I was watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (HIMYM) yesterday (and may I add what a tremendous improvement it is on the clichéd, hackneyed ‘Friends’?). Barney, (commitment-phobic bad boy) convinces Marshal (married, nice guy) to ‘stand up for his manhood’, which translates to refusing to help in the house and make sexist cracks at his wife’s expense. As expected, a fight ensues between the couple, peppered with the sort of humour that makes this show very relatable and watchable.
What struck me was the thought that otherwise normal, decent, nice guys are probably going along in with their blameless lives, when they suddenly get distracted by a misnomer like Barney. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, evolved, caring or thoughtful the guys are, an idiotic jerk-boy can suddenly bring out similar behavior in them, just like that. Does that mean that every man has a jerk-boy in him but some just hide it really effectively until it answers to that primal call from the more ‘out’ jerk-boy?
I thought about the boy (like that was a surprise). He’s the one who got me hooked onto this show in the first place. He likes the character of Barney and thinks Ted Mosby (the ‘normal’ one) is a whiny wuss. He loves Shrek and Homer Simpson. He cheers very loudly at exactly the kind of jokes as the one I detailed above, on HIMYM. And last night we watched ‘The Green Hornet’ where he hooted through every sexist crack, every ‘I’m-a-brat-and-proud-of-it’ dialogue spewed by the lead character.
Hmm. In each of those cases, I glare at him, which only spurs him on to even greater hooting, laughing and applause. On occasion, I narrow my eyes, start to breathe fire and then, launch the offensive. Women’s rights, male chauvinism, the faults of the Indian man, herd mentality, cowardice, foetal survival rates, tolerance to pain and emotional fortitude are some of the weapons in my arsenal. No sireee, I don’t play clean, not when I’m challenged.
Yesterday since he wasn’t around during HIMYM, I had to substitute his laughter in my head and argue with an imaginary him. Of course, I won. Well, I do, even otherwise. But then I got to thinking about why he continues to uphold that gutterslime philosophy. He isn’t a male chauvinist. He’s actually not a spoilt mama’s boy. He actively stands for the independence and emancipation of women. And this I have to say honestly, he is proud of, rather than resentful of, his girlfriend’s successes. Then where is the source of Mr.Neanderthal in my Mr.Everyday?
Then it hit me:
Neanderthalism is to men, what shopaholism is to women.
It isn’t true of the majority of the gender. Most people see the idiocy of it and avoid such behavior, without excessive effort. But one practitioner comes along and makes it seem oh-so-cool and the rest of us ‘normal’ sorts feel like losers. The practitioner in question has to be in an innately weak state of mind to succumb to such behavior. And hence of course, he/she seeks to convert others to feel better about that fact that he/she isn’t alone. They’re obviously so convincing in it that the rest of us feel compelled to drop our otherwise intelligent/normal thought and face a momentary lapse of reason.
I am not a shopaholic, never have been. I know an excessive hoarding of possessions has to be an unhealthy symptom of something else going wrong. And of course, I’ve indulged in it more than once. Hey, everyone slips up sometime! It’s sort of like…falling sick. But I recover with time. I’m not a chronic spender, just a prudent women subject to occasional bouts of mad shopping.
And similarly, my Mr. Everyday and hundreds of other such ‘normal’ men are just regular guys, who’re occasionally seized with the desire to be Neanderthals. I could live with that. Even Neanderthals are scared of fire-breathing females.
I actually wrote this post five months ago. But instead I published this one, in its place. I guess this post felt too raw, too out-there and (fine, I admit!) I was a tad superstitious about sounding too smug-happy. I feel a lot more confident about bringing this out so here it is for your (repetitive) reading pleasure!
Okay, I’m back. Call off the search team, please. The flashlights are making me see spots in the darkness. And meh, I wanted to slink back in without anyone noticing.
A combination of sulkiness, bad moods and blogger’s block assailed me. Of course, this blog has seen its share of my blogicidal tendencies. This time, I thought I really and truly had said everything I could possibly say. After all, beyond gender stereotypes, feminism, male-bashing, dating advice, battle of the sexes and single girl rants, what else can I possibly XX Factor?
