Category Archives: The Dating Game

We meet and we part. And sometimes we stay. All the rules, the victories (and the casualties) of these games we play.

To The Guy Who Likes Long Drives

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.

Sincerely yours,

The reason I swiped left

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

A Good Conversationalist

I haven’t been writing about men or dating much, have I? The last year has forced me to sit with myself, without everything that I thought was my life but which were actually coping mechanisms. Stripped of those, what did I have? Lots of wounds. I’m glad 2020 is over.

I’ve been back on and off the dating apps sporadically. It’s a thing I do when I’m feeling slightly hopeful about life and to build on that seed. I am a gardener after all, and I tend to think the best things always have a chance of bearing fruit if given a little time, attention and watering. But I’ve also been isolating a lot more than the average Mumbaiker. I’ve always been super responsible. And after three years of relentless family health issues, panic scares & more, I’m not easy to carelessness. There are times I resent it and others where I’m thankful for a valid excuse to stay in and not be part of other people’s noise.

I’m realising I tire really easily around other people’s noise and other people are noisy. In their uncontrolled, unmanaged feelings. Men are the most of this since they’ve never been allowed to or required to own up to their own feelings. It’s hard enough to look at a man beyond his misbehaviour. Because I can see where the misbehaviour stems from and have plenty of burn marks from having had empathy, I feel further muddied. It’s cleaner not to engage or not engage too much with men in romantic contexts, where the universal assumption is that I’m required to be punching bag, mommy substitute, sex toy and therapist all in one.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot more. Truly acknowledging my scars. Prising loose all the gaslighting about how I should be over it, how I’m a strong woman and this shouldn’t affect me, simultaneously how all men are like that and also not all men. Accepting that I am correct and in my right to write off the male gender. That has let me understand the empty space under all that.

Is it loneliness? Yes, there is that. But it’s not as much as might be imagined. Always, when one thinks of the price to be paid to remedy that (and I’ve paid a heavy price with abuse, violence, assault), it feels like a minor need that doesn’t merit it. But past that I found something else. A desire for companionship. Not a need. Companionship isn’t a solution to loneliness. It is a different bird altogether. What does that require? Someone whose company is inspiring, entertaining, relaxing, fun. Company, not a crutch or a cage. And that’s when I reinstall the app.

With this approach, I find myself less brittle when on the apps. Make no mistake, the DM sliders, the inappropriate messagers, the offensively rude, the condescending misogynists continue to exist. I continue to weed them out. I even let myself feel rage about them, about the male species, about patriarchy. These rages are lingering less. I’m not feeling the need to uninstall to escape the horrors as much because they don’t horrify me as much.

Right now, I’m having three or four nice conversations. I don’t think about any of them when I’m going about my day. But in moments I’ve set aside for social leisure (as opposed to reading leisure, walking alone leisure), I find myself tap-tapping a witty comment, a new thought, a curious expression of interest. After all, good conversations are inspiring, entertaining, relaxing, fun. And men are some of those people with whom I can have these conversations.

Maybe you can only converse with others when you’ve first spoken to yourself a lot.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Romancing A Girl Who Is Too Much

Lavasa, 2011

I think I can only experience romance when I feel happy. I can only play the games of flirting when playfulness is possible. I can only smile at the mirth of charm when I’m just looking for an excuse to smile anyway.

That’s why love becomes a common destination for romance. True love. And that’s only possible when you feel loving & lovable. This is a hard thing to feel, when you’re an independent-minded woman with a strong sense of self. Because most interactions are about gaslighting you, shaming you, harassing you, caging you into smaller versions of yourself or worse – someone else’s idea of who you should be.

Where are the love stories for women who like being the hero? What odes are written to the girl who talks too much & too loudly? What romantic gestures are planned for a damsel who doesn’t fear distress? What proposals are made to a woman that’s got better things to think about than pandering to an ego? How can romance have one set definition when its very purpose is to make a person feel special & desired over all else?

A romance, like Cinderella’s glass slipper, cannot be forced onto someone it doesn’t fit. But that doesn’t mean tiny glass slippers are the only footwear a girl deserves. Bring me a good ol’pair of walking shoes and bring them with a pair of wings. And I’ll show you romance can also be in adventure & flight.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Dating Thing

Let’s do the dating thing. I say Coffee? You say YUP. I spend the next hour wondering what Yup means
before deciding it’s a version of Yes.

