The Challenge of Monogamy

You've been single for donkey’s years and you've spent most of your lonely evenings flirting with every attractive member of the opposite sex you can find. And then one day, you strike gold. Sparks fly, laden exchanges occur and a few dates later, wham, you’re in a relationship! Gone are those days of simultaneous, multiple sexting and picking up random strangers at the bar for a night of guilt-free, no-strings-attached sex. Humans, we are creatures of habit. And once habituated to something, no matter how serious the consequences, we are inclined to keep the kicks coming. In this age of instant and perennial access to anyone you've ever known, met or simply spoken to, absolute monogamy is a surprising feat to achieve.

The challenge comes in the form of a flirty comment from someone you once fancied or an amorous glance from an attractive colleague. Does the impulse to react to attention from the opposite sex ever completely leave us? It certainly does not make the desired exit as soon as one is ‘committed’. Humans, we are capable of mating for life. But monogamy was simpler in the days of yore when people valued propriety and opportunities for indiscretion were rare. In today’s social environment where men and women are thrown together in every avenue of life, one has to be game for a bit of friendly flirting in order not to be perceived as uptight.

Physical indiscretion is not something most of us would risk or condone. The rules are however dangerously fluid in the relative safety of cyberspace. Friendship requests from strangers on popular social networking sites have been the butt of innumerable jokes. But others like Twitter are designed precisely for interaction with people you may not know personally. This quality makes it a brilliant tool, no doubt but it also runs the risk of breeding unseemly coquetry. Connecting on the basis of physical attractiveness seems woefully shallow and yet, we humans are indiscriminately prone to it. Given the choice between an intelligent and attractive person of the opposite sex and an intelligent but unattractive one, in all honesty, we would probably choose the former.

So where do we draw the line between ‘harmless’ flirtation and a potentially threatening dalliance? On the liberal side of things, it may be prudent to turn a blind eye to anything that does not directly affect your relationship or your equation with the person concerned. But on the flip side, given the fickleness of human emotions, one can never predict when a random word may escalate into full-blown infidelity. Yet others may argue that infidelity only highlights that the relationship was ill-fated anyway. But human relationships are not as simple as that, certainly. We operate in perpetually confusing shades of grey and in the process of decoding these shades, sometimes they lose their significance altogether.

The era when the mere meeting of eyes or the brush of fingers could serve as precursor to a passionate love affair, would simply amuse the present generation. Today, our lives and our loves have now become so convoluted that even monogamy is an issue. All that it demands really, is a certain level of dignity in our exchanges with the opposite sex. On a subtler level, it also demands drawing a line between genuine admiration and vying for attention. It means, knowing when not to over-extend and when to avoid certain subjects lest they degenerate into innuendo-laced conversations. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But until we master the art, perhaps ignorance really is bliss.