Becoming part of a couple these days is all the more exciting because not only are you now being emotionally taken care of, you also get to go to places “with” someone. After many many years in our 20’s car-pooling with friends and then perhaps eventually acquiring your set of wheels, it’s a weird relief to finally be able to rely on someone who will, without questions, perform the pick and drop. One more reason to love him. Socilizing takes on a new charm because you meet up with friends “with” someone and almost all outings are borne of mutual agreement. You get spoiled because you choose to hang out with people who are like you- who celebrate your choices and conversations and decisions and being in life. It’s easy.
Part of being a married couple, however, eventually means socializing together on a level that is not so voluntary. Occasions come up where one or the other better half has to acquiesce to the other persons request to “have to” go to a work dinner or meet up with a random lot of people who have been planning to meet for a long time. And usually, you cannot get out of it.
Recently we have found ourselves at two dinners with unlikelies. One set of people was a lot we didn’t know at all, and the other a lot of extended friends. Both had one thing in common.
The Great Segregate.
Now when we hang out with our group of friends, we don’t even think about segregation. Most of the people around me have been lucky enough to have fallen “madly in friends” with people we ended up with so chances of there being a gender bar (or any bar) on conversation is not even considered. And when we do want to have a “girly” conversation, we simply meet separately. I’m sure so do the guys. Coming back to the dinners, the first one was most interesting as the men holed themselves up in a room resplendant with smoke and the wives awkwardly settled themselves in the lounge almost as per habit. Conversation was at best, routine, with yawning gaps here and there- mostly about domestic help and children. The divide was unusually orchestrated, not quite comfortable but almost done to fulfil some unsaid social requirement.
The second dinner, at an old school friends house, saw a similar phenomenon happen but in a different way. The segregation that happened was smooth and effortless. There was no wall separating the guys from the girls. No physical barriers. No uncomfortable please-dont-communicates hanging in mid air. It was a simple slight turning away of the body to create your own space as the girls’ conversation jumped over topics like the new Bond to the issues of being a lawyer at work in Karachi to having three kids to food to inflation to roads to anything. It was not a case of having to segregate, more so of it happening in a natural unconscious way even, and just as smoothly, as effortlessly, the two sides of the divide found themselves coming together as part of a larger conversation.
Perhaps we have evolved so much in our own group of friends that we forgot to make the distinction between men and women, the distinction that society, on so many levels places, upon us. With us, it has become more about individuals. Sans the gender. And it always takes stepping out into the “real” world of men and women to realize how lucky we are that, in our social existence, we choose not to tell the two apart anymore.