I was watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (HIMYM) yesterday (and may I add what a tremendous improvement it is on the clichéd, hackneyed ‘Friends’?). Barney, (commitment-phobic bad boy) convinces Marshal (married, nice guy) to ‘stand up for his manhood’, which translates to refusing to help in the house and make sexist cracks at his wife’s expense. As expected, a fight ensues between the couple, peppered with the sort of humour that makes this show very relatable and watchable.
What struck me was the thought that otherwise normal, decent, nice guys are probably going along in with their blameless lives, when they suddenly get distracted by a misnomer like Barney. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, evolved, caring or thoughtful the guys are, an idiotic jerk-boy can suddenly bring out similar behavior in them, just like that. Does that mean that every man has a jerk-boy in him but some just hide it really effectively until it answers to that primal call from the more ‘out’ jerk-boy?
I thought about the boy (like that was a surprise). He’s the one who got me hooked onto this show in the first place. He likes the character of Barney and thinks Ted Mosby (the ‘normal’ one) is a whiny wuss. He loves Shrek and Homer Simpson. He cheers very loudly at exactly the kind of jokes as the one I detailed above, on HIMYM. And last night we watched ‘The Green Hornet’ where he hooted through every sexist crack, every ‘I’m-a-brat-and-proud-of-it’ dialogue spewed by the lead character.
Hmm. In each of those cases, I glare at him, which only spurs him on to even greater hooting, laughing and applause. On occasion, I narrow my eyes, start to breathe fire and then, launch the offensive. Women’s rights, male chauvinism, the faults of the Indian man, herd mentality, cowardice, foetal survival rates, tolerance to pain and emotional fortitude are some of the weapons in my arsenal. No sireee, I don’t play clean, not when I’m challenged.
Yesterday since he wasn’t around during HIMYM, I had to substitute his laughter in my head and argue with an imaginary him. Of course, I won. Well, I do, even otherwise. But then I got to thinking about why he continues to uphold that gutterslime philosophy. He isn’t a male chauvinist. He’s actually not a spoilt mama’s boy. He actively stands for the independence and emancipation of women. And this I have to say honestly, he is proud of, rather than resentful of, his girlfriend’s successes. Then where is the source of Mr.Neanderthal in my Mr.Everyday?
Then it hit me:
Neanderthalism is to men, what shopaholism is to women.
It isn’t true of the majority of the gender. Most people see the idiocy of it and avoid such behavior, without excessive effort. But one practitioner comes along and makes it seem oh-so-cool and the rest of us ‘normal’ sorts feel like losers. The practitioner in question has to be in an innately weak state of mind to succumb to such behavior. And hence of course, he/she seeks to convert others to feel better about that fact that he/she isn’t alone. They’re obviously so convincing in it that the rest of us feel compelled to drop our otherwise intelligent/normal thought and face a momentary lapse of reason.
I am not a shopaholic, never have been. I know an excessive hoarding of possessions has to be an unhealthy symptom of something else going wrong. And of course, I’ve indulged in it more than once. Hey, everyone slips up sometime! It’s sort of like…falling sick. But I recover with time. I’m not a chronic spender, just a prudent women subject to occasional bouts of mad shopping.
And similarly, my Mr. Everyday and hundreds of other such ‘normal’ men are just regular guys, who’re occasionally seized with the desire to be Neanderthals. I could live with that. Even Neanderthals are scared of fire-breathing females.
It’s been an eventful weekend. The boy’s friends flocked in from different parts of the country, to catch up and swig a few ones and check if his claims of a new girlfriend were right. Watching your significant other with other people is an interesting experience. Even more so when the people in question have known him longer, much much longer than you. But that’s not what this post is about.
On Friday night, high on Christmas Eve spirits, we sat exchanging ideas (me) and memories (the others). The conversations were flowing as was the alcohol. I’m normally a conservative drinker, if at all. I don’t go beyond a stipulated number and type of drinks. I pace them out and am keenly mindful of food intake and how the combination is affecting me. In a nutshell, I’m always in control and I like it that way. This is a great place to be in for most part and I generally advocate it as a cause.
However, it is an experience, a learning one (and a difficult lesson for some of us) to let go at least a bit and trust the other person. Drinking provides a prime example. I decided to chance it and push my boundaries a bit – Tequila, never the most prudent of drinks and in a thoroughly unconservative manner. We had a great evening and when we retired, we were all slightly unsteady on our feet but still standing. I wouldn’t have driven in that state but I would feel able to have a conversation. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so smug.
