedroom apartment but it was my own little piece of paradise and in there, I could finally sort my life out.
In Singapore, a large number of single, young people live with their parents. And I think this is the reason why so many of us are either unmarried or rushing to get married. Let’s be very honest here: there is simply no way you could get to know anyone better if you are living with your folks.
So what if HDB allows singles aged 35 and above to buy a flat? The point is young people need to live on their own as early as possible. Young people need to be given the chance to build a life independent of their parents as soon as they can. Simply because if you’ve never taken full responsibility for yourself, how can you expect to build a life with another person? Also, living by yourself frees you from the “parental controls” you have to consider before you “invite someone home”.
With my own place, I didn’t have to worry if bringing someone home meant it was “meet the parents” time. With my own place, I didn’t have to worry if my mum was going to nag at me for bringing men I hardly knew home. I’m not promoting casual one-night stands here. I’m not promoting a promiscuous lifestyle. What I’m saying is … we just don’t have the opportunities to live a full, proper and independent life before plunging into marriage. And I think that is why so many marriages fail in Singapore.
The national obsession with the family unit has got to stop. The age-old thinking that the family unit is the basic building block of society is no longer applicable in this age and time. In order for a family unit to thrive, we must first grow independent, strong and responsible individuals. And if the government wants to do something about the rate at which marriages are happening here, they need to cultivate a society that encourages the cutting of the apron strings.
I find it ridiculous that 18 year olds are still being ferried around to school, back to camp or back to their hostels. The issue of housing prices is obviously tied to this but independence is something parents and schools can grow in kids from the get-go. If a person is independent enough to want to build his/her own life, he/she will find a way.
In every marriage, love is the foundation. Not a HDB flat, not a wedding banquet date, not an income-cap to qualify for a housing grant. Here’s a quote I stumbled upon early this week and I think it sums up what we “runaway brides” feel: