I was asked to share my experience with dating in India as a divorcee, and in the process, I had an epiphany- Dating, in general, is not a very widely accepted phenomenon in our Indian society.
Don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that people don’t date in India. The super-fast emergence of dating apps and the whooping number of users on these apps are enough to give a picture of the dating scene in this country. I am referring to the openness and societal acceptance associated with dating.
I know that even today, teenagers and adults sneak out of their homes for dates under the pretext of hanging out with friends or any other excuse that keeps their parents off their backs. And if they (parents) know you’re seeing someone, they are secretly hoping that the “affair” culminates into marriage.
When dating can be so tough for bachelors, imagine how hard it is for a divorcee or a widower to put themselves out there and see other people. Well… Why leave it to the imagination? Let me share my honest account of dating as a divorcee in the crazy city of Mumbai.
Our society is not very kind when it comes to divorcees, especially women. No, I am not playing my ‘woman’ card here. I am sharing exactly what I experienced. After my separation, I was emotionally tangled as I was coming to terms with ending my marriage to a person I thought I couldn’t live without. What made this tougher was facing a society that seemed brutally critical and judgemental of the decision I had made.
I could feel that people started looking at me differently. Some were curious, others were downright nosy, and some were upfront condescending. In our society, the blame for divorce is always unfairly placed on the woman. And even though I knew I had taken the right decision, confronting society was uncomfortable. It created self-doubt, loneliness and my confidence hit rock bottom.
After my separation, I started feeling a void in my life. One would assume I would have gone crazy with my new-found freedom, but that wasn’t the case. I longed for a partner and the warmth from hugging a person you love. I missed the romance and intimacy. I missed having someone I could talk to, laugh with, share my dreams and aspirations. And I did not deny myself the acknowledgment that I did want someone but didn’t share it with my family. .I was afraid that they would jump to the conclusion that I am ready to tie the knot when, in reality, I was only taking a baby step towards love again.
It was one thing to know that I missed the special someone but completely another to get clarity on what I wanted precisely. I was scared of commitment because I didn’t want to get hurt again. I didn’t have the energy to invest in a new relationship. I was anxious, and the aforementioned feelings of self-doubt and my lack of confidence in correctly assessing another person were all playing on my mind simultaneously.
But my loneliness was taking the biggest toll on me. Finally, I decided to break the barriers of my mind and give dating a shot. I felt that dating is an approach where I could look for a like-minded soul without having to commit.
I have been very old-school in my approach to meeting someone. I believed that in the course of life, you meet someone through work or college or common friends, and then you roll from there. But when you’re in your mid-30’s where do you meet someone who is available?
I realized that the world had changed, and so had the dating rules. You don’t just wait for cupid to strike you! You take the cupid along with you on every date and test if you can be struck by it! So I decided to join the bandwagon of modern dating and the million dating apps that my younger friends suggested. And thus started my great adventure with dating!
Different people desire different outcomes from dating… Let’s explore the various views:
● Most people view dating as a quick-fix for their carnal desires (because clearly what other desires could an evolved species like us have?)
● Some are gold diggers (because you may not be rich, but you can date a rich person to enjoy the perks of wealth)
● Some are seeking trophy spouses (ever heard of ‘neighbor’s envy and owner’s pride?’)
● Very few are looking for compatibility (finally!)
For me, dating would mean spending time with someone I am attracted to and can spend hours talking. And finding this person in an era of rapid hook-ups is a challenge… But then, I don’t bow back from a challenge!
When I started swiping right on potential dates… I had a mixed bag of experiences when these men shifted from being profiles on my screen to people in front of me in cafes.
● Some clearly had fake profiles (beware! you may not recognize may without the filters on their profile images)
● Some were intolerable (even spending an hour seemed like infinity… It made me understand what relativity means!)
● Some were just looking for hook-ups (although that’s not what they projected in the pre-date chats)
● Some were too old or too young (too many complications there)
● Some became good friends but nothing more (one positive take away from dating)
I still haven’t found someone whom I would consider dating seriously. But here’s a shocking and unfortunate fact that I discovered in this journey.
People assume that if you are a divorcee and available, you will settle for whatever you get. They assume you are not seeking any particular qualities in a prospective date and will accept scraps if it gives you the security of being with a man.
Here’s a news flash! That is NOT true! As an empowered and financially independent woman (regardless of my marital status), I am looking for relationships that can add true value to my life. I won’t invest in a friendship if it doesn’t add value, let alone a relationship.
Getting a divorce doesn’t lower your standards. On the contrary, it gives you alarming clarity on what you want from a partner and what type of relationship you are committed to building!
Armed with my high standards, I continue to look for the one who will make me feel safe enough to give love a shot again! And anyway, didn’t we learn that you have to kiss many frogs before you find your prince charming?
I am putting those good old lessons to great use in this adventurous journey of dating! I hope you do it too!