Target Acquired

I am not a special little snowflake. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. I am reasonably certain that every girl get her share of unwanted male attention, because I have seen enough evidence of it online. [I sort of wish I had a girlfriend to talk over this stuff with, because there would be someone else who had that shared experience. I’ve entirely given up on male friends.]

So remember this guy? His opening salvo should’ve sent up red flags, but I am an idiot and quash every survival instinct in the interest of being polite and courteous. Plus, he hadn’t said anything rude. He continued to chat, asking me questions about where I was from, and whether I was married. [Yes, I am aware that is 0 to 100 in less than 60 seconds, but even so, not rude.]

I continued to respond, using my Indianness as a shield of conservatism, because I don’t conveniently have a man in my life to deflect unwanted sexual attention. It worked, to point. And then this happens:

Because why wouldn’t you ask a perfect stranger if you could send them nudes? Absolutely normal, I suppose. Sigh.

Advertisements

Words with More-Than-Friends

Never again will I question my sixth sense about men and their advances.

On some level I always knew that I could sense attraction from a guy, from a mile off. I put it down to many things: paranoia [chiefly, and thanks to a legion of male friends], over sensitivity, bad experiences, hyper awareness, and more recently, unconscious facial reading. None of these explain what happened yesterday.

A month or so ago, a friend challenged me to a game of Words with Friends. I rarely have an opponent for word games that I actually know, so I never downloaded these Scrabble-type of games. Most of my friends are afraid I will beat them, and their egos won’t stand up to the onslaught. Which is a pity, because it shows how little they really understand me. Anyway, I downloaded the game, and we played. It was fun!

But of course, he lost interest after a while, and I spent hours cajoling the only other friend I saw on the game to play with me. After much muttering and dire prognostications, he agreed. But he takes EVER SO LONG to make a move. 12 days long, is what I am saying. So of course I got bored, and started looking for random opponents.

In the intervening months, I have played with dozens of people: male, female, Indian, non-Indian, etc. The whole gamut. Not once has any one of them messaged me. We played the game till its end, and that was that. I am wary of online opponents, because my experience is that gamers can get nasty when they are losing.

So, I am not a stranger to playing with other strangers, is my point here. So when I received a new request to play with someone, and my mind sprang to the assumption that he was going to hit on me, I laughed myself out of the room.

There was no precedent. There was no indication. All he can see is my picture, which is what all my random opponents can see. So of course I shushed my immediate reaction, and accepted the game.

The first three moves, there was no message. I felt stupid for the assumption, and not a little ashamed at my vanity/arrogance or whatever other devil prompted that assumption. And then, this:

Sigh.

My takeaway from all of this? I won’t second guess my instincts again. But I sure as hell won’t share them with any of my friends either.

Creep Radar

I am reasonably certain that I am by no means the only female that has a strong creep radar. In fact, in addition to this hair-trigger warning system, I also find that I am hyper aware of my surroundings when alone. The sensation eases a little when I am with someone, but the underlying wariness of being in a public place is lingering.

As for the most part, I’m glad it is there. I haven’t suffered once because I reacted with caution, but I have had far too many unpleasant experiences of NOT being wary in public places. I am prone to classifying strangers as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ based on micro-behaviours and body language; something I thought was innate and borderline voodoo till I started reading this book. [It’s good.]

Another facet of this ability is to sense attraction in other people. Now, this ability is far from absolute. I tend to discount the people that I am attracted to myself, because I want to weed out wishful thinking bias. But the others? Hooboy.

[The story I am about to narrate isn’t going to paint me in a good light. I will appear paranoid and overly suspicious, and slightly delusional. But bear in mind that all what I am describing here is in addition to subtler body language nuances and expressions that I am not equipped to pinpoint with accuracy. It leaves one with an overall “feeling” that is vague and nebulous, but no less potent for the lack of substance.]

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a client. This particular meeting, as a matter of fact. The lawyer left a favourable impression, as I stated in my post. I did think he was looking at me a little more than strictly necessary, but it registered as a teeny tiny orange flag, as opposed to a major red flag.

Except, that wasn’t the only flag.

As we were leaving, I stopped to use the bathroom. He was half out the door, but stopped and came back in. And he used the bathroom after me, so the odd circumstance was satisfactorily explained. Ok, I thought, it is a reasonable thing to visit the facilities as a sensible afterthought. But the thought flashed into my head: is he lingering to walk back to the station with me?

