Welcome again to the Dating Guide! I feel like it’s time to bring it back. This time perhaps as Dating Thirty-Plus? Or perhaps, The Dating Millenial Part 2? Never mind the nomenclature. It has changed.
I’m dating again after the better part of a decade. Most of these years were wasted in a relationship, engagement and the aftermath of the break-up. A year or two before that was frittered away waiting for the world’s systems (social and technological) to catch up with my (and now, I realise many of my generation’s) needs. Some of the time since the break-up has been spent healing and relearning trust, humour and strength, all essential skills for the single person setting out to find a match.
What do we find here? The dating landscape of the noughties decade is acknowledged today (bravo, bravo India, we finally feel able to admit to it). Human relationships and their creation have gone digital (once again, cheers). We now have a clear picture drawn in line strokes. Black and white.
At one end, we find that matrimonial sites are now acceptable and mainstream. After all, our mums are today’s biggest Skype and Whatsapp users. So it’s possible to find Higher-educated, Attractive, Family loving, Travel-enjoying, Horoscope-matched, Career-aligned, Well-Recommended matches at the tap of a button.
Simultaneously, jostling for screenspace with the aforementioned are services that let you Swipe Right for Hells No, Swipe Up for In Your Dreams, Swipe Down for Sexchat But No Meeting and Swipe Left for Your Place or Mine?
Which side do I pick? Umm, neither. I spent my 20s deeply uncomfortable with the chauvinism of wedding rituals, protesting the patriarchial hold on relationships and being shocked by the gender disparities in the law about these. Marriage? Uh, wait a minute please. I now have names for those niggling worries. I have proof of terrible idea for these outdated social systems. And now justifiably, I’m freaked out by anyone whose life goal is to get married and approachs it with the same one-minded zeal as chasing a professional deadline. So, no thank you ShubhShaadi, TurantVivah, JeevanSaathiya. I think it takes a lot more than a matched horoscope, profile, three templatised messages and one conversation to guarantee a happy marriage. I don’t know what guarantees one to be fair, but these are definitely not enough.
At the other end is the icy-chillness of the space (ironically) named for fire-related paraphrenalia. I don’t get hookups, I don’t want hookups and I’m too old to lose my self-esteem over that. In my opinion, it takes far more effort to have only sex-no strings attached than to try and build a relationship. I’d rather stay home with a good book, my feet dry in this horrible weather and my body clean of all the nasty things that doing the nasty with someone you don’t quite know could acquire.
I don’t believe I’m an exception or a misnomer. I am looking for meaningful relationships. Someone I can laugh with and talk about important things with. I want to feel cherished and desired, but not in the flashy, Instagrammable romantic gesture way. I want to care about how someone’s day was rather than critique and optimise their itenerary. I think these are the stuff of life itself and just like life, don’t follow rigid schedules and previously agreed upon boundaries. I want a connection, not the Terms & Conditions document of Tinder nor the 30 year merger plan of Shaadi.
I want to think that this is true of most human beings because how can it not be? This is the driving need of every generation for centuries. I know that there is an entire generation of Indians just like myself. I think perhaps the ones venturing out into the digital space are just louder and even they are probably being cautious. It’s easier to navigate a straight line drawing; much harder to explore the grey that relationship-building is, especially if one has been bruised in the past.
It makes the dating game as tricky as it has always been. When I connect with a person, how do I say please don’t treat me like a piece of meat because I won’t treat you that way but also please don’t think I’m your Manic Pixie Dream Girl answer to all your problems just stop and breathe and give me a chance to be me and you a chance to be you and let’s see if maybe you and I could have a conversation and a walk together and see where that goes?
No, there’s no easy way to say all that. The Tinder types have lost interest at ‘please’ itself (rudeness is considered cool, isn’t it?). The Shaadi sort has lost their hearts because the English is correctly spelt.
Sigh. Patience. Maybe the next decade will be better for the grey zone of those looking for love.
*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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Death is an experience that shakes your faith. Mine, never a sturdy one, constantly wavering in the storm of my questions, is being sorely battered. But not for the usual reasons. Every family hides its dirty secrets that get a forced airing on such occasions. Mine, to my utter shame, is having to acknowledge a relationship, even allegiance to vehement chauvinism. But this is a blog about relationships and what relationship is more complex than the one with family – unless it’s the one with God? Both have been severely tested for me this week.
