This Thing Called Love: Part I – The Beginnings

I hate talking about my personal life—as in my dating & relational life. I don’t write memoirs. It requires a certain level and a different type of vulnerability than fiction. My themes are best told in fiction or personal essays. I write fiction, occasionally personal essays and articles, and advertising copy.

I definitely wouldn’t write a memoir about my sex life or relationships. I ain’t no Casanova. Let’s be real. I’ve had some experience. This day and age, it seems that sex is available everywhere like a street drug. When I was child or young person, a romantic/sexual relationship was repulsive; then, it was a recreational high like a drug; then, I pursued singleness and got into the evangelical purity movement; then, leaving it disillusioned and frustrated. I was then casual dating/hooking up. I took a break from dating and spent time soul searching. I felt pulled back into serious dating. I started dating with a fresh approach and renewed mind. In Boston, I went on a couple of dates. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know, but nothing happened beyond the first dates. That’s when I met Luis.

We like to share spirituality, finances & resources, friendship, time, and our bodies. It’s about intimacy in the spiritual, mental/emotional, and physical realms. When I think of sexuality, I see it as something valuable, beautiful, and good. And, if you are not a virgin before marriage that doesn’t necessarily make you any less or a used item. Sexuality is not something dirty or shameful. It is not something men do to women. It’s shared intimacy. One thing I absolutely hate about our culture is the trashy mentality. It’s annoying to have to explain that just because there are sex scenes in my novel, my writing isn’t erotica/pornography or masturbation material. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’d be disappointed ‘cuz you won’t find it there. It’s creative fiction.

I’m now engaged and in love with Luis. We’ve been dating since June 2014. We clicked because we had so much in common and on the same page with spirituality. I found him very attractive. In May 2015, we moved in together. In July 2016, we’ll be husband and wife, and I’ll be a stepmother of an adorable little boy, Eddie.

The shallowest question I got asked was, “Ugh, how do you feel about being someone’s second wife?”

I didn’t know how to react to such a naive, ridiculous question. I laughed and said, “Why would that make a difference? It’s not like he’s the first man I’ve been with.”

All some people see is our pasts and looking for drama and gossip. This is why I resent religious-minded, shallow people and conservative, nosy Indians. Luis is a single dad who’s been divorced. And, I’m a woman with a troubled past that includes promiscuity. There’s a beautiful event happening. A cynical woman with several past traumatic events has learned to accept a man wanting to share his life with her and take her as his wife. I was a thick wall till he penetrated me deep in my soul with love, forgiveness, acceptance, and good laughs. And, a little boy will be having a woman who can positively influence him and be an important part of his life. I’m the one who gets him ready for school, picks him up, take him to Friendlys, or the playgound. Meeting that little boy activated my maternal instincts. I look forward to having a baby with Luis and bringing a younger sibling for Eddie. All this time, I thought marriage and kids wasn’t for me.

In my journey of life, a deep healing took place. It’s not about striving to be perfect, people-pleasing, and conforming that thrives on spiritual codependency. I’m so done with that! My man also told me that the opposite of courage isn’t cowardice—it’s conformity. I don’t owe anyone an explanation or care about making myself understood. If you disapprove of me, then that ain’t my problem. There’s always the choice of no longer walking with me in my life journey.

Here’s a vignette of my beginnings. I’m a product of divorce, family dysfunction, addiction, and abuse. My childhood and teenage years was facing one trauma after another: Sexual assault, witnessing domestic violence, and a failed marriage, depression, addiction, self-harm, loss of hope, suicide attempts, and watching someone I care about go through suicidal attempts. That’s the summary of my early life struggles.

No one around me really knew all of it. I suppose people could tell I was struggling, but didn’t know how to help. They were high school kids too. I’m still thankful for some of them for their kindness and trying to reach out to me. I remember one classmate in my swim team who reached out to me. Then, there was Beni who noticed that I was a new student and spent a lot of time with me.

Growing up, I’ve seen my parents failed marriage and poor life choices. My father is a narcissistic, drunk asshole who can’t get his life together. Then, there’s my codependent, inversely narcissistic mother. Both need professional help. My family members and their piety, pretentiousness, and hypocrisy was frustrating.

Naturally, I formed negative attitudes of marriage because I rarely saw a healthy marriage.  To add to that mix, there’s the hypocritical, self-righteous Indian attitudes of the ’90s. I hate how Indian uncles and aunties look down on Americans, white people, or Westerners for having supposedly poor morals based on their liberal attitudes of sex and dating. If they think they are better, then what are they doing in America? If India is the land of milk and honey, then why not go back?

