Recently, I went out with someone who had just come off a long-term relationship. 20 year long term. First love, one and only forever and forever long term.
One of the frequently mouthed platitudes of my 20s was to avoid a recently heartbroken man. Another was steer clear of the one and only type. But well, if my 30s were about throwing all expectations into the garbage and breaking my own rules, maybe the 40s are about re-examining everything I’ve ever held important (inherited, learned and hearsay) through actual experience. So I went out with him.
The first thing he brought up when we became acquainted was his divorce. I asked if I might ask him a bit more about that (because make no mistakes, respect first and consent always). He agreed. My only questions were whether the divorce had been finalised and if so, when. Just from having lived four decades as a human, I know there’s no bigger emotional minefield than an unresolved romantic relationship. Especially when it’s marriage since families, society and the law collude to make this as complicated and painful as possible.
Our conversations thereafter were delightful. Perhaps I was just savouring the feeling of coming off a two year long hiatus but this time without the fears of my 20s, nor the acid-washed feelings of my post abusive engagement 30s. 40 seems like a decent place to proceed cautiously but optimistically.
So how was it? Let me call this a lovely ten day vacation doing things that I either couldn’t afford to or was too busy or scared to in my teens and twenties. Likewise for him. Rather abruptly (presumably because he’s unused to the rituals of consideration that any adult interaction should have), he said we needed to stop spending so much time with each other. When I asked what that meant, he didn’t seem to have an answer. And that was that. He did come at me, aggressively seeking experiences. And if nothing else, he learnt firsthand what it was to ghost somebody.
For my part, I decided not to rush into an immediate reaction of rage. After all, this is not the first time a man has chickened out of his emotions or gone back on his words. It’s not even the first time I’ve been ghosted. What would be the point of 40 if I reacted to it in the same way as I did in my 20s or 30s? So I waited. I found myself more disappointed than hurt, and even so in that distasteful way of someone hungry biting into what turns out to be stale papads.
By the time he called (as I knew he eventually would – those who run the fastest are the ones who run back soonest), I felt very little attachment to him. I realised later, it was only attachment to a clean-ish ending which his half-baked ‘less time spent’ statement wasn’t. I realised a long time ago that if you feel the need for closure, you most certainly aren’t going to get it because relationships that leave that acidic empty feeling in you are indicative of people who would rather escape than be authentic. Closure is your own problem. With this experience I realised that maybe closure doesn’t have to be a clean ending. Closure is when I decide I’m done. And I’ve needed to get to 40 to be able to say that can be when the other person is still waiting for an answer or still has feelings or there are injustices not yet punished. Closure is simply when I say ENOUGH.
And that was that. Now for a new chapter.
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.
I began 2014 fresh from a post-breakup hiatus and feeling ready to go adventuring in matters of the heart again. I don’t have the MARRIAGE agenda looming high over my every interaction and the past is not weighing me down much either. I figured this made for the best possible me to come back into the single playing field.
Now here’s what I find. Like every other aspect of Mumbai life, dating over here is stressful. The big trouble is conflicting agendas. Everyone has one and they are very clear about how they want to achieve it, how to measure its achievement, how much time they want to spend on it and where else they’ll go looking. My result-driven city has made a corporate exercise out of the experience of finding connections!
I identified the model after meeting one particularly focussed specimen (what to do, my professional skills come into play too!). We only met twice. Our first date was at a fancy restaurant, flush with alcohol, good food, uber-cool converations and trading smart retorts. On our second meeting, I suggested doing something non-spectacular, like a walk or just a chat over coffee. He resisted then hung on uncomfortably and finally descended to all the tricks in the book (coaxing, wheedling etc.). And finally, he got nasty when I said NO. Such a pity, he seemed like an intelligent guy that I’d have liked to know better. But his one-mindedness was an instant downer.
From this, I deduce the following popular strategy for date-meetings:
- Establish common ground with pop culture references.
- Exchange intelligent opinions and cool jokes (internet-dictated).
- Meet at a coffeeshop/restaurant/pub in areas like Bandra or South Bombay. (Juhu or Andheri might work for a second date)
- Do all this while not getting personal, emotional, attached or developing any kind of expectation.
I have no problem with sex, immediate or otherwise. But I’m hard-pressed to find the appeal of this model. I’m not sure which bothers me more — the ritualisation of something that I’d like to be spontaneous or the immediacy with which intimacy is approached and expected.
How about the last item on that agenda? I don’t know how one is to approach the possibility of making a connection while shutting away emotion. And also, if I didn’t have expectations, it would mean that the entire human race was presented to me as one uniform, homogeneous mass. I could pick any one at random, it wouldn’t matter. Which brings me to another person I met.
