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I Think I’ve Outgrown Men

I met someone last week. After years of settling for insipid encounters with sexist 30/40-somethings and incomplete conversations with scared 20-somethings, I connected with someone close to my age. This microgeneration that I’m told I belong to – the Xennials or people born between 1977 to 1985 – we’re a rare species and most of us (barely) fit into one of the adjacent generations or flit between the two. We’re riding the digital wave that characterises millennials but with caution and maps learnt from Gen Xers. These formed the basis of much of our early interactions.

He didn’t press his phone number, his address and close-ups of vital parts of his anatomy onto me. So that was great. But he did seem in awful rush to write The Great Indian Romance liberally laced with phrases like ‘long, romantic drive’. Still, I haven’t gotten to where I am without knowing how to put the brakes on that gently. Slow and casual, I told him and decided on a Sunday afternoon coffee.

It was pleasant not to have to do the exhausting ‘space/hookup/no-strings-attached/polyamory’ bullshit that characterises the speech of most Indian men I’ve met in the past ten years. I call bullshit because in my experience, none of them are able to deal with the reality of these concepts. So it was nice being able to spend a Sunday afternoon not having to jump through those hoops and dodge, well, dodgy games.

We decided on another date. This time there were other people, gently brushing past us in non-intrusive ways, just comfortable enough to keep this one light. It allowed for a deeper conversation. About what? Oh about the play we saw, the food we ate, the experiences we had had in love, in life, at work and more. Small intimacies were shared. The last heartbreak, the big fear, the major milestone just about survived and people we both knew.

The next morning, I received a text. The gist of it was that he was not working at the place that his profile claimed.

I spent a day and half thinking through this. I’ve lived long enough to realise that LYING is my dealbreaker. No white lies, no lying by omission, no delayed facts, no embellishments, no diplomacy, absolutely nothing. It’s non-negotiable. Yet, this was information he volunteered so did it constitute a lie? Moreover at what point can one expect to draw the dealbreaker lines?

I decided to meet and hear what he had to say. He said it had only hit him the previous evening when I introduced him to other people and that he wanted to clarify before it got too late to. He also said he didn’t know why he hadn’t brought it up in our previous conversations at all. I decided not to push on this. People do what they do, after all and what’s the point pushing for reason post mortem, beyond a point? All one is likely to get is defensiveness and excuses. But I stored the facts away as these in my mind:

  • He had broken up 7 months earlier.
  • He had quit said workplace 2 years earlier.
  • He worked in digital media.
  • He didn’t know how to change his workplace details on his profile.

The evening went on pleasantly. Till he asked what I was doing the following weekend. I had a couple of gigs coming up and I told him so. And before I knew it, I was in the middle of a ‘Come parday!’ death noose.

You know the one I mean. The ‘OMG Saturdays are for chillin’ bro, like with cool folks, whatchu saying, just come, have fun, putyerhandsupintheairlikeyoujesdoncare, parday, parday, parday’. Okay, he didn’t actually say it in this exact manner but how different does this speech get anyway? It used to send me into panic ten years ago; it just annoys me now.

Let’s be fair. I am not a wet blanket. I am not a prude. I am not even antisocial. My trouble always seems to have been too many people, too little time and too exciting a life according to other people. But I do know what I want and I do not want to waste even a minute of my life doing something that doesn’t fit this. Saturday nights, parday parday parday included.

He Just Wouldn’t Listen. Yes, like that.

We were interrupted by an acquaintance from gym passing by, which allowed me to segue into a conversation about fitness. It let me move into one of my silly-serious stories about annoying people one meets at a gym who will insist on doing everything but exercising (showing off, grunting in front of the mirror, flirting with instructors, asking how they can become as thin as me). His response?

“To kya hua, yaar? People like to talk. Usme kya hain?”

I shifted conversational ground to the swimming pool, a space I’m even more comfortable in given I’m much better at swimming than gymming. I told him this story. His response?

“So what? There’s no need to be so…You can be nice.”

And right back to parday-parday-parday mode except about gymming and swimming. You can see where this was going. Push-push-push from him, pushback-nononono from me, more push-push-push from him and so on. Including one

“You are so STUBBORN.”

(Err, excuse me, saying NO multiple times doesn’t make me stubborn, it makes you deaf)

But wait, it got better. He stopped and went,

“Chill, yaar! Relax. Chill, chill, why you getting so worked up?”

