I actually wrote this post five months ago. But instead I published this one, in its place. I guess this post felt too raw, too out-there and (fine, I admit!) I was a tad superstitious about sounding too smug-happy. I feel a lot more confident about bringing this out so here it is for your (repetitive) reading pleasure!
Okay, I’m back. Call off the search team, please. The flashlights are making me see spots in the darkness. And meh, I wanted to slink back in without anyone noticing.
A combination of sulkiness, bad moods and blogger’s block assailed me. Of course, this blog has seen its share of my blogicidal tendencies. This time, I thought I really and truly had said everything I could possibly say. After all, beyond gender stereotypes, feminism, male-bashing, dating advice, battle of the sexes and single girl rants, what else can I possibly XX Factor?
A relationship, that’s what, came the answer. To my chagrin, I found I never wrote when I was truly, bursting-with-it happy and when was the last time I felt that way? Angst has fueled much of my creative output and in the absence of it, I feel no words knocking about in my head, bumping into my eyelids, threatening to go pouring out of my mouth and my fingers.
So fine, I’ve gone from being single gal to coupled-up, I’ve moved on from angsty-angry to wholesome-happy. But I’m still a woman. There has got to be more to it than explaining the paucity of the opposite sex.
*Sigh* It’s been so long since I’ve done this, I’ve forgotten. There are things that you never really forget, like cycling and swimming and turning your eyelids inside out and being grossed out when other people do this. Let me tell you, being in a relationship is not one of those things.
I think dating should be discarded as a means to and a predecessor to relationships, seeing how it seems to have no connection whatsoever with the latter. How many people that you dated did you actually end up having a solid relationship with? I mean the kind where you genuinely care what they feel, their opinion matters to you, you stand by them (and they by you)? What’s all that to do with people with whom you share entertainment and fancy meals with, people who add to your social quotient and you to theirs by being seen in public together? Anyway, I anticipate that the next question will be “How else do you find someone to be with then?” and I have no answer to that so I’ll drop this thread of thought.
It seemed so easy, so effortless. A conversation between two people ending in ‘Yes’. But in the days to come, that one word has loomed bigger and larger and infiltrated into every aspect of life.
Suddenly I’m spending way longer with and in his absence, thinking about one person. I still adore my friends and the vast social circle I’ve collected in all these years. But days and weeks have mysteriously slipped by and I’ve come back to a bunch of mystified people who’re out with flashlights and search dogs with a warrant for my kidnapper’s arrest. But this is okay. My wonderfully understanding friends assure me that they’re happy for me and wave away my apologies for never understanding when they did the same thing.
I spent an hour trying on and changing various outfits last evening, all in preparation of a mid-week date. Not that he notices and strangely enough that doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve dressed well for a good while now but it’s always been what I feel like wearing, colour, fabric, design, cut etc. But this time I’m thinking….we might take a walk on the beach, better not to wear the nice sandals. My favorite Batman-patterened-WonderWoman style bracelet is still much loved but its sharp edges will probably dig into his wrist when we hold hands.
In the morning, I was looking through some Facebook albums and chanced upon the picture of someone I had gone out with, awhile ago. I immediately tweeted,
“Cute & friendly exes are like delicious street food. Always tempting but then you think of your last encounter & thats the end of it.”
I managed to be late for the date in the evening and after a slightly stiff reception, the ice was broken with a reference to my tweet. I started, having completely forgotten about that. Then that telling glint of mischief crept into his eyes and I knew he was having a good laugh at how I was squirming. I knew he wasn’t going to go Jealous Guy on me and yet, I squirmed. It was odd.
We have great conversations and greater ones, too. Of course we were friends before we decided to be a couple. And the conversations continue. Now and then, I let slip one of my characteristic male-bashing or OTT funny-shocking statements (“In the year 2050, men will be illegally bred as pets for connoisseurs, the bulk of them being grown in laboratories for fertilization purposes.”). It used to be my thing. Drama, shock-value, yes I’m inadvertently (well, not entirely) funny. But I say these now and suddenly I stop and think, “Ohmigosh, I’m supposed to be a girlfriend now. Are girlfriends supposed to say these things to their boyfriends?” Squirm again.
