For me ‘getting a boyfriend’ is up there with ‘travelling in East Europe/Central Asia/Siberia’ among my priorities. I am sure having a boyfriend could be a rewarding experience. I also think it could be a boring experience, or a frustrating experience, or worse. Likewise, I think travelling in Eastern Europe/Central Asia/Siberia could be rewarding, boring, or frustrating. I just might some day have a boyfriend, or travel in Eastern Europe/Central Asia/Siberia … yet if I never make it to Eastern Europe/Central Asia/Siberia, or get a boyfriend, I think that’s OK.
And quite frankly, given a choice between ‘boyfriend’ and ‘travelling around Eastern Europe/Central Asia/Siberia’, everything else being equal, I would probably choose travelling.
In other words, my life is complete without a boyfriend.
Yet in some people’s minds, there is a hole in my life which my (non-existent) boyfriend should fill (I say ‘boyfriend’ because most of these people have hetero-normative mindsets).
One taxi-driver asked if my companion was my boyfriend and I answered ‘HE’S MY UNCLE!’ (in Mandarin of course). I then asked why
the fuck his first thought that he was my boyfriend. He answered that some people prefer older men (my uncle is more than twice my age, and he looks like he is twice my age) and that most people don’t go travelling with their uncles (but surely some people go travelling with their fathers – some people have mistaken my uncle for my father, which does make sense to me).
I get this reaction a lot from Taiwanese people – ‘where is your boyfriend?’ – particularly lately since I’ve been travelling more (people who already know me don’t have to ask me again). They say ‘but you’re so pretty – you must have a boyfriend’. While physical beauty is relevant to the ease of getting a boyfriend, it is irrelevant to whether or not I am interested in getting a boyfriend. So when Taiwanese people say this, the implicit assumption is that every young woman wants a boyfriend, and the only reason not to have one is that it is hard for her to get a good one. That, my friends, is sexual-normativity (of a very narrow kind at that – it excludes casual sex, polyamoury, etc).
Though I have been talking about Taiwanese, I get the same feeling from my fellow Americans too. Taiwanese are much more direct about talking about this particular subject, which makes it easier to get clear examples to blog about. But Americans have a way of dropping hints which show what they are thinking without actually having to come out and say it (or maybe the Taiwanese are only direct with me, an outsider, and would be more subtle among one of their own – I don’t know).
This might pressure some people into getting a boyfriend. However, to me, it makes the idea of having a boyfriend feel more insipid. I’d probably be more interested in getting a boyfriend if it weren’t so normed up.