Where I Regret Doing The Right Thing

I met him at an event I was hosting. The growing crowds and reactions told me I was doing well. It was welcome respite from the morning’s fight, a common occurrence in the horror story I was living inside.

I was aware of him through the whole day, even as I juggled conversations and thoughts, feeling the headiness of a juggler who knows she’s good at it. He stayed in the corner of my vision, never intrusive, his questions informing the direction of my talk and my secret thrill at being understood powering me on. Then he stopped mid-question and said, “Sorry, I feel like I’m monopolizing your time.” That’s when I realised I wasn’t humming a solo.

When the event ended, I turned my back, willing myself down from the day’s high, steeling myself to return to hell. I turned again when I thought everyone had left. He hadn’t. He was moving to the exit, very deliberately not looking at me. He paused and said, “I feel like an Irish coffee. Do you feel like having Irish coffee?” That is the moment I want to pause. It contains so many layers. The climax of the day’s dance with words and looks. The culmination of things felt and not yet named. The promise of…well, just promise.

I saw him recently, our first interaction in many years. He’s married and a father. He looks happy. Still does. They all do.

It doesn’t bring me comfort or insight to think about how things are meant to be. I focus on the thought that something nice existed for one proming moment. That someone saw the possibility of attraction in my wit, my ideas and my personality rather than in what I could do for them or how I could make them look. It’s nice.

Are you wondering what happened back then? I told him, “No. I have to get back to my boyfriend.” And I went back to a man who hit me, abused me and told me it was all my fault. I didn’t succumb to temptation. I did The Right Thing. I always do because I never want to look back in regret. The thing is, I don’t know if doing the right thing and avoiding regret have anything to do with each other.

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REGRETTING DOING THE RIGHT THING I met him at an event I was hosting. The growing crowds and reactions told me I was doing well. It was welcome respite from the morning's fight, a common occurance in the horror story I was living inside. I was aware of him through the whole day, even as I juggled conversations and thoughts, feeling the headiness of a juggler who knows she's good at it. He stayed in the corner of my vision, never intrusive, his questions informing the direction of my talk and my secret thrill at being understood powering me on. Then he stopped mid-question and said, "Sorry, I feel like I'm monopolizing your time." That's when I realised I wasn't humming a solo. When the event ended, I turned my back, willing myself down from the day's high, steeling myself to return to hell. I turned again when I thought everyone had left. He hadn't. He was moving to the exit, very deliberately not looking at me. He paused and said, "I feel like an Irish coffee. Do you feel like having Irish coffee?" That is the moment I want to pause. It contains so many layers. The climax of the day's dance with words and looks. The culmination of things felt and not yet named. The promise of…well, just promise. I saw him recently, our first interaction in many years. He's married and a father. He looks happy. Still does. They all do. It doesn't bring me comfort or insight to think about how things are meant to be. I focus on the thought that something nice existed for one proming moment. That someone saw the possibility of attraction in my wit, my ideas and my personality rather than in what I could do for them or how I could make them look. It's nice. Are you wondering what happened back then? I told him, "No. I have to get back to my boyfriend." And I went back to a man who hit me, abused me and told me it was all my fault. I didn't succumb to temptation. I did The Right Thing. I always do because I never want to look back in regret. The thing is, I don't know if doing the right thing and avoiding regret have anything to do with each other. #theideasmithy #blog #regret #regrets #choice #cheating #relationships #attraction #dating #flirting #blackandwhite #bw

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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No, I Do Not Want To Take Your Dating App Virginity

Why would I? I’m a woman. Nothing about virginity in any form is appealing to me. Virginity is only attractive to someone who knows/has/is very little and fears anyone with more knowledge/experience than them. I don’t claim to know everything and if I were smart enough to, why would someone with less knowledge be interesting to me? Dating app virgins are just as cringe-worthy, awkward and useless to me as sex virgins. And no, that is not my problem but the fact that they think it should be is THE PROBLEM.

Here’s what a dude who opens with “This is my first time here.” sounds like to me.

  1. You have been bestowed the unwelcome honour of being my tour guide through that complex, frustrating world of digital dating.
  2. You will have to tolerate mommy issues, daddy issues, abandonment issues, ex girlfriend issues, consent issues, casual sexism/racism/homophobia/transphobia issues under the excuse of “I didn’t know!”
  3. You will be blamed for calling these out.
  4. You will not be compensated for your efforts.
  5. You will go into said dude’s lexicon of experiences with weird women when he uses your teachings to trap some other woman.