We did eventually walk to the station together. And we talked, as one does, about the client and work, and how we each have gone about starting our businesses. I tend to take a self-deprecatory stance in most social settings, so I laughingly told him about my inability to network for prospects. And so on. The conversation moved smoothly forward, and we proceeded towards the station.

At one point, I happened to mention that I developed the content for the client website. He was visibly surprised, and turned to me to say: “Wow really? You wrote all that? It is really amazing!” Again, this is not an extraordinary remark to make. It was the accompanying body language that put me a little on the back foot. I did thank him, and saw to my surprise that he was almost glowing at me. Hm.

We reached the station, and parted ways. I obviously didn’t look back to see where he was going, so I have no idea if he did the same or not. In the train back home, it occurred to me that this situation had the potential to escalate further. I was getting major interest vibes from this person, and I wasn’t sure about it at all. Something was throwing me off. It didn’t “feel” right.

So I did what any person in this time and age does: I looked him up on Facebook. I found him without a problem. Aha. Married. My favourite peeve.

I reared back mentally, and stored this new information in a corner of my brain. It was important that I reevaluate my stance, and dial back the friendliness. It can be misconstrued, not only by him, but by his significant other. This interaction needed to be strictly professional.

In the days to come, there were more seemingly ordinary interactions which I was sure I was overreacting to. He asked for my number, and I gave it to him because it was necessary. I happened to mention that it wasn’t my WhatsApp number though. So a few days later, he texted me asking for my WA’s number. Only, the way he asked was: “Would you mind sharing your WhatsApp number with me?” Hm. Am I reading too much into the seeming hesitation for something so ordinary? Perhaps he was trying to be courteous. Perhaps he is a timid person. Perhaps he felt that I don’t give out that number easily. I don’t know. But it struck me as strange, and although I gave him the number [we are working together in a sense], it was with a strange sense of reluctance, because it felt like opening a door I didn’t want open.

None of these vague sensations was I able to justify. I only talked to my mother about it, because I knew quite well, from experience, what other people would say. She understood the discomfort I was experiencing. That was enough.

Yesterday, things sort of came to a head. I have this habit of posting random status updates on WhatsApp, without really considering my audience. Out of about 300 contacts, between 10 and 20 people bother to read those updates. I know because of the little eye icon. One of those people used to be my ex, but I soon put a stop to that by changing my privacy settings. To my absolute shock and horror, I realised that this lawyer guy was reading my updates.

Ok, so my fault for putting them out there; I get it. But WhatsApp is more often than not, a closed group of people. Mostly, my friends react to my updates with a comment or a laugh. It is solely intended to be random in that respect.

This crossing of a line between personal and professional threw me for a loop. And because I am a featherbrain, I forgot to remove him from the privacy settings. So yesterday, after days of posting nothing, I uploaded a picture of a family photo collage. Mom had asked me to reorder the photos because they were askew. And I had remarked, while doing so, that there were more pictures of my dog than anyone else. It made us both laugh, because she was the smallest member of the family, and she had such a large personality.

I thought nothing of sharing that moment. Until the lawyer commented: “Vivid, indeed.” Suffice it to say, my jaw dropped.

The collage had a few large photos of me, back from my college days. When I was thin. And pretty. And those were the prominently visible ones. My friends would have made laughing comments about me growing old, etc. “Vivid” though?

Don’t think any justification and disclaimer that pops to mind hasn’t already occurred to me. It has. I tried brushing it aside. I finally related this micro incident to my mother, as blandly as possible in order to gauge her reaction. Her eyes widened in surprise, and her comment was simple: “Why is he getting so personal?”

Good question, mom.

Money Matters

Warning: Random ramble of no particularly import up ahead.

Yesterday, mom got a call from an ex-colleague of hers, way back from our Dubai days. Pre-1988, as a matter of fact. This lady, also has lost her husband, and now lives in Sri Lanka. She had reached out to mom before, just to talk, and it has been a while since that first phone call after 30-odd years.

Yesterday though, she didn’t call to catch up. She called to ask for help. Monetary assistance to be more specific. And the bottom fell out for the both of us.

It brought back many memories of our own family financial crisis back in Dubai. The days where we didn’t know what was going to happen on a minute to minute basis. The days where hope and prayer was what held our crumbling minds together. Leaving Dubai was a huge relief, what with visa issues too, but coming back to Mumbai was hellish. Living in this house with the rest of our family and the pets.

