The Mother Box – Poetry & Acid

I wore a saree to a poetry event today. Unlike the last time, it was a rushed drape of an unstarched cotton. I look like an amma. But I was on my way to a new poetry event. And I thought it would be nice to do gentle romantic piece. But on the train, there were three women who were travelling with an adult height male being. When I protested his presence in the ladies compartment, they abused me. The last time I tweeted a picture of such a male creature in the ladies compartment, I got abused by women on Twitter. It made me mad enough to bring out my vitriol from last week. Truly, mothers/sisters of men in this country have to be the most irresponsible, self-absorbed, cussed group ever. My deepest derision is saved for you. Here’s Mother’s Day, performed at Kulture Shop.

When I finished, I felt somewhat incensed. This country is what it is. And as a bona fide uterus carrier, I will live the rest of my life with men hanging their insecurities on me and blaming me for it. Where I can, I will shoulder that burden womanfully (yes, what is manfully? that to me, just means in a weak, undependable and entitled manner). So here’s something that I do do well – offer comfort and solace. Lullaby for your listening pleasure.

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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.

 

Faking It Because I Don’t Think I’m Making It: Two Poems

I haven’t written in awhile, a whole month and nearly a half, in fact. I haven’t felt enough in love with the opposite sex, with my own gender identity or with the world to express an opinion on it. April was very hard, full of difficult lessons that I’ll write about when I’ve had time to sort them out in my mind.

And in the meantime, one continues to keep breathing. And with this one, the best of those breaths speak poetry aloud, even if they’re all fiction. Here are two pieces I performed recently, both of which are entirely fictitious. I’ve never had anyone that I felt enough hope with, to ride through an unglamorous season 2 with. That is the crux of the piece that I call ‘Patchwork Relationship’. Considering the response it usually gets, I imagine that enough of other people have felt this. I guess a writer’s job is to hold a mirror up to humanity, even if they can’t see themselves in it.

By the way, the night I performed this, I was very, very sick. I threw up several times before I went up on stage. And after I came back home, I spent the night dry-heaving, too weak to stand. I thought it was possible I wouldn’t make it through the night and that I might choke on my puke. As it turned out, I didn’t. The performance is the only time that stands out in that day as shining clear, feeling one with the universe and okay with life. The stage is my second blog now. I feel like the true me up there and like everything else is an act I’m putting on. Even when what I’m performing is entirely fictitious.

The second piece is one I wrote and read out at the Hive’s Great Indian Poetry Challenge. You’re given a prompt and one hour to come up with an original poem. My prompt was ‘Wrong Time’. A new friend observed that I usually wrote ranty, angry, feminist poetry and he challenged/suggested/coaxed me to try something different. And he was just so sweet about it that I wanted to go along. So here I am, fictioning it up again with ‘Wrong Time’. For fact, this is probably how my two steady relationships went – my holding up the glory and sparkle and magic above the mundanity that each man was trying to force upon me. I lost in both cases but the memory remains. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do that again for any other human being (two is quite enough pounds of flesh that the universe has extracted from me, don’t you think?). Now I’m a writer, so I can make shameless use of all of it in poetry.

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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 Curious Case Of The Newly Divorced Man

A few years ago, I wrote about navigating the boundaries of a friendship with a married man. My first guest contributor, The Single Married Man shared a firsthand account of the confusion of being in transition from ‘married’ to ‘divorced’.

I am finding divorce in every by lane of my social circle these days. Over the years, I’ve bemoaned relationship breakdowns with girlfriends and together we have learnt to deal with it. For some reason, when I was in my 20s, we tended to seek solace from others of our own sex. But these days I find myself in more conversations with men about their failing/failed marriages.

Perhaps it’s because the boundaries between the sexes are blurring. Maybe it’s because marriage is a complex universe involving families, landlords and the law so one can’t afford to be picky about where one finds one’s support. Or maybe like I once predicted would happen, the men of my generation are just finding it harder to cope with the realities than women.

Image via Unsplash/Thomas Lefebvre

Image via Unsplash/Thomas Lefebvre

They are all men in transition. They have been independent and intelligent, they’ve believed in gender equality and love and commitment. Now with their worlds tattered, they’re rebuilding how they see the world, life, the opposite sex and themselves. I can see them struggling to fit me into relationship models familiar to them.

One of them propositioned me. I deflected him gently so it wouldn’t bruise his ego. “But you’re the one who told me to get out and have some fun!” he said. I meant it would be good for him to loosen up and experience the lighter side of interactions with the opposite sex. That could include casual sex. But I didn’t like his taking it for granted that I was offering myself up.

Married people, especially those who were not single for very long, often tend to take a superior stance on the single life. Marriage is a lot of work, they tell us. What they don’t realise is that being single is a different kind of battlefield. It’s not all days of How I Met Your Mother/Sex and The City style apartments, hitting the town each night and regular Tinder hookups. It’s constant loneliness and never being sure, it’s eating for one, knowing total strangers have the ability to hurt you and constantly evaluating how lonely you are versus how little your options appeal to you. Recently divorced people have a lot to learn, this is true. Welcome to the world of ONE.

