Category Archives: Digital Dil
Dear ‘I like long drives’ guy,
This will be the one and only time the word ‘dear’ will ever be used in our conversation. We both know you think that saying something makes it true so try being quiet for once. That’s a more honest representation of who you are.
We need to talk about this long drives fetish of yours. By ‘we’, I mean I because of course you think a conversation involves only you speaking. But I’m in the driver’s seat and you know the rules about disturbing the driver. So yes, car fetishes. What, you don’t like my calling it a fetish? You got your idea of romance off a car advertisement. Let’s not even get started down the road of used car salesmen. No, let’s not even go down there.
What’s that? You thought listing ‘long drives’ on your dating app profile would make you sound cool? And just what makes you swipe right on women’s profiles? Ah, how they look. Is that why your profile has the following pictures:
- a long range shot/weird angle showing your right ear
- a famous landmark shot at the most well-known angle
- a quote about hearts, friendship, love, life that Hallmark greetings made their fortune off in the 90s
Enjoying long drives is not a personality trait. It’s not even a hobby. Not in India and boss, how often do you drive internationally? It’s not even a masculine thing. I know lots of women who like driving and they don’t act like it’s a thing that people do together on a romantic date. I know you think the front passenger seat is made for female butts but bro, a steering wheel is made for any kind of human hands. And we’ve established I’m driving this. But unlike you, I’m willing to let my passenger be something other than a silent object. I’m not a collector; I don’t even like stuff on my dashboard. So tell me, exactly what about this experience makes you think it’s an amazing offer to a woman you don’t know?
It can’t be the conversation. Those can be had literally anywhere. But in a car that you’re driving, you get to shut the other person up, right? Shush, don’t touch the driver. So yes, you were saying? The umm, aah, uh.. Yes, that’s what I thought. Don’t bother whining that you’re bad at speaking. A car is not a translator.
It is however, a trophy. That’s it, isn’t it? If it wasn’t, you’d be fine having a date in an Uber. Ah, there’s the rub. A car is a trophy where you get your prey (uhh…date) in complete seclusion and totally under your control. I grew up in a time when one of the first SUV models was inadvertently rebranded ‘the kidnap vehicle’. No, you don’t remember that?
Aww okay, let me play you a song I think you’ll like. This is how I think of you.
The reason I swiped left
I met Scorpio in a chatroom. Reeling from heartbreak, I blundered into a new internet in 2000. We traded barbs, volleyed rock lyrics. When I was all cried out, I wandered back. This time we chatted. Then emailed, a song lyric here, an essay there, a letter then a poem. In a new millennium, time goes by fast.
He had a girlfriend, Gemini. Things weren’t good. Then maybe they were. When she came into our chat, things got richer. More poignant poetry, more passionate declarations. A marriage proposal. To me. I told him to breakup first, then ask me. He did in a Dear Jane email, BCC me. But I awoke to an unread chat message. “I couldn’t. Sorry.” The barbs returned. So did the poetry.
Scorpio’s best friend & Gemini’s senior was Aquarius. Scorpio would ask him to keep me company on chat when he had to work late. Aquarius & I talked mathematics & architecture. He told me about the girl he pined for. Then Scorpio would login & Aquarius would swim off with a polite bye. My nights were to hold Scorpio’s poignant heart but the waiting was made sweeter by intellectual Aquarius.
One night, Scorpio didn’t login. Aquarius & I building a connection over design, barely noticed. Before I logged off, he typed..and stopped. I was used to his keyboard fidgeting. “Goodnight or is 3AM good morning?” The reply surprised me. “I love you. I know you don’t feel that way but you should know this. Goodnight.” I never told Scorpio.
Months later, Gemini found me. She’d tracked my phone number down, something two boys who said they loved me hadn’t been able to, in a year. She was walking out on her family for Scorpio. “You have to tell me if something’s going on.” So I did. Scorpio lied. I served up the emails. Did they count? I let her decide.
Aquarius raged & called me a relationship breaker. I said it wasn’t my job to keep Scorpio loyal. I received an apology email. “What would you do if you were me?” I asked. He said, “Forgive me.” I did.
A new millennium lay ahead of us. It was just the internet.
