Along with most of the men present, I too was surprised, because one-sided love sounds more like a punishment than a happy state of being. To love someone who does not love you back seems like an exercise in disaster. I can understand such a love when there is some hope of it being returned in some measure some day, as happens in the movies. Or when you are, at least, admired in return. I can even understand a yearning for something you have shared and lost. But a love that continues with no possibility of return? love conquers all, and so we braved the odds and pitched in our lot with each other. Needless to say, I was deliriously happy — after all, my love story had turned out just as it did in the movies and novels that I had been thriving on in my adolescence! Wow! It was writ large on my face for the whole world to see that I was in love! Adolescent love is heady but erratic. It can put you on cloud nine in one minute, and dump you into the depths of despair in another. But adulthood brings genuineness to love, and thankfully, genuineness is better because it is consistent. Romance, as youngsters see it, is intoxicating, but left at that, it can fizzle out when the party ends and the music stops. True love, which has to be nurtured, brings stability and a comfortable consistency in life — it may not be as exciting but it is definitely more reassuring. It requires a lot of emotional investment which comes from sharing snotty-nosed bawling kids or even one pair of near-sight eyeglasses, going ecstatic over buying the first car, putting up the curtains together in a new house and many such things both big and small. There is no clash of egos here — just care, concern and commitment.To love is to be vulnerable, to leave yourself open to hurt. If you have not experienced the ache and vulnerability, you have probably neither scaled the heights nor plumbed the depths of love! Not many dare wade in deep enough to risk breaking!What comes through strongly is three women who, having taken risks and made their choices, are unwilling to compromise with their idea of love. Women with strong personalities and a clear idea of the kind of love they seek, who prefer to enshrine the ideal within their hearts when reality or circumstances, as they call it, do not allow them to reach out and indulge. And somewhere, these women do realise that it is only here, in a realm removed from reality that love will not deplete into mundane emotion, where it will thrive, to never fade away. And the fact that they need do nothing about it — there will be no expectations either way — may actually be the best thing about it.
And yet, does it not seem like playing in the shallow waters of the beach, not allowing the waves of life to throw you up to the heavens before you land on ground – only to be thrown up again?
This then would depend on the strength of your personality. Are you strong enough to use the one-sided emotion to your benefit, to allow it to energise you and to feed your creative instincts? Or, do you let it enervate you and leave you to regret and fade away like Devdas? Will you allow the emotion to leave you forlorn or thrilled? That depends on how you allow it to play out in your heart — a lonely love away from love — or a divine love that is beyond all love.
We shield our vulnerabilities by adopting masks and skimming the surface of relationships, wading in shallow waters while avoiding deeper engagement and interaction. Armed with sexist clichés and advice handed down generations, we enter relationships with preconceived notions. We strike poses and keep trying either to live up to, or fight, stereotypes. We fear being ourselves lest we are taken for granted — or worse, rejected or ridiculed.
However by avoiding complete disclosure, we also keep ourselves bereft of the wondrous pleasures of loving. Dipping your toes in at the edge in no way compares to diving in deep . Pain in fact opens new dimensions to loving. As bureaucrat-poet Vijai Vardhan puts it beautifully in his book of haikus Ibadat –The Breath of My Soul, “Anguish can open our hearts to a deeper stream. For when we are broken, we are open. Resurrection follows demolition.”
And yet, we are scared of revealing our true selves in a relationship. What is actually vulnerability in a relationship? It is the courage to be yourself, to put ego aside and invest in a relationship without any sureties, lay yourself open, warts and wounds, without caring about consequences. Research shows that most women are nurturing because they believe men want them to be so, and men hold back emotions because they are expected to be disciplinarians and protectors! Where then is the integrity, the true self in all this?
Brene Brown, relationships expert, says, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” Brene recommends embracing vulnerability, having the ‘courage to be imperfect’ and ditching who we think we should be, in order to be who we are!’ Author-politician Tuhin Sinha says vulnerability helps us “remain grounded and objective, and keeps complacence away.”
