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What To Do When A Friend ‘Comes Out’

The answer is simple. If you are truly sympathetic and supportive, you let it show. You can do it without saying a thing. Just for posterity, I’m going to tell you about two ‘coming-out’ conversations that I’ve been a part of. Each one is a sweet memory, a verbal token that a friend trusted me and shared something deeply personal.

Telling All

He’s a pal, a friend from the times when ‘chaddi-buddy’ was both a literal and figurative description of the relationship. He’s family in that way where I can call him over to cook for me when I’m hungry, make him sit through a rerun of an old Tamizh movie he doesn’t understand and he cribs and complains all the time but does it all anyway.

One Sunday morning, I called him and demanded that he meet me for an early morning movie. He cribbed but he turned up anyhow. And since we hadn’t talked in over a year, I tossed out a ‘what’s news’ line. It led into an unexpected conversation.

How are things?

What things?

You know…are you dating anybody? How’s the dil ka haal, that kind of stuff. I haven’t heard you talk about any women.

I haven’t liked any women.

Turn left here. What were you saying?

Nothing.

It wasn’t nothing. Tell all!

I said, I haven’t liked any woman.

Ah.

What?

Nothing.

Really?

Well…that’s all?

Hmm.

Ah.

Then the movie started and we were both absorbed in it. Later, over lunch, he referred back to the conversation and asked me what I thought. I said,

I think you’re going to pay for lunch. I paid for the movie after all and I’m broke now.

A Silly Girl

The second time was a chat converation with the girl in this post. At the time of writing it, she hadn’t said anything but I knew she had read the post anyway. She went off for a pee-break and when she returned, abruptly typed,

You wrote one post about your gay friend.

Trepedition. Fear. Mischief. I decided to play safe and just replied,

Yesss?

Who was that about?

Ha! I thought and I typed back,

A very silly girl I know and adore.

:-).

Then I went off for lunch. A month later, we were having coffee when she suddenly piped up,

And I told her that you wrote a post about me!

My turn to grin.

Who says laughter and fun can’t be a part of important conversations?

Game-Playing

I’ve just returned from an old-fashioned family vacation at the ‘native place’, complete with grand-parents, cousins and mangoes. It was nice to not have to be a boss, a sparkling wit, a responsible citizen, a busy commuter or any of those multitudinous other roles I seem to keep juggling. On the other hand, it has been over five years since I visited the mother-state, even longer since I went on a family vacation of this sort. People have changed; and perhaps so have I.

My delightful aunt organised a games evening for the family. Sitting out in the open courtyard, listening to nothing more than the barely-there breeze and watching the sky darken without having to glance at a clock, watch, computer clock or mobile phone every few seconds…we talked. The game went thus: Pairs of people were asked questions about each other and graded according to how accurate their answers were.

Grand-uncle and grand-aunt correctly answered which school each of them passed out from and their favorite colours. Sure, you’d think a couple that has been together for so long would know that about each other. It just is an oddly heart-warming thing to see romance suddenly in the lives of people you’ve known all of yours, a couple that in the traditional Indian manner never openly express affection for each other. Grand-aunt to my surprise, even named grand-uncle’s boss (though she thought of his last boss, not his first). Grand-uncle charmed his way out of ‘her favorite sweet’ question with a,

She likes everything!

…and had to endure much ribbing as she smiled and said,

That’s why he never got me any!

They knew more about each other than the other couples in the group, all parent-child ones, did. Isn’t that odd, now? The person who is closest to you, who knows you nearly inside-out may  be someone who doesn’t share your DNA, never lived through your first tears and early landmarks. Your best friend may just be someone you’ve shared more history with.

Hmm, now I understand ‘someone to grow old with’ much better. I just wish I had someone who’d know all those answers about me.

Ringtones

Best Friend tells me that she’s personalized each of her key contacts with their own ringtone (She called it ‘callertune’ but I know that’s incorrect since my calls still go to the same ring-ring-ring-hello). My number, she says, has been set to

It’s raining men!

I riposte,

Rain, rain, everywhere and not a drop to drink!

Settle For To Settle Down

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.

Because I'm Not That Scary (Those Aren't Horns!)

Some pictures of shy, demure, wallflower moi surfaced online. Nope, not paparazzi style ones, just a couple of shots from a tweet-party I went to recently. Result: I got called ‘cute’ by a Twerson (khee khee, tell me I’m funny!). Nobody calls me cute. I’m stopped in my tracks (briefly) and then decide to share my astonishment with the (cute) child with me in the pic,

Me: I got someone calling me ‘cute’ based on that pic at the party!

Asfaq: And you wanna kill ’em? And that’s a compliment, right?

Me: I just said thank you and smiled sweetly.