One friend threw a tantrum last month because he felt like meeting me for dinner and I said I was busy. I had to be firm, patient but also subtle in conveying to him that I was not obligated to meet all his needs. It really hit me even more painfully then.

Many of these men, even the most independent, thoughtful ones, by virtue of our Great Indian Family Culture have never been allowed to deal with difficulty on their own. They have been mollycoddled from disappointment and insulated from Nos. They have no reference for what to do in a world that does not have time to meet their every demand. Their families are older and possibly less able to be their shields. Often, the families are showing their humanness in bringing in their own prejudices. What is this boychild in a man’s body to do?

I am also noticing some of them lapsing into cynicism and active hatred of women. It’s a scary thing to be around. Most women know that a man who doesn’t get what he wants, is a dangerous man. At what point do I stop being supportive and decide to walk away? When does one decide that this person, this friend of so many years is more dangerous beast than friend?

Take socially sanctioned male entitlement, sprinkle in a vague flavour of independent thinking, throw in some outraged sense of betrayal and mix liberally with confused East/West value systems — that is the brain of today’s recently divorced Indian male.

I do not intend to fall into the common trap of playing mommy to any one of them. Life and the system has extracted its own pound of flesh from me. But they are becoming different people because of their divorces and our relationships are changing too. I guess I’m afraid of what that could mean for them, for us and ultimately, for me.

Image via Unsplash/Daniel McInnes

Image via Unsplash/Daniel McInnes

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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.

Boyzoned! (No, Not Those Guys)

No, I’m not referencing my generation’s equivalent of Justin Bieber (times 5). I’m speaking of a very specific phenomenon that happens between men and women.

* Image via Unsplash/Lea Dubedout

Say you’re a single woman who is friendly and lives in a place that affords plenty of interaction with both sexes. Most men’s first interaction with you tends to be at least a little flirtatious. You learn not to take it too seriously. After all, you don’t want to be one of those girls — the ones that imagine wedding bells ringing whenever a guy smiles at them. So, no, whatever, really, you thought I was going to go soppy on you, no dude, we are splitting the bill equally. You know you’ve had a close shave when the guys bitch and snark about those girls. You’re a Cool Girl.

It happens so suddenly you never see it coming. A burp here, a torn/food-stained teeshirt there. It’s okay, he’s human. Oh never mind that you NEVER do any of that around him.

Then he keeps you waiting for an hour and when he shows up, he says he got caught. Fine, you fume a bit but you get late sometimes too. Then he starts telling you about what a horrible week he’s had and how his job sucks. Well, you listen. I mean what else can you do? And he leaves before you get a chance to tell him you’ve been working 14 hour days straight. But well, okay, maybe next time. You’re We’re-Close Girl.

It’s all cool for awhile except he’s really busy. Then when you meet and you’re aching for some nice company, he’s distracted. He shows up on time but he’s constantly whipping out his phone. You go silent. He doesn’t even notice. Then he looks around (never at you) and says this place isn’t that great, how about leaving? You realise he is just not that into you. You thank your stars you didn’t fall in love. You eat some chocolate, drink some wine, talk a little too long to a girlfriend and then it’s okay. You’ve got a couple of other people calling and asking you out anyway. You’re Independent Girl.

Two weeks later he calls when you’re in a meeting. You can’t take his call and when you’re finished with work, you just want to go home and get to sleep. He calls again the next day and you can’t take the call just then, your head hurts because your period is due and you don’t really feel much like talking. Then your Whatsapp starts pinging like crazy so you have to look at it. He wants to know why you haven’t been responding and what’s wrong and are you feeling okay? You smile at the phone and think that’s sweet and tell him you’re not feeling too well so taking a day off. You have a pretty nice conversation on Whatsapp, which you don’t ask to take to a phone call. It is your day to yourself after all. You hang up after an hour feeling proud of your independence and your willpower, feeling good about the world. Even the period cramps don’t hurt so much.

The next day you call him. He doesn’t answer. Two days later you call him again. He answers with a curt, whispered “Hellocan’ttalkrightnowI’llcallyouback”. There is a phone call a day later which you don’t want to think about who initiated. There’s only this much willpower a girl can have right after her period. It’s been a crazy time he tells you. Same here, you say loudly, determined that this time you get to talk about your work woes too. You spend ten minutes mutual bitching and you decide to ‘do that event’ that evening. There are plenty of your common friends around so you barely have a full conversation. But it’s nice to see him. Your back is still aching so you leave early. He doesn’t offer to drop you home and if he did, you’d scoff. Pffff, are you mad, it’s only 8 o’clock, stay, have fun, I’m alright, just want to get to bed early. You’re No Fuss Girl.

A couple of more weeks pass. You had a couple of Tinder dates. All of them wanted instant sex. None of them even wanted a conversation. You didn’t want any of them. You are in touch. On Whatsapp. A joke, an emoji, a photo of his new Kindle, more emoji, a random sentence that you can’t decipher followed by “Sry ignire plz”. You shrug. You won’t be GrammarNazi Girl.

One time you call to tell him about this music event you’re going to and will you hang together? He says no, he’s working really hard. You go back to being Solo Date Girl.

It’s over a month before you hear from him. It’s a phone call and you tell your Independence to shut up lecturing you for feeling good about seeing his name flash across your screen. He’s calling to ask what was the name of that restaurant you went to once where you had to leave early because you didn’t like it? No, it wasn’t me you insist, he’s the one who had itchy pants that evening. He laughs at that and challenges you to a drink-off at that very place and you’ll see who has itchy pants.

You meet him three days later for the drink-off. It’s a Sunday afternoon but you might want to go home to your teddy bear after one Cosmopolitan he says. You give him a LOOK and order your usual rum-and-coke. You’ve always been A Girl Who Can Hold Her Drink. You finish before him and wait for him to catch up (sniggering, pointing out his half-full glass). He gets a call. You’re made to give directions, cafe suggestions, accompanied by elaborate indecipherable facial expressions from him. When he hangs up, he chugs his drink and calls for the bill. What, you start to ask. He tells you he has to go, he doesn’t want to keep her waiting and will it take longer to get there by road or should he take the train? Chuck it, he says, he doesn’t want to get smelly in the train. He grabs the first cab that comes along. You get a text from him ten minutes later saying “Sry babe, hope u dint mind.” You’re starting to get a sense of what Girl he sees you as and it’s not any kind of girl. Boys treat other boys this way.

He calls a week later and this time you’re out with a new guy, your first date in ages and ages (well maybe it is, but you’re not going to be the first one to call it that). You mute the call, resolving to call him back the next day. But Whatsapp starts ringing and you have to unlock your phone to mute it. And now he’s calling again. If you don’t answer it, you’ll have to tell your not-date why not. So you answer meaning to say you’re busy and can you call back. Before you can even say hello, there’s a barrage of words flooding through the phone in his voice. You look up at the guy sitting in front of you. You listen to the guy talking to you. Which one of them is likely to stick around longer in your life? You take a deep breath. You are an independent woman and you don’t have to let a new guy dictate your life. Your friend needs you. You get up and take your phone outside. He’s ranting about the shitty restaurant and can he come over right now? Not now, you manage to tell him, you’re outside. But you’ll meet him over the week. When you return, the bill has arrived. Your not-date is not a date anymore.

Rinse and repeat, Boyzoned Girl.

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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 Take A Day Off Each Month From Being Me

This tweet by ChhotaHulk got me thinking.

I didn’t rally with a Yeah women! cry. I didn’t have to. Rather proudly, I replied that,

It’s true. This is something I first started doing because I didn’t have a choice. At least once a month, when my period hit, I’d keel over with cramps, nausea, headaches and low blood pressure (which makes me faint and when conscious, depressed). Once I fainted in a crowded Mumbai local train. After being lectured on eating better, exercising and what not by family, doctor and employers, I began doing that. But over the years, even in my fittest months, I struggle to cope with a regular day when I’m bleeding. I mean struggle, a physical, emotional, mental effort that leaves me wishing I had just been killed off as a fetus.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to give myself one day where I go easy on myself. I’ve slept in, eaten crazy things and shut down work. I’ve discovered that it actually makes me more productive, taking that day off instead of struggling through it and having to redo or strain through working harder on the same thing.

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Image via Unsplash/Christopher Sardegna

Over time, I’ve started learning to be even kinder on myself. My usual OCD self takes a break on that day too. I don’t make my bed. Sometimes I don’t even get out of it all day, except to get something to eat (in bed) or visit the toilet. I’ve taken to not opening my computer. Sometimes I even leave my phone in the other room and pretend I’m dead to the world. The months I’ve done this, I’ve found by early evening itself I’m feeling cheerier, hungrier, more enthusiastic and wanting to get back to my life.

And finally in the most recent past, I’ve also began giving myself the permission to drop the Social Me. That’s not bothering to be polite, not worrying about diplomacy (as little as I do anyway), not caring about who thinks what or the consequences. Each time is a revelation on just HOW MUCH I tolerate from the world. There’s the daily stupidities of people that you take just because it’s too tiresome to not do so. There’s the small cruelties and petty nastiness that people inflict on you, especially on the internet, unthinking or perhaps just because they can do so. And there is all the entitlement of men. This is rarely from men who are very close to me but comes my way by the bushel from slight acquaintances, distant friends and strangers.

“I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE NICE! WHY ARE YOU NOT BEING KIND TO ME?? I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME. I WANT YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME. I WANT YOU TO PAMPER ME. I WANT I WANT I WANT.”

….come the messages steamrolling me every single day. Well, that’s the one day in the month when I shut the door on them and throw cold water on their heads from the window.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this somewhat defensively and perhaps even a bit guiltily. But ChhotaHulk’s tweet made me realise it’s very, very, very tiring to be a woman every day. There is so much demanded of you, so much riding on your perfect delivery of these things, so many consequences of each tiny thought or action. It’s enough to make anyone crack up.