Arre ran one of my stories this week and I’m thrilled. It’s about my experiences as an ‘older’ woman on the dating apps, primarily Tinder. A very young friend told me how nice it was to see older humans not dissing the idea of online dating. I couldn’t stop laughing when I told him that my generation was the one that invented the concept of falling in love online. These were actually lines in my original draft of the article, that got dropped during edits:
“Speaking of dickpics, these didn’t shock me as much as my millennial friends thought they would. After all, the internet is basically my younger sibling (being that I was 16 the year VSNL made internet connection, an ‘it’ accessory). My generation had its first romantic exchange through a glass screen, hallelujah chatrooms! We invented (discovered?) so this was the inevitable future.”
Anyway, I’m really happy with the way my story shaped up. Writers tend to shape our own world view with what we write. And it’s put me into a very good frame of mind to have worked on a piece that is about carrying away experience, not cynicism from life.
Show me some love and read the article, people! It’s up here and it’s called:
I need to take lessons in dating.
Growing up in 90s middle class India meant that my early years of blossoming romance were spent furtively trying to hide every sign of it. This was not talked about, to friends. Members of the opposite sex who made one’s heart flutter were carefully avoided. It wasn’t that difficult since that was the prescribed social more. Even for me studying in a mixed-sex environment and growing up in a newly developed housing colony full of young families.
It was made further confusing by the Catholic customs of my neighbourhood. Dances and dates and ‘getting friendly to’ were as acceptable as aunties wearing dresses and uncles drinking wine – for them but not for me. I could be friends with ‘them’, visit ‘their’ homes, follow their prayers (Catholic school staple hymns, Hail Marys, grace and in-the-name-of-the-father). I could even eat non-vegetarian food so long as it was kept outside the house. But this cheek-kissing business, let alone the ‘getting friendly to’ stuff was sin.
By the 2000s, I moved into the more Punjabi (read Delhi) dominated part of Mumbai that shapes and is shaped by Bollywood. Short dresses on Hindu girls were suddenly okay but along with these came much more rigid gender roles. North Indian Hindu men have a laughable sense of machismo, or so it seemed to my more easygoing Goan/Mangalorean references. Throw in a few years of Gujarati college with the complicated hypocrisy of together-only-till-its-time-to-marry and yeh college ka aur woh ghar wala attitudes. I’m sure at least some of this mess contributed the confusion that led me to date this seemingly woke person.
I worked the agency life for a good few years and I’ll admit it. I’ve never gotten used to the casual cool of the old agencyhand – booze at work, smoking like chimneys, sometimes things beyond tobacco and the sex. Always the sex. It looked, smelt and was cheap and accessible. But not appealing.
And now all the way down to digitally enhanced, emoji-studded Tinder era romance. Where it’s acceptable to double- or triple- book dates. Where the most embarrassing thing is matching with someone one has unmatched before because meh, so boring. Where it’s supposed to be a hookup app, what are you, a prude? And on the other end, horoscope-matched, family-approved ‘we are so modern and we have the kundlis to prove it’ digitally arranged coupledom.
I don’t know. I still don’t know.
There are things I like about now, that I feel I’ve earned through painful experiences – like who pays for the dates and other such artefacts of ‘chivalry‘. It’s not as fraught with toxic gender roles and horrible awkwardness. Either people have changed or I’ve gotten better at picking dates who align with my thinking.
I’ve learnt to be a decent-ish first date – appearance, body language, stories, manners and even awkwardness carefully steered into comfortable jokes. And, I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I’ve learnt to detect early on in the date whether the other person is going to appeal to me and if not, to go to that secret, quiet place in my head all while appearing fully present, till the end of the date.
But what happens after the first date? Call? Message? Meet again? Friend on Facebook? Invite to a group activity?
Is it appropriate or even wise to have a first date happen at an event where one is likely to know other people? And if not, where and how in this crowded city does one have a first meeting?
The mobile phone poses a tangible problem. I used to think people who kept looking at their phones during meetings, during dates, during meals were rude, uncouth and immature. But most people I meet, including close friends, respected mentors, business acquaintances display this behaviour. I find myself constantly competing with a glass screen. If they’re Tindering or Grindring or the like, I’ve begun calling them out and requesting that they do their cruising on their own time. But what does one do when one has to compete with Facebook or Twitter? How about when one is a digital professional and these could very well qualify as ‘work’? Nobody has heard of work-life balance in this city.
How do people start ‘dating’ anyway? Me, I’ve always slithered (or more accurately, been dragged into) relationships from seemingly innocuous, often coincidental and always casual meetings. ‘Just friends catching up’ is a phrase that has described the better part of my love life. It has been comfortable, this looseness of definition. It has allowed me to swim away from situations where I do not reciprocate without too much backlash from injured male egos. It has also allowed me to save face when the situation is the reverse.
