Monthly Archives: August 2005

Honesty, the males-only policy

A friend of mine got engaged a few months back, in the ‘arranged marriage’ way. Several questions rattled around in her head. One of the real biggies was: “Should I tell him about my past?” All the people she discussed this with (all women) advised her not to. I on the other hand, told her that it made sense to have it out before getting into a big commitment like marriage.

This principle works for me. I don’t believe honesty is the best policy. I think it is the only policy. Forget about the goody-goody stuff, lets think practically. How possible is it to spend your life with a person, share their bed, dining table, bathroom, family, schedules, lifestyle etc and hide such a vital fact from them?

Cut to the present now. The engagement has been broken for various reasons including dowry demands and the guy cheating on her. It was unpleasant…downright dirty, especially when the boy’s family threw out a stinging “Apki beti ka kisi ke saath chakkar tha!” (“Your daughter has had an affair” expressed in the most vulgar way possible)

I’ve been in a relationship..more than one as a matter of fact. Maybe I’m too volatile for a woman or maybe I’m just too old to change my habits but I can’t imagine having to conceal this fact. Any intelligent person who stays with me long enough can figure out that my sometimes-brash, rather forceful opinions about men, love, relationships and the world have to be based in past experience. I would rather be forthright and expect the same from the other person rather than get embroiled in the nasty games that couples seem to indulge in.

And yet, is this realistic? I’m not talking about what is right or wrong. It is a matter of how viable it is. I was honest enough to admit that I had been in love before, to my last boyfriend. In retaliation, he’d throw that fact in my face at every opportunity, making subtle references to my character, to my intentions and upbringing. This despite the fact that HE had had several more relationships before, had cheated on two of them, had pursued another one simply because she was ‘available’ after his friend dumped her and generally done other such things that just seemed wrong to me. When I left him, I thought “I’m glad I’m rid of the jerk!” But my next thought was…am I really rid of him? What if the next man is like this too? What if they’re all the same jerk with different faces?

I can just see Valhalla, Apoorva, Brad, Rumpelstilskin and the other men who read my blog start to protest violently. Simmer down…I’m not saying any one of you is like this. It is possible that the small set of men who read my blog just are more liberal and fair-minded than the rest. In statistics, you choose a small part of the entire group and observe them and draw conclusions about the whole group based on it. This does not mean that every single element in that group exhibits these traits. It simply means that if you had to characterize any one element it would MOST LIKELY show these features.

I intended this to be a serious thought, not a raving one. I want to know how many men are willing to face the idea that their wife/girlfriend has been with someone before them. A lot of men tell me that they don’t mind. Even that points to something. My ex- once said “If a girl’s been around with other guys, you know she’ll be easy”. As Sagnik put it in a more refined way, “If she has had other people in her life, she’s dateable”. So fine….a girl who has dated is available for a date, a chat and other sorts of fun. But that’s about it. Fun and serious relationships are mutually exclusive apparently.

Most of my women friends are married or planning on tying the knot soon. And all of them are facing the big question : To tell or not to tell? Every single one of them has been in love or lust or a relationship. I would imagine there was something seriously wrong if a 20-something hadn’t felt the natural urges of any human being. I tend never to believe guys who say that they have ‘never looked at a girl all their lives’.

That’s two issues in one. Why do some guys lie? And why do they expect the woman to lie? Do men have a birthright on honesty and how much of it should exist?

I have made mistakes. I have taken bad decisions. I have been stupid and gullible and naïve and foolhardy. I have been human. I admit it. Does that make you respect me more or less? Or is that supposed to be a gender-specific question?

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Crush

My 14-year old cousin thinks the Indian Idol, Abhijeet Sawant ‘has nice eyes’. She has his album carefully tucked away between her best clothes. And she thinks the contestants of Fame Gurukul are soooo lucky because one of them got to sing a duet with him.

Ah….it is beginning! My kid sister is having her very first crush. She asks me “What’s that?” and sets me off on a trail of memories.

