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`Single': The big hush-up

October 26, 2006|Cindy Chang | Special to The Times

I had met Mr. Min only once before, but when we arrived at the restaurant, the first thing he said to me was, "Do you have a boyfriend?"

Both of his daughters -- my brother's fiancee and her younger sister -- were mortified. That didn't stop their father from posing the question again later, and from asking whether anyone had a suitable match for his shy 18-year-old niece from Korea.

The sisters apologized profusely. Their father is a loose cannon, they explained, who is constantly making inappropriate comments. They hoped I wasn't embarrassed.

In fact, Mr. Min's bluntness was welcome. The single girl, as portrayed in film and literature, is weary of fending off annoying questions and questionable setups. But my experience has been the opposite -- so much so that I actually longed for an unsubtle lead-in like his.

Some friends do inquire regularly about my dating life and enjoy hearing about all the false starts and ambiguous relationships with exes. But other friends -- usually those who met their husbands at a young age -- rarely bring up the subject. The older adults in my life, whether they are parents, relatives or co-workers, assiduously avoid any reference to my single status or any possible remedies for it, as if it were some unmentionable disease -- not the Big C, but the Big S, for single.

I thought these were the people who were supposed to be racking their brains for a suitable young man for me. Instead, they can't even muster the courage to discuss my situation. Since when did single become taboo?

Some people seem to think that it's embarrassing to discuss a woman's lack of a boyfriend, as if this is a secret or a source of shame. They do their best to pretend she's like everyone else, even as she attends a wedding solo or goes backpacking in Mexico by herself while her friends shop for engagement rings.

If she has good news, she'll tell us, right? The process of getting there is hardly worth mentioning.

But for single gals, the ups and downs of dating, the zany plans to freeze our eggs if Mr. Right doesn't come along by 35, are almost as large an occupier of our psyches as any relationship. Why is it that at work functions and family gatherings, people who are engaged or married are showered with endless interest in their personal lives, while we are treated as if we don't have a life at all?

When I finally met a woman who was hellbent on setting me up -- the Chinese version of a yenta -- I was not annoyed but grateful. It was comforting to have someone I barely knew looking out for me in this most important department. I felt as if I had a cheering section, as if for once I wasn't going it alone.

The honeymoon with my matchmaker didn't last long. The date she arranged failed in the worst possible way -- I liked him, but he rejected me.

Then she got it into her head that I needed not only a man, but a new job. Everything she suggested was patently unsuitable, and she was so persistent I had to tell her in 50 ways that I wasn't interested. Fending her off yet again, I wondered: How pathetic am I?

Yet, even after this brush with someone so supremely tactless, I'd still welcome a shade less tact from everyone else.

A polite inquiry about whether I've met anyone is at least an acknowledgment that my situation could change, that I am not simply dismissed as the resident spinster.

Ask away, Mr. Min.

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