There is a critical difference between the single and the single again. No, not marriage or even divorce. This perhaps explains it. I ran into a friend recently: fashionista, littérateur, grandee. We were meeting after a decade, if not more. "You look 20 years younger than when I last saw you,” she smiled questioningly. Well, I said, divorce suits me. Standard riposte to such begrudging compliments. That how dare you bloom? You broke-up girl, go, play dead.
Why the world imagines the uncoupled to look weathered? Convenient stereotyping that. And here, single again, we blossom. Now, single girls never look younger. Rather, single too long, and they start to look jaded. It’s from trying too hard. Waiting too long. Pouting too often (in vain).
Illustration / Amit Bandre
I can tell a single girl from her stoop to pick up the dumbbell. Gyms. Veritable mingles. So what if imagined? She’d write her number on her behind that she pushes back — squatting when not. Her sexiness is labourious. The nose ring, elaborate. Her attention, diverted. Her form… tingling with prospect. Does she score? The trainer with the biceps, she knows not, has just had a baby. But every male is a prospect. And every prospect needs to be hunted down. Bench-pressed. Chin-upped. Married, perhaps. Wooed, certainly.
A sign on my door reads: Wives, Pomeranians, Full-Fat Milk not allowed. What I put out there, mildly, is that bullshit; please excuse. And why not? Fact is I’ve never been more in control. I’ve ticked all the boxes. I’ve had the man, the marriage and the dog. I have the career. Genuine friends. A warm home. And importantly, I’ve made friends with my once enemies: parents, my body, my limitations, and also, my exes.
So yes, I defy a universal truth. I am a woman who’s not needy. Single girls, no matter what the demographic, are the reverse. Hunters, essentially. They yearn men and marriage. Also home, kids, holidays and the dog? That elusive “real life”. They look at men and go, “Ah; he’ll give me home, a happy brood and happiness!” This, even if they are perfectly capable of accomplishing it all solo. My single friends continue to live in “youth” hostels if not share apartments or shack up with parents — strangely in denial of their age and stage in life. They will not get themselves a home, for home they are conditioned to believe comes fitted with a man. And men, they complain, are hard to get.
Are they? Stop looking and they aren’t. “What do you know,” singles retort, rolling their eyes. “You haven’t dated in a decade.” True that. Things have changed. Men get manicures and women sprout pick-up lines. What compels a woman to resort to male maneuvers? Fear. The anxiety of being left out. “All good men are taken.” “If I cross 30 I’ll never get married!” 40 looms. Babies beckon... Come 50; “forget the babies, hey baby yourself.” Men, men, men!
Unfortunately, singles operate from fear even when coupled. “He’ll leave me.” “He’ll take me for granted.” “He’ll cheat.” Try this. He’s cheated on me. Taken me for granted and then, dumped me. So, there. We come from the reassuring security of failure. And no, that’s not left us embittered or cold or even cynical. Au contraire we’re rational. We’ve been down the other road. Of nagging and questioning and threatening. And seeking. Seeking reassurance in the other. Now, we reassure.
We operate from the Zen that translates I. I, the centre. I screw up. I fix. Something amiss? We point it out just as that. No conspiracy theory. No history lesson. No undertones. Singles meanwhile experience hot flashes and splutter tearfully, “How could you… don’t you know me?” When marriage ended, I promised myself that, that is the one statement I will never inflict on the other.
Rather, I will get to know me. And today, I’m almost on a first-name basis with me. I’ve accepted and I’ve corrected much. Am yet imbibing detachment. To love without the precondition of tailored love in return. Find fulfillment in what I do. Not, in what my doing does. And of the other’s doing? I journey from compulsive to conscious living. He can no longer push (all) my buttons. And when I do react, I act in tune with the desired outcome. Not impulsively react. Then chafe. Then mope. Then apologise. Then say, you don’t know me...
Better still; I get to know him. It’s not that difficult. Inculcate an unwomanly trait: Listen.
Nupur Mahajan is a sum of many parts. Ideas are her business even as her creative streak sees her straddle television, advertising, publishing, radio and brands.
Reach her at email@example.com