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XXFactored! Dec2010 – Social Networking, Relationship Dilemmas, Fashion Follies & A Masulinist Edge

December has been full of drama and dazzle as always…a wonderful way to finish the year! I’ve been running ragged between parties, lunches, brunches, dinners, meeting out-of-town friends and family and celebrations. But I have managed to keep up with what’s hot and happening on the internet as well. And here’s what I was warming my fingertips with this month on XX Factor:

  • Financial independence, earning capacity…What’s sex got to do with it? (via Yahoo! Real Beauty)
  • Does this mean I can claim my romcom DVDs under ‘Education Expenses’? Lessons from 90s romcoms (via YourTango)
  • Grrrlllll power! Or maybe men are just easier to pick up than women! (via RhealityRings)
  • We’ve seen ChickLit and then DickLit (or LadLit). Now here’s to GadLit (which is my truncation of Gay Lad Lit)! Tell what is thunk? (via Gaysi Family)
  • Other people’s mistakes almost always provide a laugh…especially when they’re bigtime celebrity types. So here’s appealing to the inner cat in all of us. Miaow to that! (via Yahoo!)
  • Maybe a lack of flexibility is the cause for most of our problems. That, and the fact that we expect people to love in exactly the same way we do. (via Twitter)
  • My post on Yahoo! Real Beauty and a version of it that appeared earlier right here on XX Factor. I’m still asking for your thoughts.
  • Five secret tests guys use to evaluate you while on a date (via Glamour).
  • You can outsource anything in today’s day and age!! (via idump4U)
  • Of course, this has a misogynistic air about it but it is funny. How to spot (and save your wallet from) a golddigger. (via The Bachelor Guy)
  • Earlier posted on The XX Factor and now also on Yahoo! Real Beauty – the world’s most popular social network adds another layer of complexity to the already-intricate labyrinth of relationships.
  • If our relationships are a reflection of the games we’re used to playing, maybe the people we date, are images of our favorite toys. Who then are we, by the toys we play with? (via Yahoo! Real Beauty).
  • I can’t vouch for the people but the idea sounds interesting. For all you single bibliophiles out there! Alikewise is a dating website that matches you with people of similar book tastes.
  • Really interesting how many of the roles depicted on this list tackled gender stereotypes. Ten ladies who’ve cross-dressed for roles. (via TheFrisky)
  • Revolutionary or ridiculous? You tell me. I’m going with funny. “French Women Who Like To Swim Topless Protest By Asking Men To Wear Bikini Tops” (via TheFrisky).
  • I tend to avoid risque on The XX Factor but this one was too good to pass up! TheFrisky‘s Sexy Rating Chart!
  • Eh heh heh. This site makes fun of the Forever 21 brand. But this post likened superheroes to hookers. Funny, that resemblance never occurred to me. (via WTForever21)
  • Earlier on The XX Factor and now on Yahoo! Real Beauty: Why do we trade in the attention of a hundred men for the indifference of one?
  • A rather looooong article but it brings up some salient points. Gender equality isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, is it?”A modest proposal for male reproductive rights” (via MensNewsDaily).

If you found yourself featured here, if you’d like to be or even if you just enjoyed anything on this list (or…umm, didn’t), hop over to the XX Factor Facebook Page and talk to me about it! A very happy new year, everyone! XX Factor will see you on the other side of 2011.

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Finally On Facebook

Recently, a friend updated his relationship status on Facebook to the now-familiar status of ‘X is now in a relationship’ preceded by the ubiquitous red heart. He received a barrage of comments specially alluding to the fact that he has been in said relationship for years now.

Last year I saw another funny thing on my feed. In the varied flow of interesting links, photo uploads and news of people ‘friending’ each other, two consecutive entries stood out. (As they appeared on my Wall)

(broken heart) A is no more in a relationship. one minute ago


(red heart) A is now in a relationship. three minutes ago

Another barrage of comments followed, referring to the short-lived affections of the Facebook generation and likening relationships to a certain brand of instant noodles.

