Category Archives: Flying solo

On being single, on being an individual even if in a couple.

3AM Maneuvers

3AM maneuvers

Our waking moments in bed were fraught with clumsy moves and clunky negotiation. But at night, long after you’d fallen asleep, I would listen to you breathe.

Do you know how many trips I took around the bed, to judge AC draft & sound? I would fine tune air and sound and light to give you perfection in sleep that I never seem to be able to bring to your waking hours.

The nights after we’d fought the worst, you’d snore the hardest, while I lay awake, failing, even in your sleep.

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Okay 2017, I Concede. Let’s Wait It Out.

I want to write something simply because the topmost post on this blog for too long now, has been a painful memory that victimised me. I am not actually dwelling in the past. The present has had me too caught up to even think about the future, let alone the past. One major thing about the present is the books I’m reading and ‘When I Hit You’ was a part of that. Sometimes we can look back at our lives and see them in other ways, like examining old information in fresh light. Even the insights we gain may not be exactly new but the relooking allows us to establish it again, more strongly. And how can we hope to live in peace, unless our beliefs are strong?

I don’t really have much news to report. Or perhaps there is too much to say. As always, I’m a bit rusty when I start writing/sharing again after a long time. Half this year has gone and I’m coming to accept that 2017 is as difficult and brutal as 2012 was. I lost my idea of a great person. I lost a performing space and community that felt like home. In the past month I’ve lost two of my top five people. Yes, I have those or rather, had those. And perhaps, finally goaded on by what I think life was trying to tell me, I have let go of someone else I really wanted to be close to.

I do not believe men will treat me with respect and consideration for very long. I do not believe friends will want to stay true permanently, especially when they have easier or more benefit-giving relationships in their lives. I’m just not a great investment for people’s emotions and I can see that with some kind of detached clarity.

I do not want to be treated with adulation but with warmth. Yet, that is a role that falls on me. What people call ‘respect’ is putting me up on a pedestal but I cannot make them see that. And thus we come to a stalemate unless I accept that this is the way other human beings always will be.

This lesson keeps coming right back at me. You cannot make someone love you, no matter how loveable you make yourself. You cannot make a person treat you well, no matter how well you treat them. You cannot teach a person to treat themselves well, no matter how hard you wish it. And finally, you have no control over a single thing that life has or does or is. All one can do is, is try and stay grateful for the chance encounters that have brought some joy.

I’ve been tempted now and then to fall into bitter, pitch-black resentful rage. But it feels like such a dark, unwelcome place to go to, especially after the year-and-half I spent wondering if I was going mad. This also reminds me of how I got through that time – with some of these very same people who are tempting me to fall back into that place. Never mind justice, never mind what’s logical. I must not go back there for myself alone.

I’m not exactly sad because I think I’m still in some kind of numb shock. Or perhaps it’s resignation. Everything is slipping away. Everyone is hurting. Everybody is a monster, without being able to help themselves. All I can do is take one breath at a time. And wait for 2017 to be over. You be well too.

Starry nights and smoky music

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I’m Looking For Love But Not Really

I haven’t been my prolific self of the past decade, in 2016 and I intend to change that. It’s not that I haven’t been sharing. I’m realising that I am the kind of being that needs to share. It feels good to let it out, to bleed in the open air. It feels good to care, unabashedly. 2016 brought me the opportunity to do that in a space that used to be inhabited by fear – the stage. 2016 allowed me to reclaim it and make it a place of power and acceptance. So I think this blog will forgive me for not being as present.

The year ended well. I loved, I spoke, I lost, I won, I drifted, I grew. Everything taught me something. Nothing broke me. Several things healed me in surprising ways.

There were men and boys. There were almost affections and fleeting intimacies. There was even Tinder, that went away without any burn marks.

Somebody threw out a, “You’re looking for LOVE” at me in a way that made it seem like an insult, an accusation even. Was I? Am I? Yes, yes I am. But not in the way the world understands love. Love is not committment. Love is not relationship. Love is not even relating. Love is not companionship. Love is not sex. Love is not duty. Love is not family. Love is not friendship.

