I’m the kind of girl who can spell ‘onomatopoeia’ when I’m piss drunk. I may not be able to walk in a straight line and I may fall asleep in the study instead of the bedroom, but ask me to spell anything other than ‘Mississippi’ and I can win a spelling bee even with alcohol coursing through my veins. That’s just how our school raised us: a Lady never forgets her spellings. I’m also the kind of girl who has no problem telling a boyfriend off for waking me up at dawn for a barely-crossing-the-line performance in bed. He recently admitted that out of the many, many, many women he’s been with, he’s never had to deal with anyone who complained as much as I did about—let’s call them situations, just so I don’t get dumped or, worse, find myself frantically looking for a lawyer to fight a breach of privacy lawsuit.
For a while now, I’ve suspected we’re in a relationship of some sort… That even while I was trying to charm the pants off the bartender for a round of free shots, I may have simultaneously been hurtling towards a scary, foreign place with him; far ahead of the comfortable friends-with-benefits land that I’d put down my roots in. I can’t pinpoint one specific moment when our equation changed. There’s no defining moment, no grand gesture in our story. Falling in love felt natural; a logical progression for two people who were so emotionally, intellectually and physically drawn to each other.
Which brings me to the biggest, longest and hardest word in my dictionary—‘relationships’. Ever since I’ve realised I might be in one, my heart has been yo-yoing between my mouth and feet. Even though nothing has changed, nothing feels familiar either. We used to be comfortable around each other, and we used to make each other happy. Now it feels like we’re both secretly walking a tightrope, petrified that what we have will fall and shatter with one wrong step.
So many times over the past two weeks I’ve wondered what has changed. Do we suddenly love each other any more or less now? I don’t think so. Do I want the three big Ms of relationship—monogamy, marriage, more—from him? Most certainly not. Last night, after a blazing row, he flung the R-word at me. I’m beginning to realise that being in love is a lot easier than being in a relationship. As his lover, I was more forgiving, more fun, more everything that made the chemistry between us sizzle. As the other half of this relationship, I’m more focused on doing things the ‘right way’. If we’re in a relationship, it should look and feel like one. Suddenly, I want him to understand thoughts that are new to me, let alone him or this relationship. I’m also realising that doing the right things is very, very exhausting business. And I’m close to giving up now. Not on us, but on this idea of what makes two people a couple.
All around me, I hear murmurs and echoes of the same confusion. From asking for money to refuel the car, to issuing the ultimatum of it’s-your-wife-or-me, my generation of women is grappling with all these relationship questions that we have no answers for. Because suddenly, we’re all playing by two sets of rules. There’s one set that we decide—the one that governs our individual, single and unashamedly selfish behaviour. And then there’s the other set, the one that we’re expected to play by, because, frankly, it just makes life easier—people’s, not necessarily our own. Every once in a while I meet these women who seem to have effortlessly melted their single selves and emerged as the second half of a whole—smooth, sandpapered curves, et al. I’m not one of those women. I suspect there are many more such women out there. Women who are still working on the character sketch of their relationship versions. When it comes to relationships, I think the lines that separate the sexes have begun to blur for a lot of us. We’re all carrying a bachelor within us. And when two bachelors get together, there’s bound to be friction. I think he and I are two bachelors in love. While we aren’t a force fit, because nothing that feels so good can possibly not belong together, we do have a lot of jagged edges. Maybe we’re the kind of pair that is destined to hold hands and hobble along instead of cruising through life in perfect unison. Maybe we’ll always have a frustrating bachelor side to us that the other will never quite understand. Even if all this were true, would that be so bad? Because imperfect as it may be, it’s real. Everything else, I can order off the internet.