Friday, June 22, 2007

Yours, Unattached

(After thinking about it a while, i've edited my original post. I think it perhaps now says what i wanted it to say)

A kid i know at work tried the "i'll read your signature" line on me. It was a slow day and i'm just stupidly drawn by things that promise to reveal some hidden aspect of my personality to me - so we sat down and the first thing she said to me was, "You don't like to own things." Wow. I must admit i have heard a variety of truisms like "you've been hurt before, you're very strong", etc etc... never something as specific as this though.

The reason i mention this is because over the last couple of weeks, my latest acquisition has been getting a lot of attention. My house. I bought it in the suburbs last year. To give you an idea of just how much of a big deal this is, let me explain. I prefer a laptop over a PC. Soft, light-weight bean bags and mattresses have been the preferred choice of furniture (i use the term loosely). I've never bought a TV or felt the need to. My only piece of furniture was a dismantleable spare-design burma-wood table and bar-stools and cupboard for clothes. Anything else would limit the 'up-and-move' quality of my existence, as seen from the average of 7 residences in as many years.

To a very large degree, this 'up and move' aspiration has been reflected in my romantic relationships. Anyone brought up the M-word, it would usually be the beginning of the end. Suddenly, things that were accepted as normal, would begin to irk - his need to just go off without leaving a note, his video-game dependency, his possessive streak, etc. And behind all the irrational arguments and the nagging nit-picking, would lie the question, "This is what i'm supposed to live with for the rest of my life??" And the answer, unfortunately, was more often than not 'NO'.

But now i own a house. It doesn't up and move. You can't pack it up and carry it with you to unpack on a hillside with beautiful views. In fact, there is little you can do with it except come back home to it every night... and repair its blemishes. And keep investing in it - your time, money, patience, peace of mind.

Much like a marriage. I find myself working really hard to keep my house looking just-so. No, i'm not anally-retentive when it comes to dust, or a bit of clutter, but i like my house to be mostly sorted. It helps me relax. It helps me unwind after a long day filled with agravations. Things that get broken have to be repaired. Things have to be bought. There is no out. You can't just leave because at some level you don't want to - it's home. Like a marriage should be.

The thing is, I didn't really buy the house. My parents bought it for me. (No, i'm not a spoilt brat...not a materially spoilt one, in any case.) This particular investment was done for various reasons - great investment opportunity, convenient base in Bombay, but most importantly, giving their only daughter roots in a rootless life. Mom even bought me plants that now i have to keep alive.

Ever since that time, things seem to be going completely out of control. .. or atleast the kind of control i'm used to having my life in. First there was the house, then there was heavy, wooden furniture, then a JOB to battle the vagaries of freelancing income to pay the EMIs, and now talk of getting a car.... All this, while there's still little to eat in my refrigerator and i'm fantasizing of just 'up-and-move'ing to Barcelona and earning my living as a bartender.

And this is where things get really freaky if i take the analogy forward. If my house is like a marriage, does that mean that even when i'm in it, i'll be constantly fantasizing about getting out, and more importantly, will i have to be kicked out of my inertia-driven state and almost forced into it?

The bottom line is, I sense myself growing roots, and the worrying part? It's not an entirely unpleasant feeling. A minor concern stays - When i look back at this time of my life 20 years from now, will i think that this was the point when i started losing myself and becoming the complete stranger i find staring back at me from the mirror now-then? Maybe. But for now, i love that in the mornings, bright sunlight streams into my living room, and the pretty flower-buds of my potted plants peek at me as i stand there, idly flipping through the papers, wondering whether i should order pizza for breakfast.

It's cozy. If this is marriage, it's allright.


The One said...

I am petrified of dropping anchor, but at some level I guess I already have. Someone recently told me (after my car broke down on the highway, presumably due to poor maintenance) that I don’t deserve to possess anything. I guess you are better off.

Don’t potted plants bring mosquitoes?

Searcher said...

Stagnant water leads to mosquito breeding, but from what i understand, plants themselves don't bring mosquitoes. In fact, several plants and trees (lemongrass, rosemary, marigolds, etc) actually are great mosquito repellents. See? I'm so paranoid about killing the silly fern in my house and incurring my mother's (she's got a wonderful, green thumb as opposed to my black one - i've murdered two plants already) rolling-eyes expression, that i have been reading up. Go on, ask me anything :-)

The One said...

Thanks. But that privilege is reserved for Cecil B. Adams.

He's brilliant! Not that you aren't, but his views are... um, um, ... for the lack of a better word more utalitarian.

Incidentally, I have spent one evening this week feiigning interest with someone who was moaning over a bonsai whose one side died in transit from Cal. So botanical discourses are not quite the desired flavour of the week for me.

The One.

PS: I am not responsible if you are found ROTFL after reading the site.


Searcher said...

Yes i did end up grinning broadly for a while. But check this one out:

Most of life's important questions answered.

PS: One side of a bonsai died? Is that possible? Isn't death by its very nature... umm.. all inclusive? Or is there a version of 'brain dead' among plants?

azuregoddess said...

I moved into my new apartment four months ago (that my parents also bought for me) and my first fear was the same - I now belong. I now have a home. I now pay property tax. I am now that much closer to suicide than ever before!

The One said...

Don't ask me. I have no clue how can one side of a plant die. But it seems if you cut all the leaves it would bring the whole thing back to life. Whatever.

I am counting on death being, hmmm... all inclusive.

Visited the site. The first post reads:

Dear Economist,

I’m looking for ”the one”. Is he out there?

Ruth, Barcelona

Ironic. Isn't it? Down to the Barcelona bit.

Searcher said...

As i said, answers most of life's important questions :o) About the plant, asked my mother (a well-spring of botanical information) and she said that sometimes, if you cut off the dead parts (like gangrenous limbs), the rest of the plant can flourish... So the plant wasn't technically dead. Ta da! *whew* I can now go back to my belief system in peace.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Searcher. I share your views.

It kind of made me sad to read it though. I too have moved a lot in my life and wonder how it would be to 'settle' down in one place. But what made me shudder was this.... It dawned on me after reading your post, if settling in one place can make me feel so would it feel to 'be married'. Shucks. End of life. End of freedom. End of everything good.

Searcher said...

Anon: I think Marriage as an institution has probably got the worst PR in the world :-)

Azuregoddess: My point was, after that initial knee-jerk reaction ("let me jump off the building now!"), it actually falls into place. But it's quite likely that that calmness came from something my brother (who's very aware of my quirks) said to me. He said, "Don't think of this as yours. Think of it as the folks', and you're just paying rent and staying here on a multiple-year lease." SO, i can always leave. That knowledge makes me want to stay. COntrary. Contrary.

The One said...

Searcher: I agree. Inspite of myself, I hope to be married someday. Having heard so much, one just can't afford to miss out on it. For better or for worse. (What I tell my parents is a different story altogether!!!)

Searcher said...

Marriage technically works. That's what the age old 'happily ever after' stories are about. The trick, however, lies in finding someone who prescribes to the same definitions as you. And of course, luck. Lots of luck.

Anonymous said...

S, I can't believe you are a part of 'marriage technically works' camp. I mean, if you had that stifling feeling just by owning an 'apartment'.....don't you think you will feel infinitesimally fettered by getting tied down by marriage? And there isn't really a year to year lease on marriage you know.

Damn...again one of those stupid word verifications...:-0.

Searcher said...

The difference between a house and a marriage however is that one of them, you CAN take to the hillside with lovely views. Ideally, a marriage is so much more 'free'ing - you're done with the bar-trawling scene, you no longer have to play the a/s/l game, there IS that one person whom you go back home with, that ONE person who's privy to the real you, who can look at your face and just by a touch on your back, let you know you're not alone... Remember, i did say 'ideally'.

Anonymous said...

Ideally, the evasive. May be. I still don't get it. I am enjoying casual sex for the moment. I think its more freeing. Ok, I mean casual sex not with just any tom dick or harry, but with atleast half way decent, intresting, inteligent hot men. I guess Im still shopping for that 'perfect' white shirt...Im still trying on and havn't found the perfect fit. (what ever 'perfect' means). Marriage brings mortgages and children, not something you can take with you to the hillside, and who will babysit your kid when you are bartending in Barcelona?


Searcher said...

Wow! You REALLY don't want to get married :-) I'm saying it works for people who think alike... people who fundamentally want the same things. That would mean, a husband and kid who're just as happy in barcelona as anywhere else. And it's great to try on as many shirts as you want, in fact not even buy any... i know hordes of women (and men) who enjoy window shopping. But, don't knock it until you try it. That's true as a philosophy not just for marriage but for anything else.

Searcher said...

Oh.. and you can have mortgages AND children without marriage...

The One said...

Anon. While I fully support your trying out white shirts (as most men would), and try as many as you can, let me also tell you what the perils of such a strategy are (though you will argue, there isn't one in the first place, but there is, always is.)

The problem with being with too many people, in too many relationships (casual or otherwise) is that you just know too much. You end up with a huge laundry list of likes and dislikes, and then you try to fit everything into your concept of the perfect partner. Which is ideal, but unlikely, right?

Then about being able to live life on your own terms (means different things to different people, for me it could be running a book shop in Goa, for the Searcher it is bartending in Barcelona), is also about finding a like-minded partner. Chances are, that you will go wrong in your assessment of a person, but then, have you never fixed something that went wrong, ever in your life? And then in the times we live in, marriage has ceased to be an irreversible event in one's existence.

Then there is the issue of sustainability. It might arise out of crossing over to the other side of the proverbial hill, or having to constantly deal with the highs and lows of a non-committal relationship. A lot of married/ settled people (especially women) tell me that they miss the spark of the early stages of their relationship. I love that too. But honestly I think if I had to go through the spark, the butterflies (or the uncertainty) every month, it would knock me out flat in about a year.

I agree with Searcher on the ideal liberating aspect of a commitment, so wouldn’t talk about that much.

Have you seen “Shall we Dance?” I think there is an important nanosecond in that otherwise ok movie. That’s about having a “witness to our lives”. Cheesy, but true. (I just picked it up because I watch ALL dance movies)

I have lots more to say, but I’ll save it for a post.

End of the day, I always believe (second hand again), that our best dreams seldom come true, but neither do our worst nightmares. In life you’ve just got to trust. Nothing ever went wrong with people who did nothing. Things can go right or wrong, only if you take THAT plunge.

Sorry, if I sound pedantic- I just had a very rough day at work.