Monthly Archives: January 2011
There is the family that you are born to and can’t do anything about. There are friends you choose of your own will and from whom you grow away. And there are those your heart beats for (or more likely your hormones delude you with) and from whom you rip your life away. Ah….the world of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends.
I have come a good, long way. When I was a kid, I had a naive dream of meeting my one and only true love and settling down with him in a fairytale life. Well, there have been more than one, hardly any of them true and none I suspect, were love. I don’t think it is a bad thing anymore, no matter how it sounds. Each one of them has been an experience, a learning about myself and about life. How many would-be feminists realize that they’re almost worse than the men they battle? How often does a strong person realize how weak he is? Or a weak person, how strong she is?
There are the jarring experiences, the ones where if you never saw the person again, it wouldn’t be a day too soon for you. I was in a relationship with someone who was not at all good to me, in every way that it is possible to be so. But he had great friends. I shared their love of books and could spend hours talking about them. I suspect I actually got along better with them, than he did. Looking back, I think I had more fun hanging out with his crowd than him. We did not part on good terms and I don’t think I will ever feel happy about the fact that he was once in my life. After the pain of break-up subsided, I was sadder that I had to let go of a number of nice people because they were his friends first.
Friendships apart, a person who has shared something with you romantically, has known you in a way that others just haven’t. Everyone who has ever been through a break-up knows just what a mix-up of emotions it leaves behind. But of course! How can you suddenly become indifferent to someone you have been really close to? It is hardest to forgive people you have loved; it is also toughest to forget them.
The other day, one of my friends told me that a guy I had once gone out with, had got married. I wasn’t sure how to react for a minute. I wasn’t jealous…not even the faintest bit. He wasn’t Dr.Evil but he was just a little desperate. The slimy way. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. But some girl thought he was good enough to spend her life with. Really, really weird feeling to imagine your rather undesirable once-admirer as the husband of some woman.
Time is a healer and once the initial fireworks subside and you are able to look at the bigger picture of life, it may even be a good thing to catch up with a person who has known you so intimately and then hasn’t been around for awhile. It gives you perspective. People who have been a part of your life for a long time may not always be able to tell you the truth about yourself. But someone who has known you for at least awhile closely, and now doesn’t fear losing you, just might.
There is closure too. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much baggage you are carrying until you meet the person who gave you all that garbage to tote around in the first place. Then you realize that you may as well put both him and your memories back where they belong….in the past. Occasionally, very occasionally you might realize that there are more ways than one, that a person can be a part of you life. That is rare. But you never know. You just might get lucky. In a different way from when you were dating.
My first-ever boyfriend is friends with me today. We meet for a coffee every few months, catch up on each others’ lives and laugh over silly things. Today I can say that he is a great guy. Well, I’m a great girl too. It’s just that we’re great as friends and not anything else. It’s taken years for us to get to this place and I’m glad we did. It is a long way to stop feeling bad and then another arduous journey to where you can actually feel good about the other person. I can’t say that this is possible with every single ‘ex-‘, which is why this friendship is remarkable.
My heart is a scrap-book of mixed memories.
The Beatles sang,
“All you need is love”
and they may well have been right.
In our increasingly urban world of nuclear families and zero work-life balance, the emotional support system of a loving, caring partner becomes even more important. Ironically, it seems like the demand for such a person is going up just as the supply is diminishing. It’s not that our capacity for love and caring has diminished.
But it seems like trust is so much harder in our times. Break-ups and emotional upheavals are as commonplace as economic fluctuations. Leading a person on with no regard for commitment, is a socially approved activity with the disclaimer of ‘String along or be strung along’. An abusive or cheating partner is entirely your problem. While the world clicks its collective tongue at such occurrences, that’s about as much sympathy as you’ll get, and even then, grudgingly.
And after you weather the misadventures of these cruel times, what’s left of your heart to share with another person? Multiply that by two and it makes the fate of love seem very dark, indeed. Love maybe a universal need but relationships are certainly not for the faint of heart.
A version of this appears on Yahoo! Real Beauty.
I’ve written about the importance of a girl’s best friend. Here’s when I get to introduce this blog to another important person – the boy’s best buddy. Let’s call him BBB (in the manner of BFFs).
BBB is a classmate of the boy and shares with him those great memories, of people who’ve lived a campus life together. He’s surprisingly (or maybe not so much) different from the boy. Where the boy is a recluse, he’s friendly and sociable. The boy leans to extreme attitudes (burning passion for games, strictly classical approach to literature, loathing for popular music) while BBB seems open to a wide range of cultural offerings. He laughs often and makes other people laugh. In short, he’s almost a male version of me.