On time, wondering if it’s desperate, we meet. We talk of things slight acquaintances say-Mumbai weather. Andheri traffic. The waiter interrupts to take our order. We order & return to “You were saying?”

Then you or I will say or do something incredibly wrong. Can you take the saying wrong part please? I’m rather proud of my words but I have no illusions of grace. That’s settled then. You can say something slightly politically incorrect, while I fidget on the sofa making those sounds. Embarrassment comes to our table like unwelcome friends when you’re out on a date.

You charm me by not even noticing while I impress you with my intelligent jokes that are about people like us but not you & me. That done we settle into the comfort of I like this person so much! Before realising it’s only a date. Not even that, it was just supposed to be coffee.

We go back to staring at our drinks-not-coffee hoping to forget this companionable bridge that we almost built. This time you knock over the glass while I say something stupid like doesn’t beer taste just like piss? Beer is what you’re having.

We laugh the laugh of people who’re nervous together. Or maybe we just like each other’s laughs. It’s hard to fall in love over coffee & pretend that’s not happening. But we’re working it so an hour passes. We really do get along quite nicely.

When the bill arrives, an awkward shuffle but the waiter hands it to you because they always do that. I hope you know then worry you think I’m cheap so I insist more forcefully than needed that I asked you out. You stare. I know this is no more a fun game of emotional hide-and-seek.

When we leave, you don’t hold the door for me. I wonder if you did before. It doesn’t matter, still I wonder. You search my face for the same thing I was looking for a minute ago. 1 min off sync.

We book our cabs. Mine arrives first. Grateful, I get in. You say I really did have a nice time. I smile & say YUP as my cab zooms away.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Always Familiar: First Boyfriend

I was 19 when I met him. He was too, just a day older, a fact that would serve as a bridge for us, looking for a way to say hello. I spotted him in a crowd outside an event where I was looking for someone else. He turned at that exact moment, saw me & smiled like he’d been looking for me. I recognised that look. It said “I’ve been waiting for you and here you are!”

Later he invited me to his college. I waited at the gate at the appointed hour, being stared at by other students, wondering if my cargo pants were too loose & my striped teeshirt too tight. We went to the newly opened Macdonalds, the first in the city. I punctuated every word with Sorry as ketchup & mayonnaise squirted with each bite. He put down his burger and said, “Say Sorry 100 times. Done? Now eat. It’s junk food. It’s supposed to be messy.” I didn’t even know I’d been waiting for someone to say that. 

I introduced him to a close guy friend. I was relieved they seemed to get along. Later he asked me how close a friend this guy was. I worried that I was going to be asked to choose between boyfriend & friend. He said “Because when you were at the counter, he asked me how far you & I have gone, physically. I told him she’s your friend. I think you should ask her.” I tried to process this & asked what I should do. He said, “Your friend, your decision.” That’s the kind of level-headedness I don’t see in 40 year olds today. This was a 19 year old in 1999.

There were other men, other more brutal realisations in the years to come. He & I stayed in each other’s lives, without being in every frame. Every few years we meet & he lectures me on eating better & I joke about nothing tasting as good as that first burger. Or I nag him about relaxing & he chuckles. I’ll always be his first girlfriend and he, my first boyfriend. I’m well versed in the role of a date today, the smart lines, the sharp look etc. But I’m glad that this brand of romance, with its sweetness, trust & respect was my first.

🎶: PEHLA NASHA: JJW OST

#IWear: Cotton saree with fish applique +  halter blouse with bicycle print + clear belt + denim sneakers

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGg3LnAJY0A/

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Date Redux

I went on just one date in February. It felt familiar but not identical. I had had a date a lot like this one, over 12 years ago. It was with someone with a very similar background to this date. Back then, we’d spoken about our respective careers, the books we both loved. We’d drunk wine together and shopped for Milan Kundera, spending our brand new MNC high-flying incomes. We’d written to each other, for each other, about each other. We’d used poetry like swordplay, compliments as flourishes, each other as accessories. And I had thought it was fun. (1, 2, 3, are just some of that time, if you’re interested)

12 years later, I’ve made career & life choices that are braver than those two people in 2007 (and this date in 2020). I think it hit me when he said something about books, that topic that has been the metric for good dates for me. He said,

“I used to read a lot but now I’m struggling to get through books I used to love. Once upon a time I devoured Milan Kundera. And now, it just feels like, what’s the point?”

I couldn’t help but agree. I also fell in love with Kundera all those years ago. In fact, it was along with that very same 2007 date. And now I feel that way about him – faintly nostalgic, mildly tolerant but only to a point. And not even a very big point at that.

