It was 2009.
We were a bunch of hormonal teens in 10th grade who spent our lunch breaks fantasizing about cute guys. This could be at least partially attributed to the Judy Blumes and Meg Cabots we hid under our textbooks during class. I knew that if my mom found out about them, she would freak and give me a lecture about how these books were only for adults, as any typical Indian mother would.
It was a time when the only thing we looked forward to was which cute guy was going to ask us out. When I think about how immature we were then, it makes me cringe.
A few of my friends were already in relationships, and it was a contest to see who would stay the longest in one. I had a major crush on a senior from French class. I’d been eyeing him for a while and had made a few attempts to talk to him.
But he’d been blatantly ignoring me.
After a few months of waiting and longing for him to notice me, I decided to confront him myself and declare my interest in him, like a valiant warrior woman. It’s important to note that, in South India, girls didn’t normally talk to boys first, so my decision was considered daring.
I had a long conversation with my best friend about it, and she was wholly supportive. She also volunteered to destroy him if he turned me down.
It was a sunny Monday, perfect for the ultimate declaration of love. The bell screeched loudly, signaling the end of the school day and silently urging my guts. I spotted him lingering behind a school bus, kicking some pebbles with his friends. I approached him slowly, and his friends started to howl.
I stopped a few feet from him and asked if I could speak with him privately.
He didn’t meet my eyes and muttered softly that I could say whatever I wanted in front of his ape-like friends.
I sighed and said, “I really like you. Would you like to go out sometime?”
His eyes widened and he looked me up and down like he was surveying a piece of meat. He replied, “I should ask you first. It cannot happen the other way around. Wait till I ask you out.”
I was aghast and replied, “You coward! If you aren’t interested, just say it. Don’t be an ass about it.”
He didn’t look back and just walked off with an air that made me furious.
I went home and called up my best friend to tell her how it went. She was barely surprised and just replied casually that that’s just how it is. The girl waits till the guy takes an interest in her and asks her out.
She never takes the first step.
I found this ridiculous. Why did we have to wait until a guy came around and asked us out? Were we just pieces of meat waiting to be picked by the right customer at a market? Why weren’t there any girls I knew who just took the first step and asked the boys out themselves?
I wondered if this had something to do with how our society was structured. Being Indian, we are conditioned to let men lead. It’s unheard of in our culture for a woman to head the family, because it means that the man can’t fulfill his basic responsibility of serving his family.
When the time comes for a woman to get married, she has to wait for the right man to pick her as a wife. She has little or no say in the decision.
Although it might go against “traditional” values to take the lead and ask the man out first, it’s time that we shatter these age-old fossilized notions of patriarchy.