I am looking for love in the way I experienced it when I was 20. So engulfed by it, it took my breath away. So consumed by it, I ceased to exist, the object of my affection ceased to exist. All that was, was a universe clouding, blinding, covering everything else in wild rush of colour.

I am looking for love the way it swirled into my life, possibly around the time I turned 16, though I’ll never really know, it was so insiduous. Love that curled its way into my being and wore the disguises of lust, friendship, combat and many other names.

It wasn’t him. It wasn’t about him. Maybe it was, a little bit. But mostly it was about who I was, who I was becoming and how quickly this was happening so ‘I am’ and ‘I’m becoming’ were both the same thing. It was the age, it was the universe at that very moment. Maybe it was the magic of the 90s. Maybe it was just love.

Love is more than an emotion. It’s that experience, that universe that settled over the planet I called home a decade and half ago. I thought it shattered when he broke me. But it left such tenacious fragments embedded in parts of me that I’ve bled everytime I’ve encountered one in the years. I’ve hated it, I’ve feared it.

And now I am ready for those pieces to knit themselves together. Or maybe a new universe to form itself around me. I know it did once so it could again. I can feel it, drawing from the fluid, strong nature that has become me.

I am looking for love, like the kind that is making me write this right now. Anytime now it’s here. Already.z87vi9zhlra-jason-briscoe

*Image via Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

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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.

Out On Singles Town

Out On Singles Town

Something interesting that happened to me in 2014 was meeting two different guys and deciding NOT to pursue relationships with them. I remember an Ally McBeal episode (does anybody even remember that show?) where she says,

“I don’t actually date, not for the fun of it. I audition potential husbands and if I don’t see any potential, I don’t waste my time.”

This is what I spent my 20s doing. I may have missed out on a few good men but I definitely missed a whole lot of fun. Fun, dating should be that. It’s about meeting a new person, about getting to know them, doing fun things with them and maybe chasing a dream of something nicer. I enjoy all of those things. The trouble with this husband-audition business is that it becomes too much like a work goal and when that happens, fun is the first one to exit the door.

This is not about random hook-ups. I am not that person. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing random about my interest. I value my time and mindspace so why would I want to throw it away on people who actively do not want to matter? The real fun of people is when they are being people with their unrealistic hopes, their politically incorrect desires, their lovable vulnerabilities and their unpredictable flaws. I’m looking for people to experience, not cucumbers.

I’ve done the girlfriending thing several times over and the till-death-do-us-part style partner once (and that probably was ENOUGH). Being the female half of a comitted couple is not fun. It’s about having to put yourself and your relationship into limited roles and explanations that everyone feels able to digest. In my experience, it has been about stifling boredom and disappointment, pretending public approval is enough to make up for squelched fantasies, dealing with neglect and taking-for-granted, trying to live up to ideals of Independent Fabulous Perfect Indian Woman and never pleasing anybody else. Oneself? Ha! Where is there space for me? Nobody wants to know that there is a ME under all those roles and restrictions.

Complaints aside, maybe there is a solution. After I hit 30 and especially after my engagement ended, the pressure to commit to one man has eased. This does have a lot to do with most of those pressuremongers giving up on me. Their snide comments have not just dropped, I’ve become invisible to them. That’s okay. Because beyond their judgemental, oppressive gazes, there is a whole world beyond.

This world is called Singles Town. It’s got good health and glowing skin from waking up early after a good night’s sleep. It’s got turning in early or spending a weekend tucked away with a book. It’s also got daring makeup, on-the-whim clothing and shopping sprees with girlfriends. And yes, it has men. Men who find their attention captivated, who want to have conversations, who want to impress, who want to hear what I’m saying.

These are not bad men. They are not even necessarily the kind of limited men I’ve dated before. They are intelligent, independent, smart and fun. When I stopped mentally measuring their appropriateness, their compatibility with me, their fit with my social circle and a million other things, I discovered how much fun they could be. 2014 has been a year of some very, very fun dates and conversations that went nowhere. And so what? They were fun.

