Man on a swing by the beach

Male, Single | First and Last

As his Ola arrives, he asks me, “So, why aren’t you married?”

We are meeting right after school – after around 25 years. Of course, like everyone these days, we are connected on FB. We catch up over dinner. Over two hours of getting up to speed on classmates, schoolmates, profs, principals, marriages, kids, divorces, deaths. Yup, we are in our 40s, after all. Yet, he leaves this one for the end. Sometimes, the last thing you ask is the first thing you want to know. He is “happily” married himself, with a daughter. And mercifully, he left out “yet” from the question.

I give him the rehearsed answer. “I am not too hot about kids, and I don’t believe in marriage.” I have been doing this for 10 years or so. It comes easily. The real answer, even I don’t know. A mix of choice and chance? A case of the one that got away, and the one that never came?

He doesn’t seem satisfied, like I am refusing to share this part of my life with him. But, what does he expect? We met up for only two hours, after 25 years. And now, the driver wants to get on with the ride.

My friend and I will have to meet again. At least, he will want to.

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Close-up of two mushrooms in a field

Male, Single | Found and Lost

What is worse?

To have been with someone your whole life, and then lose them?

Or, to finally find someone late in life, and lose them soon after?

No, don’t answer that.

Black T-shirt with the text 'Single AF'

Male, Single | Here’s Introducing…

The SPI Cinemas’ ticket-booking site/app mocks me. As I continue in the process, it throws up the number-of-tickets-required option. By default, it is set to ‘2’.Screenshot of SPI Cinemas' ticket-booking site zoomed in on the default tickets' option

Understandable. In India, and especially a city like Chennai which loves its movies (there are takers for all the South Indian languages save Kannada – for historical reasons, and of course Hindi and English), cinema is by and large a social exercise. You go to the movies with your friends, family, significant other, colleagues, relatives. You go alone, by and large, if you are a movie reviewer or have time to kill, such as before going to pick up your friends, family, significant other, colleagues, relatives.

I am not a reviewer (though I enjoy my movies), have zero friends in Chennai (all my closest friends are in Bombay, where I was before moving here to be with my parents; long story, some other time, some other post), work out of home as an independent consultant (there goes the option of going out with colleagues), am not close enough to my relatives to be able to go with them (whoever’s here, that is; the better part of them are NRIs in various parts of the world), and my parents are past the age and inclination to watch so many movies. And oh yes, am single.

So, I find myself, 99% of the time, scrolling up that option, selecting ‘1’ instead, and then proceeding with the rest of the ticket-buying process. Damn you, SPI. (Actually, no, it’s a damn well-designed site, apart from, damn, this feature.)

Not that the scene was much better in my latter years in Bombay. By your mid-30s and definitely your early 40s (I’m 41), almost all your friends are married, with kids, and busy with their spouses and those kids. The ones that aren’t married are equally busy with their lives, either still trying to find that elusive someone or climbing another rung up the ladder. And with the way cities and social media have grown, people stay quite far from each other in the same city and are more than happy to just catch up with a quick Like or comment on FB.

So, forget movies, I had started going for most things alone: other entertainment options like plays, shopping (though this is best solo, I believe), and that most sacrosanct of social events, vacations. (While you gasp, I will move on.)

But movies being the most popular, easy and accessible option, I would find myself getting that loner ticket the most often in this space. It used to suck early on – the window guy would ask me again, “Ek hi ticket chaahiye?” (You want only one ticket?), I would nod stoically, he would ponder and finally hand me the ticket with the scripted, “Enjoy your movie.” (Maybe that’s why I moved to online booking.) But somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten okay with it; comes with age, I guess (I already told you: I’m 41). And going alone – for a movie, play, shopping, holiday – can actually be quite freeing. Something many of those friends, relatives, colleagues envy me for sometimes. “You’re lucky – no responsibilities”, “You’re brave (physically and psychologically), going for holidays alone”, “You did the good thing; never get married.” (While you rue, I will move on.)

Actually, being single is a bit of days/times/months you feel free, a bit of days/times/months you feel sucky, a bit of this, a bit of that. This series will look at all of that: the good, the bad, the in-between. So, whether by choice, chance, circumstance, am happy sometimes and okay at others, to be Male, Single.