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Ritualised Relationships

I heard someone describe three other people’s interaction as ‘ritualised’. It made me think of the forced inanities that people thrust on each other, the scripts that we impose on each other and that we find ourselves following. The delighted welcomes, the whine exchanges, the mutual enabling of vices – aren’t these the traits of many long-running relationships? Some of us find security in it; some find it oppressive. Either way, there is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, and performed according to set order, which Wikipedia tells me is the very definition of ‘ritual’.

Do some of us exist in RITUALISED RELATIONSHIPS then?


The Badness Of Good Boys

I have had a startling revelation that will revolutionize the way we look at relationships and well, men!

Everyone knows Bad Boys are bad news. Meh, that’s last century’s news. And yet – or possibly exactly for that reason – we are drawn to them and spend a considerable bit of our prime chasing illusions of acquaintanceship with them. But of course the Bad Boy breaks our heart. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Then we sigh and move on….to another Bad Boy.

The cycle, seemingly fatalistic has one way out – or so we are told. As maturity (or possibly too much heartache) sets in, we shed our illusions of wild, fast, furious, exciting love and pledge our troth to another kind of man altogether. Enter the Good Boy.

From a love-lifetime of having experienced Bad Boys, we automatically conclude that we know his exact opposite completely. NOT TRUE!

The Good Boy is not necessarily Prince Charming, either. He doesn’t get romance and tenderness any more instinctively than the Bad Boy. The Good Boy‘s connection to mama will be elevated to monumental proportions (in that there will be a shrine to mama) while in the case of the Bad Boy, it was only an excuse for his bad behavior.

What’s worse, I’m discovering, there is a price to be paid, a fee if you will, for life’s lessons. So after going through the Bad Boys, you come to the Good Boy expecting to be healed and kissed and made alright.

Instead you come up against a formidable presence that requires your clearing up your messes before you step onto his carpet, so to speak. There’s no sympathy forthcoming (and I’m about to believe this is the version of sulking that Good Boys prefer). It’s time to play hardball (again!) and negotiate.

These aren’t ruthless. Of course not, these are Good Boys after all. But there is negotiation nevertheless. And there’s the overwhelming sense of guilt and foolishness hanging over your own head for your past mistakes. Obviously you’re coming to the table with a weak hand.

I’m thinking the whole thing is a set-up. The Bad Boy is nothing more than marketing spiel to get our defenses dulled and weakened in time for the Good Boy to close in and finalize a deal that’s sweet to him.

GAH!!! Good or bad, a man may never be what he seems.

good boy!

good boy! (Photo credit: Rakka)

When An Ex- Gets Married

Ever had this pop up on your screen?

Scroll back to check.
Look at how many people ‘liked’.
Hover uncertainly over ‘View Comments’, then decide not to.
Visit profile page to see when this happened & what happened after.
Hover over ‘Like’ and decide against because it’ll mean notifications for the next 2 weeks. Not sure if this needs to be shoved into the face every day.

You may have broken up ages ago. You may have had closure & moved on to things that are themselves ancient history now.

You may not be in love anymore. You may never have been in love, even back then.

You may be in a relationship yourself. Or single and thankful for it.

It doesn’t matter. This will make you stop dead in your tracks and cause the breath to catch in your  throat even if it is for the teensiest fraction of a second. No one saw the expression on your face. Not even a telltale blush or flush or gasp. But a tiny plop sounded inside you and you heard it. I know you did.

Every relationship, no matter how brief, how shallow, however fleeting is an opportunity, a little dirt track that could lead somewhere. It could take you to great sex, a wonderful friendship, that much-needed ego massage, fun for a weekend or a vacation or happily ever after (whatever that means to you). It’s a path that you considered once, when it opened up before you. Maybe you even took a few steps down that road. Even if you walked back or away, the road was there at some point of time for you. The message you just saw above, which made you stop in your tracks signifies that road has shut down permanently. Houseful, we have no more room, we don’t want any more, thank you very much. You may have a thousand other options but losing even one, especially one that you did consider once upon a time, will leave its mark on you.

Then there is this thing that women have about Plan B. I say women, since I’ve never really heard a man use the phrase. Perhaps men do it too, only they call it different things or (characteristic to men), they don’t think about it. But it exists. My best friend once told me,

“If you’re still looking, you’re not really committed.”