Asfaq: How sweet. Do they know you are the fanatic feminist types? And you will go back and blog abt it?

Me: Muhahahahahaa…

Asfaq: U R GOING TO BLOG ABT IT, ARE’NT U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

A little later, a conversation with Rada (yes, yes, I do have some men friends and guess what, they don’t all hope I’ll wake up speech-impaired!!).

Rada: All Best Wishes for a Safe, Happy and Fulfilling 2009. Let 2009 be for you the year of the “knight in shining armour”!

Me: I think I’ll be happy with a common man in a clean outfit so long as he has some understanding of the terms ‘loyalty’ and ‘committment’! Thank you very much!

Rada: You have just defined the modern “knight in shining armour”!

Me: I have to blog this conversation, for posterity.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

And finally, in reply to my tweet asking if I should turn into a nice, sweet girl-next-door, says Cynic,

Sweet girl next door? er…personality transplant needed errr..

Gah!! I did try! Hebby noo yurrr, women and other creatures!! Be back on the other side of this day for more pow-wow!

Let’s Talk!

Now this is a post that was in the making before I decided (for the umpteenth time) to commit blog-i-cide. And my blog-i-cide (I lurrrve that word, it’s an IdeaSmith original!) phase was over a year back so this is really a senior citizen of a post. I thought I’d burst when I found it, still lurking in my brain, unposted. Incidently, I was tempted to temper the ‘I-hate-men’ness of this post down but did not. Id don’t feel that way anymore but I guess I did once upon a time. So here’s to honest expression as well! Now proceed to read and laugh plizz….

Good communication, I’m told, is the foundation of healthy relationships. No, I’m not going “Bah, humbug!” The wise one said good communication, not mindless all-out communication. There is a fine art in communicating with men. You see, Martians and Venusians may both speak Earthese but they seem to process them differently. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I manage to talk to men at all. And yet, since I pride myself on being a good conversationalist, maybe its time to examine exactly why.

A conversation with the opposite sex (when endowed with a brain in the correct head, even if they don’t usually use them…well, they do, at least initially) can be interesting, enriching and delightful. It’s a cross between an African safari and a minefield. It’s almost always a trip through a brave, new world….ooh, how exciting…but watch, watch, WATCH your step (and your words).

Career: Forget about equality in the workplace. Or wait, let’s just understand that better. Men have never bothered much about our opinions of their professional lives, have they? Just so long as we look up to them with adoring eyes and coo over the bread-winner bringing home an extra loaf or two. Here’s to equality then. Why should it matter what his opinion of your professional life is, then? Don’t even go into the potentially explosive areas of who earns more, whose job is more important. I mean, really…you didn’t need him to get a degree, an interview and a job. Obviously he’s curious about what you do (or he pretends to be, in an effort to seem interested). There’s no need to lie, all I’m saying is, there’s no need to discuss your professional goals and dreams with him. Take it from me, he’s not interested…or worse, he’ll feel upstaged and threatened. He wants to know you’re intelligent, sound the part, you don’t have to hold it up on flash cards for him (though the idea has crossed my mind several times….why do men never understand the simplest of things???) It isn’t even an issue if he’s in the same line of work as you are (though it could be if he works with you). From what I see, men can distinguish their professional and personal selves as clearly as they do love and sex. Take a cue from him and do the same. Don’t of course follow suit, when he starts to talk about his work. All little boys like showing off, they do need our approval after all.

Family: There’s nothing more annoying to me than a man who goes on and on and on about mama dearest, the big sister he’s always looked up to and the dad he never got along with. No, actually there are several other things about men that annoy me but this is right up there on the list. So don’t subject him to the same thing. This is difficult, some of us actually like our families and it is hard to make conversation while all the while avoiding talking of the people in one’s life. Well, just don’t overdo it. It’s fine to love your parents and siblings, only don’t take it to the extent where the listener wonders whether you’re just out with them because the family was sleeping in that day.

The past: I’ve always advocated honesty, especially about one’s past, in relationships. However, it occurs to me that there are degrees of honesty. He is not your sounding board or your therapist. He does not need to know how many people there were and what you got upto with all of them. He may be permitted to know that you’ve been schooled in dealing with his kind but really you don’t need to lay out the curriculum for him. This has always been debatable but I find men make a bigger deal of this than women do. Let’s face it, a cliche holds true again: A man wants to be a woman’s first love. Women are more subtle; they just want to be a man’s last romance.

