Monthly Archives: March 2018

Breaking Up With The RomCom

I have been a fan of romcoms since it became possible for me to choose what to watch. I rejoiced when the Romedy Now channel showed up on my set. A 24 x 7 channel dedicated to funny, hopeful stories, YAY! But of course. The romcom is the fairytale of our times. And it is with a heavy heart that I concede that this so-called ‘modern’ fairytale is just as oppressive and problematic as the Snow White/Rapunzel/Dainty Princess-Prince Charming narrative I was fed as a child.

I find myself wincing during rewatches of films that I loved the first time I saw them. How could I not have spotted that stalker-masquerading-as-hero character? How did I think this entitled mansplainer was an ideal man? What on earth did I find funny about that misogynist tirade?

220px-Hitch_poster

Topping the list is HITCH, a film that I loved for this sassy dialogue and the utterly droolworthy Will Smith. Not to mention its nonchalant diversity (both lead characters being people of colour without the film making a BIG deal out of it). In hindsight though, isn’t it a story of a pick-up artist actually helping other males prey on women using every manipulative technique he can think of? Oh of course, it’s charming Will who ‘actually likes women’. And yes of course, it’s because his heart was broken when he was younger. Notice how that is ALWAYS used to excuse away men’s misogyny on screen? Right down to our desi misogyny frontrunner — PYAR KA PUNCHNAMA.

There’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY checking off all the boxes on toxic masculinity and utterly horrible relationship models. “A man and a woman cannot be friends because the sex always gets in the way”?

That was being challenged by Bollywood in the 1980s and by (of all people) Salman Khan. Who lost. Not to mention being copied scene-for-scene in the noughties. Down to excusing the male Im-a-screwup-so-love-me storyline. Boo.

Shall we think about female characters? After all, romcoms did follow the chicklit trend of the 90s/00s with women as protagonists. A hot topic was to address ‘her real problems’. Let’s look at how that turned out. We have 27 DRESSES and BRIDGET JONES DIARY to thank for telling us that being single means we are antiseptic martyr/prudes or alcoholic hot messes. Just until the right man comes our way, of course. And even if he’s a stodgy, dull, boring ‘Good Boy’, he kisses like a dream. Ugh, thanks for setting us back on all the sexual empowerment Sex And The City did (the TV show, not the movies but more on that later).

Oh and thanks, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING for showing women can be ruthless bitches when it comes to not getting what they want. Feminism definitely is about letting us get off the pedestal of being picture perfect. I just wish Julia Roberts’ character hadn’t ended up being shown as the villain. Reverse the genders and the story of a guy who will do anything at all to land the person of his dreams (including lying, seducing an already attached person, gaslighting their significant other)— does that sound like a villain? No, it sounds like Shah Rukh Khan.

Then there’s HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, an absolutely appalling story even at its time, about two nasty people setting traps for each other. A side character neatly sums up the story in her line, “Sounds needlessly vicious.” A man making a play for a woman to get her to fall for him, so that he can land a client account. A woman torturing a guy with ridiculous behaviour (Apparently this is what women do wrong. Uh no, this is what someone who never learnt how to be a human being does.) so she can write a magazine article about it. What is either funny or romantic about this story? And let’s put that through the gender filter. The story assumes that they’ve each done equal bad to the other. Is that so? Does seducing a person under false pretences compare with interrupting their boys’ night out? Can I get a Hell, #MeToo here?

I won’t bother talking about the Sex And The City movies because I’ve already done so when they each came out. And now here’s a rather disappointing analysis of why romcoms may not be that popular anymore. It’s time for new fairytales. Hey Classic RomCom, you and I are done.

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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.

Make That One Water

This blogpost was triggered by this article: Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink

This December, I passed another milestone on my life journey and quit alcohol altogether.

I didn’t grow up in a culture that normalised drinking. But I did grow up in one that taught me to strategically become ‘Cool Girl’ as well as take the escapes where I found them.

In college this meant desexualising myself to the point of being mistaken for a boy several times, just so I would be taken seriously (after all, what’s a rough jolt on the back or crass language when you get heard?). When I hit the working world, mid 00s I realised if I didn’t please the male gaze, I wouldn’t just be silenced, I’d be decimated. And alongside lipstick and laughs came alcohol, heels and late nights.

