Last week I received a very touching email from a reader of this column. R is 21, studies in a Delhi college and wants to become a writer. She has also recently come out of a relationship that lasted most of her college years and she can’t wait to experiment with her single self. And apparently, I’m giving her the courage she needs to give in to her wild side. I was with a childhood friend when her email arrived. This is a girl I have been friends with for 22 years. She is someone who knows all my boudoir stories. While I was pleased by R’s email, my friend had a slightly different take on it. According to her, I owe R some of the stories of experiments gone wrong… Of mistakes that weren’t worth the price and of doing things before their time. While writing this column, I realised how much easier it was to talk about the good parts and gloss over memories I’d rather forget… Like this one, for instance:
The year was 2005 and I was a single straight girl in love with a single straight boy. Why am I underlining we were straight? Because those were the dark noughties when every time you turned around, you saw someone tumbling out of the closet. Five months into the relationship, I decided to confess my one and only dirty secret to him. So one night, after my straight ex and I were puffing on a post-coital joint, with feigned nonchalance I announced, “So there was this week in Goa last year when I may have, sort of, kind of had The Oral Sex with a girl.”
It was my pathetic attempt at equalling his cool quotient. He was an LSE frat boy and I was an unpaid intern at an unpopular city newspaper. That week in Goa was my only hope of redistributing some of the balance of power in our relationship. With unfeigned nonchalance, he said, “Oh yeah? Cool. I guess it is a phase we all go through. Last month we got really drunk and made out.” By ‘we’ he meant him and his three flatmates and ‘made out’ meant blew each other.
Every magazine worth its money had informed me that men loved chicks who were into other chicks. But was this supposed to be a two-way street? I was too young to know the rules that weren’t written in black and white. Was he expecting enthusiasm? Applause? Acceptance?
For two weeks I wondered what to do. Finally, I decided to just ask. “Are you…bisexual?”
“I don’t think so. It was one of those things that just happened… I think.”
I think. I think. Now why did he have to throw that ‘I think’ in at the end? I decided that ‘I think’ wasn’t good enough. I had to know for sure.
A week later, he returned to London. I had decided I was going to be one of those cool girlfriends who braved the strangest odds to find love and togetherness, the kind that got written about in the magazines I read. I was 18, insecure and dying to please my boyfriend. Basically, I was the classic recipe for a relationship disaster.
For the next 12 weeks, I studied gay sex online with more diligence than I had for my board exams. I also befriended a girl from campus who shaved her head and had tongue piercings. If anyone could help me procure a facsimile of the strap-on dildos I had seen online, it was her. She didn’t disappoint. It cost a month’s pocket money, but my battery-operated rubber and silicon dildo with faux leather belt was worth the investment. I even practised some hand and fist movements that seemed very popular with the gay population online. I practised them so well that one morning I woke up with my hand frozen due to carpel tunnel.
He was back three months later, and I couldn’t wait to play the part I had written for myself. He looked wary when I pulled out my proud purchase, but decided to play along anyway. Confident in my research, I did exactly what I had seen in the videos. Halfway in, he started gasping. It took me a couple of minutes to realise they weren’t his sex sounds, they were the sounds of a woman in labour. I froze. When he caught his breath, he asked me to take it out. Slowly. He spent a long time in the bathroom after. I didn’t have the courage to ask him if he was okay.
Obviously, that was the end of that relationship. Luck- ily for us, we got away with everything but our egos intact. But I know in retrospect that it was a stupid and dangerous game to play. What I’m trying to say to R is, sometimes, it is better to know the rules before you play the game—any game.