January was an interesting experience, as regards matters of the heart. Interesting, I say, as a way of deflecting the bad-taste-in-mouth feelings that came up. In December I found myself catching the feels for someone I’d known casually for awhile and not given that much thought to. That is not so long ago but given that I was coming out of a dry spell, anything in the range of attraction-affection felt big and intense. I’ve spent most of these weeks trying to discern what is, what I’m feeling and where this goes. It’s important for me to correctly understand what I’m feeling and act accordingly rather than vomit it out in a tantrum and hope for the world to make sense of it.
The good parts of these weeks were feeling desired and attractive. That was really, really good. That’s possibly why it took me some time to realise they weren’t real feelings and that I had inadvertently fallen into somebody else’s game, a game that I had no part in.
There’s no easy way to say this. I’ve written four drafts and all of them are rubbish so I’ll just say it. There’s a guy and there’s a girl. The guy calls her a good friend. The girl calls him a variety of things, depending on who is being spoken to and whether or not he is in the room (ranging from ‘jaanoo’ to well, stories about how he farts in her face when he wakes up next to her in the morning). The guy talks about how exclusivity is a patriarchal concept, how he is the constant in the lives of his friends-with-benefits (who purportedly have partners that are not constant for them). The girl says she knows he sleeps with other people but at least he tells her about it which is better than her last guy. The guy strings her along with “Later”, “Not now” while he’s on dates with others. The girl marks her territory by showing up at the restaurants where he’s on dates.
And why this is a game is because of what happens after. Girl and guy ride off together, often with the hapless date in tow. Sometimes in place of a date, it’s a damsel-in-distress to assuage the guy’s saviour complex. Only said damsels are just needy enough to be allowed mild PDA but never given the status of an actual object of affection. Once the date/damsel-in-distress/Jealousy Object has been discarded or dropped off, guy and girl ride off into the moonshine they’ve built together. Happily ever after.
I realise why I was so ‘confused’ as I described it all these weeks. I do not like being an object of any kind. I am not a fucking dildo for someone else’s messed up headgames. I’m not a sex toy to make somebody else’s fucked up relationship interesting. I do not like being used. I do not fight territory battles over people because people are not property. I’d like to say I don’t play games in relationships but that would be naive so I’ll just say this is not the game I play. Not the jealousy game, no.
I’ve been Sex Object a lot of times. I’ve buckled under the burdens of Affection Object (wherein man showers all his gawdawful poetry/singing and assumes his role is done with the hard work of building a relationship, managing the in-law people and the emotional labour of the relationship falls to me). And now I’m realising I’ve also occasionally been the Jealousy Object. This is the prop that (usually) men use to make the woman they’re with, feel bad about herself so (presumably) she won’t think to leave them.
This is the behaviour exhibited by numerous ex-boyfriends who’ve never been that nice to me but make sure to tell their current partners about how slim I am (body-shaming is the first play in the book of a Jealousy Game player). I’ve also been the ‘She’s more successful than you’ prop’ and the ‘So much cooler than you’ thing on account of my recent stage career.
I have never liked it. It’s a horrible thing to do a person and no, it doesn’t not feel like a compliment to me. Firstly, it is not a compliment to me to be used to make another woman feel bad. Secondly, there is nothing complimentary about using me as an object to incite some feeling in a relationship with someone else. That’s no better than a picture in Playboy that a man might use mentally to get off, were he not feeling that attracted to his partner.
Not that the girl’s behaviour is anything I want to feel empathy over. The feminist in me shies away from outright shaming but honestly, settling for someone who behaves badly is just a bad idea. What’s more, this willingness to play along and assert territoriality in desperate ways weakens things for all women. And finally and most important to me, it is directly disrespectful to me. I don’t care how badly you’ve been treated before or how weak you are or how much you care about him — none of these will ever be good enough reason for you to use me.
Ugh, I am utterly disgusted by both people’s behaviour, no matter how objectively I try to look at it. As some kind of poor consolation prize, I guess I’m lucky I got out with not too much harm done and at least with a post to boot.
Argh will it ever stop, this discovering of how fucky-ass fuccbois (and their complicit females) can be?
P.S. – Here’s another worthy piece of content that came to be because of the above experience.
I liked where the article seemed to be going (this is how the decision/marriage model has worked so far, here’s why those references are not valid anymore) till it got preachy.
Have you heard of the term ‘friendzone’? I think it was originally coined in the popular US show ‘Friends’. It refers to a friendship between a man and a woman, where a man is expecting things to go further and feels betrayed by the woman because she does not. It has gotten quite popular even in India, among the urban connected generations. Recently the concept has been getting some flak because some women (at least the thinking ones) seem to feel that it points to a certain entitlement among men over what they can expect from a woman once they get closer to her. Here is a webcomic strip that got shared around a lot awhile ago (by me as well) that breaks this situation down well.
The second is something you know already since I often talk about it. Access to education, careers, exposure to digital media (hence international living references) and greater freedom has done a lot of things for women. It has also made the proponents of the old order much more fearful and violent (crimes against women, negative social patterns like the above mentioned friendzone etc.).
Plus, for women, we are a ‘newly liberated’ species. We don’t have the same references/mentors/leaders to look to for direction that our male counterparts do. In a lot of ways we are like explorers of a new planet. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to be extra cautious? Factor in the arguably biological instincts of women being more cautious and less testosterone/impulse driven than men and that makes for less ‘Let’s jump in!’ and more ‘Let’s wait, take stock before moving ahead’
Both of these things are factors in my decision to be exactly the kind of woman that the author writes about. I have a lot of close male friends in my life. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any one of them. If there was, they wouldn’t be my friends. But I don’t see a romantic relationship as an upgrade over friendship. These are two different things. I do not subscribed to the adage that a good friend makes a good spouse. On the contrary, I see enough of good friendships around me destroyed after they became traditional romantic/matrimonial relationships. Jealousy is one of the big reasons that comes up often as does the inability to deal with each other’s vices. We’re never really that jealous when it comes to a good friend and we’ll put up with his incessant gaming, her endless shopping — but it would be hell to be married to someone like that.
