Those growing up years

people-party

When I was a little younger, I used to crave freedom. I used to crave going out with friends and staying out late, going for parties and dancing and drinking, without any restrictions and while still living under the parents’ roof. The coming home curfew and endless worried phone calls by the time I reached home irked me. It got much worse when they knew about the boyfriend. Typical middle-class Indian parents. They wouldn’t allow me on stayovers unless it was an all-girls no-drinking strictly pajama party. Drinks and alcohol were an unspoken taboo and the idea that their daughter might wish to familiarize with an occasional glass of wine or a dip into the stronger stuff would have come as a shock to them.

imageSure I rebelled and begged and wheedled and lied, but somehow I got through the teens without giving my parents much cause for worry. Which simply means that I made sure my parents never found out the truth about all those times I said I was helping a friend study for his paper, taking a baking class, volunteering at an NGO, attending study circle lectures, learning graphology or face reading, or the most-used cover-up: sleeping over at a girlfriend’s. Because those occasions became important memories etched forever into a teenager’s mind. A lot of firsts. First sleepover with the boyfriend. Getting dressed up and attending a party. Four friends sneaking the car out in the middle of the night for a long drive. Making out in a car parked on a service-road off the highway and getting caught by the police. Getting started on that glass of wine, slowly graduating to the good stuff, the vodka, rum and all those cheap pitchers of beer. Finally understanding what the fuss is all about after going through those wonderful phases of high, tipsy and then straight, plain drunk.

I’ve done my share of crazy, but it was simply easier that my parents didn’t have to know any of that, so they wouldn’t lose their precious winks staying up worrying about a wayward daughter. But things change as we grow older, and I can’t tell the exact moment my parents began to think I’m not a kid any more, but it began sometime during their understanding of my academic failure and the end of my first very serious relationship. Their way of looking at me changed, especially when they realised others took me more seriously than they did.

Nowadays (most days of the week) I behave like a ‘professional’ and go to work (most days of the week). And every other weekend I’m out trying to make up for the fact that I have to work as per someone else’s instructions, with the justification that at least for 2 days a week, I’m living my life. And at least I tell my parents half-truths such as the people I’m with, where I’m going, whose place I’m spending the night. The parents do still yell and throw an occasional fit for all the hours spent out of the house, and friends being more important than family shit. I figure that is a given when I’m living in my parents’ house post turning 20, and I’m just going to have to deal with it.

Maybe someday I’ll admit how little they really know about my teenage and growing up years. In my defense, I was simply sparing them the mortification. If I tell them after some 10-odd years, I don’t think they will ground a 30-year old right? But for now, if I’m drunk and partying, at least my parents can begin to look for me. And preferably they won’t find me lying in a ditch somewhere; I’m sure I have better friends than that. At least it’s a start, makes me feel a little more responsible this way.

The Girl Who Listens

As far back as my memory goes, I’ve always been ‘The Girl Who Listens’.

I was a silent child, too much into books and puzzles to stop and learn some valuable practical lessons regarding the ‘world’ (which, back then simply meant ‘school’). I was nice and sweet, and never got in anyone’s way, so I made friends easily. I was the girl people told their secrets to.

At 15, I suddenly grew up from a sweet, quiet kid to a girl who had discovered that she could think. I began to actually talk to communicate stuff, and I liked it. I made new friends who liked me for the way I was, and I was happy. I was even friends with some boys from my class!

One day, this cute guy started a conversation with me outside our class. We were both favorites of our Math professor (yes, I was a nerd!) and we spoke a little of this, a little of that. Soon the conversations turned to late night chats. He was bright, intelligent, and the more I thought about it, he was just the kind of guy I would love to like.

And then he finally mustered up his courage, and told me… that he’d been crushing on my best friend for weeks, and could I please find out if she liked him too? I was the girl who the guys approached, to tell me about their crush on one of my girlfriends.

It turned out, she did like him, only to break his heart soon after. And once again, still uncomplaining, I gave him my ear, and also my heart. It did not take him long to notice my tear-stained shoulder and to catch my unbroken heart. And as all teenage loves go, many painful years later, I realized only too late how much of a rebound I was for him.

I’ve now successfully ended things with him – and emerged with my head above the water. I’m older and wiser in experience. I’ve even been approached by guys for myself, to ask me out. I’ve had relationships that did not begin with a shoulder to cry on.

Just yesterday a close friend confided in me that she wants to break up with her boyfriend of many years. Soon after she ended things with him, I got a phone call from her boyfriend, asking me to talk to her and to try and convince her to give him another chance. I realize I’m still the girl who listens to everyone. But now I see it as a good thing. This tells me that I connect well with people. It makes me happy, knowing that my friends are comfortable with talking about their feelings with me, and that they know I’m here for them and that they can trust me.