I was recently having a chat with a buddy of mine. He had just gone through a breakup, and I had invited him over for a couple of drinks. Conversations were going on, and soon, they inevitably turned in the direction of relationships and their temporary nature. The friend in question was distraught and generally disappointed with every woman on earth (as most guys do because they want to blame everyone but themselves).
He talked about how every girl in the world is the same as if he had met them all and how being in love is a massive waste of time.
Before he could make me join his ‘forever single, never mingle’ type gang, I tried to reason with him. In all honesty, I just wanted the drama to stop. A part of me, however, genuinely wanted to understand how my friend was feeling. We started talking real stuff, and a few minutes later, he told me the reason for his breakup. His girlfriend wanted to stay at a friend’s place after a late-night party. It was a group of 4-5 friends, and they were at her friend Rajiv’s house.
In the glorious expression of all his insecurity, my friend ‘forbade’ her to stay at a ‘male friend’s’ place. One thing led to another, and he started calling her names and basically gave her two choices. Either leave Rajiv’s place, get a cab at 1 in the night and return home or leave him forever. Keeping in mind the supremely safe streets of Delhi and my friend’s general assholery, his girlfriend made the obvious choice.
Cut to, one week later, and here he was – again in all his glory, crying and abusing the millions and billions of women around the world. He wanted to scream as loud as he could and tell all the women that their freedom would always come at a cost — the cost being unnecessary jealousy and insecurity that the Indian male ego usually can’t handle. He wanted to tell them that once they are in a relationship, they should either be subservient to their partner’s whims or be called some awful names reserved for ‘those type of girls.’
My partner, who was sleeping in the other room, woke up because of all the commotion he was making and sat by my side, listening to his seemingly endless drivel. As soon as he saw her, he quieted down and started sobbing. She asked what the problem was, and he, like an obedient child, narrated the story once again. Now, the thing is, I do not take drunk-talk seriously because although it is as honest as it gets, it is meaningless at the end of the day, or the drinking session for that matter. My partner, however, takes these things quite seriously.
She asked him to calm down and started talking some sense into him. She told him that for any relationship to thrive, mutual trust is paramount. She told him that no matter what, one simply cannot give ‘options’ to a woman because, like any other man, she too has the right to freely choose whatever is best for her. She gave relevant examples of how this deep-rooted discriminatory behaviour, down the line, could become something monstrously toxic and highly harmful. She told him many such things and, in the end, advised him to introspect and think whether he would want someone to behave in the same manner with his younger sister. There was a silence after that.
Because we were not living in a movie, her one speech did not cause a sea change in my friend’s mentality.
At the end of the silence, he just said sorry and crashed on my couch. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t change. Some people never do because they are the product of years and years of a certain noxious upbringing. I just felt glad that he was single again, for the sake of his now ex-girlfriend, and prayed that he got some semblance of maturity.
One thing did change that night, however. I started respecting my partner even more. She put forward some really valid points, which also made me think about my conduct toward her. Did she actually feel free with me? Was she able to speak her mind to me, or did she censor her thoughts while talking to me? Was I providing a safe space for her to talk?
I did discuss all of that with her a few days later, and what she answered, well, that would be the topic of another article story.
The topic at hand is how it feels to be in a relationship with a real feminist. It is difficult to encapsulate it in one sentence, but the closest I can come to describing it is that it helps you introspect a lot. Whenever I have a conversation with the girl I love, there is always something new to learn. Be it the countless instances of casual abuse women face at their workplace or the sheer shamelessness of the male gaze that they have to face almost every day. I had no clue about any of it because, to be frank, I have never been subjected to such discomfort!
Being in a relationship with a feminist opens your eyes to a horrible world that is just around the corner, but you choose to ignore it.
It also gives you an important perspective into the world of women. How they see things, how they judge, and how their instincts kick in as soon as they meet a man. I was surprised to know that most women can tell if you are a creep in not more than a few minutes of meeting you. It shocked me even more when I came to know about the seemingly minor instances of casual sexism women face in their home, workplace, or any other goddamned place, every single day!
My countless conversations with my partner and the habit of always listening to her have helped me become more observant, and I hope, more empathetic. It makes me want to do better for her and become a better person. And while there is immense scope for improvement, I am glad that she has helped me take the first few steps toward being a better and more respectful partner.
If only the same could be said about my friend…