If there are any men reading this wondering what is wrong with this, this is condescension piled atop excessive pushiness. This is gaslighting following badgering (which is really harassment). I’ve learnt to draw my lines firmly.It still took me another day and somewhat apologetic messaging to close this encounter completely. And in the course of this, I had to wade through messages of the ‘But you said you liked me too’ variety.  But in most other cases (and indeed with me too, in the past), this would go right on into situations where the man just rode slipshod over everything the woman wanted and decided he was being macho/romantic/whatever-other-entitled-bullshit.

So lies – check, badgering – check, gaslighting – check.

I am not angry. I have learned economy of emotion and emotional labour. I have had to. I have been meeting men in a romantic context for over 15 years now, in different ways, locations, situations. I’ve connected with older men, younger men, peers of different backgrounds and professions. And this just NEVER changes. It gets called lots of names, most incorrect glorifications. But all it is, is men refusing to treat me as a human being with my decisions, ideas and feelings. You can call it toxic masculinity, you can blame it on their terrible upbringing, you can pin it on Bollywood but you can’t deny it.

I give up. I think I’ve outgrown the men on this planet. Anyone know any nice Martians?

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram

 

Why Digital Dating Means Nothing New For Indian Women

Tinder. OkCupid. Secret. Anonyfish. Even Couchsurfing. India is on the digital map and we of the brown-skinned, spicy-food-eating ilk are exploring digital dating too. Here’s what I found though.

On one end of the spectrum, we find the matrimonial sites. They were the original Indian dating sites, pre-dating the recent apps by a good ten years at least. What, you don’t count those? Matrimonial sites are parentally-sanctioned ways to meet members of the opposite sex, with a view to forming a sexual/romantic relationship with them. Aside from the parental sanction, how do these differ from the average dating service?

All services

At the other end of the spectrum are these dating services that have everyone commenting on the new India. Here is what is actually happening. There aren’t that many women on them, which won’t surprise anybody. There are fewer women in the country and less of us are connected/digitally savvy. Most women don’t enjoy the kind of independence/freedom that dating requires. Women are also less open to these services. I found they have good reason to be.

Tinder, the hot app of the season, picks up from your Facebook profile and lets you see who you have in common with the other person. You can’t imagine the number of married men I found there. A male friend tells me he is equally astounded by the number of married women he finds too (wedding photos as profile pictures!). I can’t tell whether it’s dumbness (“Maybe they thought it’s a chat service,” he thinks) or sheer arrogance (“People will hit on me anyway.”) that makes married people sign up for a dating service. Not all of them are that easy to catch though. I imagine knowing how to navigate the net and mine information from the social media is a skill that helps. At least four conversations proceeded with interesting men before a stalking session revealed their marital status – a Facebook picture tagged here, a forgotten social network profile with their status as married, a photograph carrying a baby followed by comments like ‘Congratulations on becoming a father!’. Really, why are these people here?

We come up against a different issue on OkCupid. This service has been around for ages and it shows, in the dated design and early millennial interface, even on the app. You’re required to fill in an entire profile and there are no privacy settings, no filters on who gets to approach you. The minute I began the lengthy sign up process, my inbox was flooded with messages. This before I had written a single word or even uploaded a photograph. All these people had to go by, was the fact that I was female. I decided to brave it and weed through the crowds for an interesting connection. It has proved to be an arduous exercise. Indian men do not like hearing no. They believe persistence to the point of stalking, is a virtue. Rape culture is alive and well as long as the Indian man exists. Yes, I said that. I was stalked from different profiles (same photograph) and abused for saying no or even for not responding.

Now let’s come to Secret, the uber-hot-hot app that only us digital hipsters have caught on to. Secret lets you post messages anonymously. You can see secrets posted by Friends (anyone on your contacts lists – phone and email) and Friends of Friends but no one can tell who has posted what. I actually uninstalled it in three days because I couldn’t bear how depressed it made me feel. The conversations and a lot of threads about known women. The secrets were usually about one person ‘having the hots for’ or ‘being really turned on by’ such a woman, while the comments would include various versions of catcall responses such as tearing the woman down (“Are you crazy? Total thunder thighs, man. Everyone gets to see them.”) or lascivious jeers of agreement.

I signed into Secret again two weeks later and I find there is a little more variety. Now people also confess to cheating and being proud of it. Comments calling them out result in abuses and versions of ‘You must be such an ugly bitch, nobody wants to fuck you’. There’s also an occasional secret that may be posted by a woman. All of these, plus comments get others begging for a contact with them. This, even to comments that are outright nasty towards men. I know Indian men in large numbers may be like this, but it’s disheartening to see so many people that I know, behave this way too.

