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There’s A Woman In Your Friendzone!

Dear men,

What’s that you say? Women don’t get friendzoned? Allow me to introduce you to….

….

….

….

Exhibit A: The Queen of Friendzoned Females

betty.6

Better known as Betty Cooper.

betty cooper

Hmm…sound familiar? Here’s her desi avatar.

Kajol-in-kuch-kuch-hota-hai

And an updated version of the same.

deepika-padukone-in-yeh-jawaani-hai-deewani

Never mind the fact that both these women landed their guys after they dropped jock/geek attire and went babe. This is fiction, created for people who relate to being friendzoned. Nobody’s going to watch a movie that shows them losing out (just as they presumably do in real life). This, boys and girls (but mostly boys, for the purpose of this post), is what fairytales look like. When the above transitions to this:

Pairs

(Interesting side note: The other female character in Yeh Jawani Hain Deewani, Kalki Koechlin, also gets friendzoned by her love interest, Kunaal Roy Kapur. This despite her being babe all along. And she never lands the guy.)

Right then.

So women get friendzoned too. Routinely. I’d say, as often as men. Maybe not as visibly, not as obviously, but put that down to the average interested man being being more open/expansive in his gestures than the average woman. A lot of women still believe that they’re not supposed to give any indication of their interest since it’ll turn the guy off. That doesn’t stop them from feeling the same things that men do – affection, lust, love, the works.

Most women, even the most tradition-bound ones, show their interest in different ways. I mean, you can’t help it. If you like someone, you’re going to want to do nice things for them, you’ll be nervous around them, you’ll try and look good for them – all of this unconsciously even if you’re trying your damnedest to keep from doing so. Ask me. I may be an offbeat woman but I am a woman.

A few years ago, I went on a hike with some friends. One of my friends developed a crush on one of the other hikers and wooed her successfully. In one of our conversations, he mentioned another girl who had also been on the hike.

“I just realised, B has been calling or texting every couple of days since we got back. Once she mentioned a movie, another time, coffee. I mean…I think…”

“You friendzoned her.”

I told him.

“I didn’t even realize. My mind has been so much on A. But I just realised B has been doing the same things that I’ve been doing for A.”

Friendzone Alert! Poor B.

Then there’s another friend who’s had the uncomfortable pleasure of a drunken admission of interest. He doesn’t feel the same way, what to do? But he admits, the attention is very, very, very flattering.

And finally, the friend whose words inspired this post told me earlier this week about a  woman he met at a party. They hung out a few times. And then it got to that kiss-or-not moment. He decided to walk away. And as he did, he asked himself,

“Hang on. Did I just friendzone a woman?”

Yes, indeed, I told him. It happened again, with another woman, he said. And both, he moaned, stopped being friends with him. Why, he wanted to know, why ever? After all, he was being a nice guy and not leading them on.

“Welcome to a woman’s life.”

I told him. That’s exactly how women feel when we’re accused of friendzoning as if it’s a deliberate act of malice.

Friendzoning isn’t deliberate. It’s not always an act of manipulation. It’s not a deliberate attempt to destroy someone’s ego and use them before discarding them. And it’s an equal-opportunity tragedy. If you’re a man, the chances are that you’ve friendzoned at least one woman in your life, even if you don’t realise it. It’s not the woman’s fault. It’s not yours either.

There are nearly 7 billion of us on the planet. We’re constantly  making choices, dropping some, moving over some, running towards some and forgetting or overlooking the rest. Accepting one person means rejecting everyone else. So every single woman that you have not proposed to, not pursued a relationship with, not married, not attempted to sleep with, is in your potential Friendzone. There have to be dozens of them in your worldview already and if they exist on your radar but are not in focus, they’re in Friendzone.

Don’t believe me? Take a look around. Who told you the difference between a stiletto and a kitten heel? Who do you get ‘a woman’s perspective’ from? Who do you call to ask where you can get stuff to put in the kitchen? Whose advice would you need, to buy your girlfriend a gift? Take that further. Who do you talk shit about your boss or silly buddies to? Who do you bounce off your ideas about a Ladakh trip on? Who do you argue politics, work, books, music, movies or just about anything else with? Any of them women?

