Why Enemies to Lovers is the Best Trope

If you’ve read young adult novels or fanfiction or really any kind of fantasy you’re familiar with the enemies to lovers trope.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Two main characters who are at odds in some way, they may be on opposite sides of a struggle (i.e. soldies or spies belonging to opposite warring factions) or have met under unfortunate circumstances and loathe each other (girl meets guy in bar. Guy is douchey and charming and annoying. Girl is forthright and takes no BS. Their personalities immediately clash). There’s also the subgenre of enemies to friends to lovers where friendship is the transitional phase to a romantic relationship.

Most enemies to lovers stories feature a very specific kind of woman. She probably knows to fight, she tolerates zero BS, she’s very brave and argumentative and not easy to get along with or handle. She may have a lot of bravado or swagger, but she often keeps her real feelings close to the chest.

The women in enemies to lovers stories tend to be the opposite of the women in more traditional old school romances. To quote Megara from Disney’s Herculues their vibe is very much “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this.” These women are not lady like, they’re not nice or accomodating or friendly or subservient. They probably don’t have time to shave or do their hair and if they do happen to do those things they are never doing it for the male gaze just themselves. The anger in these women, often righteous anger, is celebrated, is given weight and importance.

In these stories, even though the characters start out disliking each other, even hating each other, and their aims are also often at complete odds, these are stories where the difficult woman, the closed off and argumentative and maybe even a little b*tchy woman is able to transform the person and forces that oppose her, so much so that they leave who they were behind to join her and devote themselves to her and her victory.

Enemies to lovers stories are where the characters see the ugliest parts of each other first. They see the violence and the anger and the vitriol. They might literally want to kill each other. The story is the process of them discovering the good parts of each other.

It’s the one dynamic that demands full truth and unconditional love of both parties and isn’t that really all we want? Someone to see the worst parts of us and embrace them?

I’m closed off and extremely argumentative and I like reading about strong women who can handle themselves and are a bit difficult to get along with and someone still falls in love with them BECAUSE of everything they are not in spite of. It assures women like that we are still lovable. And yeah yeah, this is supposed to be part of our inner journey and be an affirmation that we give ourselves or whatever. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

Do I even need to say it?

I don’t want to make a post about this year but before anything this blog serves as posterity. It’s a constantly evolving letter to my future self so I can remember who I used to be and where I was.

I’m looking at pictures from last new year’s eve and I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by how much I’ve changed and how so much of that change has been internal work I’ve finally had the mental space to do.

I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts this year. More than I’ve spent since Netflix, smartphones, and all the other technological bits and bobs that make sure that I’m somehow alone I am never unoccupied.

Some things I’ve learned in no particular order: I consider myself an open book but that’s a lie because I just overshare about the things I’m comfortable talking about and push down the other stuff. My parents don’t know really who I am and I don’t know that they ever will and maybe that’s okay. I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of dying alone and forgotten with no one to grieve me. I don’t really know what my gender is. Or what gender is as a concept. I don’t actually want a relationship (and you probably don’t either) unless the person is *amazing.* I just want the affirmation and validation and performance of being in a relationship. Once you realize that can be gained from your relationship with yourself and friendship? It is truly over for these hoes. Hating men isn’t revolutionary. I need to read more theory. I can do hard things and do them successfully. How I spend my weekend nights is not an evaluation of how cool I am as a person.

This year sucked in so many different ways but I want to acknowledge that I was very lucky. I didn’t get sick, no one I loved got sick and I kept my job. I have never been more grateful for where I am and what I have. 2020 was the year I took the GRE, applied and got into my top choice graduate program. It was the year I lost a close friend. It was the first year in ages that I didn’t get my heart broken. It was the year I returned to my birth country for the first time in a decade. There were other funny things that happened this year that are not NSFTB (not safe for the blog) but if you know, you know.

I have really simple and straightforward resolutions for 2021. They are maybe my least ambitious resolutions I’ve ever set but they feel very right to me.