I don’t even remember my first crush. It was that long ago (and that many ago!) Was it that young executive on my dad’s team who pulled me onto the dance floor during the office party? Or was it the prankster of the gang, two classes ahead of me? Maybe it was that cute, new instructor who taught us about computers in school. Or perhaps it was one of the class studs, who threw a vague grin in my general direction once in a way.

It is an odd experience to meet someone you’ve had a crush on, some years later. Especially those hormone-laden, angsty, “Oh my god, he’s looking at me, I could die” ones. I met one of the aforementioned men at a wedding and he’s turned out pretty distinguished and intellectual….one of the few crushes I’m not mortified to admit to! On the other hand, there’s the fat, balding ‘looks like a soon-to-be-grandpa’ who is what remains after an over-indulged adolescence in booze and partying. And there was the guy who gaped and said, “Don’t we know each other? You were so-and-so’s friend, aren’t you?”….No, buster, I was the one who was too tomboyish for you to spare a glance…hehe, revenge is sweet.

When my vanity comes to the surface is when I whole-heartedly enjoy being a woman. When a guy who wouldn’t have given me a single look (let alone a second one), in my younger days, stops dead in his tracks and gapes….I know there is divine justice.

But I digress….that is the here and today. I wonder how anyone could think that ‘Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play’. Au contraire, today it seems like a simplistic pastime…yesterday was where the agony, the dreams, the hoping and yearning and fantasy lived.

Maybe because I was such a bookworm as a kid, several of my crushes were fictitious. Somehow I don’t find that funny at all. I spent so much time among my books, they seemed much more real and tangible than the world around me. One of my favorite male characters was Jupiter Jones, the leader of The Three Investigators series. To date, I think that idea colours my preferences….so many of the men I’ve been drawn to have been stocky, intelligent, logical and obsessed with being taken seriously (which is an apt description of JJ).

Of course there have been all those numerous film stars, music icons, models…..I’m rather pained when I watch their interviews and see the big gap that lies between a pretty face and an intelligent mind. My first reaction is “What was I thinking?” But well…I just wasn’t thinking, was I? A crush is meant to be enjoyed, not taken seriously.

Keep it simple and keep him at a distance and don’t give yourself time to discover that he’s just another idiot of a man. Love may be a four-letter word for me but I think I’ll have crushes for the rest of my life.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Why men are happier

Received this in my mail today….and it has a place on XXFactor, even though its not original!

Men Are Just Happier People. What do you expect from such simple creatures?
Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care
of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You
can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You
can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth.
The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station
restroom because this one is just too icky. You don’t have to stop and
think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add
character. Wedding dress costs $5000. Tux rental is only $100. People never
stare at your chest when you’re talking to them. The occasional
well-rendered belch is practically expected. New shoes don’t cut, blister,
or mangle your feet. One mood is good for all the time.

Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about
tanks.
A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own
jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If
someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your
underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than
enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to
see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original
color.

The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave
your face and neck. You can play with toys all your life. Your belly
usually hides your big hips. One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all
seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can “do”
your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a
mustache. You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in
25 minutes. No wonder men are happier…

Strength

I have been watching someone suffer for over a year. He finally gave up the struggle on Saturday morning.

The women had what is called a ‘good cry’. At the end of the day, aside from the swollen eyes, they were looking more or less normal. That is not to say that they were not sad, but, having expressed their immediate shock and pain, they were able to sit up and look at life going on again.

The men on the other hand, were running around for the paperwork that seems to suddenly come crashing after a death. They made numerous trips up and down, signed endless documents, talked to countless people. They brought themselves to talk about such things as the morgue and cremation and wills. They carried the dead body that used to be a person they knew and loved, and fed it into flames. And the next day, they gathered the ashes that were left and let them fall away. All of this, without a shudder or a murmur or a tear.

I was in that strange place…in limbo. I stayed home with the ‘other’ women and held them when they cried. And then I waited for the men to come home so we could carry out the cremation.

