Finding love without a chasePosted: December 12, 2013
As a teenager, I was never confident about my body. I was darker-skinned than was generally accepted; I had thicker eyebrows than other girls. I never believed any man would find me beautiful. Unlike some of my fair-skinned friends, who were pursued relentlessly, no one pursued me. There was this one classmate who gave me a little attention, and I really thought he would be the first and the last. How disappointed I was when I found out that giving attention to girls who “weren’t the most sought-after” was just his thing.
I wasn’t one of those calm and composed people. I never looked before I leaped. I was not good at masking my emotions. The term most used to describe me were: frank and photogenic. I hated being called frank. It meant I spoke my mind, and scared people away. I hated being called photogenic. It meant that photographs of me, tricked people into believing that I looked good in real life.
After I started working, I got myself a chic haircut. I believed this change in appearance would change my life. Things did start to look up a little, but only once I left my hometown. I was approached more often. But I was still honest. If I wasn’t interested in someone, I never led them on. If I liked a guy, I usually expressed it. Once I did so, the men who pursued me because they thought I was unachievable, lost interest or shifted their interest to someone less available. I was even referred to as “eye candy” but not girlfriend material. I always felt there was something awfully wrong with me.
Being from India, my parents were looking out for alliances for me via matrimonial websites. One guy saw my profile and later met my brother to tell him that he was very keen on marrying me. He also started emailing me. He loved the same books as me, and liked my blogs. I started wondering if this was what “fate” was about. I was about to turn 25, the age I had always believed I would be married by.
He lived in a different city so although we hadn’t met in person yet, we were already making plans for our marriage. He had seen dozens of photographs of me. What could possibly go wrong? The day,he met me in person, my worst fears came true. He wasn’t interested anymore. He said I didn’t look like my photos.
He told me if I was to become his wife I needed to take care of my “uneven skin tone” (which I had never noticed before). I cried for days, not understanding how this could have happened. I must be unlovable and ugly. Even an interesting blog couldn’t cover up my flaws. Or maybe I acted too keen to get married and he lost interest. After all, there is no fun without a chase.
I also found a few books, about “catching and keeping” a guy. They all told me to mask my real emotions. I should never call a guy first. Never reply to his texts without waiting a few hours or days. I was supposed to be unavailable. I should never let the “mystery” about me die. This made me panic. If this was the only way to find love, I was sure to be loveless. Playing games wasn’t my forte.
People told me to cut down on my sense of humor. Men weren’t attracted to funny girls, they said. But, that was a part of who I was. It broke my heart to be told that everything that made me who I am, also made me unlovable. Because, apparently, men only fell in love with meek, soft-spoken, unavailable, shy, and fair-skinned women. Everything I was not.
All this while, my future husband was working in my office. We were acquaintances. He was the best-looking guy my colleagues or I had ever set eyes on. We all drooled over and ogled at him. That was all I ever thought it could be, until I was scheduled for a month of night-shifts along with him. I responded to one of his clever status messages. This translated into daily chats. He told me how pretty I was, the third day we were chatting. In two weeks, he asked me if I could be his girlfriend, which was kind of the Indian way of asking me out. Because in India we never date, before we declare our love for each other.
I agreed, because that’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t play games, I never played hard to get. We dated for four years. We worked out together, we studied for exams together, and we tried new restaurants together. He ignited a passion in me to excel at everything I do. I went from considering my job as just somewhere I spent eight hours a day, to being influenced by his belief that work is also worship. Because I was frank and liberal, he was at ease with me and shared easily. He told me how he found girls who had the “twin” complexion (which was the term he used for people who were neither very fair nor very dark skinned) attractive. He supported me, whenever I chose to do something to improve my appearance. He gave me the confidence to experiment. He gave me the freedom to be myself.
My earlier heartbreaks, taught me that he was special. For the first few years, though, he wasn’t sure if he could ever speak about our relationship with his orthodox family. Initially I worried if it was because I wasn’t good enough. Later, I stopped asking him to do anything.
When he did finally tell his family about me, he faced deep opposition. Everyone from his grandparents, onward told him the problems associated with marrying an educated girl, the problems of marrying someone whose family lived far away. There were days I felt completely hopeless. According to Indian standards, I was past the marriageable age, but still I waited for him, I fought for him. This wasn’t easy with the whole world reminding me of my biological clock. They kept telling me I was a ticking time bomb, and would have to resort to becoming someone’s second wife, if I didn’t leave him and move on.
This period of my life taught me immense patience. It taught me the power of prayer, and faith in Allah. Due to the familial opposition, he decided to back off from the relationship once, though it was only for a few days. Those were the most difficult, insecure days I had to face, but I believed that things would become as I wished them to be.
After five years together, we were married with the blessings of both our families.
I realized that if I had failed in relationships in the past, it wasn’t my fault. It was just that they weren’t for me. The guys who felt I was too “frank” for them, the ones who felt, my skin needed a chemical bleach before I could be their wife, weren’t for me. But I am glad I met them. I am glad I was told I wasn’t perfect multiple times over.
Because now I know that perfection isn’t a prerequisite for love. Neither is playing hard to get.
Izzie (pen name) is an electronics and telecommunication engineer from India, who also loves to write and read.