I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. There’s no question in my mind about who the most important person in my life, right now. But that doesn’t mean other people who were once important, cease to exist altogether. Friends who’ve been married and happily, steadily, comfortably so, report the same feeling.

It’s a strange blend of nostalgia, comparisons, smugness & wistfulness, laced with just a hint of pinprick pain. There ought to be a word for it. I suppose the Portugeuse ‘Saudade‘ comes closer than any other word but it doesn’t completely describe it.

I know this and I even know the train of words that went through your head right after you saw it. Maybe you even said most of them.

Good for them.
Isn’t it kind of early?
I’m happy they found happiness with somebody.
How did they meet?
When is the wedding?

(Add sarcastic/bored/snide tone if your relationship with them was rocky)

And all of them were true. But they don’t negate that inexplicable place in your throat where you’re not able to swallow, that funny leap in your stomach that’s got nothing to do with what you ate and the words that come out of your mouth, sounding at odds with what you’re feeling inside.

I know. We all do.


The ‘We’ Relationship – Best Couple Friends

There’s a couple we have gotten close to. Yes, that’s a ‘we’ sentence because this is a ‘we’ friendship.

Xion is an old colleague and friend. When he started a relationship, we went out to dinner talked about the new woman in his life for over three hours. We repeated that meeting a month later, when I found Mr.Everyday. I get along well with Xion’s girlfriend. She’s young, fresh and bright but also intelligent and warm. Just the kind of girl I’d get along with, anytime, anyplace. Mr.Everyday likes Xion (which doesn’t surprise me, Xion really is easy to like). They bond over gaming and occasional girlfriend jibes.

We hang out together sometimes – dinner, movie and house parties. I never thought of double-dating as anything more than a group of four people socializing. But it turns out to be different from a group outing.

I’ve long hated the typical ‘smug married’ attitude myself, that makes coupled-up people only want to socialize with other coupled-up types. Most of my friends are still ‘individual friends’ in that, my bond with them stays unchanged through changes in my relationship status and theirs.

But it is good to have someone who understands your relationship situation perfectly because they know both you and your partner well. A close friend can be relied upon for unconditional support but perspective is something you only get from someone who’s at an objective distance from you and from the relationship. The girls-versus-boys conversations we sometimes have, the us-and-them comparison talks we do and even the close opposite sex perspective I get from Xion greatly help my relationship.  And of course, sometimes it is nice to be in the company of other people who won’t mind if you don’t pay them as much attention (they’re busy paying each other attention too).

A number of Mr.Everyday’s friends and mine are attached. But we don’t both get along with both of the other people in many of those cases. There are four people in this after all and all the requisite permutations and combinations don’t always work. Thus Xion and his girlfriend really are probably our best ‘couple friends’. It may sound corny but it’s real and it works.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram


Inherited Relationships

Compartmentalization is the one thing that goes out of the window when you get into a relationship. I think that’s what most of us struggle the most with. We’ve spent most of our adolescent and adult lives learning to organize the world around us in a certain way. Then someone comes along with their own set of rules and structure. Merging these two is never going to be an easy prospect.

Relationships to me, are like the baby plants in my window garden. They need nurturing, a lot of daily incremental effort. At some point of time, they can be left to their own devices but really, that takes a long, long time to come. Also you can’t grow a plant overnight by pouring twenty buckets of water on it and then forgetting about it for the next month or so. Every drop must be measured, every word pondered.

In a single state, every new person is like a seed and it is up to each of us to decide how and where we’re going to fit that person into the structure of our lives. But when you’re in a relationship, all of a sudden, you’re handed down a legacy of people. Friends, classmates, family, ex-es, colleagues, all kinds of people. You don’t have a personal history with them but you’re given an encapsulated bulletin of their background, which is really only a recap of your partner’s history with them. You don’t often have a choice of where to fit them into your lives. In some cases, you may not even have a place in your life for such a person.

For example, I’m an only child. I’m completely unfamiliar with the concept of siblinghood, having only seen it from the outside as it were. The finer nuances of brother-sister, twins, older-younger, same-sex-siblings etc are things I strain to discern from what I see of my friends. I’m completely unsure about how to behave with the siblings of my partner. The casualness of friendship may not be taken for granted with them but the strictures of family must be in place. It’s not as formal as a parental relationship, not as markedly opposed as an ex- and not as casual as a friendship. Respect, trust and liking all need to be established, proven and earned. And there’s no roadmap for this.

