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.
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REGRETTING DOING THE RIGHT THING 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 occurance 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. #theideasmithy #blog #regret #regrets #choice #cheating #relationships #attraction #dating #flirting #blackandwhite #bw
I must have missed the memo. Excuse me, but when did an ‘already-married’ status become a dateworthy trait? The internet, pubs, parties and all manner of social occasions are rife with married men partaking of mating rituals – the innuendo-ridden conversations, the excessive compliments, the lingering glances, the offers to buy drinks, the requests for phone numbers, even the unabashed booty calls. I thought these were reserved solely for single people. In fact, didn’t married people used to scoff at us singletons to have to resort to these tactics?
Here’s news. They still do (condescend to single people, that is). But they also participate in these supposedly-only-for-singles rituals. Status symbols-as-reasons-to-be-douchey are not cars, foreign vacations and posh addresses any more. It’s being married and being able to do the flirty thing too. I can’t think of a worse display of arrogance than this. It’s an outright ‘I am having my cake, I’m eating it too and I want it with buttercream icing on top!’. I’ve been at the receiving end of the attention of more than one married man like this. The patni, kids, successful career/money made things being done, flirting-even-though-I’m-married seems to be his latest goal. It’s startling and then when I get over the shock, amusing.
Here are some laughable things I’ve heard:
Women must like the challenge of a man they can’t have because they are married.
I was my wife’s second boyfriend so I’m allowed one more.
And then there is the utterly mystifying,
“I am really unhappy in my marriage. My wife doesn’t understand me.”
Why on earth would that be my problem? My friend calls it the ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh‘ play. He says a lot of women are suckers for such stories. He hastens to assure me that it doesn’t work on ‘intelligent women’ like me but that ‘sympathetic women’ are only too eager to pat the arm, go ‘There, there’ and coo about how sensitive the man is. Yes, thank you. I don’t like the implication that I’m devoid of sympathy but given the kind of male tantrums that have gotten thrown at me, for not being so – I think I’m okay with that. If this is true, I deduce that men who throw a hissy-fit that I’m not sympathetic to them are basically whining that I didn’t fall for their pathetic ploys.
The obvious next step to this is, of course, asking women why they’re dumb enough to fall for this. That’s what the men who use these ploys think of the women who fall for them. But it’s victim-shaming, isn’t it? Why should a girl be shamed because she was trusting and sympathetic? Never mind the fact that she gets shamed if she is not, also.
I think a married man who says or does one thing out of place deserves to be slammed publicly and consistently. It’s only fair, considering he’d get much worse, if he were a woman. Sympathy? Why did he get married in the first place, if it was so burdensome? And if he only discovered it later, why not end the marriage?
“Because it’s not that simple.”
They all say. Sure, then probably, Mr.MarriedFlirt, you ought to be spending that time trying to figure it out instead of preying on the singles scene.
Here’s a new one that’s popped up among this crowd – polyamory. Open relationships, modern thought, ‘that’s love, this is sex’ ideas get tossed about. Ask however, if his partner practises this tolerant attitude to his partner as well, and it falls apart. Polyamory & open relationships are equal rights things but not in these men’s minds.
And finally, there is the ‘Boys will be boys’. Shall I take that to mean douchey, irresponsible, selfish and incapable of consideration and responsibility? Fine then, remember that the privilege of consideration & respect is accorded to those who earn it, not those who feel entitled to it.
Pick-up lines, never the best openers and here I think I’ve stumbled on to the worst possible one ever.
The Beatles sang,
“All you need is love”
and they may well have been right.
In our increasingly urban world of nuclear families and zero work-life balance, the emotional support system of a loving, caring partner becomes even more important. Ironically, it seems like the demand for such a person is going up just as the supply is diminishing. It’s not that our capacity for love and caring has diminished.
But it seems like trust is so much harder in our times. Break-ups and emotional upheavals are as commonplace as economic fluctuations. Leading a person on with no regard for commitment, is a socially approved activity with the disclaimer of ‘String along or be strung along’. An abusive or cheating partner is entirely your problem. While the world clicks its collective tongue at such occurrences, that’s about as much sympathy as you’ll get, and even then, grudgingly.
And after you weather the misadventures of these cruel times, what’s left of your heart to share with another person? Multiply that by two and it makes the fate of love seem very dark, indeed. Love maybe a universal need but relationships are certainly not for the faint of heart.
A version of this appears on Yahoo! Real Beauty.
This occured to me the very first time I saw ‘The Namesake‘ but laziness and other such things kept me from blogging about it right then. I’ve just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s book. As an aside, it’s a lovely story, the book even better than the already excellent movie.
You know what was the most striking aspect of the story for me? The contrast between the relationships in the two generations.
Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan) meet each other under the scrutiny of their parents eyes. She decides in a few minutes that he is the one for her, because she likes his shoes. Which prompts her to speak confidently in the following conversation,
How will you manage all by yourself in America?
Will he (darted glance at …) not be there with me?
The couple takes off to foreign shores, in those heydays before the the internet, email and affordable ISD. They start a life together based on complete trust in each other, something that is never spoken about but expressed in their everyday actions.