As I’m writing this, ChhotaHulk and I are still talking about it. He suggests that I not care about anyone and damn well do as I please. I truly appreciate his thinking about what women deserve but I know he doesn’t really understand.

Maids and landlords can make your life very difficult if they don’t approve of you. If you’re a woman, this doesn’t just mean your credit-worthiness and whether you stay quiet and clean. It also means whether you live up to their standards of what a woman should be like (read – shop for vegetables, cook from scratch, get up early in the morning, don’t drink or smoke, wear Indian clothes). Don’t believe me? I’ve had a landlady who got peeved with me because I was going to a work meeting instead of shopping for vegetables and decided to tell the dhobi, kachchrawala and the bai not to knock on my door. I’ve also had bais who would show up at any random hour because after all, “aap to kaam nahin karte ho ghar ka“. There were the watchmen from hell who would lech at me as I walked past in jeans and conveniently ‘forget’ to keep salesguys from knocking on my door. Plumbers, electricians, dabbawallas, shop delivery boys – all of these decide how well they want to do their job or if they’ll even do it at all, based on what I’m wearing and whether I smile at them. None of these have ever applied to the men.

I won’t detail again how strangers feel entitled to your empathy and politeness if you are female. I’ve already talked about that and interestingly, among the responses was a suggestion that I ‘reply politely and respectfully that I appreciated the man’s interest in me but I was a bit busy and would he mind if we didn’t talk now?’ I give up trying to explain that to anybody now.

And finally, here’s something else. As a woman, I’m rarely if not NEVER alone. It’s just not safe for me to be alone anywhere. Even in a city like Mumbai, going solo is subject to all kinds of conditions of place, time, dressing, occasion, day of the week, my age etc. Do you know just how big a luxury it is for me to disconnect from everyone? My bed is the only place I can do that in, that is all I am afforded and I’m still one of the lucky ones that has a room of my own.

For my own sanity, I’ve decided I am taking one day off each month from the responsibility of being ME, a big part of which is being a woman. The world can bloody well learn to deal with it and welcome me back with open arms when I return.

Do You Have A BiFF?

It’s an important question. A BiFF can change your whole outlook to the opposite sex, to love, relating, societies, work. A good BiFF is all good things rolled into one, a sort of Human Being Plus. I’d go so far to say the BiFF is like one of the X-Men. Wait, what’s a BiFF, you say?

A BiFF my dear boys and girls, is a Bisexual Friend Forever. I’m a big believer in friendship with the opposite sex so my BiFF has to be a bisexual man. Let me tell you why BiFFs are so amazing. But first, what do we know about bisexuality?

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*Image via thaikrit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rainbows are everyone’s favorite cause on the internet and we’re steeped in images of men kissing men, women marrying each other and matched pairs everywhere. Where do we stand on people who swing both ways?

At one end of the spectrum is the Sex and The City school of thought that sees bisexuality as a kind of greed, of not wanting to settle with just one sort. At the other end…well, need we call it an end since it’s pretty much the rest of the icebBoyerg? Yeah, anyone that’s not matched into One Male-One Female is not human. That. Let’s return to Sex and the City since that’s pop culture’s most recent revolutionary offering around sexuality. It’s over ten years old and that in internet years, could constitute four generations. I don’t know how bisexual people felt about it then but I’m not going to worry about that now.

Let’s set aside the theory bits and let me tell you about what I’ve seen. My first interaction with an openly bisexual man was when we were out on our first date. He told me that he had kissed another man. And then he paused in his story. What I said went on to define who I am (and I’m so proud of this),

“Did you like it?” I asked.

When he completed his story, I thanked him for sharing something so private with me. He smiled and told me that it was test to see whether I’d think of him as weird. No, I thought considering, not really. It felt as normal as anything else and I couldn’t find anything inside my reactions that felt revulsion. He went on to introduce me to John Mayer and Sex and the City. He was the only guy I knew who had even heard of the show, let alone owning the entire VCD collection. It would be a few years before I became involved in the rainbow cause and longer still for friends to start talking about their own bisexuality.

Here’s what I know about bisexual men. They have none of the homophobic hang-ups of the straight men I’ve dated. This means, they’re a lot more relaxed in their own skin. They aren’t as horrified by women’s power as most straight men (obviously or otherwise). They are not defined by limited notions of what constitutes manly behavior. Interestingly, some of them are even alpha males.

At the same time, they are not as weighed down by the discrimination meted out to the gay community (of course this may just be the specific people I know). They are not either screaming themselves hoarse waving rainbow flags or devolving into sulky passive-aggressiveness against straight people. Their sexuality is just one more thing about them, like the colour of their hair or their favorite food. Isn’t that interesting now? By being pan-sexual, sexuality ceases to define them. Think about a man that is not defined by who he chooses to sleep with.

