Love, Sex and Loneliness at the Time of Internet

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The Internet seems to be a place for prowling, lecherous men, who see all women, single or married, as prey. Though women also face midlife crises and have to deal with pangs of loneliness, it does not mean they are desperate or available. A healthy civil relationship is welcome, writes Champa and hopes that Internet is more than the invisible smokescreen for some to hide behind and vanish.

When I watched Aparna Sen’s Parama for the first time, I was just out of my teens. We saw it in one of the theatres in the Bhawanipur, bunking the college but me or neither of my friends could relate to the film much and the only memories we carried back home was that of some brilliant camera work, Rakhee’s hauntingly beautiful face and the bold and intimate bed scenes she had shared with that unusually good looking actor, Mukul Sharma.

I watched the same film again a couple of years back, one afternoon, all alone, at home. I could srongly connect to the film this time and tried to understand the character portrayed by Rakhee from a sympathetic point of view. The ‘bold and intimate scenes’, which created a ripple at the time of my first viewing did not appeal to me much anymore. The emotional upheaval the woman had to go through, because of the indifference and neglect she had to face from her family and then the camaraderie and the relationship she shared with a younger man, who was also her nephew’s friend, on my second viewing left an impact on the mind.

‘The lonely woman’ syndrome among the wives of workaholic men has been a favourite topic in literature and films over the years. In real life too most women have to perhaps go through that phase at some point of time or other. The husbands, almost all of them, get more and more involved with their work as they start climbing the career ladder and it would be foolish for any woman to expect the same kind of attention she used to get in the pre marriage or the initial post marriage years, forever.

Normally, the women, who do not have their own career to follow, start seeking refuge in their children’s company and soon they get so involved with the kids that they hardly find any time to miss the lost romance from their day to day lives. One big reason for Charulata’s loneliness, in Tagore’s Nashtoneer, was cited as her being a childless woman, if I remember it well. I think, the real loneliness, in the lives of most women, who do not have a very hectic and involving career to follow, begins only when the children leave the nest (read home).

In most cases today, the children leave their parental home and their hometown to pursue their higher studies or jobs. They start managing their own homes along with coping up with the study or job pressures, all by themselves and we actually cannot blame them much, if their priorities keep shifting at that stage.

I have been noticing that among my friends, who are mostly mothers of this particular age group, are falling prey to their sudden loneliness. This also happens to be the age, when we all are going through a big physical and hormonal change, which often leaves an impact on our emotional state of mind. Many of us also have to deal with our parents’ death or their ill health and that too affects our mental well being a lot. Everything when compounded together, we tend to act like a vulnerable lot and more and more, we get distanced from our family physically, more and more we seek for a shelter in the social networking sites.

Facebook is a real boon to women, like us, as we are not only reconnecting with our childhood friends through this site but also discovering many like-minded souls, with whom we can share and who sometimes do make us feel, cared for. But on the other hand, I also keep hearing stories about friends of our age responding to the temptation of getting instant attention and gratification from men of all ages, whose sole intention is to enjoy the pleasures of female company, from the safe distance of internet so that they can vanish from the scene, according to their own convenience. Women are comparatively more susceptible and vulnerable in general. Women tend to get more emotionally involved with whoever makes them feel important enough and I have been hearing of many heartbreaks among my women friends, these days due to their online breakups.

That at the end of all such liaisons, women have to suffer mostly is nothing new. This has been happening in literature and films and in real life since time immemorial and now it is happening in the virtual domains too. Charu had lost her sleep after her brother in law left. Parama suffers a mental break down after being betrayed, while the men fled from the scenario and had a gala time, in their own worlds.

What I would like to tell my women friends is that we should learn to combat our loneliness by having a different approach towards life. Instead of seeking solace in a male company, we should learn to engage ourselves more in creative and constructive work. This is the best time of our lives when we can indulge ourselves in those hobbies and interests which remained unattended and neglected due to our busy schedule before. We can always explore the vast unknown through the internet, we can update and upgrade our knowledge everyday and we wouldn’t get time enough to the luxury of feeling lonely, any more.

‘Girl-bonding’ perhaps is the best balm for all our midlife bruises and me and my childhood friends have realised the value of it big time, when twenty five of us have formed an online thread where we keep pouring out our hearts every day, sharing our mundane sorrows and joys. We were in school many years back together and now scattered all over the world. But we keep in touch 24×7 through this thread and the support and understanding we receive from each other can never be replaced by any professional helpline or from anyone else.

For my male friends, whom I have befriended through the social media and also the ones, whom I have known since long, I do have a request. Please stop seeing us as mere objects of desire. We might be single or married, we might be struggling with issues like loss of parents, menopausal symptoms, our children leaving home but we are not to be mistaken as the ‘desperate housewives’, often portrayed by television serials and some third grade films. When we accept your add requests, we do that to be your ‘friends’ and not for having some free internet sex. So please, learn to accept us as fellow human beings and respect and treat us as you do to your other male friends. Every time you feel the urge to send us a direct or an indirect proposal for having a sex chat with you remember the faces of your mothers /wives /girlfriends /daughters at home and try to imagine how you would be feeling if they get sexually harassed by any thoughtless man !

I am writing this with a very heavy heart and a bruised mind, as the not only ‘Other’ folder in my inbox gets filled up with lewd and unmentionable messages every day, I often have to go through a rude shock when I respond to a conversation with a newly added friend, inspite of accepting the requests after a thorough profile check. After a few casual exchanges, a few friends, many times hint at ‘going physical’ online and I even have the experience of being shouted at for refusing such proposals. A guy had once expressed his disgust and disbelief because according to that middle aged husband and father, for what other reason could women be active on the net if they are not looking for partner and what else could be the reason, the creep exclaimed, for my putting up ‘pretty profile pictures’, everyday !

I know all women are not vulnerable. I know all men are not predators. This note is for those exceptional ones, whose behaviour make others believe in false generalisations. No offence is meant to anyone in particular. My personal experience in the internet has caused me a lot of pain, suffering and humiliation but I have not lost hope. I look forward to meeting many more new people here in future, who would keep charming me with their thoughts and knowledge, fellow feeling, wit and unbeatable humour.

Pix from Net

Champa writes on various blogs and magazines on real life issues and incidents. She is a Post Graduate in English literature from Jadavpur University and has taught English in an Undergraduate college in Kolkata. Champa loves spending her time by reading, writing, gardening and learning classical dances. She now lives in Chennai.