Hora de peligro. The critical hour.
I used to remember my Mother talk about hora de peligro as that precise moment when it is OK to panic. Or to resort to doing something desperate because ... well, all the alarms are ringing.
Hora de peligro can refer to almost any thing or any situation. The gist of the matter is that time is running out and you better grab the nearest floater or run to the nearest lifeboat.
At a luncheon with definitely much younger friends, all in their late twenties and early thirties, hora de peligro has never been more fully realized or expressed. It was mainly the dismay of the womenfolk who are alarmingly focused on their biological time clock.
It is almost like the sound of a time bomb in the last few seconds before the big WHAPPAK!
These ladies, all successful in their various fields of endeavor, were talking about the apparent shortage of eligible young men who could possibly complete their lives if not make their mothers shut up as to when they will deliver the grandchildren to enhanced their senior lives.
Two of my friends hated the pressure. One said, "It is the year 2015 ... and my parents still think that the only way I can be happy in life is if I get married."
Another one offered, "My father keeps telling me that he and Mama will not be around all the time and I need somebody to take care of me." What is so particularly funny (if not ironic) about that is that this specific friend has gained the awesome reputation of being so bossy that she can literally pluck the testicles out of a man with her bare hands. Blessed with a very successful career, she really did not need a man to provide her with security. But still her parents believed that she needed a man to take care of her.
"Pagpasensiyahan mo na," I said, "Some parents still have that notion they inherited from their generation that there is no such thing as single bliss."
"Yes," she retorted, "It's a choice between marriage or myoma in my uterus."
That's another issue: all the ladies received that ominous warning that it is also a choice of being a mother ... or suffering from cancer of the ovaries or uterus.
"I am not meant to have children," said one. "It is not that I hate kids ... oh, I love them ... but as long as I am not going to be responsible for them 24/7." I told her she did not need a child --- she should opt for a chihuahua. And that was when she confirmed why motherhood is not on top of her list --- and she cannot be forgiven by her parents for that.
"They are demanding for more grandchildren as if the eight they already have are not enough," she sighed.
"Give them a Pomeranian pup," I told her. "Better yet, gift them with gerbils."
There is also that threat that the fertility expiration date is nearing maturity.
Unlike men who can still have their jollies even in their seventies, this whole childbearing thing changes the entire equation for women. Despite the years of patience and agony having to deal with the monthly curse, menstruation is still very much a threat. It is a chord meant to strike fear especially for women who believe that their principal function in the world is to pro-create ... and not make elaborate cross stitch tapestries or concocting the best recipe of adobo for their kitchens.
Another one of the girls said, "My brother is a doctor: he keeps telling me that the moment crosses the age of 30, the difficulties in childbearing increase."
"Yes," agreed Miss Successful Businesswoman, "I hear that from my mother too. When a woman gives birth late in life, she stands a very strong chance that her genes or her chromosomes are already all screwed up and she might end up having a defective baby."
I was curious as to what was meant by a defective baby.
"There are chances that you will have a mentally challenged infant if you give birth at a late age ..." somebody explained. No way! I am a menopause baby because my Mom was about 42 years old when she gave birth to me and I do not consider myself mentally handicapped.
"But there is that possibility," another one in the Forever Bridesmaids Group contributed. "It is best to have your babies when you are still young ... The kids come out stronger."
"Like what age is that? Sixteen?" I said in shock.
Then somebody mentioned about how an actress went through a very trying pregnancy and resulted to tremendous weight gain which she could not seem to shed off. I know the said actress and explained that it was more complicated than just a case of age. After all, the said media personality was not that old to really have issues about giving birth.
"Ah, but still ..." said one of the ladies, "When you hit past thirty, starting a family becomes all the more difficult ..."
But then what can one do? The charm of having a career fresh out of college constitutes a greater part of the journey for women in their twenties ... "not unless you have a college sweetheart and you vow to tie the knot right after you are handed your diplomas."
"Hindi na nangyayari yon. Mahirap ang buhay," contradicted Ms. Success. "Besides, hindi na puwedeng iasa mo ang iyong buong buhay sa lalake."
"Oo nga, said another, " Look at what happened to _____. Hindi ba after three years, nabiyuda?"
That set off the alarm.
"Yes. Widowed with two kids ... How old is her eldest?"
And the conversation took a turn about how difficult it is to be married, blah, blah, blah ... to depend on a man, blah, blah, blah ... with each of the girls trying to justify why in their late twenties and early to mid-thirties that they are still single.
"It is best to be practical," volunteered Ms. Success. "You must make it clear to a man that you can go on with your life without him ... and his money."
Valid enough. And that was probably why most of the girls in this group do not have partners. Not that they never had the chance to be married ... but something went wrong somewhere along the way.
They all agreed that that the even bigger problem than bearing children is that --- they cannot find the right men to fit into their lives.
