The Material Girls

In the hospital where I’m working, I’m friends with everybody: nurses, cleaners, pantry ladies, laundry boys, maintenance staff, lab techs, rad techs, etc. I learn a lot from them. They have a lot of stories to tell. (No, I’m not a gossip mongrel! Seriously!) It’s just nice to be friendly with everyone.

One time, I joined the cleaners while they were having lunch. I noticed the other cleaner’s cellphone and immediately fell in love with the Hello Kitty backside of the phone. I asked her where she bought it. The other cleaner said, “Her boyfriend gave it to her.” I began to think because I’m pretty sure she mentioned to me that she’s already married and that her husband is in the Philippines. I said, “Really?” But I wasn’t buying it. I thought maybe they were just pulling my leg.  Then the other cleaner said, “How can she afford to buy that kind of phone? Even if she use her salary, it’s not even enough.” The cleaner with the Hello Kitty cellphone said, “This is not even enough. I deserve more.” Then the other cleaner asked me, “Do you want a boyfriend? If you want a boyfriend, choose Seamen, or the Chemical Engineers who work offshore. They’re the ones with the money. My boyfriend is a Chemical Engineer who works offshore. He gives me 5,000 dirham allowance monthly not including my groceries and shopping allowance.” Then I started to think, “So maybe that’s why they have all the latest gadgets and wears expensive pieces of jewelry…” I am so dumb. And clueless. I thought they were the ones buying it like I’m doing for myself. (Well, I don’t buy the latest gadgets and expensive jewelry). Then they continued talking about their boyfriends and I just sat there listening.

I told my Ate in the ward about what the cleaners told me. Then she told me a lot of married women (Filipina and some other Asian) who works abroad have rich boyfriends who can give them what they want. The men choose married women because they wouldn’t have any responsibility after the relationship. It’s harder to keep a relationship with single, unattached women because they are harder to leave and it’s a burden for the men if they get them pregnant because most of the men who engage in such relationships are already married. So I said, “Married women having a relationship with married men…” absorbing the thought. Then I asked, “So when do they get money, before or after the sex?” My Ate stared at me in bewilderment, “Of course after sex! What kind of  man will give money to a woman without using her first?” Then I asked, “Why can’t they just ask for the money first then run away from them after?” My Ate said, “Do you think men will allow that? Besides, those married women will want to have something to happen (okay, enough of the S word) because they’ve been away from their husbands for too long. It’s not only the cleaners who do that you know? I know a lot of professionals who are in that kind of situation.” Then I said, “So they’re like prostitutes…?”

I couldn’t look at the cleaners they way I look at them before, after that talk. Well, I’m not judging them. I still consider them as my friends. It’s their life. It’s their choice. It’s just that, I feel a bit off about the idea of getting the comfort and luxury that you want in that kind of way. I guess when you’re working abroad, you’d do anything just to have something to send to your loved ones or buy everything that your heart desires, but to what extent?

I passed by the cleaners’ room and heard one cleaner say, “I wish my Auntie let me study Midwifery or Nursing. That way maybe I will earn more.” The other one said, “I studied 3 courses in College but I wasn’t able to finish anything. But I will do anything just to bring back that time so that I may have concentrated more in my studies.”

I suddenly respected them for that.

Working abroad has opened my eyes to the reality of what’s really going on behind those material things.  I only see what they want me to see. I only believed what they want me to believe. But now, it brought me to a whole new level and let me see (their) life in a different perspective.

I guess I’ve been staying way too long in my own protective shell, or that I’ve been raised in a protective environment, or I’m too naive to know the difference.

I don’t want any material things that comes easily. I don’t even need a boyfriend if material thing is the only thing I want. I’m not a material girl. I’m the girl with the material. 😉


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