I’m not going to say anything new or earth-shattering. Just…how cruel it is for a person to HAVE to swallow his own grief and hold his family together, just because of his gender. I’m going to mangle an old saying into “Some are born strong, some learn strength and some have strength thrust on them.” It is the inadequacy of the social system that does not allow a person to be anything less (or more) than his/her role.

I followed the funeral procession of my uncle into the cremation ground. Four years ago, when my thatha died, I carried pieces of wood onto his pyre along with the men of my family. This Saturday, I laid the final garland on my uncle before we cremated him. And finally we all stood, dry-eyed, straight-backed and talked over what was to be done next.

Perhaps I had a slight taste of what it takes to be the support structure. Society has placed men in these roles, from birth and they cope as best they can, while trying to retain their individual sensibilities. The structures are shaking now, as we infiltrate their ranks. But it isn’t that simple is it?

It is more than equal rights. It is more than education and voting and equal opportunity. It is about being strong, not having strength thrust on you.

What's love got to do with it?

A lot of us confuse love and lust. I tend to think men do that more often than women. All my aware life, I have been hearing about how men distinguish sex from love but women equate the two. Real life shows the contrary.

True, at least in our early pubescent years, women tend to live in the rosy-spectacled fairytale fantasies of dashing, handsome, chivalrous, protective and loving men chasing us. Somewhere with age (and frequent encounters with hormone-crazed real life males), most of us get more realistic. Whether this is believable or not, most women in their 20s have a pretty accurate idea of what their hearts are saying and what their hormones are claiming.

On the other hand, men, the poor critters, seem to keep fumbling with everything that goes on inside their heads. Don’t all our studies show that men are more focussed and one-point driven? Well their brains appear to work on simple two-word commands at any single point of time “Chase her”, “Dump her”, “Bash up”, “Throw tantrum”.

A simple test (for all those who seem to think I’m a male-basher): Make a distinction between the following:

Affection
Lust
Love
Admiration
Appreciation
Friendship
Trust
Awe
Fear

I’m willing to bet that most men who read this are thinking….”Bloody word game, that’s all it is”. Q.E.D……male brains can only handle the dim notions of “Go towards” or “Run from”. The why and how of it is beyond comprehension.

I started off about love and digressed…so coming back. I’m always suspicious of a man who says he’s in love. At least half the men I’ve known have parrotted this as something out of a “How to get the girl” manual. The rest are labouring under the effort of trying to legitimise or rationalise their turbulent, mixed-up insides.

My best friend says “A man on the rebound is a dangerous man”. I second that. Anyone who has just ended a relationship feels disoriented, lost, somewhat empty and missing something vital. Of course I know women rebound too (I admit to have, myself). The difference is that they seem to know that they’re rebounding. That consciousness is generally absent in a man who will try his best to convince himself (and the new woman) about how he’s over his ex-, how he’s really ready again, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes the new woman is fooled. Yes, we’re fools that way. Advice be damned, a man who needs comforting is just too much to resist. Latent maternal urges? Crap….we ask for it, too.

I have been rather surprised recently. Through my teenage years I’ve seen several girls fall victim to the raging male hormones. I say ‘fall victim’ because the males in question have manipulated, played mind-games, sweet-talked and blatently lied to get the girl into bed. Even supposedly intelligent, ‘decent’ men have done it and its despicable because of how little value they have for the girl’s feelings and her trust in them.

Into their twenties though, a lot of them appear to have sobered down. I find I’m invariably encountering one man after another who is wistful about some girl he let go, someone remorseful over his thoughtlessness, men actually coming back to say they’re sorry. The sad part is I also see a lot of women (including me) have turned cynical and jaded. It is hard to forgive people who’ve been completely callous with you when you were most vulnerable…its virtually impossible to believe that are capable of changing.

Still…weddings are taking place all around me so I guess there is some hope after all. Perhaps its just a matter of balance. There is a certain naivete required to be in love…a certain reckless, blind faith. So long as one is able to fool the other into believing, the divine deception will continue.

