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: Why isn’t there a centre-right feminism?

Why is feminism always left-wing ? And it goes on to brand all right-wing as sexist, racist etc. This version of feminism seems to be the dominant one. Can’t there be a more center-right idea of feminism ? It is pretty clear to me that left-wing feminism has a lot of silent disasters built into it. Gloria steinem said once – “We’re out to tear down the entire fuckin capitalism”. In today’s America, women have achieved a lot. I believe, A big part of that is because of growth in technology+capitalism and that is not given enough credit. Infact it is still demonized.

I got this email yesterday, from a guy who has been a commenter and is someone I’ve argued with both in comments and on email before. It’s also something I hear about often in many different ways: Why is feminism so angry; why is feminism Marxist; why are feminists jholawalis? I shall ignore the hysterical laughter this situation will provoke among my seriously feminist friends because I’m hardly an expert in anything feminist, least of all history or theory, and feel glad I’m approachable enough that people ask me these things! (There’s a whole story in here about the approaches to converting people to your isms but that’s for another time and place.)

And a public service announcement: Most of the things I say here are gleaned from conversations with said serious feminist friends. So bear with me if I’m simplifying too much or too little or whatever. And please, everyone be respectful.

Part I
First off, I have just been reliably informed that ‘there are right-wing feminists!’ I can’t say I can think of any off the top of my head but I’m sure my sources will be happy to help. I believe Madhu Kishwar is one. Though having heard how my feminist friends react to her I think they’d say she isn’t feminist, supporting your claim that there aren’t any.

Second, take a minute to think about socialism/communism, anti-racism and feminism. What’s a one-line definition for each? ‘People are equal regardless of income bracket’ ‘People are equal regardless of skin colour/racial appearance.’ ‘People are equal regardless of gender/sex.’ Notice a pattern there? Believing in the equality of people regardless of x basically means you’re kind of against discrimination of any kind. (Though actually Marxism for example was not very kind to women, if I remember college right, and the black rights movements had some rather sexist aspects to it, and many feminists of colour believe that solidarity to race trumps solidarity to gender, and the discrimination a black woman faces is far closer to that a black man faces than a white woman faces. But I digress.) It’s hardly surprising that there would be common cause between such movements.

Third, think about an unpleasant situation caused by conservative control of society or economics. Women lose their rights over their own bodies. For example, in a conservative right-wing interpretations the Bible says you cannot deny your husband his conjugal rights, you must bear all children you conceive, you cannot use birth control. This basically means that even if you do have access to great jobs in the ‘free’market, you’re screwed because you are pregnant nine months a year. You automatically lose out to male colleagues who don’t have to bear children and drop behind the rest of the market. The market is not free at all; it is actually quite heavily stacked against you.

Which brings me to four, there’s no such thing as a free market, which even the most ardent believers in it will admit to, simply because we don’t start at a tabula rasa. A truly free market means everyone in said market starts at the same place and then runs with whatever native abilities they have. But if you’re too worried about how to feed yourself, where do you have literal energy and neurons to think about which stocks to invest in? If you’re malnourished, how do you actually physically work 16 hours a day? And so on.

At this point said commenter is thinking fuck it man she’s also a bloody commie feminist. So just let me say one last thing before I head over a more coherent response to this question. Watch this. And then tell me capitalism has made women equal in America. I will give you technology though; technology helps most people who have access to it, regardless of gender. But then of course who has access, who controls supply and distribution…

Part II
My best friend, who is the best explainer of feminism I know, had some interesting points to raise.

1. Feminism where? Feminism is not a monolith. Many feminists in the US support the Democratic party which is centre-right. Feminists in China are not left wing. Feminists in Hong Kong are not left wing because the evils of extreme leftism are right across the border and basically everyone is paranoid about it. Feminists in India are more left wing, I think.

2. Feminism is about fairness and social justice, and therefore feminists tend to support social justice and social welfare campaigns beyond those that directly affect women. Thus, feminists tend to support welfarism to some extent (i.e. a safety net for people and a suspicion of meritocracy arguments) which in our binary world must mean we are left-wing. But only if you buy into the idea that there should be only two wings.