I’ve always thought that homophobia and low self-esteem are both led and reinforced by straight men. Okay, a very specific kind of straight man. It’s that guy who keeps alive notions like, ‘Ooh boys’ night out! Because women are terrors to be gotten away from’, ‘Woman on top! Yay, porn! No, not in real life!’ You can see why I think the Bisexual man is an advancement on this breed.

Once upon a time, the gay best friend was a fashionable idea, conjuring up images of boy/girl duos shopping for pastels and ogling men together (“Is he for you or for me?”). In reality, the friendships are nothing like that. Shopping and bird-watching are the most trivial of pursuits two people can undertake together. And with people who are supposedly as emotionally evolved as women and gay men, really is that the best one can come up with? In truth, I find the conversations boil down to who is feeling more marginalised, more discriminated against (Women, of course! We’re the biggest mistreated minority in the world! But then I’m biased). If a conversation goes beyond that, it’s because we are two people who like each, regardless of our sexuality. And the sexuality bit is just something that well, we don’t have anything in common. Gay relationship dynamics are very different from straight ones.

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*Image via stockimages on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But bisexual men make for great friends to women. They think like men but they are also able to relate to the way straight women think and feel. Picture this. You’re getting ready for a first date with a hot guy. Turn and ask your caricatured gay friend for advice. Run around wheeing and clapping hands and jumping up and down. And then the rest of the week agonising about the date.

Instead ask your BiFF about the date. He’ll give you a once-over and say,

“Looks good. Less lipstick. I know you like it but if I were him, I wouldn’t want to kiss that. If you want to get kissed, lose the lipstick.”

So you go, “Hmph. It’s a first date. We are only going to have dinner.”

“So?” he counters, “Don’t you want to have sex with him?”

“I haven’t thought about it,” you bluster, “It’s only the first date!”

“You met him on Tinder,” he replies and looks away.

No, he isn’t being respectful and giving you time to wipe your tears in private. He noticed someone hot walk across the room.

“Your hair looks really nice, by the way,” he interrupts your stream of thought, as he starts to get up. “See you later.”

He pays, his eyes never leaving his target and reaches for you with one arm. You sigh and resign yourself to the side-hug. “Call me if you need to get away” he whispers into your hair and vanishes.

Yeah, like I said, the BiFF is all things good about a man. What happens if your date is a creep and you have to call him and he’s busy? Well, that’s the subject for another post.

Celibacy, Sluttiness and Everything In Between

Now that we’re all adult and modern and can talk about sex openly, let’s.

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Image via Unsplash/Jairo Alzate

Only let’s not do that dialogue about repressed sexuality, about the male fear of women’s sexuality about all the cliches. Let’s talk about how women feel about their own sex, shall we? Wait, The Vagina Monologues already did that, didn’t they?

Okay fine, but let’s do more of it. Because this here is a blog and we love talking about ourselves and not enough of it gets done and it’s always about how we are in relation to men. I say enough, I want to talk about me, about how I am whether men exist or not (well, obviously they do because sex, right?). I want to know how other women feel about themselves.

So sex. One of my first and most deeply entrenched ideas has been (Note the use of ongoing present tense or whatever that thing is called) that all my body organs will fall out of my vagina. Think about it. Gravity. So much stuffed into one body. A hole right at the bottom. Yeah. Of course I worry when I cough or sneeze or well, shit too hard.

Then there’s the one about the man being an intrusion. Look at even the language of sex. Penetrate. Bang. Ram. Horny. Hitting that. At the other end of it is the too coy, the nauseatingly abstract. Making love. Becoming one. Barf.

I have learned that sex does not have to be, actually should never be painful. Well, not you, 50 Shades of Grey peeps. My body is wonderfully designed to stretch, to contract, to bend, to twist in all manner of ways. Not inefficiently did Mother Nature design a body that could sustain multiple orgasms. But it’s learning that has come over time, over much challenging and forcing my way through preconceived notions, over inhibitions and over censure. It’s been a mental as well as a physical journey.

How do I feel about having sex? Outside of love, outside of control, outside of social norms, outside of all of that. Ever ask yourself that? Do. It’s one of the most fundamental things your body can do, should do.

Tuvale bastırıp geliyorum 🙈🎉

A photo posted by Gamze Tanır (@icinizdekisanat) on

I like it. There’s no ‘with the right person’ because that’s too much like a romcom and life, I know has been nothing like that to me. I like it when it’s on my terms, when it is fun, when it carries respect but not reserve and when it goes through and ends with both of us feeling pleasant about it and each other. And there just isn’t enough of that going around.

Tinder, you suck. I don’t even want to meet the men on it, let alone do anything with them. Hookup, what a horrible word. It makes me think of Captain Hook and which sane woman would want that going into her?

