I overheard a conversation at a parlour here a couple of weeks ago that has been on my mind ever since-a woman was getting her hair cut, and the hairdresser suggested that she highlight her hair blonde-to which the woman replied: ‘Oh no, he wouldn’t let me. He likes my hair dark.’ Then, laughingly, she added, ‘There is no me anymore’.
I was immediately taken back to a conversation I had with a friend a couple of months ago. She told me she was having problems with her boyfriend. She talked about how the only problem with her relationship was that he couldn’t control his temper. That he yelled at her whenever he got angry, he said a lot of horrible things to her and then apologised right after because of course he didn’t mean any of it, and then the cycle repeated itself. However, she added, it wasn’t all bad. ‘He’s great otherwise, you know. He lets me wear whatever I want, and he doesn’t mind me hanging out with my guy friends.’ I remember wanting to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and tell her to run as far as possible from this guy. I found it ridiculous that someone as smart as her would put up with this kind of shit which was nothing short of emotional abuse.
Relationships are confusing, everything seems to be a grey area, and when a relationship ends, the person you thought was the love of your life suddenly becomes a stranger. It can all be quite overwhelming. As I sat with my coffee a couple of days ago and read a beautiful blog post on love written by my best friend (http://lifeinparaphrase.tumblr.com/) , I thought about my relationships, the people who were once such a huge part of my life, and now play little or no part in it at all. I thought about my close friends, a group of smart, beautiful, opinionated women-who have each also been with men who have treated them as inferior, who felt they were entitled to pass judgment on their lives, to control them in insidious ways.
‘Don’t wear that.’ ‘Don’t drink’. ‘Don’t go out at night.’ ‘Don’t meet your friends so often’. ‘Don’t talk to that guy’. ‘If you’re going to be so focused on your career, how are you going to be a good wife?’ ‘Why are you using lipstick, are you trying to attract other men?’ ‘You’ve become too loose ever since you moved away from Calcutta’-just a few things we’ve been told by men we were once in love with.
Yes it is our patriarchal, misogynistic society (for lack of a better term) which teaches men that they have a right to control their partners-everything from the little choices to the big ones.
But what is it about love that turns even the smartest of us blind to these glaring faults in our partners? What is it about being in love that makes us put up with those precise things we swore we would never tolerate? And what is it about love that puts us in situations that we would scoff at others for being in? Perhaps its some kind of misplaced hope- Maybe he will change. Maybe this is the last time he’ll scream at me. Maybe this time his apology is genuine. Maybe he won’t cheat again. Maybe this will be the last time he hits me. We hurt ourselves over and over and over again, in little ways- Maybe he has just been busy, that’s why he didn’t reply, and in big ways-Maybe someday he will leave her for me, because of course this is meant to be.
Its so easy for us to give others advice- ‘Just dump him’. ‘Cut him off’, and so on. Unfortunately though, relationships and people are more complicated than that. When misogyny, violence and simple disrespect comes from the person we love, lust and like, it can be hard to let go. Even otherwise, sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, and that can take months, sometimes years to come to terms with.
On a pleasant note, I will say that I do believe, and everyone should believe in love. Its a beautiful feeling and each one of us deserves exactly the kind of love we want-whether its the flowers-and-teddy bears-everyday kind or the eating- Chinese-take out-in-bed-in-pyjamas kind, or both. However, in the words of Maya Angelou- ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’