There’s a Malay saying for couples that are not equally matched. They are often referred to as “the hornbill and the sparrow.” Reason for this is because no matter how the sparrow tries, it could never fly as high as the hornbill. When I met my first boyfriend, my uncle mentioned this saying to me, and said that sometimes, the hornbill would need to fly a little lower to stay with the sparrow. At the time I didn’t get it, but years later, I finally did.
When I met him, I was still in university and he was a ship technician. I suppose in the beginning we were flying at the same level. A couple of years on, I was making more money and supporting him as well. I suppose to preserve his ego he started putting me down in other areas of life, such as my height and my weight. And on my end, to appease him, I acted stupider than I was, and I rushed home after work every day to ensure that his meals would be ready when he got him. Too slowly for my liking, I started to realize that I was holding myself back to keep him in my life. Then I realized that the way he was treating me did not justify my effort of flying low, and I just let go and flew away.
Six years later, I am still wondering about this question. It seems like the dynamics are alright when the man is the hornbill and the woman is the sparrow, but when it’s the other way round, it just doesn’t seem to work. At this day and age, you would think that it would be fine if both partners were equal but a lot of times it isn’t. Money, education and job position seem to be the main factors. It’s almost like, the more successful, intelligent, healthy, educated or accomplished a woman is the less chance there is for her to be loved. At one point, I thought it was because these women were not in touch with their emotions or they had become masculine, but when I look around, there are plenty of successful, intelligent, kind and open hearted women who keep getting into bad relationships or relationships that just don’t last.
Back in Malaysia, the significant difference in the number of male and female university graduates was very pronounced during my time. This was a government funded university so there was a quota and only the top scorers in high school would get accepted. The ratio for the 1999 intake was three girls to one boy and it was indicative of other universities as well. Remember though, that we’re talking about Malaysia here and the glass ceiling for women there is much lower than it would be in a Western country. Therefore, a man who barely scraped through university would probably do better in his career later on than a woman who achieved Upper Second Class honours, and a lot of women take a step back on the career pursuit once she meets a man.
One of my girlfriends was always extremely driven, athletic, independent and intelligent. At 26 she got married. He wasn’t very driven or focused, but he was great at bashing her up. By the time we were 28, they were divorced. Then there were others who played a game of dating roulette in university. Some of them are happily married now. When I think back I always thought it was a bit weird to date people all around the same group, it was a bit incestuous, I think. I will however admit that I dated a senior. If you can call it that. He was five years older, and had a shelf life of three months, after which he cheated on me then he dropped out, metal leg and all. Oh yes, and then there was the senior who wanted to cheat on his girlfriend with me. I must admit that being a 6’5”, rugby player, he was my type but due to the girlfriend situation, it was a no go for me. No questions asked, I told him to go away.
So here I am, still wondering if a Masters’ degree, PhD or a high paying job are actually relationship deterrents. Or is it fine if you’re pretty and hot but as dumb as a brick, acceptable if you’re smart and geeky looking and a big no go if you’re smart and pretty? If by some chance a woman ticks all the boxes and is an absolutely beautiful hornbill, will a man find the one box she doesn’t tick and pick on that to make her seem more like a vulture?
It seems to me that while men worry about being sparrows, women worry about soaring into the sky. Yes, the sky is vast and it can get lonely, but the other option is that you are bound to earth when you were made to fly. As John Donne beautifully quoted in his poem “The Good Morrow”:
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies was not mixed equally,
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.
So maybe because fate and the future are not within our control, just soar anyway, let your light shine and one day you will find a “love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.”
For my friend NF. Don’t be afraid to fly… we’re all right here with you 🙂 xx