I was a virgin for way longer than most people suspect. It’s hard to say why. Early in my life I met a man (boy?) who forced himself on me and tried every mindfucked trick in the book. (“If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll go elsewhere”, “When a guy doesn’t have sex for long, he falls sick”, “You are so ugly, nobody but me will want to have sex with you”). It scarred me for a long time, yes. Also, the only way I kept some vestige of self-respect and control over my own body was by telling him that I wanted to save myself up for marriage. I don’t know how much I believed it. I do know that that idea carried me through what could have been a much more damaging situation than it was. And an idea that saves you, deserves to have a prominent place in your life.

As it turned out, my first time – and I will not call it ‘losing my virginity’, ugh what a horrible way to put it, so materialistic, so fear-ridden – was with someone I loved very much and who I believe loved me then. We were also going to get married. We didn’t and that’s a different thing.

Reconciling that fact took time because it also brought up other things that people don’t normally think are related. What if the reason I had not found the right man was that I should have been looking for the right woman? And what about children? Funny isn’t it, we never tend to think of how we feel about children in the same conversation on how we feel about sex. Oh wait, there are no conversations about how we as women feel about sex.

Two years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. Now all grown up, she leads the kind of single, sexed up life that is the stuff of crusty Indian politicians nightmares. She describes herself as ‘a bad girl’ and she does this with a laugh. Look how she has internalised the slut-shaming we are subjected to.

I want to believe that if I do something, it’s got to be worth doing. And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And there is no shame in that, only pride. And fucking self-respect. Heh. Fucking self-respect about fucking. If you don’t got it, it ruins everything wonderful about sex.

Some days I think about what it must be to be a testosterone-fueled being and I think I’m better off. I want to believe that it’s a myth that male libidos are bigger than female libidos. I mean that doesn’t make sense. My gender is the one that can go on longer, have multiple orgasms and hell, has many hundreds of more nerve endings (thus pleasure points). Momma Nature would never have put all that in a body that just didn’t feel like it much. What nonsense.

I do think that testosterone makes creatures impatient, perhaps even foolish and one-minded. For most of my life I have not had sex. Sometimes it’s been when I did have somebody in my life; sometimes it has been when I didn’t. It sucks to not have sex when you are with someone. But when there isn’t, well, there just isn’t. And there I fall into the opposite trap from slut-shaming, the celibacy-shaming. Why is it such a big deal whether someone wants to have sex or not? What is burning need for it? There are 7 billion of us running around the planet and stepping on each other’s toes. We really don’t need to make more human beings. And as for pleasure – it’s only pleasurable when you’re not doing it under pressure.

Signing off now. No, not to go have sex but because I’m tired.  Yes that happens too. There may be such a thing as enough sex.

Girls Who May One Day Be Gone

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll want to hold back reading this post until after you have. This is not a review but you will need to know the story. Truly, I mean it. Go away, watch the movie. It’s worth it.

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I just finished reading Gone Girl. I saw the movie with Reema when it first came out. It was an important milestone in our friendship. When you watch a movie with another person, you get to know each other a little better. Are you talkers, shusshers or silent seethers? Do you respond with laughs, gasps, moving forwards in your seat or do you stay still and quiet? And most importantly, what do you think of the film?

A story like Gone Girl can be a make-or-break point between people, the kind that reaches deep into your recesses and dredges up fear and horror. This one was particularly interesting because it also teases out where one stands on the politics between men and women.

I had been told that the book was even better and I won’t entirely disagree. It’s a great read, well-crafted and delivered. But that said, it laid out the issues clearly – almost too clearly – and the matter of who the real villain in the story was. The movie, in contrast, still leaves me feeling something quite else.

When Reema and I first saw the movie, we both cheered at Desi’s death. We actually laughed when we watched her stab him right in the middle of sex. It silenced the whispering, giggling bunch of teenage girls behind us (since that scene appears roughly midway through the movie, we spent one half grimacing at the things they giggled about and the other half gleeful about their subdued silence). A few seconds after the stab scene, three men in front of us stood up and walked out of the theater and they didn’t return. It’s a story we both like to tell now.

Is that a bit horrifying or more? I may stand accused of drastic opinions by the men I’ve intimidated over the years. But I’ve never been okay with violence or automatically slotting man as monster and woman as victim. And Reema is known to be a peaceful, diplomatic person who is happily married. How did we come to take such relish in the story of a murdering psychopath?

I first put it down to the collective female angst triggered off by the Nirbhaya case. India was screaming and women were cheering on angry female avengers. It’s what made the movie NH10 such a success. The movie’s protagonist kills several men in much bloodier detail and yet never gets called an anti-hero. Why? Because her rage is thought to be justified. She has witnessed injustice and horror and instead of staying dumb and numb, she takes action. GO GIRL!

On the other hand, Gone Girl shows a woman who lies, manipulates and kills. Why? Oh, because her husband loses interest and cheats on her. That doesn’t justify murder, does it?

Wait, does anybody remember a movie called Unfaithful? Released a decade before Gone Girl, it showed a bored housewife indulging in an affair with a younger man. My favorite scene in the film is when the cops come calling on their home to talk about the murder of the by-then-former lover. Husband and wife sit through the interview and after the cops leave, they look at each other. Each look is full of accusation and anger. And then, guilt and understanding. Whose was the larger sin? Cheating or murder?

