Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Advocate For Cheating & Other Married Men

In my 10-year-dating life, I’ve seen a number of different kinds of relationships and dates, which have given rise to the Character Sketches. Now I come up against yet another one – The Married Man.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that I have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage, and indeed, no less for arranged marriages. My parents had an arranged marriage and they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary this year. If you ask then, why I’m not married, well it is simply because I haven’t found anyone I can have that kind of a relationship with, yet.

It is a fact that the social environment is very different today than the one that my parents met and and started their relationship in. Neither mum nor dad really have independent friend circles, let alone know too many single people of their generation. I belong to several social circuits that include couples, some where I’m friends with the guy, some with the girl.

Friendships themselves have changed. While my parents would never even consider introducing a flirtatious note into their discussions with their social groups, my generation itself seems to be a flirty one. Sex, attraction, relationship are all a little too ‘out there’ if you ask me. Romance, privacy and intimacy have been sacrificed to free expression, enhanced comfort zones and devil-may-carishness. Okay, I’m getting preachy. I enjoy being a part of this world, it works for me. But I think in an attempt to get it all out there, we’ve meandered so far into the grey that we may have lost sight of black and white.

Now here’s the thing. Being as I am, a single woman who’s also friendly and approachable, I find my social circuit quite expansive and complex. The Married Man is only one of those many dark alleys in this complex terrain. How do I treat him? If he has been a friend before he acquired the tag, then the situation is relatively simpler. I take heed of how his wife feels about his women friends and our friendship accordingly moves along or away. That’s how much I respect marriage…enough to think that a spouse does have the right to deliberately or inadvertently alter the nature of one’s other relationships.

How about if the Married Man is someone I’ve met later? Do I treat him like I treat all the other guys? The flirtatious tone does need to be dropped, not everyone gets that it’s part of my personality and has little to do with the person I speak to. But what about when the guy is flirting with me? And before you jump to the defense of poor mankind and how they’re all just misunderstood souls and not every man is like that, let me just say I’ve been propositioned, flirted with and pursued by a sizeable number of married men too.

It’s not the fact that they’re married and flirting with me that shocks me so much. It is the cool rationale that they feed into it. There’s the occasional ‘my wife and I don’t seem to be in love really’ bugger who hasn’t figured out that I never fall for the crybaby sop types. Then there’s the blatant ‘So?’ which at least I can counter with an equally blatant ‘So I’m not interested.’ with zero fear of hurting the guy’s seemingly non-existant sensitivity. And then there is the last one, the Advocate. I call him thus not on account of his profession (he could be a doctor or a mechanic for as much as it matters). He’s the best advocate ever, for cheating and he has his facts and evidence on hand. The jury may very well be his..it’s tempting to say the least.

This guy may be a Male Slut, he may be a charmer or he may not. The point is he has an almost breakproof logic about why it is perfectly legitimate, reasonable and valid to commit what I cannot think of as anything but adultery. There is the elaborately constructed dialogue over today’s moving social order liberally spiced with statistics about divorce rates, paternity suits and pre-nuptial agreements. There are references to Freud, Darwin and Einstein in a discussion about people’s relationships. There is the sweeping confidence that makes you alternately wonder whether you’re being old-fashioned and how he can be so cold and hot at the same time.

I’ve been flattered, appalled and insulted by offers of this type. And finally I come out of the fire of sin and temptation, I believe, unsullied. The last time I was made to endure one of these conversations, I finally said,

I don’t want to hear about whether the institution of marriage is valid anymore or not. It has sanctity for me because I say it does.

The thing that really bothers me is the fact that I seem to be carrying the onus of fulfilment of committment, of the guy to his wife. There is of course no denying that if I say no, he’ll just take his interest elsewhere. And what’s more, if I were to say yes, it would just fall on my lot to be branded that horrible name – the other woman, the one that messes with married men. And finally, it is the knowledge that it isn’t so much fear of social stigma that makes me say no, I say no because it doesn’t feel right.

It’s not my fault he got hitched too early or to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. It’s not my problem that he has made a commitment that he doesn’t want to honor. And it’s never going to be ‘just sex’ for me. Or even if it is, ‘just sex’ doesn’t happen with someone who has made a public vow to not have sex with anyone other than the person he married.