I awoke the next morning with a sharp, shooting pain just over my eye. I had thrown up at some point of time in the night (only slightly embarrassed…I did make it to the toilet, after all) and I figured the worst was out of my system. But when I tried to get up, I found myself heaving towards the toilet again. Retch after retch followed. At some point of time, I was given a drink of lemonade, which I threw up about ten minutes after ingesting. That was just the beginning.
An hour later, I was sicking up every sip of water I managed to down. Half an hour later, the shivers started and I had to huddle under a blanket. And a short way from there the stomach cramps began. For over seven hours from the time I awoke, I couldn’t keep any food or water down. I lost count of the number of times I threw up. At some point of time, I stopped running to the toilet as I couldn’t stand. A bucket had magically appeared by my side and it caught the contents of my tortured stomach.
It wasn’t till later in the evening, after several unsuccessful attempts to eat, two tablets, long naps interrupted by violent retching and cramps, that I regained some stability. I never actually passed out but I was too weak to get up or speak or even groan. So when the worst of it passed, it felt like I was coming back to life. And it was only then, I felt able to focus on the person who nursed me through it. My boyfriend known also as Mr.Everyday.
He brought me a bucket to throw up into. He kept me covered when I was shivering. He stroked my head to soothe my fevered tossing. He spoke to the doctor. He ran to the chemist (twice) for medicine and then again for the fruits that I felt like eating, later. He prodded me out of my sleep and forced water down my throat. He spoon-fed me soup, even as I sicked it all up. He watched me as I dozed, waiting in case I needed help getting up to retch again. He did all this by forfeiting the weekend’s plan with his guests. And spent the day instead, inside a stifling room on the one hot day in December, as I shivered.
Letting a guy, especially one that you’re romantically involved with, see you in a less-than-perfect state, is always a big deal for a woman. The resulting loss of mystique is a fear that dogs the best, most secure of us. What’s more, for our generation of Superwomen, letting ourselves be taken care of by *horrors* a man, is not a situation we come to, gracefully. But perhaps the next step in being secure in our independence is not needing to prove it at every tiny opportunity. And hence, by corollary, not feeling imperfect or weak if we let ourselves be taken care of, once in awhile. I would take care of him if he was unwell and I realize there is a certain ego issue in not allowing him the same.
There is much that we’ve been fighting over in the past few months, our many differences coming to the fore and our equally stubborn natures locking horns. And of course, post-mortem, it’s easy to say that those things are different and apart from a situation like this. But those are things that break a couple. And this is the kind of thing that really cements a relationship. All the sweet nothings, flowery words and romantic dates aside, an incident like this is real, tangible proof. He took care of me and he nursed me when I was sick. And for that, I hope I never forget how lucky I am, that he’s my Mr.Everyday.
I miss being fabulously single.
I’ve been it for so long, it has become a part of my identity. A huge, glamorous, proud-of-it, reveling-in-it part which is the one thing that conflicts with being in a relationship. A good relationship is wonderful in a number of ways. But it still involves a lot of adapting and even letting go of other things that were good in their own right. And that’s not always easy to do.
Fabulousness came to me as a concept through the pop culture interventions of SATC and chick-lit. It encompasses being successful, smart, stylish, sexy, confident, independent and cool. It is the epitome of ‘having it all together’. It isn’t quite the same as ‘the swinging bachelordom’ but it’s probably a female complement of the same thing.
It’s not that I’m not happy. It’s lovely to have someone, just have them. The closeness, the togetherness, the delightful joys of being part of a couple…I haven’t grown up so much that I’ve lost the ability to love those. It’s a fairytale dream come true. Friendship, laughter, trust, shared interests, freedom.
It’s just that this is a new shade of happy, one that supposedly replaces the older ways I devised of doing so. It may seem materialistic and frivolous but my old life was a polished, complete packaged finished just the way I wanted. I had my downers, my deep wells of loneliness and the clashes with locally accepted norms of what my life should be. I braved them all and I emerged as someone I was really proud of being.
Oddly enough, what I miss is not what you’d think. It’s not the freedom to date anyone I please that I actually miss. Really, being with the right person is so much better than twenty fun dates with different guys. But being fabulous is living the knowledge that you have truly and well put it all together all on your own. It’s the heady high of breaking the rules as well as the sheer power of making new ones of your own. It’s the solid comfort of an identity that you’ve defined for yourself, outside of your relationships. It is the arrogance of knowing that you rule the world you live in. This is not a feeling most girls grow up with. It’s not something most women ever have a chance to experience in their lifetimes. I have and it’s so amazing, I’m having real trouble letting it go.
