My daughter casually asked me last evening," Mummy, did you have a boyfriend in college?"
I was -- let me admit -- a bit taken aback.
Of course, I have always told myself, I will be open and frank in discussing anything and everything with her. I won't ho-hum when it's time to have the 'conversation' my mom attempted when it was rather too late. Not that it was actually a conversation.
The gist of the mother-knows-best lecture was: "Boys want only one thing... be careful... save yourself for marriage..." Wisdom from a different time and era, that addressed none of the *real* issues.
So I'm glad she can ask me such questions without a hint of embarrassment. But at 5 years and 10 months of age? Um, I wasn't quite prepared...
Still, I decided to be truthful and said "Yes."
But it didn't stop at that. "What was his name?" she wanted to know.
Here, I ducked -- for now -- by claiming, "I've forgotten his name, beta.... " and she didn't pursue the matter any further.
Why did I lie? Because I really don't have good memories of that first boyfriend. But the relationship did teach me some important lessons that I shall, from time to time, attempt to imprint into her impressionable young head.It's all about respect
I think the immediate stimulus for Nivedita's 'boyfriend' question was a conversation the RJs were having on the FM radio station we happened to be tuned to:
RJ 1: "Aapka favourite college kaun sa tha (Which was your favourite college)"?
RJ 2: "Mine was Podar."
RJ 1: "Why?"
RJ 2: "Because of the girls, yaar!"
In Nivedita's mind, going to college and having a boyfriend are becoming firmly interconnected. And no, she doesn't mean 'friend who is a boy' (which she has plenty of, already).
This college = boyfriend equation is something picked up from the movies and television she's been exposed to. Not that I don't try to make sure she watches stuff 'appropriate for her age' but hell, even Popeye and Mickey Mouse have girlfriends...
What I want her to internalise is this: It's wonderful if you do happen to meet and vibe with someone in a special way when you join college. And it's perfectly okay if you don't. And that 'everyone has a boyfriend' is not the right reason, at all.
I, for one, know I was in love with the idea of being in love. My first foray into Boyfriendland was an absolute disaster! The bloke was a good looking, crew cut NDA cadet and had a nice bike. But he was an absolute ditz in the IQ and ethics department.
Yet, even when I knew he wasn't quite the guy I should be wasting my time on, it was very hard to break up. Because 'someone' is better than 'no one'.
Which is wrong. 'No one' is better than a relationship that lacks respect.
You might think that this is something everyone knows, but I see many young people stuck in these kind of relationships -- justifying them for this very same reason.
The greatest love of all, as Whitney Houston once sang, is learning to love yourself. And that, dear Nivedita, is what I want for you before you go out and find yourself a boyfriend...
And yes, boys do really want 'only one thing' I know that statement is going to draw a lot of flak so here's a more scientific explanation.In the beginning
God -- whichever one you believe in -- created a virus in the image of man. And woman. Now the trick to spreading the virus quickly and effectively was to have it replicate on its own.
So He invented sex. Yes, I will refer to God as 'He' because I think our Creator must have been a guy. Had it been a woman, She certainly would've given us periods annually -- not every month!
But you see, God's primary motive in adding the sex angle was not pleasure but reproduction. The fact that it was pleasurable offered the necessary incentive to undertake the activity.
As an added safety feature, God gave man a reproductive organ with a mind of its own. One that did not always and necessarily obey the commands from the High Command.
This hardwiring has complicated life for Modern Day Man. Say you meet a nice girl, and there is a mutual attraction. The High Command says, Wait! Take it easy. Get to know her. Be a gentleman.
But whether he likes it or not, the 'reproduce' circuit is also switched on and it sends really powerful signals...
Doesn't this also happen to women? Well, some believe it did in the Caveman era, but centuries of social conditioning, Mills & Boon novels and mushy films have had their evil effect. It does look, though, that God must have wired us differently to begin with.
First of all, since women were the ones stuck with the unwanted side effect -- "Badhaai ho, aap maa banne waali hain (Congratulations, you are going to become a mother)" -- they were bound to be much more cautious and see a big red STOP sign.
Advances in birth control have partially taken care of that factor, but it goes deeper.What women want
The latest on the subject is that, after eight years of tests involving 3,000 women, Pfizer, the company behind Viagra, has abandoned efforts to prove that the drug works for females too.
'It is the confirmation that men have long dreaded. Scientists have concluded that women achieve most sexual satisfaction through the stimulation of their brain and not any other organ...'
The company's exhaustive research has led to the conclusion that men and women have a fundamentally different relationship between arousal and desire. A women's arousal is triggered by a network of emotional, intellectual and relationship-based factors rather than the simple physical response required by a man.
'While a man's arousal almost always led to a desire for sex, there was no such obvious corresponding factor with women... Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women and want to have sex. With women, things depend on a myriad of factors.'
In early trials where women were dosed with Viagra while watching erotic videos, the drug appeared to work. But further studies found that even though Viagra induced a greater pelvic blood flow, the women did not feel substantially more aroused. Therefore, Pfizer is now concentrating on finding drugs that affect a woman's brain chemistry.
The fact that the earth only moves for women if they think it does comes as no surprise to many leading female sexologists.
As one op-ed writer who was less-than-impressed observed: 'It has long been held in these circles that a woman has an emotional libido. The only surprise has been that it has taken many hours of research and thousands of pounds to conclude something that is blindingly obvious...'
That's why the whole porn industry is geared towards men and the romance industry towards women! As the old saying goes: girls use sex to get love, and guys use love to get sex.'The One Thing'
The point is that a girl needs affection, understanding and emotion -- after which sex may follow.
However, many young women end up having a physical relationship hoping to get their core needs fulfilled later. Only to find that doesn't always happen. And when it doesn't, it's extremely hurtful and demeaning.
Because the guy may actually just be scratching his reproductive itch, and have no emotions for her to begin with.
Now you may argue that sex will lead to an emotional bonding. Possible, but dicey. Guys do have a concept of women who they will sleep around or 'have fun' with, and women who 'mean more'. Women for whom they feel something in their brains and not just in their briefs.
Even in more 'liberated' countries, the casual and meaningless sexual encounter may be common but not necessarily fulfilling for the woman. A recent report from the UK reveals that, despite the fact that both men and women experience their first intercourse at age 16, there remain gender differences in the experience of the event.
Women are twice as likely as men to regret their first experience of intercourse and three times as likely to report being the less willing partner.
Something to keep in mind before you make your decision...
Coming back to my original bit of advice for Nivedita: Make sure your boyfriend respects you and loves you for who you are, not just how you look.
And if I ever have a son I will tell him the same, although in a slightly different way: Make sure your girlfriend is someone you would feel proud enough to bring home and introduce to me.
Someone who makes you feel good -- and feels good.
Not that you won't make mistakes, like I did.
But it helps to know what it is you're really looking for before setting off to find it in the first place.
Rashmi's other columns:
- The truth about Indian schools
- Career lessons from Bunty Aur Babli
- The job-hoppers' guide: what's in it for you?
- The truth about earning in dollars
- The $152,000 salary is just a jackpot
- The long, hard road to an MBBS
- Doctor or Engineer?
- Got the part-time MBA blues?
- Where there's an MBA class, there's hope!
- Is the 'IIM' brand invincible?
- The MBA Caste System
- The truth about MBA Cats and Dogs
- The truth about IT Cats and Dogs
- If you ain't a cat, don't worry!
- Kya aap copywriter banna chahte hain?
Rashmi Bansal is a graduate of IIM Ahmedabad and founder-editor of the popular youth magazine JAM (www.jammag.com).
She can be reached at email@example.com.