Now let’s pull back a few steps. The above is when it reaches that critical point of deciding which way a friendship is going to go – platonic or otherwise. But how about that vast, grey area before that? Is it okay to watch a movie with a guy friend who just happens to be married? Is it okay to meet him for dinner? Coffee at midnight? Don’t these smack of dating?

The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute. And in a gray world, sometimes you have nothing but your own stubbornness to carry you through the tide (even if you’re all by yourself at the end of it).

I don’t have any answers and truth be told, I’m not looking for any. But I am certainly wondering if any of you has experienced what I’m talking about, from within the marriage or from the outside, like I have. And what do you have to say about it?

ssp of August 1, 2009

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A Friendly Date And Some More Revelations

Yesterday I went out with a friend whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in eight years. This is one of my memorable Facebook moments since that’s how I found him after all these years. It was an odd, intense friendship back then and for various reasons, we just lost touch. How wonderful it was to discover that he hadn’t changed and I hadn’t changed but both of us were just a little older and with a few more stories to tell each other!

I think the really special thing for me was being able to sit down and talk to a man, as a friend, as a confidante, as a partner in crime, as a co-conspirator, and yes, even as an attractive member of the opposite sex. I really think, as my wise commenter Jay Cataldo puts it, I have been overwhelmed with a run of bad experiences.

This is not to say that I’m forsaking my fiery XX Factor views. I still do think that most Indian men are mama’s boys, there is far too much rampant male chauvinism and creephood to merit my calling them a fair and intelligent species and that men are not keeping up with women when it comes to ‘getting with’ things. But I’m also thinking that there are indeed a few exceptions (note, I said ‘few’ and that means the chances of finding any one of them if one goes looking for them are equal to the chances of winning a jackpot).

I think I’ve spent far too long in too much agony and all of that was because nothing fit my ‘plan’. My life didn’t turn out the way it expected (actually it was better) and men didn’t turn out anywhere close to what I hoped they were (they were much worse). And yet, I think it’s time to sit up and just get used to the person I am and the life I have. I’ve become the kind of person who really doesn’t anymore need a man to feel complete so I may as well stop whining about their inadequacy…I mean, I don’t need them to be perfect anymore after all so why?

Interestingly enough when I talked to my friend about the plan I had had and how things had turned out instead, he smiled and said,

I could never imagine you as a housewife and mother at 23..you know that kind of life. I always thought you were more like me…you have the same spirit of adventure. I have had a chance to express it and you haven’t, that’s all

Maybe I shouldn’t need validation anymore but well, I still do and it felt good to hear that from another person, someone whose views I respect. We talked about our careers, our love lives, what we had learnt (me through my multitudinous relationships, him through his varied travels), how we had changed and how much more we were ourselves. It was oddly sweet to be able to have a conversation that included such snippets as,

And now that you’ve stopped flirting with me, we can move on to matters of greater gravity. 🙂

I think dating with an end goal in mind (marriage) is such a loaded event, it’s practically like going for a job interview. You’re so concerned with whether things will turn out right, so disappointed when he does or says something wrong, so terribly agonized when you make a slip…that you forget to actually enjoy the experience.

Yesterday for the first time in ages, I looked at my watch around 9pm and was struck to discover that it was actually half past eleven. For probably the first time ever, I enjoyed a bottle (or perhaps more) of wine without keeping count of how much I was drinking, how quickly it was going in and what I was having it it. It was a tremendously soul-lifting experience to enjoy an experience without worrying about it.

We were friends, we were strangers, we were on a date and we weren’t, we were two people who were remembering what we already knew about the other and discovering other things that we liked. Once again, to re-iterate what I said last time, it wasn’t about where we were or how we were related to each other, what labels we hung on each other. It was about the man himself and he was wonderful.

Among the many things we discussed last night, relationships and attraction were starring features. At one point I found myself saying,

I love men and I know why I love them. It’s not just the physical aspect of it. It’s that combination of vulnerability and strength that is uniquely male. Women are never really that vulnerable. It is so easy to hurt a man, it’s so easy to break a man, so easy to shatter his ego, his sense of self-worth, his very spirit….and hence you don’t. 