Then there is the manifold nature of friendships. Same-sex friendships are close in a way the opposite sex can never quite fathom. The relationship is inherited to some extent (I pity the person who doesn’t get along with the best friend of their partner). On the other hand, it isn’t a same sex friendship any more which brings in a new level of uncertainty. Should one treat the best friend of the beloved on par with one’s friends of the opposite sex? But the joking flirtatious tone needs to be dropped as it seems inappropriate with friend-of-beloved. Can one trust them as much, considering their loyalties necessarily must be to your partner first and foremost?

Opposite sex friendships take on an entirely different sense of diabolical. Should I like her simply because he likes her too? In fact, is that possible? Can he ever like my buddy knowing that the man was around for me at a time when we didn’t know each other? Even after you get past the jealousy bit, how do you recreate the friendship when clearly you are not the same person as your other half? Opposite sex friendships are very different from same sex friendships. I’m going to shoot down the theory that two women cannot be friends, on the premise that I have a number of close women friends. But can two women who care for the same man (albeit in different ways) form a friendship? Extend that question to two men who care about the same woman too. It should be possible, in theory. And yet, do we really see it happening?

As if being in a relationship isn’t complicated enough, dealing with the inheritance of people just makes life a helluva lot more complex.


A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.


You Can’t Hurry Love…Or A Man!

Phil Collins tells me that,

“You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait. Love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take.”

A friend’s mother imparts the following wisdom on men and marriage,

“Don’t expect any kind of sense for about 3 years. After that they kind of settle down.”

PATIENCE is a virtue, apparently a prized one for a woman. Me? I never met a man who didn’t make me, within hours, want to bang my head on the wall. Irrespective of how much I liked him. I think men are like that. Born to annoy.

How does thou annoy me? Let’s count. (In no particular order of priority, they’re all equally irksome)

  • Stubbornness
  • Bird-watching
  • Commitment-phobia
  • Juvenile jokes (toilet humour, anyone?)
  • Bad taste in clothes, furniture, colors, everything!
  • Complete cluelessness about the concept of ‘Conversation’
  • Hormone surges (okay, cross that, it isn’t always a problem)
  • EEEEEEGO (with a huge, big, monstrous, mammoth of an E)
  • Mixed-up priorities (“Let’s go watch the match now!”, “Why do you need to shop again?”)
  • The gall to comment on my taste (“Haha, your brown lipstick looks like you’ve eaten mud!”)

Phewwww..*Deeeeep breath* I think I’m forgetting. I’ve never been high on patience anyway. Some day, some day, some day I’ll learn to tolerate a man being a man. And not keep looking into those starry-eyes and asking,

“Okay, have we grown-up as yet?”


An earlier version is here. A version is also posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty.


Unequal Affections

A famous couplet by W.H. Auden goes,

If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving be me.

I thought it was desperately romantic but also insightful. Even in the most compatible of relationships, there is a certain inequality. Of power, of responsibility, of initiative and yes, even of love. At any point of time, one person seems to be giving more, trying harder and the other is demanding more, needing more.

In an ideal world, these things ebb and flow and balance out over time. These equations are probably not static and shift over time as both partners grow. But as we all know, human relationships are anything but ideal. So should we live the idealistic dream of pursuing someone we can’t bear to be without, for whom we will do just about anything (and also bear the risk that they may not reciprocate, or worse, misuse our affections)? This after all, epitomizes living to the fullest, with and for the object of one’s passionate affections. Or should we take the practical path of looking for someone who is willing to meet our needs, supply all our demands and needs us so much, that they will do as we please? It’s the safer option, especially in today’s cut-throat times but it needs a careful rationing and rationalizing of emotion.

Quite simply, is your ideal relationship with someone who can’t live without you or with someone you can’t live without?


A version of this is on Yahoo! Real Beauty.


What’s Sex Got To Do With It?

The recent India Today poll looks at the importance of financial independence, sexual satisfaction, romance and emotional security in a relationship. I’m most intrigued by inference that about half of urban India links sex & earning capacity while the other seems indifferent. That’s a neat but disturbing split right down the middle of this generation.

