Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Perils and Perks of Being a Single Girl in IIT

All the movies will tell you that being single at 21 is probably the saddest thing that can happen, except, perhaps, being single at 30. Bottom line is, being single is always connected with being sad and lonely. More often than not, the girl in question would herself get all mopey when drunk because she does not have a recent ex, or imminent future boyfriend to call. And if you are single in a place like IIT, it might get to be a little more than what you signed up for.

Having being single for three out of my four years in Kharagpur, (which is significantly more than most girls here) I think I am sufficiently qualified to comment on the good, the bad and the ugly of single life in Kharagpur. Let’s start with the good first, since the boys always keep going on about how easy it must be for girls in an IIT.

It’s usually a great ego boost to have some admirers. But in IIT’s it’s never just “some”. It gets a little tiresome when your acquaintance of guys who haven’t asked you out gets so diminished that you run out of coffee buddies outside your hostel. Nevertheless, you do get to have a very eventful time.

You can pick and choose whom to date. If you are a little frivolous, and have no qualms about playing with people’s feelings, you might get a lot of free meals without getting into anything serious. You will get a lot of chocolates on Valentine’s Day or after FTs, and you always have a list of people you can call anytime if you are bored. If you are feeling a little fling-y, you might date multiple people simultaneously and get away with, “I said nothing serious”, if confronted by them, or your own conscience. And if you like being bossy, you might enjoy the thrill of having a cute puppy following you around and running your errands. Once you become committed, you might not be able to get away with the latter all the time, but again, it’s Kharagpur, so you probably will.

Another big bonus is the ceaseless stream of entertainment it provides your friends who have settled down by now. My friends, for example, have a blast whether or not I do something crazy in this respect. They are the ones who get the most out of the slight deviations from your prolonged single-dom that you venture into every now and then. They like to eavesdrop on your conversations when someone is trying to ask you out. They like speculating that you are a closet lesbian. They have a great laugh when they point out that “I’m not looking for anything serious” is NOT a synonym for “let’s just be friends”, and you said yes to a guy without realizing it. Then they just decide to sit back and see the fun waiting for it to crash and burn to an unholy ball of flames. And imagine their hilarity when zero dates later, the same guy suggests that “we should be just Facebook friends”, which by the way, is a true story.

But like I said, sometimes it gets a little too much. You just want to be able to hang out with guys without feeling weird. Having studied in an all-girls school for 14 years and coming from a family where everyone your age is female, it took me a while to get there. And then, the world realizes you are single, and you lose all that faster than you can imagine. I can safely say that updating my FB relationship status to single was my biggest FB faux-pas till date.

Sometimes, you are not just looking for your next boyfriend. But people here don’t seem to get that. All the boys think they are perfectly fine and desirable, and all the girls think you need someone special in your life. The part that makes the oncoming barrage of ask-outs difficult is when you have to explain to a friend why you think you should be just friends. It gets worse when they behave as if they cannot comprehend why anyone would not want to date them. Sometimes, I think, the guys mistake having a good time with someone as those proverbial “sparks” and they cannot fathom that you just didn’t feel it too. I realized the importance of the sparks when I gave it a try once, but that was a mistake I’d rather not repeat.

To make things worse, your girl friends think of every nice guy they meet as a prospective boyfriend for you. Sometimes they get more interested in the match than the two parties themselves, and after a very awkward date, they are the ones with the biggest disappointment. Granted that they have a good screening process for who they recommend, and they do ward off unwanted proposals, sometimes you wish they could understand how having a boyfriend is not one of the things you “need” to be happy.

I think I am one of the few girls who really like being single. Relationships are a big exhaustion for me. To make an effort to open up emotionally and then having it come crumbling down is an experience I would not want to risk unless I really, really like someone and I get those butterflies in my stomach. Meanwhile, I’d just like to have some friends.

To the few single girls in Kgp, I’d like to say, “If you hate being single, don’t worry, your next proposal is just around the corner. In the meanwhile, bask in the glory of your admirers”. To those single girls who like basking in the glory of their many admirers, I’d say, “Don’t get a swollen head. It’s just Kgp, and you’re no Scarlett Johansson”. To the single guys, “Do not ask out every girl you remotely know, and do not be so surprised when they say “no”.” To the committed girls, “Laugh all you want at/with your single friends, but do not try to set them up, unless they expressly want it”. And to those people who have asked me out and think I’m referring to them here, “Only my two best friends in Kgp know I’m talking about you.”