27 and Single – Coping with ‘Bidai’ of your Male friends.

It’s 10.30 p.m. and my friends call me, “Hey! We’re coming to pick you. Tea treat!”

“Sure! What’s the occasion?” I ask.

And my question is answered as I get into the car and we start talking.

“That’s like an arranged marriage turning into a love story?” I conclude, after hearing a detailed version of how a friend fell in love with the girl he went to see for an arranged marriage. We all rejoice but only before one strange interaction.

Someone comments, “But you know what! We just can’t meet like this once we’re married.” The girls look at each other. “Sure” we say, marriage does shift priorities. It’s obvious to be busy and occupied once married.

But strangely the conversation shifts gears and all of a sudden the guys are talking about all the permissible limits of our friendships as though friendship with women is more like a drug – not allowed post marriage. I start to feel a little uncomfortable.

After all, weren’t these the same guys we grew up with? Can we so easily over look the many years of school or college or work – the various walks from where we women, know the men in our lives – and simply accept an instruction to tone down our warmth and affections?

The weather is suddenly more chilly. Someone brings us all Tea and we hold the cups in hand to re-construct warmth on a chilly December, winter evening.

One of the guys, once again starts to speak of an “All guys trip”

The girls look at eachother as they animatedly make plans.

“Hello!” we say, “aren’t we a part of the plans?”

“But once we (the guys) are married, we won’t get a chance to travel together and have fun. You girls should understand.”

And instantly I feel two things.

  1. With the men getting married, they want us to know that they can’t really be ‘friends’ with the girls, the way they were before.
  2. With the men getting married, they don’t want the girls to be a part of the plans, trips, get-togethers they’re planning, somewhat in preparation for a married life ahead.

And the ‘dost-dost-na-raha’ feeling stares in the face.

I am reminded of the feeling I had in 2010, which led to the inception of Half A Cup of Tea with the blogpost, “All About Being a Girl“. Yes, I felt that same strong urge to write.

I am close to 27 now and my standards of finding a partner, are high. I must first fall in love and be convinced enough to marry. But that’s my personal life and my choice.

Being a single woman or a woman not married yet, does not mean  that we’re likely of pinning intangible expectations on people we know!

My friendship with the men in my life is irrespective of their commitment or marital status. And that’s simply because – friendship is different and romantic love, different.

This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!
This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!

And then again, we do love the people in our lives, don’t we? And how do you express the love and affection you feel for people, when they aren’t birth – siblings? Like I love my sister. I give her a hug. I love my friend, I give him or her a hug. Aren’t friends, to some extent, close to siblings?

Friends are the people we grow old with. Sure, we have spouses and partners and cousins – but friends are peers. And so, should a change in relationship status reflect upon your associations with others?

Being a feminist, and someone who has forever lived in a male-world, I somehow always surpass gender in my associations. Sure I have learnt of “ways of men” and I know of a language that I may never speak, but I accept them the way they are and see no difference in my friendship extended to men.

The discussions on a guys-only-vacation start to ensue once again: On chats, groups, meet-ups and once again I find myself revolting to the very idea.

I think we as women, understand. We understand other women. We understand that women would like their men to be committed and ask me on any day, and that is exactly what I will advocate to any guy friend in my life.

But, when your friendship dates back in years and months, knowing eachother as individuals, growing professionally, personally and emotionally – then must gender come in the way at all?

One of the girls chirps in, “Apsara, you know what! We’re all going to be the same before and after marriage, it’s the guys who are going to change. Bidai ladkon ki ho rahi hai.” (We’re giving away the guys in marriage. )

I do totally respect and understand that friendship always has to be two ways – if the guys don’t want to keep it, it’s not going to exist.

And that again raises two points:

  1. What are the ethics of friendship if it is “okay” now and “not okay” after being committed?Ally Committed to Future Concept

If that’s the case, then one must not encourage anything that cannot be explained to our future partners.

There is this strange scene I remember from one of my favorite TV series: Ally Mc Beal, Where she talks to her roommate saying “I feel a sense of commitment to my future partner, even before I have met him”.  All though the statement is weird, it does ring a sense of truth.

  1. Does the guy have a say or not?

I remember having this discussion with a girl-friend once and she said “I think he would need to put his foot down and tell both the women that they matter and they better cope with the fact that they hold different but significant value in his life. I think…. That’s a step the guy needs to take, make and walk.”

And that brings me back to my disappointment with society! Yes…. now the matter has escalated and I ask a greater question: despite so many years that we have come as a society, we still face these challenges of perception.

I remember my early twenties, where an over intrusive admirer had a problem with every male individual in my life. He was almost a stalker and he called me once, while I was meeting a friend.

Stalker: Where are you?Hypothesis: The Thinking Girl.

Girl: Umm xyz place.

Stalker: What are you doing there?

Girl: Umm discussing work with abc.

Stalker: How can you be at xyz with a guy?

Girl: <blank>

Stalker: I am coming there.

Girl: <blank>

Stalker arrives.

Stalker: Why are you here?

Girl: <No answer because the stalker deserves no explanation>

Girl <in the head> : Because my friends are the ones who have stood by me through years of test and times of struggle, they have shared my joys and offered a hand – in love and friendship. And HENCE – I am here.

And perhaps I am too ambitious to expect the same answer from all the men in my life.

To expect that they place our friendship at the same degree, level and stature as I do – as women do in general – without the gender coming in the way

Of course we have our own little things – the girls night outs, conversations and to-do lists. And the guys certainly have a lot more of that – the guys parties, the bike rides at 2 am and other things – which the girls are not a part of. And that is fine.

The Guy Things!            The Girl Things!

But what stings a bit, slightly, is the idea … of letting go, in advance…. For reasons that are best unsaid. That’s what pricks!

And that takes me back to the ideas of Love that I have frequently discussed in the past years – love must happen, we must grow and evolve. We should be open to idea of Love and in a similar way, in friendship with gender differences, we should be open to idea of letting go.

Yes, I am open to the idea of letting go – just as I am open to the idea of falling in love or living single based on circumstances. If the men in our lives have women who are not comfortable with us, then the possibilities of friendship taking a backseat arises. (I am talking about people not having time. That’s fine. My best friends I haven’t spoken to in ages but I know the friendship stands) But if the women respect eachother and role of friendship in the lives of their men – would a healthy, beautiful relationship, friendship and extended family not be possible?

It strangely gives me a feeling of women being typecast – I am telling, that’s not true. The woman you love will never be insecure if you love her enough.

It all depends on the way WE conduct our relationships.

I am taking the liberty of quoting another friend’s girlfriend here. (A story very close to my heart and couple whose kids I am going to spoil :p)

My friend had stopped talking to me over certain misconceptions. And my repeated requests to understand the problem had failed. Eventually, after months of void, I received a letter from him reviving our friendship. It was his partner who has encouraged him to do so.

In a private conversation with her one day, when I thanked her for being understanding and considerate in encouraging my friendship with her partner, despite barely knowing me as a person, she said – I could see what an inspiring companionship you both shared. And I must respect that. Had I had friends who were male and had I shared similar rapport with them, would I not expect my boyfriend to understand and accept the friendships?

She moved me with her beautiful words because I know how much that friendship mattered to me.

On another day, I was to make a movie with a very dear friend. We’d once been founding members of a youth group, today we were meeting once again over a common goal. I desperately wanted to make the film and once he read the script, he loved it. We began work but repeatedly faced hurdles.

On one anxious day, I came across content that had striking resemblance to my piece of writing. I panicked and frantically tried to reach my friend over facebook chat. When I couldn’t get his response, I created a group chat adding his girlfriend and whining about the unexpected situation.

Within seconds she replied – Dear Apsara, relax and have faith in your work. I am sure the two of you are very talented and are going to do a remarkable job with the film. You must remain composed, irrespective of the fact that certain situations aren’t in our hands. I am sure when you make the film, it will be unbeatable. Trust me, it’s a very strong act.

The film is yet to be made, but what filled my heart with even more optimism was the fact that my friend’s girlfriend turned out to be the most mature 😀 handling both of us and encouraging a positive perspective and action plan.

These women, individuals in themselves, understand.

These women, us women, we understand: and that’s where women are beautiful.

On the threshold of 27, I see so many of my girlfriends married and many turned mothers – they are busy – raising their husbands and children (:p) BUT, I still haven’t lost them. Yes, we cried on the wedding day…. And we did all that drama for the women…. But strangely, and painfully, seems like it’s the MEN we’re bidding goodbyes to.

As we finish off with tea and head back home, I remain silent.

While the men prepare for marriage, it’s not that the single-women-friends are waiting to cling on and ‘be the same’. For the single, individual, even moderately ambitious woman,  we are NOT dependant on men and we will certainly NOT intrude on married life spaces. That I must receive the disclaimers, saddens! A little bit of my heart breaks there…. And the tea is JUST not enough.

I make myself a cup of tea and call a friend – I tell him I am disappointed.

He laughs. He asks me:

If you were committed, would you really want to hang out with your group as much, plan trips of travel with your friends and do things without your spouse or partner?

And I answer with puzzlement, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Perhaps my expectations from life are far too ambitious – but yes, if and when I am committed, I would

In memory of the first post "All about being a Girl" where I used a pic like this!
In memory of the first post “All about being a Girl” where I used a pic like this!

expect my partner to understand the associations in my life – the ones that have molded me and made me, Me. I will expect him to have his friendships and let me have mine. I would love for the circles to mix and blend and make one huge, harmonious family – but even if that does not happen, I doubt I’ll trade one set of relationships for another. I think the beauty and the challenge lies in balance and understanding.

Perhaps it’s a long shot for me, but for my married and committed friends, I pray that you keep your Friends and give each other space and freedom in relationship.

I pray that it be only responsibilities, physical distance, and life passions that possibly distance us – and not social limits of bias and sad presumptions that already fragment our society!

Write to me and let me know what you think:)

With Love,
Apsara

apsara.iyengar@gmail.com

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