He alternates between so-good-so-close and we-dont-really-know-each-other. One day, he’s full of witticisms and a ‘you and me against this ridiculous world’ attitude. And then suddenly, he cancels without apology, reacts oddly to being asked if he’d like to hang out or worse, doesn’t even respond.
My friend tells me he’s very likely juggling. I think so too and really, that’s okay. I’m meeting other people myself. But the coldness of these actions makes me feel like I’m one human object of many that’s being shuffled around on his calendar. I have a real problem with this. For one, people do matter to me. From experience I know that being around someone you don’t really connect to, is a hell far worse than being alone. Secondly, you can always sense when the other person does not really feel much for you. And I think I deserve better than to be someone’s ‘random pick from the human race’. I want to be special and I want to treat people special.
Lest this feel like a rant against men today, let me hasten to say that I see this in both sexes but mercifully not in everyone. I met someone a couple of months ago, in a very different profession from mine. But I liked him because he was nice. We meet from time to time. We exchange texts, emails, chats. We enjoy each other’s company when there is an opportunity to. The word ‘date’ has even come up and passed without any awkwardness. We connect, it’s great and that’s all there is to it. So I know it’s possible to do this without the pressure or ugliness of agendas.
I guess it’s not magical unless there are monsters and strange creatures in addition to superheroes.
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.
Let’s do the dating thing.
I’ll ask you out. You’ll respond with a surprising
“Yeah sure, why not?”
I’ll hug myself in glee.
We’ll meet for a coffee that turns into drinks instead because we both got late. A mid-distant, not too noisy, not too intimate cafe that seems perfect, right until we get there. Each of us will get there on time, then wonder if this reeks of desperation. But we’ll greet each other like it’s just another one of the many ordinary things in the day.
As we wait for our order to arrive, we’ll run through the usual list of things slight acquaintances talk about after hello – the weather, the traffic, people we know, your job, my job and again people we know. Then you or I will say or do something incredibly wrong. Can you take the saying wrong part please? I’m rather proud of my words but I have no ego vested in my physical grace. That’s settled then. You can say something slightly sexist, racist, homophobic or politically-incorrect. I’ll trip over my ballerina flats, knock over my glass and fidget on the fake leather cushion, making weird, embarrassing sounds. We’ll each realize it only after it’s been done and be embarrassed but also slightly relieved at the other one’s faux pas. You can charm me by not noticing my clumsiness and I’ll impress you with my cool intelligence as we navigate our way out of embarrassment.
We’ll both settle into the delicious comfort of ‘I-like-this-person-so-much!’ before we realize it’s only a date, not even that, it was only supposed to be coffee. We’ll focus on our drinks-not-coffee for a long minute, hoping to cover up the unmentionable, companionable silence we just shared. This time you can drop the plate while I say something incredibly stupid (“Doesn’t beer taste just like piss?” and that’s what you’re drinking). We’ll both catch each other’s eye and laugh. But it won’t be the same thing. It will be the laugh of,
“Yeah, the same thing.”
Now that we’ve read each other cues correctly, we’ll launch into our next big talkfest as we both try to make sure this isn’t a total waste of time. News, local affairs, sports, books, music and an occasional bit of word play thrown in for good measure. This is supposed to be fun after all and we’ll both be working zealously hard to make sure we’re having it, being it. That should carry us through another 45 minutes or so. We really do get along quite nicely.
When the bill arrives, the waiter will put it down in front of you (they always do in India, no matter who did the ordering). I’ll do the awkward grab and you might do a smooth slip-slide so it’s in your lap and my hand doesn’t go all there (horrors, even I couldn’t be *that* gauche). I’ll gulp and hope you don’t mistake my clumsiness for cheapness so I’ll insist, probably more forcefully than I need to, that I asked you out after all. And in the split second that follows as you hand over your credit card, you’ll look away and we’ll both know, it’s over – the date and everything that was great about it. Because someone pointed out what it was, it stopped being a fun game of emotional hide-and-seek.
When we walk out, you’ll probably not remember to (or want to) hold the door and step aside for me. I’ll frown wondering which it is and try to remember how it was when we walked in. Not that it’s supposed to matter; I’m a liberated woman after all. Still, I’ll wonder.
You’ll turn to me, a fraction too soon for it to be regular, a little too late to be chivalry. And you’ll be searching for the same thing I was, a second ago, that crucial second that we’re now off-sync. You’ll catch my frown as it goes and since it’s not as charming as my smile, you’ll turn away without speaking. As I step up next to you, we’ll look at each other, smiles in place. But no matter, I’m only charming inadvertently. And your aloofness is not looking that hot either.