Like any two human beings, they take time to adjust to each other. When Ashima shrinks Ashoke’s sweater in the dryer and he reprimands her for it, she doesn’t protest but goes away to weep by herself. He stops and soothes her by singing a silly song. There is a sweetness, a gentleness in both of them, encapsulated in that sequence, that touches the viewer.
Gogol (Kal Penn) and Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson) on the other hand, are a modern day couple. They date in the privacy of a restaurant and their own apartments. They talk, intellectualise and laugh together. We are taken to their bedroom on the night of their wedding. Right after making love, he asks her how many lovers she has had before.
Their relationship is one that a lot of us could probably relate to. The common backgrounds, the yuppie couple lifestyle they lead, the friends-as-well-as-lovers implications. And yet, for all their conversations, their marriage has started off on trust being questioned and ends with it being betrayed.
Do we really know how to relate to each other anymore? Or have we just had so much of freedom (too much of a good thing) that it makes us sick with paranoia now?
I see the gentleness of Ashima and Ashoke’s love in a lot of couples of that generation and the one before them – our parents and grandparents. People who’ve probably never said ‘I love you’ to each other but are completely happy in each other’s company. And I’ve said ‘I love you’ to a lot of people but at the end of a decade of dating, I don’t know a single person I could stand for more than a few days.
I don’t remember any man ever having treated me with as much trust and gentleness as Ashoke treats Ashima. And I also have never trusted any man so unquestioningly.
Maybe we’re just a generation of too many questions and not enough trust.
* I read this book on my flight back from the South trip. And on the cover was written, ‘The greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home.’ I stay hopeful.
Much as I hate forwards, I really have to recycle this joke here. I don’t think there can be enough laughs to this one!
A professor of mathematics sent a fax to his wife:
You must realize that you are 54 years old and I have certain needs which you are no longer able to satisfy. I am otherwise happy with you as a wife and I sincerely hope you will not be hurt or offended to learn that by the time you receive this letter that I will be at the Grand Hotel with my 18 year old teaching assistant. I will be home before midnight.
When he arrived at the hotel, there a fax was waiting for him that read as follows:
You, too, are 54 years old and by the time you read this, I will be at the Breakwater Hotel with the 18 year old pool boy. Being the brilliant mathematician you are, you can easily appreciate the fact that 18 goes into 54 many more times than 54 goes into 18. Therefore, my love, do not wait up!
Brava, Mrs.Professor! 🙂
To ‘the one special woman’,
You are the stuff of memories that never fade, rust or get forgotten. You are the overriding factor above everything hormonal, practical, emotional, logical and fair. Indeed, you must be special.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Do you know who I am? I am the one who he leaves to chase you. Or the one who battles with the unsurmountable statue of you up on the pedestal. I am the real-world girlfriend. I spend the boring, traffic-laden, polluted days with him while he reminisces about the special candlit dinner-violin serenaded moments with you.
Actually we’ve met a few times. Once you were a good friend who toyed with the idea of him while I stood around waiting and then handed him back to me, slightly soiled, a few months later. The thing is you gave back to me his bruised ego to heal but not the fragments of his heart. That you kept for yourself and I’ll never be able to touch them.
Some other times you’re a stranger, nice and pleasant. You are never off-balance, never irrational, you never scream like a banshee. No, I do that….after all, security brings a level of peace and calm and I wouldn’t know what that looked like.
A lot of other times we haven’t actually met or even spoken. I’ve looked at photographs of you, heard about you from friends (and from him) and wondered a great deal about what you must have that I don’t. You aren’t prettier. Or smarter. Or nicer. Or more loving. But in his memories, you are incomparable.
I’ve thrown in the towel a while ago. I can’t compete with a memory. Or perceived perfection. I am real. Flawed, inconsistent, imperfect. I have acne, PMS, extra inches around my tummy, doubtful taste. I’m the real thing. Well…that can never compare with the poetry of a fantasy, can it?
Your position isn’t exactly a complete one either. For you do know what will happen the minute you succumb? You’ll turn into me. I guess you know. Which is why you let this state exist as it is. I guess it is better to be adored from a distance than ignored right to your face.
Do I sound bitter? Yes, I am. Very. I wanted someone to want to settle down with me, not settle for me. No one wants to feel like a consolation prize.
‘My Best Friend’s wedding‘ was about me. But I am not always like that. The platitude talks about wanting happiness for someone you love, even if its not with you. I aspire to do that, even if I don’t always succeed. Believe me, if you think its difficult being friends with me, you have no clue what its like for me to battle envy and resentment and like you for who you are. Well, you are likeable. Which makes it even more difficult.
I won’t ever tell you this to your face. Why, I wouldn’t even admit to him that he’s important enough to me to colour my thoughts of another person. But I feel it. I guess all I have left is the thought that….
Eve’s greatest enemy isn’t Adam
But another Eve
Oh well, even if you are a better woman than I am, I think I love him more than you ever will. Now if only, he’d understand that. But that probably doesn’t matter.
The ordinary woman
A later version of this is posted here. This is also posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.