Category Archives: Ex-factor

Fuckboys & The Support Fuckboys Brigade

I saw the fuckboi yesterday. He is part of the same circles and I refuse to acknowledge him anymore so his presence in isolation is not such a bother. But I am surrounded by his manipulative behaviour, in the form of other women who look as starry-eyed as I *cringe* probably did back in December. (Notice how I feel ashamed of myself for a positive emotion and a pretty good performance; thank you, fuckboi.)

Some of them are women I know and I’m caught in a quandary. Should I warn them, risk the heavy ugliness that society and men thrust on a woman who dares speak (including from these very same women themselves)? Or should I stay silent and let other women fall prey to the same fuckboishness that makes them doubt themselves and cripples them in male-dominated spaces? I need more women like me in the spaces I frequent and I can see how behaviour like this costs our kind dearly. What a catch-22.

Maybe it’s highlighted by the fact that I’m watching Mad Men right now. But doesn’t “Oh, he suffers social anxiety” just feel like a modern, fashionable version of, “He’s deep and brooding” (Mr.Darcy), “His parents didn’t give him enough attention as a child.” (romcoms featuring white males and Manic Pixie Dream Girls) and other such excuses? A fuckboi is a fuckboi. There is absolutely no excuse for treating another human being badly and making them question their self-worth. Women have problems too (rape culture, online harassment, salary disparity, biological clock ticking, unsafe spaces) and most of us don’t get to use that to tread all over men and get applauded for it. No, fuckbois, I don’t care if this is politically incorrect but I’m not buying it.

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*Image via sarcasmlol

I am thinking about whether this particular fuckboi and my strong reaction to him is just a symbol of my deeper feelings for my ex, the longest running fuckboi in my life. That one issued a vague apology last year on Twitter that could have been aimed at anyone but that I suspect was about getting in on the ‘I’m a reformed man, applaud me’ trend. I wish my friends had not bothered sharing it with me. I was going along in my life, having put that particular nightmare behind me. But with that screenshot fed into my inbox, I was forced to think about him again.

His apology was public and got him a lot of positive attention. He never once said sorry to me, in person or in any form of private communication. He did not even acknowledge my existence. I concluded that he was no different from who he was in 2011-12 when he isolated me from my family and friends, stopped me performing or working, hit me, gaslighted me, abused me, allowed his family to subject mine to dowry demands, ended the engagement when I called it out, said “It’s not my problem” when my period was delayed and then “So what? Breakups are difficult.” If that apology was aimed at me, I say

“Not good enough. Too little, too late. Wait, was that an apology or your version or Being Human?”

But no one cares, do they? The truth has not changed but I’m forcibly pulled into this Fuckboi’s drama every time he feels the need for attention. And everyone who knows either or both of us even slightly, is looking at me expecting me to hand out the bouquets like the gracious woman I am supposed to be. I lose every way I look at it. Is there any escape from the land ruled by Fuckboidom?

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The current fuckboi of course, didn’t get to do a fraction of what that one did. He vanished, then when I stopped, he reappeared with gifts and love poetry. When I relented and agreed to have a conversation, he pointed out that “You come across as having very strong anti-male sentiments”. When I refused to take note of it and him beyond that chat, he took care to message me and remind me that “I listened to your work. No, you are not anti-male.” Back-and-forth, back-and-forth till the unpredictable approval could be distracting enough to be all I would think of. So familiar. He’s just another in a long line of fuckbois who don’t care or even really see the women around them. Not  in any way other than breasts, butts, vaginas to grope, ears and arms to receive their existence and words only to validate them. I am still grappling with how to deal with so many men being this way. The challenge grows exponentially considering that they’re surrounded by women who fall prey to them and enable their fuckboi behaviour, even to the point of hurting other women.

I asked a friend yesterday why I was attracting such nastiness when I tried to steer clear of people and focus on my own writing only. He said,

“You know what you want. Not many do. That creates a dichotomy between you and such people. My advice, if you want it? Not worth engaging. It will tire you and they will not understand what you are saying.”

My friend is right, in part. The tricky thing is identifying the handful that are willing to let me live, from the vast hordes that want to pull me into fuckboiness-and-support-fuckboidom.

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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.

Poem For An Ex I May Have Told You About

I had a chance to get this off my chest last year. I’m so grateful for the stage giving me a chance to voice things that had been eating away my insides for too long. I’ve been silenced by well-meaning friends and others who are just inconvenienced by anything other than my smiling face.  I felt like I owed it to myself to get it out and start 2017 on a fresh note. Noting it here for posterity.

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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.

There’s No Sane Way To Grieve

I was watching Sex and The City (the first movie). This story with all its flaws and shortcomings, served as a reference point for my early feminism and navigating gender politics and relationships. I saw the film when it first released in 2008 with the mild boredom and indulgent disdain of someone who knows she has outgrown an early affection. I saw the movie a few times again in the later years but it was tainted by my opinion of the second film. I swore off, relegating Carrie (whom I never liked that much) into the bin of my cringeworthy-taste-in-my-younger-years bin. All I saw was the whitewashing, the self-absorption and the deep flaws in the central character. But today, today I saw her pain. And it brought back my own.

My wedding ended, quite the same way as Carrie Bradshaw’s. After years of toiling and struggling and stiff-upper-lipping, just when I was ready to believe that I was getting my dreams, it shattered. It was abrupt, cruel and deeply humiliating. And it ground me down in a way that I couldn’t ever imagine I’d be ground down. It has been over four years since that happened.

The first thing that struck me, stung me, was the fact that Carrie Bradshaw had a rock-solid fortress of her friends that she could retreat into and let herself shatter. I did not have that. I had a family that took me back, yes. I have lived with feeling immense gratitude for that. After all, I am part of a culture where daughters are killed by their own parents, in the womb, at birth and even as adults to protect their honour. My family did not do that. But they do not think that a ‘relationship’ is the same thing as a marriage. They believe a breakup is a silly, minor thing, not to be compared to the devastation of divorce. I do not blame them. They’ve gone far beyond what their generation and our culture has taught them.

But my friends and everyone else around me? That’s a whole well of pain. Time and again, over four years I’ve heard various versions of,

“Who cares about him? Forget him.”

“But you are a strong woman. Get over it.”

“Snap out. You’ve got a great life ahead of you. Live it.”

I have been shamed for being upset. I have been judged for wanting to hide. My anguish has been brushed aside in favour of shopping expeditions, party plans. And I’ve been logicked to prove that I must not feel anything.

I am so angry.

Last week I spoke to Xion after several months. And he told me he would always be grateful to my ex for pointing out that I cared about him. Am I supposed to applaud my ex for pointing out the obvious? Is he to be deified for ‘not saying anything bad’ about me? I didn’t cheat on him. I did not gaslight him, abuse him. I did not curb his friendships, his art. I did not ask for dowry. How does his behaviour get compared with mine, when our provocations have been so different?

For my own sanity, I’m learning to walk away from the terrible relationship that I fell into and struggled and sank in. But I have not been able to get past the profound sense of betrayal I feel from people who were around me then and should have been my support. Why not? After all, I’ve been there for each of them. I’ve not thrown ‘tough love’ at them. I’ve not tried to jolly them out of their breakups, their familial problems, their health issues, just because it’s inconvenient to me. I’ve listened, been as gentle as possible. Why do I not deserve the same?

And what is this ‘Strong Woman’ business? My ex threw it at me all the time as a way to shrug off any responsibility towards treating me nicely, being on my side in front of the world or even doing his share. This tells me that the people I thought were my friends, are not different. It’s not convenient to them, to have me down and out.

Four months after my ex threw me out, without warning, without even the courtesy of an explanation, I was on my feet. I had a job. I went and made new friends, found new interests. I didn’t go to pieces or burst into tears at the drop of a hat. A year later, the pain started to ooze out as I watched my ex exploit what he put me through, into a glorification exercise for himself. I crumbled and tried in vain to patch the leaks, with Landmark Forum, with new friendships, with Tinder, anything. And still, my friends said,

“This is so undignified. Get over it.”

I buried myself in work, created a new dream and made it happen. I made new friends, developed new interests. And again the pain crept out, staining my writing, my interactions. And again,

“You are so negative. Look at him, he doesn’t even care. Why are you wasting your time?”

Last year, my insides just collapsed and all that was left was a hollow darkness. I lost my way, lost myself, just lost track of what light looked like. Reema and Adi stood by me, wading into the muck of my emotional gutters and carrying me out when they could.

I ran into my ex unexpectedly last month. It was strange. I didn’t feel a thing. The person in my memories, the monster who ravaged my universe, has nothing to do with the person who walks around by the same name. It was heartening. My ticket out. Validation of the thought I’ve clung to since 2012 that I would not, will not let this horrible experience become my identity. I refuse to settle into the label of the jilted woman, the abuse survivor, the damaged abla nari.