  1. 2021 will be the last year I can say that I only speak one language: I’m close to fluency in Spanish and a year of re-learning the complicated grammar, expanding my vocabulary and not getting stage fright every time I have to speak Spanish will get me to being able to say confidently “Si, yo hablo espanol” and mean it. (I’m too lazy to add accents to this but trust that I know where they are).
  2. Do my best academically.

And that’s it!

See you next year folks.

what does it mean to be a woman?

I think we can all agree that gender is just a social construct. How you do your hair, the clothes you wear, what’s between your legs is irrelevant when it comes to identifying as a gender. Being a woman or being a man can be whatever you want to be!

But if being a woman can mean whatever you want it to mean – what does it mean to be a woman? How do I know that I AM a woman?

Here are the things that I know to be true about myself:

  • I like being feminine: I like dresses and long nails and makeup
  • I don’t experience any dysphoria about my body
  • I feel the same about she and they pronouns but he/him pronouns feel wrong.
  • I hate the idea of my gender expression being limited but being AFAB and socialized as a woman also means that I am a slave to the male gaze!

I’ve tried to think about womanhood as my relationship with other women. I love women, I feel more safe around them and I trust them more implicitly. But those feelings also extend to all femmes as well. It’s not really a relationship with women but a relationship with the feminine.

Judith Butler says that gender is more a thing you do rather than a thing you are, and that becoming a woman is a process. It’s a constant act of becoming. Growing up as a woman you are constantly to become a woman without ever really getting a chance to think about WHAT you want to become. It’s so hard to see yourself apart from that thing because the world sees you as that. I don’t think I would ever be able to present in such a way that the world would think I’m anything but a woman.

And all of these feelings towards gender are further complicated by the fact that I’m not white or thin so societal standards have further bullied me into putting even more effort into appearing as feminine as possible. Of course, there is the constant internalized male gaze that is telling that if I am not pretty and feminine and delicate I will basically die.

There’s a quote by Margaret Atwood from The Robber Bride that I think about all the time.

Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”

My perception of my gender and gender expression are colored by my internal sexist voyeur. My value is in my ability to perform womanhood and if I fail at that – what do I have to offer the world?

I know that I can be feminine without being a woman and I can be a woman without being feminine. But trying to ascertain what my relationship with femininity means for my gender feels like trying to describe the way a piece of art makes me feel using a language I don’t speak very well.

Gender ultimately feels elusive. Something I see out of the corner of my eye but am unable to look at head on.

This is a poem about hating Snapchat

I’m tired of people that leave a bad taste in my mouth and intimacy that goes out like a light.

I’m tired of performing a character who is a corner I have backed myself into. She is the role I have been training for all my life. I am impossible to look directly at and see clearly – an eclipsed identity.

I haven’t learned to bite a coin before I spend it. I am tired of trust like a bad check and the disappointment that lives next door and throws parties every night.

Here there is always laughter that lasts a beat too long, secrets that people shouldn’t bother to hide, a locked door that no one has bothered to knock on.

I want to go somewhere untangled and clean. With a single path and uncomplicated sleep. Where people know me and that isn’t a bad thing. where winter never comes and overthinking is a lost childhood blanket.

I want to see the stars from my bed and hold hands with someone for a week straight and never use Snapchat again. I want to be all of my selves at once and have it be okay because it is true and I am loved.

 

Maybe spinsters are just tired of the haters

I realized that with turning 24,  I have officially entered my mid 20s. And with that comes an influx of my peers who are falling in love, getting married, and getting pregnant (on purpose). Honestly? I don’t really have any fears about being “behind” or never finding someone. I do fear over-prioritizing the search.

Whenever me or one of my friends mention some dissatisfaction with being single the response is the same: but you’re so amazing/beautiful/talented/funny/ you’ll definitely find someone!

First of all: since when has a woman being amazing guaranteed her anything? Second of all: Weird of you to assume that my qualms with being unattached mean that I have an issue with self esteem. I’m a work in progress but honestly I am getting cooler by the *second*.

If I ever partner or don’t partner up – that’s completely at the whim of the universe and I may or may not have tried out one (or several) of the manifestation rituals I’ve seen on Tiktok. My fear is that I will be so stuck on the waiting that I will forget to construct an otherwise wonderful life.