What had actually happened was this: A had logged into his account from his girlfriend’s computer. He got up to visit the bathroom and she slipped in and changed his relationship status. It was something they had argued about earlier, with her campaigning for an ‘open to all’ status and him pushing for being discrete. When he returned, his sharp eyes spotted it. He threw a fit of course, but not before changing the status back to its former. It was a private conflict in the couple but it caused much mirth among their friends.

I’ve myself been in a relationship for awhile now, a fact that neither of us has tried to conceal from the people in our lives. One conversation I initiated early on, was how we both felt about being ‘open’ about our relationship, on Facebook. I thought it especially important, in the face of what happened with my friends. My significant other shrugged and told me he didn’t really care either way, he was rarely on the site anyway. I still haven’t made up my mind what I feel about this.

It’s not about whether to be open or secretive about my relationship. Everyone who matters to either of us has seen us together, knows beyond doubt that, yes, we are a couple. On the other hand, that seemingly simple act of changing the status is actually a loaded one. It puts the relationship in the spotlight, all of a sudden. Most people on his Friends list and mine will feel nearly compelled to say something in jest or at very least, a congratulatory vein.

There is a certain scary ‘officialness’ about this update. It’s almost like signing a contract together, eerily similar to a marriage agreement or prenuptial. It is not that the thought of a deeper commitment itself is scary, but a relationship has to be ready for that in its own time. And at this stage, it’s not. Funnily enough, by the time it will be ready for that ‘Finally on Facebook’ update, it will provoke even more jest and attention precisely because it comes so much later.

I wonder if the creators of this social network ever thought that their offering would someday become a key reference point in the relationships of connected people worldover. Relationships are tricky enough as they are. I’m wondering, do we really need the complication of yet another question?

“Are we ready to Facebook this?”

Note: A version is posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty

XXFactored!: November 2010 – Lists, Style, Love And Harry Potter

I’ve barely posted through the month of November. What with one thing or another with the domain problems and having to move back to good ol’ free WordPress, things got pushed aside. But the XX Factor Facebook page has been active, sure enough. And for those of you who didn’t catch the updates as they happened, here are the highlights once again:

  • I was surprised at how accurate these felt even in the Indian context. Human relationships are universal, I suppose. 20 things couples should do before they move in together and another 20 they should not do after moving in together (via TheFrisky)
  • What I want to know is – what qualifies as ‘new’? 10 basic rules for a new relationship (via YourTango)
  • Of special interest to me since I made the first move with Mr.Everyday and I did at least two of the things on this list. 🙂 10 subtle ways to make the first move. (via TheFrisky)
  • Flirting styles by the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 (via Lemondrop)
  • 7 tips for dressing curves that are a must-read for the Indian-woman-sized figure. (via AllWomanStalk)
  • A tricky question indeed: “Am I wrong for hooking up with my friend’s ex-?” (via TheFrisky)
  • Pool Noodle girlfriend & other gross things guys do. Eww, dirty boys! (via TheFrisky)
  • Much of this, common sense. But we all need reminding of THAT sometimes, don’t we?: How to fall in love with Mr.Good Enough. (via YourTango)
  • We’ve read these a hundred times before. We know them off the tops of our heads. We rarely disagree with each other on these, no matter what our differences. But still ‘men’s mistakes’ always get us off…laughing!: The 10 stupidest mistakes men make with women. (via TheFrisky)
  • An Indian (?) guy reading an Indian (?) author. HOT! (via HotGuysReadingBooks)
  • 12 techno-relationship rules to live by. (via TheDailyBeast)
  • A whole list of things that made me go ‘Awwww’ and which would make my boyfriend cringe if I ever actually mentioned them!: What do men really find romantic? (via ThirdAge)
  • The best way to be with a funny woman. (via DoubleViking)
  • 4 secrets every woman should know. (via TheRealCougarWoman)
  • How to buy lingerie for a woman. (via ModernMan)
  • 8 Harry Potter tools we want for our relationships. (via YourTango)
  • The Dance Of The Pot – How did we ever turn into such a patriarchal, chauvinistic society? (via Devdutt)
  • I was baffled by an invite I received recently which asked for ‘Smart Casual attire’. Read about setting a dress cold for your party. (via ManofTheHouse)
  • Feminism turned on its *ahem* occasionally biased head. (viaWords&Pictures)

