By Maggie Shui
Dating in your 20s can be full of anxiety, loneliness and insecurity.
Maggie Shui, director of Re: News’ new docuseries Dating While Asian, shares how making the series helped her see her dating life differently.
Dating While Asian is a docuseries about how dating in your 20s can suck.
The five people whose romantic lives we peek into across Dating While Asian’s five episodes are sometimes lonely and yearning for a partner.
They’re anxiously attached in a relationship that doesn’t meet all their needs. They’re looking for validation.
They have awkward hookups that involve “pointy and fumbly” fingers and watching an entire season of After Life featuring Ricky Gervais.
These are all feelings and yearnings I’ve experienced at various points in my life.
And while I haven’t seen a single episode of After Life, I was once served just corn on the cob for dinner when visiting a guy’s flat, which I think is at a similar level of sexy.
Nomuna sharing her Tinder hookup tales in episode 3
Seeing my inner neuroses and anxieties reflected in Eleanor, Grace, Nomuna, Shaneel and Victor’s stories was soothing.
But their stories also helped me uncover deeply held feelings I didn’t even know I had.
In episodes four and five, Victor and Eleanor both share how they wanted external validation in their dating lives, and how that filtered into what they thought they desired – whiteness, heteronormativity. A “pale, petite art hoe” or a “nerdy white boyfriend”.
Their stories made me reflect on past dating choices and whether they stemmed from genuine desire or wanting to fulfil an ideal of what I thought a relationship should look like.
Eleanor living her best gay life in episode 5
In our first episode, Grace deals with a relationship that’s making her feel anxious and needy.
After trying to compromise on what she wants in a relationship – comfort, stability and spending quality time together at home, sharing a meal – she started to piece together that these needs were rooted in her Chinese and Taiwanese upbringing.
And once she made that connection, there was no way she could compromise on those needs.
Her words throughout the episode and in our conversations while making Dating While Asian encouraged me to ask myself for the first time: what are my cultural needs in my love life?
Grace sharing her wisdom in episode 1
My mum’s first reaction to watching Dating While Asian was awe for the five people in the series, how deeply they’ve reflected on their dating lives and how much they’ve got figured out.
It made me think about my mum as a young woman in Henan, China in the ‘90s.
It was always a given that in her 20s she would get married to a man with a good job and have a baby.
While she loves her life now, she also never really got the chance to explore other possibilities of what life could be.
Twenty-seven years on, I’m the age my mum was when she gave birth to me.
I’m taking my sweet time learning about myself, what brings me joy and pleasure in a relationship, how I can be a better partner to others and whether I even want a partner.
I have lots of spaces for conversations and stories where I can learn from my friends’ experiences and enrich my life – spaces such as Dating While Asian.
Through sharing our stories with each other, whether on a very public platform like a documentary series or a 3am chat with your closest friend, we can feel less alone in our anxieties, learn from each other and make dating in our 20s suck a little less.
Experiencing love (or a fun hoe phase) shouldn’t feel like a privilege.
No more hookups with guys who don’t have bed frames.
How much does wanting external validation factor into who you choose to date?