And then there’s the whole awkwardness about the past. This has been strangely enlightening and also I discovered, goes both ways. It’s not the fact that I have a past that embarrasses me, it’s the amount of drama in it. Think how that would sound to Mr.Understated Silent, Solid Type. But then I mention a song of his that I came across and he says uneasily, “Yeah….I was….going through a phase back then.” Heh, there’s some consolation in that.
The friends have yet to be met, his and mine and I know from experience (zzzzing, I did it again!), that is another major bridge to be crossed. The urban family is just as much of a big deal as the joint family, never mind what he says about everyone doing their own thing. Well, one learns, one lives. Love is a complicated thing but at least you get to go at it with a partner.
There’ll be more on this. Single or otherwise, I’m still me and I have a feeling I’ve just stepped into an alternate universe. I’ll keep y’all posted on the sights.
There’s all this talk about ‘boys and their toys’. But you know, we girls loved our childhood companions too. What’s more, in a typically female psycho-babble-loving way, we see patterns in our toy mania. Maybe we’re back in the playground, but with a heart instead of a doll and slightly bigger boys this time. If our relationships are a reflection of the games we’re used to playing, maybe the people we date, are images of our favorite toys. Who then are we, by the toys we play with?
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!
Some little girls play with plastic dolls. Some of them grow up and play with plastic cards and the styrofoam men who own them. Sugar daddies abound for the PYTs (Pretty Young Things) who never got over their addiction to plastic. These are the women for whom life in La-la-Land is just fiddle-dee-dee, isn’t it darling?
Touch ME not, touch MINE not!
How about those annoying, prissy kids that mum was always wishing we would become? The one who always put his toys away in order, the one whose dolls were always nicely dressed and neatly arranged. You hated her didn’t you? I did too. Especially since she wouldn’t let me get my grubby fingers anywhere near her precious beauties. Come to think of it, she didn’t do much more than stare at them in her perfect dollcase either. She had a fairytale marriage, complete with Snow White style wedding gown to Mr.Ken doll. Presumably she and her darling boy toy do nothing more than look at each other in absolute adoration and live happily ever after.
My lovely monster, my cuddly creepy-crawly
I was delighted to find a series of monster-doll stuffed toys and started a collection. Besides a stuffed Hunchback of Notre-Dame, I also collected a green Frankenstein, a lady-bird sandbag, an outrageously plumed rooster, a green dinosaur with red spikes and an owl with a graduation hat. My favorite doll (that I still have) had an unruly lock of hair carved into the top of its head and all otherwise, it was bald. Ergo, my tastes run to imperfect objects …and flawed men.
I want the one she wants!
Then there’s the girl who seems to want just the guys you want. He’s ‘just someone’ until he becomes SOMEONE to you. Then he’s the one she’ll want. She would be the kid who always wants the toy that the other kid has.
Everyone knows the kid who always wants the biggest, prettiest, bestest toy that there is. This isn’t greed, it’s ambition. They usually get them, don’t they or they just won’t play with anyone or anything else. We are in the age of a woman getting anything and everything she wants, after all. This is the woman who’ll turn her nose at the plebs and hold out for the trophiest of trophies only.
I remember one weird childhood conversation. Comparing notes like all little girls besotted with an abnormally shaped piece of plastic called Barbie, I asked the girl who sat next to me in class,
“I’m making a new dress for my doll. Do you have a Barbie?”
She sniffed and replied,
“Only three! But my mama won’t get me more!!!!!!!”
Of course that was the ‘I have more than you!’ kid. Know someone who is the female equivalent of a bed-post notcher? Bingo. She grew up and collected boyfriends instead.
Did you know that The XX Factor was on Facebook? In addition to the posts that come up here, I also frequently link to articles of interest that I find all over the blogosphere. Style, dating, relationships, humour and everything else XX Factor outside the blog find their place in my links. Facebook makes it really easy for me to share what I read with my interested readers. But I realized some of my readers are not on Facebook and I don’t want them to miss out on the entertainment! So here’s what The XX Factor was reading this month:
- How do you know when a relationship is exclusive? (via Lemondrop)
- Bharatmatrimony’s witty insight on marriage. (via Twitter)
- 5 tired boy moves we’d like to see laid to rest. (via Lemondrop)
- 5 romantic gestures that will turn her off! (via Modern Man) Yes, you’re welcome, men!
