Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Short term memory

A funny thing happens to some men when they get out of the game for a while. They forget the moves. They get rusty, clumsy, and sometimes, downright embarrassing. It can be frustrating for them, because the harder they try, the deeper they get slotted into ‘loser’ slots by women.

One such just-divorced friend recently got a bit out of hand in the singletons club. For starters, he hit on every woman that came his way. Then he hit on her BFF. Needless to say he is currently neither here nor there and a hitherto okay-for-now guy is now a certified creep.

I was embarrassed. I know the women were smart enough to fend for themselves, so there was no righteousness about it, neither was I overwhelmed by my current motherhood streak of being nurturing. Nevertheless, he was a friend and he was faltering and I think I owed him something. But how to tell the man that what he was doing would never get him anywhere in the dating game?

Since I am a) married and b) the writer of this column (I think the latter is more intimidating), most men do not make an overt move on me for fear of being lynched in public view. But there is always a hug that lingers longer than it should, an arm over the shoulder that applies a wee bit more pressure than required, a handshake that refuses to let go, an eye-contact that is more penetrative than required. Blame it on the post partum hormones or distilled thinking time, but I have become ultra sensitive to behaviour from the opposite sex. On the other hand, any sign that you can score at any time of your life cannot be a bad thing in itself.

Another friend who had been married even longer recently found himself in the open post divorce, and realised that the dating rules had changed. As in, there were no rules anymore. So ‘catch up with you tomorrow’ or ‘call you tonight’ had now become mere phrases that were dropped too nonchalantly by women to mean anything. It left him adrift and lost. He obviously couldn’t start where he had left off.

Marriage makes men complacent. They can now put their feet up, grow their beer bellies, stop flossing, and generally allow their pathetic lives and bodies to be re-engineered and be given some semblance of order by their women. This can take from two years to about five. By that time, they are so cushioned in their nest — which they had very little to contribute to, except exist — that now, they can’t be bothered.

Which is why men who marry multiple times deserve a round of applause. Bravo! But then, they are the exception rather than the rule. Or maybe they just fall under the tutelage of Neil Strauss and get better at the game.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blast from the past

Spring cleaning always throws up surprises—some good, some not-so-good, and some downright embarrassing. At least so I was when the husband flashed a CD labelled ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ and asked if it belonged to me in one of his sporadic bouts of spring cleaning a few weeks ago.

Me: Err.. yes, that’s mine.
He: What are you doing with an Encyclopaedia Britannica CD? It’s so not you.
Me: Actually it was a gift from an ex-boyfriend.
He: What kind of guy gifts his girlfriend an Encyclopaedia Britannica on a CD? Sounds like a loser.
Me: As a matter of fact, he wasn’t one. He was very bright and funny and an orthopaedic surgeon.
He: Whatever. He sounds really unimaginative and dull.

I had nothing to say.

The husband has his share of demons too. Like a very gauche shirt-and-pant piece I found one day in his wardrobe, which he sheepishly confessed was a present from a prospective mother-in-law (and is now a favourite dusting cloth, however significant that sounds). I must admit, it made my encyclopaedia boy look good.

I think the reason we all have a past is so that someday, we can look back and laugh at it and feel good about ourselves. So that it will make us feel better about our ‘here’ and ‘now’. So that we feel less wretched about time spent (rather wasted) with the said person and be happy that we moved on (whether by choice or by circumstance). So that, in the larger scheme of things, we look like we got a better deal. After all, whatever anyone might say, it is about winning, eventually.

The only reason we want to ‘bump’ into our exes, if at all, is to see what a mess they are without us, how boring their lives are, and how they have absolutely no sense of style without us, how they are constantly in shallow, meaningless company, how their sense of humour has degenerated, how badly they have aged, and how well you have. And when you have a child, you try and imagine—what if the Y chromosome came from someone else—and it makes you shriek, because you can’t imagine your little one looking like anything else.

All of us, some earlier than others, reach that point where our exes go from tormenting us, to inducing a faint twitch in facial muscle upon mention of said person’s name, to downright cracking us up into peals of laughter. It’s a great feeling.

But, at the end of the day, the only thing we ever want to hear about our exes is that they are fat and bald or are married to fat, boring people who will never know what they once were when they were with us. My encyclopaedia boy scored on both counts and that makes me happy. Okay, that sounded mean, but you get my point.