A relationship, that’s what, came the answer. To my chagrin, I found I never wrote when I was truly, bursting-with-it happy and when was the last time I felt that way? Angst has fueled much of my creative output and in the absence of it, I feel no words knocking about in my head, bumping into my eyelids, threatening to go pouring out of my mouth and my fingers.
So fine, I’ve gone from being single gal to coupled-up, I’ve moved on from angsty-angry to wholesome-happy. But I’m still a woman. There has got to be more to it than explaining the paucity of the opposite sex.
*Sigh* It’s been so long since I’ve done this, I’ve forgotten. There are things that you never really forget, like cycling and swimming and turning your eyelids inside out and being grossed out when other people do this. Let me tell you, being in a relationship is not one of those things.
I think dating should be discarded as a means to and a predecessor to relationships, seeing how it seems to have no connection whatsoever with the latter. How many people that you dated did you actually end up having a solid relationship with? I mean the kind where you genuinely care what they feel, their opinion matters to you, you stand by them (and they by you)? What’s all that to do with people with whom you share entertainment and fancy meals with, people who add to your social quotient and you to theirs by being seen in public together? Anyway, I anticipate that the next question will be “How else do you find someone to be with then?” and I have no answer to that so I’ll drop this thread of thought.
It seemed so easy, so effortless. A conversation between two people ending in ‘Yes’. But in the days to come, that one word has loomed bigger and larger and infiltrated into every aspect of life.
Suddenly I’m spending way longer with and in his absence, thinking about one person. I still adore my friends and the vast social circle I’ve collected in all these years. But days and weeks have mysteriously slipped by and I’ve come back to a bunch of mystified people who’re out with flashlights and search dogs with a warrant for my kidnapper’s arrest. But this is okay. My wonderfully understanding friends assure me that they’re happy for me and wave away my apologies for never understanding when they did the same thing.
I spent an hour trying on and changing various outfits last evening, all in preparation of a mid-week date. Not that he notices and strangely enough that doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve dressed well for a good while now but it’s always been what I feel like wearing, colour, fabric, design, cut etc. But this time I’m thinking….we might take a walk on the beach, better not to wear the nice sandals. My favorite Batman-patterened-WonderWoman style bracelet is still much loved but its sharp edges will probably dig into his wrist when we hold hands.
In the morning, I was looking through some Facebook albums and chanced upon the picture of someone I had gone out with, awhile ago. I immediately tweeted,
“Cute & friendly exes are like delicious street food. Always tempting but then you think of your last encounter & thats the end of it.”
I managed to be late for the date in the evening and after a slightly stiff reception, the ice was broken with a reference to my tweet. I started, having completely forgotten about that. Then that telling glint of mischief crept into his eyes and I knew he was having a good laugh at how I was squirming. I knew he wasn’t going to go Jealous Guy on me and yet, I squirmed. It was odd.
We have great conversations and greater ones, too. Of course we were friends before we decided to be a couple. And the conversations continue. Now and then, I let slip one of my characteristic male-bashing or OTT funny-shocking statements (“In the year 2050, men will be illegally bred as pets for connoisseurs, the bulk of them being grown in laboratories for fertilization purposes.”). It used to be my thing. Drama, shock-value, yes I’m inadvertently (well, not entirely) funny. But I say these now and suddenly I stop and think, “Ohmigosh, I’m supposed to be a girlfriend now. Are girlfriends supposed to say these things to their boyfriends?” Squirm again.
And then there’s the whole awkwardness about the past. This has been strangely enlightening and also I discovered, goes both ways. It’s not the fact that I have a past that embarrasses me, it’s the amount of drama in it. Think how that would sound to Mr.Understated Silent, Solid Type. But then I mention a song of his that I came across and he says uneasily, “Yeah….I was….going through a phase back then.” Heh, there’s some consolation in that.
