15 March 2007

My Worst Date. Ever.

My ego's favorite thing about traveling alone in India is getting hit on constantly by much younger men. My ego ignores the obvious reason for my popularity: Indian men assume my traveling alone means I'm easy.

My friend Gurudharm says the only thing most men in Northern India know about Western women they've learned from porn films. I refused to believe that's true. They also watch HBO. But then a 22-year-old kid, Karan, I met in McLeod Ganj confirmed Gurudharm's warning. Indian men, he assured me, assume all Western women are "sex machines."

Too bad I met Karan after discovering how ridiculously naive I am. And how ridiculously enormous my ego is.

I did have more dates during my 10 weeks in India than I've had during the previous 10 years of my life. Dates. Nothing more. Dinner. An occasional stroll through whatever village I happened to be in. A trek or two. I'm about as close to being a sex machine as a Mini Cooper is to being a Hummer. Plus, nothing in my demeanor or dress (I wore the same drab, modest, shapeless three outfits, in rotation, every single day for ten weeks) suggest sexual prowess.

I'm middle-freaking-aged. The number of years I've spent on this planet alone have earned me the right to traipse about the world as I please, alone if I so choose. I'm old enough to afford my own hotel room. I don't like anyone enough to spend 10 weeks with him (or her). And I don't drink enough to make intolerable people tolerable.

I really assumed the men were interested in me because they'd picked up on how witty and fascinating I am.

And after all but three dates I ended up with my feelings hurt, wondering why the guy at least 15 years younger than me thought he was getting laid.

So when Roshan, an Indian Olympic ski coach and the first age-appropriate guy to show an interest in me, invited me to dinner, I was incredulous.

"You're married." I said. "Everyone older than 25 is married here."

He assured me he wasn't. A lengthy discussion ensued. How can this be, I asked? Why aren't you married? Were you ever married? Why didn't your parents arrange your marriage? Do you have siblings? Did your parents arrange their marriages? Who do you date, given every woman above age 20 is married and women rarely emerge from their homes without their husbands? Do you just wait around for the random foreigner to show up? I was thorough.

He gave me a ride back from the ski hill at Sethan. He said he has the best job in the world and the only thing that could make it better is sharing the half-hour drive to town with a beautiful lady (my stupid ego fell for that).

I don't know if he was a really good liar or we had my usual communication breakdown or I was just incredibly bored, but I agreed to having dinner with him. When he awkwardly reached across the table to hold my hand, pressing the backside of it uncomfortably into the hard wood table, I started to believe he had no romantic experience whatsoever.

The next day he picked me up at my hotel, where I'd spent the night alone, to go skiing. He tried kissing me as he negotiated the hairpin turns (no guardrails) leading up the mountain. He was so sloppy I couldn't imagine he'd ever seduced a woman. I repeatedly pushed him away, disgusted and a bit scared. I was like, "Dude, I just want to ski. I don't want to die in a car crash. In India. With you. If you touch me again, I'll break your arm." Then I will become the first woman I've ever seen driving in India.

At my hotel, he jumped out of his jeep and blocked my way as I tried to go in, alone. He insisted I needed a massage and he'd only stay in my room long enough to bestow his considerable massage talents upon me. After about 10 minutes I was finally able to convince him it just wasn't going to happen. That's when he told me he is married with two children.

All I can say is: his poor wife. Not only is he a lying, cheating, conniving cad, I'd bet my life he's a completely incompetent lover.

In Bahagsunag, the peaceful town 2 kilometres from McLeod Ganj, I hiked to a glorious waterfall, alone. Because I can. The moon was full and I wanted to perform a full moon ritual, send my wishes out to the Universe. I'd stopped half-way to the waterfall to light incense and say a prayer when Fabian, a 66-year-old Yugoslavian man living in Sri Lanka, asked if he could join me. What could I say? I was still too stupid and naive to answer honestly.

He asked me what it was like as a woman traveling alone in India. I told him. His response: "Well, now you can tell your friends you've been hit on by every man you met, from 18-year-olds to a 66-year-old."

Lucky me.

Technorati digg del.icio.us co.mments


Andrew said...

Western women do have an interesting reputation in some countries. Yet let us contrast your experience with that of an acquaintance of mine named Hillary, a waiflike idealistic young blonde scholar of world religions who once hitchhiked through Turkey, alone, dressed in shorts and a sleeveless top. I've seen a photo of her standing at the back of the pickup truck full of male field workers who gave her a ride -- her best friends for the day. Obviously, Hillary's innocence protected her. Perhaps she was recognized as a holy child. Not that this should reflect on you, Lynn!

tracy said...

awesome story. is it bad that i want to beat the married man with a blunt object? xo,tracy (trapeze tracy) just in case you know more tracy's.

Susan Kuchinskas said...

What a hilarious tale -- at least, you make it sound funny with your great humor and insight. I've been thru some of that, and it can be really infuriating, if not scary, at the time.

I, too, relish both the freedom to move about un-hit-upon in the states and the attention from men in other countries' hinterlands.

There are worse worst dates; sounds like you know how to make your own fun.