Cynical, much? Welcome to India where the adult male is still attached to his umbilical cord and in thrall of his fantasy ex’s anatomy. Let’s also shovel in a liberal dose of Reward-Education-That-Cauterizes-Humanitarian-Side-Social-Skills. So get ready for a parade of engineers/CAs/MBAs/doctors/Fancypants jobs/Pedigreed Puppies who think the ability to communicate is a woman’s job and that they deserve an award for allowing you to teach them.

And finally, let’s all join in applauding the entitlement that blinds the male of the species to simple facts. Like what, you ask? Oh, like he’s a techie but has conveniently forgotten that dickpics can be screenshotted and shared. Or that he manages securities but sees nothing wrong in demanding a woman he just met get into a car with him for a ‘long drive’.

Literally what is attractive about a man who hasn’t figured out how to draft a good dating profile yet? Use Google, man. How do you become middle management and not figure out that other human beings aren’t chatbots at your service 24×7? And just how does one get to 35 without the concept of normal, adult conversations? Dating app virginity doesn’t make you New & Fresh; it makes you Outdated & Lazy.

Err, no. I’ll take the smooth-talking, ghosting, committment-phobic fuccbois anyday. At least I don’t have to give them a free primer on how to use their index fingers to swipe left.

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I’m Calling Bullshit on Quote-Unquote ‘Woke’ Fuckbois

Before I load and fire, let me tell you who I’m aiming at. This is not all polyamorous couples or even all men (yes, yes, MRAs, you’ve been acknowledged, now GTFO my blog).

This is the ‘Woke’ man and please note the quote signs to indicate the derision with which I approach this species. ‘Woke’ men are simply men who are collecting accolades for keeping up with current trends and mouthing the most perfunctory of statements towards feminism/ equality/ intersectionality. Now that we’ve established my disdain at the superficiality and unfair advantage of this species, let’s talk about those specimens that have adopted the buzzword called polyamory.

It’s not sex-positive if your girlfriend doesn’t know you’re on Tinder, asshole. It’s not polyamory if your wife didn’t agree but you still sleep around, creep. It’s not woke if your partner doesn’t like it but can’t do a thing about it so you do anyway, scumbag. This is exploitation, it’s cheating, it’s abuse.

You probably think you’re really woke for telling her (in a superior tone, no doubt) about this thing called polyamory which challenges patriarchy. I suppose you believe your own bullshit when you extoll the virtues of love and make her feel small for being jealous. You’re still patting yourself on the back for labelling her reactions as territorial and most damning of all – immature. And you’re still collecting accolades from spouting feminism jargon (here’s something for you, ‘Woke’ Fuckboy). The cherry on that cake, is when you tell a woman, “I thought you were intelligent. You’re not being very intelligent right now.” Say that to any woman in any relationship/emotional/sexual context and you’ve exposed your truth.

Lock and load. That cherry is my bull’s eye. And I’m gunning for you, my smooth operating piece of male scum. You’re a scam artist. You’re an insult to any man wanting to be an ally, a good lover or even a friend to women. What’s more, you’re really not that intelligent yourself. You probably still think you’re a good person. But you’re not even really a person; you’re a nasty trope.

Any man needing to mistreat so many women but also desperately wanting to be seen as the good/woke/honest guy is well….a lie.

Poof. You didn’t even need a bullet to take down. You’re just hot air.

Stand down.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m Always Coming of Age

I’m like Sleeping Beauty in that I’ve been dead for most purposes, except for two years, not a hundred. An entirely consuming set of relationships and work projects burnt through me and left me in nothingness. And now I feel ready to awaken or be reborn. I say reborn, because everything feels fresh and new, like I can become a different person, find a different model of relationships, build a different career. This isn’t the first of its kind in my life. I have had many careers after all, and I’ve been many different people with all the relationships that have passed through my life.

