Sunday, April 22, 2012

All The Single Ladies

Justifying Life as a Single Female Expat

I really just have to write this post. It’s something all expats deal with to some extent, and it’s an issue that doesn’t stop bothering me. If you dislike sarcasm or reading posts with any cynicism or negativity, skip this one. I can only be who I am. But I feel my message is important.

1: If I were an American deployed in the military, I would have full support for being away. Regardless of your position on American foreign policy, it’s just too taboo to say otherwise about our men and women in uniform. Well, unless they are women that have been raped by their peers, then they were asking for it and we shouldn’t have to pay for them to receive counseling. *shakes head at the state of things* But really, my point stands: If I were deployed I bet not ONE person would have the guts to call me selfish or guilt trip me about not coming home more often. Because I’m making sacrifices for my country, so I must not be selfish.

2: If I were abroad following my husband. If I were married and my husband was transferred abroad, or if I moved abroad in order to marry someone, people might try and talk HIM out of it or talk him into moving to the US, but I would have full support. Oh, the poor expat wife, it must be sooo hard for you to be off in a foreign land where not all of the toilets are Western and the taxis don’t have seatbelts! The horror! And if you have kids: have you found a suitable International school? Will the kid’s education suffer? Newsflash: the idea that women can’t pee standing up is a lie. And guess what else? Urine does not carry diseases (95% of the time or so). As for education – don’t get me started on the state education being systematically dismantled.

3: If you’re just taking a ‘gap year’ to ‘find yourself.’ Oh kids today, they’ve just gotta get the travel bug out of their systems before they come home and ‘get their real job.’ It’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it.

Tell me again, what’s a real job? How about a fake job? My personal take on the semantics of this is that no job is ‘real,’ because we all aspire to attain a perfect job that doesn’t really exist. Other views include the idea that all jobs are real – because, truly, when is valid employment NOT real? I added the qualifier of ‘valid,’ there are certainly scams out there.

4. And then there’s the rest of us. The Misfits. The true traitors of our country who dare to stay abroad for more than one year. There must be something pathologically wrong with us to stay away from the great First World Pillars of the planet, the land of milk and honey. The Patriot Act says so. Oh it doesn’t say that? Well do you know what it does say? That’s what I thought. Also, I’m lactose intolerant and it’s more like the land of subsidized high fructose corn syrup and cheap laundered Chinese honey. I know I know, there she goes again with her cynicism… Really though, the expat crowd, we’re all off our rockers. Every last one. Maybe we have neurosyphilis. Yes, yes we must test expats for that annually! Sluts, the lot of them! With dollar signs on their foreheads!

WHAT?!?! You’re not coming home?!?!? WHY?!?!
Uh, can I even get a job at Starbucks at ‘home?’ NO!
Do you realize it takes me exactly one month’s salary for that round trip ticket?
Do you have any concept of how a Thai Government school calendar operates? Yes I no longer work at a Thai government school. See point one, add relocation, visa reapplication and haven’t gotten my next paycheck yet costs. Consider this along with plane ticket.

But, is it safe for you to be abroad as a single female?
Seriously? Really seriously? Would you like me to pull up the crime statistics for YOUR city? That’s what I thought.

But you’re living in a third world country!
I have better access to health care here than I do anywhere in the United States. And if push really comes to shove, they can see me for cash. This has served me many times, where in the states I would have had to rush back to my mother to beg for grocery money when the medical bills came due (on her health insurance at the time, to boot).
I have greater access to public transport than I’ve had in any other place I’ve lived. I get on just fine with no car.

But, you could make more money in the US!
Again, working where, exactly, that would hire me in my field and that I would be happy doing, and that would provide health care and an actual living wage? There are millions of Americans that would like to know. McDonald’s is not a valid response to someone with a Bachelor’s degree. Your mom will give you money or you can save money by living at home is also not a valid concept for a 20 something when there are clear alternatives available. Not sorry they are abroad. If you’re a 20 something at your parents, I’m sorry – and I understand your pain, fellow graduate of the Great Recession. We’ll make it through.

But, how are you going to find a boyfriend? Why can’t you find a boyfriend there?
Again, this is your concern why? And that worked out so well in every case in the states, didn’t it? You know, it’s kind of nice to just book a flight to Chiang Mai and just go. I require permission from no man. If I were to get married, I would simply forfeit my rights to sign for many things on my own without my husband’s permission in many countries. I want to do that why? Last time I checked possession of a vagina is not considered a mental disorder (well, unless you were born with a penis in Thailand, then the Thai military DOES classify this as a mental disorder). Though I wouldn’t put it past the Republicans.

But, you keep getting sick!
And this is different from my life in America how? Right, in that I can afford to go to the doctor here, they speak English and the quality of care is just fine.

But, America has the best sandwiches!
Life is about sacrifices.

I realize that most American citizens will probably never understand my expat life. I will still be asked when I plan to come home, when I’m finding a boyfriend/getting married/getting pregnant (a global curse), when I’m going to grad school and I will still constantly be asked why I left the US in the first place.

I will be told to be more positive about my travel adventures; to tone it down, calm down, there will always be unsolicited advice. But you know what? I’m living a life that I am proud of. Can you say that? Or are you living vicariously through people that are following dreams you turned down or gave up? Well-behaved women rarely make history. And living your dreams does not play out in the utopian way that non-lived dreams are authored.

I’d like you to consider the fact that you would not question someone in the military, a married woman or a single male going abroad (at least not as much as us ladies), so effectively, you’re sabotaging the support network of us single ladies abroad when you ask these things and nothing else – and frankly, we would like the same support everyone else gets. We know things like the glass ceiling, sexual harassment, and unequal rights aren’t going away. But do we have to get the unintended, brain washed comments from those who care for us, whom we care for? I bet you’ve never thought of those questions that way. But think about how you’d feel if these queries comprised 90% of your communication from back ‘home.’ Does that compose 90% of your daily conversations? No, it doesn’t.

I’m sorry you made other choices in life, I’m sorry you wished you could travel, wished you were young, wished you hadn’t had kids, whatever. But that is your choice. And this is mine. I am not selfish. I am not unsafe. And I’ve done alright even as I’ve learned that people in my home country may never understand, and as my support network has retreated inwards and I’ve had to move on. I admit it bothers me now, to think that so many people I care about simply do not have the frame of reference or common experience to connect on the new levels I have found. I don’t mean to attack anyone’s lack of experience. And I realize to some, this will just be seen as more whining.

But I hope that perhaps you will start to understand the fact that, perhaps there is great misunderstanding even when you mean well. And the fact that I’ve chosen to lead a life quite different is simply that – different.

And I will never have to say, I wish I had traveled instead. Will you?

1 comment:

  1. It seems like suddenly, everyone I know is moving to Thailand.

    So, tell me about your day.