So it was a shock when I found myself reduced to tears today, watching an old, not-even-that-good movie. Reema lit a candle inside my crying. She told me it was okay to feel pain. She told me that this wasn’t about wanting to get back with a bad ex; it was about processing grief. And she said, that takes its own time.

We are in a culture that only allows for grief processing in certain circumstances and for specific situations. If I had been married and my spouse had died, I would have been allowed to grieve for years. If I had let myself descend into fits of crying, into broken fear, I would have been petted and cared for. But because I refused to let this defeat me, because I took it head-on, the people around me decided that my pain was not worthy of their compassion. Adi says most people find other people’s pain inconvenient and that makes them behave like douches.

Well. I’ve spent the day crying, then speaking to Reema, then putting my cupboard in order, speaking to Adi, doing my chores, doing my work, speaking to Reema, eating an icecream, speaking to Adi. I am still walking, still writing. A little compassion did not hurt either of them to give but it took me a long way.

I suddenly feel no guilt, no doubt anymore about letting go of pretty much everyone from my past. My pre-2012 world let me down, very badly. I deserve better – people who can stand through my pain as well as my joyful affections. And people who do not punish me for breaking down suddenly.

Pain, it demands to be felt. And there really is no sane way to grieve. I’m just glad it’s finally happening. There will be a morning after that and perhaps that one will have more kindness.

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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.

I’m Looking For Our Normal, Mr. Everyday

I was Youtube surfing when an 80s playlist came up with an Amrita Singh song. It made me want to read, listen, watch and know more about her relationship with Saif Ali Khan. And why not? I am an older woman who was in a committed (and what I thought for awhile, was loving) relationship with a younger man. I was an established professional in a field that he had just entered awhile earlier. And I had already achieved the things one tends to want and moved on to something else. These are the kind of things people usually wonder about when it comes to a relationship of this sort.

I’m finding this episode of Rendezvous with Simi Garewal rather interesting. It was shot in 1999, right in the middle of their relationship.

Amrita and Saif both talk about the concerns (expressed by everyone else) on Saif getting married at 21. Saif says,

“If you’re looking for reasons to stay in a relationship, there are a thousand. If you’re looking for reasons to get out of one, there are a thousand.”

That really struck a chord. I know my Mr.Everyday really, really did not want to fall in love, did not want a relationship and did not want to get married. But it happened. I didn’t push it, I truly didn’t. I was the one to say, let’s take some time to think about it. He was the one to suggest getting engaged if we were together in a year, the one to say let’s do this, the one to propose. At the worst of times between when we discussed marriage with our families and the time he actually proposed (eight months later), I held back my fears, my feelings because I thought he needed time. And I wanted to be sure that it came from him. Not out of ego but because I knew there was ample space for the relationship to turn into a bitter war of “You dragged me into this, you coerced me, you pushed me into commitment before I was ready.” He was the younger one after all and the man. These are things one comes to expect from men, from younger people and well, I recognized those behaviors from my own in my earlier years.

I wrote last week about missing respect in my recent relationships and realising that from meeting one man with whom I’ve had a happy, mutually respectful relationship. I’ve been told often that I get stuck in the past and that I refuse to move on. Maybe that’s true. But I am also realising that I’m the kind of person who needs to process and live through every drop of what happens, especially things as deep as relationships, in order to move on. Maybe the reason my relationship with that first boyfriend is so peaceful is because we acknowledged that there was affection (still is) and that there were differences and that it was best we transitioned from the relationship label we had (boyfriend-girlfriend) to a new one.

I think I keep boomeranging between extreme venom and tenderness towards Mr.Everyday because everything is unresolved. I know we had issues and the magnitude of many of them is overwhelming. But I have no real idea why it ended when it ended and how it ended. We have also not been able to have an adult resolution by which I mean, accepting that there was love and fondness once and it isn’t anymore. All I’m left with is a lot of ugly question marks.

Question marks can be ugly when they’re leering at you saying ‘He never really loved you’, ‘It was all just a joke to him’, ‘You suck; you’re a horrible person and men will always treat you that way’. Resolutions are important precisely because they give you and the other person the space, freedom and ability to lay those doubts to rest and move on. Else, there is just an endless echo chamber in your head which is always going to reflect back the nastiest memories and most brutal things you said and did to each other.