3. Feminists tend to read against the grain. Thus, in places where the dominant ideology is right-wing, feminists veer left. And vice versa in places like China.

4. The hegemonic view of feminism is Western feminism, thus people like Gloria Steinem get quoted. Steinem is a feminist icon of her time, and her ideas are still powerful, but feminism has moved on.

5. There is a section of Marxist feminists, particularly in the UK, who find the Marxist conception of class exploitation applicable to the family. Engels was one of the few philosophers to touch on the family. He barely did though, so feminists have extended his idea. However, broadly it is believed, that this explanation–of patriarchy exploiting the labour of women–needs to be supplemented by other explanations.

6. Right-wing parties tend to be conservative, with a paternalistic at best and dangerous at worst attitude to women. Thus, even women who support right-wing economic policies in the US are turned off by their anti-abortion stance and women-get-back-into-the-kitchen undertone. Ditto with the BJP.

I hope that helped!

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.

Question: Just how do you manage to sit through a bad date, do tell?

A girl emailed me some time ago (sorry life has been nuts so I took this long to respond) and told me that not all dates are fun. She’s been on an OKC date, after getting on it because I had inspired her, and it had been awful.

And well I met this one person today. He was just snobbish from the word go and I had a bad time. The only highlight of my meeting was the vanilla latte. This guy was obsessed listening to his own voice and a major pain. My last tinder date was way more interesting and super adorable.

Just how do you manage to sit through a bad date, do tell?

So for starters, I think you’re confusing the tools with the result. As in, I don’t think there are ‘better’ guys on OKC or Tinder–in fact most guys are on both!–but the main difference between the two is how each enables you to collect information on the person before the date. So, with Tinder, you get pictures, some words, an indication of how your social media lives interact, common friends etc., and a name. With OKC you could get nothing more than age, gender and location, or you could get details like favourite movies or books, things they think are funny, things they think are important, relationship status, what they’re looking for, etc.

Now, obviously each has advantages and disadvantages–it’s possible to scam Tinder by creating a fake facebook profile, surprisingly easy to do; lots of guys on Tinder don’t use their names (maybe girls too–I’ve never checked them out); the pictures might be misleading–so many times there is more than one person in the only photo and you don’t know who it is, there’s a girl and they’re at a wedding–wife or sister?, and so on. Also if you, like me, don’t really invest in social media–I don’t actually list my interests on Facebook, and the things I might have listed are from ages ago and are random like a TV show, and I have lots of random people on FB who come from work encounters and so on–the overlaps it shows you are no way to predict shared anything.

On OKC as well, it is possible to lie about age, relationship status, interests, what you want–pretty much everything, since it is user entered. But for me, having been on it for years, this is not a problem, because I can tell when someone is real. Unless they’ve invested ridiculous amounts of time in the profile, and in that case one date is fair price to pay heh. Of course the problem is, it’s not just the best part of who they are that people put on OKC, it’s also the best part of who they want to be and think they are. This is the tricky bit. ‘I read a lot!’ for a regular person might be a book every 2 weeks, while for me it means a book a day. The point is, you have to hone your ability to get a sense of a person online. It takes time. It’s taken me about 8 years! Of course it’s only the past few years all this has been mainstream so you can discount a lot of my early years online heh.

So which app works for you depends on what how you put yourself online (social media heavy means Tinder is likely better) and how you evaluate people (if you want a sense of how they think and talk then OKC is better), but either way you can’t control how the other person puts themself online!

As for how to deal with bad dates? Walk away =)

Ok, ok, long answer.

When a guy is boring, I try to find an innocuous thing to talk about while I chug my food so I can leave. When he’s self absorbed, depending on how bad it is, I ignore it and make errand lists in my head while finishing everything as fast as I can so I can leave, or I call him on it. To be fair this calling him on it is a recent phenomenon heh. Break your body language (lean forward, put a hand on the table, wave your hand–basically change position abruptly and obviously), and say ‘Hang on. Stop for a minute. I want to know if you realise what we’ve talked about since you got here.’ When he says no, you point out it’s been him. Not like that haan, you need to say ‘We’ve talked about your work, your childhood, your friends, your hobbies, <whatever>. Aren’t you the least bit interested in me?’

