Category Archives: Survival Guide
A woman can live in a man’s world. As herself. Here’s how…
Dear ‘I like long drives’ guy,
This will be the one and only time the word ‘dear’ will ever be used in our conversation. We both know you think that saying something makes it true so try being quiet for once. That’s a more honest representation of who you are.
We need to talk about this long drives fetish of yours. By ‘we’, I mean I because of course you think a conversation involves only you speaking. But I’m in the driver’s seat and you know the rules about disturbing the driver. So yes, car fetishes. What, you don’t like my calling it a fetish? You got your idea of romance off a car advertisement. Let’s not even get started down the road of used car salesmen. No, let’s not even go down there.
What’s that? You thought listing ‘long drives’ on your dating app profile would make you sound cool? And just what makes you swipe right on women’s profiles? Ah, how they look. Is that why your profile has the following pictures:
- a long range shot/weird angle showing your right ear
- a famous landmark shot at the most well-known angle
- a quote about hearts, friendship, love, life that Hallmark greetings made their fortune off in the 90s
Enjoying long drives is not a personality trait. It’s not even a hobby. Not in India and boss, how often do you drive internationally? It’s not even a masculine thing. I know lots of women who like driving and they don’t act like it’s a thing that people do together on a romantic date. I know you think the front passenger seat is made for female butts but bro, a steering wheel is made for any kind of human hands. And we’ve established I’m driving this. But unlike you, I’m willing to let my passenger be something other than a silent object. I’m not a collector; I don’t even like stuff on my dashboard. So tell me, exactly what about this experience makes you think it’s an amazing offer to a woman you don’t know?
It can’t be the conversation. Those can be had literally anywhere. But in a car that you’re driving, you get to shut the other person up, right? Shush, don’t touch the driver. So yes, you were saying? The umm, aah, uh.. Yes, that’s what I thought. Don’t bother whining that you’re bad at speaking. A car is not a translator.
It is however, a trophy. That’s it, isn’t it? If it wasn’t, you’d be fine having a date in an Uber. Ah, there’s the rub. A car is a trophy where you get your prey (uhh…date) in complete seclusion and totally under your control. I grew up in a time when one of the first SUV models was inadvertently rebranded ‘the kidnap vehicle’. No, you don’t remember that?
Aww okay, let me play you a song I think you’ll like. This is how I think of you.
The reason I swiped left
There is something about living your best self that draws in other people. We call its wonderful parts, inspiration. The pleasure of watching someone achieve their dream, follow their passion, be happy.
But it also pulls in darker sides of humanity. Microaggressions like insincerity, barbs, sarcasm, condescension. Boundary violations like stalking, hero worship, objectification. Dangerous things like righteous rage & what I call themsplaining (which is people telling you who you are from their own limited point of view but as if that is the truth). Some people are in a hurry to impose on you, their scripts of what your life should look like & who you should be. It’s a lot easier than saying, what a joy to behold & what does it teach me about my own joyfulness? People tell you who they are, in the way they respond to your happiest self.
My dressing often brings in aggression. Workplace harassment for wearing a hair ornament. Bullying by a classmate for wearing sarees. Slut-shaming & prudery-shaming together. Don’t ask – hate isn’t logical. Last evening I sported a face painting, some people said was ‘scary’.
I once read an interview with Rudyard Kipling, where he spoke of the abuse he endured as a child. He said, “That experience left me devoid of the capacity to hate.” My contentment in my body & clothes is probably terrifying for some people. It’s hard to be angry at people who are scared of you. In my experience, refusing to respond with anger kills the aggression. Bullies have returned offering timid affection. It’s hard to take seriously because a guilty compliment is a bribe, a desperate plea for approval. All I feel is sad for the smallness that humanity can also be.
I go back to Kipling. And try & keep my head when all about are losing theirs & blaming it on me. This is being my best self. Doing this in big colours makes it an adventure. I am a fierce butterfly.
