What I Learned about Dating and Relationships in the Philippines

As I sat on the overcrowded bus traveling through the jagged, mountainous road in the Philippines, the voices of Aziz Ansari and Tina Fey (Tom Haverford and Liz Lemon respectively) kept running through my mind. Literally.  I had both their books on tape (excuse me, CD (excuse me, audiobook)).  From Tina Fey’s BossyPants, I was learning about successful improve comedy techniques.  From Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, I was learning more about dating in today’s culture and what I’ve been doing wrong.  For being one of the most uncomfortable rides I’d ever been on (there was a slaughtered pig on the roof bleeding through the bus onto me), it was one of the most insightful rides I’d been on.  I took that time to look at myself and my relationships with others—mostly because it was an 8-hour ride and there was nothing else to do.

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I feel like my life is one big improvisational sketch—I don’t plan things.  Besides going to work every day and remembering the leftover tacos I plan to eat later, I make everything else up as I go.  To have a successful improve sketch, Tina Fey says that two things are essential.  I have found that these steps can also apply towards our communication with others:

  • Agree

Always agree and say yes.  This doesn’t mean to become like Jim Carrey’s Always agree and say yes.  This doesn’t mean to become like Jim Carrey’s Yes Man and potentially find yourself in compromising situations.  Tina Fey says for example, “If we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun.  It’s your finger.  You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has come to a halt.  But if I say “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You nerfherder!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.”

The lesson here is respecting what others have created.  The benefit of “agreement” is an open mind, an environment where ideas can thrive and innovation is welcome.

  • Not Only Say Yes…Say Yes And…

Add something of your own. Have you ever tried to carry a conversation with someone who seemed to stifle all conversation with responses such as:

“Yeah…”

“No”

“OK”

“Sure”

Etc.

If you asked a question that merited a one-word response, then that’s your own fault.  But it is difficult to keep a conversation going when one side refuses to contribute.  Tina Fey once again gives the example: “If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.  But if I say . . . “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.”

Whether texting or speaking in person.  Don’t let a conversation fizzle.* Take what you have been given and add something to it.

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Unlike Tina Fey, who unknowingly gave me insight by talking about her own life, Aziz Ansari was speaking directly to me and my generation (commonly known as millennials) in his book about dating and love.  As he covered areas such as online dating, texting, and the waiting game, I squirmed in my seat (figuratively and literally—I really had to pee and there were 3 hours left on the bus), realizing that much of what Aziz was saying was on point and I had been in many of those situations.

Before, when people wanted to find love, they would take out a personal in the newspaper.  This transitioned to paying for an online dating account, to downloading an app and having unlimited, free access to hundreds of single people in your area.  With all these options, we have become increasingly less satisfied with who we may be dating because there may be someone better out there we haven’t met yet.  Using the Tinder app, people match with dozens of people.  In fact, with over 2 billion swipes, 12 million matches are made daily!  How were you supposed to meet dozens of new people before through mutual attraction?

However, even with all of these choices, we feel like we can’t settle with just one person due to the fear of missing out with a potentially better person and find nitpicky flaws: “She’s a cat person, it’ll never work,” “I could never be with someone who loves the Red Sox,” or “she’s taller than me, no way.”  Ultimately, these factors really don’t matter (unless you have a cat allergy, or your girlfriend keeps stepping on you), and we need to decide the factors that we really value most.

Did you know in a day, Americans average about 444 minutes in front of a screen?  Whether it be a tablet, phone, or personal computer.  We have edged away from personal communication in favor of sending electronic messages to each other.  When communicating with someone, it is easier to text due to the lack of emotion involved and you have time to think of responses.  Aziz says that when we want to begin a conversation, we will commonly send the generic “hey” text.  This can come in the form of:

“Hey”

“Hey!”

“Heyy!!”

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“What’s up?”

“Sup?”

Sending the “hey” text serially can come off as dull, lazy, and making the recipient seem as if they’re not very special.  Calling back to Tina Fey, remember rule #2? Say yes and….  Add something to the conversation!

One thing that most people are prone to do is overanalyze a situation.  This can occur in a number of situations such as the post-date text, likes on social media, and not hearing back from someone you have texted.  Have you been in a situation where you have sent the other person a message, you know they have seen it (like on messenger), but they don’t respond?!! Or you are in the middle of a conversation with someone when all of a sudden they stop responding.  How about when we are texting?  If I respond right away, it seems like I am over-eager and have nothing better to do.  I can’t wait too long because then the conversation will go nowhere.  BTW, the average wait time between texts is 2 minutes.

