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Do You Have A BiFF?

It’s an important question. A BiFF can change your whole outlook to the opposite sex, to love, relating, societies, work. A good BiFF is all good things rolled into one, a sort of Human Being Plus. I’d go so far to say the BiFF is like one of the X-Men. Wait, what’s a BiFF, you say?

A BiFF my dear boys and girls, is a Bisexual Friend Forever. I’m a big believer in friendship with the opposite sex so my BiFF has to be a bisexual man. Let me tell you why BiFFs are so amazing. But first, what do we know about bisexuality?

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*Image via thaikrit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rainbows are everyone’s favorite cause on the internet and we’re steeped in images of men kissing men, women marrying each other and matched pairs everywhere. Where do we stand on people who swing both ways?

At one end of the spectrum is the Sex and The City school of thought that sees bisexuality as a kind of greed, of not wanting to settle with just one sort. At the other end…well, need we call it an end since it’s pretty much the rest of the icebBoyerg? Yeah, anyone that’s not matched into One Male-One Female is not human. That. Let’s return to Sex and the City since that’s pop culture’s most recent revolutionary offering around sexuality. It’s over ten years old and that in internet years, could constitute four generations. I don’t know how bisexual people felt about it then but I’m not going to worry about that now.

Let’s set aside the theory bits and let me tell you about what I’ve seen. My first interaction with an openly bisexual man was when we were out on our first date. He told me that he had kissed another man. And then he paused in his story. What I said went on to define who I am (and I’m so proud of this),

“Did you like it?” I asked.

When he completed his story, I thanked him for sharing something so private with me. He smiled and told me that it was test to see whether I’d think of him as weird. No, I thought considering, not really. It felt as normal as anything else and I couldn’t find anything inside my reactions that felt revulsion. He went on to introduce me to John Mayer and Sex and the City. He was the only guy I knew who had even heard of the show, let alone owning the entire VCD collection. It would be a few years before I became involved in the rainbow cause and longer still for friends to start talking about their own bisexuality.

Here’s what I know about bisexual men. They have none of the homophobic hang-ups of the straight men I’ve dated. This means, they’re a lot more relaxed in their own skin. They aren’t as horrified by women’s power as most straight men (obviously or otherwise). They are not defined by limited notions of what constitutes manly behavior. Interestingly, some of them are even alpha males.

At the same time, they are not as weighed down by the discrimination meted out to the gay community (of course this may just be the specific people I know). They are not either screaming themselves hoarse waving rainbow flags or devolving into sulky passive-aggressiveness against straight people. Their sexuality is just one more thing about them, like the colour of their hair or their favorite food. Isn’t that interesting now? By being pan-sexual, sexuality ceases to define them. Think about a man that is not defined by who he chooses to sleep with.

I’ve always thought that homophobia and low self-esteem are both led and reinforced by straight men. Okay, a very specific kind of straight man. It’s that guy who keeps alive notions like, ‘Ooh boys’ night out! Because women are terrors to be gotten away from’, ‘Woman on top! Yay, porn! No, not in real life!’ You can see why I think the Bisexual man is an advancement on this breed.

Once upon a time, the gay best friend was a fashionable idea, conjuring up images of boy/girl duos shopping for pastels and ogling men together (“Is he for you or for me?”). In reality, the friendships are nothing like that. Shopping and bird-watching are the most trivial of pursuits two people can undertake together. And with people who are supposedly as emotionally evolved as women and gay men, really is that the best one can come up with? In truth, I find the conversations boil down to who is feeling more marginalised, more discriminated against (Women, of course! We’re the biggest mistreated minority in the world! But then I’m biased). If a conversation goes beyond that, it’s because we are two people who like each, regardless of our sexuality. And the sexuality bit is just something that well, we don’t have anything in common. Gay relationship dynamics are very different from straight ones.

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*Image via stockimages on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But bisexual men make for great friends to women. They think like men but they are also able to relate to the way straight women think and feel. Picture this. You’re getting ready for a first date with a hot guy. Turn and ask your caricatured gay friend for advice. Run around wheeing and clapping hands and jumping up and down. And then the rest of the week agonising about the date.

Instead ask your BiFF about the date. He’ll give you a once-over and say,

“Looks good. Less lipstick. I know you like it but if I were him, I wouldn’t want to kiss that. If you want to get kissed, lose the lipstick.”

So you go, “Hmph. It’s a first date. We are only going to have dinner.”

“So?” he counters, “Don’t you want to have sex with him?”

“I haven’t thought about it,” you bluster, “It’s only the first date!”

“You met him on Tinder,” he replies and looks away.

No, he isn’t being respectful and giving you time to wipe your tears in private. He noticed someone hot walk across the room.

“Your hair looks really nice, by the way,” he interrupts your stream of thought, as he starts to get up. “See you later.”

He pays, his eyes never leaving his target and reaches for you with one arm. You sigh and resign yourself to the side-hug. “Call me if you need to get away” he whispers into your hair and vanishes.

Yeah, like I said, the BiFF is all things good about a man. What happens if your date is a creep and you have to call him and he’s busy? Well, that’s the subject for another post.

Fabulous, Not Single?

I miss being fabulously single.

I’ve been it for so long, it has become a part of my identity. A huge, glamorous, proud-of-it, reveling-in-it part which is the one thing that conflicts with being in a relationship. A good relationship is wonderful in a number of ways. But it still involves a lot of adapting and even letting go of other things that were good in their own right. And that’s not always easy to do.

Fabulousness came to me as a concept through the pop culture interventions of SATC and chick-lit. It encompasses being successful, smart, stylish, sexy, confident, independent and cool. It is the epitome of ‘having it all together’. It isn’t quite the same as ‘the swinging bachelordom’ but it’s probably a female complement of the same thing.

It’s not that I’m not happy. It’s lovely to have someone, just have them. The closeness, the togetherness, the delightful joys of being part of a couple…I haven’t grown up so much that I’ve lost the ability to love those. It’s a fairytale dream come true. Friendship, laughter, trust, shared interests, freedom.

It’s just that this is a new shade of happy, one that supposedly replaces the older ways I devised of doing so. It may seem materialistic and frivolous but my old life was a polished, complete packaged finished just the way I wanted. I had my downers, my deep wells of loneliness and the clashes with locally accepted norms of what my life should be. I braved them all and I emerged as someone I was really proud of being.

Oddly enough, what I miss is not what you’d think. It’s not the freedom to date anyone I please that I actually miss. Really, being with the right person is so much better than twenty fun dates with different guys. But being fabulous is living the knowledge that you have truly and well put it all together all on your own. It’s the heady high of breaking the rules as well as the sheer power of making new ones of your own. It’s the solid comfort of an identity that you’ve defined for yourself, outside of your relationships. It is the arrogance of knowing that you rule the world you live in. This is not a feeling most girls grow up with. It’s not something most women ever have a chance to experience in their lifetimes. I have and it’s so amazing, I’m having real trouble letting it go.

There are times when I slip into my old self. Snarky, biting-sharp. It’s not always meanness, some of that has become part of the way I am, quite literally my biting wit. But that way of being is only possible when you’re really and truly a loner. You hold the world at a distance and it keeps you on a pedestal as well. You entertain, you protect yourself and you bask in the attention. It isn’t a bad thing. I enjoyed every minute of it and I’m not apologetic about missing it.

I still can’t get used to the idea that I don’t have to keep an eye on my watch when I’m out so I can get home by myself, that there is someone who’ll see my home safely. I’m still grappling with the awkwardness of the extension of my identity, where I find myself having to explain my new relationship status to friends who’ve been out of touch, to people I bump into at social events.

Last week I had a very brief and timed chat with Adi. It had to be since I was getting ready for an evening out and he was on his way to a date. Our schedules have not matched for a few months. Add to that, weekends devoted to the significant others, evenings for other social dos, one working while the other sleeps….and we find we haven’t really spoken in months. But it was Adi after all, so we were able to laugh about it. Then we spent the last 5 minutes of the call figuring out a time when we would both be free to talk without having to get back to work or falling asleep or neglecting our important others. Co-ordinating two busy people’s schedules wasn’t easy; now it’s four calendars to be matched.

If I’m not single anymore, can I still be fabulous? Why would I need to be, I can hear the voices of dissent ask. But that’s the crux of it. Being fabulous may have seemed like a consolation prize for being in a relationship but it turned out it wasn’t. I genuinely enjoyed the life I had and I miss those wonderful parts of it. Maybe it is possible to still be my fabulous self as well as one half of a happy couple. But I haven’t figured out that balance yet. You see, fabulousness just is such an extreme, self-involved idea, I can’t put it together with concepts like moderation and sharing.

The Feminist Hangover

I feel let down. I put my foot right into my mouth justifying why women want to watch Sex And The City 2 despite the first movie having been such an epic disaster. The second one wasn’t just bad, it was mortifying!

I’m tempted to suspect that the second movie was secretly scripted by men and acted out by guys in reverse drag, all part of the anti-feminist movement. But credit where it’s due (or blame in this case). The SATCmania has spiraled downward into a place where even your best galpals don’t want to follow, or indeed be associated with.

Whininess, cheating (and being condoned), shameless ignorance of and blatant disrespect to other cultures, spoilt-princess behaviour….okay, none of these were ever on the agenda for women’s lib. I feel like I should apologize to all the men I’ve been preaching to over the years about equality and empowerment. This, ah….this wasn’t what I meant.

At another level, I feel like this movie mirrors my own attitude shift in the recent times. A close guy friend (yes, there is such a thing even though he’s straight) said something interesting.

“You know what the trouble with you women these days is? You’ve got your grades and then your promotions. You’re taking care of your families. You’ve got great careers and fabulous lives. And so you believe you’ve achieved everything and that you’re invincible. You know, you still do fall sick, you still need other people too. Everyone does. It’s not a man or a woman thing. But all of you act like no one else matters, run over anyone who cares about you because you think that’s how a powerful woman is supposed to behave.”

I didn’t like hearing that at all. But there was truth in what he said. He was thinking about his ex- who was sacrificing her health for career and lifestyle and refused to listen to his concerns over it. But I was thinking of my own workaholism, my arrogance and ruthlessness. I cultivated all of it thinking I needed it to survive in these times. Well, maybe that’s true or maybe it’s not. But it’s also left me with an unhealthy level of cynicism, I’ve lost a number of good friends over the years, there’s judgement where there used to be connection and oh yes, the health has suffered too. I’m not condoning chauvinism or saying equality was a bad idea. But that’s why this is so difficult. Toughness has meant losing gentleness, caring and indeed some of the most wonderful things about being me, being us.

The other side of feminism was supposed to acknowledge that men had emotions too and could be just as nurturing and caring. But somehow it spiraled into a blamegame, an ugly, vindictive ‘up-yours’ crowing-over. It’s not about equality anymore, it’s one-upmanship (upwomanship?). All of us are losing.

My friend is as torn up over his breakup as I’ve ever been over mine. I just fear his lady is as well but she doesn’t know it or won’t acknowledge it. Remind me again how this is good for any of us? It takes two to build a relationship. How do we proceed when one of us is hungover on power, sado-masochism and inaccessible?

I had another thought about the classic equation of relationships – men trading love for sex and women trading sex for love. At that oversimplified level, all these years were about men reneging on their side of the deal by taking sex without paying back with adequate love while women withheld sex till love was forthcoming. It was a business and it worked with all the bartering, the bad debts and the constantly fluctuating scales on both sides. Today though, it’s women saying they’re not interested in shopping at this market anymore. Why pay for love when you can get its substitutes (power, fame, respect, attention, awe) far more easily? And there are the women who decide to infiltrate the competition and take over the business. Enter the Samantha Jones prototype – a woman who trades for sex the way men have been thought to do.

I’m not going to judge what anybody wants and how they go about getting it. But I do wonder about the fabric of our society, based as it is on the warp and weft of both sexes, the constant barter and transfer of emotions and sex, of needs and provisions.

This is the morning after the party and we’re hungover on that potent mix of power, glory and attention. I don’t think most of us are thinking straight any more. Who’s going to rescue the world now that Superwoman has ousted Superman and killed the collaboration?

5 Reasons I'm Looking Forward to Sex & The City 2 Movie

If pop culture reflects the mood of the people, this generation is quite high on an oestrogen-and-botox laced cocktail. SATCmania is a phenomenon. I know I said I didn’t like the book much. The first movie was quite bad. Even the TV series that spawned the wave of hysteria petered out in a rather disappointing way (Alexsander Pietr what?!). I know it’s not smart, it’s not politically correct and yet I stay true.

The second movie is out and hits Indian screens in a few days. I’m queueing up for tickets as soon as they’re available. And this time, I’ve even actively looking for wonderful, fabulous, fashionable friends to go with. We’ll all deck up, wear insensible (and gorgeous) shoes, touch up our make-up every few minutes and scream and oooh in the theatre.

The last time round, there was a collective shriek from urban women worldover while the men struggled for cover. Well, you guys better shield your ears this time round. You’ve been warned. And in case you’re interested, here’s making sense of the phenomenon that has men baffled – Sex And The City!

5. The crazy costumes. SATC proves the premise that fashion is entertainment; humour, drama (even melodrama) and horror! From Miranda’s funny hair to Samantha’s bling skirts to the mother of all fashion screenplays…Carrie Bradshaw herself!

4. Priveleged whining – For the same reasons that a KJo movie is fun, for the same reason hundreds of Indian women tune in to the ‘K’ franchise on TV each day. Credit card overdrafts, catfights, relationship angst. The problems are magnified, too grand to ever happen to such mundane mortals as us and it makes us feel better that even Fabulous has problems.

3. The Old Girls Club. Yes, it’s bitchy, it’s sluttish, it’s venemously anti-male. Okay, modern female bonding rituals are still works in progress. They feel good anyhow.

2. Samantha Jones. She’s the ultimate fantasy. She’s bold, brazen, cares not a whit about what men think, is a great friend and dresses on whim. None of us could actually be her. Most of us have too much of Charlotte (prude) or Miranda (pragmatist) or Carrie (chicken) in us. But that wicked, whimsical streak in us all responds to Sam’s flash. Hooo girl!

1. Habit. The story has been done to death. Big-Aidan-Big-Aidan-Big-Aidan yet again. Gay men are either adorable or bitchy. Friendship lasts forever. Bad ex-es get their dues. Good ex-es come back when you’re getting bored with the current. Yes, yes, yes I know. But think of it this way. You already know the ways a ballgame can end. One side wins or the other or occasionally there’s a tie. And yet you watch each one with rapt attention. It’s sort of like that. It’s a chicklit saga on steroids. We’re hooked and we’re going along till the ride ends.

Guilt-Reading

I’ve just finished reading my first novel of the genre called DickLit (as opposed to ChickLit).

The book by Mark Mason is called ‘What Men Think About Sex. My initial reaction, one chapter down was,

Whaaaaat? It’s fiction?

and immediately felt cheated.

Despite its seemingly nonfiction (meandering into ‘self-help’ territory?*cringe cringe*) title, it is an out-and-out fiction story set in the form of diary excerpts of the protagonist.

The story itself is quite readable and Mark Mason even manages to pull off making The Clare Jordan Five and Three-Quarter Feet Handicap Stakes sound believable. The above is a contest between two men to seduce women whose names or seduction locations start with the letters C, L, A, R and E. All because the common object of their affections bears the now-offending name of Clare Jordan. Don’t ask. It sounds bizarre but in a funny way, he manages to make it work.

On the other hand, I hate it when writers pull stunts like that, making a book sound like something else in its title. I only bought it because the blurb described it as the male ‘Sex And The City‘ which at least half of you know (assuming an equal gender-ratio split in the readership of this blog) was originally a newspaper column.

I was mildly surprised at how like ChickLit it was. I even flipped over the cover to check that I hadn’t misread what may have been a ‘Marcy’ or ‘Margaret’ Mason. No such thing….an ordinary, if not pleasant-faced man stared back at me from the book’s inner flap. The format is even like Bridget Jones’ Diary!

Okay, enough about what I don’t like about the book…but when did I say I didn’t like it? Such homogeneity with the female standpoint is reassuring.

Except, what is it with men and guilt? A particularly intriguing excerpt from the book goes on about the Guilt/Temptation trade-off. It says that men can and do feel guilt about succumbing to temptation. Exactly why they do succumb then and what’s worse, doggedly chase after such temptation-laden situations is not answered.

“Because he does. Sorry I can’t be more cogent than that, but I’m concentrating on Bloke Feelings at the moment, not Bloke logic. Which is by the way, your answer. Concentrating on feelings instead of logic is precisely what blokes do when Temptation’s hovering.”

That’s cool, really is, since women have libidos too and yes, we give in to temptation too.

What stands out to me is that none of the women I know who cheat, have experienced the kind of soul-searing Guilt that Mason describes. It’s not exactly that they are callous, but they’ve accepted their own folly and somehow made their peace with it.

It may be a fact that there are probably fewer women in such situations than men (okay, let that just be opportunity rather than character tilting the stakes). Be that as it may, shouldn’t it be easier for an average man to reconcile this conundrum? Either be strong enough to withstand temptation & wise enough to avoid it. Or lay your guilt to rest. And yet it appears, they carry it around like a festering, burdensome sore, never resolving it and mostly adding to it.

The old adage,

All men are dogs!

…used to sound to me like Anticipatory Bail. Ever notice that it’s only cheating men who say that? A sort of ‘I can’t help it, I’m a man’ thing.

Somehow I’m not sympathetic. Truly womanlike, I want to say, good job he can’t get out of the guilt then. He deserves it. Consider it my repartee to the guy who told me,

Why do women have periods? Because they deserve it!

At least I only bleed once a month. Guilt bleeds you every waking, conscious minute and if you don’t know how to tackle it, the rest of your life is an endless pursuit of distractions from your own thoughts.

How about the book itself? I guess I liked it. A small part of me, the cynical one still holds out asking,

Do real men, I mean the ones walking around everywhere really think like this? About love and a special someone and the need for a ‘spark’ over and above good looks?

And then I think of Adi, Moksh, Rohan and I have to say, at least some of them do.

Sex & The City – The Book

I loved, loved, loved the series. I’ve quoted the episodes on this blog ad infinitum. Look, I even have a special SATC quote generator running in my sidebar!! And of course I went for the movie with my galpals decked out to the nines and full of trepedition. The movie wasn’t quite as great but I guess that’s to be expected. The show works precisely because it is short, sweet and gives you no real answers, only a few dozen more questions. Exactly the way a chat with a close girlfriend would.

And then I chanced upon the book. Sex and The City by Candance Bushnell is a compilation of her columns run under the same title and is the source of the popular TV series. As I’m wont to, I skimmed through the first chapter and satisfied that it was exactly as I remembered the first episode to be (Once upon a time, an English journalist came to New York…), I bought it.

I’ve spent my free time all weekend reading it. And I have to say, I rather had to trudge my way through it, on principle. It was almost like reading Atlas Shrugged, which effort I gave up some three-fourths into the book and quit without ever having encountered the real John Galt. At least I made it through this book.

Are New Yorkers really that cynical? I mean, I’m a Mumbaiker for crying out loud, I pop an unhealthy dose of pessimism, top it up with a generous dollop of  jadedness and wash it down with pure venom every damn day. But the book made even me sick. It gave me a headache. Yes, that bad.

The sleeping around is not liberated experimentalism, it’s just desperation. The relationship tangles aren’t normal-maddening-complex stuff that people all over the world face, they’re just plain bizarre.

The TV series is almost sweet in comparison and that’s saying some when you consider Samantha’s pan-sexual experiments, Carrie’s toxic boyfriends, Charlotte’s obsessive Stepford wive complex and Miranda’s control freakiness. Well at least all of that is laced with humour, honeyed with some awww moments of friendship and romance and dreaminess and jazzed up with those fab clothes and shoes.

The book on the other hand is exactly like 3 a.m. on a wasted Saturday night when you realise you’ve been drinking too much of the wrong drink, not enough to give you a high but bad enough to hit you with a hangover, not sickening enough to make you want to throw up but enough to turn you green. And the noises and bright lights…you just want to whisper “Turn it off” except you can’t say a word to save your life now. That’s how bad the drinking was. That’s ummm…how the book hit me.

Shortly into the book, I was grasping at straws, desperate to find the characters I had grown to love and identify with. Not only are they not there in the same fashion, the TV cast seems to be a tidied up collage of several people who drift through the book. I can’t find Charlotte’s sweetness/cloying behaviour in any one person. Samantha Jones’ scary/diva attitude is diluted in what appears to be just jaded women. Of Miranda there’s no trace and while Carrie shows up, it is hardly as the many nuanced-protagonist we all know.

Sorry Candace, you created something that went on to become a defining cult phenomenon for our generation. But your book was a little too potent. Not all of us can stand our vodka straight from the bottle. A little touch of fluff and pink and most of us enjoy the Cosmopolitan.

Manolos And Sindoor

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My latest obsession is Sex and the City. For the past few days I’ve been wrapped up in the love lives of Carrie, Samatha, Miranda and Charlotte, dazzled by the wardrobes and their lifestyles, amused by their incessant man-izing (!) and thoughtful over the dilemmas they face. Okay, I know I know, I’ve taken the late train, but hell I’m driving it!!! I’ve been watching the early seasons of the show back-to-back. Desperate Housewives (still on air I think) didn’t do the same thing for me. The other program I liked so much was Ally McBeal.

Do these two have something in common? ally.jpgOh, apart from the fact that they feature sucessful, rather neurotic, ‘with it’ urban women? Errrm, it’s the same life. The same story. So Ally sees dancing babies in then midst of a courtroom drama on human interest issues in New York(?) while Carrie and her friends explore and demonstrate the vagaries of Manhatten’s delights. Ummm…and I battle Mumbai’s crowds, enjoy its movies and pubs and obsess over my men. Oh and I also enjoy Sapna Bhavnani’s column where she shows us a glimpse of the mayhem within our own heads.

So why do we identify so well with these women and their lives? And why not with the protagonists (and victims) of the K-serial brigade? We turn up our noses at their over-the-top antics, their crazy plotlines and their melodrama. But of course, getting sloshed on Cosmopolitans the night before a photo-shoot, maxing a credit card on shoes and running after dancing babies is very rational.

Their fashion sense is disastrous!!! Think plate-sized rings, think snake-shaped bindis, garish sarees and pantomime make-up. We think they’re too painted up! It’s Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and let’s not forget Manolos only for us, dahling.manram.JPG

Their value systems are oh-so-archaic and warped!! kyonki.gifThey make it sound like the only way a woman can be strong is by being bitchy and venomous!!! Ah yes, it is very progressive to obsess over the ticking biological clock , go into depression over a good-looking man’s committment-phobia, benchmark ourselves by the bedroom standards of ‘how-many-notches-on-the-bestpost’ philosophy and live with erectile dysfunction, cheating and abuse just for the magical ‘MARRIED’ tag.

Now before I get branded a woman-hater as well (the anti-feminists are up in arms already!!!), please go back and read the first paragraph of this post. I, like most other women in this set, watch and enjoy these shows. I echo these sentiments. But I have to wonder, what makes me so different from the ‘typical Indian bahu’ who supposedly watches the K-serials with the same fervour that I devour SATC? Is my mania with lingerie and perfume that different from her obsession for jewellery and silk? Are my television idols any less insecure, confused or noble than hers are?

I’m blessed with all the insecurities of my gender and I relate to women who live these out on-screen, in lives that look like mine. And they do the same. But I’d turn my nose up at their taste and they’d probably right me off as trash (brown trash since I’m Indian?). We’re all as hypocritical and shallow as each other. Or no, that’s not fashionable. They’re cynical but I’m just jaded, dahling….pass me another cocktail.

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