Early this year, I waded into the possibility of a romantic liaison. It was great. Exciting, dramatic, fun, unexpected and always, a little terrifying. He didn’t want what I wanted. I felt myself standing on the precipice of endless, burning painful emotion and it felt so familiar, I almost didn’t recognise it for the bad pattern I’ve lived through my whole life. Somewhere dimly I knew I was ingesting something that had proved to be bad for me in earlier times and I choked, sputtering, asking for time and space to think it through. I didn’t get it and that reminded me of another time in my life. In the middle of the most corrosive, damning relationship of my life, I still fought for clarity in my mind and I suggested a specific framework of space to him, that would take out all the pressures that kept us in that status quo. He flat out refused and in frantic aggression shut it down with what sounded like a threat – that we’d break up if I did that. It ended with every form of torture, abuse and humiliation that he could exact on me. I still think if we had done as I’d suggested, he and I might at least have stayed friends, respectful of each other instead of these poisoned factions.

This time, I know better. I know I am right, even if I’m not able to articulate it in the cold-logic/intellectual arguments that characterise my romances. If I must act in undignified, messy, ‘overemotional’ ways, I will. And that’s what I did. I got sarcastic, I wept and I crashed. It allowed me to put that distance and space. And then I ran away to Pune.

Perhaps this was the person to take the chance on, that I did on the wrong people in the past. But this doesn’t feel like the right time now. I realised my love life has been driven by FOMO (fear of missing out). They have been flinch reactions to the fear that I can see an emotional range that the other cannot and that I must carry us till they’re able to.

A friend said something about a specific situation (with someone else) that made sense to me:

“I think you’re crediting him with a lot more emotional depth and intelligence than he’s shown in all these years.”

And I realised the truism in ‘Not my circus’. This always felt like a cold thing but it is really not. There are the indulgences that one can extend, the minor adjustments one is willing to make. But one really cannot and should not attempt to fill in the thinking (intellectual or emotion) that the other person is supposed to do. That’s only a relationship with myself if I do that.

I’ve gotten into the habit of struggling, really suffering through this situation. I had to remind myself that I find it relatively easy to free myself of habits, especially those that don’t serve me. It helped to be in Pune, a place that always clears my head. I moped a bit, slept a little too much at the wrong times, binge-watched Netflix, spoke a little much or too little to the wrong people and overslept the morning I was to return. And then I picked myself up and got onto that bus back. On the way, I looked at myself in that wonderful thing called the selfie camera and I realised I’d be okay.

The weekend was better. I started with a performance. I know the way to shake a habit is not to avoid it but to look it square in the eye. So I brought my story of Custody to stage. A friend accompanied me and then cooked me lunch. Another friend picked us up and we spent an evening together.

Somewhere along the way, we got to optimising my social media feed. Emotions and what’s happening in my heart will always lace the things I do and it’s best I let them instead of drawing artificial walls there. In the examining of the images that make up the last 6 years of my life, I found myself able to say this doesn’t matter any more, this must be removed, that can be put away without clinging. And 24 hours later, I have a cleaner feed and a lighter heart.

I am constantly coming of age, it’s true. And here, it begins again.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

In The Name Of Love (For Many)

Polyamory: Millennial Free Love Or Old Cheating With A New Name?

I’ve written about polyamory before though on The Idea-smithy rather than here. Let me start by explaining why I did that. I know running two blogs is no mean feat but the trickiest thing is not the ideation (hah, look at my name!) or content production. It’s deciding what goes where and when. The Idea-smithy was my first blog and is the source of my pen name, now a stage name, a preferred identity and the base of my social and professional world. XX Factor started as an offshoot of The Idea-smithy, a standout character from a cast that also featured some pretty dark poetry, moody home truths, wistful and wishful thinking and just fantasy. My posts about womanhood and about men seemed important – to me and my readers and so I decided they merited a blog of their own. In the 15 years since then, my understanding of my own gender, sex, sexuality and identity have evolved. These come from personal experiences whose accounts rightfully belong in The Idea-smithy since it was and still is a personal journal. But the specific love-sex-dating-relationships-gender incidents as well as how they affect my identity sit with XX Factor. Sometimes it’s hard to draw those distinctions. But all of this works as long as I compartmentalise. It’s very important to me.

So how do I decide where to put a subject like polyamory? Fundamentally it seems to be about love and sex, so yes XXFactor. On the other hand, it is about language, about society’s norms, about our personal politics and how we navigate the world and that makes The Idea-smithy claim it. I guess at the deepest level, I don’t know how I feel about it. So I can’t decide which neat and tidy room in my life to place it in – my emotions or my ideologies.

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I’ve known polyamorous people. I’ve been out with some. I have felt a deep connection, even great affection for a polyamorous person. But I’ve also known a lot of men who use polyamory as license to cheat and humiliate their partners. I’ve known more than I think, my fair share of ways in which men exploit every privilege afforded them by the world to wreck destruction. “You can love multiple people” feels like handing over a loaded gun to a seven year old with non-existent impulse control and a propensity to damage things.

I have known at least three women whose partners have philandered (and I don’t care if that word sounds old-fashioned because it’s still relevant) and caused them long-term damage through public humiliation, gaslighting and financial exploitation, all in the name of loving many. I was the subject (the target) of the attentions of these ‘polyamorous’ men. That they ranged from ‘dangerous conversations’ to ‘sexual harassment’ is semantics. Because the nature of trust and respect is hard to define and words are but warm air until someone decides to assign meaning to sounds. We all do and we place so much faith in them that it’s easy – too easy – to get lost and to get hurt. I’ve seen it all happen.

All my experiences of love and sex that contribute to this blog stem from experiences that challenge me and make me question who I am, at the core. Whether it was wondering how I felt towards people who loved others of the same sex or whether it’s taking a stand on abortion, it always comes down to this. I accept the human condition with all the ways in which other people express it differently from me. Acceptance means bearing witness with respect, not being indifferent or judgemental. It was relatively easy to conclude this for a gay/lesbian person. A little harder (intellectually) to come to this mental place for a trans person. Not even a question when it came to kinks and distinguishing sexual inclinations from tangled emotions. But I still don’t know where I stand on polyamory.

If it’s only about feeling love for a lot of people, what’s new about that? Isn’t that every single human being on the planet and what’s the need for a special label for this? If it’s about non-monogamous sex, Tinder made that the reality of our generation and again, why a label? And then, how are there also marriages and couples within polyamory since those terms define exclusively monogamous relationships (by law too)?  My thoughts are as cliched as those of monogamous people, the overwhelming one being, “It’s hard enough to maintain one romantic relationship, how on earth do people manage multiple ones simultaneously?”. And yet, I detest labels so I chafe at being clubbed in with the monogamous. This doesn’t mean I willingly pledge my troth with the opposite side because polyamory is a label too. It’s easiest for me to be okay with everyone doing their own thing, mainly because I see these as if from the outside.

The hardest thing is being part of the picture and living it with grace. ‘Polyamory’ like so much else reminds me of the horrible past relationship that was systematically strewn with every manner of lying, humiliation and abuse. That he began our relationship with the sentence “I don’t want any of this open relationship shit. Brutal honesty, that’s all.” and meticulously went on to lie and cheat in every textbook way while making me end my friendships with exes and keeping me off the stage – these still loom large and dark in my perceptions, no matter how hard I try and keep perspective.

Earlier this year I met someone who introduced me to ‘the poly community’. Of course, I remembered thinking, something like this needs a community. For one, it’s a hard idea for the world to accept and there’s strength in numbers. Secondly, by its very definition, polyamory means loving several people, including the people that the ones you love, love. In theory that sounded nice. I always thought I was a 70s hippie flower child born in the wrong time, after all. The idea of a contemporary commune of people expressing love and respect openly, minus social restrictions and free of the pseudo-spiritual drug culture of the time, sounded wonderful. In reality however, it was a dark room (why? there were plenty of lights and in Mumbai, the electricity never goes) with a heavy fog of weed smoke. The conversations ranged from inane to mundane, the kind you’d find in any watering joint in this city on a weekend, among people desperately trying to fill loneliness with intoxication and noise. And finally, it didn’t last longer than a few weeks as Person A’s ‘primary’ Person B moved to another city and Person C (earlier a secondary) decided they preferred Person D, who in turn was great friends with B, and also got along really well with me while their primary ‘knew’ (don’t ask me if that’s in the biblical sense) my ex’s somethingsomething. I couldn’t keep track of primaries, secondaries, tertiaries and whatever comes after that. That last bit did it.

While I’ve been slightly amused by a friend freaking out about Sex Degrees of Separation, this is getting just too connected for comfort. I never want to remember that the monster I was engaged to, inhabits the same universe as me. Of course, he does, but compartmentalisation allows me to keep my sanity and peace of mind and focus on things that matter to me. I don’t want to have any conversations about love or sex or intimacy or anything with anybody even remotely connected to him. Full termination, amputation, whatever you may call it. Even while I don’t like them, boundaries work for me.