I really have been a listmaniac this month, haven’t I? 😀 I’m still waiting to hear what you think of my picks! Love? Hate? Snooze?

XXFactored!: October 2010

Did you know that The XX Factor was on Facebook? In addition to the posts that come up here, I also frequently link to articles of interest that I find all over the blogosphere. Style, dating, relationships, humour and everything else XX Factor outside the blog find their place in my links. Facebook makes it really easy for me to share what I read with my interested readers. But I realized some of my readers are not on Facebook and I don’t want them to miss out on the entertainment! So here’s what The XX Factor was reading this month:

  • How do you know when a relationship is exclusive? (via Lemondrop)
  • Bharatmatrimony’s witty insight on marriage. (via Twitter)
  • 5 tired boy moves we’d like to see laid to rest. (via Lemondrop)
  • 5 romantic gestures that will turn her off! (via Modern Man) Yes, you’re welcome, men!
  • What is your dating style? (via Facebook)
  • A schematic mapping a woman by her behaviour into every single media stereotype ever. (via Overthinking it)
  • Do you have all the 8 types of friendships you need to grow as a person? (via The Frisky)
  • Where are you on the Hipster Fashion Cycle? (via Republic of Chic)

Fabulis: An Online Gay Community

My friend Nikhil (okay, no pun intended there, that’s really his name!!!) told me about a project that his firm was working on recently and I thought it would be interesting to the Gaysi community. This is Fabulis, a social networking site for gay and gay-friendly people.

Fabulis appears to sit on top of the Facebook framework (it requires a Facebook account to login) and works more like an extended application than a network in itself. I guess this has its advantages since Facebook is an Internet phenomenon now and anybody who is anybody is on it (or is that Twitter, again?).

The site asks you to provide an email address and a location. My first entry threw up the following error message:

“Oops! Please enter a valid city. Please enter text as Boston, MA or Paris, France”

But when I started to type ‘M’ (since that looked closest to Mumbai even if Mumbai doesn’t abbreviate to MA), the drop-down menu of suggestions did list other cities including my home city.

When you sign in, you are asked to identify yourself as either a ‘gay man” or a ‘friend to gay guys’. Barring the obvious oversight in leaving out gay women, it’s a nice enough start. You’re also asked to enter tags to describe yourself and your interest with a default tag of ‘friend to gay guys’. I changed this to ‘friend of gay people’ and happily found that the drop-down menu of suggestions contained various versions of it.

Fabulis pulls the information from your Facebook account (including privacy settings), imports photographs and also shows you which of your friends are already using the application. It also draws up information from your Facebook calendar and posts updates of your public events inviting responses from other users of the community.

Once you’re in, the network works a little less like Facebook and more like Twitter. That is to say, you don’t exactly befriend people. You can follow them and/or be followed by them. The privacy settings allow you to raise the bar on who can follow you.

In addition to the obvious networking features, it also has its own network currency of Fabulis bits. Fabulis bits can be earned by participating in activities. Similar to the Zynga Games model, you can also earn by engaging in side-offers. These are plowed back into the monetary ecosystem as you spend them on answering other people’s questions or helping them along in their contests. You can also use Fabulis bits to buy upgrades and cheat codes for the games and contests. And finally, Fabulis bits are what you spend if you really, really want to follow someone who is ultra-picky about their privacy and has enabled the setting that forces followers to pay for the privelege.

