By Sonali Kokra Feb. 06, 2019
Dear Dev.Ds, we fell for you; we wanted to be the ones who changed you. We wanted to make your darkness evaporate. But we should have known better. You were never going to change, and we would end up losing ourselves.
Dear Dev Ds of our life (aka, Mr Basically Nice Guy, who just happens to be a victim of his circumstances),
How is it going for you? Given “growing the hell up, and getting your shit together” a try yet? Or are you still drifting, from one woman to the next, tormented by your inability to find that one woman who will truly “get you”. The one who will trudge through treacle to save your sorry ass from yet another mess of your own making, and patiently shovel through the layers and layers (and there are many) of unpleasantness to finally discover that fabled heart of gold the world swears is hidden somewhere deep down, but hasn’t been spotted since 1999?
I know, I know. You’re just misunderstood. Or unlucky. Or both. Poor lamb, you. I’ve heard you blame your father. He wasn’t a “sturdy enough” role model for you. And for some time, like everyone else, I blamed your mother. She didn’t teach you how to respect women, I outraged. It was only when I finally stopped pining for you that my common sense woke up from its hibernation and I could finally blame the people on whose doorsteps the guilt lay: you and I. You for treating me like dirt, and me for believing I didn’t deserve any better.
I have to admit, moving on wasn’t easy. When you’ve spent so much time yo-yoing between dizzying highs and depressing lows in your relationship, you get addicted to the drama. You were like my personal brand of heroin, a strain of pot grown just to sharpen the blade of my insecurities. I allowed you to treat me like I was created simply to absorb your rage at the universe for dealing you a bad hand. For far too long, I foolishly believed I was special, because you could truly be yourself only around me. It took a while for me to cotton on to the humbling truth that I wasn’t special – I was easy. You were so secure in how destructively co-dependent our relationship was that you couldn’t even be bothered to pretend to be nice. That’s on me.
To give you credit, you really did know how to turn on the charm and dazzle the world, on the rare occasions you felt like it. It only made you more irresistible. Being wooed by you, the bad boy that every woman I knew — available or taken — secretly harboured a crush on was thrilling. We believed you were a bad boy with a good heart, but by the time we figured you out, our confidence was in a shambles.
How could you, an entitled man, have your way with women?
The Dev.Ds in our lives conform to stereotype – but they also spin out in different directions like a tentacled creature with a firm grip around our necks.
You were the straight-talking, good-looking rogue who specialised in saying things that made people gasp. You had a type — sharp, opinionated, articulate women whose self-respect you could crush. I gravitated toward you for how utterly unintimidated you were by women who spoke their mind. Ironically, the things that you said attracted you to me were the first things you made it your mission to strip me off of.
When I think about us, it boggles my mind. I knew the trail of hurt, heartbroken women you’d left behind you on your way to me, and yet I followed you like a hypnotised child tailing Pied Piper.
How could you, an entitled man, have your way with women? I think I know the answer, finally. We wanted to be the ones who changed you. The ones who made your darkness evaporate, and who made you shed your bitter act. And we wholeheartedly believed the bitterness was an act, meant only to protect the vulnerability that lurked underneath, flashes of which you allowed only us to see every once in a while. You had perfected your manipulative mating dance.
The change in me was gradual. Turning into a nervous wreck was a process. But I can recall the dozens of times we got into screaming matches because you were suspicious I was flirting with someone new we’d met; accusations that invariably ended with scathing comments about my sexual past. I tried to dismiss the jealousy as a sign that you cared too much. I should have run for the hills then, but for some godforsaken reason I didn’t, which only allowed you to drill in the screws harder. I don’t know when I decided it was easier to fold into myself than make you see reason. I kept my head low, and tried to attract as little attention as possible. It worked for some time, until you found something new to be furious about. You’ve always liked the idea of being with a strong woman, not the reality of what that entails.
Because it might be years since we last crossed paths, but your kind populates large swathes of the dating world.
I thought about leaving often, but you had a sixth sense for things like that. And right before I could tell you it was over, you’d give me just enough hope to falter and stay back. It worked like clockwork, until the day you decided there was nothing more left to break. I remember being shattered, but also relieved, when you finally walked out of my life.
It’s been so many years since we last met, Dear Dev.D. Are you wondering why I’m writing to you? Are you feeling a little shiver of satisfaction, thinking that even today, so many years later, your exes long for you? I’m not. Because it might be years since we last crossed paths, but your kind populates large swathes of the dating world. So no, Dear Dev.D, this is meant for the woman who is trying to fight off the horrifying realisation that her Dev.D story sounds eerily similar to mine.
Dear Paaro and Chanda, if there’s one thing you can believe, believe this: You’re not going to change him, you’ll only end up losing yourself. Run. Run as fast as you can.
Sonali Kokra is a journalist, writer, editor and media consultant from Mumbai. She writes on feminism, gender rights, sexuality, relationships, and lifestyle. In her 12-year-long career, she has written for national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. She was last seen as the lifestyle editor of NDTV, and HuffPost.com, and has published a coffee table book on Shah Rukh Khan.