I met someone last week. After years of settling for insipid encounters with sexist 30/40-somethings and incomplete conversations with scared 20-somethings, I connected with someone close to my age. This microgeneration that I’m told I belong to – the Xennials or people born between 1977 to 1985 – we’re a rare species and most of us (barely) fit into one of the adjacent generations or flit between the two. We’re riding the digital wave that characterises millennials but with caution and maps learnt from Gen Xers. These formed the basis of much of our early interactions.
He didn’t press his phone number, his address and close-ups of vital parts of his anatomy onto me. So that was great. But he did seem in awful rush to write The Great Indian Romance liberally laced with phrases like ‘long, romantic drive’. Still, I haven’t gotten to where I am without knowing how to put the brakes on that gently. Slow and casual, I told him and decided on a Sunday afternoon coffee.
It was pleasant not to have to do the exhausting ‘space/ hookup/ no-strings-attached/ polyamory’ bullshit that characterises the speech of most Indian men I’ve met in the past ten years. I call bullshit because in my experience, none of them are able to deal with the reality of these concepts. So it was nice being able to spend a Sunday afternoon not having to jump through those hoops and dodge, well, dodgy games.
We decided on another date. This time there were other people, gently brushing past us in non-intrusive ways, just comfortable enough to keep this one light. It allowed for a deeper conversation. About what? Oh about the play we saw, the food we ate, the experiences we had had in love, in life, at work and more. Small intimacies were shared. The last heartbreak, the big fear, the major milestone just about survived and people we both knew.
The next morning, I received a text. The gist of it was that he was not working at the place that his profile claimed.
I spent a day and half thinking through this. I’ve lived long enough to realise that LYING is my dealbreaker. No white lies, no lying by omission, no delayed facts, no embellishments, no diplomacy, absolutely nothing. It’s non-negotiable. Yet, this was information he volunteered so did it constitute a lie? Moreover at what point can one expect to draw the dealbreaker lines?
I decided to meet and hear what he had to say. He said it had only hit him the previous evening when I introduced him to other people and that he wanted to clarify before it got too late to. He also said he didn’t know why he hadn’t brought it up in our previous conversations at all. I decided not to push on this. People do what they do, after all and what’s the point pushing for reason post mortem, beyond a point? All one is likely to get is defensiveness and excuses. But I stored the facts away as these in my mind:
- He had broken up 7 months earlier.
- He had quit said workplace 2 years earlier.
- He worked in digital media.
- He didn’t know how to change his workplace details on his profile.
The evening went on pleasantly. Till he asked what I was doing the following weekend. I had a couple of gigs coming up and I told him so. And before I knew it, I was in the middle of a ‘Come parday!’ death noose.
You know the one I mean. The ‘OMG Saturdays are for chillin’ bro, like with cool folks, whatchu saying, just come, have fun, putyerhandsupintheairlikeyoujesdoncare, parday, parday, parday’. Okay, he didn’t actually say it in this exact manner but how different does this speech get anyway? It used to send me into panic ten years ago; it just annoys me now.
Let’s be fair. I am not a wet blanket. I am not a prude. I am not even antisocial. My trouble always seems to have been too many people, too little time and too exciting a life according to other people. But I do know what I want and I do not want to waste even a minute of my life doing something that doesn’t fit this. Saturday nights, parday parday parday included.
He Just Wouldn’t Listen. Yes, like that.
We were interrupted by an acquaintance from gym passing by, which allowed me to segue into a conversation about fitness. It let me move into one of my silly-serious stories about annoying people one meets at a gym who will insist on doing everything but exercising (showing off, grunting in front of the mirror, flirting with instructors, asking how they can become as thin as me). His response?
“To kya hua, yaar? People like to talk. Usme kya hain?”
I shifted conversational ground to the swimming pool, a space I’m even more comfortable in given I’m much better at swimming than gymming. I told him this story. His response?
“So what? There’s no need to be so…You can be nice.”
And right back to parday-parday-parday mode except about gymming and swimming. You can see where this was going. Push-push-push from him, pushback-nononono from me, more push-push-push from him and so on. Including one
“You are so STUBBORN.”
(Err, excuse me, saying NO multiple times doesn’t make me stubborn, it makes you deaf)
But wait, it got better. He stopped and went,
“Chill, yaar! Relax. Chill, chill, why you getting so worked up?”
If there are any men reading this wondering what is wrong with this, this is condescension piled atop excessive pushiness. This is gaslighting following badgering (which is really harassment). I’ve learnt to draw my lines firmly. It still took me another day and somewhat apologetic messaging to close this encounter completely. And in the course of this, I had to wade through messages of the ‘But you said you liked me too’ variety. But in most other cases (and indeed with me too, in the past), this would go right on into situations where the man just rode slipshod over everything the woman wanted and decided he was being macho/romantic/whatever-other-entitled-bullshit.
So lies – check, badgering – check, gaslighting – check.
I am not angry. I have learned economy of emotion and emotional labour. I have had to. I have been meeting men in a romantic context for over 15 years now, in different ways, locations, situations. I’ve connected with older men, younger men, peers of different backgrounds and professions. And this just NEVER changes. It gets called lots of names, most incorrect glorifications. But all it is, is men refusing to treat me as a human being with my decisions, ideas and feelings. You can call it toxic masculinity, you can blame it on their terrible upbringing, you can pin it on Bollywood but you can’t deny it.
I give up. I think I’ve outgrown the men on this planet. Anyone know any nice Martians?