Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Distance makes the heart wilt

Being friends with Suze for the last 5 years or so has given me a broad perspective on long distance relationships. Suze's pretty and fun, very smart but not pedantic and a very loving person. About five years ago, she and I left Delhi to come to Los Angeles to work towards PhDs in different disciplines, but in the same university. It should have been an exciting move, a life of discovering a new city and new acquaintances, except that Suze had committed herself to a long distance relationship with a boy she had been seeing for less than a year in Delhi. What followed over the next five years was sad, as her insecurities made her cling obsessively to the relationship, even as it caused her pain and misery, as the usual frictions of a relationship were magnified several fold due to distance. Now, after 5 long years her boyfriend is finally in the US to join her. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, there's an unhealthy co-dependency, which strangely kept the relationship alive when it should have been sensibly broken off, and now would make them whiny and needy with each other.

But generally speaking, long distance relationships are strange beasts. Some seem to thrive perfectly, like my old roommate Nell and her boyfriend, who've managed to have a fairly healthy relationship over the last two years that they've been in different countries. Nell has a very active social life here, a large group of friends, she's a very outdoorsy person and generally cheerful and dynamic. Unlike Suze, I've never seen Nell mope about over distance from her boyfriend, and she certainly doesn't need to validate her existence by clinging to him all the time. However, Nell's the other extreme, very stoic, compared to the very emotionally demonstrative Suze. Many other women I know fall somewhere in between, refusing to stay home waiting for the boyfriend to call (or come online on Yahoo or MSN), and yet they are worried, insecure, unwilling to relax and shredding their life between two locations.

The diasporic condition of divided loyalties is tough enough to negotiate, and the issues are compounded by the addition of a long distance relationship. In the case of many the disappointments and frustrations of not being with the one you love is manifested in intense dislike of the place you are in. For almost 4 years Suze hated LA, despised everything about the city. Ditto for E-M who hates LA as well, but is unwilling to whittle down the cause for this dislike (which I strongly suspect comes from her beloved boyfriend being in Greece). As soon as Beck's boyfriend moved to San Diego, she started souring on LA, and discovered a new reason every day to move out of the city. Just goes to show how beyong mere physical attributes, places are but a stash of memories, and our love or hate of them vary accordingly.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can all be emotionally secure, well-adjusted happy people, who can embrace the new fully without necessarily discarding the old (well, sometimes that becomes necessary). Ha! Fact is, every one of us can, if circumstances are such, become very clingy, emotionally volatile and perfectly capable of making ourselves miserable. Who is to say that if S was to move to another city or country tomorrow, I wouldn't dissolve upon myself and wallow in my puddle of misery like Suze? Perhaps not to quite the same extent because I've seen first hand the state of Suze's emotional life. Anyway, the basic issue is about not predicating our happiness on one person, whether that person sleeps right next to us, or lives far far away.


Blogger Heh Heh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

Agree for the most part with what you said above.. made that mistake when I first came here, but it ended in a few months. I have commented here before, I think. BTW, whats with the name? I understand Thalassa was the Greek goddess of the sea... but mikra is a Hebrew word, no?

4:07 PM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

My bad. Google reveals all.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, hi!

Had to drop in to your blog... once. Actually, this is my second visit.

I have some friends in LA but they don't convince me that it is a nice place. You write about it with a lot of heart. It actually sounds like a sweet little place. That is wholeheartedly a compliment (Sorry, I am known to sound sour. I am still working on it. :D)

piduS :-)

5:53 PM  
Blogger anangbhai said...

I'll never go to LA. Miami was enough for me.
Do you like your salsa on the side or do you just put it in the spanish omelette? I must be hanging with the wrong brown people cause lots of em like their salsa IN the omelette.

5:55 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@he who shall not be flamed: "Thalassa" means sea in Greek. I wanted my screen name to be "little sea" (mikra=little), but apparently I made a grammatical faux pas and "little sea" is actually "mikri thalassa" in Greek. Ah well, I'm stuck with it!!

@sanity starved: you don't sound sour at all, I'm glad I make the place sound nice. Actually, you have to give LA a lot of loving time, and it reveals myriad energies, very enthralling. You should visit!

@Anangbhai: Never say never! And Miami's another city altogether. Salsa with/in Spanish omlette? Hmm...wonder what my Andalusia- born, Catalonia-raised friend would have to say to that.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Priya said...

Your post does take me back nearly a decade when I started dating my then boyfriend,now hubby. It was always a long distance affair (he was in JU, I was in CU)to begin with! Then the distance grew even further as he (very reluctantly then, am sure will be happiest to go now;)) went off to MICA and I stayed on in boring Kolkata. Life almost took a Hindi filmesque turn (no it's not for your post...waiting to share the script with the right producer!) Point I wanna make here is, whether it's the guy or the girl, doesn't make much of a difference, when you are in luuuv. Hubby packed his bags and was ready to come back in 2 days! After a lot of cajoling and carrot dangling, he stayed on, but never really enjoyed his life in MICA. Now if you ask him, he recounts the days with nostalgia and regret, says he didn't really enjoy the beauty of Shela...the huge tree-lined avenues and the pristine pleasures of suburbian Ahmedabad! And of course, I'm to blame for it.
So I know what poor Suze would have gone through...

2:09 AM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

Yep. I figured it out..
I initially thought it meant "Readings of the Sea" (Thalassa = sea) and 'mikra' (Hebrew) for 'scriptures' or 'readings'. And that there was some special significance to your mixing of Greek with Hebrew.
Then I just googled up 'mikra' and realised it was also the Greek word for 'little'.

9:04 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@Priya: Congratulations for making it! I know too many couples for whom the strain is a bit much, but you seem to have figured out how to make it work.

@ fingeek: Well, the Old Testament was first written in Hebrew and the New in Greek, so if I was Biblically minded.......but no, I'm a philhellene through and through, so wanted a Greek handle.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Gamesmaster G9 said...

It is a given that LDR's are likely to fail, but in this day and age when both partners are completely mobile, the chances of both always being in the same place are very slim indeed.

What does one do then?

7:19 PM  
Blogger Priya said...

@G9: Just a suggestion - make sure you are both in a profession that doesn't need you to travel that much ;).Examples of such profession: Blogjourno, blogjourno, blogjourno!!

10:57 PM  
Blogger Mriganayanii said...

i agree. places are definitely a stash of memories, and it is almost always those memories that our love or hate of the place reflects.
But i disagree that complete emotional security is possible at all in circumstances such as these.
nice post; seeya around

1:33 AM  
Blogger K said...

Hey thanks for dropping by my blog. Never been to LA, American travels confined mainly to South and the eastern seaboard. EchTee men are not good people to date, we tend to be rather psychotic. I know I was!

2:43 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@Ani: A dilemma, innit? Actually I wasn't pessimistic about the possibility of LDRs working out, just the fact that the emotional baggage and melancholia we bring to it makes life difficult. And yes, especially if both partners are determined to be academics, they'll most probably end up with an LDR!

@mriganayanii: Oh, I agree that complete emotional secuirty is almost impossible (and I've only seen one very exceptional person manage to do so). But the moping around and misery can certainly stop.

@K: Welcome! I was trying to be polite and not mention this, but the guy I went out with was certainly a twat and a nitwit. At least psychotic is interesting!

10:17 AM  
Blogger lara said...

heyyy, thanks for droppin by my blog ;-) i dont really believe in long distance relationships, but i've known people who've made it work, but wth, too much hard work man.

12:30 PM  
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11:56 PM  

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