Let’s come back to Gone Girl. The same question is raised here, this time with the genders reversed. Why is it automatically assumed that hers is the bigger crime because it is murder? The same standard ought to apply to Unfaithful but it doesn’t, because there it’s seen as a crime of passion, of jealous rage. And because – there’s no way around it – Gone Girl’s murderer is a murderess. Amy fakes her own death and wait, she turns up not dead! That has to really rattle the kind of self-righteous male who thinks respecting women is the same thing as playing knight in shining armour. No, how dare she be able to take care of herself?!

You can talk about the different levels of premeditation on each character’s part and argue that the full year that Gone Girl‘s Amy takes to prepare for the whole thing outweighs the few seconds in which Unfaithful‘s Edward throws the snow globe at his wife’s lover’s head. Let’s talk about that snow globe. It represents the mutual affection and memories of the married couple. Edward flies into a rage when he realises that she has given his gift to her lover.

Now let’s think about Amy. Her husband has uprooted her from her home in New York, buried her in a tiny town where she doesn’t fit, sunk all her money in a bar. He has also spent five years ignoring her the minute she stops being his Manic Pixie Dream Girl and takes on the real humanness that marriage brings. And finally, he goes the most obvious way and has an affair with his student – such a damning cliche for a writer. He also kisses this student in the open and takes her to several of the places that were supposed to be special to himself and Amy. Does the sound of cracking up start to sound right now?

NH10 at least punishes its angry girl protagonist. She loses her husband in the bargain. It seems to balance out her uncharacteristic (for a woman) violence. She has been chastised and will have to live with that. I think a lot of men’s biggest problem with Gone Girl was that she gets away with it.

The book lays out Amy’s manipulation and her deceptions in far greater detail than the movie does, right from feigning a fear of blood to conveying subliminal messages to Nick’s Alzheimer-ridden father. It even paints her obsessive personality more clearly than the movie does. But it also brings out her pain better – her deep betrayal by her husband and parents, emotionally and financially. In every way, they bankrupt her, over and over again. She just refuses to stay victim.

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If in a story, a man may be excused for murder solely on the basis of emotional betrayal, why is a woman still vilified for avenging both emotional and financial betrayal? The financial part is important especially today because it signifies the utter loss of independence and the ability to retain one’s personal power. Yes, there is such a thing as alimony but that’s mere money. There’s seething resentment against women who claim alimony, in addition to the relentless social censure they face for having less than perfect marriages. Shame, the world is saying, shame on you for making the man pay. You have his money but it’s something you don’t deserve, you’re not supposed to feel okay about having it. Amid all this, Amy was protecting herself and her interests in a world that would only continue exploiting her.

Just in case you’re wondering how fair it is for Desi to die because of someone else’s marital troubles, the book makes that clearer too. Desi was not helping her, he was keeping her captive. You don’t help an abused woman by coaxing her into being your personal love-toy. Especially when she has no money and no way to transport herself out. True, this points to questionable ethics rather than malicious crime and murder cannot be condoned. Still, how easy it is for audiences to tidy up a character’s actions when he’s male and how much easier to tar when she’s female.

By the end of the story, you get the feeling Amy doesn’t care either way what the people who do know think about her. I understand that feeling well. Scarlett O’Hara would have understood it too. As women we live lives that are given less justice, harsher punishments, many more pressures and far less empathy than our male counterparts. It’s an individual matter, at what point we break and decide we really don’t need to allow this flawed system to determine our inner moral compass anymore.

And I guess that’s why women loved the film and a lot of men didn’t. There’s a possible Amazing Amy in every single one of us.

Men’s Messages On A Dating Site And What They Actually Mean

1.I don’t know how to say cheesy lines so I’ll just say hello.

Means: I’m lazy AF and I think I’m so awesome that even my saying the world’s most common word since the invention of telephones makes you fall in love with me.

2. Whassup

Means: I’m actually 12 and I think dating equals making friends with a girl equals treating her like I’ve known her forever equals nothing new bro, wassup with you?

3. U der? Hello? Hi

Means: I got stuck in cryogenic freeze in a chatroom in the 90s.

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4. Sexy gril

Means: OMG I just spoke to a girl I just came usually that happens only when I hear that lady who says “The number you’re trying to reach is switched off”.

5. M new to this place….wanna chat….howre you?

Means: I hit on receptionists, call center operators, movie ticket sellers and tour guides because I think women exist to help me.

6. Hi dear

Means: I probably think I mean no harm and this true even though I just opened a conversation with a total stranger, with a creepy endearment (literally). Or maybe I didn’t know how to spell ‘there’ and I misspelt it creatively.

*Image via atibodyphoto on FreeDigitalPhotos

The New Indians: 30-Something Ex-Somethings

There is a new breed of people out there and they are a helluva lot better to be around than the others. They are the 30-something war veterans of relationships. They are divorcees. They’ve lived in without marriage and borne the backlash from family, landlords, friends and service people. They’ve been engaged and sent out wedding invitations only to have to retract and learn to say something no one in their families had to say.