Digital Dating2*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Now, let’s step back from the obvious problems. There must be some worthwhile men, right? Right. There are men who are articulate, intelligent and educated. They quote pop culture, read good literature and work for respectable MNCs. These are the same men who refer to the dating apps as pick-up services. One of them asked me what kind of a woman clicked on such apps. Another told me he respected me because I said no to his booty call (after one conversation). Welcome to the modern Indian man. He believes that women’s liberation means booty calls and dutch dates with women who wear short dresses.

Now, for the hookup culture, that scary thing that’s got everyone above the average digital citizen age in a flutter. Where does that fit into India? I’ll tell you. It’s married people using the fact that they were forced to marry, as an excuse to explain cheating. It’s people who are too ‘respectable’ to buy sex, seeing an easy unpaid option. It’s ‘modern men’ who treat the woman in a hookup as a hooker who won’t charge them. I thought hookups were just about having sex with a person you barely knew and both parties not thinking too much about it later. When did gender-biased judgment and bad behavior come into it?

All in all, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the dating/mating services. The trouble is the people and the attitudes that populate these services. Dating in India is only highlighting the fallacies in the Indian culture. As an Indian woman, my options are to be packaged like a doll, on a matrimonial service or objectified and discarded on a dating service. We haven’t changed in decades. The only difference is it’s all digital now. No wonder women don’t seem that interested.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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When Did ‘I’m Married’ Become A Pick-Up Line?

I must have missed the memo. Excuse me, but when did an ‘already-married’ status become a dateworthy trait? The internet, pubs, parties and all manner of social occasions are rife with married men partaking of mating rituals – the innuendo-ridden conversations, the excessive compliments, the lingering glances, the offers to buy drinks, the requests for phone numbers, even the unabashed booty calls. I thought these were reserved solely for single people. In fact, didn’t married people used to scoff at us singletons to have to resort to these tactics?

Here’s news. They still do (condescend to single people, that is). But they also participate in these supposedly-only-for-singles rituals. Status symbols-as-reasons-to-be-douchey are not cars, foreign vacations and posh addresses any more. It’s being married and being able to do the flirty thing too. I can’t think of a worse display of arrogance than this. It’s an outright ‘I am having my cake, I’m eating it too and I want it with buttercream icing on top!’. I’ve been at the receiving end of the attention of more than one married man like this. The patni, kids, successful career/money made things being done, flirting-even-though-I’m-married seems to be his latest goal. It’s startling and then when I get over the shock, amusing.

Here are some laughable things I’ve heard:

Women must like the challenge of a man they can’t have because they are married.

I was my wife’s second boyfriend so I’m allowed one more.

And then there is the utterly mystifying,

“I am really unhappy in my marriage. My wife doesn’t understand me.”

Why on earth would that be my problem? My friend calls it the ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh‘ play. He says a lot of women are suckers for such stories. He hastens to assure me that it doesn’t work on ‘intelligent women’ like me but that ‘sympathetic women’ are only too eager to pat the arm, go ‘There, there’ and coo about how sensitive the man is. Yes, thank you. I don’t like the implication that I’m devoid of sympathy but given the kind of male tantrums that have gotten thrown at me, for not being so – I think I’m okay with that. If this is true, I deduce that men who throw a hissy-fit that I’m not sympathetic to them are basically whining that I didn’t fall for their pathetic ploys.

The obvious next step to this is, of course, asking women why they’re dumb enough to fall for this. That’s what the men who use these ploys think of the women who fall for them. But it’s victim-shaming, isn’t it? Why should a girl be shamed because she was trusting and sympathetic? Never mind the fact that she gets shamed if she is not, also.

I think a married man who says or does one thing out of place deserves to be slammed publicly and consistently. It’s only fair, considering he’d get much worse, if he were a woman. Sympathy? Why did he get married in the first place, if it was so burdensome? And if he only discovered it later, why not end the marriage?

“Because it’s not that simple.”

They all say. Sure, then probably, Mr.MarriedFlirt, you ought to be spending that time trying to figure it out instead of preying on the singles scene.

Here’s a new one that’s popped up among this crowd – polyamory. Open relationships, modern thought, ‘that’s love, this is sex’ ideas get tossed about. Ask however, if his partner practises this tolerant attitude to his partner as well, and it falls apart. Polyamory & open relationships are equal rights things but not in these men’s minds.

And finally, there is the ‘Boys will be boys’. Shall I take that to mean douchey, irresponsible, selfish and incapable of consideration and responsibility? Fine then, remember that the privilege of consideration & respect is accorded to those who earn it, not those who feel entitled to it.

Pick-up lines, never the best openers and here I think I’ve stumbled on to the worst possible one ever.

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