: Watch your reaction to what impresses you
Some admit it’s a thrill to be desired by one who isn’t supposed to feel that way, to feel wanted despite knowing it’s wrong.
Cheating is rarely about the person being cheated on. The world abounds in people cheating on attractive, intelligent, popular, successful partners. “Because they make me feel bad about myself” is about the cheating person’s feelings and how they deal.
Cheating is not about love or sex. It’s not about the boredom we inevitably experience in longterm relationships. When the price for entertainment is so high but someone is willing to pay it, that’s not the need they’re seeking to fulfil.
Cheating shows poor impulse control. It has to do with unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions & emotions. These are traits of people who haven’t evolved beyond rudimentary emotions. Things happen to them; they don’t create or cause anything.
We are all driven by a desire to control because it makes us feel safer in a world of uncertainty. Adults express this by anticipating the future & preparing. Control is an illusory idea. There are too many variables, too little truly possible to manage. The ones who try believe they have no choice – that the alternate (to surrender to not knowing) is harder.
A person who cheats either failed at their attempt to control or never believed they had in them to try. They feel small, weak, powerless and finally resentful about it. A person who cheats is effectively punishing the world for their bad feelings about themselves.
Cheating is about power. There is a kick in knowing one can cause hurt. It’s the instinct that makes small children stomp on ants, kick animals or break plants. It’s shallow pleasure, humiliating someone who doesn’t know they’re being insulted – akin to kids making faces behind the backs of adults. Anyone who gets off on that, has never really tasted the pleasure of owning a moment.
If you’ve ever been cheated on, remember they saw you as bigger, better and felt that they did not really deserve you. And of course they didn’t. We all deserve big lives, huge joys and the right to reach for them openly.
Recently, I went out with someone who had just come off a long-term relationship. 20 year long term. First love, one and only forever and forever long term.
One of the frequently mouthed platitudes of my 20s was to avoid a recently heartbroken man. Another was steer clear of the one and only type. But well, if my 30s were about throwing all expectations into the garbage and breaking my own rules, maybe the 40s are about re-examining everything I’ve ever held important (inherited, learned and hearsay) through actual experience. So I went out with him.
The first thing he brought up when we became acquainted was his divorce. I asked if I might ask him a bit more about that (because make no mistakes, respect first and consent always). He agreed. My only questions were whether the divorce had been finalised and if so, when. Just from having lived four decades as a human, I know there’s no bigger emotional minefield than an unresolved romantic relationship. Especially when it’s marriage since families, society and the law collude to make this as complicated and painful as possible.
Our conversations thereafter were delightful. Perhaps I was just savouring the feeling of coming off a two year long hiatus but this time without the fears of my 20s, nor the acid-washed feelings of my post abusive engagement 30s. 40 seems like a decent place to proceed cautiously but optimistically.
So how was it? Let me call this a lovely ten day vacation doing things that I either couldn’t afford to or was too busy or scared to in my teens and twenties. Likewise for him. Rather abruptly (presumably because he’s unused to the rituals of consideration that any adult interaction should have), he said we needed to stop spending so much time with each other. When I asked what that meant, he didn’t seem to have an answer. And that was that. He did come at me, aggressively seeking experiences. And if nothing else, he learnt firsthand what it was to ghost somebody.
For my part, I decided not to rush into an immediate reaction of rage. After all, this is not the first time a man has chickened out of his emotions or gone back on his words. It’s not even the first time I’ve been ghosted. What would be the point of 40 if I reacted to it in the same way as I did in my 20s or 30s? So I waited. I found myself more disappointed than hurt, and even so in that distasteful way of someone hungry biting into what turns out to be stale papads.
By the time he called (as I knew he eventually would – those who run the fastest are the ones who run back soonest), I felt very little attachment to him. I realised later, it was only attachment to a clean-ish ending which his half-baked ‘less time spent’ statement wasn’t. I realised a long time ago that if you feel the need for closure, you most certainly aren’t going to get it because relationships that leave that acidic empty feeling in you are indicative of people who would rather escape than be authentic. Closure is your own problem. With this experience I realised that maybe closure doesn’t have to be a clean ending. Closure is when I decide I’m done. And I’ve needed to get to 40 to be able to say that can be when the other person is still waiting for an answer or still has feelings or there are injustices not yet punished. Closure is simply when I say ENOUGH.