We’ll say goodbye and look for transport in different directions. But just as I think I’ll never hear from you again, you’ll stick your head out. And then, despite myself, I’ll find myself telling you that I really did have a lovely time. You’ll say,
with an expression that makes me melt in the seconds you never catch because your cab zoomed away.
And that’s how it goes. Magic created and lost in moments, like the sparkles on the sea under the sun. You can’t catch it and you can’t find it, once you know you’re looking for it. But you’re briefly, tantalizingly touched with the power of what might have been, what might still be. And this was just supposed to be coffee, just a dating thing.
I have had a startling revelation that will revolutionize the way we look at relationships and well, men!
Everyone knows Bad Boys are bad news. Meh, that’s last century’s news. And yet – or possibly exactly for that reason – we are drawn to them and spend a considerable bit of our prime chasing illusions of acquaintanceship with them. But of course the Bad Boy breaks our heart. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Then we sigh and move on….to another Bad Boy.
The cycle, seemingly fatalistic has one way out – or so we are told. As maturity (or possibly too much heartache) sets in, we shed our illusions of wild, fast, furious, exciting love and pledge our troth to another kind of man altogether. Enter the Good Boy.
From a love-lifetime of having experienced Bad Boys, we automatically conclude that we know his exact opposite completely. NOT TRUE!
The Good Boy is not necessarily Prince Charming, either. He doesn’t get romance and tenderness any more instinctively than the Bad Boy. The Good Boy‘s connection to mama will be elevated to monumental proportions (in that there will be a shrine to mama) while in the case of the Bad Boy, it was only an excuse for his bad behavior.
What’s worse, I’m discovering, there is a price to be paid, a fee if you will, for life’s lessons. So after going through the Bad Boys, you come to the Good Boy expecting to be healed and kissed and made alright.
Instead you come up against a formidable presence that requires your clearing up your messes before you step onto his carpet, so to speak. There’s no sympathy forthcoming (and I’m about to believe this is the version of sulking that Good Boys prefer). It’s time to play hardball (again!) and negotiate.
These aren’t ruthless. Of course not, these are Good Boys after all. But there is negotiation nevertheless. And there’s the overwhelming sense of guilt and foolishness hanging over your own head for your past mistakes. Obviously you’re coming to the table with a weak hand.
I’m thinking the whole thing is a set-up. The Bad Boy is nothing more than marketing spiel to get our defenses dulled and weakened in time for the Good Boy to close in and finalize a deal that’s sweet to him.
GAH!!! Good or bad, a man may never be what he seems.
Now here’s something that popped up on my browser window. I don’t know exactly how it came to be there. It may have appeared via an inadvertent click on a Facebook ad or a random link on my populous Twitter stream. I just know I’m going to get some flak on this one but it was so bizarre to me, that I just had to blog about it.
My first reaction was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME??” As it turned out, they weren’t. Date IITians appears to be a social network/dating website. Here’s a little something that appears as part of the revolving screen.
Someone is waiting for you
You may admire a girl’s curves at the first meeting, but the second meeting shows up new angles.
And it gets better when you go in further:
Its the new era of Online Dating !
Thousands of IITians’/IIMites’/NITians’ profiles.
Make buddies, flirt & date your soulmate.
Develop a long-term relationship.
There is a certain kind of IIT guy that I deplore. I call them Pedigreed Pups and they are defined by nothing more than their degrees. It’s like they’re walking/talking certificates with zero emotional intelligence. But hang on, relationships & dating are about emotional intelligence.
Pedigreed Pups are human males too and to them I ask – is your self-esteem really so low that you have to resort to flashing about your college name to get a girl? Do you really, really think that no girl is ever going to take an interest in you otherwise? That’s really sad, man.
Never mind the sort of men that a tagline like that is bound to attract, what about the girls? What girl in her right mind would consent to being showcased like a piece of delectable meat (curves indeed!)? I’ll tell you – a gold-digger is what.
Since, and only because the IITs are institutions that India prides itself on, because a stamp from them ensure the entire nation’s never-failing respect and admiration, I have a problem. Firstly, does this not sully a strong, respectable brand? Secondly, what does it say about us as a people that we look up to the glorification of such crass values as gold-digging, blind objectification and gender stereotyping?
If IITians are the most intelligent minds in this country, how do they not get this? Or is it too much to hope that this is all a grand parody? They also have a blog, whose delightfully sincere and helpful posts tell me they’re serious. Oh well, different strokes for different folks I suppose. Now you know where to get your ISO certified dates from.
This is an old post, reprised from my archives. Here it is, a few years later but still valid.