Now that I have exorcised my demons, over to yours.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Four idiots

Okay, my life is turning out to be a constant source of material for this column, but in case you feel I need to address issues/peeves/idiocies beyond that, just write to me and I will address that. After all, there is only so much husband bashing that might be permissible. Competing with which will soon be boy-bashing, and then you will call me a bad mother, which is why I am offering you an open invitation.

So, there I was, not so long ago, leading a perfectly blissful life as a singleton—a job I loved, friends I absolutely dug, potlucks that were the rage, holidays I maxed out, a pad that was perfect for me— where I could find my oregano and my Season 7, Episode 5 of Seinfeld whenever I was in the mood, where plans were spontaneous and one could take off to Pondicherry on a whim.

That was then. Now, I live in boy-land with four idiots. There is a husband, a boy who thinks he is a cat, a tomcat who thinks he is the boy and a she-cat who thinks she is Don Corleone. Together, they drive me nutsidaisies. I like that word. (Note to self: use it abundantly in future conversation with said parties).

If that was not enough, there is football. Now I am not going to lament about the whole soccer widow thing, because, honestly, anything that keeps the boys to themselves and away from me is welcome. Because the thing I miss the most in my new life is me. So I will not be the one who asks the husband for some soccer compensation like a measly movie or lunch or a dress from Zara (which by the way has come a decade too late). And so, here’s my advice to soccer widows. Use this time to get you back. It’s a great opportunity.

No, my only problem with the football season, (and I fear there are too many to keep track of) is being asked to participate in the proceedings. So I am regularly given updates and statistics I haven’t asked for, asked to join in for beer and some rowdy rooting, staring at our 42 inch monster with surround sound, when I could just curl up with a book or do nothing (again, something that has become increasingly difficult to do). I don’t mind devouring cute butts on screen (or in real life) once in a while, but too much testosterone makes me sick. And then the husband blames me for not being into the game, but into the men. Well, what else will I be into, dude?

The boy, by virtue of majority, wants to be where the action is and the cats are excitedly discovering the Messis in them (give them a piece of rolled-up silver foil, and see what they can get up to) and messing up my house. That’s my life currently.

And lest I forget. Yes, Chetan Bhagat, the title for this column was indeed inspired by the movie that was inspired by your story, and unlike the filmmakers, I hereby give you due credit. Happy?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hey sista!

I feel like doing something I have seldom done before; something I am really bad at. Matchmaking my little sister. And it’s not because I am a romantic at heart or I love fix-ups or know how to go about them, but simply because that will probably be the only way to rescue her from the spate of unsuitable boys my parents and other gerrys (my short form for geriatrics) in the family have been subjecting her to. Okay folks, I am sorry about airing this in my column, but I hope this works.

After years of being the black sheep of the family, I am suddenly the apple of everyone’s eye. It has nothing to do with this column but has to do with the fact that I am now ‘respectably married’ and what’s more, I have also demonstrated that I have a womb. So much for brownie points.

My little sister on the other hand is now fighting battles that I chose not to fight, simply by running away from home and living on my own since age 24.

When I was of ‘marriageable age’ i e way before I actually got married, I was introduced to various computer geeks, financial wizards, research scientists and academic Neanderthals by the usual suspects (not that I have anything against any of the species, but it demonstrates my family’s limited vision as far as mating is concerned). All I could think of was, what would they be like in the sack,and somehow, I found the idea unpalatable each time. But how does one tell parents that? So I would use euphemisms like, “I am too strong/independent for him, he may not be able to deal with my free spirit,” blah, blah. After a point, my parents declared me over the hill and gave up, and then it was over to my sister.

What bothers me is how the benefit of doubt is never in favour of you, but the ‘boy’ or the ‘party’ to put it crudely. How he is well settled, has a good job, has his ‘own flat’ never mind if it’s in Ranchi or Coimbatore, or wherever sad people live. And how we need to make haste and not ‘delay matters any further’ because time is ‘running out’ and age is ‘catching up’ and such a ‘case’ may not come again. I almost have visions of a train leaving the station in classic Bollywood style and Kamalhassan or some such running behind it with a pot in his hand, making monkey faces at Sridevi, ala Sadma.

As for the photographs of concerned ‘parties’, let us not even go into that— it’s a whole minefield, enough to deserve an exhibit. I wonder how in the era of Facebook and candid cameras, men still manage to get shot in low angles, accentuating their gauche bodies and bad clothes, looking like they just stepped out of a kitsch gallery. Who is shooting them? Their gardeners?

So dear parents and fellow gerrys, I implore you. Just clear orf! Or show me a real man.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Before sunrise

I can finally say this. I am so done with clubbing. I have danced up many a storm, club hopped till breakfast, shared chemistry with quite a few on the floor, created a riot in my girl-brigade phase, fudged hostel late-passes, and sometimes made a fool of myself too.

