One of my favourite podcasts this year has been The Rest is History with Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. It is simultaneously insanely informative and insanely funny, and I’ve been listening to it as regularly as I can this year.
A few months back, a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings called “Rings of Power” came out on Amazon. To commemorate that, Rest is History did a few episodes on JRR Tolkien. It’s a fascinating profile, but one line especially stood out.
Holland was talking about how Tolkien found himself a steady girlfriend when he was 13 (and got himself excommunicated from the church in the process – he was Catholic and she was Protestant, I think). And then he said “that part of his life having been settled, he now focussed on other things, such as hanging out with the lads”.
I find this to be a rather profound line. “Hanging out with the lads”. And having found myself a steady girlfriend for the first time relatively late in life (when I was nearly 27), I can look back at my life and think of the value of this phrase.
When you are single, among other things, you become a “life detector” (this phrase comes from one friend, who used it to describe another, saying “she is a life detector. She puts blade on anything that moves”). Especially if, as a youngster, you have watched good but illogical movies such as Dil To Pagal Hai.
what Dil To Pagal Hai preaches is creationist nonsense https://t.co/Nn8Y8DHUhr
— Karthik S (@karthiks) May 1, 2017
You may not realise it until you are no longer single, but being single takes a toll on your mental health. Because you are subconsciously searching for a statistically significant other, you mind has less time and space for other things. And you miss out on more enjoyable things in life.
I have written (forgot where, and too lazy to find the link now) about how being no longer single was fantastic in terms of simply appreciating other women. You could say they were nice, or beautiful, or intelligent, or whatever, and it would be a simply honest comment without any “ulterior motives”. More importantly, you could very simply tell her that, without worrying whether she will like you back, what caste she belongs to (if you were into that kind of stuff) and so on.
I listened to the podcast on Tolkien when it came out a few months ago, but got reminded of it over the weekend. I spent most of my weekend in IIMB, at our 15th year batch reunion (ok, it’s been 16 years since we graduated but our party was postponed by a year due to Covid). As part of the reunion (and unlike our 10th reunion in 2016), we had a real “L^2 party” (check here to see what L^2 parties used to be (for me) back in the day).
So effectively, this Saturday I was at my first ever L^2 party after I had graduated from IIMB. In other words, I was at my first ever L^2 party where I was NOT single (my wife wasn’t there, though. Pretty much no one from our batch brought spice or kids along).
However, despite the near 17-year gap from the last L^2 I had attended, I could feel a different feeling. I found myself far more willing to “hang out with the lads” than I had been in 2004-6. I had a lot of fairly strong conversations during the time. I held random people and danced (thankfully the music got better after a while).
Through the entire party I was at some kind of perfect peace with myself. Yeah, you might find it strange that a 40-year-old guy is writing like this, but whatever. Early on, I sent a video of the party to my wife. She sent back a video of our daughter trying to imitate the way I was “dancing”.
And it was not just the party. I spent a day and a half at IIMB, hanging out with the “lads” (which included a few women from our batch), having random conversations about random things, just laughing a lot and exchanging stories. Nobody spoke about work. There was very little small talk. Some conversations actually went deep. It was a great time.
With the full benefit of hindsight, I had as much fun as I did in this period (ok i might be drawing random connections, but what the hell) because I was secure in the fact that I am in a steady relationship, and have a family. And it took me a long time to realise this, well after I had stopped being single.