This 2020 date felt a lot like that. I’m hard-pressed to be impressed by someone with the branded degrees, the poker-playing (which is the 2010s equivalent of Kundera/Murakami reading). I don’t have anything to say to someone whose primary career ambition is making money. I moved away from that life long ago, seeking other things – creative fulfilment, a chance to make a difference in the world. On the other hand, it was nice reliving mutual nostalgia for something we both obviously sought, once. The world needs the income generators and it needs its artists and activists and plodders and players. I just don’t know that there’s anything connecting us strongly enough for me to invest in.

A part of me felt sad but that’s because this is me saying goodbye to something I once thought I loved – a certain type of person with whom I was having a certain kind of conversation, presenting a certain me that I wanted to be. It was a nice idea. But it was only an idea.

I guess every date is a lesson, even the ones that don’t go anywhere but just teach you to place a fullstop.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Work First, Fun Later 30-Something Guys

I’ve noticed a pattern in the last few men I’ve dated, echoed also in some of my male friends of similar age. They open with WORK FIRST. They’re managers, they’re artists, they’re performers, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re chefs and architects and engineers. They’re all about how what they’re doing is priority, how it’s super important and how it will always justify standing you up, keeping you in limbo and more.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ambition and drive. I enjoy focus. And these are not bad men. I can see they genuinely believe what they’re saying. They also all come with transformation stories of how they used to be XYZ and how they’re trying to be better men.

It’s just that I’ve lived this life more than a decade ago. And even back then, I didn’t have the option of prioritising one over the other. I had to be good at work. I had to fit beauty, grooming and hygiene standards. I had to be a dutiful daughter, niece, granddaughter. I had to be the razor-sharp brain, the fire-in-belly corporate shark. I had to be marriageable material. And I had to be the fun, sexy date and eventually the prize girlfriend who listened and challenged but never competed. I’ve had three major careers and several boyfriends. I couldn’t have done all that without ambition or focus.

I realised yesterday that 20-something men are commitment-phobic for different reasons from 30-something men. Men in their 20s saw women and dating as fun. It was theirs for the taking, they were out of the strictures of college and their targets were being pressured to please men (with a view of landing a husband). They saw women as a buffet. Why settle on just one when there were so many up for the grabs and when they could walk away leaving behind what they didn’t feel like continuing on their plates?

30-something men in contrast, have usually gone through a few relationships, maybe even a marriage or live-in or two. They’ve been called to account to pay bills, to answer to bosses and investors and clients. And more recently feminism has them worrying about #MeToo, about alimony payments, about pregnancy scares. It’s suddenly hit them that relationships are work, that women won’t stay mute objects and that inconvenient things will happen if they just stumble around in the blind pursuit of fun. Work in contrast is single-minded. It’s easier to chase the tangibility of career goals than live in the amorphous, ego-defeating world of human relating. So it is Work First, Fun Later.

Image by 【中文ID】愚木混株 【Instagram】cdd20 from Pixabay

They still think they get to pick one thing to do at a time and the world waits patiently till they’ve figured out whether they want to do it and how to do it. And they’re refusing to acknowledge that relationships, sex and dating were always going to involve work, hard work. The work of undoing years of brutish callousness, the work of learning to listen and care about the wishes of another person, the work of remembering that they are not the center of the universe and living with the reality that nobody, absolutely nobody has to care about them.

I can see some of them realise this in flashes and then it’s like the realisation is too big and scary to cope with. So back they go to Work First, not from pure passion but because it feels like a safer refuge than a world that demands a lot and promises nothing.

I’m trying but I’m finding it very hard to feel empathy for this man. After all ‘demands a lot and promises nothing’ has described this very man my entire life. My generation of women, we’ve lived this life for more than a decade and are reaching a point of asking whether men are worth it. We’ve also survived divorces, live-ins. And we’ve done it while juggling bully in-laws, the glass ceiling and the violent face of the male ego. So umm, yawn.

Yes, there is the fact that younger women are turning adults. And the slightly sharp 30-something man realises that all he has to do is turn his sights towards the younger woman. While the younger women today are woke-r and slightly better equipped to question patriarchy, the fact is, it’s still going to take years for them to develop the kind of resilience and strength to challenge exploitation. So on to another decade of today’s 30-something men finding a different base of prey while telling themselves they’re ‘adulting’ with their careers.