Of the two men, one of them turned mean and the other went flaky after I said thank you but no thank you. Well, they were only human. I think it would have been a lot harder for me to accept these flaws in them, if I had started off thinking of them as potential longterm partners. Instead, because I approached each one just as a new person, it felt a lot easier to let them grow into who they would be in my life. This is such a new notion for me! I didn’t even realise I had the ability to not jump at a man offering commitment, as if he were my last chance at a happy life. To any of you who think I deserve your pity, ask yourself if you feel you would be able to do that? Hmm, I thought so. Well, saying NO to what might have been everlasting happiness, because I want to see if there are other kinds of happiness — that’s a kind of freedom that’s worth more to me.

Yes, I have to worry about my own safety each time I’m out. Yes, I don’t have anyone to care about my health and well-being (well, come to think of it, none of the men I dated ever did, even while I was with them; most Indian men, not trained to think about someone other than themselves, I think). Yes, I don’t know what the future holds for me. But you know what? I wouldn’t know what it did, even if I were in a committed relationship. People lie, they fall out of love, they weaken, they cheat, they die. All kinds of things happen that a commitment cannot insure you from. I’d rather not live my life under a mushroom, fearing storms and floods.

MeMaybe I will regret this. But I don’t think so. I see no point in regretting doing something that seemed like a good idea at the time. That’s the only reason I don’t regret sticking to the straight and narrow through my 20s. That’s what appeared to make sense then. Life is such a mixed bag of tricks coming at you, there isn’t much sense you can make of it, except post facto anyway.

Commitment in all the forms I see around me is limiting. I haven’t yet gotten to a place where I can envision a comittment model that gives me the same inspiration, freedom and joy about the next minute, that being solo does. And what’s more, I know even if it exists, it will need a lot of work and effort to build and sustain. I think I’ve worked really hard for all my adult life at this and I deserve a break.

2015, Singles Town, here I come!

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Red Lipstick Is My Superhero Cape

When I was small, lipstick was fascinating. It was a delicious tube that needed to be rotated and a magical colour would rise out of it. It would touch lips that made as if to bite it off (it looked so delicious!) but never did. And discreetly, its power unleashed, it would slide back into its case.

My own mother never wore lipstick and I didn’t have sisters so there was nowhere to experiment. Instead, I improvised and begged for a pack of Phantom cigarettes. I licked the ‘lit’ end of it gently. Then I carefully smeared it over my lips. When my mother saw it, she yelled at me and took me to the bathroom to wash it off. But my love of red lipstick was born that day.

I went through most of the teens hiding under the cover of Intelligent Girl, the one that was too smart for makeup, that was too busy thinking about life and poetry and philosophy and maths to care about dressing up. My standard issue clothing was white/black/grey teeshirts with blue jeans and sturdy boots. There was no room for the frivolity of colour in my life.

It was many, many years before I was allowed to own a lipstick (being that good Tamilian girls don’t wear lipstick, only moodevis do). And when that happened, I had been sufficiently Tamizhed enough to be conservative and prudent. Dark skins, I was advised did not look good with pink. Red was out of the question (refer aforementioned moodevi). Brown wasn’t a colour to wear on one’s lips because it made one look like one smoked. But maroon was suitable. After all, lipstick was only ever for special occasions. And maroon went well with everything.

The following year, I found the courage (or perhaps the stifling boredom) to rebel against conventional career and education choices. And I rebelled in every way I could think. Gloss entered my cupboard, then brown, then I teamed them both up, a la Toni Braxton in Unbreak My Heart. I discovered the delights of matte and the further intricacies of powder matte versus cream matte. I learnt the differences between lip crayon, lip stain, lipstick, liquid lip colour, gloss, base coat and lip pencil.

