Greetings faithful readers. (And the sudden spike of new ones. Did scroll retweet that article or something? One day in June I suddenly has a crazy spike in readers and followers.) I’ve been terrible lately, haven’t I? I don’t post and, honestly, it’s because I don’t want to. Even if I had a date, which I don’t, I don’t want to write about one more evening of me trying really hard to relate to and engage with a person who, even if I do succeed in connecting with him, is just going to vanish on me without the courtesy of a good bye. Honestly, I am also very tired of making all effort that to reach out to and relate with what, sadly, I have found to be a self-absorbed, self-indulgent and entitled group of people.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all desi guys are horrible or useless or something, though I am very tempted to draw some very un-nuanced and unqualified generalizations about the group after the past four months. It might just be that because I’m looking at older guys (though I have dated younger ones), or because I’m in Delhi, or even because I’ve found it so difficult to meet single people in offline settings and go out with them. Heck it’s probably at least a little bit because I’m a picky cow myself! But the bottom line is that I have had multiple conversations with and attempts to connect with at least a hundred Indian guys between the ages of 23 and 40 in the past year, and dear lord it has been a lot of work with next to no payoff.
Most guys don’t want to make conversational effort. Okay I think, maybe they don’t realise it. So I tell them to ask me questions, to work a bit. ‘What is this, an interview?’ ‘I asked you to tell me about yourself!’ And then when I patiently explain that specific questions help move a conversation along, I get ‘Are you a virgin?’ or some such ridiculous thing, which is like a toddler that’s trying to push the boundaries with a parent–oooo I’m walking on the edge and if you react badly it’s because you’re not cool or chill ya.
Most guys think they deserve my attention (or that of any woman they have deigned to contact); they’re always pinging and they need instant responses. They don’t want to decide what to do. They make truly awful nudge nudge wink wink jokes, which, I keep telling myself, is because they don’t understand how oh the ol-ball-and-chain kind of jokes are deeply sexist and problematic. They are bewildered by generalized conversations about sexism and harassment: but are you saying I’m a rapist! I would never do that! How can you say that! And I explain. And some of them get it, and some of them don’t, and either way, all that work, all that investment, and later they are gone.
Maybe there is something deeply off about me; maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for men to relate to me as more than friends. Maybe I’m ridiculously picky. Though I have to say, as part of the project, I don’t think I have been. I’ve constantly been shushing my gut and saying give him a chance. And guess who’s been right every single time? Maybe Indian society has screwed up gravely in how it raises its men (ok ok more then maybe). We have all these fantastic women who just can’t seem to meet guys they can be with. It’s almost as if we’ve spent so much effort teaching women to be anything they want, to adopt ‘masculine’ emotions and reactions and roles, and all we’ve taught men is that they need to be ok with women doing what they want, or appear to be, or perhaps, to be fairer, to believe that they are. But they’re not. And we do not teach them to look to others first; we do not teach them to take on ‘feminine’ roles, emotions and reaction; we–yes even feminist women–hold them to unfair double standards just as they hold us to them too.
Whatever the reason, the main lesson I have learned in this past year is that I cannot do this. I cannot woo Indian men; I cannot coax and persuade them; perhaps I cannot even date them should there be genuine interest. Then again, there has not really been genuine mutual interest, so who knows.
When I set out to do this, I often got asked what outcome I expected, what if I met someone on one of these dates and fell in love–how would I deal with the project then? I used to say there were three possible outcomes. The best would be meeting someone who gave me the space to finish. The second best would be meeting someone. And the worst would be what has come to pass–that I would end up where I began, just more tired and frustrated. I think that all along I wanted to be wrong about the conclusions I have drawn in the past 5 years of dating. I wanted this experiment to prove that desi guys CAN be great for me, that the only reason I hadn’t met someone was because I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t casting my net wide enough, I wasn’t being open to possibilities. Somewhere deep down I was convinced that I would meet someone–as a friend said last night, ‘But it can’t end like this; you’re supposed to meet someone!’ Yes that is how the story goes, and I believed in the story.
But now I know that the story is, like all stories, just a story. It is powerful and hard to fight but just because you believe in it doesn’t mean that it always comes true. And so I come away from this project with, if nothing else, a much better understanding of myself, some great experiences, a book I’m going to write and at least two good friends. And you know what? That’s not so bad.
I don’t quite know what I’m going to do with this space now. I know I definitely don’t want to date for a while–unless I get to be the princess most men claim they don’t like and yet they chase after. I have things I would like to write about and they might be about dating and body image and love and suchlike pandemonium, but I’m not sure this is the right place for that, or honestly that people want to read about it! But I am very grateful for all the support I’ve had from you, my readers. I never thought I could write, and you’ve shown me that apparently I can. You’ve shown me that there are people who want to hear these stories, who are willing to invest in and root for a complete stranger. So thank you. And if I actually write that book, I promise to post about it so you know!