There you have it. Your base of friendzoned females.

Friendzoned people aren’t necessarily good-looking or successful or intelligent. The chances are they’re in the Friendzone precisely because you didn’t notice them.

They may be the wrong religion or the wrong age. They aren’t always single or the right sexual orientation for you. Those are valid reasons for friendzoning too.

Don’t strike any of them off just because:

  • they’re an ex-girlfriend
  • you’re attracted to them

If either of the above is true and you aren’t pursuing them, they’re definitely in Friendzone. Balance your guilt out with the gleeful realisation that maybe your friendzoners feel a little something for you too. They’ve just chosen not to act on it for their own reasons.

You’re welcome.

– A Woman in Your Friendzone

Unknown

A World Of Pain

A thick sheet of plastic over a boiling cauldron of black, festering poison. That’s me. A year – that’s how long it takes to grow this.

I’ve been in a strange mood all month. I lost the entire month of February, being unwell, asleep and drifting in disoriented confusion through questions like,

“What are you going to do next?”

I don’t know and I don’t even know to explain how or why that is the case. Having been a burning force of desire all my life – bottomless want for a goal, an object, a person’s affections, an intangible like attention – has driven me and taken me to achievement as well as over the disappointment of not achieving. Now, I just feel empty. Desireless is dead, as far as I’m concerned.

But today somebody asked me, in a way that I had to answer because I knew the answer and I couldn’t lie,

“How are you?”

And all at once that non-biodegradable, suffocating sheet of plastic formed a little hole and a stream of blackish hurt came oozing out. I talked and talked. And he replied, stopping only when he saw a tear ooze out of my right eye. So I continued talking.

I’m so angry. I’m so, so angry.

I’m angry at myself for having being compassionate and kind and loving to somebody who only treated me with condescension, hostility and cruelty. I’m angry at the utter coldness that must have fueled this big tamasha that was done only to buy my silence for a few months more. I’m angry at the sheer viciousness that plotted setting me up in order to dump me publicly in the most humiliating, debilitating way possible.

I’m raging at so-called friends who shut me up by lecturing me on dignified silences, on the crassness of public whining and the censorship of my writing. I’m burning at the faceless groups of people who banded together with him, making my utter humiliation complete.

I’m seething at the roles of strength and endurance and patience and forgiveness and maturity that I’ve been forced into playing. I’m screaming at the gag orders, the handcuffs, the closed doors on and to my pain and expression.

I’m bursting with shame and indignation and fury at the thought of him speaking for women’s rights, against violence towards women, against homophobia. I’m biting on my tongue and choking back the bile when I hear about the accolades that his art gets when he performs ideas that I fought to bring into his consciousness, even words that were mine that he’s mouthing. So shamelessly. So remorselessly. So much without a conscience.

I’m beaten into submission by the sheer irony of life. A year to the day, he’s out celebrating accolades for something I first pushed him into pursuing. And surprise, surprise – it’s an event in honour of Women’s Rights. Life, you make me want to slit my wrists right now.

Is there no justice in the world? And if there isn’t, damn you for wanting me to crusade but only politely, for wanting me to champion causes being hypocritically championed by such offenders, for wanting me to be the Stepfordian crusader even as I bleed. Damn every single one of you.

I am in a world of pain, that’s how I am.

XXFactored Sep11: Geek Girls & Romance In Current Times

So another month draws to a close and we’re nearly at a year of link-love on my blogs. Do drop me a line and tell me what you think of it!

XX Factor‘s first guest-contributor, The Single Married Man has been bringing this blog a whiff of freshness with his own brand of relationship musings. This month he talks about getting back into dating. There’s more to come from him and in the meantime, you can also catch him on Twitter.

There’s another guest-contributor coming up sometime this month but I won’t tell you anymore for the time being. Any suggestions on the kind of perspective you’d like to see here at XX Factor are welcome!

And here’s the month’s features:

At Pere Lathuille, 1879, uses the same suit jacket

Image via Wikipedia

  • Yes, I’d imagine this would be ridiculously funny…except that I can’t imagine a man actually going all the way to this. ‘A Post Gender Normative Man Tries To Pick Up A Woman At A Bar‘ (via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, link courtesy GautamGhosh)
  • LOL @ Personal strength no.2!!’Romance Resume‘ (via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, link courtesy GautamGhosh)
  • A Guide To Geek Girls‘ (via OldBoysNetwork, linked to by GautamGhosh)
  • I was ROFLing all through and then I saw the last one and I pretty much fell out of the window! ‘21 Things We Secretly Suspect About The Opposite Sex‘ (via Cracked)

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.

At The Movies

Movies are a complicated business these days.

There is the hysteria of the Fridaygoer who will all but maim in a bid to get to the box office first and then spend most of the movie updating his Facebook status from his phone. Then there’s the desperate reek of a Saturdaygoer who didn’t get any party invitations, doesn’t want to spend over a grand at a pub entry fee and will spend it instead on overpriced, stale multiplex food watching what everyone else pretended to watch the previous day. And of course there’s delightful Sunday characterised by screaming kids and loud aunties yelling popcorn orders to their husbands in the aisles. Weekdays used to be saner but now thanks to the kuttewaala network, Tuesdays are a mad melee of excitable collegians! That leaves Mondays when it’s too early to legitimately enjoy anything in this workaholic city. Wednesday is the sole movie night for the sane-and-wanting-to-stay-that-way.

Of course even this elaborate (and much elaborated-upon) decision complicates manifold with the arrival of the significant other. It quite makes one wonder what one ever thought one had in common with the other and exactly what the stuff of those endless conversations must have been. Do men change post-relationship or do we both?

Take this week’s movie date. The weekend scan of the listings had us at a standoff at the box office. Perhaps that’s why, in sheer desperation (or lack of foresight…we’re waiting on that one), the boyfriend rashly offered a compromise,

I’ll watch Eclipse with you if you’ll come for Predators!

Much to his amazement, I nodded. He hasn’t yet learnt about how patient even this impatient one can be….it’s early days, after all. Not a minute wasted, he rushed off to get the tickets. A few minutes before we entered the hall, better sense appeared to have prevailed and he asked (in a super-hopeful voice),

“You were just kidding about wanting to watch Eclipse, right?”

I fixed him with a don’t-you-dare look. So he tried another tack. (*Sigh* I keep telling the boy to learn to die gracefully)

“If you like this movie, it doesn’t count, okay!?”

“Predator for Eclipse. We had a deal, dude!”

And suddenly, the man next to me shook his head violently and addressed the boyfriend.

“You DON’T even want to think about it! Such a waste of time!”

Before I could glare at the boyfriend, rap strange man on head for butting in or yell ‘foul!’, they two had launched into a comparative bashing of Aisha and Eclipse. When they finally broke it up, boyfriend grinned back at me triumphantly and said,

The masses have spoken, see!

My characteristic ‘as-if’ eyebrow shrug before I said,

Thank your stars I didn’t ask you to watch SATC2 with me. Now let’s get this over with.

I sat through the movie without comment. And when the lights came on, he had to admit that it really hadn’t been a very good movie, after all. 🙂

Weekend booking plans start now. I’m going to wrangle a double-or-nothing deal out of this one. SCORE a point for the lady! 😉

Should The Girl Ask The Guy Out?

It’s a question I posed to a mixed group of friends. The women were all united in their belief that it didn’t make sense to do so. Most men (and this is an opinion I share) aren’t used to the concept of someone else taking the romantic initiative. And even if there is the possibility of a relationship, their absolute bewilderment over the way the situation happens could very well ruin it. The male ego just doesn’t permit such a relationship, even if there is interest.

The only trouble is when a woman likes a guy, it’s a real pain in the ass to sit around waiting for him to ask her out. Ask any woman about the frustration of watching a guy eye you all evening, start to walk towards you and then stop and turn back. It’s an ARRRRGGGGGHH situation.

The men on the other hand were largely open to the idea. I was quite surprised to hear the things that some of them said,

“It would be really nice to have the girl take the initiative for a change.”

“Guys like compliments and receiving attention too.”

“I’m hopeless at setting up the whole romantic scenario. It would be so great if she’d take charge of that.”

And finally the clinching deal for their side was a male friend who had just announced that he was getting engaged.

“My fiancé proposed to me.”

Now honestly, I think it’s wise to try something out before passing a judgement on it. So yes, I have asked a guy out as well. Not once, several times. It was an enlightening experience.

For starters, it’s horribly nerve-tangling. The worrying about how to ask, where to go, what to do and what the other person will think of you. I felt a rush of sympathy for all the men who had summoned up the nerve to ever express an interest in me. It does take a lot of courage and planning.

The one thing that surprised me was how the entire effort consumed me. Like I told a friend,

“The thrill of the chase is something I could get used to. The not-knowing, even the slight panic…there’s a heady high attached to it.”

I must also add that being in the driving seat, so to speak, being the one bringing together the whole production somehow automatically switched me into a place of only thinking about the absolutely necessary. A friend of mine was goading me into taking things to a more serious level. I thought about it and I surprised myself by saying,

“When you ask someone for a commitment, you are also saying that you’re ready to commit yourself. I’m not sure yet if that’s the case. I just want to see where this goes for now.”

As I said it, I knew I sounded exactly like a guy. And yet, I wasn’t being commitment-phobic, I wasn’t planning on two-timing and I wasn’t ‘in it for the ride’. I really, honestly didn’t know where things were going and having taken up the responsibility to take it somewhere, I just wanted to take it slowly.

The one thing that stands out is that the person who takes the initiative is definitely setting himself (or herself) up for the possibility of rejection…but even more subtly he or she is saying yes to being in a place of uncertainty for at least some time.

Since I started telling a story, I should tell you the end. The man in question is involved with someone else, a fact that I discovered several weeks later and then too only on pushing him. That can happen. He says he wasn’t sure if it was dates or just friendly meetings. What the truth is, is anyone’s guess. Should one take the risk of being stood up or humiliated? There’s no answer to that, except that guys do it all the time (take the risk I mean, not just what this guy did).

As I see it, being the woman taking charge means one is playing an unusual role and there’s ample scope to be misunderstood. If the guy is a jerk, he could easily use the situation for maximum benefit and get a lot out of the girl without giving her anything back. But then again, falling in love is always a risk, every time, in every single situation. Besides the reverse is probably equally true, especially in today’s day and age. A woman can just as easily free-ride on a guy’s attentions and then walk away without a second thought.

So at the end I’m inclined to say that if you have the nerve for it, don’t let social norms stop you. If you’re a guy who agrees with what my male friends said, try not to be an ass or a jerk about it. In the long run, it’ll encourage more women to take the initiative and things will only get easier and pleasanter for you. If like me, you’re a woman who can’t stand to sit around looking pretty and waiting to be asked out, go right into the chase. Just keep your band-aids and chocolates and close friends about. Just in case.