None of this has much to do with ambition or focus. And it’s got everything to do with avoiding responsibilities, a trait that isn’t particularly conducive to either ambition or focus. It’s anybody’s guess what kind of work this breed of man turns out while managing to blunder through another decade of women.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Coming Out Of Battery Saver Mode

I’ve returned to thinking about men and romantic relationships after a nearly two year hiatus. There was just so much going on with other things, health, work and family that my inclinations had all but dried up.

To date, a woman needs one very important thing – the willingness to see herself as incomplete – not less or diminished, just incomplete in one area. This makes it possible for her to seek completion in that area – pondering what her needs are, looking for ways to complete it. When I’m facing a crisis of a kind, I go into survival mode. It’s similar to the phone’s Battery Saver mode where all but the most fundamental needs are ignored.

Around my 40th birthday I realised I’d hit a two year mark of feeling this way, a fact only revealed by my lack of love life. The last time I had this realisation was at 30 when I realised I had nothing in my life but my career (no health, no time for family or friends, no hobbies that made me happy). It felt like a good time to revive myself.

I’ve been on the dating apps for a couple of months now. It is dreadful, the levels of inarticulation and entitlement presented by the male species present there. It’s very frustrating to be the minority gender (so, in-demand and powerful, right? wrong) and have to wade through oodles of emotionally stunted, verbally deficient, waste of cells and digital bytes posing as human beings, hoping for a connection. I keep going off them and returning when my hope and soul feel renewed.

But I’ve met a few people, especially recently. And I’ve chatted with more of them. I may even have felt something. It is promising. Stay tuned, maybe it’s not men-o-pause for me yet.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Post-Swim Dating Is A Thing

 

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I’ve been swimming pretty regularly of late. I love swimming. It’s my favorite physical activity of them all. Yes, ALL.

There is the fitness angle, of course. But I’ve tried yoga, cycling, aerobics, running, gymming and none of them quite fit me as well as swimming does (though yoga and cycling could tie for second place). With my shape and size, I have a body made for swimming. But also swimming made my body. I was diagnosed somewhat late with severe allergies that I was probably born with. The first decade of my life I spent struggling through undetected health issues that would flare up into more serious things. Injections, medicines and absentee notes were a common occurance for me. I started swimming a little after I had my tonsils removed (which may have been the bigger factor in my health improvement). Swimming taught me how to regulate my breathing, how not to panic when I couldn’t feel the oxygen pouring into my lungs after what felt like forever. If you’ve never had respiratory problems, you will never understand how terrifying this is and how every breath is a blessing. Swimming rescued my body from constantly feel sick.

But also, swimming taught me that my body was not defective. It was the first time I was good at something physical. Up until then, I had been the smart kid, the brainy bookworm that was good at maths and science and languages, who also did well with drawing and when I wasn’t sick, singing. But the playground, the track, the football field — these were places where I was the rejected one, the one everyone wished would have been absent that day so they didn’t have to put me on their teams. I was young for the class so everyone else was bigger (which to a kid, means better), more talented at sports, cooler and prettier (thanks to really bad teeth). But swimming let me be actually good at something that involved racing, length, speed and grace. Swimming did and still does make me feel beautiful and right in my own skin.

Now, as an adult how does it factor in with the beauty/body messaging I’ve picked up (and inculcated)? I deal with my share of opposition from the beauty/body-shaming industry. It starts with everything about how swimming makes one’s skin black (not true), goes on to the evils of dried out hair (yes true but I’m lucky), continues to the ill-effects of cholorine/ ‘chemicals’ on skin (debatable especially on the chemicals bit since all cosmetics are also, scientifically speaking, chemical) and ends with the classism of how disgusting it is to share body fluids with strangers. Maybe you believe all this. Maybe it is even true. But when breathing has been a struggle (one you’ll never forget), these things fall away in the face of that one activity that has given you reprieve.

It didn’t take me too long to kit up. I now have my swimbag that contains my gear (suit, goggles, cap), towel, hair-and-body wash, aloe vera gel, comb and lip balm. My peripheral going-swimming outfit has its own mini-wardrobe with sporty shorts, athleisure teeshirts and my own brand of quirk with headbands or socks. These have me in the mood to strip down and feel water-on-skin in the way that feels more normal than land and air, to me.

My favorite time to swim is in the late evening, after sunset. For one, the sun isn’t beating down on my back or in my eyes when I surface. Secondly, there aren’t thousands (okay, exaggeration) of squealing kids spreading out across lanes. Thirdly, the water is the right temperature. Fourthly, everyone in the pool is in a more sombre, adult mood, sticking to their own lanes, willing to match a dive or a lap occasionally without getting clingy or competitive. I could go on but suffice to say, I like it because I love it (just like swimming).