- What is your dating style? (via Facebook)
- A schematic mapping a woman by her behaviour into every single media stereotype ever. (via Overthinking it)
- Do you have all the 8 types of friendships you need to grow as a person? (via The Frisky)
- Where are you on the Hipster Fashion Cycle? (via Republic of Chic)
I’ve had the privilege of being the straight voice of Gaysi for a year and a half now. I’ve listened to coming-out conversations. I’ve met openly gay people. I’ve attended the launch of a book about gays in India. I’ve faced my own conflicted confusion and resolved it. I’ve even been hit upon by a gay person. This is all me and how homosexuality fits into my head.
With Section 377 and Indian Gay Prides, my world mirrors the world around. People are talking now, yes. Some agree, some don’t but at least it is being acknowledged. Ordinarily, I should have been an indifferent observer since I’m not gay myself. But I’ve been drawn into the world of these questions, first by friends closetted-suspected-gay, then the blog and finally all the other people and associations that happened as a result. It’s changing my life.
Being a straight and gay-friendly person is not as easy as it looks. Having sorted out (mostly, I hope!) where I myself stand on the issue, I find there’s a whole new can of surprises (and now, let’s not call them all worms) opening up. Some I resolve, some I rationalise and on some, I’m still ambivalent. The list has the four most important areas of my life, which is a good indication of just how big the question has become even for a supposedly uninvolved bystander.
When I first started writing for Gaysi, I worried about what my parents would think. They could be tempted to associate my still single status, my fiery (often anti-male) behaviour with possible queerdom. It took a lot of self-examination before I could stand by my belief without righteous indignation and only a rational stating of facts. I’m happy to say it went through quite smoothly. It’s possible that they may be thankful that I’m only writing about homosexuality and not practicing it but I’m willing to live with that.
The average Indian male seems to be homophobic, this is true. At some point of time, the question of homosexuality comes up (it has been in the news after all). I’m in a dilemma when I come up against homophobia. I have friends who are gay and to be involved with someone who may not treat them right, doesn’t feel right. On the other hand, I also wonder if this topic is like politics and religion, where differing viewpoints can be respected and need not interfere in the relationship.
That doesn’t sound fair to me.
Before introducing a straight friend to a gay friend, I make sure to mention the gay orientation. It’s not part of the general description to make a person interesting (“She’s a film-maker. He speaks 5 foreign languages”). It’s a veiled safety-clause that says, I’m telling you this beforehand so if you have a problem with it, say so now or forever hold your peace. I hate having to state that since in an ideal world it shouldn’t matter. I know it smacks of underhanded discrimination but I’m rationalizing it as a practical solution.
But even this is complicated by the fact that a lot of straight people are not homophobic as much as homo-apathetic. That’s until they’re faced with a situation and then their reactions could go anyway.
Recently, I introduced a gay friend to my companion at a party. It turned out they stayed close to each other and my gay friend offered my companion a lift. Later that night, he called me in a huff. It transpired that in conversation during the ride, my straight friend had asked,
“Are you hitting on me?”
Now it could be that my companion was just joking. Or he may have been serious whereupon it might have been a deep-seated phobia or just an innocent misreading of signals. My gay friend on the other hand, prides himself on being able to discern the gay strain in others, even through confusion or outright denial. He might have been on track there or he might have been mistaken.
It’s an awkward situation for me in the end, even though I wasn’t even a part of the conversation. They’re both friends and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to think about who is closer and who I may have to, eventually, let go.
