My hubby and I have been friends for as long as I can remember: 2 years of being best buds, 5 years of seeing each other and 13 years of marriage. When you’ve been friends before being romantically involved, there isn’t much that you shy away from saying to each other. Everything that comes to the mind, just slips off the tongue in your spouse’s presence: the good, the bad and the ugly.
I see couple friends of mine who are so sweet to each other. They always address each other as “aap” (the respectful second person pronoun) when speaking in Hindi, the wives don’t cut their hair short because their husbands won’t like it, listen to their hubby’s opinions when shopping for dresses, assemble tacos for them when at a DIY food counter at a party (many times out of choice of wanting to pamper their hubbies rather than out of some patriarchal expectation on the husband’s part). It’s all very adorable, and yet, so alien to me!
My hubby has often picked up my phone call, absorbed in his work, affectionately addressing me as “Ch*tiya!” before launching into a conversation and breaking off half- way, realizing that I’m not one of the boys! I’m his girl! And we have laughed, while he muttered an apology in between! That’s our relationship! We’ve been friends so long that curse words are more appropriate, loving nicknames than addressing each other as “aap”. Between us, there’s no semi-respectful “tum” either- just a no-nonsense “tu” like “Eh-tu!” (the most casual second person pronoun).
As friends, you ask people for their opinions but eventually do what you think best. I think I still have a hard time understanding how my hair or my dressing affects his life in any way, so I have cut my hair short a million times knowing that he loves my hair long (like every other Indian man’s obsession with “lambe, ghané baal”*) and I wear what I like. And he’s the same. How many ever times I tell him that I wish he dressed more soberly: nice, classic cuts and good fabrics; he still dresses in his Nandy-style, wearing bright colours and funky pants with such aplomb that he could give any Bollywood hero a run for his money. Maybe he needs to live out the opposite of his daily life on a holiday, giving up the serious corporate look for a fultoo filmy ishtyle!
That’s what happens when someone has been your friend first: you listen but you don’t have to follow. You can take Nandy and me out of the ‘friend zone’ but you can never take the friendship out of us!
I see one of my closest friend cutely making paani puri for her husband. She jabs the puri, filling it and placing it in his mouth. They’re like a couple out of a fairy tale! She doesn’t do it with any preconceived notions of her duty as a wife. She does it because she loves babying him and he babies her too. He’s chivalrous with her: picking up her bags without a groan when they travel, always walking behind her into elevators and crowded nightclubs.
And then there’s me: friend-zoned for life (voluntarily so). I’d much rather smash a pani puri onto Nandy’s face and start a food fight than put it in his mouth. And he’s the same. He never treats me like a lady: always walks into the elevator before me, and never looks to see if I’m ok walking in a short dress and heels through the dodgy lanes of Colaba at 1 am while he scoots in front of me, heading to where our car is parked. Why didn’t he get the car and pick me up at the door of the nightclub? Laughter can be my only response to that question because friends don’t do that.
When we travel, we’re very clear: his bag is his problem and my bag is my burden. He still tries to complain about the twelve pairs of shoes I’m carrying and the many outfits but eventually he knows- it’s mine to lug around! He isn’t going to be throwing his jacket on any puddles to prevent me from getting my feet (or in this case, hands) dirty.
So I sit here, wondering how is it possible that there are still a few things that we are unable to share? Despite the unabashed honesty that we have, there are some words, even in a friendship, that are forbidden.
For us, it’s the obvious! We can make jokes about everything as long as we don’t touch the other’s Achilles’ heel (or scalp, in Nandy’s case). Like for months, his hair-stylist has been suggesting a hair transplant but he doesn’t want to do it. Every time he discuses it, I want to scream and say, “Do it! Do it!” He says, “I should learn to age gracefully and not resort to these shenanigans”, but all I want to do is shake him up and say, “Why age gracefully when science allows you an attempt at reversing it?”, but I can’t say that. I have to show solidarity towards his vanishing hairline, which hurts him as much as me. I nod in agreement and say, “Yes. Must. Age. Gracefully.”
And he doesn’t say what he has been dying to, since the day BabyA was born. I lost all the weight (and more) simply from breastfeeding, and then ballooned into an even bigger blimp because of my sheer love of food. As he saw my transformation, he probably wanted to scream, “Fatty- stop eating that damn brownie, while telling me you don’t have the time to work out because life is so hard after a baby!” but he didn’t. He probably bit his tongue and kept mum. Just like most dads should around heavy, new mums.
Now you’re left wondering that how have I uttered the forbidden words on such a public forum, when I wasn’t supposed to let him have a whiff of what I was really feeling? In reality, my public blog tends to be the most private space to pen down anti-husband venting, since my husband never reads my blog! Maybe if he played the role of the supportive spouse, he would follow every post, but he doesn’t! He’s my friend first, and after all, “har ek friend kameena hota hai!”**
* long, thick, black hair
** Every friend is a rogue! (A popular song from a Bollywood movie called Chashme Baddoor)