What do you make of love if your first introduction to it is through some “iconic” dialogue like the one from Om Shanti Om, insinuating that all you got to do to make a person love you back is to really desire them and the universe will conspire to make it happen?
Perhaps, that there is no ending to a love interest that can be satisfactory, but when the other person absolutely agrees to reciprocate it. Perhaps, it also means an inability to make sense of the situation where the said person refuses or declines that love.
In a culture, that actively encourages anything from stealth to violence and even borderline criminal behavior (actually even legitimate criminal behavior) as long as the aim is to make your proclaimed beloved love you back; and if they do that, it is a ‘happy ending’, regardless of all that had to transpire for it to happen and if they don’t, all acts of violation are ‘justified’ in the name of rage of a heartbreak—does the idea of unreciprocated, unrequited love even exist?
Or, is it all about either acceptance or blind rage?
When we talk about the concept of consent in all its forms, it becomes impossible to move forward without tackling important questions like, “Are we as a society prepared, even equipped to deal with a consensual ‘no’?”
We know all facets of romance—the heart-fluttering-crush to the flitting-glances and the breathtaking relationship, the popular media has done its fair share of work to give us grand romances, sweet romances, even edgy romances. Enough characters who could have been most enjoyable to watch for just being them, have been sacrificed to the trope of mad love, painting the inability to deal with a simple ‘No’ as the marker of their apparently undying passion.
What about the other side of love though?
What about the men who are just as good and understanding and loving and sometimes even better than our heroes, who don’t end up with the person they fell in love with?
Ah! the quintessential second leads, who don’t fly into rage and go into an absolute practical application of true crime scenarios on being rejected, who let this person they are in love with, make their choices and respect those choices without taking it as a personal offense. These are far and few in between, a more nuanced appearance now with the popularity of other mediums like the K dramas where they are the staple.
Also read: The Performative Trap Of Modern Love
They have their respect due, for presenting a parallel idea of being in love where you don’t have to do something out-of-ordinary crazy to woo somebody or turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. You simply take a ‘no’ and decide for yourself quietly, calmly how to deal with it, in a way that has nothing to do with the other person. Whether you choose to hang around or you choose to cut off and shift, whatever heals you—that which will not have to depend upon the makeshift ideas of love and being the man in a relationship even before you have the consent to call it a relationship.
A rejected proposal or an unrequited love is not just an aesthetic portrayal of pain—it doesn’t even have to be about pain. It is as much about the respect you give to the other person, the person you chose to be in love with, to be their own person and know what they want and be responsible for dealing with your own emotions on your own, taking it far away from the ‘friend zone crisis’ alley.
It will take a lot of work to work with this idea of dealing with a ‘no’ as a culture, where we are actively always encouraged to find someone else to blame for our rejection in all spheres—from academic to professional and personal—where it is okay to be angry at someone else who got what we could not, for completely different reasons mostly.
It will be a tough step but one worth taking, in the sphere of love as in any other, there being a need to normalise that the only feeling love should afford is being loved and respected. With a growth in the conversation around this theme and modern dating in general, this is time right enough to encourage and allow people to know that it is alright to be rejected and there are healthier ways of dealing with it.
With a master’s, Vaishnavi is a student of literature who tries her best to distil all the thoughts and opinions which occur, and plot atleast a third of them on the paper in some form. You can find her on Instagram.