A Little Bit of Cinta

It’s no secret that finding a man in these times isn’t easy.  Popular culture tells us so and my friends agree.  As young men lose their masculinity and spend more time shopping and hairstyling than women, as they turn up the collars of their pink shirts and embrace metrosexuality, as they are taught to be afraid of commitment, of losing their freedom to a nagging wife and crying child, as they pick up women and then never call again, women losing their self-esteem and spending an inordinate amount of time dieting and trying to look pretty.  Or picking up men and never calling them again. Or convincing themselves that they are happy being alone. So many people seemingly confused about what they are supposed to be doing with their lives with so many choices at their disposal – to be married or not, to have children or not, to travel the world, or buy a house, or buy shares or a sports car, to spend every weekend in an oblivion of drugs and alcohol, to be free to do whatever they want to do with no ties.  In Australia, more people live alone than any other time in history, with more money and more debt than any other time.

In Jakarta, many of my Indonesian friends are feeling the fear of growing old alone, even at the tender age of 25, but they don’t have the same confusion about what they will do with their lives.  The direction they are heading in is clear – they are going to get married, have children, and grow old – hopefully buy a house, hopefully stay healthy, probably look after their aging parents, and probably make a trip or two to Jogyajakarta.

In the three years I have been here, many of them have found a man, gotten married and had a baby.  Everything seems to happen so fast I think as I recall the slow years of my 20s and the ever increasing speed as I head closer towards the big 4-0.  In Australia people don’t have the same pressure from family to get married – they can live together for years, even have 5 children, and no one will bat an eyelid if they are unmarried.  Indonesia, in regards to love and marriage, sometimes reminds me of how I imagine Australia to have been in the 1950s.  Then it was unheard of to have a child before marriage, or to have sex before marriage, though of course people were doing it, as they do now in the love hotels in Jakarta.  If people were together and showing small signs of affection, then it was almost guaranteed that they would be married soon.  Couples here are not afraid to talk of marriage in the early stages of their relationship – in Australia it is unmentionable until a few years have passed, if at all.  In Indonesia, your family still has a say in who you can marry and god help you if you fall in love with a Batak person as you are going to be up for a wedding with a cast of thousands and a bill of millions.
It is my good fortune to have come to Indonesia after many years of travelling, of short term relationships, and long term disasters and to my surprise, fall in love with an Indonesian man.  In the last blog that we uploaded onto Jakarta Globe I mentioned that my boyfriend was an Indonesian Muslim and to my surprise the comments reeked of animosity, with accusations of him controlling me or using me for my money.  I laughed as I thought of my measly bank account and the absurdity of him trying to control me.  I guess the possibility of two people being in love across the Asia divide is still stuck in Patpong.  I know that is still unusual for people in Jakarta to see us together – some people assume he is my ojek driver, sometimes waiters ask him with big eyes “how did you meet that bule?” as though their problems will be solved going out with a white woman.  Ha, how he laughs at that.
It isn’t surprising that people assume something is unequal here – after all, the main examples of relationships featuring white people and Asians is generally old white men and young Asian women, not vice versa.   The first, and almost, the last time I ever went to a certain bar  in Kemang, I arrived early to meet my friend to find that I was the only bule woman there, but there was an abundance of white men there propped up against the bar.  Although the bar was not really busy, it was difficult to find a waitress to take my order as they were busy making moony eyes at the old men who were comfortable enough to put their hands on these young women’s backsides as they walked past.  I don’t know why I was surprised to see this in Indonesia – after all, the old white man/young Asian girl phenomenon is not new or unfortunately, unusual.  My stomach lurched as I watched the scene, and on this particular night, beer bellies and bulbous alcoholic noses seemed to be the look to aim for if you wanted to pick up, acting like some kind of aging rock stars, and able to use the pull of their wallets to draw the starry-eyed stares of these beautiful young women who dreamed of escape into the Land of the Bule – where life is an endless party and they can live in a big house and get out of their current situation.
Their old friends come to the bar with their new (old) man and their new fancy clothes and bags, shiny hair and those left behind only dream of having the same success.  The world is of course set up for these inequalities with the earning power of average Indonesians, no matter how many hours they work, crushingly below the wages of the bules who come to work here, and the best way to get a piece of it, is to have a relationship with one.
I suppose what gives me the greatest satisfaction in this situation, is when I go to the malls and I see these exhausted old men trying to keep up with their young wives – carrying their wife’s Gucci bags or their new infant in their arthritic arms.  I imagine their ex-wives and already grown children, laughing behind the back of their old dad, who now is back to dropping their new children off at preschool with no chance of early retirement while the ex-wife is at home putting her feet up and enjoying the moment of growing old.  I met such a man on Sepa Island one day who told me that he loved his new wife who was 20 years his junior – she didn’t shop at the expensive stores and was always looking for a bargain – but the problem was that they didn’t have anything in common.  Luckily I was able to control myself from asking “what did you expect you old fool?”.
After being here for 3 years now, I see that these situations aren’t the only ones common in Jakarta.  In fact many people are enjoying the best relationship of their lives – whether they started off equal or not, whatever that means, they have found a new groove in their lives – a partnership – a friendship – crossing the cultural boundaries.  This is certainly difficult for some people to believe.  An Indonesian friend of mine who married an older man, went to live in Australia with her new husband and was faced with endless difficulties – no less than her husband’s grown children treated her like a maid, people on the street stared at her like a prostitute and people assumed constantly that she was in it for the money, not the love.  As she faced a growing pile of laundry that her maid would have done for her in Indonesia, she could only sigh and dream of going back to her polluted city.  Though sometimes the stares from people there were even worse.