I learned recently that he is back in town and the thought hit me with absolute panic. Why? He is not a stalker. I do not want to be with him anymore so I can’t put it down to that nervous feeling of being near someone I haven’t gotten over. But I really don’t know how to behave when he’s around. Act normal? What is normal? I’ve smiled like a lovestruck idiot at him. I’ve thrown things across the room at him. I’ve argued politics, film, books and life with him. I’ve discussed grocery bills, medical expenses and maid problems with him. I’ve made love to him and I’ve fallen asleep next to him, before him, after him. I’ve cleaned him up and mopped up his puke after a drunken night (and he’s done the same for me). I’ve yelled and said and written angry things about him and to him. There is a staggering range of what constitutes ‘normal’ between us. Where is our new normal?

I don’t know and I am not able to find a satisfactory answer to that on my own. A healthy resolution really, really needs both people for it to happen. And this relationship, as with a number of other messy ones in the earlier past, has me left holding the baby. Only it’s an ugly, dead baby that neither of us wants and it died because neither of us wanted it. I just wish he’d do me the courtesy of giving it a proper burial. Ugly or otherwise, we created that together and it deserves a funeral.

I'm left, hooked into poisoned questions Holding BREAKUP like dead babies no one wants Wish you'd give us a burial. ———————————————————- This is for the ex who proposed to me and then threw me out of my home, his heart and his life without explanation, 6 weeks later. I wrote this for @certaincharm's #wordrage20 challenge that asks us to express in 20 words or less, our fear, hurt, bitterness and pain. Thank you, for giving me a chance to say this. #poetry #poem #poet #poetsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #writing #poetsofig #writer #poetrycommunity #poems #wordporn #writersofig #words #spilledink #instapoet #typewriter #prose #poets #creativewriting #instapoem #writers #write #writerscommunity #instapoetry #writingcommunity #spokenword #poetryisnotdead #igpoets

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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.

What An Old Boyfriend Taught Me About Respect

Thank you for the picture, Lechon Kirb/Unsplash.

We met for coffee recently. He was my first boyfriend and I, his first girlfriend. We were both 19 when we met and it was instant him-and-me at first sight. We’ve kept in touch and we catch up for a coffee and a chat on each other’s lives every couple of years. We’re exactly the same age, just a day apart. Each time we meet, we have a few more life milestones to talk about. So each conversation marks a checkpoint for me, on how far I’ve come, how my life has diverged and turned but stayed true to who I am (which I continue to discover with each turn).

He is charming but in an easy, non-agenda based way. And it’s easy to be around him. Each time we speak, I feel like he sees me as who I really am, beneath all the trappings and notions I’ve acquired over the years, because that core essence never really changes. It would probably seem more sensible to call him an old friend rather than an ex-boyfriend since he has been more of the former than the latter. And given that the term ‘ex-boyfriend’ comes loaded (especially in my recent experience) with associations of angst and pain and unpleasantness, it doesn’t seem like it fits on him.

But perhaps for that very reason, I choose to hold on to that label for him. It makes me feel a little soothed from the toxicity of my love life — the manipulation, confusion, betrayal and mayhem that ‘love’ brought me, since him. It’s always pleasant to remember that I did have — do have — one man in my life with whom romance happened minus poison.

One of the things we spoke about was the way our love lives shaped up. I guess that’s part of turning 35 (since we didn’t meet last year), this stock-taking of life. In between laughs and onion rings, I told him that I had at some time, dated two classmates. Usually I pause for effect and then clarify that both men knew and each time the guy asked me out. This time, I just said, “Not together.”

He said, “I know. You’re not capable of doing that. It’s just not possible for you. You would be in much more pain than either guy in that situation. That’s how I know you’d never do that.”

This pleased me so much. It still pleases me. I love having someone in my life who knows and believes this about me and it makes me realise what a thorny, paranoid world I live in. I also know that loyalty and fidelity are very important to him and it makes me feel very good that he respects me, on that account.

This pleasant sensation felt unfamiliar till I realised that I haven’t cared about a man’s respect in a very long time. I would feel pained if I thought he didn’t trust or respect me. His opinion of me, matters to me. And I haven’t felt that way about a man, a romantic partner in a very long time.

Along with this came the realisation that respect has no currency in my relationships now. The people I went out with after him, did not care whether I respected them or not. It did not bother them that I thought badly of them afterwards, unless it caused problems in their daily lives. And since I have never really been the vindictive sort, my low opinions of them stayed just that — inconveniences that they shrugged off. That disregard and complete indifference to my respect really hurt. I realised that my respect held no value for the men I was around. They literally didn’t give a damn whether I thought of them as good people or bad.