Dating can be a good way to meet a prospective partner. But the process can involve various situations, not all of which are savory experiences. There is a lot of advice available on things that one should do, in preparation of, during and after a date. Even so, people make simple mistakes which put off their date and potentially lose them what could have been a great relationship.
If you are a man, here are a few actions that you should cross off your list and ensure that you never display to your date:
1. Staring at her bust
There is just no excuse for this. A woman might be willing to accept that a random guy on a bus or across the street may do this. She might reason that he has the right to look where he wants. Then remember that she also has the right to mentally strike him off the list of people that she’d ever date. But when she is on a date with you, she don’t have that option anymore. If she’s reasonably polite, she has forgone the option of crossing you off at least till the end of the date. Respect that and don’t treat her like a sex object the very minute you start your date.
2. Ogling other women
Some men use the excuse of ‘I can’t look at you so I’ll look at others’. Remember that you’re out on a date. That means you and she got together to spend time with each other. Focus on the last three words. One date does not tie you to her but it does warrant the courtesy of your undivided attention, at least.
Showing off is a natural biological action peculiar to the male species, especially when in the presence of the opposite sex. Animals do it, insects do it and human men do it too. Just don’t go on and on about it. The showing off is a mating ritual among the aforementioned life forms and ceases once the connection has been made. Assume that the connection has been made the minute the date has been accepted. There’s really no reason to go on and on about the number of foreign trips you go on, how earth-shatteringly important you are to your company, how you were having tea last week with the Dalai Lama and how many thousand books you read in the past year. It’s off-putting and most importantly it’s boring. You can safely assume that your date tuned out the minute you started throwing numbers at her.
4. Not listening at all
It’s a conversation. That means both people talk and listen. Talk some, she’ll listen. Then let her talk and you need to do more than stare around the room, ask the waiter for refills and interrupt to talk about the movie you saw. Assume that she can interest you with more than her bust. She could have a sense of humour, an opinion and intelligence too. Give her a chance to show you that too.
5. Calling her names like ‘Babe’, ‘Sweetheart’ or ‘Honeybun’
It’s a first date. She could be your girlfriend but she is not, as yet. The two of you could be friends but you haven’t gotten to that place, right now. Undue familiarity and worse, sexist phrases are instant turn-offs. She has a name; use it. In time, she might permit you to give her a nickname, but at least be original.
6. Playing SuperShrink
You’ve probably heard that women dabble in pop psychology. Maybe she has issues. Everyone does, it’s normal. But don’t put her under a microscope and psycho-analyze her on a date. It’s immensely offensive to tell her that she’s afraid of getting too close to men because of her Electra complex. If you’re a doctor, that’s work during a leisure activity. BORING. If you’re not a doctor, it tells her that you’re just being a creep.
It’s not cool to be commitment-phobic. Your messy love life and your crazy work schedules are not her concerns. You can go for a movie alone or have lunch on your own if these are true. If this date is happening, it’s because you agreed to it. Don’t waste her time and yours by coming to a date and then talking about why it can’t go further.
8. Bringing other people along
Are you serious? Friends? Parents? Siblings? Colleagues? If it’s a date, it’s between two people. Any more and it’s a party, a group or worse – an orgy. She may not mind meeting big groups of people. But not on a date. You ask people out because you want to spend time with them alone. You accept a date for the same reason. For group dos, you get invited and drop in or not. It’s different. Please get that, it messes things up if you don’t.
9. Self-help style follow throughs
This is important. If the date went well, it’s okay to keep in touch. Strike that, it’s good form, it’s good for you and for her to keep in touch. Please forget what you heard about waiting three days before calling (or whatever it was you learnt in school and college). Those games are for adolescents. Send a text message saying it was fun and you’d like to catch up again. Add her on Facebook. Email or drop her a note. Open a chat window and say hi. There are loads of embarrassment-free ways to say that you liked what you saw and would like to know more.
10. Being a jerk
This is super-critical so listen up: Do everything or anything in point.9 only, repeat ONLY if you are interested in going out again. There’s no easy way to say that it didn’t quite ‘happen’ so just don’t say anything at all. But don’t prolong the agony by keeping up the conversation. You’ve spent some time in each other’s company. If it didn’t work out, there’s no reason to waste any more of each other’s time. You don’t get brownie NiceGuy points for acting interested when you are not.
If the date didn’t go as well as you thought, just tell her so. She may be disappointed but that’s better than being disgusted. And if you’re that terrified of telling the truth, at least wait till the date’s over. Don’t scuttle it with games or lies while it’s in progress. People can always tell. She may not like it but she’ll respect you for honesty.
Also posted to Love Beckons.