Category Archives: Laws of Attraction
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.
I had a bad relationship with food & men. Being female meant being food provider. Social rules turned to acid in my stomach. Eventually they’d pour out of my mouth as bilious words, undigested pressure. I asked shaadi boys if they could cook before their moms could ask me. No answers.
I had a boyfriend I’d meet in hipster coffeeshops that boasted antique furniture & wine lists. He introduced me to rose wine, said he was bisexual, and that it was a test. Clearly I passed. The first time I stayed over, I awoke worried. I could play the part of stylish date but the morning after? Relax, he said, I’ll make breakfast. What would he present? Silver cutlery? Obscure Swedish fish? He brought out toast covered in melted cheese, topped with raw capsicum. I hate capsicum. “Is it ok?” he asked, nervously. I took a bite. It was horrible. “Lovely” I said. There’s more to romance than taste.
A friend & I went to lunch. He placed an order that prompted me to say I was a small eater. Even for a guy with huge muscles it seemed A LOT. I smiled, remembering a college superstition that a man’s appetite is an indicator of his libido. 30min later, I realised I’d eaten all his food. He grinned. He’d heard the superstition too. He’d send me pics of his cooking when we couldn’t meet.
“Spend the day with me at home” said another date. He spent the afternoon cooking as we talked. He let me chop garlic. Come evening, I said I was hungry. The slowcooker would need another hour he said. I settled for leftover beef. When the slowcooked chicken ishtew was ready, I was still eating. It was a quiet pause after the drama of beef. As I chewed, I found the salt. The onions he shooed me out of the kitchen for so he wouldn’t have to see me cry. The garlic I’d chopped. I looked up. The cook must be fed with validation. “Perfect” I said. He’d ensure there was beef each time we met. That act of consideration sweetened the bitter words that passed between us later.
Learning to receive was a gift that opened me up to the joy & generosity of someone cooking for you – traits I never associated with men. Men & food feel more wholesome now.
Don’t I look like all the sins you’re going to commit tonight? I felt it too. Because feeling flows through me the way water runs through the planet, within it, over it, above it and into every creature that lives on it. It feels good to dissolve. It feels peaceful to let go and drown in cool darkness. Words like ’empath’ and ‘boundaries’and ‘toxic patterns’ just flow into sound & light and are swallowed up in the darkness that we are.
Who ever told you that the quest for love would be easy? I knew it wasn’t easy, you say, I just didn’t expect it to be so unpredictable. But how could you think it to be otherwise? Love is the subject of most songs and stories and poems told across the human race and since when did we ever entertain each other by being predictable? It’s an act of rebellion to care. Love is an assertion of life.
But I’ll also say, let go when it feels like self-loathing. “It’s not supposed to be so hard” people say when they mean you’re not worth putting in the effort, you are not worth enduring the agony of confusion for. That is not the time to persist, to prove your commitment. All that is, is pouring your precious self into an endless session of validation. Let go of anyone who can’t make time or space or effort for you because the truth is they won’t.
You are married to a tale. You fell in love with stories because they were bigger than you and you liked to find your place inside them. Why try to shrink that story to fit your hands and your imagination? Don’t hold your breath. Don’t hoard your breaths. Don’t get stuck on the ideas you pinned on the pages of your mind, fearing that your self will be lost if you look away. Feel. Feel. Feel. Your story is being created as you live it, not as you imagine it.
Love is a part of it. It always has been and will always be, even if it doesn’t look the way fairytales and romcoms narrate it. It’s not a sin to look. But it is a sin to breathe and not live.
This piece is a writing experiment. Tell me what you think.
They pause in the middle of the restaurant. Then he walks off towards the toilets and she chooses a seat. She sits on one side, checks her phone camera then moves to the other side. By the time he returns, she has settled in, a perfect picture. They smile at each other seconds before he even reaches the table.
The movie they’ve just watched was about gay conversion therapy. They start to talk about it, her words an eager jumble, his glances more considered. Abruptly, she picks up the menu. When the waiter comes, he places the order.
She looks slightly older but that could just be their clothes. His body language is more reticent, quiet, filling up his side. While hers, like her words flutter all over the small space she occupies. “I knew this happened but to see it depicted, I mean..” She shudders. Their order, peri-peri fries arrive and they munch on them with equal delicacy.
