Question: Friend first or date first?

Since I managed to fall ill on Thursday, just before that Himachal trip I’ve been dying for, I shall use this time to FINALLY get around to clearing some post backlog. Also I feel really guilty I’m not writing!

Quite a while ago I got an email from a guy who, after reassuring me that he had no interest in dating me and was emphatically not asking me out, asked me this.

The whole scenario of dating in India perplexes me. More often than not, meeting someone in the spur of the moment and asking them for a beverage or a meal results in deeply condescending stare in my general direction. Followed by a sharp disapproval.

In the beginning of it all, I was quite convinced that there are no single women in Delhi. 9 times out of 10, the women I talked to had a boyfriend. I know that people have the right to judge but come on, you just said ‘You’re an interesting guy’, followed by a No when I asked if you would like to continue the conversation elsewhere.

I have literally asked women as to what a guy must do before taking them out on a date and I’ve been quite bluntly told that one must first become friends and then go on dates. And here I was thinking that, dates are meant to get to know someone better. Also if you do choose to take the route of friendship and one fine day you ask her out(Which I actually think is saying “Will you be my girlfriend?), she’s taken aback by your stream of thought and tells you that she never thought of you that way. This is like a round robin sport tournament.

I am not a misogynist, I must state that. I’m not bashing women. I’m just simply perplexed.

Why does this happen? Is it an age thing? Am I generation ahead? Am I too much of a free thinking radical liberal being?

Okay, the very first thing I need to tell you, fair quester, is that just because someone tells you you’re interesting doesn’t mean that, one, they mean it, or, two, they owe you anything, whether it’s a drink, more conversation, time, friendship, sex, love… you get my drift. I find I have to repeat this often. So let’s try it again. Yes, you like him/her, and many props to you for screwing up the courage to express it. And augh its awful when the answer is no. But that’s just how it goes. Dear lord if I had a dollar for all the guys who was run screaming, burst out laughing, ignored me or stopped talking to me because I expressed interest, I might be able to buy some dedicated server space. And it hurt. Every single time. But you know what? I survived. And so will you.

Second, there’s a little contradiction here. You say when you ask a girl out you mean you want them to be your girlfriend. And you think a complete stranger in a bar is going to say yes? Obviously not.

Right now on to the main event. It’s never pleasant to be rejected. It just isn’t. There is nothing you can do about it. We tend to rationalise rejection away and soothe ourselves by saying ‘God! Women suck!’ or ‘ARGH WHY ARE ALL MEN ASSHOLES!’ or something like that. We say, ‘Their loss!’ and stomp off to lick our wounds. We mutter about society and its unrealistic standards for income, fitness, beauty. We tell ourselves that well, if only s/he knew me, if only they gave me a chance. And so we hurt even more when someone who already knows us also rejects us. What is the soothing story to tell then? You’re my friend, so if you’re an asshole why am I your friend? You know me, so then if you reject me there’s something fundamentally wrong with me, right? Because it’s the not knowing that’s the problem, right?

Well, unfortunately, no. It’s the not being interested that’s the problem. And there is nothing you, or anyone, can do about it. Rejection is awful. But the best thing anyone can do about it is just freaking accept it. Just take a deep breath and learn this mantra: Sometimes, people don’t like me that way. It sucks. Ah well.

As for friends first or date first? I honestly don’t know. Two of my dear friends have married old friends who they woke up one day and saw with different eyes. My own ex was a friend first. But then I personally do believe in fizz, in that ineffable feeling of excitement and attraction you get while talking to some people and not while talking to others. I’ve met strangers who finish my sentences, but only once did I feel the fizz for one of them and boy was that an unmitigated disaster. But somehow when there’s no fizz I can’t bring myself to see someone as dating potential. Maybe fizz can develop in later life–I know I used to get very gooey at the thought of my ex when we were together. Maybe I’m just a teenager deep inside =)

I think that in India anyway we’re all scared to give people the wrong idea. I mean, if you go out with a guy you’re genuinely scared he might read too much into it, he might think he’s entitled to sex or makeouts or a blow job, and you will have no recourse but to give in because that’s just how our society works. No, this does not mean I think men are animals etc etc, but just that if you are unfortunate enough to end up on a date with a guy who does think like that, you have no recourse. And who wants to be in that situation? If someone is a friend, you at least have the power of social-circle-shaming on your side–not that many women report date rape to their friends.

It doesn’t help that you’re not allowed to talk about sex. I mean most people say things in dating situations that have very little connection to how they really feel–you say it because it’s expected of the situation. ‘I’m not looking for anything serious.’ ‘I won’t ask you for sex.’ ‘I don’t care about sex on the first date.’ ‘I can’t have sex before marriage.’ Some people might believe some of these things, but mostly, we try and say what fits the role we’re playing.

If you’re interested in a friend, you should probably take some time to read cues. Drop a few hints so when you sit down and say hey, I’m kind of interested in you, it’s not a bolt from the blue. Believe me this will prepare you too, and at the very least the other person will be able to let you down gently, or if they pick up on it maybe they can steer you away from the subject and then you’ll know without having to have a confrontation about it.