My maternal grandmother, last grandparent, died after a battle with Parkinson’s this week. Last week I told my father that mothers and daughters have complicated relationships that men rarely understand. I guess that holds true for grandmothers & granddaughters too. I don’t think we ever saw eye to eye. We clashed, not in open, direct confrontation as I’d have liked but in hidden, snippy ways that were her forte. Even our choices of battlegrounds reflected ourselves, polar opposites and she won on that count. On the other hand, she was a strong, powerful woman, used to and enjoying control. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s the person I see everyday in the mirror.
It’s too early to tell how the social structures that she was a part of, indeed with much power, will shift or collapse in her absence. Now is for the rituals & practices of grieving, bereavement and letting go. The Indian/Hindu tradition is practically made for feminist rants. Some things I’ve seen and heard this week that’ve made my blood boil. Two women, both diabetic slaving away in the kitchen to provide a la carte meals and saying,
“If there is enough for the men, that’s all that matters.”
The men going out to discuss such important matters as which rituals to carry out & what to do – most foisted on women, all based on the slaving of women. But of course an entire houseful of women can’t be expected to take care of a simple pick-up of the coffin, afterwards.
“The ladies are alone in the house. I don’t want them to do that.”
I’v been ordered around, dismissed and condescended to in ways that would earn its perpetrators a swift kick in their precious jewels were they not older, related to me and this wasn’t a funeral. I’m bristling.
I had the unique privilege (and make no mistakes, that’s what it is) of going to the crematorium. 20years ago, when my other grandmother died, my father insisted on taking me along, against strong opposition from the rest of the family. Two years later, my grandfather followed her after having lived in his daughter’s care for that time. It was believed that his wife’s death represented the crumbling of all that he had power over, and without her, he had practically nothing left to give him his power, his identity. I was at the crematorium then too. 12yrs ago, my other grandfather passed away and I carried logs of wood to place on his pyre, along with the men.
I wondered this morning if I should. I’m not a child to be led by my father. I’m not even young enough to need to prove my strength & independence to the family. The one thing that drives my faith is truth & respect. Participating in a ritual I did not believe in, felt like dishonesty. Staying back would feel like deliberate disrespect to her, since I’d attended all other cremations. Either way I’d lose.
I’d been pushed enough to such uncharitable thought like I could go along, just to spite the male chauvinist pigs. There’d be nothing they could do about it and it would serve their porkish attitudes just right. But I refrained, I did, I escaped falling into that vicious place. When my father asked me if I was coming along, I shook my head. I watched them walk away to the car. Then, I bolted home to grab a jacket and raced back to get into the car.
It was a long, circuitous journey, doubtless benefitting the tout parading as Pandit/Funeral Emcee. I didn’t know if I’d done the right thing, was chilled then hot & bothered, hungry, guilty for feeling do, angry for the guilt and a confused mess. I had an interesting (and undoubtedly what she’d call inappropriate) conversation with the others on the state of the country, work & the generation gap in 2012. Armchair ranting is a good distraction.
Nearly an hour later, we arrived and she was waiting for us, laid out next to the electric crematorium. I shied away from any last minute rituals. Then, they lifted her onto the pyre. Her favorite kanjeevaram saree that mum bought her, she had specifically asked to be draped in, for her final journey. I made a mental note to tell mum that they did let her go through with it. The flowers were brushed away and then they wheeled her in and slammed the door shut.
I’ve seen this before but the shock of it didn’t leave me for awhile. She’s gone. She really, truly is gone. Once strong body that overcame paralysis 30yrs ago, the sheer grit that made that possible, the mind that continued to hold the strings of her family long after her body was being cared for by them, the hands that nursed my mother back to life, from her devastating illness in the 90s, the life that weathered losing a husband to cancer and then, even more shatteringly, her son to the same illness. Gone.
In the end, I think I did it for us both. For her and for me. Go in peace, Patti. You’ve won the right to it fair and square. My hurdles are yet to be overcome before I win that ultimate victory. You never stopped wanting, never stopped fighting and that’s how I’d like to remember you. Go in peace.