Indian culture has many issues too with backwards ideas of sexism, naive ignorance and lack of support for victims of domestic violence. And, don’t get me started on eveteasing and other backwards third-world crap like female foeticide, dowry harassment, and so on. I’m glad that I gave up my Indian citizenship and became an American citizen. (India doesn’t allow dual citizenship even though I was born there). America isn’t perfect either. Coming back from Singapore to America in 2013, I thought people were sometimes weird and often wondered, “WTF? How do you people live like this?”

That’s nothing compared to my country of origin. I’m proud of ancient India but deeply disgusted with modern day India. I had my share of traumatic experiences back there that I want to leave behind. In America, there are several chances to start over. That’s why I love the value of Western individualism, which sadly too many Americans don’t get or take it for granted. Individualism lets you start over with a new life and new identity. That concept doesn’t exist at all in other cultures. Technically, my original immigration documents (before I became a naturalized citizen) do not officially classified as a refugee. In some ways, I feel like an emotional and cultural refugee.

When it came to love, I felt displaced because I was supposed to find love intriguing and something to giggle over. When I was a child, I remember those times of giggling over a kissing scene in a movie or taunting another kid with, “Ooooh, she told me you like …” I was simply disgusted by the concept. I didn’t want anyone to touch me or experience romance. That’s the natural reaction of being a sexual abuse victim at childhood. That ruined it for me. It was confusion, deep pain, and pure hell. It’s sickening how people judge abuse victims even at that age! But wait, the offender is off the hook? Makes no sense. I’m apparently a “bad girl” who somehow aroused him even when I was an 8-year-old wearing cartoon t-shirts and didn’t know what he was doing. It was terrifying. He told me that I was no longer a virgin and a now a firecracker (Indian slang for slut) and no one will believe me if I told anyone, because bad things happen to bad girls. If I tell anyone, worse things will happen to me and my friends. Whenever kids would giggle over things, I knew things that they didn’t know. That made me feel dirty and even more alienated.

Yet, I was a social person who loved playing with my friends. They were my escape from the chaos at home and internal chaos. I also found my escape in stories, books, and creative writing. Even as a child, I was well-read and enjoyed hearing stories from different cultures of the world. Growing up in cosmopolitan Dubai and my family’s expat lifestyle opened up the world to me. The first time I experienced something sweet was a boy in our high-rise complex who lived two floors up. I was 9 years old and he was about 10 years old. We were playing a card game. He picked a flower and gave it to me and put it in my hair. He told me how much he likes playing with me and that I’m funny and a good girl. He then blushed and while giggling said, “And you’re beautiful too.” I giggled and said, “I like you too” and pecked him on the cheek. Then, we both jumped away from each other because we heard his mother calling him from the balcony. And, then we laughed. We’re both Indians. Indian parents in the ’90s can be very prudish, conservative to being neo-Victorian, strict, and overreactive. We didn’t want to get into trouble. Later, I felt guilty for liking that attention he gave me.

Then, when I was 11, my family moved to the US. There was that awkward middle school and high school years. I won’t go into the details. But, I started declining since 8th grade. I was depressed because things were terrible at home. I had a very negative image of love. With all the pain, I really didn’t want to date. I was repulsed, yet there was something about a cute boy that intrigued me. I was also angry and confused. These things are awkward for any teenager.

Hopefully, you all see where I’m coming from. Things got worse during my late teens and early young adulthood. I thought that marriage and kids was not for me. The idea of committing to one person for life was scary. My soul was in survival-combat mode. I didn’t want to take a chance. I mistrusted people. I didn’t want to re-experience the trauma I saw with my parents and other elders in my life. I saw right through the piety, hypocrisy, and deception.

The next post will be about my turbulent young adult years where I went through more highs and lows. I started experimenting with sex. I also spiraled deeper into depression. I had my last episode of suicide when I saw the light. Pentecostal-charismatic Christian religion and the purity movement enticed me. Then, I left it feeling disgusted, confused, and disillusioned. Then, I was following my father’s footsteps with addiction. Feeling even more empty, broken, I came back to my senses and discovered the light. I traveled the world and explored different things.

I came up with this conclusion at my turning point:

I don’t have to have the same life as anyone else. So, what if someone else fucked up their own lives or the world is fucked up? I’m my own person. I left home and got out of the situation. Coming to this conclusion and eventually opening myself to receiving and accepting love, allowing restoration to my soul was an extremely slow and excruciatingly painful process. At certain times, truth and hope revealed itself in the most difficult times. Right now, I feel like I slayed the Minotaur in the dungeon and just stepped out holding it’s head up high in one hand and seeing the outside world of freedom after many years in the dungeon.

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