I do think though, in life generally, it is a healthy attitude to people to consider them for friendship. By this I mean, if you want to date someone, I imagine you should at least like them enough to want to be friends? Or want to like them enough? And it’s really very insulting to be seen as just a source of sex. So always keep the friendability in mind. At the very least you’ll end up friends with people you’ve been on a few dates with–like I have–and I promise you, that’s a rather nice thing.

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Question: Is there any hope?

A commenter called Priya left this for me last week:

is there any hope? for me? A 25-year-old in urban Delhi? I don’t want this blog to be responsible for creating any hopes (reliable or imaginary) but god I am giving it a chance (knowing I will most probably be turned off from meeting guys I know are jerks -virtually and real(ly).)

The first thing I want to say is, yes there is hope. Of course there is hope. There is hope that you will be happy, just as there is hope that I will too, with or without one single man. If you want my advice I will only say this: please Priya learn to be brutally honest with yourself; you’ll find it makes everything at least 50% easier. It’s a difficult thing to learn to do, but you can learn.

But I also have to say no, all guys are not jerks. Just as all women are not princesses. Yes you might meet a lot of jerks in your time, but then you’ve probably been the jerk or the princess to lots of people too. There are always more than two sides to behaviour, and you can’t forget how we as a society train people to behave to each other, especially where sex and romance are involved. Sometimes people are horrible, yes, but you can still walk away. It will hurt like hell, but when someone doesn’t value you, walk away, even if a year later you still get that sinking paining feeling in your heart when his picture pops up on Facebook =)

But there will be guys who are kind to you, who hold your hand and take care of you. They might not be boyfriends or people you’re into, but they certainly exist. Some of my dearest friends, yaaron ya yaars, are guys, and when they make me feel taken care of it is as wonderful as when I have a great date. These guys might take some time to appear–it’s hard to be friends with someone of the opposite sex in your early twenties, mainly because you and he both need to get over all the nonsense we’re fed, and also because everyone else will refuse to believe it. But fuck them, and be open to guy friends. (Thought be prepared for them to vanish when they acquire girlfriends. The good ones though, they’ll be back.)

Everyone, male and female, is a person. Everyone has good days and bad days, triggers and quirks, things they can’t resist and things they can’t stand. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone hurts the people they love and care about. This doesn’t make them good or bad or jerks or not. I know I broke my ex’s heart when I broke up with him; I also broke my own heart though, and I did it because there was no other way forward.

Still, I will admit, there are some people who hurt you because they can. These are not nice people. These are jerks. And they come from both genders. So I guess the best thing for you to do is to value yourself honestly. Know your faults and know when to say you’re sorry. Embrace what you’re worth and hold that close. And when someone–guy, girl, old, young, whatever–doesn’t value it, walk away. There will be other people and they will value you.

‘Is she hot?’

Yesterday, a guy I have flirtatious conversations with pinged me in the evening, when I was heading to the airport to pick up a friend’s friend. I said I couldn’t talk because of said errand, and indicated that said friend’s friend was female. The immediate response was ‘Is she hot?’

Repressing my urge to teleport through the phone and bludgeon him with his own phone, I calmly ignored it and said something else. ‘You haven’t answered my question,’ he said. ‘Is she hot?’ ‘I ignored your question.’ At which he proceeded to complain that I have double standards because I check out guys around him why can’t he check out girls. I didn’t have the time to explain to him why this is unacceptable, and also my blood pressure was rising rapidly, so I decided I’d just post about it.

We interrupt scheduled programming to bring you the public service announcement. Do. Not. Ever. Ask. That. Of. Me. Or really any woman, especially if you have a thing with her.

Let’s start with the apparent double standard here. I can check out other guys around you but you can’t ask me if my friend is hot. For starters, me looking at some guy as he walks by is hardly the same as you trying to lust after a friend of mine and, even if it were, when I stare at a guy I am at least doing it myself, and not asking you to be conduit through which I execute my lecherous impulses.

Setting that aside, what exactly is wrong with asking a girl if her friend is hot anyway? Well nothing at all actually. I mean if I said hey I’m setting you up with a friend, you would be fully entitled to ask that of me. The problem though is that when you say hot you have a picture, and odds are it doesn’t match the picture I have when I say hot. So even if I answered the question, you’d likely be disappointed. And if I’m not setting you up? You can still ask–it’s not a big deal.

So what’s my problem?

My problem is when the first question asked is that. Is that really the most important thing you need to know about a stranger? Say what you will, ‘Is she hot?’ is code for ‘Do I want to fuck her?’ and, really, is that the first thing you need to know about a stranger? You gotta admit, that’s kinda creepy.

My problem is when it’s a highly peripheral person to my life and by extension more peripheral to yours, do you need any information at all? And, if you do, is that really the information you need to have? Even creepier.

So, even if my friend is hot and even if I actually think you guys might get along, I’m thinking ‘Ummmm do I want to set my friend up with a creep?’. And when you say you’re into me and you do this, this is what I get:

  1. He’s not that into me
  2. He’s a creepy guy
  3. He’s going to hit on my friends

Hardly the stuff relationships or even hookups are made of.

So, boys, the next time you feel the urge to ask a girl if her friend is hot? Don’t. There is no good outcome for you.