Around the same time, nail colour also opened up for me. (Moodevis did not have any say over nailpaint but school principals did.) And since experimental colour came back into vogue, I went black, blue, red, pink. Then I tried a different colour on each nail. And finally, all of them on every nail — stripes, polka dots, designs. The 90s were the birth of amateur DIY nail artists.

And finally I reached my third year of college and my last on campus. I had dropped out, signed up for a Fashion Design course, gotten admission, fought with my family, changed my mind and returned to science studies. I was determined to not just conquer that hated world but to vanquish it and lay it to rest, once and for all. And my choice of colour matched it. During the first month, I bought a brand new lipstick. It was a Revlon, my first. And it was innocuously titled ‘Bali Brown’. But a swish of the tube yielded a pair of red lips! RED!

When I walked into class, two of my classmates took out their sunglasses and put them on. Stupids, I sniffed. The next day I was back with it. And I wore it every day of the term, carefully touching it up between classes. I became Red Lipstick Girl.

I fought my way through the year, battling integration and n-dimensional spaces alongside classroom politics, a scheming Head of Department, MBA entrance exams, my first cigarette, my first relationship and my first breakup. And I slashed every single one off my list with blazing red lipstick.

5660_232648115513_598080513_8499767_2893872_nIn the fifteen years since then, I’ve had many adventures. Love, heartbreak, betrayal, friendship and trust have come intertwined with success, anticipation, disappointment and achievements. I’ve gone from being the rebel, grungy teenager, past the tomboyish intellectual, the strangled Barbie, the frozen career girl, the Corporate Bohemian, the prodigal good-Indian-girl and the early midlife crisis breakaway (complete with each one’s distinct look).

Since 2012, when my world crashed all around me with a failed engagement and no career to speak of, my lips have been bare. Earlier this year, I resumed dressing them again. It started with a chapstick, then a slightly flavoured lip balm, an occasional brown lip colour but mostly nude. Nude. ‘That is not a colour!’ I had thought to myself once. But that has been the shade that has kept my lips protected from dryness and from the cracks of failure. Saadgi has felt safe to me.

Two weeks ago, I told my doctor that I was feeling my age, feeling old and hating that I could barely climb the stairs. I used to be able to swim 20 laps a day, 4 times a week without batting an eyelid, I said.

“So what? You’re not in a condition to do so now. Let it be,”

he said. But I wouldn’t.

He smiled and said,

“You’ve been through something very difficult. Most people don’t get out of it.”

“I did! I’m perfectly fine now.” I declared.

“You are. But your confidence has been shaken since then. You need to regain it. Your health will come back then minute that happens. Just stop worrying and embrace the confidence that makes you.”

That was a cheering thought but not one that did the magic trick of taking me back to my high voltage, boundless energy, nothing-stops-me self.

But this afternoon, shopping with Reema, red lipstick beckoned to me again. Flush in the warmth of friendship and affection and good conversation and peace-making insights, I picked it up and asked the salesgirl to bill it. Later, I shut my room door, uncapped the crayon and held it to the light. Then, deep breath taken, I traced it cautiously across my lips. The colour brought me a memory. That memory gave me strength. I went out to look at myself in the bright light. And I smiled to myself in the bathroom window.

Red Lipstick Girl is back. Well, maybe not a girl anymore. But red nevertheless. Well, what do you know? It’s a Revlon again, a lip crayon this time (my first). And it’s called STANDOUT REMARQUABLE. How apt. I belong in red lipstick, not in saadgi. And it’s time to say goodbye to the nude gloss and embrace that.

Red Lipstick Day tomorrow. The Red Queen is back.

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 (Thank you, my darling Reema for bringing it back to me!)

The Taste Of Success

Being a successful woman is so much more than being able to make men respect you. So much more than finding a supportive partner. So much more than raising kids in a gender-equal way. So much more than racking up professional accolades.

When will I feel truly successful? Even after I’ve notched up an impressive resume, twice over, I still haven’t been able to forget the sneering remarks of my classmates. Long after I’ve proven a woman can be a good boss, a better one even than a man, the memory of the female boss from hell hasn’t faded. And finally, years after I’ve succeeded in achieving babedom, the playground taunts about my skin colour and my nerdiness linger.

