Singles who mingle: Looking for love in all the wrong places

An evening at a singles-only event brings new revelations for Namratha Krishnamurthy, who discovers the unexpected pleasures of friendship while looking for romance.

hidden August 12, 2011 12:19:06 IST
Singles who mingle: Looking for love in all the wrong places

By Namratha Krishnamurthy

It's a weekend night. My friends and I are at a hip, happening high-end bar in Bangalore and it's packed. As usual, men outnumber women, and so the three of us stake out our ground and make a tight circle near the bar. There's the assortment of over-eager stags, single guys out to pick up women. Men in business suits typing as if their lives depend on it into their BlackBerries.

Of the scattering of women in the crowd, a few like us are single women on a night out. A few others with husbands and boyfriends. And a handful of young, glamourous things in short skirts and dresses, clinging leech-like onto the arms of older men, who wear beatific smiles of entitlement. The only people having fun are the mixed groups of boisterous friends out to party. As more and more people enter, drunkenly, we're pressed tighter and tighter together, armpit to armpit, leg to leg. It's hot.

Singles who mingle Looking for love in all the wrong places

Being single is awful. It's being single that's like death. Daniel Etter/The New York Times

A young man bumps into me, and strikes up a conversation. He asks me what I do. I tell him that I'm a writer. He takes a swig of his drink, and then casually asks, "Do you need to read books to be a writer? I've always wanted to write, but I don't like reading books."

Suffice it to say, conversation dies quickly after that.

Another scruffy guy blunders past us, turns out to know one of our group, and stops to chat. Something about the way he holds himself and slightly sways side to side makes me realise that he's high as a kite. There a sheen of sweat on his face.

A woman, near the doorway, stumbling, seems close to vomiting, and has to be taken outside. There's something slightly sordid, in inane conversations shouted out over the blaring music, the clumsy, awkward pickup lines, the vacant drug-addled (or so I imagine) gazes, the drunken hollering. These bars and nightclubs are the new courtship grounds, the place where we come hoping to find more to romance. (as in, more than just a one-night stand.)

Is Romance, like Nietzche proclaimed of God, dead? Or am I too cynical? Perhaps, those of us who are hopeless romantics, we should resign ourselves to single-tude and make the best of it.

When I share this thought with my friend Selina, she clutches me with a death-like grip. Her manicured fingernails dig into my arm. "Being single is awful. It's being single that's like death." She prophesies a grim, disturbing vision of single life in years to come: "All your friends will be married. And married people only hang out with other married people. You'll be left out. Just imagine the conversation — PTA meetings, vaccinations, pediatricians."

A week later, I surprise myself by attending an exclusive, singles-only event. The first thing that I notice is that women outnumber men almost two to one. The women, for the most part, are an attractive, successful, well-heeled bunch. The handful of men who are present are slightly shy except for the tall, handsome, gregarious bartender.

An acquaintance who has organised a few such single events later tells me that the skewed gender ratio is typical— and a reason why these events often don't work. According to her, Indian men are uncomfortable admitting that they haven't had much success with women — and view attending a singles event as an admission of the same. Or at least, such is the case in Bangalore.

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Over the course of the evening, I end up talking to most of the four-five men (incidentally, the women number around ten). Two seem a bit stand-offish— or shy — and only start talking once they become fairly tipsy. I know one of the other men already — we attend the same yoga class. He's hit on me before, and I've acted 'aloof' (or so he claims), so we don't talk.

It strikes me then, that contrary to popular belief, there is a large pool of single, desirable women. Many of my friends, attractive, successful, women — what I would describe as 'catches' — are single or inhabit that shadowy murky vague land between the single-state and being in a relationship. So, why are there so many hot, attractive women who are single? Who haven't found what they are looking for?

Singles who mingle Looking for love in all the wrong places

Attractive people, with a greater chance of success hold out for better, or don't feel the need to integrate resources. AFP

One of the male attendees offers an answer of sorts.

"Have you ever wondered why the less attractive, less successful people get married first?" he asks, and proceeds to offer his theory:

"The less attractive, less successful realise, from an early stage, that in order to survive they must pool resources together, and to do this in the most efficient and speedy manner, they can't afford to have high expectations. It's this that compels them to marriage first. Attractive people, with a greater chance of success hold out for better, or don't feel the need to integrate resources."

One of the other women listening on agrees: "I guess if you're a financially independent woman with certain freedoms —why would you want to marry a man with conservative parents, and tailor your life to his? Why would you want to give up your freedom and independence?"

"Exactly. You'll either hold out for something better or figure that sharing your resources with someone inferior isn't going to improve your lot."

This is perhaps why my parents, and the parents of my friends, accuse my generation of being too 'picky.'

When Mr. Theorist sort of asks me out — I'd like to get your input on a project I'm working on, shall we do dinner? — I demur. He's at least fifteen years older than me, balding, pompous and rather paunchy....you can surmise the rest. But he was still the most interesting man to talk to at this event. Maybe I am too picky...but I'd like to think that I know what I want.

I give up on the men, and wander over to a group of single women, and like all single women meeting each other, we instantly bond. We compare notes on the humiliations and trials of the arranged marriage market, our mothers' laments for grandchildren, the eccentricities of potential suitors, the difficulties of matching horoscopes. One woman discusses the tribulations of being manglik. "I've already been married," she tells me, "to a tree!"

The evening ends with me as single as ever. I may not have acquired a man, but I did find myself a new friend, a fellow Trekkie. We exchange Vulcan handshakes, confess to harboring a life-long love for Spock, discuss the merits of Voyager, the Original series and the Next Generation. We even debate, heatedly, whether Deep Space Nine can really be considered a Star Trek series.

My dork-ish eccentricities are things that, for some unknown reason, I feel the need to conceal, even from some of my closest friends. It's not exactly romance, but finding someone who shares my passion feels just as exhilarating.

Later, as I root through my wardrobe searching for that old, hidden away Star Fleet Uniform, I think  just maybe staying single may not be such a bad thing, after all. Perhaps this — and not Selina's cassandra-like visions of doom — is the face of the future: a community of independent, successful, single people — both men and women — drawn together by what we care about. Like being die-hard Star Trek fans.

I should tell Selina. It's not such a bad thing.

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