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Spring-Cleaning For The Soul

I’m surrounded by question marks, in the shape of expensive gifts from you. I’ve discarded the funny, the cheesy, the lighthearted lines like you’ve done our laughs. But what about the Parisian box of songs? La vie en rose may as well be a life of thorns. I don’t like looking at the gold memento anymore. It makes me wonder if all you were out for, was another gold rush of emotions.

I’m sitting in a gigantic suitcase full of question marks that you’ve left behind. What shall I pack? Can I just put them all in there or should I send them back? My house isn’t big enough for all the feelings I have about these things.

Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

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Ritualised Relationships

I heard someone describe three other people’s interaction as ‘ritualised’. It made me think of the forced inanities that people thrust on each other, the scripts that we impose on each other and that we find ourselves following. The delighted welcomes, the whine exchanges, the mutual enabling of vices – aren’t these the traits of many long-running relationships? Some of us find security in it; some find it oppressive. Either way, there is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, and performed according to set order, which Wikipedia tells me is the very definition of ‘ritual’.

Do some of us exist in RITUALISED RELATIONSHIPS then?

One Of The Boys

I’ve recently been watching ‘My Boys‘ on Comedy Central, a show about a woman (PJ) who hangs out with a bunch of guys who are her brother, an ex-boyfriend and couple of other male buddies. I like the format, mainly because I relate to PJ’s character. I was her, at least once upon a time. And I was her for so long, I sometimes forget that I’ve changed for the world. The boy and almost all the people who’re close to me today have known me for the past single-digit years. When I let slip that I used to be a tomboy, I get a “Yeah, right!” accompanied by eye-rolling.

Somewhere in the early part of the last decade, I made that transition from tomboy to woman. Or ‘one of the guys’ to ‘a babe’. I’ve often harped that the changes are purely cosmetic; it’s just packaging that has changed and I’m still the same person inside. Or so I thought. I am after all, a result of my attitudes as well as the world’s responses to them.

Curiously enough, I realized that this transition to being ‘not one of the guys’ coincided with another personally important milestone – dating. Literally the minute I stopped being the buddy-girl, I became ‘dateable’. Initially it was as superficial as the kind of clothes I wore. Over the years, it has seeped into the way I walk, sit, laugh and behave. Somewhere along the way, it also shaped the way I think and speak.

Today, I find I have few male friends but I’ve had a large number of boyfriends and admirers. The role of men in general, in my life has changed just as who they see me as, has shifted. I occasionally miss being ‘one of the boys’. In addition to the fuss-free comfort, there is a certain charm in male friendships.

An episode of ‘My boys’ dealt with PJ having to accept that she wasn’t always going to be the most important woman in the guys’ lives. I think that’s the aspect of tomboy friendships that women like me find it really hard to admit to (though PJ did take it like a man).

A girl who is one of the boys still is a girl, even if the guys don’t see her as such. It’s a harder transition to adulthood for such a girl since she’s used to being treated as an equal. When she goes into the universe of love & romantic relationships, suddenly she is not an equal but a complement, a different role to play altogether. I think this is also the reason that a lot of friendships-turned-relationships struggle. Are you similar, playing for the same team? Or are you two different people, with differing agendas, viewpoints and attitudes to sex & commitment? It’s extra bewildering when the person you’re with is someone you’re used to seeing as one of your own side, instead of coming from a different place.

To come back, I spent a lot of time ruing the loss of those friendships as I (and my former buddies) got older. But I realize now, that I had to stop being one of the boys to become a woman. I’d never have been able to experience romantic relationships fully without exploring my feminine side (which necessarily meant letting go of my tomboyish side). And also, I realize that’s been a temporary phase of keeping one aspect of myself on the backburner to bring out another emerging side. I’m now at a place where I’m able to consolidate both sides of me – the woman’s woman as well as the ‘one of the boys’ girl. I’m neither a chick nor a tomboy. It’s a different identity, a different attitude altogether that balances both.