Which brings me back to – Polyamorous People. I’ll never judge an idea. It is after all, something magical, something intangible that has the power to shape identities, change lives, transform generations. People though, are much smaller, pettier and more limited than ideas. And this is after all, not about how I feel about polyamory but how I feel about polyamorous people.

That, I think will depend on the person themselves. There are people that I am willing to overlook some of my rules, for. There are others whose seemingly minor infractions are causes to block, unmatch, report, ghost or terminate. There’s no one formulaic reaction to polyamorous people (or their communities) because there’s no one formulaic polyamorous person. This is not judgemental, it’s accepting and respectful while staying true to my nature.

I don’t know what I’d do if I fell in love with a polyamorous person and didn’t want to become one though.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

A Bleeding Goddess

Has it occurred to anybody that we are debating a woman’s right to worship in the same month that this religion worships womanhood? Navratri, Durga Puja or Pujo, whatever name you know this festival by, honours Shakti, the divine female force that manifests in abundance (Lakshmi), wisdom (Saraswati), loving relationship (Parvati) – just a few of the avatars that Hinduism revers. Durga specifically, represents the female force against evil. And what is more evil than discrimination, than treating human beings as less than human? It is especially ironical that the very thing that is considered prime about the female energy — the ability to bear life — is also used as a reason to discriminate against everyday women.

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This body is function. This body is strength. This body is beauty. This body is sex. This body is purpose. This body is life. Don't objectify me. Don't deify me. My poem on menstruation taboos and a religious celebration of womanhood. Thank you to @karthik.rao99 for the music and @kalart.ists, @me_shayar_to_nhii & @ujjain_nalini for bringing this performance to the world. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhe25h9WVU4 Link also in bio. #performance #performer #poetry #poet #poetsofindia #poetryofindia #feminism #menstruation #menstruationmatters #menstruationmatters #menstrualhealth #kalart #periodtalk #periodtaboos #menstrualhygiene #spokenword #durgapuja #pujo #navratri #indianfestival #hindufestival #hindusim #sabarimalaverdict #sabarimala

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Let’s examine menstruation taboos. What makes a woman unclean during her period days? I’ve heard people tell me that this was used as a way to give the woman rest from her hard labour and to keep her husband from imposing sex on her. Even if this were true and the only way to give a woman rest at one point of time, is this the world we want to live in? What does it say about us as a society if the only way we can allow a woman rest and reprieve from forced sexual demands is by making her taboo? Are men and society at large that indifferent to a woman’s personhood — her health, her wellbeing and her consent? And if that is the case, what kind of hypocrisy is it to worship this same aspect of the women that they discriminate against?

Menstrual blood is not unclean and is not an excuse to treat menstruating humans as untouchable. A period is not an illness, not a reason to quarantine menstruating people. Women are human beings, not objects to be put out of harm’s way or intoxicants to be locked away.

This is my poem about the dichotomy of being an object of worship/discrimination in my culture. The background score was composed by the talented Karthik Rao and the animation and video production were by KalArt/Bramha Media. Thank you Kunal Jhawar and Nalini Ujjain for bringing my message to the world.

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What #TimesUp India Is Making Me Realise About Myself

Last week India’s #MeToo / #TimesUp movement rose (again), sparked off by Mahima Kukreja’s outing of standup comic Ustav Chakrobarty sending unsolicited dickpics and badgering underage girls for nudes. It set off a chain reaction examining the complicit parties, the enablers and patterns of predators. Thread:

Since then it has spread to other performance spaces, to advertising, to media, to journalism, to publishing and more. All these alongside Bollywood’s own filth outing with Tanushree Datta’s allegations against Nana Patekar. And across the ocean, the US is grappling with the same issue over a man named Brett Kavanaugh. Sharing this video here as the only positive note of this story: 

On one hand, I am so glad that these stories are finally finding their voices. I cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of carrying these toxic secrets for so long and there are so many, so many of them. Every morning I’m waking up in fear over which man I’ve known, read, watched, applauded, appreciated, spoken to, smiled at will be outed as the next sexual predator. We are in so much pain.

It’s forcing a mirror to all of society and not just its toxic males. A few men I know have been outed at predators. Did I know? Did I suspect? Was that action that I shrugged off, actually an indication of something more sinister? Should I have laughed at that joke? Should I have warned this person? I introduced these people; what if one person took that as a trust guarantee and do I carry some responsibility if anything happened? What am I missing in the world and about the people around me, today?