This hasn’t actually posed a problem but I’ll add a ‘yet’ to that. I had a coming-out experience of my own kind recently when I dropped my five-year long anonymity and revealed my identity to my readers. The worlds of social media, writing and work are merging and I’m finding it more practical to consolidate than to compartmentalize. My blogging activities are now ennumerated in my resume. No organisation will openly admit to being gay-unfriendly. But I’ve been a woman in the corporate world and I know all about biases and prejudices that are never acknowledged but hinder you anyway. I wonder whether I’m setting myself up for yet another one of those and I’ve been tempted (several times) to take Gaysi off my list. It’s the easy option but each time I hit delete, I also get that bad feeling in my head that feels like cowardice.
In each of these situations, I’m faced with the question of how important this issue is to me. I’m not gay, I’m not a close relation of anyone who is (that’s to say, I’m not living with or supporting anyone who is). Why then should I bother? Because it’s the right thing to do, this is true.
But there’s just this much I can do. And while I will never endorse discrimination, I often wonder if I can just pipe down instead of crusading for a quest I’m not even a part of. In this world of so many sins, I must pick my battles. Homosexuality is on the list but I can’t honestly say I’ll always have the courage to keep it there.
So I just read this article by [Redacted] Guy (yes, that’s what he calls himself) about the ten things he wishes his dates wouldn’t do while out with him. He asks for suggestions, so here are mine. Considering it’s a long list (List! List! My favorite word again!), I put it up as a post. Here’s what I soooo wish guys wouldn’t do when on a date with me.
1. Staring at my bust
There is just no excuse for this. Without entirely condoning it, I’m willing to see that a random guy on a bus or across the street may do this. He has the right to look where he wants. And I have the right to mentally strike him off my list of people I would ever go out with. But when I’m on a date with you, I don’t have that option anymore. Not at least till the end of the date, I’m at least that nice. Be nice to me and don’t treat me like a sex object the very minute we start the date.
2. Ogling other women
This follows from the first since some men use the excuse that ‘I can’t look at you so I’ll look at others’. We’re out on a date. That means you and I are getting together to spend some time with each other. Focus on the last three words. One date does not tie you to me but it does warrant the courtesy of your undivided attention at least.
Showing off probably comes naturally to the male species especially when in the presence of the opposite sex. Animals do it, insects do it and human men do it too. Only don’t go on and on about it. The showing off is a mating ritual among the aforementioned life forms and ceases once the connection has been made. Assume that the connection has been made the minute the date has been accepted. There’s really no reason to go on and on about the number of foreign trips you go on, how earth-shatteringly important you are to your company, how you were having tea last week with the Dalai Lama and how many thousand books you read in the past year. It’s off-putting and most importantly it’s boring. I tuned out the minute you started throwing numbers at me.
4. Not listening at all
It’s a conversation. That means both people talk and listen. Talk some, I’ll listen. Then I’ll talk and you need to do more than stare around the room, ask the waiter for refills and interrupt to tell me about the movie I saw. Believe me, I could interest you with more than my bust. I have a sense of humour, an opinion and intelligence too. Give me a chance to let you see that too.
5. Calling me things like ‘Babe’, ‘Sweetheart’ or ‘Honeybun’
It’s a first date. I could be your girlfriend but I’m not, yet. We could be friends but we haven’t gotten to the place, right now. Undue familiarity and worse, sexist phrases are instant turn-offs. I have a name, use it. I might permit you to give me a nickname, but at least be original.
6. Playing SuperShrink
You’ve probably heard that women dabble in pop psychology. Maybe I have issues. Everyone does, it’s normal. Don’t put me under a microscope and psycho-analyze me on a date. It’s immensely offensive to tell me I am afraid of getting too close to men because of my Electra complex. If you’re a doctor, that’s work during a leisure activity. BORING. If you’re not a doctor, it tells me you’re just being a creep.
It’s not cool to be commitment-phobic. I am not concerned with how messy your love life has been so far or how busy you are at work. You can go for a movie alone or have lunch on your own if those are true. If this date is happening, it’s because you agreed to it. Don’t waste my time and yours by coming to a date and then telling me why it can’t go further. If it’s not coming along as well as you thought, just tell me so. I may be disappointed but that’s better than being disgusted. If you’re that terrified of telling me the truth, at least wait till the date’s over. Don’t scuttle it while it’s in progress.