In terms of sheer numbers, I don’t immediately fit into a beer-chugging boys night out any more than I easily slip into a shopping-and-bitching kitty party. But I have a few close guy friends with whom I can lounge about in my pyjamas. And I have a couple of girlfriends I can be chicky with. Last month, I had a late-night conversation with a guy friend about his girl troubles. And through the night, I found I was switching between giving him the woman’s perspective to empathizing in a “Yeah man, that sucks” way. I realized I couldn’t even tell which side was my tomboyish side and which, my chicky side any more.

From one of the boys to chick to woman – that’s a good personal quest to take.

* Image via Entertainment Wallpaper.

Don’t Confuse Your Partner’s Friends For Your Own

One of my golden relationship dictats is to never mix one’s professional and personal lives. I’m going to add one to that –

‘Don’t confuse your partner’s friends for your own.’

This is not a cynical, angry statement (along the lines of “You don’t make friends in b-school, only future colleagues & competitors”). Indeed, I’ve written about the joys of getting along with the partner’s friend. I’ve also detailed the curious picture of a ‘best friend couple’. I stand by those two, based as they are, on real people and situations in my life.

However, I am coming to believe that in order to keep things clean and simpler for everyone in the long run, perhaps some lines (albeit artificial) need to be drawn. I’ve experienced, firsthand, the heartache of a relationship with a friend and one of the most devastating things about it, was the quandary into which it plunged our common friends. Custody battles for friendship are no less ugly than those for children & possessions of an estranged couple.

What happens when you don’t have common friends? There is a normal process of getting to know each other’s circles and finding a place within them. Here’s where my newfound pearl of wisdom comes in. Friction is an integral part of any relationship and the possibility of parting ways is never exactly zero. In addition, the complex process of building a life with another person, doesn’t come naturally to most people, especially those of us in the uber-individual, nuclear-family society of today. At such a time, the urban family of friends and trusted confidantes serve to provide perspective and even wisdom in handling each situation.

All of this just gets complicated beyond control, if the same people (or person) must be called upon to provide perspective to both parties in a relationship. I think, at some level, anyone in this situation would feel that they need to take one side over the other and the choice is almost always (and should) the person they’ve known longer.

What happens when you’ve become friends with your partner’s friends (or think you have) and then discover that they choose your partner over you? Any fair-minded person would agree that this is natural and above reproach. On the other hand, when you trust someone and they take the other person’s side, it feels like they’ve chosen to stand against you; like they reject you. Another mess that only accentuates any natural conflict you may have with your partner.

Let me turn that around. I am always happy when a close friend of mine gets along well with my partner. However, I must admit, I also need to know that when it comes down to it, they have my back. This is irrespective of what situation I face, and tomorrow (or whenever) that situation may be against my partner. I do need to know that my friends are on my side, firmly and without doubt.

I am going to conclude that this is one of the many aspects of the space that is crucial to any relationship. There are things that it is necessary to retain at an individual level, to not share, for the very good of the relationship. Perhaps close friendship is one of them.

XXFactored Jan2011: Dutch Dates, Blind Dates, Lipstick, Wingmen, Dumping, Sex & Style

The first month of 2011 opens bright and clear for me. I think I’ve gotten a grip on this Bookmarked feature but I’m still waiting for your inputs. Talk to me! Tell me if this works for you and why. Do you prefer getting the links as-and-when on the XX Factor Facebook Page? Or do you like seeing a ‘best of’ list at the end of the month? What else would you like to see? What would you like to dump?

Here are my picks for the first month of the year. We’re heading into the (not going to say it, not going to say it) pink, heart-shaped month of February and  that could mean a number of interesting things for XX Factor. Keep reading!

