By Dr Mahinder Watsup Apr. 17, 2019
My girlfriend’s male BFF never misses a chance to point out how he knows her better than I ever will, never laughs at my jokes and is particularly quick to write off her romantic prospects, including myself. Some days, I want to strangle the smug bastard.
The millennial perspective on monogamous relationships is about as bleak as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s chances of winning the IPL this year. After all, we live in a time when most twenty-somethings have already spent a good chunk of their dating lives rummaging through the mixed bag of polyamory, hookups, and an insatiable appetite for newness. It also means that our ability to maintain long-term relationships is about as crippled as pre-Three-Eyed-Raven Bran Stark. We’re emotionally screwed and we can’t lie.
I was no different. I was a staunch supporter of this casual fuckery for three years, that is until I ended up accidentally falling in love with S last year. In the last six months, my love life has transformed from Rakhi Sawant to Radhe Maa. I’ve steadily declined booty calls, alienated potential hookups, and deleted a host of dating apps, choosing instead, the comfort of a committed, monogamous relationship. Fortunately for me, S has been a godsend; getting me back in touch with long-forgotten emotions of longing, vulnerability, a dash of insecurity, and blinding jealousy. The downside of this, however, is that I’ve also discovered my least favourite part about serious relationships: the girlfriend’s male best friend.
My dating experience and innumerable rom-coms had taught me that a girl tends to usually be surrounded by all-female BFFS who pay her boyfriend cutesy passive-aggressive compliments like “Break her heart and I’ll break your face”. I knew how to deal with that: Nod earnestly and pray for the day when I’d make them eat their words. Except that the only problem was that S’s core group comprised two gay BFFs, a couple of straight girls, and Anshuman, a straight dude, who I’ve always found particularly overbearing. This wasn’t a battle I signed up for.
Look, I don’t want to come across as that guy whose over-imaginative mind feels unnecessarily threatened at the sight of another man around the girl they love. I’d hate to be the dude that tries to control his girlfriend’s behaviour. All I’m suggesting is that some girls also tend to have that one guy friend: The one who kind of fancies them, probably doesn’t know it, but is firmly in the friend zone so he directs all his energies into putting her romantic prospects down? Or has been around for so long with the girl, knows her deeply, and has grown super-protective of her? That one guy who meets you for the first time and conveys with his eyes that he will never approve of you, even if you happened to cross the seven seas for her. Anshuman is that one guy.
Raised on a steady diet of Bollywood’s twisted understanding of male-female relationships, I fight the “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte” and “Pyaar dosti hai” monologues on loop in my head and try not jumping to conclusions.
If Anshuman was a supervillain, his superpowers would include being obsessed with pointing out how he knows my girlfriend better than I ever will. I’m certain that even the Joker would have nothing on his devious power moves, which include deliberately not laughing at my jokes and slyly bringing up how fond S’s parents are of him at every given opportunity. Yet Anshuman’s coup de grace that is designed to wipe out every trace of happiness from my universe involves insisting on reminding S about all the fond memories they have shared together before I even came into the picture. Right in front of me. Thanos’ snap seems unthreatening in comparison.
Yes yes, I understand. My pettiness and needless jealousy over a platonic bond isn’t lost on me. Raised on a steady diet of Bollywood’s twisted understanding of male-female relationships, I fight the “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte” and “Pyaar dosti hai” monologues on loop in my head and try not jumping to conclusions. And just like every Indian man fighting for the affections – romantic or platonic – of the same woman, Anshuman and I tend to take vying for S’s validation as a competition. And the problem isn’t that I don’t want to take the high road and be open-minded; it’s just that Anshuman makes it very hard to.
I know what you’re thinking: Why should I worry when Anshuman is a friend, right? It really ought to take flipping the situation to understand this better. I share a platonic relationship with my close female BFFs too and there is a higher chance of Jon Snow addressing Danny as Khaleesi Bua, than us ever hooking up. You see, my actions can attest to that with certainty because unlike Anshuman, I’ve never sent them a “PMS care package”, complete with their favourite biscuits. And neither do I insist on making a pact to get married if both of us are single at 35. Correct me if I’m wrong but there’s only so much you can defend your platonic bonhomie when things start veering dangerously towards declaring the hots for your committed “friend”. But hey, I guess I’m just an old-fashioned guy, unable to escape the stranglehold of patriarchy, who believes in respecting boundaries as a friend, no biggie.
A lot of people get insecure in relationships. In fact, I probably sound like the oldest cliche in the world, given that I’ve also heard my own female friends complain about how they wish their boyfriends were more secure of them hanging with other guys. But after being at both ends of the spectrum, I’ve come to realise that most boyfriends hate the Anshumans of the world not because we consider them as potential threats to our relationship or because we grudge them for taking away our limelight. Instead, we loathe them for the simple fact that they were there first.
Perhaps the strangest thing about falling in love is that you tend to view any person that’s known your lover before they met you with a little bit of unfounded envy. You can’t help but feel left out at the fact that you may never get to witness your partner’s quirks the way they have. Although, this feeling of being stung is accompanied by a pertinent, humbling realisation: That your partner is her own person before she is your girlfriend.
It made me recognise how I wasn’t beefing with Anshuman, but was instead stuck in the past she shared with people who weren’t me. And even though I’m still not fully #TeamAnshuman, here’s the thing: I can’t live in the moment with S if I constantly keep thinking of outdoing her past. So, I’ll take solace in knowing that the past doesn’t hold a candle to the present. Because at this moment in time, she’s with me. And that makes all the Anshumans in the world just a little easier to tolerate.