CHENNAI : Afriend came over to my room this week needing to make a decision — she wanted to return home from London, where we are studying because she missed her partner and home very much. My conversation with her was a long one touching upon a range of topics, and it made me realise I must get back to the basics with this column.
Now this friend had one thing to make up her mind about but she was beating herself up for two things — for being unable to stay away from her partner or the negative ‘dependency’ that is attached to it, and for breaking down in having to choose a path forward or the ‘weakness’ that seems synonymous with crying. In both, looking at dependency as deterring and crying as weakness, I passed on wisdom acquired from another friend to her.
This another friend is one that is as ‘independent’ and ‘strong’ as they get, a person moving mountains each day through the work she is doing. Yet, and I probably must refrain from the usage of ‘yet’ here, this is a person who has loved abundantly and unabashedly, remaining forever unapologetic and rightly so for being as dependent she is on the person she loves. Dependence as she defines it, is caring deeply, loving truly and doing the very best she can because she has someone to depend on.
And as I told my decision-making friend to revisit dependency because it’s not a bad thing, I wondered if any of us could be truly independent of the people we love. And we both asked out aloud why there is this popular notion of independence that encourages a life by oneself in far off lands (in privileged cases), separated from loved ones as a benchmark of success or a test of strength in the lives of a number of people, when independence is subjective, not available at all time to all people, and can be thought of outside of financial and material.
In the second matter of crying too, I go back to the same enlightened friend, who like me cries at the drop of a hat. We both think crying only makes us feel better, that it is no weakness rather an act of courage for everyone would be doing it if it were easy. That crying that has been long associated with women and thereby weakness in men (‘Don’t cry like a girl’ or ‘men don’t cry’ should be ringing in your ears right now) is something that women are feeling bad about now (I know a great many women who feel terrible about crying) is telling of the ways in which women in order to be ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ are being diverted into behaving like ‘men’. This happens too in menstruating people normalising cramps or unease during their period because of the better and ongoing fight to de-stigmatise menstruation, but more on that later.
You may notice that there are too many words in inverted commas. It’s intentional, because now gender is about people not women, independent and strong are merely attributes and adjectives of a person and shouldn’t be associated to a male-female binary, and most importantly both dependency and crying are for everyone to be and do with inhibition or judgement.
What an ideal and better place the world would be if we were able as people, not as men or women, in touch with our emotions, listened to our hearts, knew that we are dependent no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves of the later, and we all cried a lot, lot more!