This puts it at just before a potential date, which makes it….interesting. I’m my best self right after swimming. There’s a happy kind of tired because it is the end of the day (not exhausted and dying to hit bed). I’m hungry in the most healthy way possible which is for food rather than an escape. The water has a way of washing away and settling stray thoughts and errant emotions so I’m a brand new person right afterwards. Ideal date material.

What makes it a bit complicated is none of my swim-peripheral wear is datewear, at least not in my book. While I love the #swimlife, I also love the aesthetic and style I’ve developed over years. I like feeling badass and quirky and beautiful in my look. But it does take some doing and I don’t want to be one of those awful women hogging the shower for half an hour while I preen. I’m still figuring it out.

I’ve been on two dates post swim. One was with a fellow swimmer who seemed very perturbed by his having to blow his nose often. I shrugged and told him not to worry, it was just a #swimlife thing and after all, I had gotten out of the exact same pool as him. I think it bothered him a lot. Thankfully, I was in a peaceful enough mindspace to not let it affect me too much (his issues being his own). The other was with a friend who I know is sensitive to smell and to a lesser extent, colour and style. On the first, I just wore a denim miniskirt with my sporty top, instead of shorts. The second time, I had an on-the-go dress to pull on and pass off as ‘dressy’. Both times, I carried a whole load of bath products.

Today I decided to cut back on bath products. I don’t need a shampoo and conditioner and face wash and soap. I just need something to clean the pool off me. And I need something to cover up any lingering chlorine smell. One product can do that. After that, it’s like I’m dressing while travelling — still nicely made up but with fast makeup/minimal effort. I’ve got my eye pencil and a tinted gloss. A pair of hoops or a statement earring and I’m ready! Wish me fun this evening!

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Alone time doesn't always look like this. More often than not, it's faded, crumpled, tattered even. And not in artful, Instagram-worthy ways. But it's important. We need tough love and the people who give it to us, especially if you, like me, find it hard to keep your head on straight in the throes of powerful emotion. People like us, we also need the gentle balm of those who tell us, it's okay to grieve, that it's fine to be sad even if it's not logical, to ache even if we were forewarned, even if we should have known better. And finally we need to meet ourselves, in our rawest forms. It doesn't have to happen immediately. Me, I have an inbuilt safety valve that lets me tuck away my messiest self deep down till I reach a time and place that I can take it out and face it, safely. And that must happen. A time when no other commitment or duty or person must intrude. Nothing else allowed to be more important than your own feelings which must be faced with no voices of the world interfering. And that is the time when you'll realise the ugliness is not you or in you. All you are, is a witness to the world and occasionally, a reflection of it. Reflections pass. You will, too. Watch it alone. ———————————————————————————– 📸: @unstable_elemnt 🎶: TAKE IT EASY – The Eagles #beach #alonequotes #alonetime #solo #solitude #introspection #healing #selfcare #selfhealing #theideasmithy #mood #sunset #sunsetbeach #beachsunset #beachsunsets #alone #meditation #emotion #emotional

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Jealousy Object

January was an interesting experience, as regards matters of the heart. Interesting, I say, as a way of deflecting the bad-taste-in-mouth feelings that came up. In December I found myself catching the feels for someone I’d known casually for awhile and not given that much thought to. That is not so long ago but given that I was coming out of a dry spell, anything in the range of attraction-affection felt big and intense. I’ve spent most of these weeks trying to discern what is, what I’m feeling and where this goes. It’s important for me to correctly understand what I’m feeling and act accordingly rather than vomit it out in a tantrum and hope for the world to make sense of it.

The good parts of these weeks were feeling desired and attractive. That was really, really good. That’s possibly why it took me some time to realise they weren’t real feelings and that I had inadvertently fallen into somebody else’s game, a game that I had no part in.

There’s no easy way to say this. I’ve written four drafts and all of them are rubbish so I’ll just say it. There’s a guy and there’s a girl. The guy calls her a good friend. The girl calls him a variety of things, depending on who is being spoken to and whether or not he is in the room (ranging from ‘jaanoo’ to well, stories about how he farts in her face when he wakes up next to her in the morning). The guy talks about how exclusivity is a patriarchal concept, how he is the constant in the lives of his friends-with-benefits (who purportedly have partners that are not constant for them). The girl says she knows he sleeps with other people but at least he tells her about it which is better than her last guy. The guy strings her along with “Later”, “Not now” while he’s on dates with others. The girl marks her territory by showing up at the restaurants where he’s on dates.