And as soon as I’d said it, I knew that was exactly true. He pondered it and said,

I don’t think women have ever hurt me.

I replied,

Then maybe you’ve only known women who have loved you very much. But then again, I have hurt men I’ve loved too. So it isn’t love. Let me revise – you’ve only known women who have cared for you very much.

So that’s what its about then. Loving a man comes naturally as does the ability and on occasion, the desire, to hurt him. Beyond that, reigning back that desire and acknowledging the effort it takes to do so….I guess that’s the space where relationships are born.

At the end, I enjoyed being with him because he was so uniquely himself. But also because I loved who I was when I was with him. So it is about the person himself and it’s also about who you are when you’re with him.

The Younger Man

So I’ve done the ‘date a younger guy’ thing too. Don’t I sound deliciously cold about it?

A once young nineteen-year-old me, on hearing about a friend’s new boyfriend exclaimed,

But he’s younger than you!

to which I got a succint, if somewhat stiff, “So?”

Well, I don’t know. I guess I was just one of those people who followed the rules so to speak. Used to be, anyway.

The truth is I’m surprised how painless it was. It was a refreshing change to not have to think about how I sounded and how sure I was about something. I mean, I was older and by corollary, wiser!! But it was also surprising in equal measure, how good he gave back, not just in verbal volleying but in terms of his own experience and impression of the world. 

We had several intelligent conversations, we made each other laugh and we had fun. It was nice. For all purposes I might not even have remembered the age difference except when he decided an appropriate serenade would be,

And here’s to you, Mrs.Robinson….

Hmph very funny, I don’t think a five-year age gap is all THAT big a deal. Okay, now I don’t think it is anymore. The friend mentioned above was dating a guy 7 months younger than her so you can see why this is such a sea-change from where I was a decade ago.

To come back, for the experience itself. As we spoke, I was also becoming aware of my own age. It wasn’t that his opinions were not intelligent or that he was shallow. I could understand where he was coming from but in a lot of cases, I realised that I didn’t want to react that strongly anymore. Not that I had stopped caring but just that my emotions were less fiery and more thoughtful now. I don’t think this has to do with personality differences because I was exactly the same when I was 25 – jaded yet curious, excited and cynical in equal measure. In an odd way it was like seeing a then-and-now of myself.

And finally I was left with the sense that this is how dating and relationships should be. It’s not about the place or how or where the two of you met or how the future looks. It’s got nothing to do with age or similar backgrounds or shared interests. It is and always will be about the person himself.

Well of all the people to have a lesson from, a younger man? A child shall lead the way, they say. 🙂

Of note, if you’re wondering where things go from here…well, they don’t. He’s going his way and I’m going mine, both of us in agreement that it was an excellent experience. I never thought I’d say this but it is a good feeling to be able to feel that way.

Dancing In The Rain

http://www.youtube.com/v/t0uf5l_OBLU&hl=en&fs=1&

I love this song. Unabashedly. I wish I could dance outside in the rain singing this very song. In fact, maybe I will.

I was talking to a friend about (what else?) a guy we both knew. Nothing much to tell except that he was cute and thought I was too. Attraction is a good thing, even more so when unencumbered by the social mores of committment.

I particularly loved her for saying,

As I see it, it was just a human thing.

Absolutely. It was one of those delightful things that makes you feel good to be human. Then for thought, she added,

Isn’t it interesting how we never got to wondering what he would think?

I gave it some thought and I realised it didn’t matter. Not that he didn’t matter at all to me, but just that it wouldn’t have made much difference to me either way. Is that modern promiscuity or liberalisation? Who gives a damn anyway?

Really, truly a man’s attention is a lovely thing. Several men’s attention is mind-blowing. Perhaps it is the effect of turning 30 and shutting my ‘planned life’ down but I find I just don’t have the bandwidth to worry about approval anymore.

There have been a number of times in my life that I’ve had the pleasure to think at least to myself,

Hey, it’s raining men!