Success will be when these voices, these memories cease to matter. Success will be when the past breaks away behind me and I soar weightless, free into the future. Total freedom. Yes, that’s what success feels like it should feel like.

Then I will rest easy.

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)

Angry Woman

Hello. I am an Angry Woman. This is not the same thing as Angry Girl that gives rise to a subculture of music and other pop references. It has only partly to do with my age. Because I’ve survived over a decade of adulthood as part of the discriminated gender, I’ve accumulated a few things, including a thicker skin.

I don’t like the term ‘weaker sex’. Of course it’s archaic and not quite true. And yet, I don’t believe that we are a strong sex. We certainly are the biggest discriminated-against minority in the world – half the population. Rape, violence, chauvinism, gender inequality at work, subjugation in social rituals and harassment are just some of the differential treatment meted out to us.

People don’t like me. They’ve learnt to detest hearing me speak because I only say things they don’t like. I behave like things are not okay, like the world ought to do something about it. I think it makes them slightly ashamed and fearful. So they cover it up by being mean to me, by running me down, by hurting me with condescension, taunts and injustice.

I’ve been beaten by people I loved and trusted. I’ve been forced to endure unwelcome attention from strangers and blamed for it. I’ve had to deal with men’s sexual advances far before I was ready and judged, abused and humiliated for not always going along. Also, for going along. I’ve been betrayed, cheated on and hurt with the propagators justifying their actions saying that I asked for it or that I deserved it. And I’ve been discredited, taunted, condescended to, laughed at and ostracized for talking about all these things. By the way, I’m Indian and we deify our women here. So domestic violence, dowry demands, public censure for having an opinion are very real to me.

But time hasn’t made my anger any less. That’s what makes me an Angry Woman. I don’t lash out in frustrated hurt as much now. That comes from disappointment, which comes from expecting goodness, justice and love. I know now the world does not like women and to be born one, is to have to accept that reality or suffer dire disappointment.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up my beliefs though. I still believe that I have the right to my own body, to my life choices, to my choice of partner, to my sexual activities, to my career, to my health, to my peace of mind, to my choice of dressing and to my schedules. I believe that I have the right to all of these in complete safety and respect and to face problems in these constitutes human rights violation. The world violates my fundamental rights and I don’t accept it.

True, this makes life harder for me. In all likelihood, I will never find a meaningful relationship with a man who loves and trusts me. I will struggle in my friendships as men and women both cut me down, driven by their personal agendas and demons. I will not tread a straight path to my career, as I have to stop to fend off attacks from people who are close to me as well as those who compete with me. But since the only alternative is to live an oppressive lie that life is good to me, a woman – something I have never learnt to do – I will persist.

As long as I stand strong – and I hope this is for as long as I live – I will not stoop to what my detractors do. I won’t cheat, lie to or betray the world around me because of my anger. I will also not fit into the conventional stereotypes. I will have my laughs, my joys, my pride and my life. By refusing to accept or play this game that doesn’t play fair, I intend to be a permanent thorn in the flesh of the status quo. I will probably not have an easy life but my word does and will continue to go out to other women, especially those younger than me. And the next generation will see more like me.

Consider yourself warned. This Angry Woman is not backing down.

Woman-power symbol (clenched fist in Venus sig...

Woman-power symbol (clenched fist in Venus sign). עברית: כוח נשים (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How To Love Yourself (Because The World Won’t)

Cliches, clichés. Cliches are the cliché of every woman’s life. Our worlds are constructed on set-in-stone clichés. Even transitions are clichéd, at specific times, in defined ways. You know what the biggest cliché of an empowered, modern woman’s life is?

“Love yourself.”