  • As a bonafide geek-girl, I guess these are the women, it would be a compliment to be compared to: Ten Classic Nerd Queens Over 40 (via Gunaxin)
  • To go dutch or not, that is the big question. Here’s some reasonably sound advice from a man: The New Take On Going Dutch (via ManOfTheHouse)
  • Pop psychology has its uses, especially in dating!: Judging A Guy’s Dating Potential By His Job (via YourTango)
  • There’s nothing quite like red lipstick. It really is the superhero cape for a girl! How To Do Red Lips For Indian Skin (via Republic of Chic)
  • If this were in a movie or a book, I’d deem it cheesy. But here, I’m all “Awww…”: “The customer is only enrolling so she can see you more often. The customer is in love with you.” (via PostSecret)
  • A Girl Who Set Up 15 Dates In The Same Bar…And Stood Them All Up! (via Nerve)
  • Find The Perfect Wingman! (via Foster’s)
  • Harsh but true: “You always post those “85% of people don’t have the courage to post this as their status” FB status updates.” (via ThatsWhyIDumpedYou)
  • On bad-boy-loving women and how to behave around them (via AskMen)
  • 12 Types Of Friends You Should Break Up With (via YourTango)
  • A matrilinear society in modern day India? (via TheGuardian, tipped off by Sveccha Kumar)
  • 10 Fun Facts About Kissing: See no.4 on this list! I’m tempted to say it’s worth living a short life if you live it rightly and kissfully! (via TheFrisky)
  • Tricky Tacky Trousers (via WTForever21)
  • Health is a privilege for Indian women: 70% can’t afford sanitary napkins, reveals study (via TimesOfIndia)
  • I’ll stick with ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’.:Passion Fades & The Phenomenon Has A LOLsy Name (via NakedCity)
  • What women really think of sex (via Twitter)

The Third Toothbrush

I’ve written about the importance of a girl’s best friend. Here’s when I get to introduce this blog to another important person – the boy’s best buddy. Let’s call him BBB (in the manner of BFFs).

BBB is a classmate of the boy and shares with him those great memories, of people who’ve lived a campus life together. He’s surprisingly (or maybe not so much) different from the boy. Where the boy is a recluse, he’s friendly and sociable. The boy leans to extreme attitudes (burning passion for games, strictly classical approach to literature, loathing for popular music) while BBB seems open to a wide range of cultural offerings. He laughs often and makes other people laugh. In short, he’s almost a male version of me.

My first memory of BBB was when I called the boy during one of his nights out with the boys. Much laughing and shrieking and giggling (?) was in progress in the background. A short pause and the boy said in a flat voice,

“I’ll call you back. BBB is grabbing my chest hair.”

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The day I was introduced to the BBB, I was rummaging about in the kitchen, looking for the neat pile of home delivery menus I’d put together for the boy.

“What a mess!! How did you manage to put every one of those menus in a different place in 3 days??”

BBB giggled and the boy, (hitherto unbothered) glared at him and yelled,

“What are you, six years old??!”

Unperturbed the BBB retorted,

“Be a modern man and help the lady around the house! R, I wish you all the luck with that though!”

There have been several entertaining conversations since then, with me and the BBB exchanging titbits about the boy, who tries to silence us by glaring. The best he’s able to come up with is low mutterings about curd-rice eaters. You see, BBB is half-Tamilian by birth and has lived in the South for the better part of his life. The boy has to fall silent when I point out that for all this curd rice phobia, he’s uncannily drawn to the denizens of that school of culinary thought.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The boy and I passed the crucial relationship stage of staying over at his place awhile ago. He bought me a toothbrush (awww, yes) and plopped it next to his own, in the holder. I haven’t had much call to use it but it’s always there. It’s one of those comforting signals, one unconsciously looks for, in a relationship.

Last month, I was refreshing my make-up, when I stopped dead in my tracks. In that innocuous little plastic holder above the washbasin, there was a third toothbrush.

“So who’s part of this merry ménage a trios?”

I asked, pointing to the guilty toothbrush.

The boy’s deadpan reply was,

“BBB.”

