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Love and the "Transient" Woman


In the name of love, mobility can be a curse.

Recently, I was dumped by a man who was displeased with my identity as a woman belonging to Canberra’s “transient” community. Although I was initially shocked by his view that migration and cheap airline tickets have not become a part of our daily lives, it made me question whether there is a double standard when it comes to dating in an era of globalization.

Historically, men have traveled, went to war and explored the world, whereas women either followed or stayed at home to keep the fires burning. But what happens in a world where women have packed their bags, started frequenting international airports, and become visible members on the frontlines? Are we still expected to embody the myth of the obedient-domestic goddess who is willing to give up her hopes and dreams in order to achieve love? For women, has it always been the battle between love and herself?

Being a member of Canberra’s transient population has reminded me that there is a complex relationship between men, women and love. Women are often positioned within two conflicting categories that mutually reinforce each other. For instance, women are simplistically categorized as either the “good” or the “bad”, the “marriageable” or the “unmarriageable”, or simply the “controllable” or the “free”.

My struggle with patriarchy has occurred within the intimate confines of personal relationships with men. Within such relationships, the men who were threatened by my transient behaviour often categorized me as an un-girlfriend, an un-partner, or an un-wife because of my choice of an uncertain way of life.

I am starting to believe that these categorizations are imposed on women such as I – the transient, the educated, and the free – in order to control us. We perhaps represent a threat to the male struggle to regain security because we have failed to conform. And as a result, women immersed in the transnational space are discarded as outsiders of men’s social experiment with love because we do not represent the safe, local and devoted could-be wife.

Perhaps the predicament of uncertainty has left men searching for security by defining who is deserving of love within controllable geographical boundaries.

Although my recent encounter with love has left me wounded, the experience has made me realize that it is not uncertainty that breaks relationships, rather it is the desire to create a false sense of certainty that does. Instead of experimenting with the battles of romance, discovering alternative ways of loving, and immersing oneself in the adventure of uncertainty; we have settled on packaged solutions to finding the ideal partner. Within a period of economic and social change, many of us continue to depend on the rigid definition that love rests with marriage, 2.5 kids and a four-bedroom house in the suburbs.

However, we need to redefine love within an era of globalization where fast cars, fast computers, and fast food have changed our cultural and geographical understanding of romance and intimacy. If living a life as a woman who exists in the transnational space has taught me anything about love, it would be that the physicality of it does not last but the memory does. Even though we leave, even though we say goodbye, even if we start new lives in remote corners of the world we can rightly say that we were in love once, this person exists to us, and that love is forever because that memory is forever.

But maybe for those who live within the myth that love involves white picket fences this idea that love is transient is not enough.

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