And why this is a game is because of what happens after. Girl and guy ride off together, often with the hapless date in tow. Sometimes in place of a date, it’s a damsel-in-distress to assuage the guy’s saviour complex. Only said damsels are just needy enough to be allowed mild PDA but never given the status of an actual object of affection. Once the date/damsel-in-distress/Jealousy Object has been discarded or dropped off, guy and girl ride off into the moonshine they’ve built together. Happily ever after.

I realise why I was so ‘confused’ as I described it all these weeks. I do not like being an object of any kind. I am not a fucking dildo for someone else’s messed up headgames. I’m not a sex toy to make somebody else’s fucked up relationship interesting. I do not like being used. I do not fight territory battles over people because people are not property. I’d like to say I don’t play games in relationships but that would be naive so I’ll just say this is not the game I play. Not the jealousy game, no.

I’ve been Sex Object a lot of times. I’ve buckled under the burdens of Affection Object (wherein man showers all his gawdawful poetry/singing and assumes his role is done with the hard work of building a relationship, managing the in-law people and the emotional labour of the relationship falls to me). And now I’m realising I’ve also occasionally been the Jealousy Object. This is the prop that (usually) men use to make the woman they’re with, feel bad about herself so (presumably) she won’t think to leave them.

This is the behaviour exhibited by numerous ex-boyfriends who’ve never been that nice to me but make sure to tell their current partners about how slim I am (body-shaming is the first play in the book of a Jealousy Game player). I’ve also been the ‘She’s more successful than you’ prop’ and the ‘So much cooler than you’ thing on account of my recent stage career.

I have never liked it. It’s a horrible thing to do a person and no, it doesn’t not feel like a compliment to me. Firstly, it is not a compliment to me to be used to make another woman feel bad. Secondly, there is nothing complimentary about using me as an object to incite some feeling in a relationship with someone else. That’s no better than a picture in Playboy that a man might use mentally to get off, were he not feeling that attracted to his partner.

Not that the girl’s behaviour is anything I want to feel empathy over. The feminist in me shies away from outright shaming but honestly, settling for someone who behaves badly is just a bad idea. What’s more, this willingness to play along and assert territoriality in desperate ways weakens things for all women. And finally and most important to me, it is directly disrespectful to me. I don’t care how badly you’ve been treated before or how weak you are or how much you care about him — none of these will ever be good enough reason for you to use me.

Ugh, I am utterly disgusted by both people’s behaviour, no matter how objectively I try to look at it. As some kind of poor consolation prize, I guess I’m lucky I got out with not too much harm done and at least with a post to boot.

Argh will it ever stop, this discovering of how fucky-ass fuccbois (and their complicit females) can be?

P.S. – Here’s another worthy piece of content that came to be because of the above experience.

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THE DIMMER I thought you were intelligent his tone matches the sudden darkness that falls as I scramble for clarity, fumble to see I'm confused, I say and as the lights come back on,  I know I've said something wrong We were building a conversation on vulnerability and feelings, never the easiest building blocks And he has stopped building, ceased contributing Did he ever contribute? But… I thought you were intelligent, he reiterates, His critical look pinpointing my unshed tears and I swallow, tears, feelings, doubts, me This is how we begin orchestrated self harm, cutting away pieces of ourselves that he doesn't deem right editing our emotions like hanging threads on a neckline that must only show soft curves and empathy for his feelings He fiddles with the switches and it's clear again All's right, he's right and the messes don't show I thought you were intelligent But you're not being very intelligent right now I smell the acrid odour of things that char without flames And this is how we allow men to determine our self-worth with their scales of control  their measures of self-interest disguised as logic This is how we barter away pieces of our souls  for one scrap of validation, a morsel of attention I thought you were intelligent But you're not being very intelligent right now And the darkness is now inside me And the gas vapours don't hurt my eyes any more It's still and it's peaceful As my eyes adjust, so do my breaths Clarity can come in a dark room and battered lungs can still adapt to poisoned air As I watch him fumble in my direction,  I hear myself say Dim the gaslights I will burn on. #theideasmithy #blog #relationships #menandwomen #men #women #gaslighting #abuse #emotionalmanipulation #emotions #emotional #genderpolitics #toxic #conversations #toxicrelationships

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