For many years it was very important to me that the people in my life, even those who were once a part of it and not anymore, knew that I did right by them. In recent times, I’ve come to not care about it. I don’t think my last ex (the one I was engaged to) cares a bit about whether I cheated, whether I lied or whether I maliciously did harm by him or not. Would it matter to me if I discovered he had done any of these? I know already that there was lying and there may have been some semantic cheating. Simply for my own peace of mind, I will myself to not care. This means I must also stop caring about who he thinks I am. And that is how respect loses currency in relationships between people.

The magnitude of this realisation was staggering. Now, I approach men, especially those with whom there is even the slightest romantic context, by first putting respect out of the equation. I will myself to not care about what they think of me with such platitudes like ‘there’s only one thing they’re all thinking about and I’m covered on that front’. I don’t allow a man the right to assess me on things other than appearance or frivolous things like achievement, success and vivacity. But on character, I don’t let it even come into the conversation.

And in turn, I am quick to throw my own respect out of the situation. I practically pore over a man’s character in a bid to find flaws and reasons to not respect him, the person, anymore. It feels easier to not respect a person at all than to respect them and be disappointed — and worse, realise they don’t care.

I don’t really know where I go with this insight. Knowledge of what is, doesn’t give you the ability to change what is. There is plenty to prove that my way of doing things keeps me safe. After all, a staggering majority of men I know see me as a collection of visually appealing bits & bobs that could give them something they want. The minute the possibility of that diminishes, most of them lose interest and don’t care to even pursue a conversation, let alone treat me with courtesy or respect. Why should my respect even be allowed to them, when they don’t care either way?

But then I put my onion ring down and I look at the man across the table from me. Once I thought I loved him and that he loved me. I’ve known love to be cruel, selfish, controlling and untrustworthy and he has been none of those things. But in a single conversation with him, I feel the kind of peaceful serenity that I have never felt with the other men who have been in my life. Mutual respect must have something to do with that. It’s very tiring holding it back and having it withheld. I don’t know whether it’s better to be exhausted and safe or whatever the alternative to that is.

Talia Cohen

Thank you for the picture, Talia Cohen/Unsplash.

Three’s Company

Threes Company*Image (without text) via audfriday13 on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love him. I love her. He loves her. She loves him. They both adore me. We’re not a threesome or anything as radical as that. We’re three people who know each other from different times and places. There’s love and loyalty and warmth and sparks, some romantic, some platonic.

She’s the newest entrant into this nexus, new to him as well as to me. But oddly, I think she actually balances us. Not balances each of us individually (that’s so ‘You complete me’) but balances the entire structure. We’re like a three-legged stool in that sense, teetering uncertainly with the first two but perfectly solid and steady as three.

It’s not because we have that much in common, I think. Well, there is stuff but it’s what started our conversations, not what’s keeping them going. He and I are more similar than it appears. And we drive each other nuts when things are imperfect as they usually are. Something about her presence has a way of running our respective electrifying natures to ground and earthing them. And there’s light instead of short circuiting.

Of course it’s more complex than our current natures, being that human nature is constantly shifting. He and I have a history, a long, long time ago, a complex one where attraction charred into hurt, froze into loyalty and solidified into friendship. We also have a history of anger, of heated words, of dramatic declarations and of intense closeness. She’s not part of that history. Maybe because of that, she clears the space of its high voltage intensity and makes it possible for him and me to be regular human beings again.

It hasn’t always been that way.  It only got this way after the two of them became a couple. I would never do anything to hurt her. He wouldn’t either. And because inflicting wounds on each other would mean bloodying the space that she is now a part of, we sheath our poisonous words and put away our tears. Then we all go out to dinner together and laugh about mundane things, like regular people do.

Three is company indeed.

A Generation Of ‘Forgive & Forget’

I went to lunch with a beloved aunt, last week. She is one of my role models, having blazed the corporate path in the 70s and faced racial and gender prejudices. She has also had a ‘love marriage’ to a wonderful but non-Tamilian man. We spoke of work (hers and mine) and relationships (mine). She asked me about someone from my past that she knew. I shrugged and said,

“He’s well, I hear. Doing some great work. We don’t talk often but I get the news.”

She looked out of the window for a long minute. I waited for the nugget of wisdom or keen observation I knew was about to come (from so many other such insightful conversations with her). She said,

“I think it’s a generation thing. I can’t imagine any of my peers being able to do that.”

