Its probably quite presumptuous to sit down and write a lengthy exegesis on, of all thing, relationships at the ripe old age of 21. But this is a world where 4th year engineering students from IIT write crappy novels on first love and what not and get published by renowned houses and such stinking pseudo-philosophical gibberish-givers(multiple alliterations!!, I''m on a roll bayybee, now where's my Pulitzer) as Deepak Chopra and Robin Sharma are world renowned authors. So, I guess, I can indulge in my favourite activity of pouring gyaan to anyone who bothers to read. The earlier plan was to preserve all this gyaan till the age of 40-45 and then find an alternative career as a writer to have that second source of income which will ensure that cosy post-retirement nest egg. However, altruist that I am, I have chosen to let go of whatever little shred of materialism I was left with and reveal the eternal wisdom of the universe through a free medium. Come one, come all, and be enlightened.
Inspiration for this post has been provided, apart from my own experiences and observations, by the endless discussions about 'all this stuff' with friends/peers and an ever-present and ever-growing disdain for the available literature on the issue. Yes, John Gray & India Today, I'm looking at you guys. 'Women use sex to fulfill their emotional needs, men use emotions to fulfill their sexual needs' 'This is the age of instant relationships' etc etc. Bleh. How disappointingly simplistic and deterministic, and most importantly, not validated in any strong measure by personal experience. We live in a changing society and often have to juxtapose our upbringing and social conditioning with the waves and undercurrents of newer experiences and influences, to determine and define our own niches on the socio-emotional spectrum. And at all such times, we also feel the push and pull of something more primordial, more natural and more universal, which is our biological hard-wiring. This post is probably just an attempt at carving out and stating my own niche and understanding other such niches around me.
I tend to have a very live and let live approach towards pre-marital sex/live-in relations/casual sex/ one-night stand/whatever, though qualified with a few riders.(what riders?!?! A closet fascist and moral policeman under the guise of a bleeding-heart liberal??...Naah, hang on, read on.) It doesn't matter to me what anyone thinks or does, just as it shouldn't matter to them what I do or think, but it does matter to your partner what you do/think, and vice-versa. This seems like the most obvious thing in the world, and yet if people were to actually take into account this very simple obvious fact, we would have seen lesser odes to the goddess of discord. So here goes, after much introductory rambling, my take on all things great and small.
1. Like I said, I'm not judgemental about anyone's personal sexual/emotional morality. I am, however, judgemental about lack of emotional clarity. There's nothing wrong with being committed, there's nothing wrong with being casual, but there is something very wrong with not knowing and letting the other person know if one is casual/committed, and more importantly in not knowing if it is actually possible for one to be casual at all. Personally, I find it impossible to delineate physical and emotional intimacy, and most people I know think/feel along the same lines(which may not be very surprising .......upper middle class Metallica-loving, cricket-worshipping, short haired engineers tend to have rather homogenous friends and social circles, namely, other upper middle class Metallica-loving, cricket-worshipping, short-haired engineers). However, recent research seems to suggest that there may be some biological basis to this. Apparently, sex (and I suspect any romantic physical intimacy) releases neurochemicals that cause feelings of obsessive emotional attachment. Our biological hard-wiring is indeed funny. We are programmed to be promiscuous, and also to be jealous. Among all primates, we have the highest sex-drive barring chimpanzees, and yet it seems we(or atleast, most of us) can't be casual about sex. In the current context, what that means is that basically, we are hard-wired to create recipes for almost sureshot emotional disasters. Which is why it is important to think, to know and to express. People who are not clear about what they want or what they are ready to give, end up causing a lot of emotional damage to themselves, and worse, to others involved with them. And that is something I do not condone. And yes, very often the only way to reach a level of emotional clarity is to be in various relationships with people who make us realise different things about ourselves. Once, twice, maybe even a few times, (if you started early that is). But I believe that by about the time people graduate from college, in their early twenties, they have no excuse for not knowing what they want from a person and a relationship.
2. Of course, there is only so much that one can foresee and control. As a relationship progresses, people grow and mature differently and this may create incompatibilities that didn't even exist earlier. The uncertainity involved with feelings of intense passion is often one of the most charming things about these feelings. Yet, it is easy to avoid experiencing/causing a lot of heartburn by the simple act of thinking thoroughly, atleast once, before doing something.
3. Then there is the issue of people with numerous liasions and the much talked about stud/slut dichotomy(this word has to be used atleast once in every post of mine). Now I've never been a victim to that particular line of thinking, partly because I've seen enough guys with the 'if she's out of your reach, she's a bitch' mentality to be disgusted by it very early in my life, and partly because the adding-notches-on-the bedpost, scratching-numbers-in-the-locker 'stud' has never been any sort of male ideal for me. However, irrespective of gender, I have noticed that people who flit from one relationship to another and who seem to just not be able to remain relationship-less, have one or more of the following three things in common - a high degree of physical attractiveness(which is commendable), lack of emotional clarity(already dealt with), and excessive emotional neediness. I have also noticed that people who are more emotionally needy are more likely to straddle either or both of the extremes of unreasonable demands on one hand, and absolutely submissive behaviour on the other. Emotionally self-sufficient people are more likely to be close without being clingy. So if someone has been with a lot of people, that per se is fine by me, but it may indicate one of the above-mentioned things, which is going to set a few alarm bells ringing in my head, and which is probably why it also sets alarm bells ringing in other people's heads.
4. Finally, what about the whole deal of playing the field, weighing all options, considering other alternatives/people? I tend to look at it this way - say a person X has been with 10 people Y1 to Y10, and finally commits to and settles down with Y10. Does it mean that that is necessarily a better choice than setlling down with Y1 or Y2? Does it imply that Y10 is better suited/matched with X? Not really, it may very simply mean that X was at a very different point of time in his/her life when Y10 came along, much more ready to compromise and to commit. Some people are ready to commit for life at 20, some are commitment-phobic even at 35, neither is unjustified as long as they know what they're doing. Of course, many young people in the intense throes of passion in their late teens/ early twenties feel their first 'love' is going to last a lifetime, and we all know just how right these peolpe are. All I mean is, there is no automatic lower bound or no automatic upper-bound to commit, the only guiding principles are the legal permissible age of adulthood and security in life, on the lower side, and perhaps health factors on the upper side.
Long, pedantic discourse draws to an end, and yet a list of aphorisms are as yet unmentioned! Maybe, some other time.