Bruce Wayne takes off his business suit at night, puts on a mask, leather tights and a cape and fights crime in the dark streets of Gotham where lurk hardened criminals. I am not Bruce Wayne. I am Natasha Agarwal, I take off my business suit at night, put on my pyjamas, open my laptop, go to the darkest corners of the cyber world, where lurk men hungry for lust and love, and write relationship advice columns. Pseudonymously. I write a column titled Agony Aisha.
I open my inbox to a flood of mails. A hundred and twenty four to be precise. It seemed overwhelming at first but once you begin to see the common themes, it is just a matter of writing some grandmotherly advice and copy pasting it. However, I do have to take care to make sure I add the right pronouns and nouns that inject just the required amount of personal touch to each premium customer. Each premium customer that brings me an additional 1500 rupees a month.
I typed in the usual stuff, starting with the general ones like hold the door open for her, pull out a chair for her, treat her like a princess, to the more specific ones like never point your finger at her and always be the one to list out the order to the waiter on a date.
I typed in the last sentence, pressed the last full stop, clicked the last mouse button and closed my laptop. It was 4 am. I went to sleep hoping that I will not be late for my lunch date tomorrow. I know that not one of the things I wrote in the emails is going to help me, a 35-year-old single woman find the love of my life.
The next day, at lunch, I see him waiting for me outside the Ritz Carlton. I see him waving at me. I wave back and thus begins our date.
10 minutes into our date, my fourth this week, I knew that there is nothing special about this one either. Even the Italian food seemed to taste bland. Well, to be fair to him and the seven men that dated me before him, the men who date me do so by starting at a disadvantage. The trouble with being a relationship advisor is there is nothing the men can do to surprise me.
Therefore, I keep telling myself that I should not expect surprises. I just want someone who will not bore me. I don’t want someone who is different. I just want someone who will not suffocate me with his efforts to please me. And that is where this guy failed me.
There is something uniquely suffocating about a person that wants to do everything for you. He pulled my chair for me, treated me like a princess, did not argue with me about anything and agreed with my opinion on everything. Hell, he did not even let me speak to the waiter. I am sure he is one of those who reads my advice column. Every behavior of his seemed scripted, except for that part where he almost tripped over himself at the entrance. That was hilarious in a sad sort of way.
After another long lasting half an hour of eating and talking about the weather and our hobbies and Tolstoy and classic literature, I decided that I had enough. Yes, to hell with this, I had enough. I leaned back and asked him directly, “Don’t mind my asking, Akash, but aren’t you tired of this pretentious sophistication, this being a different person just so that the other person likes us, this charade of civilization, don’t you ever wish you could just be yourself?”
“You know, I am so glad you brought this up, I was thinking of the same thing. I am no dunderhead, I understand that the date is not going great, you are bored, I am being the embodiment of clichés and the stuff that relationship advice is made of.”
My ears stood up.
He continued, “You know, you are right about me wanting to be myself. The first thing I am going to do today, is cancel my membership to this relationship advice column called “Agony Aisha”. It is so full of stupid, vague and general clichéd ideas and suggestions with no consideration for specific situations or personal advice. She says stuff like hold the door open for her. I almost tripped over myself trying to hold the revolving door open for you when we entered. Do you know who is spoiling the dating scene for people like you and me? Do you know who prevents us men from being ourselves? These relationship advisors! They raise the expectations of women to Mills and Boon standards. These relationship advisors who write out these rules and tell us to be like this and be like that. I want to be myself. Enough of being ashamed of what I really am. I will tell you the truth. I have never read Tolstoy, I enjoy Chetan Bhagat’s books, I am lactose intolerant, I hate Italian food and I snore.”
I grabbed the tissue tighter and noticed that the tissue was sticking to my palms. I leaned forward and gazed curiously into his eyes.
Four years down the lane, I find the sound of him snoring next to me strangely therapeutic on my long nights when I have to stay up and reply to my customers on Agony Aisha.
Image Source: Peanuts
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