So many of the stories I’m hearing have not even made it out yet because the victims fear that they are too young/unimportant/powerless and that their predators are too famous/rich/powerful. I am grappling with recognising that the victim of an assault or harassment can build an unreal sense of the perpetrator’s power while trying not to invalidate their feelings. How can you say “I believe you” and “No, that’s not true” at the same time?

Then there was the outing of someone I knew slightly and hadn’t really liked (though not because I had an encounter of this kind with him). He was outed by someone who in the past, has enabled my own abuser despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The question that hung over me was ‘Should I support someone who did not support me?’. It was a time of personal reckoning, figuring out who I wanted to be. I’d thought these aspects of my character would be set and figured out by this time in my life. Clearly, character is a lifelong process of testing. I passed. I don’t know that I feel good about it. Is feeling like I was denied justice, a better feeling to live with than guilt and vindication?

This same person, along with a lot of other people also put out a call asking to be told if they were friends with an abuser. It made me really angry at first. And then I realised, people don’t know what they’re asking for, when they ask for that door to be opened. When the sheer magnitude of this truth hits them, many recoil and their reaction is to assume they get to judge whether they should take action or not. No, I say. The minute you ask for the truth, you are asking for the victim’s trust. And the minute you bring judgement in, you are violating that trust. Complete trust in return for total lack of judgement is the deal. Here’s my thread on this matter:

Having said this, I’m realising that maybe I invite confessions and sharing from people just by talking about these issues. Over a decade ago, when I wrote this post about child abuse, it provoked a volley of reactions that I did not expect and did not know how to handle. I considered quitting blogging. A friend told me that I had stood for something and that mattered to the people who were sharing with me and that I had a responsibility towards them. I interpreted that to mean I’d have to be a space of listening (since I’m not qualified in any other way to advise, heal, police or protect). If you read the above post, please also read this as the conclusion of that. I am rethinking this now.

I asked a close friend (a survivor and an activist) for advice. This person asked me how many people who were spilling their truths onto me and expecting me to rescue them, showed up for me back in 2012? I could argue that some of them were too young, some too married (like this is an illness that renders one incapable of logical and just thought towards unmarried people), some not strong enough (as if strength is a talent some are born with and which becomes public property to exploit). My answer was…NOBODY. I have tried hard not to become cynical about people since then and I’ll admit I often slip up. I cannot forget that I live in a world that enables and applauds my abusers for the same things that they attack and condemn me for experiencing. It is so hard to feel empathy for enablers, even harder than feeling it for the perpetrators.

And finally, I am realising how easy it is going to be vomit, to dump, to offload resentment and rage. Neither of these are logical or fair-minded. They just are — powerful and unstoppable. I’m trying hard not to talk about my own experiences partly because I do not want to co-opt the narratives of the people speaking up for the first time and partly because it might become a case of Chinese whispers with people blaming my perps for things they did not do as part of the pervasive ‘Men are trash’ feeling. As justified as that feels, I know I cannot live with those feelings. I just can’t.

Mercifully a friend who’s been away from all this rescued me in a single conversation last evening by asking me to remember to retain my capacity for joy. That’s all. We each have to live with the consequences of our actions, our emotions and our words. What’s most important in the long, long run of life? I choose joy.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay you.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Don’t Celebrate Halloween, Can I Leave?

I thought about him yesterday. Not the angry, violent, horrible monster that the later times have made me need to remember of him, but the early times. I had to. He’s the source material for my romantic imagination. And my imagination is the only thing that rescues me from the quagmire of emotions.

I am trying to remember how love used to be, how I used to love. I have a better understanding of the second, including the ways in which my unbounded affections become toxic for some people. This is the reality of it. It’s limiting to think of myself as bad or weak or love as a poisonous thing in total. Some things suit some people and they cause others to erupt in blisters or choke or turn into monsters. Who knows that better than an allergy-sufferer?

“I don’t think he ever actually liked me,”

I told a friend last week. Incredulous, he asked me, then why was he with you? I think (I reasoned as I spoke) that I fit a picture of what he thought he wanted – slightly older and dark skinned to annoy his family, bantery enough to feel like he was an intelligent guy, pedigreed to suit the Kolkata intellectual aesthetic and as a last consideration, packaged adequately well to not terribly annoy any lingering physical consideration. I scan myself mentally the way Hollywood films show men scanning women – body, background and messy human traits to be managed.