Most people now accept that it is important, almost necessary to be a double-income family in order to be able to even consider having all the benefits that urban life has to offer. We’re still struggling with the emotional upheavals caused by the changes in societal order but the need of the hour is to bring in the bucks and fast. So we’re all getting into the workplace as soon as we can and racing ahead at our best pace. But we haven’t quite figured out how that makes us feel about each other, have we? Does the average man feel emasculated by the equal or better earning power of his partner? Does the woman feel like the man is falling short of the deep-rooted standards of male superiority? And how does the relationship endure the burden of these frustrated expectations? I think the jury is still out on that one and where else would the confusion make its presence felt but in the bedroom?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


XXFactored!: November 2010 – Lists, Style, Love And Harry Potter

I’ve barely posted through the month of November. What with one thing or another with the domain problems and having to move back to good ol’ free WordPress, things got pushed aside. But the XX Factor Facebook page has been active, sure enough. And for those of you who didn’t catch the updates as they happened, here are the highlights once again:

  • I was surprised at how accurate these felt even in the Indian context. Human relationships are universal, I suppose. 20 things couples should do before they move in together and another 20 they should not do after moving in together (via TheFrisky)
  • What I want to know is – what qualifies as ‘new’? 10 basic rules for a new relationship (via YourTango)
  • Of special interest to me since I made the first move with Mr.Everyday and I did at least two of the things on this list. 🙂 10 subtle ways to make the first move. (via TheFrisky)
  • Flirting styles by the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 (via Lemondrop)
  • 7 tips for dressing curves that are a must-read for the Indian-woman-sized figure. (via AllWomanStalk)
  • A tricky question indeed: “Am I wrong for hooking up with my friend’s ex-?” (via TheFrisky)
  • Pool Noodle girlfriend & other gross things guys do. Eww, dirty boys! (via TheFrisky)
  • Much of this, common sense. But we all need reminding of THAT sometimes, don’t we?: How to fall in love with Mr.Good Enough. (via YourTango)
  • We’ve read these a hundred times before. We know them off the tops of our heads. We rarely disagree with each other on these, no matter what our differences. But still ‘men’s mistakes’ always get us off…laughing!: The 10 stupidest mistakes men make with women. (via TheFrisky)
  • An Indian (?) guy reading an Indian (?) author. HOT! (via HotGuysReadingBooks)
  • 12 techno-relationship rules to live by. (via TheDailyBeast)
  • A whole list of things that made me go ‘Awwww’ and which would make my boyfriend cringe if I ever actually mentioned them!: What do men really find romantic? (via ThirdAge)
  • The best way to be with a funny woman. (via DoubleViking)
  • 4 secrets every woman should know. (via TheRealCougarWoman)
  • How to buy lingerie for a woman. (via ModernMan)
  • 8 Harry Potter tools we want for our relationships. (via YourTango)
  • The Dance Of The Pot – How did we ever turn into such a patriarchal, chauvinistic society? (via Devdutt)
  • I was baffled by an invite I received recently which asked for ‘Smart Casual attire’. Read about setting a dress cold for your party. (via ManofTheHouse)
  • Feminism turned on its *ahem* occasionally biased head. (viaWords&Pictures)

I really have been a listmaniac this month, haven’t I? 😀 I’m still waiting to hear what you think of my picks! Love? Hate? Snooze?


XXFactored!: October 2010

Did you know that The XX Factor was on Facebook? In addition to the posts that come up here, I also frequently link to articles of interest that I find all over the blogosphere. Style, dating, relationships, humour and everything else XX Factor outside the blog find their place in my links. Facebook makes it really easy for me to share what I read with my interested readers. But I realized some of my readers are not on Facebook and I don’t want them to miss out on the entertainment! So here’s what The XX Factor was reading this month:

  • How do you know when a relationship is exclusive? (via Lemondrop)
  • Bharatmatrimony’s witty insight on marriage. (via Twitter)
  • 5 tired boy moves we’d like to see laid to rest. (via Lemondrop)
  • 5 romantic gestures that will turn her off! (via Modern Man) Yes, you’re welcome, men!
  • What is your dating style? (via Facebook)
  • A schematic mapping a woman by her behaviour into every single media stereotype ever. (via Overthinking it)
  • Do you have all the 8 types of friendships you need to grow as a person? (via The Frisky)
  • Where are you on the Hipster Fashion Cycle? (via Republic of Chic)
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