The friends have yet to be met, his and mine and I know from experience (zzzzing, I did it again!), that is another major bridge to be crossed. The urban family is just as much of a big deal as the joint family, never mind what he says about everyone doing their own thing. Well, one learns, one lives. Love is a complicated thing but at least you get to go at it with a partner.
There’ll be more on this. Single or otherwise, I’m still me and I have a feeling I’ve just stepped into an alternate universe. I’ll keep y’all posted on the sights.
It’s been an eventful weekend. The boy’s friends flocked in from different parts of the country, to catch up and swig a few ones and check if his claims of a new girlfriend were right. Watching your significant other with other people is an interesting experience. Even more so when the people in question have known him longer, much much longer than you. But that’s not what this post is about.
On Friday night, high on Christmas Eve spirits, we sat exchanging ideas (me) and memories (the others). The conversations were flowing as was the alcohol. I’m normally a conservative drinker, if at all. I don’t go beyond a stipulated number and type of drinks. I pace them out and am keenly mindful of food intake and how the combination is affecting me. In a nutshell, I’m always in control and I like it that way. This is a great place to be in for most part and I generally advocate it as a cause.
However, it is an experience, a learning one (and a difficult lesson for some of us) to let go at least a bit and trust the other person. Drinking provides a prime example. I decided to chance it and push my boundaries a bit – Tequila, never the most prudent of drinks and in a thoroughly unconservative manner. We had a great evening and when we retired, we were all slightly unsteady on our feet but still standing. I wouldn’t have driven in that state but I would feel able to have a conversation. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so smug.
I awoke the next morning with a sharp, shooting pain just over my eye. I had thrown up at some point of time in the night (only slightly embarrassed…I did make it to the toilet, after all) and I figured the worst was out of my system. But when I tried to get up, I found myself heaving towards the toilet again. Retch after retch followed. At some point of time, I was given a drink of lemonade, which I threw up about ten minutes after ingesting. That was just the beginning.
An hour later, I was sicking up every sip of water I managed to down. Half an hour later, the shivers started and I had to huddle under a blanket. And a short way from there the stomach cramps began. For over seven hours from the time I awoke, I couldn’t keep any food or water down. I lost count of the number of times I threw up. At some point of time, I stopped running to the toilet as I couldn’t stand. A bucket had magically appeared by my side and it caught the contents of my tortured stomach.
It wasn’t till later in the evening, after several unsuccessful attempts to eat, two tablets, long naps interrupted by violent retching and cramps, that I regained some stability. I never actually passed out but I was too weak to get up or speak or even groan. So when the worst of it passed, it felt like I was coming back to life. And it was only then, I felt able to focus on the person who nursed me through it. My boyfriend known also as Mr.Everyday.
He brought me a bucket to throw up into. He kept me covered when I was shivering. He stroked my head to soothe my fevered tossing. He spoke to the doctor. He ran to the chemist (twice) for medicine and then again for the fruits that I felt like eating, later. He prodded me out of my sleep and forced water down my throat. He spoon-fed me soup, even as I sicked it all up. He watched me as I dozed, waiting in case I needed help getting up to retch again. He did all this by forfeiting the weekend’s plan with his guests. And spent the day instead, inside a stifling room on the one hot day in December, as I shivered.
Letting a guy, especially one that you’re romantically involved with, see you in a less-than-perfect state, is always a big deal for a woman. The resulting loss of mystique is a fear that dogs the best, most secure of us. What’s more, for our generation of Superwomen, letting ourselves be taken care of by *horrors* a man, is not a situation we come to, gracefully. But perhaps the next step in being secure in our independence is not needing to prove it at every tiny opportunity. And hence, by corollary, not feeling imperfect or weak if we let ourselves be taken care of, once in awhile. I would take care of him if he was unwell and I realize there is a certain ego issue in not allowing him the same.