Now I’m not knocking love: my parents have successfully married for 26 years and my grandparents for over 50. But romantic love isn’t really guaranteed, and you can’t build a life on a potential person.

The trope of the bitter, mean, spinster is based on the fact that she is upset at the fact that no one ever fell in love with her and she takes it out on the world. The fact that there’s no male equivalent to the word spinster aside, I wonder if the reason that spinsters developed this b*tchy reputation is because they were pissed at the way society viewed them. Women who don’t partner up and have kids are viewed as a failure even if they have other fulfilling relationships and a successful career. Maybe spinsters are just sick of the haters.

I don’t think spinster life is better than partnered life (or vice-versa) but I do think there’s value in imagining a dream life that doesn’t need to include a romantic partner. If you never meet the one, how are you going to ensure your happiness? Is it visiting every country in the world? Writing a book? Helping to build a stronger community? Organizing against social injustices? Running away to the forest to live in a cottage and bake bread and tend to your garden and chickens? That last one might just be me.

The next time your friend whines “I’ll be single forever” let her know that even if she is – she’ll be okay.

 

 

 

 

23 Things I’ve learned being 23

  1. After years of begging my parents for a dog and more years of identifying as a cat person it turns out I’m not a pet person! I like animals just fine – I just don’t want to responsible for them permanently. Also: I firmly believe that it is incredibly unsanitary to sleep with an animal in your bed.
  2. Before you vent to someone: journal about it. It’s a better way to get out what you feel without having to make it make sense to someone else AND you can rant about the same thing over and over and no one will mind! I’ve starting doing it during quarantine as a way of preserving my thoughts and feelings during this time. I do it right before bed, and I’ve noticed that on that nights I do spend 10 minutes jotting some stuff down my heart feelings noticeably lighter when I go to bed.
  3. But also: over processing is a real thing.
  4. Country music is actually good when it’s not about patriotism/misogyny.
  5. Being an oversharer is not charming/cute/cool.
  6. If someone doesn’t like me – it’s none of my business as to why.
  7. Being desired is meaningless.
  8. One of the hardest things to do in a friendship (and IMO one of the most important) is to hold each other accountable.
  9. Buying plants = serotonin
  10. It’s very interesting that as a formerly extremely messy teenager I’ve become someone with kind of high standards for cleanliness.
  11. I don’t know if I belong on the East Coast, at least long term.
  12. Sometimes the best opinion to have on a subject is “I don’t know.”
  13. I don’t care if you don’t believe in astrology but I do care if you’re obnoxious about it. Some belief systems are not inherently more true than others. Except Scientology which is completely false.
  14. Christianity and socialism are inherently extremely compatible. I also don’t think you need to be a “perfect Christian” to be allowed to have an opinion/critique the faith.
  15. There’s a line between being an extrovert and using external things to distract yourself.
  16. Oh my god mortality is terrifying. It really took a global pandemic for me to fear death.
  17. I have to stop seeing the world in black and white. The problem isn’t my political views, it’s how I view people that disagree with me. And I’m not talking about fascists or Nazis or avid Trump supporters. I have this ugly, knee jerk reaction to anyone that isn’t politically close to me. And while politics are deeply personal, there are tons of shitty people on the left and good people who have other political beliefs. I’m not saying I need to start stop talking shit about the demonic turtle that is Mitch McConnell, but I need to judge people for who they are beyond their politics. Maybe I’ll even start swiping right on moderates.
  18. Boundaries are real things that are very important to establish with people you’re close to!
  19. Twitter is a net bad for my mental health.
  20. Even adults have to parent themselves.
  21. If they like you, you won’t be confused.
  22. Projecting past hurts onto new people hurts you the most. Let it go sis!
  23. Honestly, the Twilight movies are kind of good.

daisies, etc .

Today is tender white calves and toes 

The impulse to buy yourself flowers, kiss someone when the sun is still out

A new year of its own kind – the sun tucking its fingers underneath your skin 

The wet green waiting, your mouth tasting of tomorrow 

We want to touch each other again, lace fingers in the grass, underneath the trees, turn high school poems into heat-pinked flesh 

Clean your floors

Open your windows

for a while 

We will remember Eden

A poem for Boston

Boston is an old boyfriend

who I reminisce about often.

