I remember it like it was yesterday—the first time I was the object of someone’s attention. First and, as far as I know, the only time—until I started dating as an adult.
I was 13 and we went to the same school and the same after-school study centre (we called them ‘tuition’ centres). We were in different sections at school and, therefore, did not interact at all. I never paid him any attention, until I started to notice the odd behaviour from him and his friends at the tuition centre after school.
Once I noticed and correctly guessed that he had a crush on me, I hated him. (Ah, what fun!) Yep, I disliked this boy whom I knew nothing about, all because I knew he liked me.
Because who on earth in their right mind would find anything about me attractive?
(Okay, now, don’t pity me. I see the irony here. Besides, I was hardly original in that thought.)
It went so far as me trying to avoid him everywhere I could—ducking out of sight at school, thoroughly ignoring him in the tuition centre, ensuring I was always surrounded by a group of friends so he couldn’t approach me, even making sure that I did not go to the same senior high school that he went to nearly a year and a half later, and thereafter, ensuring that I did not go to his college a further two years after that.
Only about a decade after I first knew about his crush, did I have a short virtual conversation with the guy from which I did not shrink away. That was the last time we spoke.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s had an experience like this. It is easy to brush this away, stating that attention from people you don’t want it from is always uncomfortable and unwelcome.
While that is true, I cannot emphasise how deeply I felt the notion that for someone to be interested in me, they would have to be deeply flawed. How else could I account for their interest in someone as unlovable as I was?
Having believed that I wasn’t worthy of romantic love the way I was, I simply did not know how to be at the receiving end of attraction and romantic interest.
Throughout senior high school and college, while all my girl friends (even from very conservative families) found their partners, I stayed resolutely single—glaring down anyone who dared suggest anything vaguely resembling any interest beyond friendship.
For a long time, I wasn’t bothered by it. Until I hit 30. I saw that not only my friends from my batch, but my seniors and juniors were all getting married to partners they’d found in college or at work shortly after. Many even became parents. Their lives seemed to be progressing, while mine stayed stagnant.
I felt like all my fellow college-mates had received a memo that I missed.
I had started to occasionally date, but dating while working in large cities, I soon realised, was much much harder than when you were a student, living on campus. Sure, as a student, you were poorer for money, but so much richer for time.
Time is of such huge essence when dating. And working at small, young start-ups never affords you much time. I had long, unpredictable hours and the idea of an hour or so of commute to meet strangers at pre-planned times was not appealing.
Throw in online dating, the mind-numbing choice that comes with it, and the ability to swipe left and right in locations where you’re not at—the whole task of finding a partner just seems insurmountable. Not least because you’re navigating all sorts of questions—are they a creep, will I be safe meeting them, are they feminist/ casteist/ classist, do they find me attractive, do I find them attractive, can I imagine raising my kids with them, will they take care of me when I’m throwing up 5234 days into our marriage?
Even when things haven’t worked out for friends with their partners from college, it never ceases to amaze me that they had, at one time, found a person with whom they had mutually decided to spend the rest of their lives. What an incredible feeling that must’ve been. It would’ve taken so much authenticity, vulnerability, and trust, too, to come to a point where you are ready and willing to make that decision.
Once you hit 30s, I believe there are some things that just no longer seem important. Rather, you begin to decide that you are more important. I, too, seem to have arrived at that point. It is not only tiresome to question my lovability any longer, I now genuinely believe in my virtues. Yes, I’m flawed, but so is everyone else. Given how flawed we all are as humans, it’s a miracle people get and stay married.
So, yeah, I’m good enough. And that is enough.
The coming month shall see us begin sharing stories from within the community. Stay tuned.
Loved the latest newsletter. It's such a beautiful written narrative that was so relatable. Thanks for sharing your personal story.