I haven’t been writing about men or dating much, have I? The last year has forced me to sit with myself, without everything that I thought was my life but which were actually coping mechanisms. Stripped of those, what did I have? Lots of wounds. I’m glad 2020 is over.
I’ve been back on and off the dating apps sporadically. It’s a thing I do when I’m feeling slightly hopeful about life and to build on that seed. I am a gardener after all, and I tend to think the best things always have a chance of bearing fruit if given a little time, attention and watering. But I’ve also been isolating a lot more than the average Mumbaiker. I’ve always been super responsible. And after three years of relentless family health issues, panic scares & more, I’m not easy to carelessness. There are times I resent it and others where I’m thankful for a valid excuse to stay in and not be part of other people’s noise.
I’m realising I tire really easily around other people’s noise and other people are noisy. In their uncontrolled, unmanaged feelings. Men are the most of this since they’ve never been allowed to or required to own up to their own feelings. It’s hard enough to look at a man beyond his misbehaviour. Because I can see where the misbehaviour stems from and have plenty of burn marks from having had empathy, I feel further muddied. It’s cleaner not to engage or not engage too much with men in romantic contexts, where the universal assumption is that I’m required to be punching bag, mommy substitute, sex toy and therapist all in one.
I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot more. Truly acknowledging my scars. Prising loose all the gaslighting about how I should be over it, how I’m a strong woman and this shouldn’t affect me, simultaneously how all men are like that and also not all men. Accepting that I am correct and in my right to write off the male gender. That has let me understand the empty space under all that.
Is it loneliness? Yes, there is that. But it’s not as much as might be imagined. Always, when one thinks of the price to be paid to remedy that (and I’ve paid a heavy price with abuse, violence, assault), it feels like a minor need that doesn’t merit it. But past that I found something else. A desire for companionship. Not a need. Companionship isn’t a solution to loneliness. It is a different bird altogether. What does that require? Someone whose company is inspiring, entertaining, relaxing, fun. Company, not a crutch or a cage. And that’s when I reinstall the app.
With this approach, I find myself less brittle when on the apps. Make no mistake, the DM sliders, the inappropriate messagers, the offensively rude, the condescending misogynists continue to exist. I continue to weed them out. I even let myself feel rage about them, about the male species, about patriarchy. These rages are lingering less. I’m not feeling the need to uninstall to escape the horrors as much because they don’t horrify me as much.
Right now, I’m having three or four nice conversations. I don’t think about any of them when I’m going about my day. But in moments I’ve set aside for social leisure (as opposed to reading leisure, walking alone leisure), I find myself tap-tapping a witty comment, a new thought, a curious expression of interest. After all, good conversations are inspiring, entertaining, relaxing, fun. And men are some of those people with whom I can have these conversations.
Maybe you can only converse with others when you’ve first spoken to yourself a lot.