You love the best in your late 20s and that's also when you stop giving a shit about Valentine's Day

Thank your 20-year-old self for not giving up on love even when it was painful, for with age it gets better. Really, really better.

I do not think the late twenties, to be precise the age group between 27- 29, is a homogenous group struggling with the same set of problems and life situations. We have different life trajectories. Our love stories are also different. But more or less, we all tend to share the same instincts. For example, many in this age group would relate to the eternal fear of turning 30 – a cosmic conspiracy we all fall prey to; like Joey from Friends said: “Why god, why are you doing this to us?”.

Most in this age group would still be complaining about their hectic jobs and not being able to maintain a life-work balance, also most would be thinking of buying a car, investing in tax saving schemes, or turning entrepreneurs, taking a Europe trip, or a language course, or becoming more spiritual, or thinking of doing that long forgotten Ph.D. that our father always wanted us to do.

Economically, many in this age group could be erasing their Leftist past and endorsing consumerism and capitalism in all its glory.  And emotionally, many of us could be wanting to get married if we have been in a steady relationship for a couple of years, and no not in the court marriage style of our activist days but the real shaadi with lots of baraati and the mehenga Lehenga. How else do we make it the Facebook spectacle we want it to be?

All these life events and changes apart, I feel we share another common strand. I firmly believe from my personal experience that we only learn to love well and wisely in our late twenties. We still aren’t selfless lovers, for such a love doesn’t exist. But yes, we learn to love without expectation; we learn to love without making the love of our life the centre of our existence; we learn to love without judging our partner for every word they speak, every move they make; we learn to be flexible and accepting while keeping our individuality intact.

You might say how is that even possible? Can we keep our individuality intact while being flexible and accepting of our partner’s need. Yes, by the time you are 28 or 29 you know how to navigate through the pitfalls of being in a relationship. We learn to give up on the small things, while not compromising on the larger principles of our life. We learn not to break up over wanting to have Chinese or Mughlai for dinner. (Oh! we-are-not-compatible-at-all-but-we-have-great-sex, the eternal dilemma of the young and passionate doesn’t haunt you anymore.)

We will not watch a football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid if we don’t like watching sports, just to please our boyfriends. At the same time we will not make a grumpy face and make him feel guilty for watching the match with his guy friends. We will always have our own thing to do. In fact, we secretly enjoy sending him off to his guy friends to watch that pending documentary or binging on Netflix shows or talking to mom for a good half an hour over phone. It is only in our late 20s that we realise that doing everything together isn’t the brightest idea to sustain a strong relationship. You must have demarcated areas that we agree no to trespass or be okay with.

Contrarily, we are also more open to going out of our comfort zones and trying out new things at this age. We rid ourselves of the perfect man/woman image that we have carried since our teenage years and stop treating prospective partners as dishes on menu.

Do you remember that scene in Wake Up Sid where Konkona Sen dumps the dashing Rahul Khanna because she doesn’t enjoy going to jazz concerts with him?  That’s how women should assert their choices and dump guys for having different taste. Well not really.

I have grown up listening to Rabindro Sangeet, evergreen Bollywood classics and Farida Khanum’s songs.  I have never been exposed to western music because of my traditional upbringing. As fate would have it, now I am dating a musician. A whole world of unknown music opened up for me. I am still processing the difference between Blues and Jazz and discovering some amazing bands- old and new. There’s a lot in his playlist I don’t like or understand, but some does click with me and some just keeps me hooked for hours. It’s such a shame I didn’t discover ‘Civil War’ by Guns and Roses as a teenager. This song always gives me a crazy high.  And there is a lot of my music preferences that he has embraced.  It’s a happy process of give and take and widening our horizons and not imposing our individual tastes and choices on our partners.

We also start acknowledging each other’s financial constrains better. Unlike the compulsion of the early 20s to make an impression with expensive gifts and dates, we can easily tell our partners that we are too broke for a fancy date in the weekend. We start enjoying cooking together, staying indoors. We tend to spend less on events and dates and save more for creating beautiful experiences together like a lavish holiday.

Finally and most importantly, you have the best sex of your life in your late 20s. May be the passion and the curiosity of early 20s will be missing. But we learn to discuss our needs and fantasies with our partners without guilt or the fear of being judged. We are empowered enough to get hold of our sexual lives, (as a woman particularly,) we learn to initiate instead of waiting for our partner to take lead. And there is so much more clarity in our heads. We are mature enough to not let someone feed off us sexually while leaving us with the feeling of being used or abused. We can tell a philanderer and a habitual sexual predator whose single-point agenda is to get inside you from a man who is open to giving an honest shot at a relationship with you and who would never exploit your emotions for momentary sexual pleasure. All this makes sex a more egalitarian, happy experience.

While praising and enjoying this phase of love and life, don’t forget to applaud  your naive 18 year old self that embarrassingly enough fell in the trap of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Thank your 20 year old self for surviving brutal rejection, heart-breaks and toxic relationships. Thank her for not giving up on love even when it felt hopelessly painful and believing that it will get better.

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