Two to Tango

Two to Tango

With social mores undergoing a drastic change and interpersonal dynamics being redefined constantly, the line between friends and lovers is becoming thinner each passing day. So far so good! Who is anybody to judge what a man and a woman choose to do within the ambit of their association? Friends with benefits, is the new age phrase coined to describe a friendship in which casual sex is an integral part. But then when sex becomes a part of a special friendship, does it still remain as simple and straight forward as it would have been otherwise? What sets human beings apart from other species is the faculty of feeling emotions and the ability to articulate them. How detached can a man or woman be with the other areas in the life of a special friend? This emotional conundrum has become a popular storyline in films and TV shows as the trend grows. Apparently, such arrangements are much more commonplace than we would care to acknowledge, right here in the land of Kamasutra.

RITZ decided to get a reality check on the changing definitions of friendships and delve into the psyche of friends with benefits

Not so long ago, friends and lovers were distinctly separate beings in our lives. They were different people without whom life wouldn’t be as beautiful. A friend was someone who knew all about you and accepted you the way you are. Warts and all! Mutual affection, understanding, compassion, trust, enjoying each other’s company, freedom to be one’s true self without the fear of being judged were all hallmarks of true friends. And needless to mention friendship with the other gender was purely platonic. A lover was someone who you were in love with, made love to and shared intimacy like you would with nobody else in the world. While we had many friends, we had just one lover, at least at a time. We shared friendship with friends and a relationship with a partner.

Quite clear, right? Apparently, not anymore!

The lead characters in the 2011 film `Friends with Benefits’, played by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, confidently set out on a friendly agreement to have sex without emotion or commitment. What starts off as an easy casual arrangement turns into a complex mess when they realise their deep feelings for each other. Later that year, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher tussled with the same dynamics in their movie `No Strings Attached.’ Scared of commitment, Mr. Big in `Sex and the City’ refuses to settle with lead character Carrie Bradshaw, and their on-off relationship plays out over the show’s six series – and two films.

All these on screen sagas bring us back to the million buck question! How easy or more aptly, how complicated are such friendships in real life? Says Sanjiv Sharma, 28 year old IT professional from Bangalore, “I’ve had 2 relationships with close friends of mine.Sometimes things get a bit hot and heavy and carry on for a while. But both times it has ended on a bad note. This happened when I was a lot younger, like 3 years ago. Now. in hindsight, I understand that it was a bad choice of judgement. I am no longer on talking terms with both the women, one has even gone on to get married. But there’s a sense of awkwardness I feel when I even think of what I did now. How could I imagine that sleeping with a friend was a good idea! Sometimes we really do stupid things in our youth.”

But then there are others for whom it works out just perfectly. Like in the case of R Madhava Das, a 51 year old businessman who lived in Singapore earlier. “I’ve been divorced – thrice – and the only kind of relationship I want now are casual ones. There are a lot of single women in my friends circle. In fact I maintain a sort of loose long-distance relationship with a 40-year-old single woman in Mumbai. She is my best friend, but we turn to each other for physical comfort whenever we are together. We both understand that there’s no commitment coming into the relationship. She’s free to see others if she finds them more stimulating. I do the same. And with the hectic lifestyle we both lead, I think its a mutually beneficial relationship. I don’t know if she’s going to expect more from me in the future, but for now, things are perfect,” he says.

For a few others like Elizabeth D’Costa, a 40 year old writer, it turned out to be much more complicated than she had imagined! “I’ve never been married, never wanted to get into a serious relationship and I value my independence like nothing else. I hang out with a lot of friends (male) and have made the mistake of getting into a ‘friends with benefits’ sort of relationship with one of my close friends. And believe me, it was a recipe for disaster from the word go. I don’t know what it is about men that they want to get all possessive and personal when you’re in a physical relationship. I hate being smothered and cosseted. It lasted for all of a month and I couldn’t handle it any more. I was forced to tell him that we had to call off this sexual thing we had going between us and that ended our friendship as well. Obviously the friendship thing wasn’t so strong as we thought, else how could he have misunderstood my intentions. That was the first and last time for me…. I think I can live without sex and the complications it brings along,” she recollects even as she analyses.

Two to Tango2

Unlike the clichéd `women seek commitment while men want easy sex’, it’s the turn of some men to cry fowl when their female friend with benefits seeks more benefits elsewhere. “I was in a state of shock when I realised that Mita was two timing me,” Srinath, a media professional from Hyderabad says sharing his woes, “I mean, honestly I can’t call it two timing because we had agreed to have casual sex but when she told me she was serious about somebody else, I just couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she had been seeing another man all along. I was a complete mess when she dropped me like a hot potato and was painting the town red with him. Eventually she got married to him and it still hurts even after two years when I see them together.”

“It’s been the perfect arrangement for me,” says Rupa, an architect, “I’ve an amazing friend with benefits attached and I’m loving every bit of it. Neither of us has to worry about wooing or impressing the other person. We’re there for each other whenever we want without trampling upon our private space. Nobody knows about us and there is zero pressure to conform. I’m sure whenever we drift apart, it will be as easy as it was when we began.” With friends like them, who needs lovers, huh?

So you see, what is good for the goose may not be as good for the gander but then it takes all kinds of relationships to make the world go round.

Each to his / her own!