My first memory of BBB was when I called the boy during one of his nights out with the boys. Much laughing and shrieking and giggling (?) was in progress in the background. A short pause and the boy said in a flat voice,
“I’ll call you back. BBB is grabbing my chest hair.”
The day I was introduced to the BBB, I was rummaging about in the kitchen, looking for the neat pile of home delivery menus I’d put together for the boy.
“What a mess!! How did you manage to put every one of those menus in a different place in 3 days??”
BBB giggled and the boy, (hitherto unbothered) glared at him and yelled,
“What are you, six years old??!”
Unperturbed the BBB retorted,
“Be a modern man and help the lady around the house! R, I wish you all the luck with that though!”
There have been several entertaining conversations since then, with me and the BBB exchanging titbits about the boy, who tries to silence us by glaring. The best he’s able to come up with is low mutterings about curd-rice eaters. You see, BBB is half-Tamilian by birth and has lived in the South for the better part of his life. The boy has to fall silent when I point out that for all this curd rice phobia, he’s uncannily drawn to the denizens of that school of culinary thought.
The boy and I passed the crucial relationship stage of staying over at his place awhile ago. He bought me a toothbrush (awww, yes) and plopped it next to his own, in the holder. I haven’t had much call to use it but it’s always there. It’s one of those comforting signals, one unconsciously looks for, in a relationship.
Last month, I was refreshing my make-up, when I stopped dead in my tracks. In that innocuous little plastic holder above the washbasin, there was a third toothbrush.
“So who’s part of this merry ménage a trios?”
I asked, pointing to the guilty toothbrush.
The boy’s deadpan reply was,
Guh. My steady ol’ Mr.Everyday gives me no reason to worry about other women. It’s another man I need to be thinking about.
Incidentally it is the BBB’s birthday today. Last night, the boy and I were over at his place wishing him amidst much alcohol, pizza and cake. The guys bopped him all over the floor in that barbaric boy ritual of birthday bumps. Then they made him down a quarter bottle of neat whiskey. And when he came up for air, I handed him a bottle of cold water. Then the cake was cut and I smushed a piece onto his face, which may have been the start of that mess that was all over the kitchen floor when we left. At one point of time, he grabbed me into a hug and yelled
“Welcome to the family!”
The boy looked pained and said,
“Okay, I haven’t been asked to be a part of that family yet but you’re already welcome?! Hmph!”
I waved around the thermacol light saber-sword that I found lying around (that both BBB and his flatmate claim belongs to the other) and laughed. He took it from me, tapped me on each shoulder saying “Knight. Knight” and said he’d bequeath it to me in his will. As the drinks went down, he also called the boy and me, his favorite drunken couple and promised to take our children to Sunday school.
Unlike the boy, I do believe that it is important to at least make an effort to get along with the friends and family of your significant other. It does make life easier. So I’m really relieved that I get along so effortlessly well with the BBB. Socializing is obviously much, much more enjoyable when you actually like the people you’re with. I know the boy probably spends less time with his friends since getting into this relationship (and so do I with my friends!). But the BBB and his other friends haven’t made a fuss of it. Hmm, guy friends always seem to be a little easier to deal with, in that way.
BBB has known him far longer than I have, so he knows where the boy is coming from. But I also find I relate to him so he shares my viewpoint in a lot of things. It’s a good balanced perspective for the boy, one that is agreeable to me too.
I do think BBB is a great guy. So I’m really happy for the boy that he has him for a best friend. Even if I do have to share a toothbrush holder with him.
I actually wrote this post five months ago. But instead I published this one, in its place. I guess this post felt too raw, too out-there and (fine, I admit!) I was a tad superstitious about sounding too smug-happy. I feel a lot more confident about bringing this out so here it is for your (repetitive) reading pleasure!
Okay, I’m back. Call off the search team, please. The flashlights are making me see spots in the darkness. And meh, I wanted to slink back in without anyone noticing.
A combination of sulkiness, bad moods and blogger’s block assailed me. Of course, this blog has seen its share of my blogicidal tendencies. This time, I thought I really and truly had said everything I could possibly say. After all, beyond gender stereotypes, feminism, male-bashing, dating advice, battle of the sexes and single girl rants, what else can I possibly XX Factor?
A relationship, that’s what, came the answer. To my chagrin, I found I never wrote when I was truly, bursting-with-it happy and when was the last time I felt that way? Angst has fueled much of my creative output and in the absence of it, I feel no words knocking about in my head, bumping into my eyelids, threatening to go pouring out of my mouth and my fingers.
So fine, I’ve gone from being single gal to coupled-up, I’ve moved on from angsty-angry to wholesome-happy. But I’m still a woman. There has got to be more to it than explaining the paucity of the opposite sex.
