Whispering Sweet Nothings: On a Scale of Zero to Ranveer Singh
God forbid that Elizabeth Braddon’s spectre should see modern-day love as the world sees it.
That’s her. Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915). Now that we have put a face to my unproven assertions, here’s the deal. Not only did Braddon publish some intense novels in the Victorian era — while completely owning that hairdo — but also penned down these celebrated lines:
“As low he bends o’er her he loves so dear,
To whisper some sweet nothing in her ear.”
Now, quite disconcertingly, if you type in the phrase ‘sweet nothings’ in Google’s search bar — the knowledge tank of most urban myths — you are shown, quite literally, ‘sweet nothings’.
All hail the post-modern carnival of modern love where your heart pumps right out through your chest and “you do you” — love or lust.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Braddon would — in all likelihood — be overjoyed at a possible reading of these brave Google algorithms as assertions of sexual agency the modern-day woman is being afforded. She was a renegade who was ahead of her time, her ‘sensational’ novels always being at the receiving end of bad press. I mean, this is the Victorian age we are talking about — unconventionality was as unbecoming in a woman as a sideburn was becoming in a man.
But Braddon’s expression of ‘sweet nothings’ have travelled far and wide.
Let’s say, Braddon smiles in patient jest and lets this go, but what about the other trajectory modern-day love perfectly portrays?
From sweet nothings to full-blown somethings — on social media — where exhibitionism never stood a chance against prohibitionism!
No one really whispers anymore, respected spectre of Miss Braddon. We go big or we simply don’t.
Take our celebrities, for example — Ranveer Singh’s comments, on wife Deepika Padukone’s Instagram photographs, alone are capable of wiping the modest blush off every Victorian’s gracious cheek. Anushka Sharma’s brusque answers during interviews might not be a clue, but one look at her social media timeline, flooded with messages for her ‘better-half’, is enough to tell you that she is not ‘whispering’ her appreciation in her mon amour’s ears.
While the delectability of the idealised partner is phrased as a ‘snack’, a gushing ‘mine’ lets you mark your territory, and a we-do-minimal-only flames emoji allows you to mete out your affections for private, and inadvertently so, public consumption. And that’s okay!
With the millennial-is-a-verb era, you get what you see.
Relationships are driven by public displays of documentation and there are a hell lot of people vicariously living through yours. The flip side? You better not mess up.
If you do, the wagging fingers and raised eyebrows will rarely let you catch a break. The relationship must, under all circumstances, be in good working condition, as certified by social media expectations that are ready — at the drop of a hat — to fuel the likes, shares, and comments. If not, you are playing with fragile heartstrings.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s separation probably broke more hearts than everyday civic tragedies will ever do. Hrithik and Suzanne’s breakup saw more tears being shed than Meena Kumari’s directors ever did. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have already been told, though quite a few frenzied professions of online fandom, that they are not ‘allowed’ to break up. The janta is watching, perched behind cosy screens.
Modern-day social media love does not shy away from grand public gestures — even when you have the likes of the Hindu Mahasabha dogging your steps. Perhaps we’re collectively making a point for future generations — seize the affections, no matter how fast-paced and transient!
Or perhaps, we are not. We’re all just bungling up. Ranveer’s photo comments double up as double entendres (“I would log in to that” or “combusts”), the Kardashians leave no room for curiosity or imagination, and we have been privy to quite a few ‘moments’ in Priyanka and Nick’s life.
But I am going to leave them alone — to each our own — and simply watch like a thorough-bred Filmfare column, sanctioned by a democratic social media.