Now, with two men (the husband and the boy), two cats, and six friends from the real world in tow, I feel almost smug. And slightly dismissive about the way people engage in the city, particularly when the sun goes down.

I guess the reason people succumb to the black hole of social grandeur in night clubs is because it insulates them. Even though the amount of clothing worn these days at such night outs is next to nothing, it still makes them feel more protected than say, meeting for breakfast.

It’s a minefield out there and nothing is as it appears. Singletons are busy scoping the scene and marking potential mates on their datometers. Couples with kids are eager to make an appearance again, almost with a vengeance so as to not appear uncool. DINKS are making the most of whatever they can get while they wait for their mutual funds or reproductive organs to surprise them. The married ones are revelling in the fact that they can still score and making a point of their partners noticing. Those married-but-available are actually acting on it and hoping their partners will not notice — a fact that has become increasingly impossible in an over-tagged, over-commented, over-facebooked world. Insomniacs are hoping that night blends into day, so they can begin tagging and posting pictures the minute they reach their dreary homes.

And no one gives a damn about the music or the deejay, although it is cool to appear knowledgeable about one or both. So while people down their shots and max out their credit cards, the clubs always have the last laugh.

And yet, why do people do this? Why are bars and clubs always full, no matter what the price tag? Simple. Because it’s easy. It involves no work. And once you are on a list, it’s just the comfort of numbers. All you have to do is show up. After all, how many house parties does one get invited to anyway? How many of your night-lifers will actually have you in their home for breakfast?

I know quite a few over-zealous party animals who look like complete fish out of water at home parties. Without the strobe lights and the haze of smoke machines and the ear-shattering decibels, they appear almost naked, speechless, move-less.

So , one of the first rules of dating is do not go clubbing. Or, at the very least, to take it somewhere else from there, given that you have, after all, met the object of your affection in a bar. Things look, sound and feel very different with Long Island Iced teas or vodka-Red Bulls in swishy bars.

As for romances that yet happen, well, you are good as long as you are in your bubble.

Happy happy

Birthdays and babies are like visa-not-required ports. Almost anyone has the right to engage with you to wish you on your birthday or likewise, when you are with child, and there’s no need of clever lines to open the conversation.

So it’s a free for all, including mutual fund managers, personal bankers and insurance agents, Facebook friends, cute boy in the yoga class, PR insects, or anyone in your mailing list. And everyone deserves a thank you.

I somehow grew up on minimal birthday fuss in my childhood (being a May baby meant not being able to flaunt the birthday cake the mother baked, as most of the friends and neighbours were off to cooler climes, wearing polo necks and skiing or rolling in snow, ala Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh of yore), but birthdays have been getting more and more populated as I justify my greys. Almost enough to have a ready template for replying to messages/calls/emails.

As for the mother, the husband, the siblings, the BFF, the favourite aunt and cousin, birthday wishes are a given and slighting in any way will be an unpardonable offence, so they stick to what they do best, i.e celebrate you.

But outside of that, almost anyone has a free chance to “like” you on your birthday, or use terms of endearment, everything in the past forgiven. For potential crushes or fans, birthdays are an open window in the era of Facebook. Whether it’s the wall or a message is a choice they have to make, and whether to reply or not is a choice you have to. But how can one ignore a birthday wish? It seems wrong, somehow.

For contentious relationships, birthdays are a way to tell you, “Yes, I am still pissed, so I am not going to wish you on your birthday, see!”

So there were people who were conspicuous by their absence. May be my acerbic tongue might have said something they didn’t want to hear. May be we have outgrown each other and our friendship has reached its expiry date. May be it’s a decadent relationship that has lost its fire and is not worth stoking any more. May be we are just not into each other like we used to be. May be they just don’t have Facebook or birthday calendars or phones with reminders or just a good memory.

And then there are the excuses. “Oh, no, my Facebook page isn’t showing birthdays anymore.” Or, “I forgot to put a reminder on my phone.”

For unresolved romances or relationships that haven’t had closure, it’s a point of re-entry. “Yes, I still have feelings for you. See how I can’t seem to get your birthday out of my system?”

So ex-boyfriends, new flames, admirers and fans (not that I am trying to show off but you know what I mean) can all happily coexist under the birthday radar, say their piece and leave, if only to return after a whole year.

But then, as they say, keep the good energy flowing. It can never hurt, can it?