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.
Yes, I am back.
So what do we talk about today?
How about the reasons why men cheat? But I am sure there are tonnes of articles and justifications that you can find on the internet (Google informs me there are 4.7 million results when you type that phrase in)
So I thought I’d merely point you to a couple of very interesting articles someone shared online.
One was this review of Stephanie Coontz’s book “Marriage a History” which says:
“Marriage was a way of turning strangers into relatives, of making peace, of making permanent trading connections,” Coontz says. “There are many different languages that call wives the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the word ‘peace-weaver’.”
The other was a blog post written by Dave Pollard who writes:
Anthropologists have concluded that such settling is unnatural, and that is why the chemistry of love binds us to a single partner only for a brief period sufficient to produce offspring and ensure they are sufficiently provided for until they are weaned.
Personally speaking, I am attracted to people all the time, and I don’t mean it in a sexual way all the time. Today’s generation calls it by new names like “Friends with Benefits” and the needless need to label relationships.
Happiness comes not by defining and putting boundaries around a certain thing, but by expanding it.
In my decade of being married I can count the moments of true happiness and the hours of feeling burdened with expectations and pain and hurt.
Yes marriage is hard work. And while people crib openly about going to work on Mondays and celebrate by saying “Thank God it’s Friday” – no one (at least publicly) says they are sick of marriage.
Commitment. That’s a big word. A word that gets interpreted by different people even if its the same context. Add infidelity to that list.
Women say commitment has to be not just physical but emotional as well. However, every married man doesn’t share everything with his wife. How about bitching about his wife’s habits to the boys? Is that a break of commitment? How about sharing that with female colleagues? Suddenly the lines blur, depending on who the audience is.
“But its the intent” Do I hear you say?
Unfortunately, intent is never visible – no matter how much intuition you go by. What matters is behavior. In offices men and women often end up having “office spouses” – a usually platonic relationship. Would their “real spouses” call that “emotional infidelity”
In the overall analysis, every man and woman has different emotional, intellectual, sexual needs. So why not have different “loves” for each need. And such needs change with time too. People grow apart.
Our parents’ generation did not marry for love – hence they stayed together. If we marry for love at least we should be committed to love itself.
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.
It’s a question I posed to a mixed group of friends. The women were all united in their belief that it didn’t make sense to do so. Most men (and this is an opinion I share) aren’t used to the concept of someone else taking the romantic initiative. And even if there is the possibility of a relationship, their absolute bewilderment over the way the situation happens could very well ruin it. The male ego just doesn’t permit such a relationship, even if there is interest.
The only trouble is when a woman likes a guy, it’s a real pain in the ass to sit around waiting for him to ask her out. Ask any woman about the frustration of watching a guy eye you all evening, start to walk towards you and then stop and turn back. It’s an ARRRRGGGGGHH situation.
The men on the other hand were largely open to the idea. I was quite surprised to hear the things that some of them said,
“It would be really nice to have the girl take the initiative for a change.”
“Guys like compliments and receiving attention too.”
“I’m hopeless at setting up the whole romantic scenario. It would be so great if she’d take charge of that.”
And finally the clinching deal for their side was a male friend who had just announced that he was getting engaged.
“My fiancé proposed to me.”
Now honestly, I think it’s wise to try something out before passing a judgement on it. So yes, I have asked a guy out as well. Not once, several times. It was an enlightening experience.
For starters, it’s horribly nerve-tangling. The worrying about how to ask, where to go, what to do and what the other person will think of you. I felt a rush of sympathy for all the men who had summoned up the nerve to ever express an interest in me. It does take a lot of courage and planning.
The one thing that surprised me was how the entire effort consumed me. Like I told a friend,
“The thrill of the chase is something I could get used to. The not-knowing, even the slight panic…there’s a heady high attached to it.”
I must also add that being in the driving seat, so to speak, being the one bringing together the whole production somehow automatically switched me into a place of only thinking about the absolutely necessary. A friend of mine was goading me into taking things to a more serious level. I thought about it and I surprised myself by saying,
“When you ask someone for a commitment, you are also saying that you’re ready to commit yourself. I’m not sure yet if that’s the case. I just want to see where this goes for now.”
As I said it, I knew I sounded exactly like a guy. And yet, I wasn’t being commitment-phobic, I wasn’t planning on two-timing and I wasn’t ‘in it for the ride’. I really, honestly didn’t know where things were going and having taken up the responsibility to take it somewhere, I just wanted to take it slowly.
The one thing that stands out is that the person who takes the initiative is definitely setting himself (or herself) up for the possibility of rejection…but even more subtly he or she is saying yes to being in a place of uncertainty for at least some time.
Since I started telling a story, I should tell you the end. The man in question is involved with someone else, a fact that I discovered several weeks later and then too only on pushing him. That can happen. He says he wasn’t sure if it was dates or just friendly meetings. What the truth is, is anyone’s guess. Should one take the risk of being stood up or humiliated? There’s no answer to that, except that guys do it all the time (take the risk I mean, not just what this guy did).