That was in 2002, and it has taken many years of hope and hard work to crawl out of that abyss. I read so much about people saying that hard work is the only way out of any situation. But what people fail to mention is that you can apply for jobs, and attend a million interviews, but an organisation would still have to offer you a job for you to apply that hard work.

Goa was a bit better for a while, but soon enough that ended too. Mumbai has been somewhat kinder, in that I was able to find work. For a few glorious years, financial stability was a reality. I actually managed to save! Ha! But that soon ended too, and dear lord finding work as a freelancer is tough: I’m expensive, because my team demands exorbitant pay. I’m a freelancer, because I work out of home instead of an office. And multitude of issues more. I try. Pick myself up [with a lot of help from the midget] and try again.

Hard work. I’m willing to do it. Whatever it takes. Whatever the personal cost. But. No takers.

There is no point to this post really. I was finding it difficult to process the phone call and all the myriad feelings it raised. In short, today I am feeling every single minute of my almost 34 years. Somehow I can’t draw on my reserves of silliness to tide me over.

Maybe a good night’s sleep will do the trick.

Relationship Drama

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I had had a rather upsetting conversation with someone I have grown to care about, and reacted badly. I’m still not 100% sure what will transpire, but at least the sadness I was feeling passed.

Of course, my mother cottoned on to the fact that I was miserable. Hazard of spending 24 hours in someone’s company, I guess. I told her that an upset had happened with this guy I liked. But then, it was resolved so no harm no foul.

The conversation didn’t end there, because somehow I found myself telling her the damaging things that have happened to me in my previous relationships. I have no clue how I launched into that litany, but I was talking to her for hours.

Some of the things were not too dramatic, but overall there was a cumulative effect of psychological horror. In some cases, I was too young to handle it. In other cases, I was tethered emotionally to the person in question.

She was shell-shocked. She was absolutely horrified to think that all this stuff had happened to me, and she hadn’t a clue. And then it struck me. Mom used her previous relationships [before dad] to alleviate some of the pangs of separation I felt. But none of her exes were horrible douchebags.

In her mind, dating someone was holding hands with that someone. Or someone who carried her books for in college. Or someone who walked her from class to bus stop. And several other examples of this exceedingly gentle and pure form of dating. The funniest part was that, at those times, each of her boyfriends talked of marriage.

I sighed with the utter purity of it all. This has never happened to me. Two of my exes were convinced their parents would never agree to the match. One of my exes was upset that he wasn’t the first [and last] man in my life. Another said that his family wanted a girl who earned her own living, and who was thin. None of this constituted the revelations I shared with her yesterday, but serves to illustrate the kind of people I date. Ha.

People ask me why I am single. It is very simple really: when I fall in love with someone, I give them so much of myself that I am left like an empty husk thereafter. This time though, I feel emotionally complete. If someone comes into my life, it will be someone who is also emotionally complete as well, and together we will create our own completeness.

No more emotionally damaged parasites for me.

Autograph Anyone?

The following sort of incident has happened to me a couple of times since this first time, so I am inclined to think I definitely have a doppelganger somewhere.

The setting for this story was in Goa, when I had taken my car for servicing to the showroom we bought it from, and I was speaking to an executive I had hitherto only spoken with on the phone.

Me: “Nice to finally meet you in person.”
J: “Yes ma’am.”
(A few seconds of silence..)
J: “Ma’am, do you work in Marathi serials?”
Me *surprised*: “Uh, no I most certainly do not.”
J: “Are you sure?”
Me *choking down laughter*: “Yes I’m sure. I think I would have known if I was acting in a TV serial.”
(A few seconds of silence again.)
J: “No ma’am. I’ve definitely seen you on TV.”
Me: “OK. If you say so.”

And I peeled out of there to laugh in peace before I bust a gut.

In retrospect, she probably thought I was being secretive with the view of not attracting attention. But then again, she knew my name also. So that doesn’t fit either. I am still so confused by the whole thing.

A few years later, I hailed a cab in Mumbai, and he pulled up to me with surprising alacrity. I got in, and gave him my address. With considerable aplomb, he drew away from the curb, and proceeded to preen in his rearview mirror.

I could see all this from the corner of my eye, and was a little surprised. But I refrained from comment, as it is his outlook as to how he chooses to comport himself in his taxi after all.

After a few minutes of covert peeking through the mirror, I saw him draw in a deep breath. And then heard: “Madam. I recognised you!”

Bear in mind, that the first incident was not uppermost in my mind when I said: “Umwhatnow? Come again?”