*Sigh* It’s been so long since I’ve done this, I’ve forgotten. There are things that you never really forget, like cycling and swimming and turning your eyelids inside out and being grossed out when other people do this. Let me tell you, being in a relationship is not one of those things.
I think dating should be discarded as a means to and a predecessor to relationships, seeing how it seems to have no connection whatsoever with the latter. How many people that you dated did you actually end up having a solid relationship with? I mean the kind where you genuinely care what they feel, their opinion matters to you, you stand by them (and they by you)? What’s all that to do with people with whom you share entertainment and fancy meals with, people who add to your social quotient and you to theirs by being seen in public together? Anyway, I anticipate that the next question will be “How else do you find someone to be with then?” and I have no answer to that so I’ll drop this thread of thought.
It seemed so easy, so effortless. A conversation between two people ending in ‘Yes’. But in the days to come, that one word has loomed bigger and larger and infiltrated into every aspect of life.
Suddenly I’m spending way longer with and in his absence, thinking about one person. I still adore my friends and the vast social circle I’ve collected in all these years. But days and weeks have mysteriously slipped by and I’ve come back to a bunch of mystified people who’re out with flashlights and search dogs with a warrant for my kidnapper’s arrest. But this is okay. My wonderfully understanding friends assure me that they’re happy for me and wave away my apologies for never understanding when they did the same thing.
I spent an hour trying on and changing various outfits last evening, all in preparation of a mid-week date. Not that he notices and strangely enough that doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve dressed well for a good while now but it’s always been what I feel like wearing, colour, fabric, design, cut etc. But this time I’m thinking….we might take a walk on the beach, better not to wear the nice sandals. My favorite Batman-patterened-WonderWoman style bracelet is still much loved but its sharp edges will probably dig into his wrist when we hold hands.
In the morning, I was looking through some Facebook albums and chanced upon the picture of someone I had gone out with, awhile ago. I immediately tweeted,
“Cute & friendly exes are like delicious street food. Always tempting but then you think of your last encounter & thats the end of it.”
I managed to be late for the date in the evening and after a slightly stiff reception, the ice was broken with a reference to my tweet. I started, having completely forgotten about that. Then that telling glint of mischief crept into his eyes and I knew he was having a good laugh at how I was squirming. I knew he wasn’t going to go Jealous Guy on me and yet, I squirmed. It was odd.
We have great conversations and greater ones, too. Of course we were friends before we decided to be a couple. And the conversations continue. Now and then, I let slip one of my characteristic male-bashing or OTT funny-shocking statements (“In the year 2050, men will be illegally bred as pets for connoisseurs, the bulk of them being grown in laboratories for fertilization purposes.”). It used to be my thing. Drama, shock-value, yes I’m inadvertently (well, not entirely) funny. But I say these now and suddenly I stop and think, “Ohmigosh, I’m supposed to be a girlfriend now. Are girlfriends supposed to say these things to their boyfriends?” Squirm again.
And then there’s the whole awkwardness about the past. This has been strangely enlightening and also I discovered, goes both ways. It’s not the fact that I have a past that embarrasses me, it’s the amount of drama in it. Think how that would sound to Mr.Understated Silent, Solid Type. But then I mention a song of his that I came across and he says uneasily, “Yeah….I was….going through a phase back then.” Heh, there’s some consolation in that.
The friends have yet to be met, his and mine and I know from experience (zzzzing, I did it again!), that is another major bridge to be crossed. The urban family is just as much of a big deal as the joint family, never mind what he says about everyone doing their own thing. Well, one learns, one lives. Love is a complicated thing but at least you get to go at it with a partner.
There’ll be more on this. Single or otherwise, I’m still me and I have a feeling I’ve just stepped into an alternate universe. I’ll keep y’all posted on the sights.
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A famous couplet by W.H. Auden goes,
If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving be me.
I thought it was desperately romantic but also insightful. Even in the most compatible of relationships, there is a certain inequality. Of power, of responsibility, of initiative and yes, even of love. At any point of time, one person seems to be giving more, trying harder and the other is demanding more, needing more.
In an ideal world, these things ebb and flow and balance out over time. These equations are probably not static and shift over time as both partners grow. But as we all know, human relationships are anything but ideal. So should we live the idealistic dream of pursuing someone we can’t bear to be without, for whom we will do just about anything (and also bear the risk that they may not reciprocate, or worse, misuse our affections)? This after all, epitomizes living to the fullest, with and for the object of one’s passionate affections. Or should we take the practical path of looking for someone who is willing to meet our needs, supply all our demands and needs us so much, that they will do as we please? It’s the safer option, especially in today’s cut-throat times but it needs a careful rationing and rationalizing of emotion.
Quite simply, is your ideal relationship with someone who can’t live without you or with someone you can’t live without?
A version of this is on Yahoo! Real Beauty.