My parents will disown me. We aren’t from the same caste/sect/biradari. You’re too good for me. I’m too young to settle down. I have to marry someone from my family …. These are just a few things men say when they want to leave you high and dry. Here’s why they refuse to stick to the truth.
“I havent heard your voice in ten days. Where are you?” she squeaks, struggling to control the hysteria she’s felt in the last few days, aware that she sounds like a petulant child about to throw a tantrum. She swallows the lump in her throat — the one that refuses to go away — as she hears him breathe through the phone.
“I don’t know how to tell you this … but I just found out something,” he says with the flourish of an actor.
A pregnant pause. She doesn’t ask — she already knows what’s coming her way. She can literally feel it in her bones.
“It’s tuberculousis … I have tuberculosis,” he says, almost trying to make himself believe what he has just said.
An excuse, a horribly heartless one at that. Made intentionally horrible in order for her to hate him more — and possibly move on.
“But tuberculosis isn’t fatal. It’s like totally curable, you know that!”her voice comes out shriller than she expected.
Even at 19, she fully realises the extent and stupidity of his crap. She wants to call him on it; she wants to rage.
Instead she cries: she should’ve known, she should’ve seen it coming, she should’ve expected this mess. She cries because that’s all she can do.
She shouldn’t have asked him to commit.
That’s not my story but it might as well be because, like other girls, I too was handed these excuses — usually after a long-winded courtship filled with promises of marriage.
For most Pakistani girls, the end of a relationship can be particularly devastating because these relationships are mostly considered illicit and almost always kept secret from family.
So when they break down, you have no one to run to and take cover.
Worse, the years spent in such relationships waste a girl’s good rishta years — that small time frame in which women are considered marriage-worthy by society and get good proposals — and, of course, her childbearing years.
But the purpose of this article is not to whine about how bad it feels and how it destroys your self-esteem.
It is to understand why men prolong these relationships and keep the girl hanging by a thread of hope.
It is to figure out what’s really going on in their confused, sometimes emotionless, heads.
So I go searching for my experimental specimen (single men) at — where else? — a coffee shop.
I approach with some trepidation two good-looking guys watching a match, almost afraid they’ll run away like cockroaches when I present my thesis question. It’s not an easy one.
Most Pakistani guys and girls hate admitting that they’ve actually dated. And who really wants to share the details of their relationships with the world?
I put my cards on the table and promise complete anoymity, they smile back as if they’ve seen my type — the angry feminist writer who badly wants to save women.
One of the guys — I notice his striking blue eyes — puts down his sandwich when I ask why men get into relationships and break them off. “Most of us think short term. If it’s fun right now and gets me through the day, why not date her?” he says easily.
“But most women start planning too early. Before I’ve even popped the question, they’ve decided on the honeymoon location and named our babies. So when your expectations aren’t met, resentment builds on both sides. And a push and pull war begins: the more she pushes, the more you pull away,” he continues.
When asked if that was the fate of his last relationship, he looks disconcerted, “Yes, but I really loved her. I was in it a 100 per cent but she was 120 per cent, and that freaked me out.”
The darker guy with brooding looks steps to his friend’s defence. “Women like to believe that we get into relationships just for the thrill. I’ll tell you a large part of it is just that — but we’re also looking for intimacy and love. How much love versus how much thrill depends on our age and how mature we are about settling down.”
So I asked him how his last relationship ended. He looks at me disdainfully — like a fly sitting on his expensive coffee. “I got bored. She was pressurising me everyday. I wasn’t ready for marriage. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for her. If I had been ready for her, I would’ve gotten ready for marriage.”
I try not to wince each time I hear an excuse. He continues, “I told her that my parents wanted me to marry within the family — which is only partly true. My family is pretty cool, they do want me to marry within the family but if they knew I loved somebody they’d back off and let me do as I please.”
I asked if there was any guilt. Perhaps some remorse over breaking someone’s heart? Blue-eyed guy has a faraway look — either he’s watching the match or has remembered some emotions tucked away somewhere. “I do feel guilty. But guilt is easier to deal with. Change your friends, stop visiting places where you might run into her or throw yourself into work — pretty soon, you’ll be over it.”
I wish it was that simple for women.
As another man walks in with his laptop, I say my goodbyes to the two guys and stride towards my new guinea pig. He tells me that the ‘excuse’ is the last resort. “When I’m not serious about a girl, I’m constantly giving her very obvious and intentional signs. Now it’s her prerogative to back off. If she still plays along, I take it that she’s not serious either. Or either very naive. She expects me to change but if I wanted to change for her, I would’ve done that already.”
I ask him why men won’t just come out and tell the truth. “Because I don’t want to come across as insensitive. And women can’t handle the truth — the truth always hurts more. And then there’s so much crying. That’s the hardest to handle.”
So what should a girl look out for? The one sign that tells her that it’s going to end soon, that heartbreak is just around the corner. “Waning interest. If a guy constantly blows hot and cold, it means he just fits you in his attention span when he’s got time,” says one guy.
Another says, “If he becomes overly secretive, if he constantly keeps a part of his life hidden, he’s possibly sharing that part with someone else. Take notice of small things: if he keeps his phone with him all the time, even takes it to the loo with him — he’s got some texts to hide.” While girls waste so much time thinking over and rationalising what guys say – in the end it just boils down to one thing, excuse or no excuse, ‘’they just werent that into us”. So maybe we should try and not get to the point that we’re even fed the excuse. We should be the ones to walk away well before that happens.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, November 11th, 2012.