Turns out, he was a big fan of “my” TV serial, and he much admired “my” acting. He told me all about the plot twists and turns he liked, and how the tone of the show was excellent, and how his wife was a big fan too. And I listened with a polite smile plastered to my face, wondering whether it was too late to ask for the name of this serial.

Spoiler alert: It was.

Forced Interactions

Yesterday, I was in the market close to home, picking up some fruit and other odds and ends. My mum came with as well, as we’d decided to make a day of it. Now, I don’t usually leave her side, because she is somewhat wobbly on her feet. But as we were crossing the road, and standing on the road divider, we happened to be a few metres apart.

And that is the only reason I don’t have a murder scene to clean up today. Because my mum didn’t see this entire interaction unfold.

I stepped into the road, intending to cross as a car made a u-turn. However, I quickly jumped back because a bike rider swerved in the space between the car and the divider, and proceeded to speed ahead. I was directly in his path, and I would have rapidly become roadkill if I hadn’t moved when I did.

First of all, I was annoyed that he was being so ridiculous and rude. And then, as he drove past, he leaned over to me, and sang into my face.

I’m the first to admit that I have no clue about human psychology, apart from what little I read or see firsthand. But this? This was aggressive. Unnecessarily so, in my opinion, because apart from a hurried backward skip and maybe a frown, I didn’t react to his swerving in any way.

At first, I thought it was merely cheek. Then I recounted the story to a few people, and quite a few of them seemed to think it was because of my appearance. Great. Because THAT brings back WONDERFUL memories. :-\

[Post from old blog. Many of my views have changed in the interim, and I was too embarrassed to write the whole story out even then. But the incident remains disturbing nonetheless.]

Disturbia

My opinion of guys in India is no secret, in fact, I have a sneaky suspicion Akshay is slightly resentful of that opinion. Hardly surprising – he falls into the category – but he isn’t creepy. Creepiness is my number one complaint for the great unwashed (men) of India. And this time, I have an incident to prove it.

I have to open a DEMAT account, so I decided to trot along to the nearest branch of ICICI and open one. The person in charge wasn’t available, so my number was duly noted and I was told that a representative would get in touch with me. So far, excellent. I got a call later that afternoon (wow!) and the rep explained that he could come over and I wouldn’t have to go to the bank to fill out the forms. Great. I asked him to come the next day, and I needed to collect the necessary documents for the application.

The next day, he showed up. I handed over the documents, signed half a million times and was told this part of the process was over. For extra points, credibility-wise, they wanted a copy of my passport. I had the identification page photocopied, but not the address page. So the guy said I could hand it over to the rep who came to verify my address. Fair enough, I thought, although I was slightly annoyed that he didn’t tell me this before.

The next day, the guy calls up again, saying he needs that photocopy. I still hadn’t got the copy, so I asked him to give me an hour before coming (I also happened to be out at that time).

He came, right inside (which was odd since he had to merely collect one paper), and proceeded to make a big deal about the whole thing. After he ran out of excuses to linger, he finally got to his real point.

He turned to me, and said (in Hindi) that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Also, yesterday when he saw me, apparently I blew his mind. I kept him awake all night with thoughts of me, and he is in love with me.

[blank stare]

All this sounds awful in English, but it’s typical movie dialogue in Hindi.

I was petrified.

I’ve had some horrendous experiences with perverts and touchy-feely guys, and this exchange made my blood run stone cold. I gathered my wits long enough to ask him very politely to leave, and that I was very uncomfortable with this situation.

I was terrified till I closed the door, on his parting words of ‘I love you’.

Some notes:

– The Akshay in the story is my ex. Not the most recent one, but one relationship I certainly regret with every fibre.
– I no longer think that Indian guys are creepy. I just have lost faith in humanity overall. I am exaggerating of course, but these sort of happenings don’t help.
– I was living alone at the time. There was no one else in the house except for me. My parents were in another city, and the boyfriend was too. My best friend had moved to another city recently, and I had just chucked up a job. If something were to have happened to me, exactly no one was going to know for at least 10 hours. My mother and I spoke every day, but that was in the evening. No one knew that this guy was coming over today, because I had told them that the process was over the previous day.
– A lot of people asked me why I didn’t complain about this guy to the bank. Mainly, it was because he didn’t threaten me. My fear was based on my poor experiences previously. Also, I was terrified that since he knew where I lived, I would face repercussions. And, he was handicapped. Must have been hard enough for him to get this job, with a stammer and double thumbs on both hands. No idea if I did the right thing, but that was my thought process at the time.

C’est la vie, eh?