“It’s over. I’m sorry. No, umm, it didn’t work out. No, there’s no wedding. Sorry.”

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Image via Steven Lewis on Unsplash

It used to just be me and one or two of the other local urban legends (“There was something wrong with him always”, “She was always a fightercock”, “He must have cheated”, “She must have had something going on with the neighbor”). Now I’m losing count of the number of people starting to drift into this group.

We are different. Our battle scars don’t just define us. They’ve made it necessary for us to shape lives that have no references. We are the generation of Indians that had limited career choices imposed on us. We are the ones who began speaking English earlier, went abroad earlier, dressed ‘like MTV and Hollywood and don’t you know that is not our culture??’. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and got into political trouble for it. Then we succumbed to arranged marriage or love marriages with twenty thousand rituals borrowed from Bollywood and ageing family matriarchs/patriarchs. We sank or swam in the open sexuality of new media which swept away the prudish touch-only-spouse-and-only-in-private attitudes we had been brought up with.

The compromises we made in our twenties, were supposed to be our prodigal returns from the rebellion of our satellite TV/internet bedecked 90s adolescence. Things were supposed to turn out fine. We were not prepared for dowry disguised as expensive rituals paid for by the girl’s family. We didn’t expect to have to compete with pornography or gaming, for our partners’ attention. We didn’t think we’d need to decide between dual-career-no-marriage or single-career-resentful-marriage. We didn’t forsee that mismatched libidos and opposed political views would enter our kitchens, our bedrooms and our relationships.

And we are dealing with who we are becoming in the dealing of these things. We are so different.

Yesterday I asked out to dinner a woman I had met a couple of times. “Just you and me?” she asked. “Well, why not?” I replied. We talked about mothers who called if it crossed 11PM and we weren’t home. We spoke of bitchy colleagues making our lives miserable when they heard about this. We discussed unsatisfactory exes and what made a woman good in bed and why this should mean we had to do things we didn’t want to. We brought up menstrual cups and younger men and how wonderful it was to have a conversation with someone who used the word ‘schism’ casually and correctly. And then we clinked our Cosmopolitans (what a throwback!) and went home.

Last week I met a man who once wore the tag of ‘boyfriend’ and has always brought along an air of fresh cologne and protective warmth to our friendship. Right now he’s walking around under a cloud of messy divorce and alimony induced gloom. I hugged him. He shrugged and told me,

“I’m looking at it as the price for my freedom.”

I hugged him again. I understood and I know he knew I understood. Only someone who’s been in that war will ever understand all the nuance in his statement. Then we went out to the shops. He helped me pick out a new pair of shoes. I stood with him while he smoked an only-during-bad-times-cigarette. And we enjoyed our meal more than the hundreds we’ve shared in the past decade. Because, who knows what poison might infect his system or mine soon?

Yet another friend has climbed his painful way out of that abyss, quit his corporate job and gone off to chase a longtime dream. Last year I asked him out. He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no. Now, he may never return from the place he has moved to. But he sends me photographs of his life there. We both know something that people who aren’t like us, do. There is relating and that goes way beyond relationships. It took divorce and abuse and alimony and broken engagements to learn that.

We’ve seen too much to believe that rituals are romantic. We’ve borne too much to pretend that families always know what’s best for us. We’ve been through enough and more that something deeper in us, even the least aggressive of us, has sat up and said, “Enough.” It’s the amiable friend who remarried and didn’t invite anyone because he was done with the tamasha. It’s the ‘good wife’ who shed her burqa for a high-low dress and finally got herself a business card telling the world about the business she had run for six years. It’s the quiet colleague who moved to another city to start a bar and live with two bachelor friends.

This for me is the new India. It didn’t have to live through Independence or Emergency or most of the big wars. But it has had to make its way through outdated social rituals, oppressive familial references and being thrust into a volatile international economy that it was not prepared for. It has been on Shaadi.com as well as Tinder. And guess what, it hasn’t crashed as yet.

There are more of us and we are all around you. You’re related to us. You’re dating us. You’re working with us. You’re falling in love with us. You’re living next door to us and borrowing daal from us. You’re sharing parking space and theatre seats with us. You’re asking us for advice on what to wear, which college to go to and if we’ll give you a reference at your next job. You’re selling to us. We are not the others anymore. Many of us are the ones making pathbreaking choices and while they’re not comfortable, the generation after us looks up to us because we’re displaying the rebellion they’re losing in their twenties.

Divorce is not an evil word anymore. Living in is not a sin punishable by death. Sex is not a bad word. Virginity is not a prize. Men are not freer than women. Women do not make better parents. In-laws are not the same as parents. Big weddings are nothing more than expensive PR campaigns. Older people are just older people, not wiser people. Rituals do not ensure happiness. Intelligent people are not sorted-out people. An IIT or an IIM degree does not guarantee a good spouse or even a good life.

It’s time you revised your myths.

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

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