(I don’t know if its a matter of pride or concern but this is the second time I have been asked to write on love and sex for the women’s section of newspapers. This one appeared in Mail Today under the heading `Why Rules are Simply not Needed‘. )
In my grandfather’s time, ‘good old days’ were indeed the good old days. There were no rules for love and marriage and sex was free. You met a girl at the village fair and if she was willing, you could have a roll in the hay. If you wanted something more serious you brought her home as a bride . If you didn’t get along you simply broke off because divorce was not a stigma. Not even for women. My grandfather boasted of having married 13 times in this fashion and my grandmother thrice.
This was in Himachal and it may not have been a pan-India phenomenon but by and large rules of love and sex were far simpler then than they are today. So why and when did the basic urgings of love and sex began to stand on ceremonies? In my opinion it had something to do with the rise of the Indian middle class in post Independent India. As is its wont – sex, love and marriage became the primary obsession of this new middle- class which drew heavily from Victorian values. Education made the next generation more aware as it made them more self-conscious. Love was at best hush-hush and sex became a taboo. Growing up in the 70’s my parents were perhaps the first generation to become victims of this social engineering. No question of any girl or boyfriends of course. They met each other at their marriage venue and have stayed married to one another for more than 40 years now.
But today, while my generation has begun to question the social attitudes followed by our parents we are nowhere near the permissiveness prevalent in our grandfather’s days. Rules keep getting complex and they bring along their own paraphernalia of jealousy, possessiveness and cloying sentimentality– aspects often confused for endearing love. In my grandfather’s day there was no place for any of this. One of my grandfather’s wives was in fact arranged for by my grandmother when she had to visit her relative for two months and needed someone to baby-sit her small children. (She however chose a one-eyed girl so that it would not be too hard for my grandfather to make a choice between the two on her return. )
Today I believe the more rules we have the more we regress in matters of love and sex. There are endless tutorials on sex and love in magazine article after article as if love and sex were not a natural but a 21st century phenomenon and we needed coaching. There are some that give you ‘tips’ on how to woo a woman in 10 quick steps or the 7 signs to tell if a man really loved you. There are guidelines on whether its ok to kiss the guy on the fourth date or not at all.
Some of the new rules emerge when women begin to question the old dogmas laid out for them by the middle class society they belong to. For example women had been conned into thinking that they along with beavers, gibbons, and bald-headed eagles were genetically monogamous while it was perfectly natural for men to play the field. Now asking someone out is no longer a man’s prerogative. But there is a downside. Having traditionally done the chasing, men are somewhat daft in handling proposals. Nature has designed women to weigh their options and use prudence before saying ‘I do’. But bring along a beautiful girl and the guy will be too flattered to care if it is true affection or if he is being drawn into a Machiavellian plot.
I think the more we stray from nature and how it ordained us to be, the more rules and coaching’s we will need. As a civilization we may have advanced technologically, but we remain emotional and psychological waifs. In a better and more mature world there will be no place for rules in the matters of the heart. Shakespeare summed it up beautifully in Julius Caesar, “ When love begins to sicken and decay it useth an enforced ceremony. There are no tricks in plain and simple faith’’.