She was referring of course, to how ‘okay’ we are with our ex-es. She told me about a friend who studiously avoided a certain couple, because once, years ago, the man had been discussed as an arranged matrimonial prospect for her.

Forgive and Forget

I didn’t need time to respond because it’s something I’ve pondered and experienced, especially this last year too. It is a generational thing, sort of. I don’t think that we are any more ‘mature’ or ‘strong’ or any of those adjectives that people use to make themselves feel superior. It is true that we don’t cut our failed/thwarted relationships off as much as the previous generation might have. Sometimes, we even seem to achieve that miraculous state of being friends with our exes. But I think it is necessity rather than virtue that drives us.

We live in an even more populous but much more connected world than the generation before us. The matrix of human experience is comprised of multiple and multi-layered connections. While there are more of us, we are also segmented a lot more rigidly and closely. Everybody knows everybody within our segments.

Take my case, for instance. All my associations are with people who are in cities, digitally savvy, in professions like management, communication, marketing, publishing. These are people whose lives overlap with mine because of the place we are in, the professions we follow, the hobbies we enjoy and the activities we pursue. There are bound to be several people who know us – colleagues, friends, acquaintances, partners, clients – people who are one thing to one of us and another to the other (my friend is his classmate, his neighbor is my colleague etc).

In order to truly cut a person out of this, I would have to snip off all the other connections. And for each of those connections, there would be numerous others to be severed. I’m not even counting all the possibilities that I’d be saying no to. (“I can’t work in that company because his best friend works there”, “I can’t go to that party because his current girlfriend is an event sponsor.”) Completely severing one relationship means tearing the entire social fabric around me and limiting my own existence. Is any one person worth that effort?

I think most of us don’t actually feel the same trusting, affectionate friendship for our exes that we feel for people that we don’t share a romantic history with. But we manage to tolerate them, put aside strong emotions in favour of dignity/political correctness/peace. And over time it gets easier and almost real. I’m not great friends with anybody who has hurt me in a relationship before. But I don’t wish them harm. And mostly I’m enough at peace with it to not put our common associations through inconvenience. And as weeks, months, years pass, other people and associations take priority.

Which brings me to, the fact that we have more choices. Even in tradition-bound, family-values-strangled urban India. Widow remarriage, divorce, break-ups – these are realities that we don’t like but find ways to accept anyway. Having options for the future is the surest, easiest way to keep from clinging to the past. Who has the time and energy to stay upset over a five-year-old association when the demands of the current are so pressing? Not my generation.

*Image courtesy nuttakit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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My Inner Madonna

An old schoolfriend and I got back in touch recently and she’s metamorphosed from pigtails & dolls into a uber-stylish but still fun diva. Her birthday’s coming up and she invited me to a dressy, fun night out on town with some of her friends. Her enthusiasm charmed me, especially when last week, we shopped together and she said,

“I’d really love to see you in an ultra-feminine short dress!”

It’s lovely being in the company of an intelligent woman who is secure enough in her own appeal to compliment you. (That’s a woman thing, if you don’t get it).

But today dawned all grey-clouded and coughy. I called her and cancelled. Then I sat down to write this post, titling it ‘Not A Party Girl’. One paragraph in, I called her back and told her I’d meet her in an hour.

It was a girls’ night out at a still swanky nightspot. I first went there on a date with the extra dignified (read boring) banker who cheated on me. It was boring then, since it was new and nobody knew about it. Then I went there with a dance fanatic friend who had to be there to break into the professional dance scene. I think I’ve dropped in with colleague-friends on a weeknight, after hours before picking the a more dignified place where we sat and yelled at each other over the music instead of dancing to it.

Today, we plonked ourselves down, admired each other’s clothes and shoes. Then we ordered our drinks and sampled each other’s. One drink looked like something that ought to be placed next to a model in a bikini on a beach. The second was sangria and suited the strappy-dressed lady sipping it. I had my Morgan n’ coke with a dash of tabasco. A drink to suit my apparel (leather jacket & boots with a Little Black Dress) and the me I decided to wear tonight.

We were out dancing till the wee hours of the morning. We also shot Facebook-worthy photographs, did the ‘I think I’m drunk!’ conversation and kept each other from drunk-texting. One guy gestured over the crowd, asking if he could buy me a drink. Another leaned in and whispered his name, holding his hand out for me to shake (or take, perhaps). A stag group celebrating a birthday stopped me on my way out. One guy told me his friend said I was very pretty. The friend smiled and said, “You’re wearing the best outfit here!” I smiled my thank yous to everyone, declined the drink and the proffered hand but smiled at them too.