Odds are he’s nervous, or one of those infuriating types who doesn’t believe in asking questions ‘because it’s like an interview’. Maybe he’ll say, okay tell me about yourself. Be prepared to actually do that at this point, and you’ll have to make it brief and interesting, because you have to be as different from him about it as possible! Maybe he’s just a self-absorbed person and doesn’t get it. Then smile and say ‘Okay, well I’m afraid this kind of date is boring to me, so let me just save us both time and say it was nice to meet you, but I don’t think we can date.’ Offer to pay your share, or pay your share, and leave. Be kind, polite, gentle but firm. And walk away.

When it’s a creepy date, don’t bother with trying to make excuses. Just say, ‘Listen, this isn’t working for me. Thanks for your time.’ And leave. If you are not comfortable being that direct, use the old ‘Shit, my mom’s calling’, or text a friend to call with an emergency and get out.

What other kinds of bad dates are there? I can’t think of any…

Question: Dating many guys

The other day I got an email from a guy. He had many things to say, all complimentary heh, and a few questions. One of them if one I get a lot and I keep saying I’ll post about so here:

It just seems unnatural to me i guess. Like, as a guy, if i have a one night stand, and after the girl just sleeps on the other side of the bed and then we part ways, its easy to forget about her.

But when i sit with a girl, sharing stories, ideas & feelings, telling each other about our lives, for hours, and then parting with a kiss, this is the kind of stuff that’s gonna make me call her back, or intrigue me to a level that hampers my daily life! How can it not happen to you, or to the other guys?

In short: how can you date many people at the same time?

The short answer is: no one is serious.

The long answer however, is er, well, longer. When it comes to dating per se, I like to make the distinction between dating, where you’re sort of interviewing people for post of person I think I want to commit to and seeing each other where they’ve got the job as it were. Now people are different, much like organizations heh. Some places interview 100 candidates at the same time; some do select referrals one at a time. Well ok no one does one at a time heh. My point though is that some people are very gregarious and so they are not fazed by juggling several social commitments, don’t mind being out every night of the week and can keep track of many parallel conversations (or fake it at any rate hee). Some people can’t deal with so many stimuli and prefer to go slowly and carefully.

I am, obviously, in the former group. I love people. It’s like people, and new people, are my drug. I love finding out stories and figuring out quirks. As such I’m very happy to meet a stream of new people. And the dating that I’m doing is very casual. I rarely see the guys more than once. Yes we talk, we might kiss, but this doesn’t mean that there is enough of a connection to hook my heart, and so far none of them has given me any cause to think any of theirs is. Well my heart did get hooked once and it hurt like hell to get over it, but I did. And it only got hooked because the guy did and said things to lead me to suppose he was interested. But then again, he could be forgiven for thinking I wouldn’t be because after all, I’m dating 50 guys right?

Wrong.

Here’s the thing. I am dating a lot of guys, but every single one of them knows it. There’s nothing I hide about dating, about what I want, about what I feel. Every guy knows I am looking for love, and that I don’t think I’m going to find it. Now this is not just because I’m laying it out on this blog–I also tell them. And because of the blog, every guy I’ve gone out with has had a chance to look inside my head and see how I feel about him, after one date. So really, I’m the one in the dark here. I am also very open: ask me and you will get an honest answer. This is also something the guys know. So if you are someone who walks around talking of the value of honesty, you cannot blame me for reading your signals as honest, and you cannot say you didn’t think I was serious, because all you had to do was ask.

But my particular case aside, since I am definitely an unusual one, I really don’t see how anyone can offence at someone they’ve gone out with once dating other people. As long as you’re honest–‘I have a date’ not ‘I’m hanging with a friend’–respectful–‘Do you want to hear about dates or not?’ and kind–‘I’m sorry, I really like this other person so I can’t date you any more’ or ‘I don’t feel the same way as you do; we should stop dating’–you are not, in any way, transgressing.

As for calling a girl back, if you want to, do it. And if she wants to, she should do it too. Of course the way we articulate the rules these days, calling someone and saying you like them is a symptom of horrific clinginess and and indication that you are a psycho stalker who has married then in their head, so there’s a whole other can of worms there, but at least you’ll know you were honest and you communicated your feelings, so you did all you could.