As I see it, being the woman taking charge means one is playing an unusual role and there’s ample scope to be misunderstood. If the guy is a jerk, he could easily use the situation for maximum benefit and get a lot out of the girl without giving her anything back. But then again, falling in love is always a risk, every time, in every single situation. Besides the reverse is probably equally true, especially in today’s day and age. A woman can just as easily free-ride on a guy’s attentions and then walk away without a second thought.
So at the end I’m inclined to say that if you have the nerve for it, don’t let social norms stop you. If you’re a guy who agrees with what my male friends said, try not to be an ass or a jerk about it. In the long run, it’ll encourage more women to take the initiative and things will only get easier and pleasanter for you. If like me, you’re a woman who can’t stand to sit around looking pretty and waiting to be asked out, go right into the chase. Just keep your band-aids and chocolates and close friends about. Just in case.
Ever since I’ve put up this slightly controversial (and I’ll admit biased and brash) post…actually even before that, I’ve been hit with the question of why I do want committment at all then if it’s such a terrible thing. My reasons may not be all deeply soulful or romantic or even honorable. As I see it, committment (read marriage) is a solution to a number of niggling, nuisance-ey problems.
Sure I enjoy the liberatedness of being liberated, the freedom to decide my own social life, the no-responsibilities carefree lifestyle that my committed friends seem to envy me for. I have written about the virtues of being single.
But there are plenty of things that I don’t like about being single. Being single means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people (many of whom in my esteemed two-bit opinion shouldn’t poke their nose into my life at all). Here are some reasons I would like to be in a committed relationship.
- Wives of guy friends do not view you with immediate suspicion assuming that you’re just scheming to steal their man away, never mind that fact that you’ve probably had a chance to do that if you wished much before they even set foot in the man’s life.
- You are not required to be a last-minute escort (if you’re female) or chauffeur (if you’re male) for out-of-town single friends of friends/family.
- You don’t get mysteriously dropped out of movie/dinner plans with friends who are all now part of twosomes each.
- Other women (even your friends) don’t make direct or indirect references to your supposedly exciting, fast-moving sex/dating life.
- Eyebrows don’t shoot up when you pick up a baby or coo to a child. Who says single women can’t be maternal?
- You are not automatically put into one of two buckets – repulsive/sick/defective or flightly/fast/sluttish .
- You aren’t the target of unwanted and embarassing attention from married men of the neighbors/schoolmates/husbands of colleagues/ex-boyfriends variety.
- You are allowed to have problems too and no one shuts you up with “What do you know? You don’t have to run a household/adjust to a man/kids to look after.”
- You don’t have to leave parties and social engagements early so as to avoid imposing on friends to drop you home.
- Your family is willing to let you live your own life.
- Your personal life and social calendar doesn’t become everyone’s personal property for value judgement – relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, co-passangers.
Obviously these are not ALL the reasons to get into a relationship. If anything these are the ‘fringe benefits’ of a relationship that have started to become so important that I’m inclined to think a good number of women would want to commit just so they can enjoy all of these. I’m really tired of having to fight a battle each time I want to do something, simply because I’m single. The same thing seems to move so much faster for women who have an ‘attached’ tag on. Granted social engagements and lifestyle options aren’t the most important things in the world. But that’s precisely why it seems like such a waste to have to go to so much effort for something so minor – or go without.
A relationship has its uses and I’m unabashed in saying that I intend to enjoy all of them fully when I get into one.
I’m reading a book called Rubbish Boyfriends. But hang on, that’s not all that’s responsible for this mood o’ mine. I’ve been talking (and talking and talking) to the following women:
A has been steadily (as opposed to happily) married to a ‘Who says we get it right the first time?’ pedigree-carrier.
B is married to the man described by Barmaid as the ‘Good On Paper Indian Guy’ a.k.a. GOPIG (also M.C.Pig). She’s also momma to a 3-year-old and a useless daughter-in-law in the eyes of the matriarch who stays with them.
C has been hitched for four years and has to show for it the following:
– 3-year-old adorable coochie-boo
– 4 home addresses
– Career chart resembling a diagram of the universe (spotty) rather than a straight graph.
A says she stops short of being murderous at the sight of her husband, especially on certain days of the month. So she’s gotten herself a dog. Dog answers to ‘Gabbar’ (despite fancy names conceived by A, on account of pesky husband getting there first) but Gabbar loves her every day of the month, PMS regardless. Arre O Sambha, ek hi aadmi tha par chodo…they’re all the same!