Aren’t I lucky? We all are. From experience, it is just a matter of attitude. Every single time I stopped worrying about whether ‘the one’ was out there, I found myself surrounded and drowning in a thunderstorm of potentials, prospects, just-flings, men, men, men.

It always made me glow within. All that changes is that I’m grinning real wide now. 😀

God bless Mother Nature
She’s a single woman too
She took over heaven
And she did what she had to do

What Do We Look For In A Partner?

I heard something interesting in a recent Twitter conversation on dating:

adityab@ideasmithy I think men & women actively look for vulnerability in partners. After all, why would we need another person otherwise?

Really? I don’t mean that sarcastically, I mean really, really, REALLY? That isn’t true of me. Honest, it’s not.

I know I’ve always looked for only one thing in all my men. It’s not easy to find which may explain the high turbulence in my love-life and I’ve made plenty, plenty, way too many mistakes. But what I’ve looked for has never changed. It has always been – STRENGTH.

Strength isn’t a simple word or quality at all. After all, how do you define strength? It is the physical aspect of it of course which encompasses massive force, stamina, endurance, staying power and pain tolerance. Speaking of which, it is interesting to note that men score better than women on the first two while women seem to outrun men on the last two. A man may be able to pick a motorbike or even a car up, he may smash a wall with his fists but a woman will outlast him on situations of sustained pressure and well, a dentist’s appointment. 🙂

Coming back, it may have been the obvious thing for me to be drawn to huge Arnold Schwarzennegar types but I actually wasn’t. Well, perhaps the extra chubbiness around all the men I knew back in my early days may have been just that. Okay, end of pop-Freud.

But I was always drawn to a guy who was ‘the most’ in something or the other. The flashiest dude, the most mysterious one, the superbly brilliant guy (and so what if he was a geek with the social skills of cheese). In my mind, each of these extremes required a certain force of character, a certain solidness of mind. That is something I have always and will continue to respect and admire.

I am looking for a man who is his own master and who isn’t afraid of anything. Well, the last one should not be as impossible as it sounds. If you are not afraid to be yourself, believe you me, you’ll not be afraid of much else. I’m looking for a man just like that. Vulnerability doesn’t come into the equation then. At least, as most of us understand it, it is usually displayed as a fear of something, a weakness of a sort. That takes a man down in my eyes. Even stubbornness (which going contra to some of the personality types I outlined earlier) since an illogical attachment to any point of view is just juvenile and weak too.

Okay to come back, I’m still wondering – are other people really looking for partners who exhibit the same fears as them? Or who lack in something that they themselves are good at? Considered from that point of view, perhaps I look for strong men to complement how weak I really feel. How’s that for honest? Hmm, it’s not a nice realisation to know that I’m just as guilty of the ‘a strong man to protect me’ syndrome as most of my sex.

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A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Well, every day you learn. Thanks, Aditya for the tweet that set me thinking!

The Garden Of Eden Within

I spent a few hours at the salon this week. Ostensibly for a haircut but I ended up getting my feet, face and self pampered as well. I came out feeling…the way I very occasionally have felt in the company of a good friend or (even more occasionally) a boyfriend. I felt cherished and cared for.

I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of my ‘I’m really just a tomboy in the girl’s room’ mentality. The parlour is an on-schedule visit for me most times with all kinds of things to be taken care of with a side-whine of “If I was a guy, I’d never have to worry about all this!!” I barely have time to fit in all the things that need to be done into my schedule.

Yesterday was different. Owing to the fact that I did have a lot of time and had made a conscious decision to not rush through things, I just sat back and let myself be taken care of. First came the hair-styling with my wonderful mind-reader of a stylist. A trim with a hair-colouring, he pronounced and proceeded to silver-foil my tresses. While I was waiting, I got a pedicure and foot massage in the bargain. That done, he shampooed and massaged my head. Everyone knows (or should know) that few things make a woman feel as wonderfully cared for as a luxuriant shampoo in warm water; better yet if done by a man. There is something special about having large, otherwise rough hands touching your sensitive scalp so gently. Even if it your hairdresser and not your boyfriend or husband. The pedicure was actually done by a lady but ah…who can resist a foot massage?

