(Published on September 19, 2015 in the Business Standard)
A friend of mine took me to lunch the other day to diagnose the train wreck that is my love life. “Why are you always getting your heart broken?” he asked. I pointed out that people my age are either in a committed relationship (most people) or irrevocably screwed up (me) and that therefore, purely circumstantially, it’s more likely that I’ll be the one scraping myself off the ground. He tried very hard to come up with a list of single, not-crazy people my age, and finally saw my point.
If you’re single and over forty, getting into a romance is very much like batting your eyelashes at an approaching SUV before throwing yourself under its wheels. It’s only weird in that you had no intention of throwing yourself in front of an SUV when you woke up earlier that morning, and it’s not like you didn’t see it coming. This is hardly the kind of effect you forget in a hurry, and you can only bring yourself to do it again if you become comfortable with the idea of repeatedly becoming roadkill. What’s not to love?
You’ve done the things people do. You feared marriage, or tried marriage, or are in a marriage, and decided it wasn’t for you. You went to bars with your friends, who knew when to gag you, when to intervene, when to talk you down, when to take your weapons away, and when to pull you off the scene gently but firmly. Come to think of it, this describes none of my friends, not one. Thanks, guys.
You were creeped out by arranged meetings; too old-fashioned for Tinder and the raft of other dating apps that are common currency with younger people (and several very conflicted married people). You successfully failed to die for so long, in the same town, that you already became fast friends with most of the people in the ambit of your life. How are you supposed to meet anyone worth feeling romantic about? If you do, how do you proceed? Here, let me direct your attention to this attractive SUV approaching at speed.
Sure, there’s the odd full-throated relationship, with insane love and (good) possessiveness, of which I have some experience. There’s the toxic one-way thing with the (bad) possessiveness and (brazen) double standards, of which I also have some experience. There’s the ships passing in the night thing, which is a double-edged sword. There is the set-up, which only one of my friends ever tried on me (I made a new friend). There are singles parties, but the only one I was ever invited to was on a Whatsapp chat, before the event, that robbed me of my will to live, let alone attend. There is the random meeting, which, if it didn’t seem disastrous today, will tomorrow. I will only say that if you want to be in any kind of relationship, do it before you turn forty, because after that you are likely to be your own worst enemy, and cranky to boot.
Don’t say something idiotic, like, ‘Don’t throw yourself in front of the SUV,’ or ‘Don’t give your heart’. Human culture is brimful of artistic tributes to horrible romantic decisions, because there’s absolutely no point in living pristine and unscathed and bored to tears. The friend who took me to lunch wanted to know whether the ups were worth the downs. The answer is yes—there’s nothing quite like that split second of flying through the air, before the wheels hit. Now please take me to the emergency room? Tell them it’s the usual.