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I feel a little lost. I do not understand how I ended up where I am today. Well, that’s not the entire truth. I know, factually at least, how I ended up here. It started with homoerotic jokes at a run of the mill liberal university, one of many in India. The intoxicating mixture – of new found freedom, open sources of knowledge, open minded people, and people who actually respected my opinions and wanted to listen to them – all of this and more was the catalyst for my self-discovery.
So like I said, it began with homoerotic jokes. Teasing a guy friend about his unwillingness to vocalize his appreciation of a classmate’s dressing sense, giving a girl friend a mock-lewd smile and pretending to flirt with her, luxuriating in pretty people all around me and finally being able to tell them how pretty I found them. Then one day at an average party where everybody drank too much and danced non-stop to cheesy music, I realized I felt uncomfortable when I found the girl – whom I was teasing earlier in the evening – necking a guy. I convinced myself that my feelings that day, and many other days like it, were just my feeling of concern for these women and their state of consent. I always checked, just in case. The only trouble was that the feelings wouldn’t go away, not even after my friends had confirmed their mindfulness and their consent.
I thought I was just a prude, which worried me endlessly because I thought I had left that part of me behind with my hometown. Then a friend asked me, very gently, if my feelings weren’t that of concern but of rejection. I laughed it off that day, even attacked my very kind friend for accusing me of being that low in self-esteem and gave her the evil eye for even thinking that I was this different. After all, it’s cool to stand out in college as a metal head, as a philosophical stoner, even experiment a little sexually, but goddamn it, there are limits. You can only stand out till a certain limit. It’s only cool to experiment a little. Too much and you become that weirdo who is just different, or absurdly out there, even for your stoner friends.
There was this voice inside me that kept yelling at me to rein it in a little. Wasn’t it enough that I wasn’t being objectified all day anymore, that I had peers I could exchange ideas with? Wasn’t it enough that I was being treated as a human being, instead of ‘merely a woman’? Why did I need to rock the boat? There are more important things, I kept telling myself, than being able to also love women. Isn’t it enough that I can now stand up for myself and actually ask to be loved instead of being bartered away? I had education now. I could take care of myself. Why the fuck was I asking for this too? Couldn’t I even do my own liberation right? Why did I have to test my freedom to an extent where they would be compelled to take it away all together?
There was only one problem with my plan to be only a little liberated — Freedom can’t be curtailed. Ask anybody who has seen the sun after a lifetime of overcast sky if they would choose to be satisfied with just a glimpse of it. The answer would always be a resounding no. I was now recollecting snippets of my childhood memories, memories that I had buried so deep that they felt foreign in their taste. I remembered being confused when all my fellow teenage girl friends, fellow sufferer’s at war with puberty, would whisper shy confidences about suddenly being aware of all boys around us. “All of them look different now,” they would whisper, “and we see them differently! Why are things changing!” I was so confused. I even asked my closest confidant one time after a particularly difficult day – only boys? You notice only boys? She didn’t understand my question. Nobody did. After all, “what else would we be noticing?” I was asked. “The teachers? Gross, no!”
I never told my confidant that day that it wasn’t the teachers that I noticed, it was everybody in my class. There was this weird shame that rose up in all of us at the same time, because women aren’t supposed to be sexual beings. We are supposed to be sexless beings who love unconditionally and dutifully and tolerate sex for the men in our lives, or better yet – trade it in for love. There was shame in suddenly noticing all the men in our vicinity, and shame evermore for me for not stopping just there. I was so afraid that someone would find out my dirty little secret that I would be punished for looking at women. There is also this feeling of being a fraud when you notice a fellow female friend. Men expect to be looked at by females. Women expect to be looked at by men. Women, however, do not expect to be looked at by women. There was shame and guilt in admiring friends who shared their deepest secrets with you. I would always feel as if I had violated a sacred trust. I wasn’t supposed to look at them, men already objectified them day and night, and I couldn’t be another person who treats them like an exhibit.
I still feel very awkward when I try to flirt with a woman. One time I apologized three times while trying to ask a girl to a dance, because I felt like a creep for approaching her. She smiled at me and said no, thank you, but she was married. Not all people react this well though. Most men, if you initiate a conversation with them, suddenly think themselves to be the king of the world. I never understood that behavior, but okay. One female not only sneered at me, but also clicked a picture of me while I was walking away. Probably to make fun of me later.
Maybe I just need to go to gay bars, but I’m not sure I’ll find my kind of people there. Nerdy and geeky people are what rock my world and those are ridiculously hard to just stumble upon. In retrospect, I intended this to be funnier and not this depressing, sorry about that. I’ll tell you if I stumble onto my nerdy prince/princess who can discuss comics, ethics, and wonders of robotics with me.