He takes pictures of her and she poses, laughing, smiling, looking. But when the camera is put away, he smiles and she responds with equal vigour. She asks him a question.
He tells her about coming out. She listens thinking about her own coming out memories, only no one ever calls them that. There are so many coming out conversations that each of us participates in. Statements of our identity, spoken like guilty confessions, asking for acceptance, bursting from us only when we can’t contain them inside any more. This is who I am. That is what I want. This is what I’m good at. That is where I want to live. This is how I breathe best. That feels like the best choice for me. Please accept. Please understand. Please look at me. Please see me. Please still love me.
I watch them exit. He lifts a crumpled piece of paper in one hand. She stops him, palm on shoulder. He stops mid-step. She takes the paper from him. Still talking, he hands it to her. Still listening, she straightens it out and tucks it away in her wallet, the movie ticket.
How sweet, I think. But who do they they’re fooling? Couples like these only exist in rom-coms.
Models: Ramya Pandyan & Anmol Karnik
Do you remember your last kiss? Everyone remembers their first, like we remember our landmark birthdays. But kisses lose their significance as we get older and more experienced in matters of touch.
As our social rituals morph, we find our notions of personal space shifting. Once we gingerly raised clasped hands for a rendition of We Are The World. Now we find ourselves gripping strangers hands as ritual hellos. We shared tiffin boxes, school benches, computers and a football with the opposite sex so long as it followed the rules of ‘healthy not filthy contact’. Growing up in a Catholic school, I went to Christmas dinners & Easter feasts where I was routinely pecked on the cheek by babies, friends and adults of all genders. Touch was a confusing world to navigate.
A kiss is that absolute borderline between personal space and affectionate contact. It’s significant enough to remember the first time that was crossed. But is it no more than a gateway to more, a threshold that once crossed requires no further attention?
The 😘 passes easily between friends, flirting couples and all manner of non-professional conversations. Yet, those of us who remember all the things a kiss can mean are slower on the uptake. In reply to this emoji, I once sent a picture (like above but without dice). To my great dismay, there was no reply. To greater embarrassment, I discovered that the recipient had thought I was saying goodbye.
“Because that is a flying kiss.”
was the reply. FLYING KISS, that delightful gesture of ‘Goodbye but affectionately’ that we teach children. Why don’t we remember that a kiss can mean all these things but always, always affection?
Recently, a friend grabbed me in what was going to be a hug and laid a big SMACK. It reminded me of how lovely it is to be kissed. A kiss is a world of tangible more than smiling eye contact. It has the sweetness of “I LIKE YOU” before the politics of gender & relationship. Show your affection with a kiss (consensually, of course). Be sure to enjoy it because affection is good and so is a kiss.
I met him at an event I was hosting. The growing crowds and reactions told me I was doing well. It was welcome respite from the morning’s fight, a common occurrence in the horror story I was living inside.
I was aware of him through the whole day, even as I juggled conversations and thoughts, feeling the headiness of a juggler who knows she’s good at it. He stayed in the corner of my vision, never intrusive, his questions informing the direction of my talk and my secret thrill at being understood powering me on. Then he stopped mid-question and said, “Sorry, I feel like I’m monopolizing your time.” That’s when I realised I wasn’t humming a solo.
When the event ended, I turned my back, willing myself down from the day’s high, steeling myself to return to hell. I turned again when I thought everyone had left. He hadn’t. He was moving to the exit, very deliberately not looking at me. He paused and said, “I feel like an Irish coffee. Do you feel like having Irish coffee?” That is the moment I want to pause. It contains so many layers. The climax of the day’s dance with words and looks. The culmination of things felt and not yet named. The promise of…well, just promise.
I saw him recently, our first interaction in many years. He’s married and a father. He looks happy. Still does. They all do.
It doesn’t bring me comfort or insight to think about how things are meant to be. I focus on the thought that something nice existed for one proming moment. That someone saw the possibility of attraction in my wit, my ideas and my personality rather than in what I could do for them or how I could make them look. It’s nice.
Are you wondering what happened back then? I told him, “No. I have to get back to my boyfriend.” And I went back to a man who hit me, abused me and told me it was all my fault. I didn’t succumb to temptation. I did The Right Thing. I always do because I never want to look back in regret. The thing is, I don’t know if doing the right thing and avoiding regret have anything to do with each other.