Is it really that bad of a thing to be single? Of course not. But if you’re in Jakarta, handling the side effects of being single is a full-time job. This city, as many of us are aware, is filled with contradictions. On one hand, it’s relentlessly pushing towards modernity, while on the other, still remains stubbornly stuck in conventional way of thinking, never quite able to reconcile the two together.
How bad can it be? Well, for starters, getting a table for one during peak hour involves receiving sympathetic gaze from your server and guests from nearby tables alike. Then again, I might have mistaken their disapproving look as a form of empathy. Also, there are the endless jokes on being single. Like when I casually mentioned to my colleagues that the size of my IKEA bed is called ‘Super Single’, hilarity ensued.
Of course it’s all cool and is always done in good humour, plus there’s nothing more enjoyable than being able to laugh at yourself. But sometimes there’s this weird suspicion that being single in Jakarta is akin to possessing a bad manner to be frown upon.
So where does all this brouhaha come from? While I wish I could provide you with concrete statistics, all one really need to do is just look around. Where do the people: married, dating and singles converge? The lack of public spaces like the park, library, square, so on and so forth means the only watering hole you can find these three groups together is in places usually associated with couples. Think café, restaurant and the cinema.
A few days ago, while getting my routine fix of Ketoprak from the usual street peddler nearby office, I asked him what is the appropriate age for a man to get married. He swiftly ground chillis and peanut paste into a mush before answering, “In his twenties.”
Okay. What about ladies? “Well, I’m not sure. But for a guy, twenties.”
Translation: Guys, get married before you hit 30. And ladies? As soon as possible, every tick of your biological clock counts.
Despite the pressure to “unsingle” oneself in Jakarta, I’m happy to report that it doesn’t really get to me that much. As a proof, I have continually RSVP for one with pride whenever I receive a wedding invitation and then try to hitch a ride home at the end of the night by being a third-wheeler without shame.
Still, I hate to admit, it does make me feel conscious at times. Case in point, when the box office lady repeated my purchase in a clear powerful voice, “Moana at 9.30pm for one!” I felt a multitude of scathing gaze seared into my back.
Perhaps, in Jakarta, discussing about one’s love life is just a part of the culture. At the end of the day, there’s really nothing more to it than a handy ice-breaker tool. And when you’ve yet to put a ring on it, you’re just a much more easier subject to be targeted at. If there’s anything to take home from this, don’t fight against it. Just take it in your stride and save that energy for something else far more deserving.
Julius Kensan can usually be spotted burying his face in Macbook at a neighbourhood coffee joint and will continue to attend weddings by himself for many years to come.