It is around February every year that you realize that you have given up on most of your New Year’s resolutions. It is also the month where an overweight, probably Type II diabetic, mutated baby, with wings, called Cupid comes to terrorize both single and romantically attached people. Yes, I am talking about Valentine’s Day (and the attached evil of dating), the sole reason everything turns slowly pink in the shopping malls, and grown men, single or attached, want to throw themselves in front of large moving vehicles.
The Original Desi Love
Growing up in India, the only concept of romantic love I had was based on Bollywood movies, in which the girl’s father beat up the guy for daring to assume he was good enough for his beautiful, virginal daughter. The message was simpler then: concentrate on your studies, embrace celibacy and become either a doctor or an engineer. Once you have a job which allowed you to afford a scooter, look for a fair maiden who will accept you and love you despite your complete lack of personality and social skills. Then go for a honeymoon where you take awkward pictures with a “Zee serial style” glowing filter (now achievable via Instagram) and grow old and fat together, bitter that you will never be attractive to anyone ever again. If it does not work out the first time, upgrade yourself with an MBA, rinse and repeat.
Indian Love Story 2.0
Fast forward to two decades later, in a cosmopolitan city like Singapore, and you’ll find that the erstwhile Middle Class Indian Guide to Romance is no longer applicable. Firstly, you need to wrap your head around a concept called “dating,” where things other than your educational qualifications matter – things like social skills, having lumps in only the right places, and a sommelier’s vast knowledge of wine. This is not to be confused with the first chapter of the Middle Class Indian Guide to Romance, which outlines how one secures a wife within 160 minutes using the seduction powers of an Engineering Degree. Dating, apparently, is an entire courtship process on its own, starting with finding the best place to meet someone who would go out with a mess like you, and presumably ending in a pre-date instructional YouTube playlist with such helpful videos as “How not to appear needy,” and “You should not die alone.”
Dating: The Necessary Evil of Global Love
Dating in Singapore is a nightmare. While the multicultural city has its perks, when it comes to the dating pool, every race in the world is competing and Indians are simply not designed for winning. Sure, we have some Hrithik Roshans around but most of us are pint-sized, hairy men who sweat incessantly from activities as masculine and physically taxing as drinking tea or using the remote. Indian women, on the other hand, get the better end of the gene pool, with a handful of Deepikas easily available at your nearest Something Quay. However, even if we Indian men did manage to con our way into making a girl believe that we are secure individuals with a lot to offer, the nightmare of dating is nothing compared to Dante’s Inferno of Valentine’s Day.
Men are like McDonald’s: predictable, but you need low expectations and a stomach of steel to be happy with us. Women on the other hand, are like those bars in Arab Street where they ask you how you are feeling at that particular moment; so you can receive perfectly concocted drink that is entirely unfathomable and overpriced, and makes you want to head to the nearest 7-11 for a plastic bottle of Jim Beam – before 10:30PM, obviously.
Gift of the Magi, or something like that…
Giving gifts to the fairer sex is particularly difficult because we men have no clue what you women really want. Most gifts are received with a “You never pay attention to what I say,” which I have been assured is Girl-ese for “Thank you.” Not coming up with a gift – or at least, not coming up with a gift more complex than a Rube Goldberg machine made entirely out of roses and chocolate – will be reciprocated by three consecutive weeks of sulking, regretful sighs, and thinly-veiled Facebook updates about doomed love.
Dinners and gifts for Valentine’s Day is probably the biggest scam since the Wonderbra: inflating women’s self-worth with inflated expectations of romance and a deflated man at their side. While your date takes a bite of an overpriced cupcake, romantically named “Moonlight Fantasy,” you kick yourself for not picking up the 10 cents you dropped at the MRT yesterday and wonder how complicated it is to file for bankruptcy.
The Wrath of St. Valentine on Adam’s kind
Worst off are people who get sucked into a relationship because they forgot to notice the date before innocently suggesting dinner. A decade later, the “How did you guys meet?” question is followed by tears rolling down the man’s cheeks while his significant other babbles gleefully about how romantic he was back when they were young.
What do you do when you have nothing to do for Valentine’s Day? We Indian men, after almost three decades of loneliness, have let go of our self-worth and can cope with situations like this by either going out for a whiskey on the rocks or throwing actual rocks at a Hallmark store.
On the other hand, women are less likely to cope well with spending this holiday alone. Being seen in public without a date is impossible – you have had all year to attract a man and you still couldn’t manage it. Your best bet is to offer a tight smile and take the high road, by either telling your friends that you’re being whisked off by a mysterious man who “totally exists, you just haven’t heard of him yet” or by making a snide remark about how you have your career to think of and you can’t just spare nights for a romantic rendezvous.
Ladies, if you don’t have plans for next Valentine’s Day, I suggest watching DDLJ for the fiftieth time and crying into your favourite flavour of ice-cream while reassuring yourself such a man exists. Alternatively, go check out 50 Shades of Grey. I’m sure you’ve been dying to read it.
From what Google can tell me, women of all ages love to read this erotic novel so much that it has unofficially become the guide to what a lady wants in her man. Extremely realistic, this book is about a 27-year-old self-made billionaire who assaults consenting women in the name of love, or what most of rural India unfortunately thinks to be marriage.
Regardless of your gender, what we all really want out of Valentine’s Day is simple: we want it to be over after 11:59PM on February 14th. Everything else is needless frill. Besides, we men have more important things to worry about, like prostate cancer, balding, and finding out who our significant other is alluding to in the despondent Facebook updates about feeling unnoticed and alone.
This article first appeared in www.indiasemedia.com on 3rd March, 2015