I Think I’ve Outgrown Men
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?
Don’t think you wanna hear “NAMALT” again. But may I suggest being a little kinder and accepting of people’s little white lies and embellishments. This really will make the world a much less disappointing place for you. We all do try to put our best foot forward especially in the mating/courtship process and if this job was the feather in this man’s cap then come on yaar, give the guy a break- doesn’t sound like he never even worked there, ever.
To be so high handed and act like a cold arbitrer of the truth and standards is not human nor adult like. Are you sure you don’t have any skeletons in your own closet?
Your standards for the truth are very high indeed, I am not sure if even Gandhi would have met them. He did after all visit brothels in Natal, would it be “lying by ommission” to not advertise that hobby?
It’s just this judgment and extreme filtering that I found objectionable enough to disagree with. The rest of the story does make him sound like a douche… although it should be noted that unsophisticated males of our species do naturally try to assert dominance over others. You might try applying some filters other than trying to find the most honest person alive, though. Pot smokers are usually a peaceful lot and not given to aggressive inconsiderate behavior. A slight reduction in IQ is a fair tradeoff. Other markers of interpersonal amicability include creative pursuits (other writers?), acts of charity or philanthropy or having lived in vastly different societies for extended periods. Divorced dad types can be fun too!
But most of all I suggest that empathy and compassion can go a long way, yes even when shown for liars and fucked up people too. The world is not a show put on to win over a single player, unless you happen to be a solipsist…
@Mr.Martian (Mansplainer): I am approving this comment because it perfectly demonstrates the first problem that I mentioned with the man in my post without elaborating – mansplaining. You have just explained how men behave in the dating scenario to a woman who has described an exact incident. You also condescend to ‘explain’ to me what you find ‘objectionable’, which to be precise is my calling out lying, bragging and harassment. Thank you for proving my point. Unfortunately for you, I’m not in the market for your mansplaining, given there are billions of others like yourself selling it to me. How about taking your wares elsewhere to someone who’s actually interested?