I begin ordering. “Two egg rolls. Pork, with fish sauce on the side. The roasted red pepper chicken, extra chicken, lean on the veggies, heavy on the spices...” I stress each word, watching color slowly draining from smug Virat’s face. The full force of my warrior Punjabi caste aligns with me and I continue, “And vodka with soda water. Heavy on the vodka, light on the water.”
With my spicy meat dish and drink on the way, I feel empowered. It was high time to order a drink…no, no, order drinks in front of the teetotalers. Maybe even get drunk. Why not? And vegetarians? Why bother? Spinsterhood or not, I am not giving up chicken curry for any man. Ever.
When I meet quiet and introspective types, I will drive them away with incessant chatter, putting an end to dates with mutes. If he cannot string five words into a sentence then he is not for me. For the religious men, I’ll tell them my stars are bad, which is no lie. No superstitious Indian man is going to stick around and find out more. Tomorrow I’ll work off the egg rolls on the treadmill, my modern day lion. Tonight I will drink vodka like water. I have no issue with making concessions, but I am not accommodating the likes of the Virat the Vegetarian or Tanuj the Teetotaler.
Then suddenly I have the unbelievably strong and uncontrollable feeling that I have to pee, and right then and there, I do. I pee in my seat. I pee and I pee and I pee until I bolt up, panting and gasping. It takes a moment to determine my surroundings and realize I, again, fell asleep on the couch and left on the living room lights. I squint. The VCR clock says 445 am and the early morning news blares on the telly. An empty wine glass rests on a coaster. A small dullness beats against my temples. I reach under my ass. Dry. I did NOT pee in my sleep, but man I have to go now!
I sit up and push the blanket away. Reality settles in. Holy fuck! Holy fuck! HOLY FUCK! That was a dream. Thank GOD it was a dream, but HOLY FUCK! Every bad date I have ever had and all my worst fears about myself just manifested in my subconscious. I don’t have a choice, I have to ask, how did my life end up on this course? And why aren’t I strong and fearless like that in real life? I don’t know what is worse insomnia or these dreams that generally come in advance of conflict or deep-seated anxiety that I am denying.
These days I cannot seem to strike the balance. I feel beat down by relatives who judge and advise but in the end don’t help. You are too picky they say. Come to India and get a job at an MNC. And we can find you a husband in no time. But they don’t listen when I tell them I don’t want to live in the Third World where the plague still breaks out. There is a reason Dad got the hell out. I don’t want any man, I want THE ONE, because he will surely understand me, make me laugh and genuinely love me. Am I really asking for that much? I shouldn’t have to settle because my cousins did and think I should, too. And I most certainly don’t want to uproot my life. Again. I am barely hanging on in this one.
And shit man. I don’t understand what is going in the man department. In college I knew SOOO many nice men. Indian or otherwise. Did all the goods ones get married and all that is left are the losers? What does this say about me? Because I am not the single mom type, nor should a child be left alone in my soul care, I am freaking out that my window to naturally bear kids is closing. Every time the sun rises I get closer to 40, further from 20 and feel everything I was raised to acquire (a masters, marriage and motherhood) is slipping away because nothing seems to go my way (other than the graduate degree).
But the thing is, I don’t like my job, I am nothing more than a glorified secretary. Instead of walking away, I keep plugging along “for the family” like we’re the freaking mob or something. I don’t like my apartment, but I get paid in Minneapolis wages, while living in Manhattan, so I can’t afford a place on the Upper East Side. I can barely afford this one. And then there is my small addiction to Ann Taylor coupons. I cannot resist those glossy flyers that come in the mail and say, “For 4 days only, all full-price items are 30% off” and deplete my monies. Desi men? Well Minnesota didn’t exactly prepare me to adore tall, dark and handsome because I have an insatiable desire for Matthew McConaughey and Val Kilmer. But Dad has told me that if I bring home anything other than brown, I am disowned. I know parents make empty threats, but Dad is scary stubborn and I believe him. So what choice did I have but to become a serial desi dater and end up on this course.
As I make my way to the bathroom I force myself to be honest. I cannot solely blame the men, my job, family, or relatives. I allowed it all. Desi boys got away with behavior that green or blue men wouldn’t. I put up with life in a family business and relatives telling me to move to India, that I am old, not that skinny or that pretty. My friends too. Why do I return calls, text messages and emails within seconds of receipt, while it takes them days, even weeks to respond?
I switch on the bathroom light. My face looks dull and tired. Ten-pound hefty bags have taken permanent residence under my eyes. The truth is, some time ago I sold myself up the metaphorical river and now I have to buy myself back. Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Ugh, this has to be my wake up call to change things. Or else I may seriously lose it.
My dream of incontinence also makes me realize that what I need more than a boyfriend, or a husband, are a Manhattan paycheck with the trimmings of 401K, vacation time and health insurance, and some balls like Hilary Clinton, not flimsy ovaries like Sita. And most likely a, therapist --- a good one who can prescribe drugs.