B, juggling phone on neck-shoulder, scrambling about for change and yelling at the taxiwalla, bemoans being called a bad mother for working till 2 am. Then she adds that papa dearest sleeps in late right through baby’s sports day preparations. Her tired tirade ends with,
So long as he isn’t alcoholic, abusive or cheating on you, assume he’s Mr.Perfect. That’s as good as it is ever going to get.
I want to wail about committment-phobias, male insensitivity and thoughtlessness. I want to talk about my non-conversations about my non-relationship with my non-boyfriend. But I can see she’s not quite in the state for it so I take my woes elsewhere.
C, straight-faced as always listens to me and offers this sage advice,
Remember I used to say I’d never leave Mumbai. Do you know all the places I’ve lived in in the past four years? Do you know where I’m going to be six months from now? I don’t, either.
That makes me pause and think. So I watch SATC, drink a bottle of wine, laugh with a friend, read Chick Lit, go shopping and write XX Factor instead. Settle for if you want to settle down seems to be the order of the day. While there’s love (for the uncynical ones), sex, children and stability, no one told them about shrinking expectations (and fading dreams), comfort meshed into indifference, dreams replaced by ‘the best way to end the argument once and for all’. They change, they modify, they sigh a bit, wash their faces and carry on. All of them seem to be echoing that men will be men, at the end of it and there’s just this much you can make them care about things outside themselves.
Resignation appears to be every committed woman’s uniform emotion. And inter-twined with the single girl’s need to find someone special is a sense of relief at not having done so yet.
The Date Doctor says,
A woman’s best friend has to sign off on all big relationship desicions.
Now is that true? Let us think.
Meet a nice guy. Tell P about it. And bitch about the asshole who never called her back.
He asked for our number. We think about it and give it to him. And update P on the situation. And issue strict instructions to not call a-hole back.
He’s calling!! Talktalktalktalktalktalk. Guess who’s the first to hear about it? But of course, whose jacket are we going to wear after all? Oh but forget it, we’d rather eat chocolate ice-cream and watch soppy movies with P on the weekend. Not to mention bitch about all men in general.
Uh, he asked us out and we accepted. But P knew that already. There’s a reason she’s our best friend. Just the same as we know that she’s having dinner with Mr.Last Week-but-didn’t-call this week. Wait till late tonight. We’ll both spill.
Should I ask him out? – Haven’t you already…see, I knew it!
Comittment? – Naah..too early. Besides, are you really sure you want to see him for the rest of your life?
Should I say yes? Should I say no? No. Yes. Yes. No.
Is he the one? Is he THE one? Is HE the one? IS HE THE ONE?
P is our safety valve. We are hers.
When we got into an abusive relationship, P is the one that took us by the scruff of our neck and dragged us out, kicking and screaming. We will forever love her for that. Just like we always hate it when she brings that up each time we discuss a new man. But at least it has kept us from ever falling into hell again. We keep hearing her voice in our head when we meet someone potentially ‘bad news’. Its louder than our own voice of reason that seems to get quashed under hormones and wistful dreaminess.
We once threatened to break the bones of the stud-muffin she was dating if he ever, ever, EVER hurt her. Uh…he was a six-footer with muscles to match, by the way. Oh well, we have also warded off several unwanted admirers, had several tussels with one persistantly obsessive one and been her security guard at some social occasions.
So do we sign off on each other’s relationship desicions? Umm…not exactly. We don’t need her permission to date anyone just as she doesn’t need ours. But we always feel a little better if she has a good feeling about the person we’re with. It sort of makes us feel…well, not as vulnerable and at the mercy of our unpredictable emotions and men’s wiles (yes they have them too!)
Who said women weren’t rational? Everyone gets a little wonky in the head when they meet someone they really like. Hormones, fairytales and romantic movies, the feel-good factor….hell, love is a commodity sold at every second shop! Who are we to be able to resist the power of THAT? We is quite capable of making bad desicions (and we’ve proved that over and over again). But we have a safety valve that keeps her head in our crises, blows the whistle loud in our ears, screams us awake when we’re walking into things semi-hypnotised and finally, if despite all that we fall……she picks up the pieces and nurses them back to life. We would do exactly the same.
She’s our best friend. Wouldn’t her opinion count?
A woman’s best friend more often than not, plays devil’s advocate (oh yes, if she’s a true best friend she does!). Looks like the monster mom-in-law has been replaced by the Formidable Best Friend (FBF). Well, we take our best friend very seriously. She’s our bodyguard (heart-guard as well), the voice of our conscience, our sounding board, our therapist and finally…our advocate.
As we likes to say…
Lovers may come and lovers may pass. But a friend is for life.
Is it that scary?
It is that wonderful?
All of that depends upon the kind of relationships you’ve had. The kind of associations one has had with the word ‘comittment’.
A lot of us are scared.
Of being alone. But also of being hurt.
The best possible thing would be to have someone who was always there when we needed them. But they would never have any needs or expectations from us. Utopia.
There aren’t any free tickets in life. And it does take two to tango.