Today I read an intriguing blog about relationships called 40 Days of Dating. It is a social experiment where two single friends decided to date each other for 40 days and documented their feelings meticulously. Some people find it a bit bland but I found it thoroughly compelling and was struck by one thing in particular: how normal the concept of ‘dating’ is for seemingly everyone except me.
The two young people in the experiment were so ‘New York’, like something out of F.R.I.E.N.D.S: clean cut, white, artsy, good looking young people who went to Knicks games and navigated a constant barrage of sexual partners. I didn’t know lives like that existed and that actual human beings lived them. I cannot imagine, as a new member of the full time workforce, meeting so many people and having so many options about who to hook up with and who to say no to. Where are all these people that just magically meet hundreds of potential partners every day?
People always ask me how my love life is going and I usually shrug – I’ve never had one. For some reason they are surprised when I say that I’ve never had a girlfriend but when you think about utterly twisted I am, I guess it will make sense. It has been over a year since I moved back to India and, while I knew that meeting girls here would be harder than at university, I had no idea it would be impossible. I have not gotten remotely close to a girl for, what, 15 months? And that doesn’t look like changing any time soon. I’ve given up and don’t really care about anything anymore so I’ve decided to open the floor to the entire internet. I have become predisposed to relationship self-sabotage. Maybe I can explain why.
1. I have no idea where to meet girls
Where do you meet people after university? Book clubs? Salsa lessons? Coffee shops? At college, you are thrown together with a bunch of likeminded, young people from fairly similar socio-economic backgrounds. But as a graduate employee you are in a world where you have to interact with everyone. There are suddenly a lot fewer people nearer your age, forget your interests. At university, there are classes, there are parties and there are your halls: you’re never far away from someone you could picture yourself seeing. But now you spend all day in an office. You come home and have no energy to do anything but eat and sleep. Weekends are for family and domestic errands. The number of days when you can meet other young people has been cut from 7 to 2. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Bars are a terrible place to try and meet girls. Clubs are worse.
The only time I even come in contact with girls my age is once a week when I summon the energy to go to a loud bar with friends. And I can’t hear what any of them are saying. (How old and boring do I sound?) The pretty ones are there with their boyfriends. There are at least two guys for every girl. I have never seen someone at a bar in India pull a stranger. I think the best chance you have is to go out with a group of friends and hope you can impress someone while you’re pre-gaming at home. I’ve seen this succeed once. People here don’t make out for no reason. What happened to making out for no reason? Making out is great. You don’t have to get married ffs. Clubs are so loud and expensive and full of old dudes and the only good looking girls already have a sizable harem of dudes behind them. I’ve never been good at bars/clubs.
3. I don’t know enough people to go to house parties
The few girls unfortunate enough to have endured flings with me (who weren’t already friends with me) I’ve met at house parties. I think I have a decent shot at house parties. They are quiet enough to chat and I have/had decent game when it came to conversations. House parties are also great because the ratio of ‘guys : girls’ is closer to 1:1. But I don’t know enough people in this city to get invited to those kinds of soirees. Lots of young people live with their parents – like me. I definitely think I’m guilty, especially in the past, of going off the rails at house parties.
4. Alcohol ruined my chances many times
After I got mugged while drunk earlier this year, I stopped drinking for three months. I have a drink now and then but I’ve cut down sizably and it’s really improved my life in many ways. However one of my major weaknesses is memory loss and forgetting what girls have said to me when I’ve been drunk. I’ve seen it play out so many times. It’s one thing to feign interest on a terrace, but if you can’t remember what a girl said the next day when she messages you on Facebook, you look like a fool. I am almost certain this is one of my most unappealing traits. Alcohol has ruined many potentially great nights for me (Prague on New Year’s Eve 2011 to name just one) but I feel a lot better now that I’ve cut down. I’ve been able to go to the gym every day, play football every weekend and generally lose a bunch of weight.
5. I think I look terrible
When I look at myself in the mirror, all I see are flaws. This is probably down to being out of the game for so long. My own insecurity about my appearance is one of the many ways in which I’ve begun to believe my own bullshit – a recurring theme in this essay. My nose looks distinctly unfinished (especially from the side), I am hairy as fuck and have the hips of a middle-aged Tamil housewife. Why do I care about this shit? I imagine most guys don’t? I think my only redeeming physical feature is that I’m tall by Indian standards – though that clearly doesn’t count for much. What are Indian standards anyway?
6. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing in this country
I have never hooked up with an Indian girl. Not even gotten close. I peg my expectations for girls to what I enjoyed on exchange year in Germany. I think I was somewhat of a novelty item there. Back in India I’m just another hairy dude (cannot emphasise the hair enough. I have hair on my shoulders for fuck’s sake). I look at the kinds of girls that I got with there and the kind of girls that have rejected me here and it doesn’t add up. Even in England, when I went out to the pub I felt like I had a chance. It was nice. It made the whole experience of going out seem like it was worth something. I mean, why else do we go out? For the music? Pssht. We go out to meet cool people. Evidence of quite a few nights out in India has taught me that I have absolutely no effect on girls I consider in my league.
7. I am obsessed with high-school bullshit like ‘leagues’
Anyone who knows me, knows that while I’m supposedly some heavy business journalist guy on the outside, I’m essentially a 9th grade girl when it comes to this kind of stuff. I size up how someone looks and wonder if we are worthy of one another. I find myself thinking nonsense like “I was hooking up with 7s and 8s at university. Now I’m getting turned away by 6s”. I evaluate how good looking my friends are and who they are with. I look at a pretty girl and all I can think is how much I’d have to change to ‘get’ her.
8. Some part of me thinks about a girlfriend as an achievement one has to ‘get’
I find myself subconsciously still wanting kudos from others about the girl I’m seeing. Again, it’s probably some deep rooted craving for external approval. I think more about what my friends will say or how I will be perceived when I’m seeing someone, than how much I’ll enjoy her company. I mean, all that matters is how you and your partner make each other feel but I’ve forgotten how nice that is. I’ve forgotten how secure you feel when you aren’t constantly wondering what “the guys” will say about the girl you’re seeing. Subsequently, I ignore girls who would be great for me by focusing on someone who isn’t really interested in me just because of the whole absurdity of the “thrill of the chase”. Instead of actually experiencing companionship with someone who actually likes me, I’m looking the perfect girl.
9. The ‘perfect girl’ doesn’t exist and doesn’t want me anyway
I tend to chase after the wrong girl. This has been the defining feature of my disastrous descent into relationship self-sabotage. I have in my mind, an idea of the kind of person I should be with, and then I pursue her even if she’s off limits. A worrying trend among girls I’ve had flings with is: they are at least 2 years older than me and are not exactly single. While it was all fun and games at university, it seems as if 25 year old girls are now looking to date guys for a couple of years with the intention of settling down. This means I’m competing with guys who are five years older and have money and aren’t kids like me. This inevitably leads to me being hung up about a girl I have no business going after and ignoring others I should be letting in.
10. I make up reasons why I don’t want to see a girl who I know likes me
You should hear them. I dare not utter them. But they exist and they are getting more and more bizarre. Someone is not well travelled enough. Someone is too short. Someone cheated on their boyfriend and would probably do the same to me. Someone isn’t good looking enough (urgh). Someone’s voice is too jarring. Someone is too old. Someone is too young.
So there you have it. Do any of those sound familiar to you? I found myself without anyone to talk to about this stuff so I’ve poured it out for everyone to pick the bones out of. I feel marginally better knowing that it's all documented here in one place. Maybe some of those things are standard for guys. Maybe some are standard for someone living in a city that’s not really their home. But I think that this is me getting used to feeling sorry for myself and convincing myself that nothing will change as long as I stay in India. I have this pie in the sky dream that if I returned to Europe all would be well and I would pick up where I left off. I’m blaming this country for my own insecurities.
I watched a movie called English Vinglish recently and, for the first time with a Bollywood movie, a line really stuck with me. It went something along the lines of “if you hate yourself, then you will hate your life and the world around you”. This made me sit up and think. I hate almost everything about myself at the moment: the way I look, being alone, not doing that well at work and being talented in things that no one really cares about or is going to pay me bags of money for.
It started with my saying no to a delightful, beautiful girl who took a big risk by telling me she liked me way back in 9th grade. And I can’t help but think the wounds I caused myself through that mistake are still festering away today. I don’t have a plan about how I’m going to be happy. I am open to any advice you may have. I want to be the confident, smiling person I was in 2011. I had no trouble going up in front of 50 strangers and making them laugh at a comedy club. Now I’m just sitting here waiting for something to change. I’m waiting for the perfect girl to reach out again, like she did in 9th grade, so that I have the chance to say yes.