Some times this helps, being able to put myself inside what I think of, as that cruel, unforgiving, utterly unempathetic, uncaring eye of the person I loved. It helps me re-establish him as that person in my head.

But other days like yesterday, it’s harder. I must admit that most people do not look that deeply into another person, even people they claim to love. Men, least of all, given their boundless capacity for self-absorption and erasure of women. Men, especially in their twenties are not even required (by fashionable politics or by experiences with women like me) to think that much about why they chase who they chase.

Maybe there is some romance in that uncaring, naive, selfish, superficial glance. These adjectives are all things I’ve associated with romance, any way. Which completes my circle of thought, then. Do I want this? Did I ever? No.

Companionship seems to be a different thing but I keep getting pushed into the romance bazaar to look for it. I was looking for some cooling balm and I’m in a place hawking Halloween masks. That is a problem with the world and I have to find a way to get out of the wrong store. It is time to leave the monsters behind.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

AgentsOfIshq: ‘You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin’ And Other Advice I’ve Ignored As A Non-Fair Woman

AgentsOfIshq carried my story about being a dark skinned person in a country that worships the pale! And I also got to show off my lipart skills. I’m really thrilled to see my name and story appear alongside the brave, witty others on this site that I’ve admired for a long time. Now go read!!

The AgentsOfIshq story is here:

You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin” and Other Advice I’ve Ignored as a Non-Fair Woman

and here’s one version from my drafts:

I love beauty jaunts. This is where I revel in having a body and a whole industry devoted to painting it. Recommended remedy for PMS, hard break-ups and bad days, in general. I started in the late 90s, freshly into adolescence and in possession of hard-won permission to paint my face. Naturally, I paid close attention to the leading authority on my body – the rest of the world.

My first lipstick was the only shade everyone told me was “appropriate” for me – maroon. This is the colour I call India’s apologetic vanity. Lipstick reminds people that women have mouths (which can speak) and presumably most people don’t want to know that. So we are permitted one dark colour “for special occasions” that’s barely going to show in the evenings – when it’s deemed appropriate anyway. Women of every age are huddled under this concession colour. A paler shade may just about pass for someone fairer, but only so long as its not ‘too loud’. Because even with our lips, women are not supposed to scream.

ue work shirt entered the room before I did, with whispers and later, anonymous notes left on my table. Try maroon, I was told, or navy blue or brown because they’ll suit you. My fashion choices became a negotiation with a melanin scale that didn’t have room for me.

I began pushing the boundaries first with brightness of colour, and then the colours themselves. One day a parrot green blouse with no makeup, another day black nail polish with regular jeans. Brighter reds became more acceptable in the 2000s and accessible to me. As an adult, I had more control over my dressing, albeit subject to social censure. I played my dressing like it was a game– how much could l get away with it while still staying within obvious boundaries?

A bead necklace as a belt? A multi-coloured scarf around my handbag? And always, always bright colours. Always playing hide-and-seek with navy blue, black and brown. It gave me a lot of confidence. It frequently surprised (and occasionally angered) people.

By my late twenties, I had expanded my distinctive palette to makeup. Gloss, glitter, fuchsia lips, icy-blue eyelids – I was screaming colour. It has never stopped disturbing people, friends and strangers alike. I came to be known as the Crazy Dresser. Yet, what struck me was that no one minded fairer-skinned people wearing these things. As metrosexuality descended into our ranks, the men leading the charge were all pale-skinned. I often felt like the sole flag-bearer for visible brownness. Other shoppers would stare with open hostility as I reached for the sparkle section, while striking up great camaraderie with similarly fair-hued strangers. The salespeople would try to push me towards the skin creams counter, promising to “cure this awful tan” and always, “You should wear maroon for your skin.”

I’ve realised that the shaming system needs one important ally to work – your own self. Shame had no currency if I refused to buy into it. So what looked good to me, became what looked good on me. My need to rebel faded and I was able to embrace colours and styles simply because I liked them. There are no browns in my cupboard (I have so much on my own skin). But fluorescent green? Sunshine yellow? Hot pink? Hello Picasso! Every one of these shades finds a welcome spot on my personal shade card.

