Friday, October 7, 2011

The Shit They Don't Tell You

It's taken me 32 years of living to realise I know nothing of love. At least not in the way they tell me I should.
I love both my families - the one I'm born into and the one I've cultivated. I also know that I'm loved back. I have felt deeply connected to creatures of all kinds, even objects. I've hugged my fair share of trees & even said "I Love You" to my Ipod and meant it. I've experienced what can only be described as love, when a piece of favourite music reaches its crescendo or when I read a sentence that's written so surprisingly, it takes my breath away.

But the kind of love they write pop songs & billion-dollar grossing films about? I've never known it.

I finally watched BBC's adaptation of 'Pride & Prejudice'. I hoped it would help me learn lessons about love, lessons I might have missed when reading the novel. It was very pretty, very charming and very infuriating - all the ingredients for a good romance, I suppose. Then came the most highly anticipated, deeply intimate moment the lead players had shared so far. After 5 episodes of waiting, this was it:

Surely Liz Bennett & Mr. Darcy had traces of anal-retentive South Indian DNA floating about
He's just proposed to her. She's just said yes. Super. Let's never talk about our feelings again okay? Okay.

Then there's this:
My route to understanding love, as you may have guessed by now, had more pit stops in popular culture than in real life. I never grew up with functional, positive examples of romantic love to learn from. I never knew any other templates of 'love' besides the ones pictured above. My 20's, therefore, were most exciting. 
I messed up all over the place. Misunderstanding what romantic love meant, what partnership entailed and what I needed to look for in a healthy relationship. By 28 I was most decidedly, and dangerously, on the brink of failure. So I gave up.
Then my friends started partnering up one by one and suddenly I had new templates to observe and learn from. Some crashed & burned spectacularly (because they, like me were following the above two templates of 'love'). The ones that stayed afloat opened my eyes up to a whole new world.

There are some who understand the real texture of intimacy more easily than I do. They seem to instinctively understand the unglamorous bits of being in love, the every single day hard work, the non-grand gestures that end up being more memorable than anything in a lovesong. I observe as these couples respectfully give each other the space to be the best individuals they can be, how they resolve conflicts, how they set ground rules, how they become a team, how they go about their normal lives. There's a distinct lack of melodrama, there's also a lot of talking (not as much 'reading of the minds' as I'd imagined) - in short, nothing that fits anything I've been taught 'love' to mean.

Maybe it's time to get real about how we tell love stories. Not just in films or on TV, but even the stories we tell each other, the stories we tell our kids: the little girls & little boys. Maybe in the tales we spin about grand gestures, we can sprinkle in some magic of the everyday kind. Maybe mention how loving oneself is as integral as divine luck in finding true love. Perhaps talk about how thrilling an argument can be when it leads to greater closeness. How sexy it is to know that someone truly sees & respects who you are. That love - any kind of love - is life's work, neverending & immensely rewarding.

It's taken me a while to get to the starting line. Even though I'm a little behind in the game it's not in my interests to look back or regret the lost time. What I can do is celebrate the fact that I'm no longer on the sidelines. 
This happy ending may or may not be like the movies, but I have a strong feeling that it will ultimately & profoundly be okay.        


  1. Amen, Purnima. The 2/3 below the surface is the shit no one tells you. And working your way through each other's differences only makes the relationship stronger. Although it's best not to let anyone know you like to make a mess of a painstakingly made puran poli by mashing it into the milk and eating it like rice. There's no coming back from that.

  2. I didn't put it in the post but your blog is definitely one of spaces I observe and learn from constantly. Little lessons about love. Thanks Neeraj :)

  3. :) Thank you, I'm glad you find the blog useful!

  4. The 20s for most of us seemed to be derived from popular culture, yes, the two extremes screen-capped by you so aptly. I am glad you are out of the sidelines, and I'm sure you will be glad not to have a happy ending anything like the movies, but one that sees you through a life time.