Unmarried women no longer on the shelf
by Trung Hieu
In modern Viet Nam it is becoming more and more common for young women to live alone. Traditional modes of thinking are losing their hold on young minds, and people now don't necessarily sneer at women who choose to stay single.
In the past, "living a single life" meant that young women were considered old maids who had been "left on the shelf".
Today, society is more accepting of these women. They are independent; they can determine their own paths and overcome old prejudices.
Mai Anh, 32, is head of the business sector of a large company in Ha Noi. She says: "My day begins at 6am, when my yoga teacher arrives. After one hour practising yoga, I have breakfast, drive my car to the company and work until 6pm. In my free time, I travel with friends, go to restaurants, watch films and read books. I feel my life is good that way."
"When you live alone, you have more control over yourself," she adds.
Anh almost got married at the age of 26. After a short time in love, her boyfriend proposed but asked her to report him every day, to tell him where she was going and with whom. Anh realised that she could not accept those conditions. She decided to say good-bye to her lover.
"Everyone's goal in life is happiness, but there are many ways to reach that. Many of my female friends got married and had children, but some of them were disappointed with their husbands and eventually got divorced. I chose my own way," says Anh.
Ngoc My, a journalist in Anh's "single women's society" says: "I love travelling and writing. If I were busy with family affairs and children, I wouldn't be able to wander anymore. I don't feel it's my "responsibility" to get married – that word makes me crazy!"
"Perhaps no Vietnamese man would want to marry a woman who loves to argue and is lazy about housework like I am. If I do not meet the man of my dream, I'd rather live a single life like this," she says.
Each of these women has her own reasons for not getting married. Often they are not against the idea in principle, but are unsure when the time would be right to start their family lives.
As I talked to the women in Anh's group, I heard certain phrases again and again: "I have to wait until my job is stable", "I have to wait until I have enough money to support my family" and "I have to wait until I find a man who loves me more than he loves himself".
It is common for women to live alone and work full-time in developed countries, but in many places, including Viet Nam, there are still some remnants of male chauvinism. Women have to obey their parents. If an unmarried woman has relations with a man, she may be scorned.
Scientific developments, information technology, and foreign cultural influences have had an important impact on the personalities and lifestyles of young people.
Some young women think that if they live alone, they will have the freedom to enjoy themselves and the time to focus on their professional careers.
I have talked with many young women about this matter. Some simply say they love being single, but others say they wanted to find a partner and have not met the right man.
Le Phuong from HCM City says she supports all marriages that are based on a stable love.
"But I don't agree with the traditional viewpoint that a young woman must get married when she reaches adulthood, otherwise her neighbours would speak badly about her."
"I think a marriage must be happy, though the happiness could be gained after experiencing hardship."
Duong Phuong Hanh, director of the Research and Education Centre for Deaf People, says she does not understand the choice to stay single.
"It's not good and I don't support it. The Creator gave human beings the ability to maintain our race, so why should we go against the nature?
"I think both having a family and living alone bring joy and sadness, but having a family is better because when we get old, we have descendants, and that's more joyous.
"After getting married we shouldn't try to change our partner, but rather change ourselves so that we can live together in harmony."
In my opinion, the life of each individual stems from his or her family. If the family is the cell of society, the woman is the nucleus of that cell. Therefore, marriage is how we maintain our race and pass on the inheritance of our ancestors.
Phsychologist Le Thi Tuy from the Youth Consultancy Centre says that after people get married and create a happy family, they can derive further happiness from their children.
"When should a woman choose a life partner and end her single days? When you find a man who suits you in terms of lifestyle, point of view, and future goals.
"If you do not find him, living a single life is a choice. You should just know how to arrange your life so that you can have good friends and be a part of society." — VNS