One Spring Night : The Stigma Toward Single Parents

July 19, 2021

The synopsis on Netflix read that it was about two people who fell in love unexpectedly. Another typical K-Drama love story, I thought. (Although typical, most of them have proven to be of excellent production quality, meaningful storylines and impeccable acting. Think Asian Hollywood, but even better.)

The promo poster showed a young man holding the hand of a kid, and I immediately assumed it was about him falling in love with a single mom. This could be good, I thought.

The first episode introduced the different characters, slowly getting to how their lives would intertwine.

There’s Jeong-In, who has been dating her boyfriend for four years (which I don’t really consider long-time; double that, then yes) but suddenly comes to the realisation how jaded the both of them have been in the relationship. They both look good on paper, but there’s no spark. They held on for so long, merely living to everyone’s expectations.

Next is Jiho, the handsome man on Netflix’s promo poster. Rupa jambu, probably looks younger than his age. He’s a pharmacist, who wears a white lab coat to work everyday. A man not only with good looks, but with a decent personality and demeanour. Smart, too.

Then there’s a scene when he comes back home late at night after work. It’s his parents’ house, though. He immediately goes into a room where there’s a young boy sleeping, who wakes up to Jiho’s arrival. Immediately, a picture is painted of how Jiho is not exactly born into wealth but he has a strong family foundation. His parents own and operate a small-time laundry service, in which their house is next door.

At first I thought it was his nephew. But with the special connection portrayed in that scene,  I knew it was something more. The 6-year-old Eun-Woo, is Jiho’s son.

Jiho doesn’t actually live there, as his parents had agreed to take care of Eun-Woo to allow Jiho to get his own apartment closer to his place of work. But the single father makes it a point to see his son every single time he can. At the same time, his parents’ wish is for him to lead a normal life, and to meet people.

Remember Jeong-In whom I explained earlier? It turns out, Jiho is an acquaintance of her boyfriend’s from playing basketball. Jiho exudes a certain aura, attracting most women who see him, and intriguing men who envy him. He’s not exactly chatty, tapi sangat sopan and gives off that responsible vibe.

Naturally, this boyfriend of Jeong-In’s asks another acquaintance about Jiho over dinner.

“Jiho’s a single parent, ey? I feel bad for him. He doesn’t have a bright future.”

His friend is taken aback with the remark and replied, “What do you mean? He has a good life. And he’s blessed with good parents.”

Blessed with good parents. Dan sanggup berbuat apa sahaja demi anak mereka, walaupun sudah dewasa. I have those, Alhamdulillah.

Jeong-In is actually contemplating to call it quits with her boyfriend but is dragging it. I mean, who likes confrontation? Especially when the only thing that’s wrong is how stale and stagnant the relationship has become. She wonders, is that a legitimate reason to ask for a break-up? No one cheated. In addition to that, their parents are acquaintances and keep pressuring them to get married.

If you’re dating and already feeling this way; if there’s absolutely no more excitement or thrill…susah, tau. How to be happy?

At a time when Jeong-In discovers the rut she’s in, she meets Jiho when she goes to his pharmacy one day, looking for a hangover remedy. They met out of randomness but were chanced to meet again (and again) as they were interconnected within the same circle of friends.

Instantly, Jiho can’t take his eyes off of her. She didn’t have to be the prettiest girl you had ever seen; there was just something about her that captivated you.

Dah panjang sangat ni.

Let me cut to the chase.

Long story short, Jiho wins Jeong-In’s heart, who ends up breaking up with her boyfriend of four years.   The break-up was not purely because of Jiho’s presence as a third party, nor did he force her to do so. It was just bound to happen.

The relationship was in a silent peril and didn’t seem to bring any form of joy to either him or his girlfriend. It only provided mere comfort because sometimes, people are just scared to be lonely.

The situation was unfolding. Jiho’s emergence did not come at the right time, the situation portrayed him as the bad guy. Although a break-up was inevitable anyway, Jeong-In’s ex-bf obviously now has a vendetta against Jiho, whom he blames for the break-up.