I gave up vodka in 2007 itself, realising I did not like it while I was consuming it or what it did to my body later. I quit tequila after a nightmarish alcohol-poisoning incident in 2010 (curiously linked with trying to fit in with an abusive partner’s friends). I gave up wine subtly because I realised no one would listen to my saying it was an alcohol too and I didn’t like how it felt in my body. I gave up beer in 2016 following a summer where I forced myself to try it in a bid to be cool. And in December, I chased up a traumatic year of attacks and harassment with ‘rum with the girls’. I was sick for 2 weeks after that (though only initially because of the alcohol).

This year I’ve decided to firmly close the door on all alcohol. And I’ve taken the hits badly (but in a non intoxicated state). What a world you’ve consigned me to, when a toxic substance is the closest thing to a friend I have had.

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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 Think I’ve Outgrown Men

I met someone last week. After years of settling for insipid encounters with sexist 30/40-somethings and incomplete conversations with scared 20-somethings, I connected with someone close to my age. This microgeneration that I’m told I belong to – the Xennials or people born between 1977 to 1985 – we’re a rare species and most of us (barely) fit into one of the adjacent generations or flit between the two. We’re riding the digital wave that characterises millennials but with caution and maps learnt from Gen Xers. These formed the basis of much of our early interactions.

He didn’t press his phone number, his address and close-ups of vital parts of his anatomy onto me. So that was great. But he did seem in awful rush to write The Great Indian Romance liberally laced with phrases like ‘long, romantic drive’. Still, I haven’t gotten to where I am without knowing how to put the brakes on that gently. Slow and casual, I told him and decided on a Sunday afternoon coffee.

It was pleasant not to have to do the exhausting ‘space/hookup/no-strings-attached/polyamory’ bullshit that characterises the speech of most Indian men I’ve met in the past ten years. I call bullshit because in my experience, none of them are able to deal with the reality of these concepts. So it was nice being able to spend a Sunday afternoon not having to jump through those hoops and dodge, well, dodgy games.

We decided on another date. This time there were other people, gently brushing past us in non-intrusive ways, just comfortable enough to keep this one light. It allowed for a deeper conversation. About what? Oh about the play we saw, the food we ate, the experiences we had had in love, in life, at work and more. Small intimacies were shared. The last heartbreak, the big fear, the major milestone just about survived and people we both knew.

The next morning, I received a text. The gist of it was that he was not working at the place that his profile claimed.

I spent a day and half thinking through this. I’ve lived long enough to realise that LYING is my dealbreaker. No white lies, no lying by omission, no delayed facts, no embellishments, no diplomacy, absolutely nothing. It’s non-negotiable. Yet, this was information he volunteered so did it constitute a lie? Moreover at what point can one expect to draw the dealbreaker lines?

I decided to meet and hear what he had to say. He said it had only hit him the previous evening when I introduced him to other people and that he wanted to clarify before it got too late to. He also said he didn’t know why he hadn’t brought it up in our previous conversations at all. I decided not to push on this. People do what they do, after all and what’s the point pushing for reason post mortem, beyond a point? All one is likely to get is defensiveness and excuses. But I stored the facts away as these in my mind:

  • He had broken up 7 months earlier.
  • He had quit said workplace 2 years earlier.
  • He worked in digital media.
  • He didn’t know how to change his workplace details on his profile.

The evening went on pleasantly. Till he asked what I was doing the following weekend. I had a couple of gigs coming up and I told him so. And before I knew it, I was in the middle of a ‘Come parday!’ death noose.

You know the one I mean. The ‘OMG Saturdays are for chillin’ bro, like with cool folks, whatchu saying, just come, have fun, putyerhandsupintheairlikeyoujesdoncare, parday, parday, parday’. Okay, he didn’t actually say it in this exact manner but how different does this speech get anyway? It used to send me into panic ten years ago; it just annoys me now.

Let’s be fair. I am not a wet blanket. I am not a prude. I am not even antisocial. My trouble always seems to have been too many people, too little time and too exciting a life according to other people. But I do know what I want and I do not want to waste even a minute of my life doing something that doesn’t fit this. Saturday nights, parday parday parday included.

He Just Wouldn’t Listen. Yes, like that.

We were interrupted by an acquaintance from gym passing by, which allowed me to segue into a conversation about fitness. It let me move into one of my silly-serious stories about annoying people one meets at a gym who will insist on doing everything but exercising (showing off, grunting in front of the mirror, flirting with instructors, asking how they can become as thin as me). His response?

“To kya hua, yaar? People like to talk. Usme kya hain?”

I shifted conversational ground to the swimming pool, a space I’m even more comfortable in given I’m much better at swimming than gymming. I told him this story. His response?

“So what? There’s no need to be so…You can be nice.”

