Dating During a Transport Crisis: 'Is It Shallow to Only Want to Date Someone With a Car?'
It's not like this is a new conversation or anything. Although there is something to be said about how the transport crisis, which no state official wants to acknowledge, affects love, or the pursuit of it, rather. The traffic situation has gotten so bad in the Philippines that we might as well add this as a mandatory to dating: He must have a car. Funny how romance has become another casualty of this godforsaken conundrum.
See, the transport crisis we're facing right now facilitates a very specific type of moral bankruptcy in the everyday Filipino. It drains the color out of life. The MRT lines, in itself, is a glimpse of urban dystopia. The commuters congregating in the middle of EDSA for a stray shot of jeepney seats is pure chaos. A Grab ride every day isn't sustainable in this economy. Angkas is a nice option, but they do only have one seat, after all, forcing passengers to cling to the rider for dear life while weaving dangerously through traffic. Carpooling is great in theory, but when we think about the strangers we have to accommodate in our space, we realize that we must put that social discomfort elsewhere. Maybe joining the cult of biking will do? Ugh. It's all just hellish. And a random day of heavy rains makes it all the more demoralizing. Any ounce of energy left from the horrid commute is spent on acquiring more energy to face the next hellish day. Ah, how dubious those campaign promises to solve traffic look. The collective failures of the state gets us all. It bankrupts romance, too.
As a matter of fact, it can affect most of our relationships. We get to spend less time with our kids. Our friends become far-away concepts hovering around our messaging apps. Time that would've been spent chatting and hanging out becomes time for rest. It also eliminates some contenders in the dating pool.
A friend and I were talking about this the other day. She rode with me on the way home from an event we both attended. I told her I would drop her right in front of her doorstep. We're gentlemen here, of course.
On our way, we wound up talking about our respective dating lives. That was when she (half)-quipped: "You know, I would prefer to date someone with a car." I paused and gave her a goofy side-eye. "Your elitism is showing," I reply. "Does that make me shallow?" she asks me. "So you're looking for a damn driver, is that right?"
I told her, sensibly, that yes, she was being shallow. But I don't think she should be apologetic about it.
It's funny how she used to despise those "car guys" in college. Of course, someone would rather date the car guy back then. You know the type, where their entire personality is based on mindless vroom vroom macho. These people exude a very specific kind of male swagger, even if they were only driving their mother's cars. Those men used to be a hit in college. They were supposed to be cooler because they had wheels. In fact, it made them feel more mature somehow. A car is such a grownup thing, even if that meant they had to ask permission first.
Now, in adulthood, they seem to make sense on a more practical level. My friend told me that a "car guy" has suddenly become a more palatable idea now that the commute is this atrocious. And I can't really blame her. Should we?
The car guy prototype is something I have grown to abhor. I have a car myself and it gets me from point A to point B, but that doesn't make me any better (or any less) of a potential partner than the next dude. I may well be just as good or as shitty as someone else. But the thing is, I somewhat understand my friend's new dating prerequisite. Dating someone with a car effectively eliminates two commuter horrors: safety from petty crimes and shitty public transportation in general. Best of all, you're comfortable, and with someone you trust. "Women are getting kidnapped now, man," my friend said. "Nobody gives a shit." I told her I know. I couldn't tell her I understood because I could never speak for the lived experience of being a woman in a shit society like this one.
What if it was the other way around? She should have a car. Well, truth be told, it's equally shallow. But it does make less sense if you consider that men are never really in as much danger as women going through public transportation. Data suggests that 51 percent of female students reported having been a victim of sexual assault or harassment crime while on the bus, train, etc. compared to 32 percent for men. Both bad. It's just we can't blame women who don't feel safe in public spaces. Men, we don't have to worry about so much.
It's inherently elitist, too. Wanting to date a guy with a car is just what it is: finding someone who feels comfortable, both romantically and financially. Yes, we are also more than likely going to date someone from our social class, studies confirm. My friend is upper-ish middle-class, I would say, so she is definitely hunting for a guy on the same social level. Oh, so why doesn't she buy a car herself then? Well, she doesn't have a license yet, unfortunately. On top of that, cars are just expensive. "I'm a passenger seat princess, honey," she jokes.
Do I think it's shallow? Yes, I certainly do. But it's not any less of a valid reason to date or not date someone. Really, I've heard of shallower reasons for ghosting or dumping someone, after all. His feet look weird. As if feet were supposed to be beautiful. I hate her taste in music. As if we don't all have songs and artists we silently listen to but never share with anyone. Her favorite artist is Van Gogh. As if we don't fall for mainstream sensibilities from time to time. His cologne taste is a disaster. As if cheap, great cologne exists. We always find a stupidly petty reason to not love someone if we really don't want to love them.
It feels like such a champagne problem, and frankly, it is. Expecting first-world dating comforts in a third-world country with one of the worst traffic situations in all mankind is a feckless endeavor, I realize. But then again, we are all condemned to this hellscape of a transport system anyway. All are doomed from the start. And I would never blame anyone for wanting to escape. My friend is entitled to the kind of romance she dreams of. To be clear, she's not looking for a car guy either. "Just because someone has a car doesn't make them a 'car guy.' He could be a gentle, sweet, and thoughtful man who I just love who also just happens to have a car." Fair point.
She'll be commuting again the next day. It takes about six hours of her day, three hours from her home to the office, and vice versa. That "gentle, sweet, and thoughtful man who she just loves who also just happens to have a car" could not come any sooner.