I won’t get into further details of what else got done but suffice to say, I left a good 4 hours later (with a hefty bill of course). I realised a few things. Firstly, I really indulge myself so little. I have to force myself to enjoy things ‘just because’ without my mind jumping to an immediate cost-benefit analysis. Secondly, I realised why women love visiting beauty parlours. It is a well-known fact that women crave the feeling of being cherished and appreciated and we look for it in all our relationships. It is probably a less acknowledged fact that most of us don’t receive as much of it as we would like or indeed, need.

A beauty parlour is the physical equivalent of a therapist. The latter is someone you pay to listen to you while the former is where you pay to be pampered. Even if the best things in life are free, they’re not available easily. So with our newfound economic power, who’s to stop us from buying the next best substitutes that money can indeed, buy?

~O~O~O~O~O~

On another note, I also went shopping today. A chance remark from a friend also got me thinking. He said,

I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear any footwear other than sneakers.

And yet, I know I have a shoe-drawer full of sandals, kitten heels, mules, slippers and block heels. But I just haven’t been making the effort lately. Drowned in practicality and pretty much just barely keeping my head above the water, I have been pulling on my sneakers and rushing out with little attention to my looks. My make-up drawer lies neglected, my dresses and skirts from an earlier shopaholic phase haven’t seen daylight in ages.

It may seem shallow to think that my femininity lies in dolling up, shopping till I drop and spending hours at the spa. It isn’t entirely that. It is the attitude that drives it. The desire to look and feel good physically. With no little modesty, I already look and feel good mentally. That is to say, I can hold my own in a conversation, I have ‘personality’ (which in some circles isn’t exactly a compliment but sucks to that crowd, I make my own rules. I have attitude as well.)

My vanity is what has been missing. It hasn’t cost me anything, externally. Quite truthfully, I have been getting my usual share of compliments and male interest coming my way. But it is something within, something invisible to other people. I think it is the idea of doing something for myself, of wanting something just because I do, without having to explain myself to any group of people, without having to fit into a norm of intelligence and practicality. It is that realization that I’m as intelligent, worthy, successful, respectable and admirable as I’d ever want to be or to prove. And now it’s time to spend time just doing things that make me feel good. Not for a reason but just because.

Suddenly I have a whole new understanding of why beauty lies within. It’s got nothing to do with how other people see you. It has everything to do with how you see yourself. The Garden of Eden within you, how do you cherish and nurture it?

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A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Independent, Not Man-O-Phobic

This post was written a few months ago. While it may be said that I was in an anti-man phase then (and have presumably recovered now), I find the thought behind this post still holds true in my head.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

It was a hectic week. Sunday lunch at my favorite restaurant, a midnight birthday party, a movie, a play, dinner-and-conversation twice in the week.

It looks like it is going to be a hectic month. Picnics, parties, long-awaited reunions, movies, shopping, city jaunts, long conversations, weekend getaways.

None of these plans have a man in the picture. Friends, colleagues, classmates, family. But no boyfriend, husband, partner or lover.

My job pays for my various (and occasionally expensive) interests. I have a wide circle of people whose company I enjoy and often do fun stuff with. I have a smaller-knit bunch of people who care for my health, my happiness quotient and my well-being. I have a diverse range of things to do and fill up my time with. I do what I do reasonably well and I get my sense of identity and validation from them.

I wonder now if men truly have become redundant in my life. And I wonder also, if that makes me a feminist.

I don’t hate men. I just don’t seem to need them anymore. The degree carried a definition of my life, the job brings me material security and mental stimulation, the people are my emotional support and my hobbies make my life worth living. It is an individualist life and I enjoy it. My needs are met and continue to sustain my lifestyle.

On a date, I carry with me, my wit garnered from my wide exposure, my opinions formed from the freedom and access to think and my ease of being that comes from the confidence of having lived this life for awhile. To a relationship, I bring the ability to listen and support, a willingness to share responsibility and the quality of non-dependence. But I also pack in an unwillingness to defer to an opinion I don’t subscribe to, a revulsion of playing second fiddle and an ego to match the individuality.

A desirable package overall (well, a lot of people seem to want my life – including me!) but not very conducive to a long-term relationship it would seem.

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