The last time I spoke about dating, I was cribbing about Indian men, digital platforms and the world in general. But like the times I rarely speak about, I’m regaining my peace-equilibrium with the world I live in, that fails to please me, on occasion. And as with pizza, beer and brinjals (*aubergines*), I’m learning to enjoy it.
This post by 50DatesInDelhi made me very happy. She clearly had fun. I don’t know this for fact but at least as far as the limited view of her that exists in my life via her blog, she seems to not be overthinking it.
Last week, at an Open Mic, someone forgettable performed a piece that held us spellbound. Manisha verbalised what we were all feeling. And then that person came back to explain why they wrote it, what they were feeling etc. Manisha cut them short with,
“Don’t ruin it.”
Someday I will learn to be as brutally profound as that. But both these instances capture the essential wisdom that seems now in my tenuous reach.
Dating is a way to meet people and form connections. It is an unpredictable, no-results-guaranteed activity. But it is also time spent, pinned on a huge, big hope (whatever that may be for you). Why kill it with agendas that you have no way of ensuring are achieved?
I have actually been going out, between the time I wrote that last post and now. I’ve just not been thinking much about it. What have I been doing? Dinner, drinks, lunch, walk, movie, chat, the usual. Who are these people? They’re just, well, people.
This is not to say that I’m running blindly through men. Indeed, I’m not. I’m too snooty/chronically middle class to go out with just about anybody. Plus, time is everlastingly a constraint in this city and in this life of an identity-juggling sometimes entrepreneur. I have been going out now and then, with people I have found likeable, whose company has been enjoyable. And they’ve stayed that, not turned into fictitious hero figures in my head or co-stars in elaborate real world dramas.
I’ve been having great conversations. With men, with women, with friends, with persons-who-may-become-something-else. There has been laughter, boredom, book talk, awkward moments, romance, disgust, attraction, meanness. And the whole jing-bang has been so much fun.
Yesterday, I found myself in possession of a whole bunch of hours that were not promised to a deliverable, a client, a prospect, a meal, an activity or a friend. It felt like a good time for a bad movie. A message that I sent, got a reply much later. I was on my way to the theatre, anyway. We wasted an hour joking about book titles. Then we sniggered and sarcasmed through a movie that must have been made for just this. And then I came home, had dinner and went to bed. Today was a good day, full of work and feeling at peace because I was well-rested, my laughter glands well nourished and not feeling the weight of worrying about what last evening was supposed to have meant.
I don’t know where I am heading with this. Chronic singledom? A string of meandering non-relationships? I have no idea and for a change, I’m not thinking about it. I’ve tried the relationships models on offer and they didn’t work for me. Maybe the people didn’t but either way, I’m not going to find out by brooding about it.
People can be fun. And that’s a new idea for me. I’m just enjoying it.
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.
Yesterday I went out with a friend whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in eight years. This is one of my memorable Facebook moments since that’s how I found him after all these years. It was an odd, intense friendship back then and for various reasons, we just lost touch. How wonderful it was to discover that he hadn’t changed and I hadn’t changed but both of us were just a little older and with a few more stories to tell each other!
I think the really special thing for me was being able to sit down and talk to a man, as a friend, as a confidante, as a partner in crime, as a co-conspirator, and yes, even as an attractive member of the opposite sex. I really think, as my wise commenter Jay Cataldo puts it, I have been overwhelmed with a run of bad experiences.
This is not to say that I’m forsaking my fiery XX Factor views. I still do think that most Indian men are mama’s boys, there is far too much rampant male chauvinism and creephood to merit my calling them a fair and intelligent species and that men are not keeping up with women when it comes to ‘getting with’ things. But I’m also thinking that there are indeed a few exceptions (note, I said ‘few’ and that means the chances of finding any one of them if one goes looking for them are equal to the chances of winning a jackpot).
I think I’ve spent far too long in too much agony and all of that was because nothing fit my ‘plan’. My life didn’t turn out the way it expected (actually it was better) and men didn’t turn out anywhere close to what I hoped they were (they were much worse). And yet, I think it’s time to sit up and just get used to the person I am and the life I have. I’ve become the kind of person who really doesn’t anymore need a man to feel complete so I may as well stop whining about their inadequacy…I mean, I don’t need them to be perfect anymore after all so why?
Interestingly enough when I talked to my friend about the plan I had had and how things had turned out instead, he smiled and said,
I could never imagine you as a housewife and mother at 23..you know that kind of life. I always thought you were more like me…you have the same spirit of adventure. I have had a chance to express it and you haven’t, that’s all
Maybe I shouldn’t need validation anymore but well, I still do and it felt good to hear that from another person, someone whose views I respect. We talked about our careers, our love lives, what we had learnt (me through my multitudinous relationships, him through his varied travels), how we had changed and how much more we were ourselves. It was oddly sweet to be able to have a conversation that included such snippets as,
And now that you’ve stopped flirting with me, we can move on to matters of greater gravity. 🙂
I think dating with an end goal in mind (marriage) is such a loaded event, it’s practically like going for a job interview. You’re so concerned with whether things will turn out right, so disappointed when he does or says something wrong, so terribly agonized when you make a slip…that you forget to actually enjoy the experience.
Yesterday for the first time in ages, I looked at my watch around 9pm and was struck to discover that it was actually half past eleven. For probably the first time ever, I enjoyed a bottle (or perhaps more) of wine without keeping count of how much I was drinking, how quickly it was going in and what I was having it it. It was a tremendously soul-lifting experience to enjoy an experience without worrying about it.
We were friends, we were strangers, we were on a date and we weren’t, we were two people who were remembering what we already knew about the other and discovering other things that we liked. Once again, to re-iterate what I said last time, it wasn’t about where we were or how we were related to each other, what labels we hung on each other. It was about the man himself and he was wonderful.
Among the many things we discussed last night, relationships and attraction were starring features. At one point I found myself saying,
I love men and I know why I love them. It’s not just the physical aspect of it. It’s that combination of vulnerability and strength that is uniquely male. Women are never really that vulnerable. It is so easy to hurt a man, it’s so easy to break a man, so easy to shatter his ego, his sense of self-worth, his very spirit….and hence you don’t.
And as soon as I’d said it, I knew that was exactly true. He pondered it and said,
I don’t think women have ever hurt me.
Then maybe you’ve only known women who have loved you very much. But then again, I have hurt men I’ve loved too. So it isn’t love. Let me revise – you’ve only known women who have cared for you very much.
So that’s what its about then. Loving a man comes naturally as does the ability and on occasion, the desire, to hurt him. Beyond that, reigning back that desire and acknowledging the effort it takes to do so….I guess that’s the space where relationships are born.
At the end, I enjoyed being with him because he was so uniquely himself. But also because I loved who I was when I was with him. So it is about the person himself and it’s also about who you are when you’re with him.
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.