“Where should we go for dinner?” I ask my husband.
“Wherever you want,” he says.
I suggest a nice South-Indian place around the corner. No, he says, he doesn't feel like sambar saadham. Chinese? No, he had Chinese food for lunch. Italian? No, too much carb. Thai? Too much like Chinese. Where, then, I repeat, does he want to go for dinner?
“I dunno. Wherever you want.”
Kill me now.
Children have no compunctions about saying, even shrieking, what they want. At a critical point, though— Class VI, VII and VIII — the shame of wanting sets in. Articulating your wants have gone from being a wardrobe basic to an embarrassing accessory. Hence, we stifle a yawn and dissent. We imply, cloak our language in e-mail and conversation so we don't appear too blunt, too aggressive, too demanding. We either submerge our wants or present them in such a veiled, indirect fashion they confuse and annoy.
Certainly, there are times when you can instantly pinpoint what you want. You want health and happiness. You want a cheese sandwich. Simple. Between the incredible and edible, though, somewhere between vast and speck, are the medium-sized deals. Those are the ones that can break you. The whip of rejection leaves a deep lash; the fear it instils can cause us to drink too much, eat too little, stay too long. But better to sprain your sensibilities early than to find your life irrevocably fractured down the road. Speak now or forever sacrifice your peace.
This, I imagine, would be the perfect moment to provide a tidy formula for how to say what you want. Erm…sorry. No such formula exists. There's no script, no secret recipe for embracing ‘want'. Just as wanting comes from within, so must the ability to convey it to the people around you. We might begin trying within our immediate circle, with a husband or sister or best friend, someone who's guaranteed not to belittle our requests. We might try having enough faith in others to have faith in ourselves.
In any event, do try. Keep trying. Freedom to want is power steering, your trump card. It's what enables us to scan new constellations, fall in love or resolve to leave, find our way home. What you want isn't merely what you get. It's where you'll be. It's who you'll be.
(A fortnightly column on relationships)