The first crush, the first kiss and the first time, and the first heartbreak are forever memories – by Vickram Sethi
Of all the rituals of love, the first date is perhaps the most paramount. The first crush, the first kiss and the first time are forever memories. Dating in the 1970s was a very difficult affair. For a girl, her object was to find a good match while the boy’s intention was probably to have a good time. Practically 90% of dating opportunities originated in college. A boy would ask a girl out at a college social and that would lead to a movie or coffee. It also began as a group activity – boys and girls would go out together and eventually a couple would “find” each other. If a guy had a car or a bike, it was an added advantage. It took almost two to three outings just to hold her hand and only if she was convinced that the guy would marry her, he was “allowed” to cuddle and smooch.
The big fear
Sex was out of bounds. The fear of pregnancy and loss of reputation was a huge thing at the back of her mind – “what if the boy did a Fenner on me.” Back in those days, Fenner was a company that manufactured fan belts and their tagline was “fit & forget” and among the boys, Fenner was a code (F*** and Forget). Most of the boys would brag about having sex while 90% of it was just faffing. No girl would sleep with a boy until he put a ring on her finger. However, a boy’s virility/macho-ness was counted by the number of girls he could get or who wanted to go out with him. And a lot depended on how much money he could spend whether he had a bike or a car.
Every college had a social where boys and girls got together danced and made new friends. These socials were held twice a year. The common phrase among boys in those days was “nayi gilli naya daau” – the art of Gilli Danda. So where did one go on a date? Ideally it was the corner seats in a movie theatre – Strand, Regal, New Empire, or Eros. But if the couple were in a mood to cuddle – it was the box in Opera House, old Excelsior theatre, Borivali National Park or a little Irani restaurant which had a family room. Then came the drive-in theatre in BKC and if you could afford it, there was a disco in Kala Ghoda called Bullock Cart – dark as hell, it opened at 10 am – yes, in the morning.
Communication between boys and girls was extremely difficult. There were no mobiles and few homes had a landline. If the phone rang, besides mother there would be another who ran to answer the phone. And after a few blank calls it was understood that the phone was for you. Sure enough, if you answered everybody would have a knowing look on their face. If you took tuitions for accounts or stats the other person on the line could leave a message saying today’s class was at this particular time. That’s how one tried to outwit parents and other at home.
A college romance lasted 6-8 months to a year. It would end for the sole reason that the boy wanted to have sex and the girl was not willing or if either one was cheating on the other and had multiple beaus – “multiple” in those days meant two. Most college romances ended with college and few of them fructified into a marriage, and that too if it was acceptable to both parents. Very few boys and girls had a say in their marriage at that time.
Sex was not easy because what if the relationship didn’t work out? For a girl her reputation was of prime importance. A girl went to bed with a boy only if she was 100% sure that this relationship would result in marriage. Most boys just wanted to have fun. If word got around that she was an easy lay her marriage market would get very badly affected. The girl was expected to be a virgin on the wedding night. The primary reason for marriage in those days was sex.
A friend and two of his cousins would drive from Nepean Sea Road to HR College every morning. This drive was also dadaji’s outing. Those days Nirodh was widely advertised on the radio – “pandhra paise me teen… mardon ke liye Nirodh”. One day while seated in the front seat next to the driver dadaji asked the elder grandson “What is this Nirodh?” Dadaji himself had fathered about 15 children. The boys laughed and said they would find out and tell him. Nirodh did make sex easier. By the 1980s girls were more open to having sex – once they had decided on a guy they would want to marry.
The hippie culture, Osho, and the availability of contraceptives bought about a sexual revolution. Girls were more open to having sex and exploring multiple partners.
The permissive age
Today’s dating landscape is complex and endlessly full of possibility thanks to dozens of apps and websites. Dating happens over technology using a plethora of dating apps depending on the sexual orientation – Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Hinge, Woo, Aisle, Grindr, Scruff, PlanetRomeo, Zoe, Just She, Fem… The concept of dating which was relished back in the day has become fast-paced left and right swipes – the gateway to hookup culture. Online dating is all about how appealing the profile is, how witty is the bio, and social media compatibility. Instead of actually meeting each other in person, girls and boys these days prefer texts and chats until one is charmed by the other. The virtual life leads, while reality takes a back seat.
Millennials are open to sex and experimenting with sex, with a range of relationship labels such as – Monogamous, Open, Polyamorous, Long-distance, Friends With Benefits, and the like. They prefer live-in over getting married. The idea here remains to be “getting to know the partner closely” before sealing the deal. When it comes to marriage a lot of the millennials prefer to meet new romantic prospects through their friends and common interests; however, there are quite a number of people who have found their match over these dating apps.
Certainly, technology has changed the definition of consent and celebrates relationships all over the spectrum, from straight to pansexual. There are no boundaries maintained sexually or emotionally and also, no one wants be accountable for their acts. The love that was felt just by holding hands seems to have diminished in this complex carefree dating era. Is this the beginning of a dating apocalypse?