Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Shape Of Our Lives

I’ve been thinking of what the last 4 minutes of La La Land were really about. I mean, logically, if Ryan Gosling had kissed Emma Stone the minute she stepped into that club where he was playing the piano, that would be sexual assault. But somehow, despite our knowledge of that, our having witnessed the lives they lived otherwise made that sexual assault and everything that followed so much more preferable. I think it’s because deep down, we know we’re fuck ups who continually cock up our lives because we don’t have the fucking balls to fully embrace the possibility of the other. And we know that sometimes, we really need criminal assault to get us out of the ruts our lives our in.

Like the other day, I bumped into Mark. After years of not having spared him a thought,' I met him just out of the blue. It happened as I was driving towards work and I saw him waiting for a cab. Instinctively, I stopped and offered him a ride. He said something nonsensical, I berated myself mentally for having presumed too much, and finally after 4 long interminable seconds (yes, seconds) of an interaction, I drove on, feeling stupid. And cowardly.

And then just a couple of days ago, I met him again at my job. He’d come to meet my boss and I was just leaving her room. I wasn’t unaware that we may see each other, so I'd had time to mentally prepare myself for a better interaction. I knew exactly how the conversation would go. He would be shocked to see me there, and his entire body language would change setting to ‘Implode’. He would frown as he examined the floor or the walls trying to settle his facial expression to neutral asshole - rumour has it that it's his go-to expression when dealing with others. I can’t really complain since I believe I had a hand in making him who he is today. 

In any case, I would stop in front of him, smile and say 'Hey!’ Given the norms of polite behaviour, he would say Hi and I would explain to him that his meeting has been delayed by 15 minutes and would he like to wait with me outside. Looking at the sea of strangers around him, and the confidence that I naturally exude on my home turf, he would say Ok. We’ll step out and as we wait awkwardly over coffee for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say, I would blurt out my congratulations for his film that is doing well, and then explain how I still had to go watch it. He would smile and nod and look impatiently at his watch, wondering how quickly he could politely excuse himself and get away from me. I would take that opportunity to say that I felt really silly about leaving him on the road side the other day and how I should have insisted but was afraid I was being presumptuous. He would smile awkwardly, disarmed by my candour, and say that he understood - and will acknowledge that even he'd felt weird. 

 We would smile briefly and then he would be called in for his meeting. We would look at each other - a hug too intimate, a handshake too silly - and then we’d wave to each other as he went in to work while I took a breath. On his way out, he’d ask my colleague if I was still around and she would say yes and call me and I would come downstairs and he’d tell me that he needed my number because he had to send some literature across to me to read, as my boss had said. 

A few days later, he’d call me and instead of talking about the expected literature, he would ask me if I’d want to have coffee again. I’d say yes. And we would meet and it would be just a little bit less awkward, and maybe we would laugh once. Like we used to. We would both know that we couldn’t possibly go back to who we used to be, but maybe we could reintroduce ourselves, see if our grown up versions, the people we both had a hand in shaping, if we would stand up to the test of being scrutinised and appraised. And if, for just a few moments every day, we would dare allow the other to affect us again. 

These coffee meetings would lead to early dinners to hanging out with significant others to house parties and dancing and there will be laughter. Incrementally, but surely, there would be a dropping of our guard. And maybe, just maybe, one day we would tell our story to a third party friend who will sit across from us and wonder what it takes to build a real friendship in today’s world of social media alienation and we would say, looking at each other, that you have to let the important ones shape you, and then forgive them if they fucked up the design, but still allow them to shape you, and then learn to love the shape of you that the other made. And vice-versa. 

I knew all this in those 3 seconds as I walked towards him when he entered my work place. And I smiled and said Hey! And his brain imploded when he saw me, and I said that he would have to wait for a few minutes before my boss would be ready to see him. And he said, “What? What does that mean?” And I said, “You’ll need to wait…” And he said, “I don’t understand…” and suddenly something struck me. I said, “You’ll need to wait for a few minutes - not necessarily with me…” And his body language setting changed from Implode to Relaxed Neutral Asshole and he nodded and said Ok. And then my colleague said, “Let me show you to the conference room” and he said OK. And I nodded, and we walked away from each other towards two separate destinations. 

Maybe at that time some assault is exactly what was needed. Not the kissing kind - *shudder* - but more the assertive Bitch Taking Control kind where I would have stopped him from walking away and said, “No he’ll be waiting with me outside where we shall be having a long-fucking-overdue conversation, Even if it kills us.”

Maybe it’ll still happen. At this point however, I feel really bad for that third-party friend who will never hear this awesome story of friendship and redemption and how something amazing can still be salvaged out of our meandering repetitive lives and then there will be nothing to stop him from making the same stupid mistakes that we already lived every excruciating fucking detail of.

It’s really him I feel bad for. Otherwise, I’m fine.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Committed to Sadness

Last night, I asked VJ out. I did part of the whole "date" shabang (I say "date" because I'm not sure any of us date anymore. But - another post, another time). I made a phonecall, invited him out, got dressed up, made reservations, arrived there early, etc. In my head, he was always locked away as the one who got away, the what-if, the One-if-only-I'd-had-the-balls-to-put-myself-out-there. And it was nice. There was conversation, and some laughter, and good food. At the end of the day, I'm not sure if the dinner plan was a good one (we've never really ever had a conversation so I wasn't entirely sure about what he enjoys except his work) but I was happy that I had created that opportunity. Later my friend asked me how it was, and I said - it was nice. Nicer than many other situations I've found myself in. 

And therein lies the problem. The Nicer. The Better. The Comparison.

 Just recently I was having a conversation with my friend Rob about his marriage. It was on the rocks, and as part of the alimony, his lovely wife was demanding to be knocked up. And Rob was considering it. Now, I'm not a particularly maternal person, and I’ve never felt the call of my womb to be filled with alien dna or the desire of my vagina to shoot out a watermelon-sized spawn into the world. That said, I do know that some women still do - what baffled me was this woman’s need to do all of the above with someone who was not interested in sticking around, and whom she despised enough to legally eject from her world. 

And yet, she wanted a piece of him inside of her, and around her, for as long as the little one survived. He, on the other hand, just saw the sperm as the next step, not someone who would become a living breathing embodiment of parts of you you didn’t even know existed, but just something he had to get over with so he could get his freedom.

A recipe for disaster, right? Maybe. 

But the roots of this gigantic mess lie in the words “She’s not like the other girls….” And thus starts a story with its foundations in quicksand. The problem is - Rob (and possibly many others out there) made a choice about a life partner based on all their experiences of other people out there. In today's world of dating, there is no lack of options. If you’re reasonably attractive, clean, well-mannered, well-spoken and even passingly employed (or have prospects), it won’t be hard to find someone to hook up / hang out / netflix and chill with. It’s easy, and that’s really great. 

The downside to that is the sheer empirical knowledge that there is someone better out there. Of course there is, so why bother investing in this person in front of you when a better one is right around the corner, right? And in this world of spotting the best deal, you meet The One. And she’s great.

She’s not like S who was a vegetarian and always made a face when you ordered a cheeseburger.
She’s not like A who used to hog the sheets and didn’t like football.
She’s not like D who had hang ups about sex.
She’s not like N whose parents hated you
She’s definitely not like E who was always smoking up
And not like SS who - well, something was off about her. Total Psycho.

But The One - She’s not like SADNESS at all. You’re not quite sure what she is about, but since she’s not like the others, it’s a good place to start. The problem with this method of elimination is that you spend more time thinking about your experience of SADNESS than you do about The “One” in front of you. Sure she doesn’t hog the sheets, but she doesn’t brush her teeth either before breakfast. Ofcourse her parents really like you but they insist that you join them for morning prayers every weekend. And for sure she doesn’t smoke or imbibe any kind of hallucinogens, but her closest friends are ex-heroin addicts with whom she may or may not have had some kind of sexual history.

My point is this -  When we talk of commitment, what exactly are we committing to? My friend Rob said, “I married her right? That meant I was committed to her.” Did it though? Does signing a piece of paper - that can be negated by signing another piece of equally available paper - mean you’re committed to un-sexy things like a person’s happiness, well-being, growth and future? Are you committed to even changing yourself if that is needed to achieve all those things? Is that even possible when all we know about them is that they’re NOT SADNESS?

And all this makes me worry. 

I worry about Rob and Tom and Alex and all the others out there. I worry about myself too. I worry that we have all lost the ability to see a person for who they are and make the effort to discover that something which is extraordinary about them. Not just that, I worry that even when we find something amazing about them, we find it almost impossible to commit to it, to provide the active participation needed to nurture it and see it flourish. And further, I worry that if someone does in fact recognise the beautiful and unique in us, and volunteers to provide the care we need, we refuse to accept their particular brand of nurturing because - well - there are better, warmer, more charming, more networked nurturers out there.

Most worrying is the simple truth that even when we sit across from the potentially amazing at a dinner table, all we see is how easy or difficult it is for us to be around them, whether they love us for who we are without demanding the exact same thing from us, if they validate our illusion of ourselves without expecting that we do the same for them.  And in that process, we manage to deal ourselves out from the wonderful that they are and we could be because we preferred to minimize them to what we had known and thus, who we had become.

And that's what's really sad.

At the end of the day, I worry that in the process of running from all the SADNESS in our lives, sadness is the only thing we're comfortable committing to.