There is much that we’ve been fighting over in the past few months, our many differences coming to the fore and our equally stubborn natures locking horns. And of course, post-mortem, it’s easy to say that those things are different and apart from a situation like this. But those are things that break a couple. And this is the kind of thing that really cements a relationship. All the sweet nothings, flowery words and romantic dates aside, an incident like this is real, tangible proof. He took care of me and he nursed me when I was sick. And for that, I hope I never forget how lucky I am, that he’s my Mr.Everyday.
There’s all this talk about ‘boys and their toys’. But you know, we girls loved our childhood companions too. What’s more, in a typically female psycho-babble-loving way, we see patterns in our toy mania. Maybe we’re back in the playground, but with a heart instead of a doll and slightly bigger boys this time. If our relationships are a reflection of the games we’re used to playing, maybe the people we date, are images of our favorite toys. Who then are we, by the toys we play with?
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!
Some little girls play with plastic dolls. Some of them grow up and play with plastic cards and the styrofoam men who own them. Sugar daddies abound for the PYTs (Pretty Young Things) who never got over their addiction to plastic. These are the women for whom life in La-la-Land is just fiddle-dee-dee, isn’t it darling?
Touch ME not, touch MINE not!
How about those annoying, prissy kids that mum was always wishing we would become? The one who always put his toys away in order, the one whose dolls were always nicely dressed and neatly arranged. You hated her didn’t you? I did too. Especially since she wouldn’t let me get my grubby fingers anywhere near her precious beauties. Come to think of it, she didn’t do much more than stare at them in her perfect dollcase either. She had a fairytale marriage, complete with Snow White style wedding gown to Mr.Ken doll. Presumably she and her darling boy toy do nothing more than look at each other in absolute adoration and live happily ever after.
My lovely monster, my cuddly creepy-crawly
I was delighted to find a series of monster-doll stuffed toys and started a collection. Besides a stuffed Hunchback of Notre-Dame, I also collected a green Frankenstein, a lady-bird sandbag, an outrageously plumed rooster, a green dinosaur with red spikes and an owl with a graduation hat. My favorite doll (that I still have) had an unruly lock of hair carved into the top of its head and all otherwise, it was bald. Ergo, my tastes run to imperfect objects …and flawed men.
I want the one she wants!
Then there’s the girl who seems to want just the guys you want. He’s ‘just someone’ until he becomes SOMEONE to you. Then he’s the one she’ll want. She would be the kid who always wants the toy that the other kid has.
Everyone knows the kid who always wants the biggest, prettiest, bestest toy that there is. This isn’t greed, it’s ambition. They usually get them, don’t they or they just won’t play with anyone or anything else. We are in the age of a woman getting anything and everything she wants, after all. This is the woman who’ll turn her nose at the plebs and hold out for the trophiest of trophies only.
I remember one weird childhood conversation. Comparing notes like all little girls besotted with an abnormally shaped piece of plastic called Barbie, I asked the girl who sat next to me in class,
“I’m making a new dress for my doll. Do you have a Barbie?”
She sniffed and replied,
“Only three! But my mama won’t get me more!!!!!!!”
Of course that was the ‘I have more than you!’ kid. Know someone who is the female equivalent of a bed-post notcher? Bingo. She grew up and collected boyfriends instead.
Among other things, I’ve been discovering the joys of vanity since I quit my job and have had a lot more time to myself. It’s quite wonderful, caring for oneself and looking good-feeling good. Mr.Everyday, on the other hand, is determined to win the title for ‘Most Likely to Be Mistaken For Shrek‘. It’s not that he’s bad-looking…duh, not at all! But his persistant efforts just might win him that crown. The faded-to-unrecognizable-colour tee-shirts, the facial hair that if it were modern art would be titled Scotchbrite Tarzan, the chappals (chosen over a clean pair of sneakers and brand-new floaters)….yes, this has to take some serious effort.
So last night we had another one of our ‘talks’, which is just politespeak for ‘I rant on and on while he fiddles with the new PS2′.
Me: Please, please, please get a shave!
Mr.Everyday: I’ll think about it.
Me: Please, please, PLEASE!!!
Mr.Everyday: I’ll think about it.
