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.
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.
Arre ran one of my stories this week and I’m thrilled. It’s about my experiences as an ‘older’ woman on the dating apps, primarily Tinder. A very young friend told me how nice it was to see older humans not dissing the idea of online dating. I couldn’t stop laughing when I told him that my generation was the one that invented the concept of falling in love online. These were actually lines in my original draft of the article, that got dropped during edits:
“Speaking of dickpics, these didn’t shock me as much as my millennial friends thought they would. After all, the internet is basically my younger sibling (being that I was 16 the year VSNL made internet connection, an ‘it’ accessory). My generation had its first romantic exchange through a glass screen, hallelujah chatrooms! We invented (discovered?) so this was the inevitable future.”
Anyway, I’m really happy with the way my story shaped up. Writers tend to shape our own world view with what we write. And it’s put me into a very good frame of mind to have worked on a piece that is about carrying away experience, not cynicism from life.
Show me some love and read the article, people! It’s up here and it’s called: