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My Looks Are Not Your Excuse

I wasn’t a pretty child. Oily skin, stringy hair, gangly long limbs. Then puberty came along, and like a fairy godmother, bestowed me with a complete makeover. Suddenly I had the passport into BabeLand.

That was an eon ago, long enough anyway to make me wonder whether the fairy godmother was really a wicked witch in disguise…such is the two-sidedness of her gift. Let me explain.

~O~O~O~O~O~

The love of my life was my dearest friend for many years. Then we got together and shortly afterwards broke up. It was a shattering experience and the final knife in my heart was his parting shot,

“Someday you’ll make some guy really happy…in bed.”

With that one statement he had reduced over six years of warmth and affection, of loyalty and empathy, of buried pride and caring gestures to something as frivolous and fleeting as my body. It still haunts me.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Another time, my best friend who is one of those few people who was born beautiful, was at the receiving end of the attentions of a guy I knew well. She didn’t reciprocate and so didn’t bother prolonging the conversation with me. Later, I heard him complaining about what a frigid ice queen she was. I found myself chiding him with,

“You know that’s not true. I could never be friends with someone like that. She’s just reserved, that’s all.”

He shrugged and in a rare moment of honesty admitted,

“I suppose so. But no guy likes taking no for an answer. And if the girl is good-looking, it’s even more of incentive to bitch about what a cold creature she is.”

~O~O~O~O~O~

I’ve had a chance to speak to someone I almost dated a few years ago. Almost I say because he ended it before it had begun, so to speak. Recently we got talking about the times back then. He said,

“I thought you were very attractive and I was tempted to give it a shot. But I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere so I decided not to. It wouldn’t have been fair on you.”

I always held him in high esteem and my regard for him grew even further after this conversation.

~O~O~O~O~O~

And for my final story there’s someone else who I’ve gone out with a few times. I discovered that he is already in some sort of relationship. When I pushed him, he admitted to it. I was left in a quandary when he told me,

“I think you’re attractive. You are quite hot, you know. At least I didn’t kiss you or something.”

Yes, I am deeply grateful for that. But the fact remains that I am left feeling a tad humiliated as well as quite insulted.

~O~O~O~O~O~

There’s a pattern I see in all of the above. Except for my wise never-boyfriend friend, all the other men have treated women as desirable objects, strong temptations. There’s a part of me, my vain, feminine side that basks in such glorious admiration. Unfortunately that’s only a part of me. I’m more than my face and my body and my sex appeal. What none of these men seem to have considered is that the woman, regardless of how hot she is, has actual emotions like any other human being. It seems basic but why don’t they get it?

A pretty face does not insulate you from being hurt. A great body does not protect you from feelings of rejection, abandonment and humiliation. My looks are not your excuse for bad behavior. And yet much of the bigger half of the population seems to think so.

My looks are not your excuse

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Motherhood – The Great Indian Relationship & The Only One

I was watching ‘Wake Up Sid’ yesterday (ah, the joys of being master of your own time…a Monday afternoon movie with a friend!) when this thought occurred to me. I’ve complained long and hard about the Indian man being a perpetual mama’s boy. I also believe that this ingrained emasculated dependency comes from scores and scores of mothers who bring their boys up in the Mera Raja Beta (my son, the little lord) tradition. And hence I concluded that women have a lot of blame to carry for the inherent insufficiency of men in this society.

But yesterday I suddenly realised something else. The Indian woman is also brought up in a particular way, no matter what kind of family or social strata she comes from. She is groomed, trained and refined to be a mother. Motherhood is the one relationship that we are tutored in, right from an early age and educated by theory and by example. We are taught to mother our siblings, our friends and even our fathers and uncles.

Think about it. We watch our mums manage the entire gamut of activities concering something as basic as clothing for the men. Shopping, washing, drying, ironing, darning, sewing, discarding and replenishment. They even construct the ‘look’ for the men in the family.

Growing up in a liberal family as I did, I was still taught to make beds and clean when I was about 9 and cook when I was 13. I was also taught to watch for the moods of daddy (and grandfather on those native vacations) and be mindful of them. I wasn’t discriminated against or restricted in any way. But in addition to my education in maths, science, social etiquette and life skills, I was also taught to accommodate and take care of men. This was also down to the fact that I may not always be appreciated for my good work, since ‘it didn’t occur to them’ or ‘he’s busy right now’ and such other things. I was resentful of this for awhile but in hindsight I realize it was a sturdy survival kit for the hard knocks of disappointment and indifference that would inevitably come in life.

Contrast that with a boy who is praised for every achievement, fawned over for doing things as per normal and most importantly soothed and pacified when faced with disappointment or difficulty. No wonder he ends up a la Sid in the movie, bewildered and clueless when faced with rejection or failure.

I was particularly struck by one scene in the movie where Sid goes to live with his slightly older friend Aisha for awhile after walking out of his house in a huff. At the end of the first day, she comes home from work to find the neat little flat that she works hard to maintain, all in a mess. With no little irritation, she nevertheless gets to cleaning it herself. And then on learning that Sid hasn’t eaten all day because he doesn’t know cooking, she cooks for him as well.

I understand that doing nice things for each other and being supportive are an integral part of every relationship. But it just seems to me like as Indian women, we are brainwashed into doing too much. The movie may have intended to be about the coming of age of a young man, the maturity of a different relationship. But I found myself thinking, that all Sid did was to substitute one mother figure for another. As for Aisha, even while she worked hard to establish herself as a modern, independent woman, all she ended up doing was being a surrogate wife/mother character to yet another man. Her independence and value as a human being was finally expressed only by her satisfactory fulfilment of one task – taking care of a little boy.

I’m coming to think that we don’t really know any other way to treat men. Motherhood is the only relationship we understand. So beyond the frivolity of socialising, we end up being surrogate mothers for our men, even ones that we are not romantically involved with.

I don’t mean to sound condescending to men; indeed I find myself guilty of this kind of behaviour. When I was in a relationship with a Delhi guy who was in Mumbai to study, I remember being astonished at how little he knew, how handicapped he was by his lack of basic survival skills or even social etiquette. I’d organise meals for him, manage the maid (in conjunction with the girlfriends of the other guys who shared his flat), wake him up for interviews and lectures, figure out his clothes and even pack for him on his visits home.

I also remember an official trip I took to another country, with a colleague. He sat next to me at work and we were pretty pally. As we checked in and waited for the departure announcement, he handed over an assortment of papers and said,

You take care of these. You know how to. I’ll just make a mess of it!

I grumbled of course but I realised he’d just end up misplacing his passport or converting his money into wrong currency. So I arranged his papers by the dates he’d need them, filed the rest away carefully and put them away. Then I organised his money into different sets, told him how much to convert, how much to retain and in the end took over some part of it so he wouldn’t misplace it. At the end of the week, I also had a detailed account of what he had spent and what he would need to convert back. Considering he was an MBA, who had lived away from home for over 6 years, I really think he should have learnt to do all this. But by his own admission, girlfriends had always taken care of such things for him. In retrospect I wonder what would have happened if I had just left him to flounder.

I’ve spent enough of time raving about the inadequacy of men but I wonder now whether I’m part of the other half that actually facilitates this. We’re both mass products of a great social machinery that churns out only one relationship between a man and a woman – motherhood. We seem to be unable to treat men as equal human beings with their own minds so we end up either mollycoddling them or being fearful of them; either way it is a relationship of bullying or resentful servitude. Instead of kicking men for not being able to do things that they weren’t anyway trained for anyway, I’m wondering how do we break out of this behaviour? Is it possible for women to learn new ways to treat a man? And do so without being disgusted of men or giving up on them?

The Man-Child: Tribulations Of A Twenty-Five-Old

I am really liking this. There is a new kind of man up and about and he makes me re-think all my notions about men and relationships. There was of course the spectacular younger man that I had the good fortune to be with for a brief while. And there are my other friends and acquaintances. They have one thing in common – they’re all twenty-five. Of course it is the fact that they’re 25-year-olds viewed from my 30-year-old eyes. I don’t think I quite liked 25-year-old men when I was 25 myself. At the risk of sounding all haughty-superior, I’m now at the vantage position of viewing them from an older and yes, wiser perspective.

25 seems to be right time to call him a man-child. There are traces of his boyishness and childishness (some of which he may never grow out of). And there are stirrings of adulthood, many-hued, whether it is the seriousness of ambition or the charm and ruthlessness of a Male Slut, the depravity of the grown-up Bad Boy, the ‘tortoise in hare-and-tortoise’ of the Beta Male or even the decisiveness of a human being who is just older and more confident. He could go any of those ways (or all of them), he’s poised on the treshold of who he is going to be for the large part of the rest of his life. You can almost see how he’s going to turn out as a husband and father. It’s watching his adulthood in its crystallization.

The love of my life made the mountain-moving decision of his life at twenty-five – that it wasn’t going to be about finding a perfect woman but finding someone who’d do and making it work with her. That was a drastic shift from the ruthless, nearly-Nazi-like quest for perfection that marked his earlier relationships (including the one with me).

What makes it truly sweet is watching the vulnerability that also accompanies him. Either it gets shattered with heartbreak, disappointment and such. Or it is hidden away, as is the case with most men and their need to be ‘manly’. And in a few, very few cases, it grows along with him (though to be quite sure, I’ve only seen this happen with gay men).

Amidst all the fun and laughter that spotted my last (and only) association with a younger man, there was one serious discussion about relationships. At the very base of his multitudinous flings, I unearthed a fear in him that every woman he’d meet was likely to cheat. And all because he had received (willingly, I may add) the attentions of a woman who was already in a relationship. I could tell it was early days and that fear had not solidified into an attitude as yet. But I could very easily see where this was going. I could see him as the kind of guy who’d jump from fling to fling, with little regard to the feelings of the people concerned, because he was in so much of a hurry to get away before he got hurt. It was almost tangibly painful to realize that his tenderness, the sweet solicitousness with which he received me might very well be gone in a couple of years. And yet, it could go the other way. If he found someone who could change his mind about that, he might be a very different person indeed – a wonderfully caring partner and a delightful friend. At the end of it, in my mind, it is symbolised by his voice – deep-throated and firm most of the time, but briefly turning plaintive and tentative when he said,

That’s what I wonder. Is there any loyalty in relationships anymore?

It was haunting in how vulnerable it sounded and it moved me. I haven’t felt moved, really touched by something a man said or did for a long time.

I also recently had a conversation with yet another man-child (unsurprisingly twenty-five). He’s tired of being called ‘cute’ and he imagines that he’ll never get a girl if this continues. So he wants to revamp himself into a sexier, more macho, adult avatar. I don’t know why he can’t see what I see – a guy who’s quite pleasant to look at, affable, fun, intelligent and nice to boot. What woman wouldn’t fall for that? And they probably already are, only he isn’t realising it. But I can’t stop him if he decided he wants to turn Neanderthal man. I hesitate to tell him that it will only make him look ridiculous because that so isn’t him. I wish he would realize that his cuteness, this little-boy vulnerability that makes women want to take care of him…that’s his greatest draw. Well, perhaps he’ll realize it on his own. Man-child he may be, but he isn’t stupid.

And finally, I get something out of this. Seeing the vulnerable side of a man, much before it has been buried or strangled out of existence or mangled beyond recognition…it’s a moving experience. It brings me back the respect I had for the male species, that brought me so many close friendships with them. It also brings back the tenderness and affection, banishes my own fear of all men being monsters. It makes them look human in my eyes and that can only be good.

I raise my glass to the wondrousness of the twenty-five-year-old man! Cheers, baby, you’re awesome!

Dancing In The Rain

http://www.youtube.com/v/t0uf5l_OBLU&hl=en&fs=1&

I love this song. Unabashedly. I wish I could dance outside in the rain singing this very song. In fact, maybe I will.

I was talking to a friend about (what else?) a guy we both knew. Nothing much to tell except that he was cute and thought I was too. Attraction is a good thing, even more so when unencumbered by the social mores of committment.

I particularly loved her for saying,

As I see it, it was just a human thing.

Absolutely. It was one of those delightful things that makes you feel good to be human. Then for thought, she added,

Isn’t it interesting how we never got to wondering what he would think?

I gave it some thought and I realised it didn’t matter. Not that he didn’t matter at all to me, but just that it wouldn’t have made much difference to me either way. Is that modern promiscuity or liberalisation? Who gives a damn anyway?

Really, truly a man’s attention is a lovely thing. Several men’s attention is mind-blowing. Perhaps it is the effect of turning 30 and shutting my ‘planned life’ down but I find I just don’t have the bandwidth to worry about approval anymore.

There have been a number of times in my life that I’ve had the pleasure to think at least to myself,

Hey, it’s raining men!

Aren’t I lucky? We all are. From experience, it is just a matter of attitude. Every single time I stopped worrying about whether ‘the one’ was out there, I found myself surrounded and drowning in a thunderstorm of potentials, prospects, just-flings, men, men, men.

It always made me glow within. All that changes is that I’m grinning real wide now. 😀

God bless Mother Nature
She’s a single woman too
She took over heaven
And she did what she had to do

What Do We Look For In A Partner?

I heard something interesting in a recent Twitter conversation on dating:

adityab@ideasmithy I think men & women actively look for vulnerability in partners. After all, why would we need another person otherwise?

Really? I don’t mean that sarcastically, I mean really, really, REALLY? That isn’t true of me. Honest, it’s not.

I know I’ve always looked for only one thing in all my men. It’s not easy to find which may explain the high turbulence in my love-life and I’ve made plenty, plenty, way too many mistakes. But what I’ve looked for has never changed. It has always been – STRENGTH.

Strength isn’t a simple word or quality at all. After all, how do you define strength? It is the physical aspect of it of course which encompasses massive force, stamina, endurance, staying power and pain tolerance. Speaking of which, it is interesting to note that men score better than women on the first two while women seem to outrun men on the last two. A man may be able to pick a motorbike or even a car up, he may smash a wall with his fists but a woman will outlast him on situations of sustained pressure and well, a dentist’s appointment. 🙂

Coming back, it may have been the obvious thing for me to be drawn to huge Arnold Schwarzennegar types but I actually wasn’t. Well, perhaps the extra chubbiness around all the men I knew back in my early days may have been just that. Okay, end of pop-Freud.

But I was always drawn to a guy who was ‘the most’ in something or the other. The flashiest dude, the most mysterious one, the superbly brilliant guy (and so what if he was a geek with the social skills of cheese). In my mind, each of these extremes required a certain force of character, a certain solidness of mind. That is something I have always and will continue to respect and admire.

I am looking for a man who is his own master and who isn’t afraid of anything. Well, the last one should not be as impossible as it sounds. If you are not afraid to be yourself, believe you me, you’ll not be afraid of much else. I’m looking for a man just like that. Vulnerability doesn’t come into the equation then. At least, as most of us understand it, it is usually displayed as a fear of something, a weakness of a sort. That takes a man down in my eyes. Even stubbornness (which going contra to some of the personality types I outlined earlier) since an illogical attachment to any point of view is just juvenile and weak too.

Okay to come back, I’m still wondering – are other people really looking for partners who exhibit the same fears as them? Or who lack in something that they themselves are good at? Considered from that point of view, perhaps I look for strong men to complement how weak I really feel. How’s that for honest? Hmm, it’s not a nice realisation to know that I’m just as guilty of the ‘a strong man to protect me’ syndrome as most of my sex.

———————————————————————————————————-

A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Well, every day you learn. Thanks, Aditya for the tweet that set me thinking!

Non Sequitur*

The Non-relationship because…

  • I need time.
  • I’m afraid of committment (Honest but jackshit nevertheless)
  • I’m really busy building my career right now.
  • My family won’t approve of us.
  • We don’t know each other that well.

The Non-conversation because…

  • It’s too embarassing to talk about.
  • Why ruin a perfectly good mood?
  • There is never an answer.
  • If you start, I’ll leave!
  • Je ne comprehende pas…Parlez-vous Man-ese?
  • Oh, forget it.

