Things you should know before you date an advocate

Anna Oposa

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An environmental advocate tells us how it's done and what it's really like

THIS IS REAL LIFE. The world needs more men and women with substance. Image from

MANILA, Philippines – When people ask me what I do, I say “writer” to keep things simple.

When the conversation progresses and I reveal that being an environmental advocate is my “real job,” the mood and tone shift.

They’re impressed, awed and curious. “Did you take up marine biology?” ”What are sharks like underwater?” “How do you make money?!”

And, for the win — “So… Do you still have time for boys?” (To which I say, “It depends on the country…”)

I understand the appeal of dating an advocate.

We’re persistent. We’re passionate. We’re intellectually stimulating.

But there’s much more to us than the cause(s) we’re championing.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

International conferences are breeding grounds for flirtationships*

After a panel discussions on poverty alleviation and youth unemployment, the animal rights activists turn into party animals.

So do tech pioneers, educators, ministers and social entrepreneurs.

We sometimes miss our early morning appointments because we go home from, uh, “networking events” an hour before the meeting.

We gossip about last night’s event using code names pulled from countries/cities or causes, e.g., “OMG, did you see Brazil getting it on with Spain by the bar?” or, “The girl who builds libraries in Kenya was sitting on the lap of that public health care guy!”

We don’t make a lot of money, but we make a lot of good friends

The world is small, but when you have an advocacy, it gets much smaller.

These friends have houses around the globe that we can stay in so we don’t have to pay for accommodations when we travel.

These friends invite us to events with a lot of free food, alcohol and giveaways.

Hopefully, these make up for all the dinners and movies that you pay for.

Our schedules are strange, relatively flexible but unpredictable

So are our moods.

Most of us don’t have your regular 9am-5pm office job. We can be in a senate hearing one afternoon, a photo shoot the next, a trip to some far-flung island on the other.

We work on holidays and weekends, because developmental issues don’t have holidays and weekends. 

Sorry, but you’re not allowed to complain about this because you met us this way.

This doesn’t mean we won’t miss you or don’t wish we have more time together. We do.

We value every moment with you, even those times when we’re working on a position paper for the Reproductive Health Bill and you’re lying down nearby, reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Or 9GAG.

And because you witness our ups and downs, you will also be the shock absorber, stress ball and shoulder to cry on. Throw in the monthly PMS and you’re smack in the middle of a crossfire.

You must know when to be a cheerleader, when to tell us to stop and when to keep calm and keri lang.

We care about what you think

You may not be in the same field, you may not even have your own advocacy. That’s okay.

Your opinion still matters, and it matters a lot. We need to know the pulse of the general public so we don’t preach to the choir. 

Be honest.

Comment. Disagree. Debate. Question.

Advocates are powered by passion

There is a fine, fine line between insanity and brilliance and we will cross that often.

Try not to forget that our passion is what attracted you to us in the first place.

We may not talk about you as much as we talk about our advocacies, especially during international conferences, “networking events” and media features.

The rest of the world knows what we do, so you’re that one part that we want to keep away from the (sometimes intrusive) spotlight.

Rest assured that you really are the better half, the wind beneath our wings, the renewable source of inspiration that allows us to do what we do.

Besides, the love for what we do and the passion for issues we fight for apply to all aspects of our lives.

We may be crazy about our cause, but we are also crazy about YOU. True story. –


(*More than a friendship, less than a relationship. This piece is inspired by and patterned after Things You Should Know Before You Date A Writer.’  Anna Oposa graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a degree in BA English Studies in April ’11. She is a freelance writer, performer, scuba diver and yoga practitioner. Anna is best at being an ambassador of good vibes. Visit her blog at

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