This vendetta has brought out his true colors. There’s this saying that you’ll only see a person for their true self when they don’t get what they want. This ex-boyfriend of Jeong-In’s is the type that looks down on single parents and thinks that if Jeong-In plans on marrying Jiho, she is incapable of loving someone else’s child and is of the view she will not lead a fulfilled life because Jiho can’t give her the wealth that he can.

There’s a scene when this ex-bf (I can’t remember his name and I don’t want to confuse you with more names) bumps into Jiho and his son at the library. They exchange cold Hellos (given the fact Jiho has been accused of stealing his girlfriend). To add salt to injury, the ex-bf letak duit dalam poket jaket anak Jiho.

Jiho is furious.

Mamat tu sengaja merendah-rendahkan statusnya sebagai seorang single parent, and his gesture of handing over money suggested Jiho was incapable of caring for his son. It’s as if, being a single parent was equivalent to being a beggar on the street.

Dude, he’s a pharmacist with a stable career. You’re just jealous that on top of that, he’s good-looking and is a women magnet.

If someone looks down on you, they’ll always be indenial of supreme you really are.

Maaf, saya perlu selitkan karakter baharu.

Namanya Seo-In, kakak kepada Jeong-In. She’s a TV anchor in Korea and quite popular. Given the optics, she has a reputation to uphold. Behind closed doors, her dentist husband beats her up, asks her for money and disrespects her. He even raped her (yes, marital rape is a thing, you guys) and impregnates her. She never really wanted to marry the guy but her parents had pushed them into marrying.

Biasalah, sesetengah ibu bapa takut anak-anaknya takkan berkahwin sehingga usia tua. What’s wrong with that, if that is the wish of their grown, adult child? Isn’t remaining single better than living with someone who don’t share the same life and family values?

To their utmost dismay, these typical Asian parents are now confronted with two realities: a daughter who has been physically abused by her husband and another who wants to marry a single father.

Their father had the audacity to seek for his eldest daughter to forgive her abusive husband, all just so they can avoid a divorce — which is what she wants, despite being pregnant. To them, a divorce is weakness and will be frowned upon society.

Tell me again, why should society decide how we live? Especially if a cycle needs to be broken because if not, it will destroy the lives of offspring or in some cases, may even cause death. Divorce is not a punishment nor does it show weakness. In times it is imperative, it symbolizes maturity and strength. It’s an exit plan for one to leave toxicity, treachery and prolonged suffrage. Religion permits it, under certain circumstances. Anyway, you never know what goes on behind closed doors, so who are you to judge? 

Seo-In found the strength to come out and say, “I’m not going to abort this baby. I’m going to raise the child as a single parent, and I can’t do it with a felon husband.” Pukul isteri merupakan satu jenayah, tau. If he’s a wife beater, who’s to say he won’t do the same to his child?

Their mother is broken-hearted. How can her husband even suggest to their daughter to learn to accept a man who has hurt her, while trying to convince her this is just a mistake that won’t recur.

Ahjussi, beating a woman up is not a mistake. It’s a conscious choice taken, whether to control your actions and temper, or let it out by hurting someone and be momentarily satisfied. Mental torture also can’t be accepted.  

Then there’s Jeong-In who had left her ex-bf and is adamant on marrying Jiho. Of course, her father disapproves. Firstly, the father of this ex-bf is an influential man and is about to hand over an important position to him in a foundation after he retires. This ‘promotion’ will heavily rely on his daughter marrying his son. But don’t tell me you’re going to sacrifice your daughter’s happiness and ‘sell her off’ for your own career gain??

Secondly, while her father acknowledges that the boat has sailed as he can’t force his daughter to accept someone’s hand in marriage, he is infuriated that she left an influential man’s son…..for a single father!? This Asian parent could not believe his ears.

Then, Jeong-In made a point that no one at the table had come to realise.