8. Bringing other people along
Are you serious? Friends? Mothers? Siblings? Colleagues? If it’s a date, it’s between two people. Any more and it’s a party, a group or worse – an orgy. I’ve nothing against meeting big groups of people. But not on a date. You ask people out because you want to spend time with them alone. You accept a date for the same reason. For group dos, you get invited and drop in or not. It’s different. Please get that, it messes things up if you don’t.
9. Self-help style follow throughs
This is important. If the date went well, it’s okay to keep in touch. Strike that, it’s good form, it’s good for you and for me to keep in touch. Please forget what you heard about waiting 2 days before calling (or whatever it was you learnt in school and college). Those games are for adolescents. Send a text message saying it was fun and you’d like to catch up again. Add me on Facebook. Email or drop me a note. Open a chat window and say hi. There are loads of embarrassment-free ways to say that you liked what you saw and would like to know more.
10. Being a jerk
This is super-critical so listen up: Do everything or anything in point.9 only, repeat ONLY if you are interested in going out again. There’s no easy way to say that it didn’t quite ‘happen’ so just don’t say anything at all. But don’t prolong the agony by keeping up the conversation. We’ve spent some time in each other’s company. If it didn’t work out, there’s no reason to waste any more of each other’s time. You don’t get brownie NiceGuy points for acting interested when you are not.
* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.
It’s a question I posed to a mixed group of friends. The women were all united in their belief that it didn’t make sense to do so. Most men (and this is an opinion I share) aren’t used to the concept of someone else taking the romantic initiative. And even if there is the possibility of a relationship, their absolute bewilderment over the way the situation happens could very well ruin it. The male ego just doesn’t permit such a relationship, even if there is interest.
The only trouble is when a woman likes a guy, it’s a real pain in the ass to sit around waiting for him to ask her out. Ask any woman about the frustration of watching a guy eye you all evening, start to walk towards you and then stop and turn back. It’s an ARRRRGGGGGHH situation.
The men on the other hand were largely open to the idea. I was quite surprised to hear the things that some of them said,
“It would be really nice to have the girl take the initiative for a change.”
“Guys like compliments and receiving attention too.”
“I’m hopeless at setting up the whole romantic scenario. It would be so great if she’d take charge of that.”
And finally the clinching deal for their side was a male friend who had just announced that he was getting engaged.
“My fiancé proposed to me.”
Now honestly, I think it’s wise to try something out before passing a judgement on it. So yes, I have asked a guy out as well. Not once, several times. It was an enlightening experience.
For starters, it’s horribly nerve-tangling. The worrying about how to ask, where to go, what to do and what the other person will think of you. I felt a rush of sympathy for all the men who had summoned up the nerve to ever express an interest in me. It does take a lot of courage and planning.
The one thing that surprised me was how the entire effort consumed me. Like I told a friend,
“The thrill of the chase is something I could get used to. The not-knowing, even the slight panic…there’s a heady high attached to it.”
I must also add that being in the driving seat, so to speak, being the one bringing together the whole production somehow automatically switched me into a place of only thinking about the absolutely necessary. A friend of mine was goading me into taking things to a more serious level. I thought about it and I surprised myself by saying,
“When you ask someone for a commitment, you are also saying that you’re ready to commit yourself. I’m not sure yet if that’s the case. I just want to see where this goes for now.”
As I said it, I knew I sounded exactly like a guy. And yet, I wasn’t being commitment-phobic, I wasn’t planning on two-timing and I wasn’t ‘in it for the ride’. I really, honestly didn’t know where things were going and having taken up the responsibility to take it somewhere, I just wanted to take it slowly.
The one thing that stands out is that the person who takes the initiative is definitely setting himself (or herself) up for the possibility of rejection…but even more subtly he or she is saying yes to being in a place of uncertainty for at least some time.
Since I started telling a story, I should tell you the end. The man in question is involved with someone else, a fact that I discovered several weeks later and then too only on pushing him. That can happen. He says he wasn’t sure if it was dates or just friendly meetings. What the truth is, is anyone’s guess. Should one take the risk of being stood up or humiliated? There’s no answer to that, except that guys do it all the time (take the risk I mean, not just what this guy did).
