In Defence of Romantic Love

Yes, there’s a reason this essay isn’t titled “In Defence of Not Wanting to Die Alone,” when it could very well mean the same thing. I’ve grappled with the fear of being lonely all my life and this drive to be infatuated with someone else has lead to one crushing rejection after the other. As a teenager, it never struck me that loneliness could possibly be a universal sentiment. Before evolutionary psychology and history books told me that humans are social animals,  my inclination to depend on someone (preferably a wittier specimen of the opposite sex) always left me feeling unhinged.

Growing up, I understood that it was alright to be infatuated, to hold hands, to surpass the daily limit on SMSs while texting that dimpled boy, who rode on the same school bus as me. But there was also this emphasis on being an ambitious, career-minded woman. In fact, this was the only garb that I could flaunt comfortably around my parents, because despite their liberal facade, deep down, it made them terribly uncomfortable to think I might have human impulses.  

Having spent some bitter, unwelcome time in my own company, furthered my understanding of why people fall and chose to stay in love. This doesn’t mean that I don’t trust my friends or family; with family the requirements of loving me were set at birth, but with certain friends, I couldn’t wholeheartedly discard the notion that there might be a sense of conditionality lurking behind every invitation and kind gesture. When a friend extended the invitation to attend a party as a second thought or when another snapped, “you’re not the only with problems,” I couldn’t help but feel as though I were an imposition.

While with others, it was awkward to share my inner monologue. My thoughts about politics, family induced trauma or the weather were often met with blank stares and incomprehensible looks. But all of this changed when I met A in my final year of college.

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Illustrations by Tina Marina Elena

Though I dated a couple of men in college, I knew that none of them were interested in a serious relationship. These relationships were boxed up in neat labels, according to how much headspace they took up (always too much headspace than I’d initially asked for). With A, all the heart wrenching aspects of the single life were corrected.

Around him, it is okay to be vulnerable and needy. It is okay to throw tantrums, to cook badly and to forget anniversaries. It would be tolerated if I passed an obnoxious, judgmental remark about a sensitive issue. It is okay to subtly attack his actions in my verse. It is okay to sing badly (most times) and to let him down, periodically. It is okay to call him up in the strangest hours and share a seemingly inconsequential anecdote. It was okay to move on from being magnetically attracted to his mysterious past, to advising him on how to “optimize” his daily routine. He unravelled the story of my life with patience and warmth, which made his judgments so much more conscientious. It is okay to hesitate and stutter while telling a thrilling story, since I would be egged on by a sympathetic audience. He has the ability to suffer quietly with tedious administrative details while I rebel openly against the whistle of authority.

When the indifference of the world or the insignificance of human life gets to me, I know that my identity is safe. He doesn’t just make me complete or possess a disposition that complements mine. He also performs the most essential task of a lover without any prudence; to reassure me that it’s okay to be myself.

On Fixation

I worry about my attachment style; how often I reach out to people, how consequential their replies seem. I worry that my parents think I’m a disappointment. I worry about the aftermath of my departure from Bangalore. I worry that everyone I love is selfish, and then I worry that I’m selfish for not being able to love without expecting something in return. I worry that my gratitude is crumbling with every moment that my ego feels slighted. I worry that my egalitarian perspective of the world is a complete sham, especially when I exhibit typical ‘special snowflake’ behaviour.

I worry that I’m high maintenance/ demanding/ clingy and every other macho adjective that is used to fit the caricature of an “over-sensitive” woman. I worry that my writing is trite, unimaginative and horrifyingly mediocre. I worry about biscuits disintegrating in a piping hot cup of coffee. I worry that my mother thinks I’m starving myself when I drink soup with four handfuls of pepper, instead of a full meal. I worry that I claim to love animals almost as much I claim to love a double-meat burger. I worry about upholding progressive values in a country that is entrenched in conservatism. I worry about wearing skirts on a public bus, which allows men to ogle at my furry calves. I worry about being typecast as a privileged young adult who could afford to blow her daddy’s cash on an arts degree. I worry that most of what I win is not deserved and most of what I suffer isn’t either. I worry about the ineptitude of my country’s majoritarian government. I worry that my boyfriend doesn’t enjoy sex with me, anymore.

I worry about the primordial greed attached with the economic and political system of capitalism. I worry when I’m so positively captivated by all the privileges capitalism bestows upon me. I worry about calling someone a hypocrite, lest the pot calls the kettle black. I worry that my activism is limited to social justice warrior behaviour. I worry that my vulnerability makes me an enticing target. I worry about cheered along and chided when I worry “too much.”