"Fit into your lives?" I exclaimed. Is this the new Cinderella complex? Are they sure they wanted real honest to goodness male homo sapiens or comfortable Jimmy Choo shoes?
"No, it is not that. Men get intimidated by women with ... uh, relative success ..."
"Or even strong opinions ..."
"You mean women who tweet political statements challenging Church and State?" I asked.
Of course, it was Ms. Success who barked: "Oh, come on. Admit it. Men can't stand women with balls."
I replied, "I guess that's because they also have balls ... not unless what they are looking for are ... balls?"
The girls all started to laugh.
Then somebody decided to pick it up to bring the discussion to another level.
"Then again it is also true. As there is truth in that saying ..."
"All the good men are either married or gay."
That line has been beaten to a pulp: this generalization that all the men worth keeping for the rest of your remaining days of earthly existence have already been claimed by others or are not interested --- well, not in women anyway.
You see, there is this thing about very successful women. Or maybe even the ones who speak their minds or come out an erg too strong for comfort. Aside from being branded as saber-wielding testicle cutters, they seem to be in endless argument with the opposite sex to prove that they are equals. That is the usual male paranoia --- or insecurity: great is the confidence of a man who is not intimidated by a more successful or intelligent woman. This whole thing of "man on top" sounds so ... uh, eighteenth century ... and even in the eighteenth century they have already unraveled the joys of other positions aside from that.
I explained that married men are not intimidated because they couldn't care less who's playing alpha in the pack. Besides, married men have already acquired a certain degree of sensitivity to the needs and quirks of women. Try starting your day with a woman beside you in bed ... and ending it with the same company on the same given space. Married men (or those who are successful at such unions) know the finer art of giving and taking especially in playing the game of sexual politics with very dominant and domineering women.
The weak of heart among the singles give up too easily --- or do not want to waste time trying to figure out that secret equation that one must discover in order to start the symphony of romantic violins. What the heck, they would say. Move on. There are more women than men on this side of the planet. You can do without the female geniuses if they still want to play mind games.
But then again, I said: "These men are usually not worth the time and effort either. They really do not want a relationship. They just want a quickie. Or the only people they can be involved with are themselves."
Then of course there are the gay men.
"Nowadays," one of the women sighed, "when I got to the gym and see all these guys ... some lean, some buffed ... a number so gorgeous ... obsessed with their biceps and triceps ... I keep asking myself ... how many of them are still interested in women?"
We all laughed. Being a gym bunny myself --- I knew exactly what she meant ... and not that I cared. I told her that there are all sorts of gays inasmuch as there is an entire spectrum of straight men and women.
"But why are gays so charming?" another of the ladies asked.
Maybe it is that masochistic side of women craving for someone who they know will not be interested in them despite daring or deed. Maybe it is the fact that gay men do not have to prove anything to straight women that brings about someone more natural, uninhibited and spontaneous.
"He is not out to impress," I said. "He is just there to be himself. And that really sends you ladies crazy."
I also told them that there is nothing worse than a woman who (out of despair or a calling from the heavens) decides to pursue a gay man in order to change him. Enough of that illusion that if you love somebody enough then he will eventually love you back.
"May pagka-pathetic naman yon. That is tantamount to begging."
I said it was more of wishful thinking that would lead to real-time frustration.
Then silence prevailed on the table. The ladies were aware that the biological time clock is ticking faster and faster. Soon the collagen will lose its potency and the law of gravity will prevail. Not all the gallons of Botox or Aptos threads or radio wave non-intrusive treatments can turn time around to make a thirty year old plus-plus woman look like Julia Barretto or Liza Soberanno. That is the way of the world. That is called the life cycle.
So when you miss out the chance to be a mother ... there is no turning back. Not unless you have the openness of mind and heart to adopt a child ... or be a surrogate nanay to all your nephews, nieces and godchildren.
Worse, not unless you opt to have teacup chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers as your children.
Then somebody said out of the blue: "Hay naku. Who says I need a husband to be a mother? Magpapabuntis na lang ako." This was followed by another five minutes discussing who are potential male friends and acquaintances who could be top of the line sperm donors.
That sent everyone giggling.
Yet despite the peals of laughter, the unspoken question that everyone of these ladies had was: Do they really want children? Are they willing to give up the successes that they have accrued through years of hard work and determination to change diapers, run after screaming toddlers in a mall ... or endure the years of raising,understanding and being strong for husband and offspring?
Is that their real definition of happiness?
Women are conditioned to think that they are brought to this world to be fruitful and multiply. For some, this is their ultimate cause ... but there are others who feel that motherhood is an option and not an obligation. And there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Five minutes later we all moved on. The ladies were busy discussing the possibility that Kris Aquino will migrate to the U.S. to raise her sons. The conversation became more animated ... and significant.