The Non-boyfriend because…

  • Need I say (crib, wail, nag, complain, bitch) furthur?
  • Huh? ‘Boyfriend’ is spelt with four letters.
  • I’m really fond of you but I don’t love you.
  • I care, I don’t, I’m intense, I’m indifferent, I’m incomprehensible.
  • Ask him, I’m out of ideas

The Non-breakup because…

When did we ever say anything about getting together?

*Latin for “It does not follow”. Just like men and relationships. Hmph.

Idea-toon: And I Don't Really Hate Men

(Click on thumbnail to see idea-toon on a new page)

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More Idea-toons here

Settle For To Settle Down

I’m reading a book called Rubbish Boyfriends. But hang on, that’s not all that’s responsible for this mood o’ mine. I’ve been talking (and talking and talking) to the following women:

A has been steadily (as opposed to happily) married to a ‘Who says we get it right the first time?’ pedigree-carrier.

B is married to the man described by Barmaid as the ‘Good On Paper Indian Guy’ a.k.a. GOPIG (also M.C.Pig). She’s also momma to a 3-year-old and a useless daughter-in-law in the eyes of the matriarch who stays with them.

C has been hitched for four years and has to show for it the following:
– 3-year-old adorable coochie-boo
– 4 home addresses
– Career chart resembling a diagram of the universe (spotty) rather than a straight graph.

A says she stops short of being murderous at the sight of her husband, especially on certain days of the month. So she’s gotten herself a dog. Dog answers to ‘Gabbar’ (despite fancy names conceived by A, on account of pesky husband getting there first) but Gabbar loves her every day of the month, PMS regardless. Arre O Sambha, ek hi aadmi tha par chodo…they’re all the same!

B, juggling phone on neck-shoulder, scrambling about for change and yelling at the taxiwalla, bemoans being called a bad mother for working till 2 am. Then she adds that papa dearest sleeps in late right through baby’s sports day preparations. Her tired tirade ends with,

So long as he isn’t alcoholic, abusive or cheating on you, assume he’s Mr.Perfect. That’s as good as it is ever going to get.

I want to wail about committment-phobias, male insensitivity and thoughtlessness. I want to talk about my non-conversations about my non-relationship with my non-boyfriend. But I can see she’s not quite in the state for it so I take my woes elsewhere.

C, straight-faced as always listens to me and offers this sage advice,

Remember I used to say I’d never leave Mumbai. Do you know all the places I’ve lived in in the past four years? Do you know where I’m going to be six months from now? I don’t, either.

That makes me pause and think. So I watch SATC, drink a bottle of wine, laugh with a friend, read Chick Lit, go shopping and write XX Factor instead. Settle for if you want to settle down seems to be the order of the day. While there’s love (for the uncynical ones), sex, children and stability, no one told them about shrinking expectations (and fading dreams), comfort meshed into indifference, dreams replaced by ‘the best way to end the argument once and for all’. They change, they modify, they sigh a bit, wash their faces and carry on. All of them seem to be echoing that men will be men, at the end of it and there’s just this much you can make them care about things outside themselves.

Resignation appears to be every committed woman’s uniform emotion. And inter-twined with the single girl’s need to find someone special is a sense of relief at not having done so yet.

Why Men Don't Get Tattooed

Message from Friend-Man,

I got a tattoo!

I call back and yelp,

Tattoo!! Seriously?

After much detailed description (and a few conversational blind alleys regarding location and image and colour), he admits that it’s a temporary one, ending with,

I’d never get a permanant tattoo!

To which I retort,

Yeah. It needs committment. And the willingness to bear pain. Not a man’s strong qualities. It takes a woman to get one!

He pooh-poohs the idea and khee-khees off the call. But I am tempted to call back and tell him that every single tattooed person I know (self included) is female. Yes!

Q.E.D.

Fantasy

Any man, at any time can be Prince Charming.
And Prince Charming can turn into an ogre any time.
(Why the hell are men so moody?)

Of course, if you’re a Shrek fan, hold the converse to be true.

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