In trying to live up to stereotypes or breaking them, we forgo the real for the imagined. In striving for perfection, we forget to give the normal its due. We all try to live up to, or live down, ideals. Where then is the scope for being just ourselves, open to love and hurt, to pleasure and pain?
Author Preeti Shenoy agrees, “Falling in love is to make yourself vulnerable. It is giving another person power over your emotions. But oh the joy!” Nikita Singh, romance writer, says, “Giving someone that kind of power over you doesn’t usually end well…. But when I fall in love again…I’ll dare to open myself up and be vulnerable again.”
Could you get a stronger case for embracing vulnerability? Open up, let yourself be seen deeply! As Vijai Vardhan says in this haiku,It is a painful emotion that can either devour you, or be turned around to take you to divine heights Men find it difficult to deal with strong, capable women colleagues! But is this really a gender issue?
Is it true that men constantly try to pull down women at the workplace? Why? Perhaps they do so because they consider the office, and in particular, the corridors of power, their original territory! And a woman walking down the same corridor is something they still haven’t got used to.
Or, maybe men are convinced that women are inferior, and so give them short shrift. Or, is it because knowing the weakness of their own sex, men fear that susceptible male bosses may give women colleagues more attention and bigger promotions?
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that a woman with a strong personality and even average looks can strike terror in the hearts of male colleagues for no fault of hers. If a woman has a mind of her own and dares to question a decision or make a point strongly, she is instantly labelled “enemy” for she has violated the traditional code of conduct between the sexes! And so as a protective response, men label her “difficult to work with”, “hard to get along”, “tough to handle” or “not willing to listen”. This is the global mantra of guys who find it difficult to accept a woman on an equal footing, intellectually or professionally.
Most women professionals realise early on that in order to be heard and taken seriously, they will have to adopt a somewhat serious mien and a nononsense approach. It is only strong women who make it to the top, others fall by the wayside. A softie just will not do, she will be an easy doormat for men to walk over. They will take her lightly and try to fix her in the slot they are most comfortable with — a biddable or sexy type who can be controlled through manipulation. But give men a stern, nononsense approach and they will stand at a distance and wonder what to make of you.
But reflect upon the issue a bit, and you realise that the situation is not as simple as a male-female gender face-off. Certainly, the gender edge aggravates it, but the issue is more about fields of control rather than men not able to accept women at work. And so, as a male colleague puts it, “Men don’t get along even with each other in office situations, except when their work relationships are sharply defined as junior and senior. And when it comes to women, you have to be mature if you are not to feel challenged and diminished. The fact is that women at the top are all the strong ones, who have grown against a lot of opposition from colleagues.”
The competition between women at the same level is equally intense and dirty. And probably that’s how the top bosses like it to remain. Jagged edges, unrealised dreams, unfulfilled desires, and circles just short of completion, all make for edgy people who will give it their last shot to move ahead, rather than sit back in sated glory.
Says Meenakshi Lekhi, advocate and national spokesperson, BJP, and one of the strongest women I know, “Fearing and pulling down people is not gender-specific. This is more to do with the psychology of a person. People who lack confidence and are greedy to gain power by hook or by crook, will attack and pull others down. The fact is that it is a competitive world and when people cannot pull you down on merit, they indulge in attacks based on extraneous issues. Men and women get affected equally. I have come across many very decent men, and also very indecent women.”
And so insecure people all pull down each other, but when it comes to men and women, the situation takes a dramatic turn because at stake here is not just a promotion or hike, but the entire power play between the sexes. Traditionally, a man’s superiority and masculine image has come from the protector-provider role he has played towards women. The role a woman plays in evolution and the cycle of life is enough to make men feel inadequate in any case, and psychiatrists also talk about a man’s deep-seated fear of being rendered unnecessary and redundant. And so a strong woman who can step out and take him on at office as well, makes an insecure man feel emasculated and inadequate. In order to validate his own worth, a man may prefer women to lead lives of dependence and incompetence.
However, let us not ignore the fact that there is an increasing tribe of men who are more evolved and able to accept a woman as an equal being without seriously harming their own psyche. They treat women well, try to understand them, accept their thinking and go along with their ideas as much as with those of other men.
Here is to that increasing tribe of non-challenged men!