As time passes, perhaps people will be more accepting of relationships which cross cultures and will get out of their mail order bride thinking.  Perhaps the Indonesian wages will increase to a fair level so that they don’t seek out old men or women to make their fortune, maybe women will stop being used for sex and men will control their need for satisfaction. Maybe there is a better chance of the return of Jesus Christ.  Or a virgin birth.

Until that time, I will enjoy my relationship with my Indonesian man who talks about having kids and growing old together, who laughs a lot and takes me out to dinner, who is smart and caring, and tall and brown skinned.  Yes, I will continue with my trite blog and plans to ban the use of loud speakers to project religion onto the masses while he continues to snore blissfully. And even when he is awake. I will continue to blame men for the horrors of the world.  I may even set up an online dating service for Australian women and Indonesian men with promises of a little sweetness.  And then I will just relax in the knowledge that in this house, everything is okay.


5 Responses to “A Little Bit of Cinta”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. saras says:

    Oh dear, I should tell you what people think about my relationship with my bule boyfriend. We met as students and we both broke but everybody thinks he’s rich. Even though we are far away from getting married, my mum already have imaginary bule grandchildren. Haha

    • welovejakarta says:

      Hahaha yes, it is so funny that everyone thinks that bules are rich and I feel a little sorry for those who are disappointed because of it! My boyfriend’s parents are waiting for a marriage etc and they are happy that their son is with a bule, but maybe they will learn the truth that most bules are in serious debt very soon 🙂

      Thanks for your response

  2. Hey, That was awesome! yeah since the first time I found this blog, I love it. You remind me of someone, yea she is Australian like you. It is so nice to read this article, the best for you and for your husband. And enjoy Jakarta… 🙂 great really really great…

  3. GrownMan says:

    Hii I like ur blog and hopefully u already married with him now.

    Sometimes I am sad when I read an article about Indo man is inferior to all the caucasian guys. I dont think so. It s just a matter of personal quality. Sorry my comment a bit off the track. Hope u keep blogging about it.

    • welovejakarta says:

      Clearly both Treen and I don’t feel that Indonesian men are inferior! We are both married to Indonesian men afterall…. 🙂