Sunday, November 25, 2007

Great Expectations

A mid-night conversation last week sparked the articulation of MinCat's "Philosophy" of love, life and relationships. It has been taking shape over the past two years, and it seems like every couple of months it grows just a little bit more. What better way to document it than here where I can gleefully subject y'all to a little lecture on how to live your lives? :)

Every one of us has been in what I like to call an expectationally-awkward situation at some point in our lives. Person A, in the relationship* "expects" too much of Person B, eroding B's space and peace of mind, and causing the normally stable A to mutate into a strange, moody, resentful, melodramatic creature that, frankly, neither A nor B likes, and B to become withdrawn, distant and cold.** Discomfort rises, if A is like me, then A tries to be cold and distant and fails miserably, being unable to say no to B, and rationalizes it by thinking it is also what s/he wanted to do all along, so there is no point in cutting off his/her nose to spite B. B spends more time solo or on other people in other relationships, because s/he is "teaching A not to be dependent and demanding", and assuages any guilt by telling him/herself that all relationships are unequal and s/he is only being true to him/herself.

One fine day they "have to talk". Except for one time it was always I who started this bit in my experience, though I suppose it depends on the type of A and B in the relationship. They sit down and begin. A says how s/he feels neglected/lonely/left out. B says how s/he feels pressured/claustrophobic/walled-in. A says s/he isn't asking for all that much, just a little attention, after all doesn't B care at all? B says s/he cares, but s/he is who s/he is and A can't change that and has no right to expect it to change just to accommodate A's hypersensitivity and neediness. B has lots of other friends who don't think anything is wrong with him/her! Well so does A! Good! says B. Can't A see that people love A and A needn't be so needy and clingy? The bottom line is that B needs his/her space and A is going to have to accept it.

One of two things happens here. A is deeply insecure and terrified of "losing" B and therefore gives in and makes an effort to be less demanding and less needy, especially since everyone else is telling A that s/he has too many expectations, s/he should just NOT expect anything from anyone! A stops to rethink everything s/he says or does in relation to B and interaction becomes forced and awkward. They are both holding back and watching the relationship, and neither finds the person with whom they originally wanted to interact in the relationship anymore. Eventually they reach what I call the "pre-disappointing stage" where A is expecting to be disappointed and gets no joy out of anything because s/he is always telling him/herself that s/he cannot have expectations and B will disappoint them. This would work very well if it weren't for the fact that (a) in the process of pre-disappointing A is articulating expectations anyway, albeit inverted, and (b) it didn't hide the little baby A underneath it all, who is hoping that the disappointment will be disappointed, and B will actually end up exceeding the inverted expectations. They spend less time together and eventually their relationship dies out, and both move on slightly more wary of As and Bs they might encounter later on in life. The next time A encounters a B, s/he will keep walls up and be ever-so-faintly bitter and resentful from the start, pretty much preempting any real connection, and B will sidestep and withdraw from any A s/he meets, with much the same result. Both imagine they have learned from the relationship and chalk it up to life-experience.

Alternatively, A could get angry and say well THIS is who *I* am, why should you just assume that I am the one who needs to deal with it, I can just as easily say, YOU deal with it or go. This would work except B is the more independent one in the relationship, and so B goes, leaving A hurt and resentful and bitter, and B shaking his/her head and saying never again.

With me so far?

In my life I have had at least 12 like this, with friends, family, crushes, and most recently, BSW. In the beginning I would emerge hurt and angry then it morphed to indignant and resentful (why do they always behave like this??) and finally became exasperated (how come I am the only person in the world who goes out of my way for other people and no one can be bothered to meet me halfway??? I mean, I'm not asking for more than I give!). Of all those relationships, some ended with anger and never wanting to see B again, some ended with feigned indifference but hurt bubbling under the surface, and some, thank heavens, have been salvaged by the Philosophy.

The epiphany I had was simple: the irksome part of this entire routine was that it denied the validity of that statement, "THIS is who *I* am, why should you just assume that I am the one who needs to deal with it, I can just as easily say, YOU deal with it or go" simply because B leaves. At least when A tries to deal with B in the reversed situation, B's point of view is validated. And then it struck me! The problem was not that B wouldn't deal, but that B, and everyone, acted like A had no right to be upset over B. Everyone endorsed B's right to be claustrophobic about A's behaviour, but no one accepts that A has the right to be hurt by B's, INCLUDING A!

The solution, for me, became very simple too. All I had to do was accept that I had the right to be upset, just as B had the right to feel suffocated. Of course it helps if B and "everyone else" also accept my right to be upset, but accepting it myself is the first step. I found that once I did, i no longer resented B, I was no longer indignant for my violated self (hahahaha sorry I couldn't resist) and I could regain the balance I lost when I felt insecure, and restabilize the relationship. Of course, once I was stable again, B became less like a hunted creature at bay and was more open to compromise and negotiation that were not him/her seeking protection from crazy me. And thus, the relationships survived, and I became a stronger person for them, instead of becoming one with deeper insecurities and less belief in myself. If I needed to walk away, I could walk away with dignity and joy in the good that was the relationship, and leave behind me all the ickkiness.

(I just realised that articulated, it sounds ridiculously like some self-help book. sigh.)

*by relationship I refer to interaction between two people on some level of intensity - friends, family, lovers, Sig(nificant)Oth(er)s, whatever.

**I'll be honest here, I'm an A.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New York Moments

*croons* In a New York minute.... oo oo oooooo...

This afternoon, when the Poo and I toddled off to the supermarket to stock up on food, I had a delightful encounter. A short lady, who looks much like many aunties from Amma's generation, is standing in the bus stop. She wears an orange jacket and has glasses and a salt and pepper bob. She's carrying bags from the same supermarket, and is amused to see that we are only carrying one bag, especially since she apparently struck up a conversation with the Poo* while she, the Poo, was forlornly guarding the shopping cart while yours truly was darting among the crazed Thanksgiving shoppers acquiring raw materials for lunch, and she, the lady, noticed the full cart. What a delightful sentence! She is from Guyana and keeps house for a family on the UWS. She's been keeping house for this family fourteen years and all told for seventeen years.


The other day, when I was trying to get back uptown at 11pm, the 1 decided not to run and a whole subway full of disgruntled people disgorged themselves from the station. A tall gaunt man yelled anyone wants to share a cab to the UWS, so myself and a little lady hopped into one with him. Turned out that he was an opera singer. No really!! And she went to Julliard, and has one actor son and one graphic designer son. But the opera singer, with his sunken eyes that bored into one, was gaunt from not having food because he was, like all great talent, starving in his rent controlled studio. I swear I felt like I was in a movie.


At Halloween I noticed, and this might not be restricted to New York, that for women, wearing a costume is not about looking like the thing, but about looking like a hooker fulfilling male fantasy about the thing!


A lady in the subway called out to me as I left: I love how your socks match your bag. This was untrue, except that both were striped, but still I was stunned that a nice white lady would DO that!

*It never ceases to amaze me who, whenever I go ANYWHERE with the Poo on public transport, random people start chatting with us. Apparently she attracts them and me, being the chatty one, I keep them hooked.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Please Mr. Postman

Dearest Thati
I was in the train today and I saw an old man who looked a lot like you. That just after I saw another one who looked like Sharma Thata! Sitting there across from him I began to miss you so much it hurt. Sometimes I can't believe you're not lying on your bed doing the crossword.

Do you know Accoo is getting married? Really!!!!!! In December, in Madras. And Juj is going to have a baby!!! a BABY!! can you imagine??? It's so strange, I can't say I ever thought about this stuff...but now that it's happening I feel like I could never have imagined it without you.

I'll miss you so much
love, always

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Read Read Read!

No, seriously!


I apologise if you don't know about this history or this recent news event. But I think that post REALLY explains some things about the Indian psyche.