Fractured Discourses

Note: Papa, Dad, Appa – please don’t read this one. Pliss. You know most of it, but still. DON’T.

 

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Very much alive and kicking, my friends. As always, the long silence was owing to exams and internships. Back again till they come back to bite me again. But only two more semesters before I graduate so that is great 😀

I’ve spent the last two months in Mumbai – i.e permanent residence of the home and the heart. I worked over the week, met all my friends over the weekend.

Couple of months ago, I wrote a post about my second stint at Tinder. I gave it a shot. I did. When I wasn’t creeped out, I even went out on a few dates.

I also got talking to this one fellow who was lawyer. (Yes, yes, you can tease) It was hard for me to visit Mumbai in those months so we mostly spoke on chat. Let’s call him Z.

Z started off by saying he was looking only for hookups. I politely declined and said he would have to look for someone else. A few weeks later he sent me another message, saying he had reconsidered and wanted to see how this worked. I agreed, albeit with some trepidation.

We got talking. It was fine for a bit. And then, I don’t even know when it began to derail. Let me explain.

We realised early on that we were very different people. I am cautious, he was impulsive. I like order, he likes surprises. The likes. I thought that was interesting. I also understood that meant we’d disagree on many things. That was fine.

Except, as it turned out, it wasn’t. At least for Z.

If I disagreed with him, he blamed me for ruining his day. If I refused any of his requests, he said I was a cruel woman who did not care for his feelings. Each one of these accusations began with something on the lines of, “I care for you so much but you…”

He once suggested using some level of “force” with a woman was sexy. I did hear alarm bells but I didn’t want to be “cruel”. So I told him he was all kinds of wrong and there was yet another drama that unfolded.

Another time he said, “When we do start dating, you will have to put up with my busy schedule.” When I remarked that – a) He hadn’t asked me what I wanted, and b) I might be just as busy in less than a year, so he’d have to make his share of compromise. He laughed it off, like it was a preposterous suggestion. 

I could not ignore the alarm bells this time. I decided to end things. I told him things weren’t working out; I fundamentally did not agree with most things he stood for and it was best to end things on good terms.

He threw a tantrum. Which was okay. He called me names. I was expecting that. When it didn’t stop for over a week, I blocked his number. He managed to find me on Facebook. I blocked him there. He found me on Linkedin. I blocked him again.

The only thing that worked in my favour was that I am paranoid enough to never reveal where I live or work to any strangers or on any social media platform.  

I am not telling this story to talk about a bad experience on Tinder. What I want to get at it something entirely different.

All my life, I always wondered why women, especially those who are financially independent, put up with abusive partners. Didn’t they understand they were better off leaving? For those with children, did they really want them to grow up in an abusive home?

I think I now have a faint understanding of why they do what they do. It is guilt.

They are somehow made to believe everything is their fault. If things go wrong, it would be their fault. That fixing things was in their hands — their responsibility, even.  

I call myself a feminist. I take a strong stance against patriarchy. I never looked for a man to find happiness. Why then did I not end things the first time Z said something sexist? Something demeaning? That’s what I would have asked a friend to do. Why didn’t I do so myself?

Because I also believed it was my fault. Every time I was called a heartless bitch, I believed it. Every time he said I had ruined his day, I felt guilty. That is why I didn’t act. I was on a mission to be a better human being.

It took me months to understand that I was wronging myself, not him.

Every once in awhile, I put up a fight. In the end I waved the white flag because I’ve always felt the compulsion to fix what is broken. Z was smart enough to catch that early on and cash on it.

Emotional abuse is subtle, almost indiscernible for the longest time. Like a snake that slithers its way around you while you sleep and by the time you open your eyes, it has you in its vice like grip. It doesn’t leave scars that you can show to the world as evidence of your suffering. You try to convince yourself that it was just a nightmare, until you realise you are living in one.

The point is, all the feminist reading I had done so far in my life equipped me with arguments, but not with the ability to empathise. I know empathy cannot be taught. But writings on gender based issues are clearly lacking that element and that needs to be addressed. I think that purely argument based writing is desensitising, at some level. That’s one of the reasons I’ve now stopped following what used to be my favorite e-magazine, The Ladies Finger.

Fiction (often) does a good job of evoking empathy and true understanding. Academia cannot be expected to cater to it. It’s their job to be neutral. What is left in between in social media, editorial columns and writers and celebrities who have a social media following.

It is always, always easier said than done. That needs to be understood, remembered and respected. I had a hard time ending things with a man I barely knew or cared for. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for wives and mothers, women in long term relationships, etc.

Understanding and compassion are the origin, there is no way forward without them. We can find readership without it, but cannot hope to be of any help.