But I’m a bit bored by this. And it occurs to me that maybe my model has outlived its purpose. It worked for the fresh-out-of-90s Marol girl suddenly living the big city life, cautiously stepping into adventure. But the world has changed and so have I. So tell me. How do I learn this dating thing?
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Welcome again to the Dating Guide! I feel like it’s time to bring it back. This time perhaps as Dating Thirty-Plus? Or perhaps, The Dating Millenial Part 2? Never mind the nomenclature. It has changed.
I’m dating again after the better part of a decade. Most of these years were wasted in a relationship, engagement and the aftermath of the break-up. A year or two before that was frittered away waiting for the world’s systems (social and technological) to catch up with my (and now, I realise many of my generation’s) needs. Some of the time since the break-up has been spent healing and relearning trust, humour and strength, all essential skills for the single person setting out to find a match.
What do we find here? The dating landscape of the noughties decade is acknowledged today (bravo, bravo India, we finally feel able to admit to it). Human relationships and their creation have gone digital (once again, cheers). We now have a clear picture drawn in line strokes. Black and white.
At one end, we find that matrimonial sites are now acceptable and mainstream. After all, our mums are today’s biggest Skype and Whatsapp users. So it’s possible to find Higher-educated, Attractive, Family loving, Travel-enjoying, Horoscope-matched, Career-aligned, Well-Recommended matches at the tap of a button.
Simultaneously, jostling for screenspace with the aforementioned are services that let you Swipe Right for Hells No, Swipe Up for In Your Dreams, Swipe Down for Sexchat But No Meeting and Swipe Left for Your Place or Mine?
Which side do I pick? Umm, neither. I spent my 20s deeply uncomfortable with the chauvinism of wedding rituals, protesting the patriarchial hold on relationships and being shocked by the gender disparities in the law about these. Marriage? Uh, wait a minute please. I now have names for those niggling worries. I have proof of terrible idea for these outdated social systems. And now justifiably, I’m freaked out by anyone whose life goal is to get married and approachs it with the same one-minded zeal as chasing a professional deadline. So, no thank you ShubhShaadi, TurantVivah, JeevanSaathiya. I think it takes a lot more than a matched horoscope, profile, three templatised messages and one conversation to guarantee a happy marriage. I don’t know what guarantees one to be fair, but these are definitely not enough.
At the other end is the icy-chillness of the space (ironically) named for fire-related paraphrenalia. I don’t get hookups, I don’t want hookups and I’m too old to lose my self-esteem over that. In my opinion, it takes far more effort to have only sex-no strings attached than to try and build a relationship. I’d rather stay home with a good book, my feet dry in this horrible weather and my body clean of all the nasty things that doing the nasty with someone you don’t quite know could acquire.
I don’t believe I’m an exception or a misnomer. I am looking for meaningful relationships. Someone I can laugh with and talk about important things with. I want to feel cherished and desired, but not in the flashy, Instagrammable romantic gesture way. I want to care about how someone’s day was rather than critique and optimise their itenerary. I think these are the stuff of life itself and just like life, don’t follow rigid schedules and previously agreed upon boundaries. I want a connection, not the Terms & Conditions document of Tinder nor the 30 year merger plan of Shaadi.
I want to think that this is true of most human beings because how can it not be? This is the driving need of every generation for centuries. I know that there is an entire generation of Indians just like myself. I think perhaps the ones venturing out into the digital space are just louder and even they are probably being cautious. It’s easier to navigate a straight line drawing; much harder to explore the grey that relationship-building is, especially if one has been bruised in the past.
It makes the dating game as tricky as it has always been. When I connect with a person, how do I say please don’t treat me like a piece of meat because I won’t treat you that way but also please don’t think I’m your Manic Pixie Dream Girl answer to all your problems just stop and breathe and give me a chance to be me and you a chance to be you and let’s see if maybe you and I could have a conversation and a walk together and see where that goes?
No, there’s no easy way to say all that. The Tinder types have lost interest at ‘please’ itself (rudeness is considered cool, isn’t it?). The Shaadi sort has lost their hearts because the English is correctly spelt.
Sigh. Patience. Maybe the next decade will be better for the grey zone of those looking for love.
*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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