coffee dates #41 & #42 with
sathya rameshkumar & soham sen
seniors 🥺, gym bros, bio majors, premeds, ex-frat bros, pierced-earred-men, people-who-refer-to-the-Tesla-as-a-‘spaceship’
sathya: business minor, substitute teacher, soccer fanatic, fellow Lost Frequencies fan
soham: psych minor, nursing assistant, ex-tennis player, owner of the ‘soham walk’
me: matcha with strawberry & boba | sathya & soham: matcha with dragonfruit
location: junbi, princeton, new jersey
My first spontaneous coffee date.
I usually prep for my dates, thinking of some connections I have between me and the other person and then proceed to create questions that I think they’ll be able to answer and help me with. This time, though, it was completely unplanned. Here’s why:
I walk into our social sciences building and immediately see Sathya’s wide-eyed smile in the lobby. Behind him, I see Soham chilling in his chair. I was ready to walk upstairs to my Psych of Women class (which Soham is also in btw) when Soham told me that class was cancelled. I check my email and see that he was right. With now 3 hours to do absolutely nothing, on a whim, I asked these two boys if they wanted to go on a coffee date.
They turned to each other, spoke with their eyes, and then 2 seconds later collectively said “yeah, I’m down.” As I drove all of us to Princeton, picture two wide-eyed, mesmerized children who were ecstatic to sit in a Tesla and were in awe with…*drum roll please*….literally the windows and the doors. Once we ended up at Junbi, I attempted to scramble down some questions while waiting for our drinks to be made. #spontaneous
I knew of Soham way before I knew Sathya. I used to see Soham walking around campus all the time embodying the typical f***boy walk, prompting me to steer clear of this man who walks as if he owns the whole world. sorry Soham. Then, Spring semester happened and I was suddenly a matchmaker for Soham and my friend.
It’s during this period of playing matchmaker when I met Sathya through Soham. Sathya was a tall, shy, and beard-less human when I first met him. He refused to make eye contact the first two times we met and timidly stared at his phone the entire time while everyone else around him chatted away.
As I met both of them more and more, the wall came down and I quickly realized that who they were upon first impression is not at all who they actually are as humans.
Soham Sen still embodies a f***boy walk and Sathya is still a shy hoe in front of people he doesn’t know, but they’re both aware, respectful, emotional, and genuine men.
Diving into the worlds of Sathya and Soham….
- ‘Chasing the pump’ – Body Image & Men
As an older sister of a high school boy, everything and anything related to dismantling toxic masculinity is so freaking important to me. One of those many topics and areas of interest for me is creating space for men to speak about the discomforts and insecurities of their bodies.
Society created the idea of a gender binary and has further created a certain template for how each gender must appear physically:
Women must have big boobs, a big butt, a flat stomach if not a few abs, a thigh gap, and absolutely 0 fat anywhere. Men must have rock-hard, shiny 6 pack abs, chiseled quadriceps, bumpy biceps, and a solid booty.
To reach this ‘ideal’ body, the boys explained to me the male concept of ‘chasing the pump.’
Supposedly, mirrors at gyms are oriented and designed in a way to enhance one’s body. Therefore, when the men are acting all masculine and huffing and puffing at the weights section of the gym, they see themselves and see that their ‘pump’ makes them look like The Rock. However, minutes after they come back home and look at themselves in their own mirrors, the pump is no longer visible and they are back to looking like their normal selves.
“The more you go to the gym, the more you notice stuff about your body.” – Sathya Rameshkumar, 2023
Once they consistently workout, eventually they’re bound to reach the pump. But then, they’ll wanna chase another pump and once they reach that, they’ll chase another one, and so forth.
Soham and Sathya further explained that while they’re at the gym, they are essentially trying to reach that ‘ideal’ body type.
For Soham, an ideal body type means:
“For me, that means looking like a past version of myself. I want to be that lean and built again.” – Soham Sen, 2023
It’s a tiring process to chase after the way we looked in the past because bodies do and will change constantly. Thus, Soham realized that we cannot be so overcritical of ourselves, which is obviously easier said than done.
The point of this conversation was:
a) to create conversation and a safe space for men and all genders to start more dialogue around body image.
b) to understand that body image is not a gendered problem. It affects everyone because all of us are a result of society’s gendered conditioning. Therefore, when we’re finally trying to live like our most authentic selves, there’s a constant internal battle that ALL of us face.
- There’s too much emphasis on senior year
Senior year of college is when people make it seem like we need to have our shit together. By the time spring semester rolls around, seniors are expected to know what they’re doing next. Grad school, medical school, dental school? A job on Wall Street? Moving to a different state? By the end of senior year, we’re still 21/22 and yet, we continue to place a shit ton of pressure on having our life entirely figured out by then.