Guh. My steady ol’ Mr.Everyday gives me no reason to worry about other women. It’s another man I need to be thinking about.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Incidentally it is the BBB’s birthday today. Last night, the boy and I were over at his place wishing him amidst much alcohol, pizza and cake. The guys bopped him all over the floor in that barbaric boy ritual of birthday bumps. Then they made him down a quarter bottle of neat whiskey. And when he came up for air, I handed him a bottle of cold water. Then the cake was cut and I smushed a piece onto his face, which may have been the start of that mess that was all over the kitchen floor when we left. At one point of time, he grabbed me into a hug and yelled

“Welcome to the family!”

The boy looked pained and said,

“Okay, I haven’t been asked to be a part of that family yet but you’re already welcome?! Hmph!”

I waved around the thermacol light saber-sword that I found lying around (that both BBB and his flatmate claim belongs to the other) and laughed. He took it from me, tapped me on each shoulder saying “Knight. Knight” and said he’d bequeath it to me in his will. As the drinks went down, he also called the boy and me, his favorite drunken couple and promised to take our children to Sunday school.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Unlike the boy, I do believe that it is important to at least make an effort to get along with the friends and family of your significant other. It does make life easier. So I’m really relieved that I get along so effortlessly well with the BBB. Socializing is obviously much, much more enjoyable when you actually like the people you’re with. I know the boy probably spends less time with his friends since getting into this relationship (and so do I with my friends!). But the BBB and his other friends haven’t made a fuss of it. Hmm, guy friends always seem to be a little easier to deal with, in that way.

BBB has known him far longer than I have, so he knows where the boy is coming from. But I also find I relate to him so he shares my viewpoint in a lot of things. It’s a good balanced perspective for the boy, one that is agreeable to me too.

I do think BBB is a great guy. So I’m really happy for the boy that he has him for a best friend. Even if I do have to share a toothbrush holder with him.

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)

The Attack Of The Company-Snatchers

My world is being attacked! Biological warfare move over, this is the attack of a different sort of infection. Several of my friends have succumbed to its threat and as I speak, more are going down the same way. Such is the devastating power of Cupiditis.

What can make a seemingly normal, well-balanced, logical and loyal person turn into a zombie? The girlfriend/boyfriend strain, once in the system, acts like a potentially fatal disease. At first the victim is quarantined so contact is cut off, quite abruptly. He or she surfaces a short while later, to deliver the news of the infection. After that, it’s a downhill journey. He or she is never heard from again.

That’s unless the strain causes an allergy (also called ‘a fight’) wherein the victim surfaces again, asking for your support, which you’re obliged (by the rules of friendship) to provide. Unfortunately for you, in several such cases, clearing up the allergy means the strain is free to continue its onslaught on your friendship.

I think I can safely say a declaration of a relationship is the death-knoll for friendship. Goodbye, wonderful friend, buddy of the times, comrade in life’s journey. This is the end for us.

In the past year alone, I’ve sustained the loss of five friends to this deadly disease (one of them, twice to different viruses). And it’s beginning to bother me.

It’s come to a state where friendship appears to be a transient, unpredictable thing. There’s no telling who will drop out and when. It’s also exhausting to have to keep replenishing one’s circle of friends after the old ones all succumb. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and entry into their infected ranks is only permitted to fellow-victims, that is similarly coupled-up people.

It makes me wonder, has the significant other become a passport to human company? And should I be thinking about getting one simply so I can be assured of being included in get-togethers, cliques and indeed, having a social life at all? And if not, what are the options for a terminally single person (that’s ‘single till death’)? Give in or die alone. It’s the Attack Of The Company-Snatchers.

The World Of Straight & Gay-Friendly

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Portal:LGBT). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had the privilege of being the straight voice of Gaysi for a year and a half now. I’ve listened to coming-out conversations. I’ve met openly gay people. I’ve attended the launch of a book about gays in India. I’ve faced my own conflicted confusion and resolved it. I’ve even been hit upon by a gay person. This is all me and how homosexuality fits into my head.