Me: Listen, you know what you look like, right? Huh? Huh? Are you even listening to me?
Me: God, just get it, won’t you?!
The Boy: *Muffled yell*
Me: *Happy he’s finally gotten it*
Me: *Realization that he’s whooping over a PS2 win*
Me: Listen, you look really good with that French beard thing. Why don’t you get a trim now?
Mr.Everyday: I’ll think about it.
Me: It’s been over a month since you got it and it’s growing out like weeds! What do you have against a trim where someone else does that for you?
Mr.Everyday: I’ll think about it.
Mr.Everyday: I’ll think about it.
Me: One of these days I’ll find something to wear that you’ll absolutely hate! Then I’ll wear it everyday…for….for…a year!!
Mr.Everyday: You’ll always be beautiful to me, no matter what you wear.
Okay, if this were a comic strip, the last panel would have me shrugging my shoulders. Well, really, what is one supposed to say now? I know, I know, he’s thinking about it.
Francois Sagan did say,
“I like men to behave like men. I like them strong and childish.”
The proverbial honeymoon comes to an end (proverbial, I said. That means its metaphorical, people. I retain my ‘unmarried girl’ status). Life with Mr.Everyday means some rainy days among the sunshine. The wonderfuller-than-life boyfriend proves himself to be a typical guy.
It started a couple of weeks back when I came down with the monsoonitis, that kuff-kuff-sniff-sniff-i’m-burning-up vestige of Mumbai rains. Plans were accordingly changed (at which point I digress to say I’m the one who makes the plans while the man likes to ‘go with the flow’, read ignore anything less interesting than Predators, XBox, beefsteaks and me). I warned him that Mumbai rains were viral and not romantic, that God made umbrellas for a reason, that dampness was catching. *Sigh*
On Sunday, after many reminders and patient chipping away (mine) on stubborn resistance (his), boyfriend was induced to wake up early to catch a morning movie. To his credit he did manage to make it on time….to the wrong theater. It took him another 25 minutes to get to the right place, by which time the movie had begun and we missed getting good seats. Well, what do you do with a man who listens to every thing you say (no kidding, even my obsessing over long-lost friends, whining about public transport and PMSey complaints) except directions? Shrug and accept that he still is a man after all.
Mid-week the realisation came fully to fore when those tricky monsoonitis germs finally shifted their focus from my lungs to his. Mr.’Arre-don’t-worry-nothing-happens-to-me’ sniffed and sneezed his way into fludom. And voila, transformation! My otherwise placid, stoic, independent, sensible boyfriend was transformed into a classic literary character. The Dr.Jekyll self was MachoMale with manly shrug of shoulders, albeit a refusal to acknowledge that I really did tell him to stay out of the rain, not fall asleep in wet clothes and avoid suspect food. I did tell him so, I did, I did! (Okay, I am after all human female too).
I had to drag him to the doctor, I kid you not. Once there, we went over the vaguely familiar “Can we leave now? Now? Now? Can we go? Please? Please?” And then Mr.Hyde truly showed up in the form of BigBabyness. First the irritability. Then the refusal to eat sensible sick food. Cold pepsi for dinner, pizza for breakfast and tomato soup for lunch all with medication!!! Then aggravated sickness leading to further irritability. Finally culminate in guilty feeling semi-compliments alternated by irritable ‘I can take care of myself!’ type remarks (yeah, right). *End of mommy-like rant*
Which brings me to the firm realisation that men are genetically incapable of being their normal selves while unwell. I don’t mind mood swings; I mean, I’m a woman, after all! But men uniformly turn into that MachoMan/BigBaby combination. I’m not exaggerating. Even dad, the manliest man of them all is prone to this when his acidity attacks strike. Why do men roar and growl exactly when their throats (and tummies and heads and various other bits and pieces) need rest?
One of my friends did warn me to not mother the boyfriend but really, what is a woman to do with this? Boyfriend has duly been rechristened Babyfriend and I don’t care what he says but he has to clean his plate and take his medicine before I’ll return his XBox controller to him.