When I got home, my skin was still sparkling from the leftover glowdust and my senses tingling with that heady combination of post-dancing endorphins and compliments from strangers of the opposite sex. I logged in to Facebook to post the photographs and a classic ‘The time we had, grrrl!’ update. And there on the timeline, it hit me between the eyes.

A picture of my ex-, his characteristic angry gesture and frown. It was the preview of a link shared by two of our common friends, an interview with him by a leading publication that was covering the protest work he’s involved in.

How far our lives have come! It seems strange to me that they ever met at any place, any point of time. As I said earlier this month, I don’t feel so much anger at him now, only a lot of pain. Today had something new as well, that I put down in a status update, which I think the people in the know, will understand.

There came a parting of ways.
You chose darkness and depth. I chose light and joy.
We wish for the other what we each have.
R.I.P., my former love.
(Yes, this time it’s personal)

This delightful person told me, that you need to forgive because you love yourself too much. I know now he’s right. And because the relationship taught me the value of that, I’m grateful. I would probably never have realized just how serious I was if I hadn’t met someone even more serious than me. And it took that darkness for me to find my light.

I’ve been the Intelligent Woman for a long time now and that’s never going away. But today I realized I can also be Pretty Woman (read that every way you like). Wearing a short dress and dancing a Saturday night away does not make me dumb or frivolous. I was Madonna today, the 1980s diva who wrote her own rules of talent, love and life. My inner Madonna, she rocked today. This lightness, I think, is as much a part of being the Queen, as the strength of independence is.

Madonna on the festival in Coachella in 2006 E...

Madonna on the festival in Coachella in 2006 Español: Madonna en el festival de Coachella en 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

XXFactored Jan2013: Dating, Sexuality & Relationships – The Same New

I’ve really spent 2012 so self-absorbed, haven’t I? In my defense, I got into the utlra hot-and-heavy of commitment, did the deep soul-searching that everyone does after getting engaged (don’t they?), hit rock bottom with a break-up, wrote plenty of mournful stuff, bored myself and got back with the ‘Really now, are you over *all* the drama finally?’ and here I am. So yes, I haven’t really spent much of the year looking at other people and their relationships and what they think of them. But a new year is here with new people, new problems and adventures of the heart. And I’m promising to bring back the social butterfly that I and this blog have always been. Let’s start with a round-up of interesting reads:

  • “When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what’s on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance.” A thought-provoking article on the objectification of women’s bodies. ‘Nudity, Niqab and the Illusion of Free Choice‘ (via The Express Tribune Blogs)
  • I’m most intrigued by no.4. We never seem to think of condescension & sarcasm as would-be abuser traits. These seem to be cool & attractive behaviour, drawing us in like flies to honey. ‘Are You Dating An Abuser?‘ (via Psychology Today)
  • The Subtext Of An Entire Relationship In 4 Minutes‘ (via TheFrisky)
  • Some surprises here on what guys do on Facebook before dating the girl: ‘10 Ways Guys Use Facebook For Their Dating Lifes‘.  (via HowAboutWe)
  • A great answer to ‘What Do Guys Wish Girls Knew?’ (via Quora)
  • When do you google your date? The obvious answer was ‘before the first date’. But I’ve been meeting so many familiar strangers on account of social media that I find I only google after a couple of dates now. ‘Poll: When Do You Google A Date?‘ (via HowAboutWe)
  • Ever notice how Satan’s head bears an uncanny resemblance to the female reproductive system? (via 10 Daily Things)
  • Cosmopolitan’s hilarious and terribly wrong sex advice (via Uptown Magazine)
  • What the dating guide has to say about Facebook: ‘When Is It Okay To Friend Someone You’re Casually Dating?‘ (via HowAboutWe)
  • A study says bisexual women are likelier to be abused/raped. This article points out a few holes in that theory. (via Thought Catalog)
  • 25 Things You Wish You Could Ask Someone On A First Date (via Thought Catalog)

Post-Breakup Custody Battles

You take a look around and mentally divide everything you see in half. You color code, (all in your head of course) what’s indisputably yours and what’s their’s. And finally, you get to what’s yours collectively and groan mentally at the difficult conversation you’re going to endure. They’re very likely doing the same thing too. Or one of you may just throw up your hands in despair and say,

“Whatever, you take it all.”

