Dewi is smart, single, independent and wealthy. Her parents are extremely worried about her, so much so that Dewi frequently avoids visiting them. So what has Dewi done to upset her family so much?
She is unmarried, in a culture that still considers marriage the main duty of their children. In Indonesia, Dewi is in trouble; she is getting older in a country were the majority of the population are younger females and most Indonesian men are afraid of her.
Dewi is seen as being too independent by most men she meets and her attitude is extremely Americanized, even by modern Indonesian standards. As her grandparents fret and nag her about finding a man, her parents feel ashamed because she still is single.
Her wealth and success they invested in by sacrificing for a better education seems wasted, as neighbors gossip and relatives discuss Dewi’s marital status at family meetings. Meetings Dewi now shies away from, because of the obvious pressure to find someone to marry.
There are thousands of women like Dewi in modern Indonesia, and no easy answer to the predicament of marriage. Dewi cannot just marry anyone; she is a Christian, so she will need to find a Christian partner. Religion, in Indonesia, often means few people ‘mix’ beyond religious and sometimes ethnic boundaries.
One answer is to find an expatriate, but most expatriates in Indonesia are turned off by women like Dewi. Many expatriates grow to like Indonesian girls who are less westernized and demanding like Dewi. And Indonesian men know they have more choices of finding a partner and can be more demanding of their own partner. I suggested to Dewi, she should move to the “Other World”, but she looked me seriously in my eyes, and said, “Why should I sacrifice a great career here, just to get married?” looking frustrated.
Dewi is living in a state of paradox, trapped between two worlds that do not really have an interest in her privately, but respect her in a businesslike way. So she spends her free time on , looking for an American or British guy who would accept her.
Then I realized one incredible difference, between Indonesian and Western thinking. The importance of marriage which, after all, has becoming a dying ideal in many developed countries. Even if Indonesians outwardly are westernized in many of their tastes, traditions can often override these tastes.
As I drive through the darkening, Jakarta streets after meeting Dewi for a coffee and briefing in an upscale mall at Starbucks, I look at the lights on in the many apartment blocks we pass and wonder how many women like Dewi, are now sitting alone surrounded by wealth, desperately surfing Facebook.