Secrets: Please do not make the mistake of assuming that you can be best friends with him and romance him at the same time. I’m not saying couples can’t be best friends. But a real friendship takes time and understanding. Even more so between people of opposite sexes since they don’t have the intuitive understanding of each other’s randomness (women) or an instinctive grasp of the other’s linear thinking and actions (men). People who are dating are also grappling with the billowing clouds of game-playing, mischievious romance, sexual chemistry and all the jazz that goes into it. It is just way too much to expect to get to be friends as well. I’ve made this mistake myself (several times over, I admit it!!!!). Just because you get along well, does not mean that you can or even should be friends. It just means that you share some great chemistry and both of you like each other enough to play along. Give it some time, get past the clouds, shake out the sparkly dust from your eyes, have a few arguments and then see the other person and think about whether you actually want to be friends with them. And hence corollary to that, please don’t talk about things that you would only discuss with a close friend. Your most embarassing moment, your greatest fear, your wildest fantasy…..these may make for some exciting conversation-starters but they can also turn into demons later on. Sharing little intimacies too early is just an attempt to speed up the ‘getting to know each other’ process…some things just require time and effort so give it that.

A quick check-list of the things one must never say to a man on the first few dates:

  • My best friend is getting married. I want to be married this year too.
  • What was I doing when you called? I was watching Titanic. The scene where Jack dies always makes me cry, wouldn’t you agree?
  • 45 girlfriends! Will you remember me tomorrow then?
  • I really like you. We have this amazing connection.
  • Is your friend single? Because I know this lovely girl who’d be perfect for him.
  • What would I like to do tomorrow? Oh, would you help me pick out a dress?
  • Will you be my date for my friend’s wedding next week?

So now that leaves us with what to talk about? Ah, that’s for another post. In the meantime, enjoy your drinks. And each other. 😉

Let's Talk!

Now this is a post that was in the making before I decided (for the umpteenth time) to commit blog-i-cide. And my blog-i-cide (I lurrrve that word, it’s an IdeaSmith original!) phase was over a year back so this is really a senior citizen of a post. I thought I’d burst when I found it, still lurking in my brain, unposted. Incidently, I was tempted to temper the ‘I-hate-men’ness of this post down but did not. Id don’t feel that way anymore but I guess I did once upon a time. So here’s to honest expression as well! Now proceed to read and laugh plizz….

Good communication, I’m told, is the foundation of healthy relationships. No, I’m not going “Bah, humbug!” The wise one said good communication, not mindless all-out communication. There is a fine art in communicating with men. You see, Martians and Venusians may both speak Earthese but they seem to process them differently. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I manage to talk to men at all. And yet, since I pride myself on being a good conversationalist, maybe its time to examine exactly why.

A conversation with the opposite sex (when endowed with a brain in the correct head, even if they don’t usually use them…well, they do, at least initially) can be interesting, enriching and delightful. It’s a cross between an African safari and a minefield. It’s almost always a trip through a brave, new world….ooh, how exciting…but watch, watch, WATCH your step (and your words).

Career: Forget about equality in the workplace. Or wait, let’s just understand that better. Men have never bothered much about our opinions of their professional lives, have they? Just so long as we look up to them with adoring eyes and coo over the bread-winner bringing home an extra loaf or two. Here’s to equality then. Why should it matter what his opinion of your professional life is, then? Don’t even go into the potentially explosive areas of who earns more, whose job is more important. I mean, really…you didn’t need him to get a degree, an interview and a job. Obviously he’s curious about what you do (or he pretends to be, in an effort to seem interested). There’s no need to lie, all I’m saying is, there’s no need to discuss your professional goals and dreams with him. Take it from me, he’s not interested…or worse, he’ll feel upstaged and threatened. He wants to know you’re intelligent, sound the part, you don’t have to hold it up on flash cards for him (though the idea has crossed my mind several times….why do men never understand the simplest of things???) It isn’t even an issue if he’s in the same line of work as you are (though it could be if he works with you). From what I see, men can distinguish their professional and personal selves as clearly as they do love and sex. Take a cue from him and do the same. Don’t of course follow suit, when he starts to talk about his work. All little boys like showing off, they do need our approval after all.

Family: There’s nothing more annoying to me than a man who goes on and on and on about mama dearest, the big sister he’s always looked up to and the dad he never got along with. No, actually there are several other things about men that annoy me but this is right up there on the list. So don’t subject him to the same thing. This is difficult, some of us actually like our families and it is hard to make conversation while all the while avoiding talking of the people in one’s life. Well, just don’t overdo it. It’s fine to love your parents and siblings, only don’t take it to the extent where the listener wonders whether you’re just out with them because the family was sleeping in that day.

The past: I’ve always advocated honesty, especially about one’s past, in relationships. However, it occurs to me that there are degrees of honesty. He is not your sounding board or your therapist. He does not need to know how many people there were and what you got upto with all of them. He may be permitted to know that you’ve been schooled in dealing with his kind but really you don’t need to lay out the curriculum for him. This has always been debatable but I find men make a bigger deal of this than women do. Let’s face it, a cliche holds true again: A man wants to be a woman’s first love. Women are more subtle; they just want to be a man’s last romance.