Nobody tells you how this is to happen, though. But like all other things in this complex life of a woman, the expectation is laid on you as well as the punishments for not achieving it. Let’s take a baby’s life to be a blank page. If she’s female, that page is very quickly filled up with other people’s expectations, societal rules and bounded by severe punishments for straying beyond the lines. In addition, there is a steady influx of messages that belittle her and invalidate her independent thought, especially if it opposes tradition. And finally, the Pavlovian methods of child-rearing invariably reward the girl who sets aside herself for the sake of everyone else and punishes her if she thinks about herself. “It’s not ladylike”, “What a bitch”, “Don’t be a selfish brat”. Where is there room for self-love?

The first step is to realize and accept that you are more than other people’s expectations and the fulfillment or not of them.

Today, I went for a swim. Mid-lap I thought about ice-cream and I wondered whether I’d take it any further. On my way back, I remembered the thought but the shop was across the road. Then, I spotted a break in the divider exactly in front of the shop. And I walked across and bought myself an ice-cream cone.

Strawberry ice cream in a cone.

Strawberry ice cream in a cone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s nothing quite like the little treats that you surprise yourself with. I enjoyed that ice-cream and I would have said “Thank you. I love you so much!” to myself if it didn’t sound so ridiculous inside my own head. I felt it, anyway.

I’m in the midst of a personal transition phase at the moment where I’m observing myself and other people as if from outside. I find that there is very little empathy, patience or caring to be found in most men for women. I’m not saying that men are bad or cold. I just think that the social structure that we all belong to, does not teach women to demand love, attention & respect the way men do. In addition, it does not teach men to treat women’s expressions as anything other than trivial, illogical or as control issues. Thus every woman I know (including myself) lives with being invalidated or unheard for most part. We don’t even realize how much it erodes our self-esteem.

Most women have absolutely no notion of their self, let alone how to love that self. I say, start small and simple. Look at how you treat your friends, especially when they’re down. Women traditionally support their loved ones with empathy, witholding judgement, offering moral boosts. If you can do that for other people, it’s only fair you do that for yourself. This is the first and biggest challenge since we’re programmed from early childhood that any thought of self and self-serving actions is bad (‘selfish’, ‘bitchy’, ‘spoilt’, ‘bratty’).

Women who taste success in some form, usually manage to pass this stage. I guess the first step in falling in love is noticing, approving and liking. This is true even in the person you’re falling in love with, is yourself. Don’t stop there though. Women who stop here sometimes go too far and get rabid – with men and with other women. This is the stereotype of the male-bashing, bitter ‘feminist’ (note the quotes here, please, before outraging).

After awhile of being in love, you realize you need to do more than fight against the rest of the world to prove your devotion. Being good company is necessary for the ‘in-love’. If you’re angry all the time, you’re really not good company for yourself and you’re making it harder for yourself to love you. Be peaceful, be nice, first and foremost to yourself. Don’t invalidate your feelings. There are enough of people who will do that. You shouldn’t do that to your best friend and you certainly shouldn’t do that to yourself. Never deny your feelings or tell yourself that you’re fat, ugly, stupid or not worth it.

Get to know yourself just like you would a new boyfriend or friend. Find out what really makes you laugh, what tickles your fancy, what brings a smile to your face when you’re not facing a camera. While on this, try one cliche. Look at yourself in the mirror and really observe. Chances are that for the first few seconds, you will ONLY notice your flaws. Crooked smiles, uneven teeth, unplucked eyebrows, greying hair, extra inches, stretch marks. Then close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then open and stare at yourself in the eyes for a full two minutes. Time it, with an alarm so you’re not distracted with clock-watching. Eventually you will start to see beyond the flaws. This might take a minute and happen the first time or it might take longer. I guess this varies from person to person. And if it doesn’t happen at once, remember the step before. Be your own best friend and prop your self-esteem up.

Loving yourself, if you are a woman is probably the biggest challenge you will ever face. But if you can be a friend, a lover, a spouse, a partner, a mother, a support system, you can and definitely should learn to be all of these things to yourself.