…which makes the other one seethe at how indifferent that is so they throw out something equally noble sounding like,

“No, I don’t really care about it.”

…leaving the ‘either’ unsaid.

More deadends. It does all get divided up somehow, even if it’s just a matter of who manages to pack what and to hell with the packers who found a few bonus gifts with what neither side had the nerve to discuss.

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

Yes, I went through that. I sucked in my breath, pulled back my tears and dove in in the manner of pulling off a band-aid. And when it was done, I told myself, I’d let myself feel the pain of it all. I completely forgot (again) how life resists systematic inventorying.

Do you know what’s the most difficult thing to divide? It’s also the most precious thing and subsequently the cause for the most unresolved ugliness. The worst thing to have to fight over after a relationship breaks, is other people’s affections. Divorce gets all its scare-power from the ugliness of child custody battles. But what about other relationships and well, everyone else? Our relationships exist within a larger network of friendships, other couples and social circles. The disintegration of a single relationship tears the larger social fabric. It’s painful on everyone concerned and  there’s no easy, clean way around it.

There’s enough of pop wisdom floating around, that’s liberally mouthed by every person caught in this situation, the warring exes, their families, friends, colleagues. But the truth of the matter is, they’re inadequate, which is why the problems happen in the first place. I think it’s completely impractical to try and stay friends with two people who’ve parted ways. One or both of them is going to feel slighted. You will become just one more thing they fight over. If you really care about each of them, pick a side and stick to it.

I know this will seem unfair, but consider this, it’s not. Human relationships are not factory-produced goods. Each one is unique and relevant to you in a different way. This is a situation where two such relationships (friendship with each estranged partner) cannot co-exist. Forcing them to do so will bring poison into both relationships. So figure out which one is more important or relevant or easier for you and go with it.

I’ve been on both sides of this obviously, the estranged partner as well as the friend. As a friend, I admit it’s been a difficult experience. I once set up two people together – one was a close friend, the other as good as a brother to me. When they broke up, I could see both of them were in pain and I knew if I tried to juggle both friendships, I’d only be causing both of them even more pain. So I picked one, the girl, on the premise that she and I had known each other longer. I don’t know whether the guy saw that as betrayal  on my part or not but at least I took a stand. I spared him the agony of wondering, of questioning whether what he shared in confidence might not be betrayed to someone who was now a bitter foe, of thinking I might not always firmly be on his side because my loyalty was divided between him and someone who was on the opposite side now. That is the poison I’m talking about. I believe that whatever friendship we had was pure as long as we were friends and ended before suspicion, accusation and bitterness could seep in. I believe that was being a good friend.

The past three months have been rife with such situations for me, post-breakup. The saving grace is that most people were easily sorted into ‘his friends’ and ‘my friends’. As a conscious act, I put a barrier between his friends and me. I deleted them from my social networks. One of them called me to tell me how sorry she was to hear about the break-up and that she’d be willing to provide a listening ear if I needed it. I (very) regretfully declined and told her that would make it just too messy. That was hard, it really was because I liked her so much. It was hard for me letting go of his best friend too; we got along so well. But fair is fair and a best friend is a best friend – a relationship not to be touched.

I wish things could be done as cleanly by everyone else but I’m not the only one in this whole situation. Xion and I didn’t speak for weeks because of this. We’ve sorted out our differences now. But still, I spent the first, most painful and vulnerable times post-breakup without my closest friend during the relationship.

I had a painful conversation with another friend last week. My conversations with her in the last few months have been about her telling me not to be so bitter, not to say such things and how it made me appear to other people. She said,

“It makes me wonder whether, if tomorrow you and I have a fight, you’re going to go out and say bad things about me.”

That hurts, it really does. I’m fond of her. My solution is this – I’ve promised her that I will never talk to her about my relationship again. I will say what I want about whoever I want to, when I like but to her, it will never broach the subject of my lost relationship. She sounded offended when I told her this but what she thinks offends me. Perhaps I’m being irrational, maybe I’m adding too much drama. But I’d expect a friend to accept all that as what makes me, me. I’d do that for her. But she is a different person from me and if the way she is a friend is not the same, then I will have to revise how I am a friend to her as well. Which means, no sharing what’s upsetting me the most at the moment because she doesn’t want to see that side of me. Tough but true.

A break-up does change the social fabric of your life. No one said love would be easy and that includes everyone else you’ve loved beyond your lover too.

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