Who sends the post-date text? How long should I wait to send it? Does that mean she likes me? Should I respond? She liked my picture 30 seconds after I posted it, she’s into me right? Should I like her stuff? What do my roommates think?

I don’t know the answer to these questions.  But reading them all and realizing how often I have considered these things, it makes our generation seem like a bunch of overanxious worriers.  I think the best solution is to get some courage, be a little vulnerable, and put yourself out there.  Have REAL conversations in person.  And if the person says no? Well then you’re no worse off than when you started, just more knowledgeable.

These topics barely touch the surface of Modern Romance.  Maybe you are already the perfect dater and don’t need it.  Regardless, I believe there is timeless advice which can help hapless millennials navigate the treacherous waters of relationships and survive their decade of decisions.

*If the person is creepy and awkward, get out of there STAT!

Seeing Something Better in the Philippines

It’s amazing how often we spend pining after things we don’t have.  We often fail to remember the things we have already been given, and continue to enjoy.  For three weeks, I spent my time with a group of students volunteering for CharityVision, a nonprofit organization with a focus on empowering local physicians in the developing world and creating sustainable solutions to the worldwide blindness epidemic.  We watched surgeries, played with patients, volunteered in orphanages, and performed projects to improve the clinics we were at.  We experienced conditions which are no longer prevalent in the United States.  For as many problems as our current healthcare systems has, we do have medical and technological advances to be grateful for.

Approximately half our time was spent in a rural location called the De Venicia clinic.  This clinic is used primarily for removing cataracts via a simple surgery.  Did you know that a $25 donation is all that it takes to restore vision to someone who has been robbed of it?  The process begins as staff travel to various locations across the Philippines (or the world, as this is an international organization) and perform screenings to find potential candidates.  We took part in these screenings (obtaining carsickness on the 3-hour remote drive) and interacted with the patients who turned up.

Patients arrive on their designated date for their surgeries.  Patients range in age from young children to the elderly.  Whether young or old, every person deserves the right to sight.  Observing surgeries was a fascinating experience.  Doctors performed surgeries with the patients conscious.  Can you imagine staring up at the caregivers while they stick sharp instruments in your eye?  What more, the doctor jokes with you and then chastises you for laughing and moving the surgical area (your face).  What a wonderful scene it was after the surgery when the patients would shed tears of joy after regaining their sight.

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When we weren’t observing surgeries, we were acting as workers, seeking to improve the appearance of the clinic.  Our biggest project was improving the patient waiting area outside.  5,000 bricks and 3 days later, we finished with all our fingerprints rubbed clean off (in order to commit the perfect crime).  We also made improvements to the patient bathroom and kitchen, and provided the nurses with a locker for their belongings.

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The remainder of our time we spent in Manila, volunteering at the Mabuhay House.  Patients stay here for longer periods of time for a number of maladies.  One such patient is a child named Balong who was born with club feet.  Instead of going through surgery, Balong has had metal braces placed on his legs with rods shooting through his feet.  Every week, a doctor tightens the brace as it slowly reverses his condition.  This painful process will take nearly a year to complete.  But when it is finished, he will be able to run and play with his friends.

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Or consider Stephen, who was born with a cleft lip.  Many people who are born with this condition and allow it to persist are often ridiculed and ostracized in society.  A simple surgery repaired Stephen’s condition and he can go about his life without having to worry about being teased.

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These are conditions rarely, if ever seen in the United States.  They are such simple procedures performed when the children are brand new.  Because many of these type of conditions are so rampant in the Philippines, it was surprising to encounter people with conditions such as cancer or diabetes.  The people there deal with more severe disabilities which could be so easily repaired, that they have no time to worry about diseases which first world countries consider more serious.  And if they can’t pay for those fixable maladies, how can they expect to pay for conditions we ourselves struggle to pay for?

The day we went and volunteered at an orphanage, we played with some of the cutest children who had just been dealt a bad hand in life.  There are many orphanages within the states as well, but what made this experience unique was that some of these children were a result of failed abortions.  Not only were they a result of neglect, but the poor actions of their parents had left lasting scars.  It was heart-wrenching.

This trip provided a meaningful experience to be a part of a humanitarian opportunity.  Becoming more aware of the healthcare we have been blessed with will allow us to focus on what we already have, rather than what we do not.  For more information on CharityVision and the work they do, you can visit their website. charityvision.net