“You’re the ‘feminist’ kinds, I heard. It should be fun dating you”, he texted and added a wink smiley.
I wondered what that really means. I read it again. I replied the same way I respond to most texts which I cannot come up with an appropriate reply for - ‘Hahahaha’. It perturbed me a bit, though. ‘Feminist’ types – what is the stereotype that he is expecting? Is he intimidated by me? Am I supposed to come across as intimidating?
His expectations compounded a lot of pressure on me. What if I do not come across to be ‘feminist’ enough? Will it shatter his bubble? Am I supposed to wear thick rimmed glasses and have conversations around the third wave of feminism? What was I supposed to do? What are feminist women supposed to be like? Should I be too assertive? Should I put red-lipstick on? Should I get offended by casual sexist jokes? Am I supposed to cut him in middle of conversations every time and womansplain things (Yes, I just invented that term)? Should I come across as a difficult woman?
Oh my God! This was too much pressure for me to handle, already! What if I come across as a ‘normal’ girl? It would break his world into a thousand tiny pieces.
I dressed up and hoped that it come across to be ‘feminist’ enough. I guess adding thin framed glasses to a sexy black dress does the trick. The neck of the black dress, however, should have the right amount of depth- neither so deep that you come across as slutty, nor so high that you seem prudish. It should be exactly 4.78 inches deep – it is the ideal feminist neckline depth. He then texts me and asks if he should pick me up; I am about to type yes, but then suddenly I think about my clan and how I would come across as a sheer disappointment if I let him pick me. I immediately text back, saying, ‘I am good, I’ll drive there.’ Having pressed the sent button, I suddenly realize that I don’t even have a car- ‘Wrong move, Charul. Wrong move!’ I immediately book an Uber and reach the brewery where we were supposed to meet.
He is waiting for me at the entrance, smiling. ‘Hey, you look beautiful!’, he remarks. I blush a bit and say thank you. (‘Blushing is acceptable, right?’ I whisper to myself. ‘I guess you are doing fine’, I respond back.)
Then the conversations get going and we become comfortable talking to each other. Suddenly, the guy at the next table started smoking. I coughed. It was co-incidental and I didn’t mind the smoke. He gave me that ‘Emraam Hashmi from Ashiq Banaya Aapne’ look and said, ‘Is it bothering you Charul, the smoke? Should I ask him to put it off?’ The alpha male instinct almost made me weak in the knees and I wanted to cough harder and tell him, ‘Yes, please save me from that big bad boy because I can’t say anything to him. Save me, will you? Please? ‘. However, I smiled and said, ‘I’m fine. I don’t really mind the smoke.’
The conversations post that went almost fine. Apart from the occasional, ‘Look I am all for feminism, but I don’t understand why women want reserved compartments in Delhi metro and talk about equality at the same time’, ‘I’m all for equality but then why can’t I hit you like I hit my guy friends?’, ‘If feminism stands for equality why is it called feminism in the first place’. Now, I have come across these questions so many times that I paused for a while, thought about the appropriate reply and was just about to lash at him when something within me stopped me saying, ‘Maybe I don’t have energy for this debate, today.’
However, just moments later – my clan started calling out to me loud and strong, ‘You must say it, Charul. You have to.’ I told him to get a drink and relax. Then, I started – one after another discussing all the ‘concerns’ he brought forward. Two minutes into the conversation, and he couldn't take it – ‘This is the problem with your kinds. You are so easily offended. You cannot take a joke.’ I wondered which of his statements was intended as a joke. I tried telling him that I am not offended, I am just trying to have a discussion – presenting another point of view. We can agree to disagree. He raised his hands, rather dramatically and said,’ Fine, you are right. Let’s just end the discussion.’ I did something between an eye-roll and a smile or a little of both. I don’t believe that I could do it well enough, though.
We were done with our food and drinks and I was prepared for the main test. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this is no ordinary test. It is the most important test to qualify as a true feminist. This round has the veto power.
Was I ready for it? Yes, I was ready for it. I excused myself for the restroom, opened my wallet, took out my credit card and kept it in my pocket for easy access. Then, I waited, with bated breath. ‘Why are you sweating?’, he asked. ‘Nothing, it’s just too hot, suddenly.’ ‘I-have-to-grab-the-bill. I-have-to-grab-the-bill. I-have-to-grab-the-bill’, went on in loops in my head. I could see the waiter walking towards us. ‘Was I sitting at the right angle for him to offer me the bill? Did I seem rich enough? Will I be quick enough to grab it in case it is titled more to his side?’ Oh my God, I was nervous. Five, four, three, two, one – and, he kept it on his side of the table. I don’t remember being this quick ever, but I grabbed it and said, ‘It’s my treat.’ He looked at me, rather bewildered, not able to understand why I seemed so keen on treating him. He insisted on paying and we did some bit of drama for three minutes, post which, we agreed upon letting me pay this time. I sighed in relief. I passed the final, most crucial test.
I could hear claps in the background, ‘Thank you for not letting us down, Charul’, they said. He will no longer tell his friends, that when it comes to paying the bill- these feminist types forget about equality, suddenly they start preferring chivalry. I did a little dance when he was not looking.
Meanwhile, my phone beeped. It was a message from a dear friend- ‘Woman, you owe me 30k on Splitwise. I am not your husband; you do realize that, right?’.
‘Shut up! I’ll throw the money on your stupid face, you ass’, I reply.
‘Yes, how about you throw it today. I need to pay my rent.’
Ah, things you do for your clan!