“Is there something wrong with me?” I hesitantly asked my friend after I had almost said yes to an arranged marriage scenario. My dating experience is limited to one lasting the duration of three months. My dating experience is in fact so limited that I have debated with myself if I am an a-sexual but in denial. But by the end of this article, I hope I am able to convince you that COVID-19 might have been the catalyst of some people developing a better relationship with themselves.
Don’t worry, I am not going to dive into a Freudian analysis of your conscious and subconscious. I will refer to the 4th of May 2020 cartoon of the New Yorker to make the point in the most fun and poignant way that I can think of though.
I had moved cities in the middle of the pandemic and was getting my first taste of freedom. One of the things I wanted to explore was dating. What I was going to discover was that I had wanted to try it for all the wrong reasons.
This brings us to the all-important question of why do people date? Is it for companionship, sex or to find a long-term partner? The good or the bad thing is that the sexual element was kind of out of the question (for me) because of the pandemic but I did explore the other options only to reach a very fruitful conclusion. I want to figure out who I was when I was separated from the people around me. I cannot believe I am using a chemistry analogy but what are my properties as an independent element and not when I am combined with other chemicals.
The mobile applications that I explored were Bumble and Tinder. Now I need to put it out there that I am not a conventionally pretty person so I was very surprised when I got matches on Tinder. It does give you quite a high when someone seems attracted to you just on the bases of some well-angled pictures and witty one-liner. Another reason why people might be addicted to dating but that seems like a topic for a whole different article.
I never actually met any of them because one of them stood me up, twice and the other one just wanted to be friends which was cool and the third one was looking to enrol people in a pyramid scheme. Yeah and after that, I was like I am not sure if I want to do this anymore. The charm of it faded which made me realise that I actually did not want to date right now. I had the freedom, somewhat the time and the opportunity to date but I was enjoying my own company and space.
I was co-habiting with my demons and enjoying their company.
Then in November, my mom got COVID-19 so to keep her entertained (or so I tell myself), I said yes to her proposition of putting up my profile on a matrimonial site. No, I am not a masochist. Yes, I did truly underestimate a mother’s want to marry off her daughter in her mid-twenties. And yes, in the end, I did gain something from it than just trauma. One thing that I learnt was that there are way too many people out there who are trying to attain this ideal of married life.
This is bizarre to me because if you have ever had a conversation with any couple that is in a long-term relationship, you know they are not the same. They are not following this ideal. Like most of the men that I talked to (3 in total, I could not take the awkwardness more than that) wanted to get married because that is what needs to be done in life. Now I know that I am not the most special person in the world but it felt like marriage to them was like a qualification that needs to be achieved in life.
Like oh, we have finished school so let’s take admission in whichever college we can.To put it simply, it felt as if they wanted a wedding but not a marriage. The second thing that I figured out was that I was scared of losing my newfound identity. My smallest actions of autonomy were precious to me. The fact that I could get up in the morning and read for half an hour and drink tea before starting my day, before looking at my phone, just enjoying the solitude. That, to me, was something huge.
I felt like I was the main character in my own life.
But I also realised that I had felt my entire life that I needed to curb my wants, actions and dreams in accordance with those around me; almost defer my existence to the more important forces of the macrocosm. But now I had created my own microcosm and I was scared that it was not strong enough to hold its own identity under the pressure of the external forces. I did not want to yield even an inch because I knew I would fall into my old pattern of prioritising everyone else before me. One could argue I am being weak but I believe I am being self-aware, figuring out my limits and boundaries. Learning to love myself and seeing what happens when I put myself first. And voila, the world did not end.
In the words of the stand-up comedian Daniel Sloss, “You need to love yourself a 100% before you can allow somebody else to love you so that you have high standards.” I think I am in the process of accepting that being the best version of myself for myself is the way to long term happiness. You need to be happy so that people around you can do the same for themselves. Thus during the pandemic, I was dating myself and ridding myself of the heteronormative notion that I have to be in a relationship with someone to feel fulfilled.