“One ticket, please”: Why I Love Solo Dates

One Ticket Please

Images via stockimages on FreeDigitalPhotos

I read an article once about elephants that are bred into captivity. When an elephant is young, its leg is chained to a staff in the ground. At that stage, the chain is strong enough to hold the young one and cannot be broken. When the elephant grows up, it is strong enough to pull down trees so a simple chain and staff possibly cannot hold it. Yet, the elephant never tries. The manacle is in its mind and it never occurs to the elephant that it can be broken now. I often think of this story. It seems I keep discovering chains that were imposed on me early in life, that I now can break but just haven’t thought of doing so. Recently I had an interesting conversation with a girlfriend. I asked her if she had ever gone for a movie on her own. She hadn’t. But she had traveled around the world on work by herself. She had lived in Europe for a month on her own, a vegetarian from a tropical city, surviving in a cold, meat-eating place where the language was foreign to her. She did well for herself. But it had never occurred to her to spend three hours in a theater next to her home, alone. She paused and said,

“My sister is not like me. If she wants to go for a movie, she’ll find somebody or the other to go with her. If nothing else, she’ll take my mother along.”

Not quite the same thing but I could see where she was coming from. Her sister, who she described as bolder, would at least try to make something she wanted happen. My friend, dismissing it as just something she wanted, probably wouldn’t make the effort she’d otherwise make if someone else wanted it.

Si puedes, no dejes de ir a verla, es una de l...

Si puedes, no dejes de ir a verla, es una de las películas más bonitas que he visto en mucho, mucho tiempo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember the first time I went for a movie on my own. I snuck out of the house because I knew I’d be stopped and questioned about why I’d want to do such a thing. I still remember the movie I went for. It was Socha Na Tha, a romance flick that was also the debut vehicle for Abhay Deol. It was an Sunday afternoon show at a multiplex, not far from my place.  I could really have found other people to accompany me. The movie wasn’t one that I needed to surreptitiously watch. I knew all of these would come up as reasons to question why I wanted to go for a movie on my own. So I slipped out and didn’t tell anybody about it. On my way to the theater, I imagined people would turn and point to me or whisper in corners. No one did, of course. The ticket-seller didn’t even bat an eyelid when I self-consciously asked for a single ticket to the show. And when it was over, I felt an exhilaration that I could not explain. I was hooked. In the next week I caught Kal Ho Na Ho (which wasn’t even that good and I had seen it before). I cried in the theater when Shah Rukh Khan died. After all, there was no one around that I had to be intelligent and strong for. Soon after, I discovered early morning shows that the multiplexes showed at discounted rates. My solo movie dates extended. I’d get up as early as 6a.m. on Sundays, buy myself a ticket to the early morning show then browse at the bookshop later, eat a sandwich in the mall’s food court while poring over my purchases or just thinking about the movie. And before I knew it, it would be early evening and time to escape the weekend shoppers. I’ve rarely enjoyed anyone else’s company that much and never that many times. I really am wonderful company for myself and this is something I discovered only when I took myself out on these Sunday dates. Occasionally people still react with surprise when they find out that I do these things on my own. Some of them are offensive even, without realizing. I get rolling eyes, shaking heads and looks of pity with “What, you can’t find anybody to go with you?” writ large on faces. I’ve stopped trying to explain this. But once in a way, when I meet another woman that I think might be willing to drop her society-imposed judgments and listen, I talk about this. Incidentally, my friend did say one thing that made me envy her. On her return from Poland, she was booked on a 4 a.m. flight. She checked with the hotel and was told that there would be no public transport available since the airport was within walking distance. What about the odd hour, she asked but she was met with looks of surprise. Eventually, she stepped out onto a snow-covered road and wheeled her suitcase all the way down to the airport alone. It was only a ten minute journey during which there was not a single other human being in sight. She said she couldn’t imagine being in such a situation, being allowed even, to be in such a situation in India. I know what she meant. Even on my single dates, I’ve never been truly alone. There are always people around. Places that have no other people become automatically restricted to women. She has the good fortune of having had an experience that I may never have. 🙂 So I stick to solo movie dates. At least, in a darkened movie theater, I’m on my own.

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