With Section 377 and Indian Gay Prides, my world mirrors the world around. People are talking now, yes. Some agree, some don’t but at least it is being acknowledged. Ordinarily, I should have been an indifferent observer since I’m not gay myself. But I’ve been drawn into the world of these questions, first by friends closetted-suspected-gay, then the blog and finally all the other people and associations that happened as a result. It’s changing my life.

Being a straight and gay-friendly person is not as easy as it looks. Having sorted out (mostly, I hope!) where I myself stand on the issue, I find there’s a whole new can of surprises (and now, let’s not call them all worms) opening up. Some I resolve, some I rationalise and on some, I’m still ambivalent. The list has the four most important areas of my life, which is a good indication of just how big the question has become even for a supposedly uninvolved bystander.

Family

When I first started writing for Gaysi, I worried about what my parents would think. They could be tempted to associate my still single status, my fiery (often anti-male) behaviour with possible queerdom. It took a lot of self-examination before I could stand by my belief without righteous indignation and only a rational stating of facts. I’m happy to say it went through quite smoothly. It’s possible that they may be thankful that I’m only writing about homosexuality and not practicing it but I’m willing to live with that.

Love life

The average Indian male seems to be homophobic, this is true. At some point of time, the question of homosexuality comes up (it has been in the news after all). I’m in a dilemma when I come up against homophobia. I have friends who are gay and to be involved with someone who may not treat them right, doesn’t feel right. On the other hand, I also wonder if this topic is like politics and religion, where differing viewpoints can be respected and need not interfere in the relationship.

That doesn’t sound fair to me.

Friendship

Before introducing a straight friend to a gay friend, I make sure to mention the gay orientation. It’s not part of the general description to make a person interesting (“She’s a film-maker. He speaks 5 foreign languages”). It’s a veiled safety-clause that says, I’m telling you this beforehand so if you have a problem with it, say so now or forever hold your peace. I hate having to state that since in an ideal world it shouldn’t matter. I know it smacks of underhanded discrimination but I’m rationalizing it as a practical solution.

But even this is complicated by the fact that a lot of straight people are not homophobic as much as homo-apathetic. That’s until they’re faced with a situation and then their reactions could go anyway.

Recently, I introduced a gay friend to my companion at a party. It turned out they stayed close to each other and my gay friend offered my companion a lift. Later that night, he called me in a huff. It transpired that in conversation during the ride, my straight friend had asked,

“Are you hitting on me?”

Now it could be that my companion was just joking. Or he may have been serious whereupon it might have been a deep-seated phobia or just an innocent misreading of signals. My gay friend on the other hand, prides himself on being able to discern the gay strain in others, even through confusion or outright denial. He might have been on track there or he might have been mistaken.

It’s an awkward situation for me in the end, even though I wasn’t even a part of the conversation. They’re both friends and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to think about who is closer and who I may have to, eventually, let go.

Professional life

This hasn’t actually posed a problem but I’ll add a ‘yet’ to that. I had a coming-out experience of my own kind recently when I dropped my  five-year long anonymity and revealed my identity to my readers. The worlds of social media, writing and work are merging and I’m finding it more practical to consolidate than to compartmentalize. My blogging activities are now ennumerated in my resume. No organisation will openly admit to being gay-unfriendly. But I’ve been a woman in the corporate world and I know all about biases and prejudices that are never acknowledged but hinder you anyway. I wonder whether I’m setting myself up for yet another one of those and I’ve been tempted (several times) to take Gaysi off my list. It’s the easy option but each time I hit delete, I also get that bad feeling in my head that feels like cowardice.

In each of these situations, I’m faced with the question of how important this issue is to me. I’m not gay, I’m not a close relation of anyone who is (that’s to say, I’m not living with or supporting anyone who is). Why then should I bother? Because it’s the right thing to do, this is true.

But there’s just this much I can do. And while I will never endorse discrimination, I often wonder if I can just pipe down instead of crusading for a quest I’m not even a part of. In this world of so many sins, I must pick my battles. Homosexuality is on the list but I can’t honestly say I’ll always have the courage to keep it there.

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