And that was that. Now for a new chapter.
I’m like Sleeping Beauty in that I’ve been dead for most purposes, except for two years, not a hundred. An entirely consuming set of relationships and work projects burnt through me and left me in nothingness. And now I feel ready to awaken or be reborn. I say reborn, because everything feels fresh and new, like I can become a different person, find a different model of relationships, build a different career. This isn’t the first of its kind in my life. I have had many careers after all, and I’ve been many different people with all the relationships that have passed through my life.
Early this year, I waded into the possibility of a romantic liaison. It was great. Exciting, dramatic, fun, unexpected and always, a little terrifying. He didn’t want what I wanted. I felt myself standing on the precipice of endless, burning painful emotion and it felt so familiar, I almost didn’t recognise it for the bad pattern I’ve lived through my whole life. Somewhere dimly I knew I was ingesting something that had proved to be bad for me in earlier times and I choked, sputtering, asking for time and space to think it through. I didn’t get it and that reminded me of another time in my life. In the middle of the most corrosive, damning relationship of my life, I still fought for clarity in my mind and I suggested a specific framework of space to him, that would take out all the pressures that kept us in that status quo. He flat out refused and in frantic aggression shut it down with what sounded like a threat – that we’d break up if I did that. It ended with every form of torture, abuse and humiliation that he could exact on me. I still think if we had done as I’d suggested, he and I might at least have stayed friends, respectful of each other instead of these poisoned factions.
This time, I know better. I know I am right, even if I’m not able to articulate it in the cold-logic/intellectual arguments that characterise my romances. If I must act in undignified, messy, ‘overemotional’ ways, I will. And that’s what I did. I got sarcastic, I wept and I crashed. It allowed me to put that distance and space. And then I ran away to Pune.
Perhaps this was the person to take the chance on, that I did on the wrong people in the past. But this doesn’t feel like the right time now. I realised my love life has been driven by FOMO (fear of missing out). They have been flinch reactions to the fear that I can see an emotional range that the other cannot and that I must carry us till they’re able to.
A friend said something about a specific situation (with someone else) that made sense to me:
“I think you’re crediting him with a lot more emotional depth and intelligence than he’s shown in all these years.”
And I realised the truism in ‘Not my circus’. This always felt like a cold thing but it is really not. There are the indulgences that one can extend, the minor adjustments one is willing to make. But one really cannot and should not attempt to fill in the thinking (intellectual or emotion) that the other person is supposed to do. That’s only a relationship with myself if I do that.
I’ve gotten into the habit of struggling, really suffering through this situation. I had to remind myself that I find it relatively easy to free myself of habits, especially those that don’t serve me. It helped to be in Pune, a place that always clears my head. I moped a bit, slept a little too much at the wrong times, binge-watched Netflix, spoke a little much or too little to the wrong people and overslept the morning I was to return. And then I picked myself up and got onto that bus back. On the way, I looked at myself in that wonderful thing called the selfie camera and I realised I’d be okay.
The weekend was better. I started with a performance. I know the way to shake a habit is not to avoid it but to look it square in the eye. So I brought my story of Custody to stage. A friend accompanied me and then cooked me lunch. Another friend picked us up and we spent an evening together.
Somewhere along the way, we got to optimising my social media feed. Emotions and what’s happening in my heart will always lace the things I do and it’s best I let them instead of drawing artificial walls there. In the examining of the images that make up the last 6 years of my life, I found myself able to say this doesn’t matter any more, this must be removed, that can be put away without clinging. And 24 hours later, I have a cleaner feed and a lighter heart.
I am constantly coming of age, it’s true. And here, it begins again.