Secrets: Please do not make the mistake of assuming that you can be best friends with him and romance him at the same time. I’m not saying couples can’t be best friends. But a real friendship takes time and understanding. Even more so between people of opposite sexes since they don’t have the intuitive understanding of each other’s randomness (women) or an instinctive grasp of the other’s linear thinking and actions (men). People who are dating are also grappling with the billowing clouds of game-playing, mischievious romance, sexual chemistry and all the jazz that goes into it. It is just way too much to expect to get to be friends as well. I’ve made this mistake myself (several times over, I admit it!!!!). Just because you get along well, does not mean that you can or even should be friends. It just means that you share some great chemistry and both of you like each other enough to play along. Give it some time, get past the clouds, shake out the sparkly dust from your eyes, have a few arguments and then see the other person and think about whether you actually want to be friends with them. And hence corollary to that, please don’t talk about things that you would only discuss with a close friend. Your most embarassing moment, your greatest fear, your wildest fantasy…..these may make for some exciting conversation-starters but they can also turn into demons later on. Sharing little intimacies too early is just an attempt to speed up the ‘getting to know each other’ process…some things just require time and effort so give it that.

A quick check-list of the things one must never say to a man on the first few dates:

  • My best friend is getting married. I want to be married this year too.
  • What was I doing when you called? I was watching Titanic. The scene where Jack dies always makes me cry, wouldn’t you agree?
  • 45 girlfriends! Will you remember me tomorrow then?
  • I really like you. We have this amazing connection.
  • Is your friend single? Because I know this lovely girl who’d be perfect for him.
  • What would I like to do tomorrow? Oh, would you help me pick out a dress?
  • Will you be my date for my friend’s wedding next week?

So now that leaves us with what to talk about? Ah, that’s for another post. In the meantime, enjoy your drinks. And each other. 😉

Alcohol, arguments and men

Actually, having slept over my last post, I look at myself this morning with fresh perspective (and two hours of yoga). I realize that I’m essentially a logical, rational person. But I’m susceptible to certain rationale-altering vices. Namely, alcohol, arguments and men.

If I ever own a restaurant (which I highly doubt, I’m a terrible cook and hostess), I’ll probably call it ‘Alcohol and Arguments‘. Does that sound too much like the tagline of my favorite coffee shop? Well, mine will be stocked with plenty of books, newspapers and perhaps a terminal or two to access the blogsphere….all conducive to the second of my vices. Obviously there’d have to be both men and women coming in, else the idea wouldn’t work. It’s not too funny a thought, is it? The last man I voiced this to, found it extremely amusing.

To come back, it isn’t really all that odd, you know. Alcohol is a chemical that alters brain processes. Arguments stimulate the production of adrenalin, another chemical that can addle your brain. And men…ah men, men, men….at least the kind of men I’m usually drawn to and am always writing about….cause the production of several hormones (umm, adrenalin among others) that definitely have an effect on my generally smooth-functioning rational processes. All three in conjunction and we have a merry cocktail of mad chemicals. No wonder then, my relationships began with loads of fun (ah, bring on the wine!!!) and intellectual stimulation (oh well….arguments…) and end disastrously (umm, isn’t that always the case where men are concerned?). The combination is just too much for me to digest.

And hence I resolve to steer clear of my three vices, in the interest of upholding the dignity and intelligence quotient of my sisterhood. Alcohol is rather easy to abstain from….I’ve been on the wagon, reasonably so all this year (we’ll forget about the odd glass of wine or two). Arguments, not as easy, prone as I am to playing warrior-princess. But I’ve started my yoga again and am picking up my old threads of spirituality. Hence peace may reign as I quiet the cacaphony in my life. Men though……hmm, I just seem to have an affinity for trouble and men (troublesome men), don’t I?

At least I’ll try to avoid all three together. There ought to be a law. Alcohol has its statutories. Arguments are at least socially controlled. Men however, running loose all over the place, ought to come with a label, especially the intelligent ones…

Danger! The intelligence levels in this unit are above permissible levels of human female consumption and can be hazardous to mental well-being.

Just a friendly conversation

You know you really need to get out and find some sex.

Are you offering?

Shoot the idiot who thought that men and women could be friends. Can anyone tell me why the above conversation annoyed me? I know why….I’m mad at myself for imagining that I could have a civil, friendly conversation with a member of the opposite sex.

Maybe we just define the concept of ‘friendly conversation’ differently but I can’t imagine swearing at my close friends, calling them names, dredging up their love life mistakes, family histories and what not…..less still in a friendly conversation.

But shoot me, I’m an idiot too. I thought we lived on the same planet. And spoke the same language.

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