A conversation with a wise girlfriend you’re seeing after awhile can be food for thought. As you exchange titbits of information about news and the then and the now, there’s realization and growing up that happens in those very moments.
I mentioned a name, quite unconsciously with reference to something else. She picked it up and probed. So I told her some. And she told me what she knew, coming from a different source, a different angle. As we put the two together, her story and mine, we created an idea, based on the framework of the person we discussed.
There are of course the men who never got used to the fact that women got a vote, the right to their own bodies, education and careers as well. But there’s a different sort of man around now. This one has had ample time to get used to it. Maybe he had a strong mother. Perhaps he grew up with an ambitious sister. Or maybe he was just sharp that way and found himself the company of women like that.
That means he’s had the time to not just understand and appreciate their motives but also see their Achilles heel, hidden as it may be. The women of today are just as human as the ones that came before them. And hence, we have our own brand of insecurities and fears.
The thing is, my wise friend said,
A guy who sees that insecurity and tries to exploit it to his advantage.
Don’t we know him? We all do, we’ve encountered him at various points of time. In the case we discussed, there was a girl who my friend described as ‘not conventionally good-looking’. The guy in question knows this and seems to be using this over her as a control game. The reason this clicked was that I know when he tried a similar strategy but with a different tactic. He used age instead of looks.
Now the guy in question is of barely any, if at all, consequence to me. The reason this stayed with me is because it brought me back to my own experience of an abusive relationship all those years ago. It’s been very difficult for me to answer questions like why I stayed with him and what hold he had over me.
The answer is of course that he knew my fears and took advantage of them. No one is so strong that they have no fears. And nobody is so guarded in a relationship that keep all their secrets. But those secrets can turn into ammunition in the wrong hands.
Strangely enough our conversation earlier in the evening revolved around fairness creams. I was trying to explain why the idea of having worked with them at some point of time in my career is something I carry with heavy guilt. She admitted that she had used fairness creams for a good while herself. Then she said,
Strange as it may sound, my moment of reckoning came when I read about the Aishwarya Rai-Salman Khan relationship. To know that a woman like could get battered was to realize that it had nothing to do with looks whatsoever. And that’s when I stopped needing those creams.
Hmm, interesting. So we have our fearful secrets and we have even more furtive ways of getting over them. Those close to us can turn traitor. While those on a completely different world from us, can be our salvation.
A friend asked me yesterday how I would feel if my boyfriend took off on a trip with my best friend. I thought for a bit and said,
I trust my best friend implicitly so I think I’d feel a lot safer if my boyfriend went with her rather than with some other woman.
The question however opens up a plethora of other questions. How much should one trust one’s partner? How far to go before one meanders into naivete? How much to hold back before transgressing into paranoia?
Some years back I was seeing a guy who used to travel often on work, to Bangkok. On one of those trips, I received the following message from him:
I’m sitting in a café and being served by a pretty waitress in a very short dress. She’s been giving me the once over more than once. What should I do?
My reply was,
Commitment isn’t a piece of paper or spoken words. It is a state of mind. Do what you please.
I didn’t ask what he finally did and he didn’t tell me. A few weeks later, he cheated on me with someone who called herself my friend. It was a soul-tearing experience. Other than the obvious low self-esteem and the humiliation, I was plagued by doubts about my own trusting nature. Should I have controlled the reins a little more? Should I have been more watchful of him? Should I have trusted him less? This was not the only time my trust had been laid waste after all.
And yet, despite all of the above, after all the crying is over, I find myself coming right back to the same thought. If I’m in a relationship with someone, I have to, I absolutely must respect that person as a responsible adult, as someone with a mind and conscience of their own and trust that they will do the right thing, by themselves and by me.
Every occasion of thwarted trust seems to imply that this is foolishness, rose-tinted naivete at best. And yet, I know I couldn’t stand to be with someone who didn’t treat me the same way; someone who didn’t want to face their insecurities but thrust them on me in the form of control games, instead.
The point is not that insecurity and feelings of jealousy don’t exist. Indeed it would be unnatural to think they don’t. I think if you care for someone, you fear losing them, you worry about losing face, you are scared of being hurt. But these fears are our own, our individual responsibility to deal with and it’s criminal to dump them on the object of one’s affections.
As an afterthought, I added to my answer,
I think I would feel quite bad about the fact that my boyfriend was going off with another woman (even my best friend) but I probably wouldn’t say anything about it. I mean, if he didn’t understand that, then what was the point of telling him? It would be my problem to handle but I wouldn’t feel guilty about feeling that way. After all, wouldn’t he feel the same way if I had done the same thing?
At the end of it, all I can see is that trust is a tricky thing, a lottery ticket. You take a chance, stake your emotions and hope that they will be reciprocated, respected and cherished. If they aren’t, that’s just too bad but it’s the price of looking for a relationship. If you decide to fall in love, don’t expect a safety net, that’s all. You may fall, you may survive, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the risk.
(Image courtesy Osho Zen Tarot)
burnt their bras. donned leggings and in some cases the pants in the family.
picked up swords and knives and eventually guns. also ploughs. and pens. and hammers.
went to work. demanded a vote. ran for politics. were good leaders. and bad ones.
learnt maths and science and accounts. flew aircrafts. then rockets.
threw hand grenades. wrote poetry. and scandalous literature.
walked out of marriages. said “I’m not ready for commitment”.
There are still far more women willingly taking to behavior, clothes and roles that are supposed to be ‘masculine‘ than men doing the same to that which is considered ‘feminine‘. Remember that the next time someone talks about insecurity.
* Please do note the italics. The definitions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘feminity’ are fluid.
**A version is posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty.