To Be Or Not To Be Intimate

I keep thinking that every I feel overwhelmed, things will even out, and I won’t feel like that. But the fact is that it becomes my new baseline for normal, and work and other commitments blow up some more in my face. Which is why I have the tiniest shred of sanity left, the most tenuous grip on that shred, and finally powder keg of temper underneath the surface, which is instantly triggered by bullshit. Or any horrible behaviour really.

All the above is the reason behind why I let someone get under my skin today, and why there was suddenly a red mist where the atmosphere used to be. And when I opened my mouth, red hot lava poured out. I wasn’t shouting, but I had no idea I could decimate anyone that easily with just words.

It started off innocently enough, where we were talking about our families. From there, we got into a mild discussion about siblings, where this someone [let’s call her Maria, for reasons I will forget shortly] said – I partially agreed – that it was easier for a girl to have an elder sister, as opposed to a brother. The third member of this lunchtime discussion of course disagreed. He is just one of those chronic firestarters, pedantic and inquisitive. [As an aside, also the star of this post.]

Maria argued with him, and then made the following astounding statement:  sisters and brothers always kept each other at arm’s length. Mentally and emotionally, they may love each other, but physically it would be weird for them to be close. In fact, those siblings would were prone to hugs and embraces were not normal, and just plain weird.

I was naturally flabbergasted with this point of view, but I wasn’t mad just then. I merely said that it was perfectly normal, and it really depended on the individuals in question. And if one was to look at it in that light, then mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters, shouldn’t exchange hugs and kisses, or embrace each other unless there was an occasion [her sole exception to this diktat]. Because I said this nonchalantly, expecting sense to prevail, I was stunned by her response: Yes, they shouldn’t. It isn’t normal.

Which is when I lost it.

I didn’t lose my temper visibly, but I did point out that that was a highly judgmental point of view. And that just because she found it uncomfortable personally, didn’t make it abnormal. In fact, human relationships have a degree of intimacy with actually cements the relationship further.

She argued that everyone was judgmental on some level, and while I agree that everyone is, it is based on an internal moral compass that assesses the harm in a situation. When it is about affection between two consenting adults, who is anyone else to judge? Basically, she reduced loving relationships between people and their near and dear ones to something ugly. Just because she is uncomfortable with intimacy?

She continued to say that what was normal for her forms her opinion. I agree, however what she considers normal cannot be the baseline on which she judges other people. She countered with why couldn’t it be, and I said that it is the very crux of xenophobia and discrimination to separate people into normal and abnormal.

Finally, I looked at her in abject incredulity, because I couldn’t believe I was associating with such a bigot, and said that intimacy was a integral aspect of human relationships. In fact, it is one of the things that makes the effort of working through these things worth it.

I considered sexual abuse playing a part in her mental makeup, but then I’ve been through that too. I have been through a phase where “all men suck!”, but I grew out of it. Individuals suck, and within their minds, it is their complex personalities, characters, experiences, limitations, and much more that makes their behaviour good or bad.

I hug my friends, regardless of whether they are male or female. Not all of them, because everyone gives off different vibes. But quite a few. I don’t flinch when one of them touches me inadvertently, because they aren’t contagious or impure. They are human beings. There is no malice or lust in their touch, but simple companionship. They are human beings too.

Being The Other Woman: Introducing the Characters

If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, it is OK. You haven’t missed anything. This is the post I actually set out to write, and got bogged down in the details.

There are several characters in forthcoming incidents. I deliberately obscured the ones in the previous post, because otherwise they might be recognizable to people who know us. [I am relying on the anonymity of the Internet to prevent that from happening, but the truth is I still am scared of it occurring.]

So, without further ado, the cast of characters in the following short stories:

  1. JP: The inveterate scumbag, drug dealer, shiftless work-shirker, and general malcontent, with an appetite for the good life but not for the work that goes into realising that life.
  2. AQ: The rich kid with starry eyes, and the determination to carve his niche, albeit with a little help from mummy and daddy. Absolute charmer, with movie star good looks, and the pedigree to leaving swooning girls in his wake. [Boys too maybe, I am not judging.]
  3. The French Student: Not conventionally handsome, but still arresting enough to draw plenty of attention. Tall naval officer, with a authoritative presence, and boyishness that first melted my stony heart and then broke it into a million pieces.
  4. CC: The British heartthrob. Star of his own series on my blog. The one I thought was different, but turned out to be a philandering playboy.

And then there is me.

Emotional Infidelity

I am ambivalent on the whole notion of fidelity in relationships, because I have always felt that physical infidelity is not as bad as emotional cheating. My relationships have always been high on the sharing factor, especially the last one.

Having said that, I don’t think cheating is excusable. I have been guilty of it twice, wrongfully accused of it once, and it took me ages to get over the trauma of feeling like a piece of crap stuck to the bottom of a pig’s hoof. I think I will get those stories out of the way first, as catharsis, and then get on to the real point of this post: being the ‘other woman’.

The first time I was “cheating” was not really a cheating scenario, although my boyfriend of the time made it seem like that. I sort of fell into a relationship with a bloke in college, and we dated for a few months, till I ditched him for someone who was a friend and way more understanding (or so I thought). I was a firm believer in the concept of romantic, ever-after love, and I moulded my reality many times to fit this ideal. Of course, it didn’t work. I broke up with the other guy within a month, because we were severely incompatible with each other.

All this wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t snog one while technically being with the other. But I did get back together with the first guy after the stint with the second. We dated for 3 years after that, and he never let me forget it. It was exhausting and demoralizing, and he forevermore believed that I was going to cheat on him at some point. I didn’t, for the record.

The next time, 3 years on, I was breaking up with this same dude. Every. Single. Day. And then getting back together with him in the morning, because he behaved like a twerp. It was a self-destruct cycle that lasted for months I think, and I was a ruined husk of a person at the end of it. During this insane phase, one chap at my post graduate college and I became friends. He was my shoulder to cry on, and of course I mistook all the affection I had for this one ray of light in my otherwise dark world as my knight in shining armour. And one evening we kissed. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise at all, because the writing was on the wall. But yes, that proved to be the point at which I stamped my foot down, and say no firmly to parasitic boyfriend number 1.

We didn’t actually start dating, but we kind of made out a few times. He had a job off-campus and I barely saw him at all. When I did, we hid our not-quite-a-relationship. It was surreal. In the interim, I met the ex a few times, and he generally prevailed over me to take him back. I said no multiple times, but I lacked the force of conviction, and honestly a bad relationship is like addiction: you get used to the familiarity of being with a parasite who is sucking out all your life force.

Finally, the ex moved off to his placement, and the replacement was off-campus too. I was finally free. However, by this time, I was alone on the inside. I didn’t have any friends because of this ongoing saga. It had sapped so much of my will to live that I didn’t have any energy to pour into forging new friendships and associations.

Except one friendship. We started talking. Talking a lot. He had just gone through his own breakup where his girlfriend had unceremoniously dumped him for another guy, who she had been with for at least 3 months before this guy. [She later slept with this guy a few more times, while dating THAT guy. And finally married the other dude. And I thought I was confused.]

We started going out together. Coffee, dinner, movies. Because of my highly restrictive first college relationship, I demanded the replacement be very OK with any number of male friends. Or bugger off. His choice.

Of course, we eventually developed feelings for each other, and one night it culminated in a smouldering kiss. The next morning, well a few hours later, I called it off with the replacement. He was, not pleased. And went about the college explaining what a harlot I was. Because of a kiss, mind you. Oh and he didn’t hesitate to throw it back it my face that it didn’t surprise him, because after all I had kissed him while being with someone else.

True enough. While at the time, the negative attention nearly sent me to an early grave, in retrospect it wasn’t so bad. I have lived to learn that I am entitled to change my mind; I need to have more impulse control; I need to be more firm; and that there is no such thing as the perfect romantic ever-after – that shit can just go die. A perfect relationship needs commitment and work, and emotional fidelity.

Ultimately, for me at least, it wasn’t the stray kissing that broke the camel’s back, it was the need to be understood and cared for. The desire to have succour and a safe haven from the strife in life, and the other person being that haven.

I also broke up with the last guy in this story, and I fell headlong in love a few years later with my French Student.

I’m cutting this post in half, because my catharsis took almost a 1000 words to expiate. Part two coming up shortly.

The other stories have become a series in their own right. Good grief.

Inappropriate

So there is this thing I have been wanting to talk about, but I have no one to talk about it to. My only girlfriend is my mum, and she takes whatever I say quite seriously. And this is just something that I am cultivating like a hobby; an inappropriate private hobby that exists exclusively in my head. So I am going to talk about it here! Lucky you!

Tl;dr version: I have developed a crush on a very cute guy, very much younger than I am.

Full version: I have developed a crush on a cute coworker, who is not only younger than I am, but also has a partner. Not that I would have pursued this avenue anyway, because I tried dating someone younger once, and it was a car crash. The maturity level was so atrocious that I wound up with severe mental and emotional scars. So making out with cutey is not an option.

But. Fantasy is a whole other thing.

We do interact quite a bit at work, since our work overlaps. However, I have avoided letting myself get too close. This is new for me, because he is usually just the kind of person I would be pals with, and perhaps that’s the draw.

We have loads in common, and loads of things that we vehemently disagree on. Most of our non-work interaction is argumentative, and oh my god he loves to irritate me so. The trouble is that I kind of enjoy his irritating behaviour, which I solely attribute to the above-mentioned crush.

It doesn’t help at all that he has a deep voice, which I find impossibly attractive in a guy. I have no idea why voices cast this spell on me, and to look back all my exes has lovely deep voices. It isn’t conscious at all, and if I appear to be shallow, I should also mention that I have dated the ugliest guys too. None of it matters really, but a crush is an indulgent fantasy after all, and I can gush a little about the creamy voice.

Next, he is cute. Like REALLY cute. Full lips and nice eyes. Also, he isn’t overweight like me, and isn’t a skinny little stick either. He has a full head of hair and broad shoulders. And he smells nice! Not that I sniffed him, but I have been often enough in his vicinity to notice.

Initially I thought he was developing his own crush on me, for many reasons. But I don’t think that’s true any more. Which is perfectly fine, because it is less likely that we will find ourselves in a position to take this any further. Whew.

There is just this thing. I know my tells when I am attracted to someone. [Thankfully no one over here else does.] My tells are that I have a small smile around my crush or when I am thinking of them. I tend to look straight into their eyes, with a slightly wide-eyed look. [Because I have big brown eyes, and they work dammit!] And finally, I blush very easily. Thus far, I have blushed only once in his presence, and that is because the group was asking me about a Tinder date. I was a little flushed because he wanted to know all the details, the gossipy creature!

Also, I am fairly aware when someone is attracted to me, even slightly, and even over the Internet. Hence the confusion of earlier.

But. That one thing I mentioned earlier? I know that mostly two people who are attracted to each other look into each other’s eyes. It is just too intimate for a casual or friendly interaction. And yet, in some of my unguarded moments, I look straight into his eyes, and he looks into mine.

It might mean absolutely nothing, but I cannot help the little fireworks in my head. And I know quite well that my eyes are shining [read: big brown eyes from before], and I see his eyes dilate just a little. And those moments are amazing and terrifying in equal parts.

So Much Noise

I am not complaining. Really. This is not a rant. It is the beginning of me posting to the blog more and more, because of what I am trying to avoid in other online arenas.

The noise of other people. It has become overwhelming.

In Pune, and then Goa, I took to Twitter like a dying fish to life-giving water. It provided me release from my isolated life, and thrived in the micro-interactions on the platform. But then, I had no work to speak off then. I spent very little time in productive pursuits. I tried to fill the gaping holes of my existence with validation in the form of 140-character messages. And it worked.

Fast forward to Mumbai, and I was happy to shift focus to WhatsApp, and the messages from my dearly beloved. Only from him though. Very few other people messaged me at all. I am led to believe now that a single girl has a lot more friends than one in a relationship. Empirical evidence bears me out.

But now, I am swamped with God-given work. I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities to flex my productivity and grow in these ways. Whatever little free time spills over, I spend with my mother, and with my close friends. The common thread of these friends are that they are undemanding. If I want to chat with them, they will. But they keep it light. There are days and weeks that go past without us talking. And that’s great.

However, I have given up on social media. I put out one tweet, and I am inundated with responses. Most of the times, I don’t want responses. I just want to vent or express a thought so that it will get out of my head. But no, people have to comment. HAVE TO. There is a driving compulsion to do so that makes me groan with frustration. Why? Because they aren’t doing anything wrong. I have just outgrown the interaction. I don’t want to exchange more than a few words with anyone in a given day. I am tired of long discussions.

On the upside though, that means I’ll be blogging more. I still need the outlet, and the relative obscurity (nothing relative about it!) of this blog wins.

And that makes me quite happy!

Another Day, Another Celebrity Death

It isn’t that I don’t feel sad about death, because I do. I however don’t understand the mourning for someone who is an art icon in their own right, no doubt, but ultimately a stranger. I don’t understand when people are die-hard fans of other people either, but then if I start listing out things I don’t understand, I will never finish this post.

My point is that death is sad, I get it, but the death of celebrity shouldn’t cause you so much anguish that it shuts you down like you lost a dearly beloved family member. I should say though that this is purely my opinion. Other people make the argument that a child dying in Syria because of ISIS is far more tragic, and yes it is, but that doesn’t diminish or augment other sorrow. You cannot compare away sorrow; it’s an emotion not the stock market.

Having said that, I do feel sad when a beloved celebrity dies. I feel sad that their greatness of talent and spirit have left the world. I feel sorrow for their families in their time of grief. I feel sad that, if they were great humans in the bargain, the world will be a lesser place without them. There is a moment of reflection on the fragility of life, and I move on. No stirring speeches or copious tears.

But today I wake up to the news that Chester Bennington committed suicide yesterday.

Chester Bennington was the face of Linkin Park. When he and Mike Shinoda sang, their voices hit chords in what felt like my soul. Their band mates played music that stirred emotions I didn’t know I had. Linkin Park music was a balm for my 20s, at a time when I felt alone and isolated, and unable to find love (even though it was there). I was at my lowest ebb in those moments (of course this is before I lost my father), and Linkin Park was succour. There were moments I wanted to reach through the music, and touch Chester, and thank him for giving voice to the pain I felt. In those moments and for many years later, their music became my anthem. And I realised for the first time how powerful a drug music is.

I still don’t mourn for Chester Bennington, because what I said before still holds true. However I do mourn for the comfort that man brought into my life at a time I needed it, and wish that he could have received the same for himself.

The world will be a lesser place, because he is no longer in it.

Maybe It Is You?

I have the fortune to live in a city with a multitude of affordable (relatively) travel options. One of these is sharing taxicabs; Uber Pool and the Indian avatar of this, Ola Share. In addition to the latter being cheaper (and available in my home area which Uber Pool is not), it has these share passes, which fixes a flat rate for rides of a certain distance. All this guff essentially means I travel in unprecedented luxury, as compared to my earlier, train-bound commutes.

Now, sharing a cab with other passengers, not to mention the driver, can be quite the experience. For about 45 minutes every morning and every evening, my life intersects with some strange characters. Today was no exception.

[Side note: I try very hard not to outright judge people, but my mind does tend to give them elaborate stories and personalities. Call it a writer’s quirk.]

A middle-aged man entered the cab after I did this morning. He appeared to be the kind of person who is perennially upset about some issue or the other. You know the kind: unsatisfied, twitchy, and cantankerous. For the first 5 minutes, he didn’t do much, apart from fidget in his seat, fuss about with a water bottle, and generally make himself comfortable. But after that.. hooboy.

First, he started facepalming. And I don’t mean the gentle tapping of one’s forehead in an oops sort of way, but a full blown lament which invited the very real risk of brain damage. He had forgotten something, and his phone was being spectacularly useless at coming to his aid. He was searching for someone’s contact, and it just wasn’t there. Useless piece of junk.

Then, he calls his wife [as I learned later], to ask her to call this all important individual. Sadly, she cannot hear him, so he puts the call on speaker. Now the driver and I can hear her quite clearly, but he still claims she is practically inaudible. Right, a hearing-challenged person too.

He proceeds to tell her to call the individual, and instruct them. To which his wife irascibly replies, “You left the house without telling me!” Monsieur was irritated by this out-of-syllabus remark, “Don’t ask me questions, when I am telling you to do something.” She grunted, but the “Fuck you!” was implicit in her silence.

He went back to querulously telling her to call someone, and to give that person instructions about food for his mother [who presumably stays with them]. She is in a sour mood herself, so she says, “Tell me what to say to him.” “Say anything,” he yelps. “Fine, I will tell him to do what he wants. I take it you don’t want dinner this evening? Don’t complain later on then!” And so on, back and forth. I don’t want to rehash this highly boring conversation between the miserable couple.

However, his Parthian shot was quite something: “Behave well with your husband!” She didn’t quite catch it, as it was half muttered, so he just disconnected the call. And proceeded to call her names. All this took place in Marathi, and the curses were in Marathi too: “Nalayak bai!” and “Haramkhor!” and so on.

Edifying.

I usually find the rides quite comfortable and relaxing, but today I wanted to bolt. This horrible little man and his horrid little life were poisonous enough to infect my mood. Eugh.