Love is a glorious, many-splendoured thing, after all.

What’s love got to do with it?

A lot of us confuse love and lust. I tend to think men do that more often than women. All my aware life, I have been hearing about how men distinguish sex from love but women equate the two. Real life shows the contrary.

True, at least in our early pubescent years, women tend to live in the rosy-spectacled fairytale fantasies of dashing, handsome, chivalrous, protective and loving men chasing us. Somewhere with age (and frequent encounters with hormone-crazed real life males), most of us get more realistic. Whether this is believable or not, most women in their 20s have a pretty accurate idea of what their hearts are saying and what their hormones are claiming.

On the other hand, men, the poor critters, seem to keep fumbling with everything that goes on inside their heads. Don’t all our studies show that men are more focussed and one-point driven? Well their brains appear to work on simple two-word commands at any single point of time “Chase her”, “Dump her”, “Bash up”, “Throw tantrum”.

A simple test (for all those who seem to think I’m a male-basher): Make a distinction between the following:

Affection
Lust
Love
Admiration
Appreciation
Friendship
Trust
Awe
Fear

I’m willing to bet that most men who read this are thinking….”Bloody word game, that’s all it is”. Q.E.D……male brains can only handle the dim notions of “Go towards” or “Run from”. The why and how of it is beyond comprehension.

I started off about love and digressed…so coming back. I’m always suspicious of a man who says he’s in love. At least half the men I’ve known have parrotted this as something out of a “How to get the girl” manual. The rest are labouring under the effort of trying to legitimise or rationalise their turbulent, mixed-up insides.

My best friend says “A man on the rebound is a dangerous man”. I second that. Anyone who has just ended a relationship feels disoriented, lost, somewhat empty and missing something vital. Of course I know women rebound too (I admit to have, myself). The difference is that they seem to know that they’re rebounding. That consciousness is generally absent in a man who will try his best to convince himself (and the new woman) about how he’s over his ex-, how he’s really ready again, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes the new woman is fooled. Yes, we’re fools that way. Advice be damned, a man who needs comforting is just too much to resist. Latent maternal urges? Crap….we ask for it, too.

I have been rather surprised recently. Through my teenage years I’ve seen several girls fall victim to the raging male hormones. I say ‘fall victim’ because the males in question have manipulated, played mind-games, sweet-talked and blatently lied to get the girl into bed. Even supposedly intelligent, ‘decent’ men have done it and its despicable because of how little value they have for the girl’s feelings and her trust in them.

Into their twenties though, a lot of them appear to have sobered down. I find I’m invariably encountering one man after another who is wistful about some girl he let go, someone remorseful over his thoughtlessness, men actually coming back to say they’re sorry. The sad part is I also see a lot of women (including me) have turned cynical and jaded. It is hard to forgive people who’ve been completely callous with you when you were most vulnerable…its virtually impossible to believe that are capable of changing.

Still…weddings are taking place all around me so I guess there is some hope after all. Perhaps its just a matter of balance. There is a certain naivete required to be in love…a certain reckless, blind faith. So long as one is able to fool the other into believing, the divine deception will continue.

Love is a glorious, many-splendoured thing, after all.

Friends and lovers

It was a cool evening. A lot had been happening recently and I need to clear my head. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number. The one I knew I could call anytime and yell “What the hell is wrong with the world?” and he would say, “Who was it?” The one I knew I could message or call at any time with a poem or a sob-story or a joke. And he’d listen…and talk.