Last year I happily adopted the bold lipstick trend. Blue, did you say? Move over Rihanna, I see you your bold colour and raise you funky designs. My Crazy Dresser self surfaces on my lips in the form of stripes, polka dots, filigree work, even comicbook art. Give me black and white and I’ll turn that into a chessboard on my lips. Or a yin-yang symbol. My lips don’t hide or even whisper. They roar.

Recently I bought a gold lipstick, hoping to try a ‘bejeweled mouth’ look. To my surprise, the lipstick wouldn’t show at all on my skin, no matter how hard I swiped. I realised the shade was the exact same hue as the colour of my skin. I know now that colours don’t ‘look weird’ on my skin the way the fashion industry describes. It’s really, really hard to overshadow gold. And I have a natural supply of it all over my body. All bodies are works of art and mine just happens to be framed in gold. Beauty jaunts are public parades for my royal skin. Are you coming to watch?

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Heads Or Tails Of Digital Dating

I switched dating apps. No, this time it wasn’t because awful people drove me away. It’s because Tinder kept demanding my phone number and wouldn’t let me login without it. I’ve never indulged corporations that think they can hold me to ransom, especially when I have a choice. So my reasons are purely business/ethics based, not personal.

I think there’s something about a newer interface that makes it possible for me to carry in a new approach. It’s like being in a new room so even if the people in it are likely to be no different from the ones in the room you were last in, you can approach them with a fresh outlook. And perhaps people do use the other apps a little differently – a little more effort in building bios, a little less of entitlement in their first messages.

I received the following opening message from one person:

“You were my boss at so-and-so company.”

At first, I couldn’t place him. He was referring to my first time as a manager, where I inherited a large team of rapidly moving people. Then I deducted a decade, added some gawkiness, removed experience-based confidence and tacked on an eager-to-please smile onto his pictures. And there he was. It’s a lovely thing to be able to remember people’s origins and then realise how far they’ve come. Then I remembered that this was on a dating app and it got weird.

I connected with someone else, deciding to meet for a coffee a little later. I suppose I was wondering if it would be like my one 8-hour-look-where-did-the-time-fly date. It wasn’t. For starters, I mistook someone else standing outside the restaurant for this person. Is it just my generation that finds that “Hi, ABC?”, “No, sorry” interaction awkward? The mistaken person didn’t appear ruffled or even judgemental. He just went back to staring at his phone and I briefly debated asking if he’d like to be said person instead. Then I pulled my manners and age together and walked in. It wasn’t a bad conversation, though a tad reserved. It made me think of how much harder this whole thing must be for people who aren’t naturally extroverted or vivacious. We chatted for about an hour after which he had a work thing. And no, that probably wasn’t an excuse to get away since he messaged a few times after that.

There have been a few irritants. I’m rapidly realising that the kind of men who demand ‘interesting conversations, not if u typ lyk dis’ are also the likeliest to be inadequate conversationalists themselves, with the extent of their loquaciousness being “LOL, gimme your number I wanna Whatsapp”. True story. We demand from the world what we do not posses or do not feel like trying for and where is this truer than in how most men treat women?

I am liking that there’s been nary a ripple in my emotional balance from these last couple of months of dating experiences. There is the occasional ‘Sigh, it would be nice to have somebody’ but I get over that pretty quickly. I’m working on the idea that not every relationship will turn into the damaged nightmare I was in last time and it’s taking. But I’m afraid it will stop being fun. I know now that making an effort with dressing up my body and my mind will always help in keeping my life exciting and fun. But I doubt most men (or people for that matter) have the inclination or capacity to do that. And when other people aren’t as committed to a life of joy, it doesn’t take long for your own to sink. This kind of casual dating lets me get away before other people’s lack of alignment with my own way of life sabotages mine.

I saw this thread on Twitter this morning…

…talking about how a lot of people who don’t enjoy dating apps are just choosing to just not date. I guess I’m headed in the same direction.

Eventually I’m realising love, joy, sparkle, romance, chemistry whatchamacallit are matters of complete chance. You can’t predict who, when or what. The laws of probability tell me that there’s some value in maximising my encounters with other people but there’s no real guarantee. Too long of the left-right swipe business and it can really dampen one’s good humour. People manage to find what they want without doing any of these things. And others don’t, even if they’ve done all the maximising they can think of. And I suppose that’s okay.

Heads or Tails, it’s just a coin flip anyway.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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