And right back to parday-parday-parday mode except about gymming and swimming. You can see where this was going. Push-push-push from him, pushback-nononono from me, more push-push-push from him and so on. Including one

“You are so STUBBORN.”

(Err, excuse me, saying NO multiple times doesn’t make me stubborn, it makes you deaf)

But wait, it got better. He stopped and went,

“Chill, yaar! Relax. Chill, chill, why you getting so worked up?”

If there are any men reading this wondering what is wrong with this, this is condescension piled atop excessive pushiness. This is gaslighting following badgering (which is really harassment). I’ve learnt to draw my lines firmly.It still took me another day and somewhat apologetic messaging to close this encounter completely. And in the course of this, I had to wade through messages of the ‘But you said you liked me too’ variety.  But in most other cases (and indeed with me too, in the past), this would go right on into situations where the man just rode slipshod over everything the woman wanted and decided he was being macho/romantic/whatever-other-entitled-bullshit.

So lies – check, badgering – check, gaslighting – check.

I am not angry. I have learned economy of emotion and emotional labour. I have had to. I have been meeting men in a romantic context for over 15 years now, in different ways, locations, situations. I’ve connected with older men, younger men, peers of different backgrounds and professions. And this just NEVER changes. It gets called lots of names, most incorrect glorifications. But all it is, is men refusing to treat me as a human being with my decisions, ideas and feelings. You can call it toxic masculinity, you can blame it on their terrible upbringing, you can pin it on Bollywood but you can’t deny it.

I give up. I think I’ve outgrown the men on this planet. Anyone know any nice Martians?

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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

 

The Gifts of February: Surviving Triggers

February brought a lot of gifts and a lot of lessons. Hear that, 2017? Lessons don’t all have to be hard and suffering-riddled. Well, perhaps not true. The #MeToo movement has been gaining voices and echoes all around the world. And last month it hit really, really close to home. This time the pain was not mine but like an old fracture that aches in certain weather, my experiences echoed in the voices of the women who came out with their stories of being coerced, bullied and harassed.

I found myself standing at a crossroads. I could drown in the pain of remembered trauma and let 2017’s horrors (and 2012 and 2002–03) stay alive. I did what I do after every bad decision I make. I decided not to let it define me. These were things that happened to me; not things that are me. And every experience I have had, I have been able to turn into a lesson. So why not these?

I think that is why I was able to live through February without the rage that destroys every woman who has experienced violence of some sort by a man, and finds herself triggered over and over again as it continues in other women’s stories. No, it has not been easy.

I found myself wanting to throw a chair across a room, when I found myself sitting next to stories of violation, inside a room where some of those violations were probably perpetrated. I felt my breath catch as I watched a young girl clutch an inhaler as she spoke, back ramrod straight. Yes, I know what that feels like. I live in that pose most of the time. Determined and petrified, both at once.

In the weeks to come, I found myself seeing fear under people’s skin, prickling up as noticeably as goosebumps. Every man I know — in their wary glances that they probably don’t realise makes them look shifty. The damning silences in forums where hard truths are finally emerging from women’s insides. The brittle bluster that left me as disturbed as usual but seemed to leave them spent and a little scareder of me. I had one exhausting discussion where Papon’s actions were defended and where I screamed down the mansplaining and silencing being done to me. Whew.

And yet, February had gifts. I have survived it without falling prey to the mental darkness that plagued me in late 2017, without succumbing to toxic conversations and associations and habits. And that tells me something about that the old fears that surfaced in December when SXonomics addressed the issue of domestic violence. I have lived for a long time with the effects of gaslighting, not the least of all being the damning guilt that it was all my fault. December prised loose what I hope was the last of residual trauma and I spent weeks after that falling sick. But when I began February, I found myself on the other side, washed clean of the lingering effects of a poisonous person. I was never one. Could I be blamed if my skin burnt when it came into contact with toxic substances? I am not a violent person. I never was. I’ve borne too many things in my past, with grace to know this. Gaslighting made me forget. No more. So thank you February, for reminding me about who I am.

Traumas have a way of lingering on and triggers are sneaky things. But the healing can keep going on too. It’s a lot like addiction, really. Every day is a fresh battle with darkness. The world does not understand, cannot understand and possibly does not want to understand. But when the voices die down, it’s possible to find a minute of silence inside yourself. Mourn the death of all that you lost. And then, in that death, find peace. It is not entirely ugly.

February felt full of love though it wouldn’t look like that to someone from the outside. All I did was work. But if you’ve known me long enough, you know I live well when I have the opportunity to work well and vice versa. It’s good to be the person I love — Me.

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

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