Saturday, April 9

As time goes by

I've had many years to think this over, so here goes.

Nothing sets a guy behind in his social game like studying in an all-boys school. See, it is all very well scoring good marks, avoiding negative reports from teachers, beatings from parents and all that bullshit, but this kind of schooling robs you of one huge piece of education. How to speak to girls. Rather, how to just be normal around them.

Nowhere does Darwin's theory hold more true than in the jungle that is an all-boys school. You need special skills to survive. If you're good at sports then you're sorted. Firstly, playing any sport and being any good at it automatically imbibes that real, ferocious competitive spirit and confidence you need later in life to fight off the horde of randy bastards, smile and make eye-contact with a girl you're interested in. Secondly, being a sports-jock gives you a 'reputation', a magical cape of macho, if you will, even as the barest wisp of a mustache is struggling through the epidermis. If you're good at academics, it helps in a different way. Just when the hormones are kicking in and you actually wake up and realise there's a whole different, easy-on-the-eyes gender out there, you land up in tuition classes, which, heaven help us, are co-ed, and you also have a 'reputation' albeit one that requires more work to exploit its potential. Being in an all-boys school scars everyone without prejudice but being in either of the above brackets lets you bounce back and rediscover your mojo faster.

If you are in neither category, you're fucked. Plainly and simply, you exemplify mediocrity. Life is an endless series of frustrations, self-flagellation, disappointments both real and imagined and relegation, not to the back of the shelf, but into the storeroom, in a moth-eaten box stacked in the darkest corner. You'll develop a caustic sense of what you think is top-class humour until one day, some bastard comes along who is funnier than you. Or so everyone else thinks, which comes to the same thing.

If you're both a jock and academically gifted, you're basically Manna from heaven, with a golden halo around your noggin and the refrain from 'Hallelujah' echoing faintly in your vicinity, all the time. Kindly go fuck yourself.

Anyway, I've always struggled with the legacy of the 'mediocre' category in an all-boys school. In all the years since I first faked the courage to date, I still have no clue how to ask a girl out. So far, I have never actually uttered the words or anything even closely resembling the idea "would you like to go out with me?". Things have just 'happened'. And I'm in my 30s. This lack of ability to initiate conversation with the fairer sex is becoming increasingly relevant because now is the time every-fucking-person feels like they can ask me about my marriage plans. I don't know about other countries, but marriage is a BIG deal in India. You may be barely out of college and struggling to keep body and soul together in your 20s when your folks will begin prodding you on the subject. Dodge as many bullets as you want but the mumblings, grumblings and other assorted sounds get louder and more urgent as you approach 30. After that, it's basically open season. Relatives, friends, people you've met for the first time in your life - each of them thinks it's okay to give you advice on the subject of matrimony and how you should go about it. All you can do is stand there, gritting your teeth because you can't even throw the phrase "I have a girlfriend" in their faces.

Because misery loves company, it is gratifying to meet people who are in the same boat. Not the 'unmarried' cruise-liner of agony but the "how the fuck do I meet women and/or ask one out" raft of irritation. The funny thing is I can give completely logical, supportive and inspirational advice to these other guys with a straight face and just the barest shred of shame. "Yea man, just ask her out. You're a 32-year old guy. You've been in life-and-death situations. You've done crazy, outrageous things. Think about all that and it becomes easy."

Except it doesn't. I've come to the very late realisation that asking a girl out is, in truth, no big deal. You're not suggesting anything extraordinarily terrible. Heck, you're only inquiring if there's a chance that she may consider the possibility that you could be someone she might think about sharing a drink with. Nothing more, right? Well, your brain says otherwise. The longer you wait to ask, the worse the imaginary scenarios get. The more devastating the "No" becomes. The more relationship collateral damage there is - if she happens to be a friend of some people you like/hang out with, things can get pretty, damn awkward. And by now, awkwardness and public embarrassment are the nightmares you loathe the most. Or so your mind tells you. It gets worse as you get older and watch the proverbial sand run out of your hourglass of romance. Because, at some point the women start ignoring you, giving you the chance to get intimately acquainted with your inner doormat.

This leads to some panicky, desperate and downright stupid decisions and situations. You no longer wait for your heart to do a back-flip and a vigorous rumba when that 'someone' comes along because your heart is tired, beaten down and has thrown in the towel. Worse, you no longer believe it will happen. In the great social game, you're not even good enough to be the kacchha limbu. You've become the guy no one wants to play with.

Song for the moment: Careless hands - Sammy Kaye

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