“Seo-In will become a single mother soon. Do you want people to ostracize her just because of her status? Her situation is just the same.”

Her statement was eye-opening. Because it was true and valid.

While Seo-In sets this reality in, she was also fascinated that her sister had no qualms or concerns that the man she wanted to marry had a kid.

Paraphrasing because I can’t recall the exact script; but Jeong-In explained it this way:

“I don’t see it as an obstacle. Rather, the fact that I will be receiving a son is a blessing. Everything he does, I appreciate. His well-being, I care for. I can’t believe I will be loved by him and that he wants me as his Omma. I don’t know why or how I’m feeling this way, but I do.”

God is good.

Seo-In never looked at it that way. She had always perceived her unborn child as a form of punishment. She is slowly realising now that this innocent child is actually a blessing.

Who are we to punish single parents? They did not ask for their lives to turn out in a such a way, and in most cases, they were left with no choice. It was either to continue being tormented by a partner who is disloyal, abusive, disrespectful, etc etc the list goes on; or to become single, start a new life and who knows, meet someone new. God is good, remember?

I never told you how Jiho became a single parent. In his twenties, he impregnated his girlfriend. She gave birth, lived with his parents for a while and they decided to marry. When their son was one-month-old, she walked out of their lives. She left Jiho and their son, with no explanation. Just like that.

Yes, they were irresponsible. But Jiho wanted to make it right.

He suffered a breakdown for months. He searched high and low for the mother of his son, only to find out she had left the country. His pain was witnessed by his parents who knew, he had to be treated delicately as he could hit rock bottom again.

Apart from fleeing overseas, he found out she had married and even gave birth to a child. Although already dearly fond of Jeong-In at this point, Jiho was devastated by the news. How does one have the audacity to just walk away from their own flesh and blood, start a new life and pretend their past never existed? Especially when that past involves children.

On the other hand, there’s the fear of the ‘What-ifs’. What if she returns one day? What if she wants Eun-Woo back? Jiho was scared.

But he did not resent her. He did not yearn for her. He was terribly appalled at how a human being could have succumbed to this.

He was traumatised and recovered, but the scar remains. Doubts were suddenly cast upon him, fearing Jeong-In would leave them. That after falling in love and after his son had grown to accept the presence of a future Omma, she would suddenly disappear.

His doubts caused a temporary rift between the two lovebirds but it was apparent, Jeong-In was nothing like the mother of his son. It had never crossed her mind that she would be open to becoming a step-mother but with Eun-Woo, it felt right and natural. Not only was she head over heels in love with Jiho, but Eun-Woo made an endearing impact on her. Her motherly instinct kicked in, without force.

Their love story faced multiple challenges. Jeong-In’s ex-bf could not accept that he had ‘lost’ to Jiho, whom he viewed as a low-life single father. He even shoved his dignity aside and handed Jeong-In a ring, seeking her hand in marriage. After multiple rejections and and clarity that Jeong-In and Jiho were an item, he simply did not give up because he could not ‘lose’.

Jeong-In felt indifferent. She was not thrilled, nor was she angry at the sight of the ring. She didn’t feel anything as she was firm where her heart was set.

The series ended on a happy note.

It had a powerful message. We should not degrade or belittle anyone due to their status in life, in particular mereka yang bergelar single parent/ibu tunggal/bapa tunggal. Accept them for who they are as a person. Jangan sesekali memperkecilkan mereka atau merendah-rendahkan nilai mereka.

As their history does not define them, but rather refine them to be better. Get to know their story, then be the judge.

I’ve become a sucker for romance movies lately. Especially for One Spring Night, I cried watching certain scenes, because they completely resonated with me.

It takes a strong individual to raise children as a single parent. It takes an even stronger person to accept with open arms and whole-heartedly, ‘instant’ children as if they were their flesh and blood.

To all single parents, stay strong. You’re invaluable. To all those God-sent stepparents, your good deeds will come a long way.