We think that senior spring is composed of easy classes, clubbing/getting high every day and night, and not really having a care in the world. However, almost all of the seniors that I know are still grinding their butts off, whether that be for the MCAT, overloading on classes, or even working on applications for whatever their ‘next’ step is.
After speaking with Sathya and Soham, I realized that I no longer wanna ask people ‘what’s next?’ because that perpetuates the ridiculous amount of pressure they already face. It’s that feeling when you’re bombarded at Indian family gatherings and all the aunties/uncles repeatedly ask you what, where, and how you’re gonna survive after college. While you attempt to answer their questions, internally you’re screaming at them and wondering why tf they are so invested in your life.
Instead, maybe it’s better to rephrase that to something like “Do you know what you want to or might do later on?” This doesn’t highlight that weird timeline that we all like to follow in life. It gives people the chance to just speak about the options that they are exploring.
- Indian Dads and Indian Sons
Being sons of immigrant Indian fathers, Soham and Sathya both described the lack of presence that their dads have in their lives as compared to their mothers. They both deeply respect their fathers, however, notice that their Dads are often not their go-to whenever they’re in need of emotional support.
Sathya explained that this is mostly due to the immigrant mentality. Our parents have had a strikingly different upbringing in India than we had in the U.S. Thus, Soham and Sathya noted that the main responsibility of our Dads is to provide because that’s all they ever knew how to be, especially since they had to uproot their entire lives and move to another country.
I wanna dive more, in the future, into how we can also create space for immigrant fathers to be present in their children’s lives without having to take on the sole responsibility of providing for their children in materialistic ways.
- The world keeps moving – whether you’re ready for it or not.
The three of us realized that the world doesn’t give a f*** about how much you’re struggling – it’ll keep moving.
“The world keeps on moving no matter how you’re feeling. The work piles on. Nothing magically goes away. At the end of the day, you still have to do what you have to do. The world keeps moving no matter what. Everyone’s life keeps going on without you.” – Sathya Rameshkumar, 2023
No matter how many resources we are presented with, especially in colleges through the mental health/wellness centers, they don’t help to pause the world. We’ll still have that test, that assignment, that chore, that grade, that responsibility.
When we talked about the idea of getting help when needed, we also found that:
“By the time we go from point A to point B, the world is already on point freaking 7. They’re past the alphabet!” – Sathya Rameshkumar, 2023
So how do we find help before it’s too late or is it always too late? No, but what’s the solution?
- Reminder to try therapy
Hello! Just a reminder that the client (i.e. YOU) is never the problem during therapy. If you’re ever uncomfy or feel like you’re burdening the therapist, then it is most often a sign for you to find another therapist. Therapists are supposed to make you feel seen, valued, and heard. Thus, a therapist who does not make you feel that way is not the right fit for you. You deserve to heal ❤
- Talking toxic masculinity with ex frat bros
Truly a refreshing conversation dissecting the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that has evolved for Sathya and Soham over the years.
Soham started the conversation (while Sathya laughed hysterically in the background saying “I’m waiting for you to get canceled Soham” as he stared at my phone recording the conversation LOL).
Soham described that his 7th grade friend group was a ‘violent’ group and had a rule that the boys in that group were not allowed to sit with one leg over the other. If any of them saw that one was sitting with crossed legs, they’d get beat up. I’m assuming this is because the position of having one leg over the other is seen as a feminine position. He further emphasized that throughout middle and high school, he was taught to act like he ‘owned the place’ if he wanted to have friends.
“I was such a shy kid. I was such a quiet, little kid.” – Soham Sen, 2023
At home, Soham was a shy kid, but at school he had to be a bold, confident man. Thus, he was balancing two different identities as a result of the massive pressure to fit into the ‘masculine’ mold.
Sathya had also experienced this massive amount of masculine pressure throughout high school. Sathya started by saying that the guys in his friend group would rate each other; they’d rate their own male friends on a scale based on attractiveness!
“I didn’t realize it then, but now it has a major effect on how I perceive myself.” – Sathya Rameshkumar, 2023
Sathya described that in the moment he didn’t see how such friends and their actions impacted him. He further noted that he does embody some ‘feminine’ qualities and has always had many friends who are girls. As a result, he was almost targeted for not fitting perfectly into that masculine mold. Again, Sathya was also strung between 2 identities.
The more we try to balance multiple identities, the more we move away from living authentically. When we notice this struggle of several identities, take it as a sign that’s telling you to give the world the middle finger and choose the part of you that makes you feel whole and complete.