As I see it, being the woman taking charge means one is playing an unusual role and there’s ample scope to be misunderstood. If the guy is a jerk, he could easily use the situation for maximum benefit and get a lot out of the girl without giving her anything back. But then again, falling in love is always a risk, every time, in every single situation. Besides the reverse is probably equally true, especially in today’s day and age. A woman can just as easily free-ride on a guy’s attentions and then walk away without a second thought.
So at the end I’m inclined to say that if you have the nerve for it, don’t let social norms stop you. If you’re a guy who agrees with what my male friends said, try not to be an ass or a jerk about it. In the long run, it’ll encourage more women to take the initiative and things will only get easier and pleasanter for you. If like me, you’re a woman who can’t stand to sit around looking pretty and waiting to be asked out, go right into the chase. Just keep your band-aids and chocolates and close friends about. Just in case.
Some months ago, I received an email from one of my readers. She was a lesbian lady who had come across one of my posts on Gaysi and wanted to tell me that she appreciated my support for the gay community. I wrote back thanking her and telling her how some of my close friends were gay and that it had given me a chance to see the difficulties they faced because of discrimination.
At the end of that conversation, she asked to meet me, adding ‘if you don’t mind having coffee sometime with a dyke’. Of course I didn’t I told her, wouldn’t that be silly after all I had said? Later, she invited me to a party, telling me that there would be mostly gay people at the party. I didn’t manage to make it to that party after all.
We’ve had a few conversations since then, about general topics, the kind that I write about – life, love, friendship, people etc. In the recent past, she had popped up a number of times on my radar, in the form of her thoughts on my posts or just a chat window saying hello. She has also been inviting me to a number of different events and outings in addition to asking me when I’d like to meet for coffee.
I have to say that I haven’t managed to make it to any of the aforementioned events and neither have I made time for the promised coffee. I do have a rather busy social life and when it comes to prioritizing, I almost always place an old friend, a date or solo time over a casual conversation with a stranger.
There has however been one thing nagging at the back of my head for some time now. If it had been a straight girl, I think she would most likely have lost interest in trying to make contact with me by now. If it had been a guy at the other end of this interaction, his persistence would have made me think that he had a crush on me. This actually is the first time I’m making an online connection with a lesbian girl.
I thought back to my friend MJ. I didn’t know she was a lesbian when we first met and neither of us actively pursued the friendship. We just ended up meeting a lot of times, hanging out a lot with friends and by ourselves and had become close when I realised she was gay. By that time though, her major association in my mind was friend and being gay was just one of the many things I knew about her, like her hair colour or her last name.
In this case though, the only real definition I have of this lady is that she is lesbian. And she has been quite keen to meet me. I know that this may be more indicative of her friendliness than a romantic interest in me. And yet, the possibility exists, however remote. I also know that gay people are able to discern other gays and would logically not expect a person to change their sexuality. Then again, one of my lesbian friends did indeed date someone who had hitherto portrayed a ‘straight’ face (pun entirely unintended!), even having had a boyfriend before she met my friend. And also, I myself know that when you like someone a lot, it is quite possible to misread or even read a little too much into their actions.
The dilemma I face is a moral one, not a practical one. Should I meet her and risk sending her a wrong signal that I reciprocate? Or should I refrain and succumb to that archaic belief that gay people are just waiting to pounce on one? Furthermore, considering that we don’t have common friends or interests, am I not willing to meet her only to prove that I’m open-minded about homosexuality? There’s definitely an over-correction in favour of gay people then. After all by my own premise, equal rights means equality and vice versa.
I struggled with all of these for a number of days. Finally, I decided to just come clean and tell her what I thought. I told her that this was what I would think if a guy reader had contacted me and that I could be reading this wrong but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t sending out a wrong message.
“Oh god, don’t tell me you got the wrong message!”
and then logged off. Maybe she was offended and I am sorry about that. It was never my intention to insult anyone. But at the end of it, I think I’d rather live with that than run the risk of leading her on.
Note: I mentioned this to MJ who laughed and said, “It’s so amusing to see the hetro community more touchy about gay issues then gays themselves!”