Ring…ring…ring…”Yes ma’am, kaise yaad kiya?”
“Apko yaad to bahut karte hain, bas aapko hamari koi kadar nahin so I called to remind you I’m alive”
“Is that so now? How very considerate. As a matter of fact I was going to call you after dinner tonight.”
“Haven’t you eaten as yet? We’ll talk later.”
“No, I’ll eat now and listen to you. That’s all I ever do in a conversation anyway”

“Really?^%$#@”
“Any more of that and I won’t need to cook the food. It’ll get burnt in the fire you’re breathing.”
“Oh shut up interrupting me now and listen…”
“Chomp…chomp…go on…”

I like this story so far, except that it starts to sound like a prelude to the plotline of ‘When Harry meets Sally’. Once in a conversation with the same friend, we were discussing hypothetically (I hope!) about the mutual attraction in our friendship. He asked, “Why do you assume people can’t be friends if they sleep together?”

I don’t assume it. I know it. I believe it. I think when the L-factor (that’s lust, not love) shows up, friendship goes out of the window. It doesn’t have to be that way but it just invariably does. And yes, of course, its the guy’s fault!

I do believe the Ladder Theory. There is no such a thing as a purely platonic relationship. Every male-female relationship (blood or otherwise) retains an element of sexuality about it. Think about it. Why should it be surprising or shocking? A male-female relationship carries a heightened awareness of the other person as being different from oneself, a ‘becoming conscious’ of how well (or badly) the other person and you fit into the relationship dynamics together.

Where am I leading with all of this? Here’s where: I have a good number of males in my life….family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. Each person who has a presence in my life is there because of a certain underlying attraction on both sides. Does that necessarily mean we have to act on it? The world would be one gigantic orgy then (and I’m not being funny).

Practically speaking, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get involved romantically/sexually with a friend. I don’t think romance & sex are the next higher levels of friendship. I really think the two are different things and should be kept apart as far as possible. A friendship has a certain ease about it. There is the feeling of seeing the world together, of forgetting oneself (and the other person) and viewing the rest of the world through a common set of eyes, being connected to a common thought process. A relationship on the other hand makes you conscious of yourself and the other person. It forces you to focus on ME, HIM (or HER) and US. It is so narrowing. And harrowing.

In fact, I am beginning to believe that I can’t really be friends with men any more. Attraction has always existed in the relationships. But it seems to be turning into a huge monster these days, threatening to mangle the equations. I mean, after all, what is it about anyway? So you are attracted to me, so maybe I’m attracted to you….why the heck should that change anything? There may be a hundred reasons why the relationship should not be made into anything other than it is now, but none of them will work once the big L rears its ugly head. And ugly it is, no doubting. Suddenly you’re having to be conscious of what you wear, how you sit, whether its okay to hug the person any more or not. All at once, you’re having to think over every statement and whether it could be interpreted in any other way than the one you thought it meant. And completely out of the blue, the comfort, the ease, the greatest thing about the friendship has vanished..POOF!

I’m not going to sit on an ivory tower and pretend I’m above such things. Certainly I feel such urges (and that is all I will believe they are) too. Ideally I would think its no big deal…attraction is not a reason for a relationship. Friendship is not a good enough reason either. Attraction + Friendship does not necessarily equal love. Of course it can be argued that love isn’t necessary for a relationship. Personally (and I am not drawing any value judgements here) I find the ‘no-strings-attached’ thing does not work for me. Its too….rather, its not enough. I might forsake my prudish outlook for someone who I am attracted to but who does not really matter to me. But a friend is someone who is very much alive and present and important in my world and I cannot bring myself to reduce the person to just a body that I can use and discard at leisure. It is demeaning somehow.

My biggest grouse is that men don’t seem to want to accept a decision that they don’t like. The only equation seems to be “If there is attraction, there must be sex”. Its not the propositioning that irks me so much as the refusal to accept a no. Things just have to turn nasty and the friendship has to end. Of course I haven’t even began to talk about the bitching later. A close guy friend (do they exist any more?) once said “If the girl is attractive, you just want to sleep with her. If she says no, you tend to pretend it didn’t matter and that you didn’t want to anyway. And if she’s especially pretty, then it’s just easier to bitch about her.” I am speechless…it’s a bloody Catch-22.

I know I incessantly gripe about how the past was better but I really do miss the days when people were just people, not objects to be desired or be desired by.

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