Only a woman can nonchalantly label herself what a man would be loath to admit, said the advertising old hand. You can talk to these ad-men they’ve got perspective. They champion so much bull as bounty they are Freudian, almost. “Sure, he’ll hunt you down but he’d label you kinder!” And saying such, Sanjay agreed to my definition of me. In the six months following the end of my eight-year marriage I had it chiselled down to a phrase. The sum-total of how men perceived me...
Newly single. Suddenly single. Fresh meat. Failed at marriage and obviously looking for validation from another. Fresh meat. The perfect chase and perhaps the easy conquest? Fresh meat.
Did I suddenly turn a swan? All I did was drop a letter in the prefix to my name Mrs to Ms and I am prom queen. Unobtrusively I whisper when they ask the obligatory, “Where’s he… travelling?” We’ve separated. Straight face. No smile but not a hint of apology, or pain. Reaction: I’m so sorry. Cut to pained expression reserved for hospital visits and surreptitiously the desire to acquire my affliction. Incidentally, is it sexually transmitted?
I see it in the eyes of friends’ husbands who’d typically dismiss me with a nod. Now, they gallop to engulf me in a come-to-daddy embrace. This as my friends go from smug, ‘Ah, my man!’ To supportive, ‘Poor thing, if only she’d chosen this well.’ I couldn’t agree more as right that instant I am often encountering, and valiantly disregarding, the well-chosen’s hardware. Do I tell and lose a friend? Thought this dilemma ended at teenage and the consequent horny uncles. Incidentally the rule applies even now. Shut up. Ignore the hard-on. Keep that smile plastered.
They can smell you a mile away. They come in droves. Offer you the patient ear. The shoulder. The endearments you so crave... They’ll baby, baby you back to bloom and WhatsApp you to bed. Beware! No, I am not saying give up on sex just because marriage has given up on you. Only don’t fool yourself into believing this caring, comforting man (married/ single / divorced / separated / widower) is the perfect refill to the newly created void. Not now, he isn’t.
I entangled myself with one such. Let’s call him, Vanilla. So Vanilla’s copybook alpha male. Greek Gods are effeminate even as Vanilla embodies man. Also he’s erudite, self-assured and composed. The impossible mix: dishy and deep. Plus he’s older and, importantly, is an old friend. Raging hormones were certainly not the pull. Meanwhile Vanilla’s tenderness would lullaby me into believing we had a life together. Our beagle (to be named Alpha, after him) was on its way as were days of intimacy. I’d ask him, will we be? “Seamless. Strong. Tranquil.” Incidentally, the seams came undone no sooner than boundaries blurred, and tranquility abandoned me not much later.
And yet he’s not to blame. I’d term him a vaccine. Painful but lifesaving. Mandatory. Early in the day, Vanilla immunised me against (reminded me of?) the love contagion. Me? I could attribute my frailty to a loftier hypothesis but truth is it felt nice. To be wanted. Courted? The fundamental need to love and be loved got the better of me. That I was hurting, and nursing rejection, pushed me to believe what I knew were sweet lies. In retrospect... no less sweeter. And yes, I needed the validation. Wanted to believe. Perhaps slip back into routine...
What is the end of a marriage? Certainly not pangs of loneliness that most imagine it to be. Nor any craving for the one lost. It’s much more humdrum ... It’s the second cup of tea you are accustomed to making. The dilemma of which side of the bed to claim as your own. The remote you are not used to controlling. The newspaper that seems alien for its crisp demeanour. Ah, the John-soiled hand-me-down!
It’s back to you after howsoever long it’s been. Many, if not most, stay on in unfulfilling marriages for this very demon. You. And that fear of being by themselves. And yet, you embraced you. Only being you, as opposed to us, is much more than reclaiming your maiden name. Retracing steps takes patience and effort. And though there might be a few nasty surprises (I am painfully particular…) it can be an engaging discovery. So, enjoy the void. Enjoy the lack of that one. Rediscover you.
And, relish the Fresh Meat status. Play it. Don’t be played.
Nupur Mahajan is a sum of many parts. Ideas are her business even as her creative streak sees her straddle television, advertising, publishing, radio, event ownership and brand consulting. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org