It’s a relationship made beautiful in the past tense.

At the time it was too dark to see my hand in front of my face, to see beyond next week, next month.

But here was a cold, winter bed of becoming, the sense of being unleashed upon a city where every face was a stranger, every night limned with the possibility of disappearing.

Here was joy in parceled out shiny moments, stored deep in the pockets, constantly brushing against the fingers, worn smooth by the physical act of remembering.

the quiet of snow, the damp quiet breath of summer, the sense of time slipping like sand.

I arrived heartbroken and left heartbroken and somehow that is a selling point.

There was something there to fall in love with.

The actual city that never sleeps

I came back from India over two weeks ago and I’ve been struggling to write about it. There’s so much I want to write about: complicated feelings of first world guilt, wondering how different I would be if my parents hadn’t immigrated, the feeling of belonging and yet being a stranger all at once. Being in Bombay makes me understand how tourists from the Midwest feel visiting New York for the first time.

I don’t know that I have anything new to say about being part of the diaspora. The culture that I am in touch with is often cheapened – filtered through the commercial cotton candy film of a Bollywood movie, further distanced by Catholicism, adrift in a sea of pretend Asian-American solidarity.

I arrived at the Mumbai airport in the middle of the night but I was wide awake. Partially because it was still daytime back on the East coast and partially because I was eager to be in a place I hadn’t seen a decade. The customs officer was deadpan when I said “good morning.” He didn’t say a word, even asking to take off my glasses for the picture they take by miming the act. He didn’t say anything until he handed my passport back to me. “10 years?” “Yes.” He twisted his lips in an expression that might have been judgement, surprise, maybe even an acerbic welcome.

The last time I was in India, I was 14 and still uncomfortable with my heritage, a side effect of the white suburb I called home. I spent the whole summer there – from late June to Labor Day weekend. My memories from the trip are less documented as this was pre-smartphone era for me. But I remembered the adjustment period. My grandmother making breakfast for us every morning, me reading the actual physical paper. Mainly for the celebrity gossip but I did catch some hard news. I came back to America with new books by Indian authors, 10 pounds lighter, and a diagnosis of depression by a high school social worker because I regularly thought of the Indian farmers who were committing suicide because they couldn’t feed their families.

I was so sure that this time my perspective on Mumbai  would be radically different, that the decade in between would offer a new context, a different light. But it felt the same. 10 years of finally learning the Hindi alphabet (please don’t ask me to actually say anything), reading feminist retellings of the Mahabharatha and wondering if it would be weird if I named my future daughter Draupadi, almost joining a South Asian sorority, and realizing my birth country has a very cool history (and present) of communism didn’t change much. Knowing more about Mumbai didn’t change the way I felt about it.

I realized that I blend in more on the yuppie downtown streets of DC, my current home, than I do on the crowded streets of Mumbai.

My mother and I sit in the women’s compartment of the train and I think about who I would be if my parents never left India. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a less complicated person. I would know more languages. Maybe I would have listened to my parents more when I  growing up. Funnily enough, the one thing I am incredibly sure of is that my politics would have moved left at a younger age. I know I am “better off” having had the chance to grow up here. But that seems too simple a conclusion, one borne of a western-centric perspective. Nothing makes me appreciate America more than being outside of it, but that is only because I miss the things I am used to. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that.

Mumbai is not just the city of my birth, but also the city my parents grew up in. Mumbai has 15 million more people in 80 fewer square miles. It’s not only the commercial center of India but also the home of Bollywood – so basically NYC and LA combined except with cows in the middle of the street. It’s hard to imagine my middle aged, suburban, sensible shoes wearing parents living in a place like this. It’s a reminder that the people they are are not what they always were, and that there are versions of my parents that I will never meet. The Grace and Malcolm that wandered the streets of Mumbai are not the same Grace and Malcolm that taught me how to read, or grounded me, or the Grace and Malcolm I call because I don’t understand my 401k. This trip was just my mom and I. And despite nearly 23 years of living in the US, she navigated the teeming city with ease.

My trip also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins who I have not see in a decade. My aunt and uncle looked the same as I remembered, but my cousins might as well have been strangers. It’s a reminder that even the people who seem the most solid, the most unchanging, are far more fluid than you know. It’s a reminder that we can only know people so well, because of how they constantly change. I’m sure the next time I meet my cousins, currently 12 and 14, they will be different people, and so will I. But because we’re family, we’ll find new ways to fit together.

I don’t know whether my relationship with India will ever be easy to understand, clean cut. It changed in the years I was away, and so had I. One day I’ll return without the shield of my parents, and I’ll experience the country as a true foreigner. Realistically, there’s not much difference between me and the goras (white people) that eat, pray, love their way across the country. I don’t speak the language, my stomach isn’t strong enough for road side food, and I don’t know how to drape a sari. But India and I, we’re family, and we’ll find a way to fit together, eventually.

It’s Okay to Feel Sad on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day sales in the United States are expected to reach about $27.4 billion this year. That’s an increase of $6.7 billion from last year. Overall, a great year for the purveyors of teddy bears and heart shaped chocolates. Given these statistics – let’s not pretend that V-Day at its core is anything but another opportunity to worship at the shrine of capitalism.

I have had a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day. As a child I used to throw literal tantrums about going out with my family on Valentine’s Day. When I was old enough to be left at home, my parents and sister would go out without me and I was perfectly happy. Not sure why I was morally opposed to Valentine’s Day at age 8 but I like to think I was disgusted by the commercialism (even though I didn’t know what that word meant).

Since I have identified as SingleTM for most of my teen and adult life, V-Day has always felt more geared towards celebrating the friendships in my life (shoutout to Leslie Knope). Not to sound that that girl, but I’ve always felt that romantic love was not intrinsically necessary. Love as a whole, whatever form it came in, is. But if you’re single on February 14th, it can be a bit difficult to remember that.

In recent years I’ve seen a lot more people uplifting other “truths” of Singles Awareness Day, such as:

  • You need to love yourself before you love anyone else.
  • You need to learn to be alone before you can be with someone else.
  • If you just find happiness in being single, you shouldn’t feel the tiniest twinge of sadness on Valentine’s Day.

Quite frankly, all of these are false. While learning to love yourself and learning how to enjoy alone time are extremely important, they’re not prerequisites to being loved and they’re often an evolving life long journey. And regarding the last one, even if you are totally killing it being single (aka like moi), you can still want to be in a relationship. Both things can be true. Wanting and needing romantic love are two different things.

The other thing is that the feelings brought on by being single on Valentine’s Day – loneliness, sadness, not feeling deserving of love – don’t exist in a vacuum! We’re basically conditioned since birth to tie our self worth to a romantic partner. Especially if you’re AFAB (assigned female at birth), those feelings of desirability are so intertwined with how we view ourselves.

Most of the time, I’m pretty happy that I’m single. The three most important things in my life are my friends, my job, and myself. Dating is fun (most of the time). But occasionally, mostly on Friday nights when I make myself stay in to recover from the week/practice enjoying my own company, I feel a little despondent about my relationship status. I worry about dying alone and how long it will take people to find my body. In reality, I call my mom everyday and am extremely active in the groupchat so honestly it will probably take them 45 mins.

I have plans tomorrow night involving sushi and tequila with friends. And you know what, I will probably still feel a little emo around 2 am. And that’s okay!

For those happily partnered up – enjoy tomorrow. Celebrating love is never a bad thing. Maybe this is your first single V-day in a while, maybe like me you are used to being unattached, maybe tomorrow will bring up feelings of loss and nostalgia about who you used to love. Feeling lonely tomorrow will diminish everything else that your life is, it will not make you any less independent or strong or brave or confident. Try and spend it with people that you love, or spend it showering yourself in love.

You’ll be okay, and even if it doesn’t like you will, all that sappy themed chocolate will be on discount Saturday. That’s one thing to look forward to.