And finally I, and a lot of other men and women (yes, both) like me are starting to think marriage is one of the many lifestyle options, not the big prize at the end of a rapid-fire selection. I think the writer may not have considered either this or the point I mentioned in my previous para. It’s a new world, our relationship references are different, that’s all.
🙂 I enjoy having these conversations with you.
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I actually wrote this post five months ago. But instead I published this one, in its place. I guess this post felt too raw, too out-there and (fine, I admit!) I was a tad superstitious about sounding too smug-happy. I feel a lot more confident about bringing this out so here it is for your (repetitive) reading pleasure!
Okay, I’m back. Call off the search team, please. The flashlights are making me see spots in the darkness. And meh, I wanted to slink back in without anyone noticing.
A combination of sulkiness, bad moods and blogger’s block assailed me. Of course, this blog has seen its share of my blogicidal tendencies. This time, I thought I really and truly had said everything I could possibly say. After all, beyond gender stereotypes, feminism, male-bashing, dating advice, battle of the sexes and single girl rants, what else can I possibly XX Factor?
A relationship, that’s what, came the answer. To my chagrin, I found I never wrote when I was truly, bursting-with-it happy and when was the last time I felt that way? Angst has fueled much of my creative output and in the absence of it, I feel no words knocking about in my head, bumping into my eyelids, threatening to go pouring out of my mouth and my fingers.
So fine, I’ve gone from being single gal to coupled-up, I’ve moved on from angsty-angry to wholesome-happy. But I’m still a woman. There has got to be more to it than explaining the paucity of the opposite sex.
*Sigh* It’s been so long since I’ve done this, I’ve forgotten. There are things that you never really forget, like cycling and swimming and turning your eyelids inside out and being grossed out when other people do this. Let me tell you, being in a relationship is not one of those things.
I think dating should be discarded as a means to and a predecessor to relationships, seeing how it seems to have no connection whatsoever with the latter. How many people that you dated did you actually end up having a solid relationship with? I mean the kind where you genuinely care what they feel, their opinion matters to you, you stand by them (and they by you)? What’s all that to do with people with whom you share entertainment and fancy meals with, people who add to your social quotient and you to theirs by being seen in public together? Anyway, I anticipate that the next question will be “How else do you find someone to be with then?” and I have no answer to that so I’ll drop this thread of thought.
It seemed so easy, so effortless. A conversation between two people ending in ‘Yes’. But in the days to come, that one word has loomed bigger and larger and infiltrated into every aspect of life.
Suddenly I’m spending way longer with and in his absence, thinking about one person. I still adore my friends and the vast social circle I’ve collected in all these years. But days and weeks have mysteriously slipped by and I’ve come back to a bunch of mystified people who’re out with flashlights and search dogs with a warrant for my kidnapper’s arrest. But this is okay. My wonderfully understanding friends assure me that they’re happy for me and wave away my apologies for never understanding when they did the same thing.
I spent an hour trying on and changing various outfits last evening, all in preparation of a mid-week date. Not that he notices and strangely enough that doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve dressed well for a good while now but it’s always been what I feel like wearing, colour, fabric, design, cut etc. But this time I’m thinking….we might take a walk on the beach, better not to wear the nice sandals. My favorite Batman-patterened-WonderWoman style bracelet is still much loved but its sharp edges will probably dig into his wrist when we hold hands.
In the morning, I was looking through some Facebook albums and chanced upon the picture of someone I had gone out with, awhile ago. I immediately tweeted,
“Cute & friendly exes are like delicious street food. Always tempting but then you think of your last encounter & thats the end of it.”
I managed to be late for the date in the evening and after a slightly stiff reception, the ice was broken with a reference to my tweet. I started, having completely forgotten about that. Then that telling glint of mischief crept into his eyes and I knew he was having a good laugh at how I was squirming. I knew he wasn’t going to go Jealous Guy on me and yet, I squirmed. It was odd.
We have great conversations and greater ones, too. Of course we were friends before we decided to be a couple. And the conversations continue. Now and then, I let slip one of my characteristic male-bashing or OTT funny-shocking statements (“In the year 2050, men will be illegally bred as pets for connoisseurs, the bulk of them being grown in laboratories for fertilization purposes.”). It used to be my thing. Drama, shock-value, yes I’m inadvertently (well, not entirely) funny. But I say these now and suddenly I stop and think, “Ohmigosh, I’m supposed to be a girlfriend now. Are girlfriends supposed to say these things to their boyfriends?” Squirm again.
And then there’s the whole awkwardness about the past. This has been strangely enlightening and also I discovered, goes both ways. It’s not the fact that I have a past that embarrasses me, it’s the amount of drama in it. Think how that would sound to Mr.Understated Silent, Solid Type. But then I mention a song of his that I came across and he says uneasily, “Yeah….I was….going through a phase back then.” Heh, there’s some consolation in that.
The friends have yet to be met, his and mine and I know from experience (zzzzing, I did it again!), that is another major bridge to be crossed. The urban family is just as much of a big deal as the joint family, never mind what he says about everyone doing their own thing. Well, one learns, one lives. Love is a complicated thing but at least you get to go at it with a partner.
There’ll be more on this. Single or otherwise, I’m still me and I have a feeling I’ve just stepped into an alternate universe. I’ll keep y’all posted on the sights.
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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)