I also tested the account deletion options (after an unsavory experience with ibibo.com which still refuses to let me go and insists on bombarding my mailbox with spammy messages). Happily Fabulis doesn’t believe in clinging on and the detachment process if fairly simple. You just click on ‘Settings’ under your profile name on the top-right which takes you to a list of options. The last of these is ‘Close Account’ with the expected “Are you sure?” message. Do note though, that if you choose to leave the network, you’ll have to go to Facebook and delete the application from having access to your account. If not, your Fabulis account will still be connected a la social networking on life support systems.

The prizes for the contests are apparently available to users in every location and are supposed to be very attractive to the gay community. I can’t confirm this myself since I haven’t participated in any of the events but it sounds like an interesting way to target the community. I guess a social network undergoes a collective learning process. Identifying itself as a network that addresses itself to this community is the first step and it will probably depend on the user group and how they choose to utilize the features that the site offers.

Fabulis is also on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

* Cross-posted on Gaysi and The Idea-smithy.

The 'It's Complicated' Relationship

Facebook brought it into popular parlance. The first time I saw it on someone’s profile, I thought,

That’s such a guy thing to say.

All the women I know (self included) were always perfectly clear how we felt about a relationship. We always had completely solid, sure answers to “Do you like the guy?”, “Love him?”, “Is it just attraction?”, “Could it grown into something more?”, “Do you want it to?”. We were not always right but at least we thought we knew, the key words being ‘we thought’. Yes, I think that certainty came from having explored each eventuality in our heads.

Contrast that with,

“It’s complicated.”

Can’t you just picture a guy shrugging his shoulders, looking away and taking a swig of his coffee/beer/whatever before moving onto another topic of conversation? I can. Those diabolical words would strike a chill in the heart of any commitment-seeking woman because they sound like a multitude of other things to her.

“I don’t know.”
“I haven’t thought about it.”
“I don’t want to think about it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”

The thing is, ever so curiously, lately…I’ve caught myself using the very same phrase. It startled me the first time I did. Was I turning into a man? Was I discovering latent commitment-phobia? Mercifully not.

It is just that the relationship, the whole jing-bang, with a balloon-festooned ‘happily ever after’ at the end of it, seems to need so much. What’s more, the chances of finding it seem no better than the cynics tell me. Even if I ignore them and go with my own flow, there is jut too much happening for me to be able to invest that much emotion in one person.

I don’t mean that we’ve all become multiple-daters. But our lives are full of so much to see and do, that a relationship just becomes another small part of our universe. Hell, I feel like ‘It’s complicated’ applies even to my career. We are after all, a generation of options and I am nothing, if not a hard-nosed seeker of the best there available to me.

A friend of mine is in love. They’ve known each other several months. He wooed her well and strong, she reciprocated and they were the hottest couple in their crowd. They even took a vacation together, a rare occurance even in the most liberal of Indian circles. Now they’re at an uncategorizable impasse. They don’t live together as each of them has a place of their own. They go out sometimes but not as much as before; the need to impress each other with scintillating social lives is redundant now. They meet and talk and share some part of their busy lives with each other. He travels worldwide, on work and pleasure. She runs a successful enterprise on her own and pursues her many interests with her friends. Are they a couple? Well….it’s complicated.
It seems to me that there is more commitment and desire to be together in these two than in most other modern couples who opt for the very strange ‘open relationship’ or break up (amicably, of course) when it comes to a point of choosing each other over the other things in their lives.

And yet, these two spend most of their lives, emotionally and physically apart. They don’t depend on each other, they don’t share a space or family or even a common set of friends. A relationship is finally about building something together, isn’t it? And what these two have is…so intangible. There is caring of course, I can see that. But it is sort of like having a sack of cement, unmixed and a pile of bricks. The house is yet to be built as is the relationship.

It certainly is complicated.

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