There are times when I slip into my old self. Snarky, biting-sharp. It’s not always meanness, some of that has become part of the way I am, quite literally my biting wit. But that way of being is only possible when you’re really and truly a loner. You hold the world at a distance and it keeps you on a pedestal as well. You entertain, you protect yourself and you bask in the attention. It isn’t a bad thing. I enjoyed every minute of it and I’m not apologetic about missing it.
I still can’t get used to the idea that I don’t have to keep an eye on my watch when I’m out so I can get home by myself, that there is someone who’ll see my home safely. I’m still grappling with the awkwardness of the extension of my identity, where I find myself having to explain my new relationship status to friends who’ve been out of touch, to people I bump into at social events.
Last week I had a very brief and timed chat with Adi. It had to be since I was getting ready for an evening out and he was on his way to a date. Our schedules have not matched for a few months. Add to that, weekends devoted to the significant others, evenings for other social dos, one working while the other sleeps….and we find we haven’t really spoken in months. But it was Adi after all, so we were able to laugh about it. Then we spent the last 5 minutes of the call figuring out a time when we would both be free to talk without having to get back to work or falling asleep or neglecting our important others. Co-ordinating two busy people’s schedules wasn’t easy; now it’s four calendars to be matched.
If I’m not single anymore, can I still be fabulous? Why would I need to be, I can hear the voices of dissent ask. But that’s the crux of it. Being fabulous may have seemed like a consolation prize for being in a relationship but it turned out it wasn’t. I genuinely enjoyed the life I had and I miss those wonderful parts of it. Maybe it is possible to still be my fabulous self as well as one half of a happy couple. But I haven’t figured out that balance yet. You see, fabulousness just is such an extreme, self-involved idea, I can’t put it together with concepts like moderation and sharing.
For the first time ever,
in my conscious memory,
none of my dreams
or things that I look forward to
in the future with anticipation
have anything to do with a man.
Isn’t that something? Even if it did take me three decades to get to it.
It was so worth it.
A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.
Ever since I’ve put up this slightly controversial (and I’ll admit biased and brash) post…actually even before that, I’ve been hit with the question of why I do want committment at all then if it’s such a terrible thing. My reasons may not be all deeply soulful or romantic or even honorable. As I see it, committment (read marriage) is a solution to a number of niggling, nuisance-ey problems.
Sure I enjoy the liberatedness of being liberated, the freedom to decide my own social life, the no-responsibilities carefree lifestyle that my committed friends seem to envy me for. I have written about the virtues of being single.
But there are plenty of things that I don’t like about being single. Being single means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people (many of whom in my esteemed two-bit opinion shouldn’t poke their nose into my life at all). Here are some reasons I would like to be in a committed relationship.
- Wives of guy friends do not view you with immediate suspicion assuming that you’re just scheming to steal their man away, never mind that fact that you’ve probably had a chance to do that if you wished much before they even set foot in the man’s life.
- You are not required to be a last-minute escort (if you’re female) or chauffeur (if you’re male) for out-of-town single friends of friends/family.
- You don’t get mysteriously dropped out of movie/dinner plans with friends who are all now part of twosomes each.
- Other women (even your friends) don’t make direct or indirect references to your supposedly exciting, fast-moving sex/dating life.
- Eyebrows don’t shoot up when you pick up a baby or coo to a child. Who says single women can’t be maternal?
- You are not automatically put into one of two buckets – repulsive/sick/defective or flightly/fast/sluttish .
- You aren’t the target of unwanted and embarassing attention from married men of the neighbors/schoolmates/husbands of colleagues/ex-boyfriends variety.
- You are allowed to have problems too and no one shuts you up with “What do you know? You don’t have to run a household/adjust to a man/kids to look after.”
- You don’t have to leave parties and social engagements early so as to avoid imposing on friends to drop you home.
- Your family is willing to let you live your own life.
- Your personal life and social calendar doesn’t become everyone’s personal property for value judgement – relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, co-passangers.
Obviously these are not ALL the reasons to get into a relationship. If anything these are the ‘fringe benefits’ of a relationship that have started to become so important that I’m inclined to think a good number of women would want to commit just so they can enjoy all of these. I’m really tired of having to fight a battle each time I want to do something, simply because I’m single. The same thing seems to move so much faster for women who have an ‘attached’ tag on. Granted social engagements and lifestyle options aren’t the most important things in the world. But that’s precisely why it seems like such a waste to have to go to so much effort for something so minor – or go without.
A relationship has its uses and I’m unabashed in saying that I intend to enjoy all of them fully when I get into one.