Falling Lessons

I think I’ve forgotten how to fall in love. When I was a kid, I took Judo lessons where they taught us to fall correctly so that we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. Tossing and throwing were a part of Judo and hence also being tossed and falling. I learnt to yank a guy forward and in a smooth maneuver lay him flat on the ground. I got used to finding the ground beneath my feet not there anymore and instinctively rolling over to flatten out into a soft landing. How come no one ever told us about falling in love safely? Yes, I am a cynic but we are what our experiences make us. It is a fact that I’ve never experienced love in any way other than dark, tearful, volatile and even violent. Each time you fall and collect bruises, each of those times makes you a little more scared to fall again. Maybe love should be like Judo. After all, I took lessons when I was 12 and had fallen often and collected my fair share of bumps and scratches. Unlearning the fear of falling was all about taking one tumble that didn’t hurt. Surprise. Relief. Clarity. And freedom from fear. It would be great to be shown how to fall in love in a way that guarantees there will be no hurt. Even if trust takes a while to come, if that one time can really happen, it will prove that such a love can happen, has already happened. But ah, we are faced with a curious problem now. Not only do I not know how to stop being afraid, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to fall in love. Age, experience and okay, let’s say it together, cynicism have brought in a certain burnt-outness. There isn’t the capacity for butterflies in the stomach anymore. It isn’t so much about pessimism, it is about having lost all those illusions that do make romance what it is. Is it possible to fall in love without romance? Or, even more fundamentally, can romance be separated from illusion? Where is the romance in knowing that the person sitting in front of you is as clueless and guarded, if not more, than you are? When the sparks fly and with them the thought that,

“It’s just hormones. And hormones are just chemicals. A chemical reaction, that’s all.”

…romance tends to fizzle out a bit. 30 has been about a lot of freedom. Freedom from social pressures, freedom from restrictions, freedom from inhibition. The not-knowing, the straining against the limits…all of those add to the heady tension that translates into the butterflies-in-stomach feeling. So freedom from uncertainty and limits means romance isn’t on my menu anymore. It seems like I’ve learnt how to fall in a way that I won’t break too much of my heart (oh just a little dent or two). But is it really falling in love if you don’t get in all the way?

Game-Playing

I’ve just returned from an old-fashioned family vacation at the ‘native place’, complete with grand-parents, cousins and mangoes. It was nice to not have to be a boss, a sparkling wit, a responsible citizen, a busy commuter or any of those multitudinous other roles I seem to keep juggling. On the other hand, it has been over five years since I visited the mother-state, even longer since I went on a family vacation of this sort. People have changed; and perhaps so have I.

My delightful aunt organised a games evening for the family. Sitting out in the open courtyard, listening to nothing more than the barely-there breeze and watching the sky darken without having to glance at a clock, watch, computer clock or mobile phone every few seconds…we talked. The game went thus: Pairs of people were asked questions about each other and graded according to how accurate their answers were.

Grand-uncle and grand-aunt correctly answered which school each of them passed out from and their favorite colours. Sure, you’d think a couple that has been together for so long would know that about each other. It just is an oddly heart-warming thing to see romance suddenly in the lives of people you’ve known all of yours, a couple that in the traditional Indian manner never openly express affection for each other. Grand-aunt to my surprise, even named grand-uncle’s boss (though she thought of his last boss, not his first). Grand-uncle charmed his way out of ‘her favorite sweet’ question with a,

She likes everything!

…and had to endure much ribbing as she smiled and said,

That’s why he never got me any!

They knew more about each other than the other couples in the group, all parent-child ones, did. Isn’t that odd, now? The person who is closest to you, who knows you nearly inside-out may  be someone who doesn’t share your DNA, never lived through your first tears and early landmarks. Your best friend may just be someone you’ve shared more history with.

Hmm, now I understand ‘someone to grow old with’ much better. I just wish I had someone who’d know all those answers about me.

History

These things never go away.
If there has ever been history, it will show even if you are in the same room.

Yes, very dramatic. And perhaps romantic. Heartening, even to some.

But reality seems to indicate otherwise. Attraction, like everything else, is impermanent. Or perhaps I’m only thinking of fancy and not real lust.

And yet, the novelty is so much a part of the attraction, the first time round…I often wonder what keeps couples together after years and years and years. Sure, there is the comfort and caring and real depth of a good relationship. But attraction?

And if you don’t stay a couple and meet several years and other people later, is it a given that things wouldn’t have changed? I don’t think so. People change, times change, tastes change too. So who knows, a re-union could be a real re-union…or just a history lesson. I’ll lay my chances on the latter.

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A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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