I have had a startling revelation that will revolutionize the way we look at relationships and well, men!
Everyone knows Bad Boys are bad news. Meh, that’s last century’s news. And yet – or possibly exactly for that reason – we are drawn to them and spend a considerable bit of our prime chasing illusions of acquaintanceship with them. But of course theBad Boy breaks our heart. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Then we sigh and move on….to another Bad Boy.
The cycle, seemingly fatalistic has one way out – or so we are told. As maturity (or possibly too much heartache) sets in, we shed our illusions of wild, fast, furious, exciting love and pledge our troth to another kind of man altogether. Enter the Good Boy.
From a love-lifetime of having experienced Bad Boys, we automatically conclude that we know his exact opposite completely. NOT TRUE!
The Good Boy is not necessarily Prince Charming, either. He doesn’t get romance and tenderness any more instinctively than the Bad Boy. The Good Boy‘s connection to mama will be elevated to monumental proportions (in that there will be a shrine to mama) while in the case of the Bad Boy, it was only an excuse for his bad behavior.
What’s worse, I’m discovering, there is a price to be paid, a fee if you will, for life’s lessons. So after going through the Bad Boys, you come to the Good Boy expecting to be healed and kissed and made alright.
Instead you come up against a formidable presence that requires your clearing up your messes before you step onto his carpet, so to speak. There’s no sympathy forthcoming (and I’m about to believe this is the version of sulking that Good Boys prefer). It’s time to play hardball (again!) and negotiate.
These aren’t ruthless. Of course not, these are Good Boys after all. But there is negotiation nevertheless. And there’s the overwhelming sense of guilt and foolishness hanging over your own head for your past mistakes. Obviously you’re coming to the table with a weak hand.
I’m thinking the whole thing is a set-up. The Bad Boy is nothing more than marketing spiel to get our defenses dulled and weakened in time for the Good Boy to close in and finalize a deal that’s sweet to him.
GAH!!! Good or bad, a man may never be what he seems.
Phil Collins tells me that,
A friend’s mother imparts the following wisdom on men and marriage,
“Don’t expect any kind of sense for about 3 years. After that they kind of settle down.”
PATIENCE is a virtue, apparently a prized one for a woman. Me? I never met a man who didn’t make me, within hours, want to bang my head on the wall. Irrespective of how much I liked him. I think men are like that. Born to annoy.
How does thou annoy me? Let’s count. (In no particular order of priority, they’re all equally irksome)
- Juvenile jokes (toilet humour, anyone?)
- Bad taste in clothes, furniture, colors, everything!
- Complete cluelessness about the concept of ‘Conversation’
- Hormone surges (okay, cross that, it isn’t always a problem)
- EEEEEEGO (with a huge, big, monstrous, mammoth of an E)
- Mixed-up priorities (“Let’s go watch the match now!”, “Why do you need to shop again?”)
- The gall to comment on my taste (“Haha, your brown lipstick looks like you’ve eaten mud!”)
Phewwww..*Deeeeep breath* I think I’m forgetting. I’ve never been high on patience anyway. Some day, some day, some day I’ll learn to tolerate a man being a man. And not keep looking into those starry-eyes and asking,
“Okay, have we grown-up as yet?”
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.
Like every good Mumbaiker, I would spend about an hour and half commuting to work each morning. Once I got in, I’d perch on my chair, waiting for my colleague to arrive. She’d walk in about 10 minutes later, switch on her computer, rearrange her desk and give me a little nod in the direction of the door. And we’d get up in unison and leave.
I’ve heard about this from several amused (and puzzled) men. We call it ‘The Loo Community’. The question is,
Why do women go to the loo in groups?
I suspect the real question is,
“What on earth do they do in there???!!!”
It is a good question.
So what do we do when we ‘go’ in groups? Well….we talk. We giggle. We compare notes on men (boss, colleague, client, boyfriend, husband, friend). The sneaky suspicion men have, that women are having a good laugh at their expense in the loo, is correct. The washroom is a great place for female bonding. After all, that really is the only place the men can’t interrupt our thoughts or conversations. (Down with the unisex!!)
Frantic damage control can be administered and strategies discussed. Ever heard of the following? If it’s familiar, you’re probably female.
“I got an oil stain on my dress!!!”
“Here….use some talcum powder on it! It’s great for matting away all kinds of oils – facial or vegetable!”
And there are questions of earth-shattering importance which need privacy and seclusion to be dissected and pondered over. Such as…
“What if he calls here and wants to talk?”
“Say “Oops, I hear my boss calling!” and hang up!”
Sample the following titbits from real lootime conversations:
I tried some crunches yesterday & got a cramp. I hate these damn tyres!
Hee hee…bet he loves those love-handles though!
Yes well, and we play the fool sometimes too. One time we went out for a drink, the women went to the washroom together (of course!). There we discussed who was drinking what, who was sloshed, who could be lulled into saying something interesting in the present state of drunkeness. We giggled over some of the things the men were saying. Then we looked at the mirror together and appraised ourselves. One of them said
“Security guard is a bloody letcher…did you notice?”
I put in,
“Bully for him, there’s a bevy of beauties passing by after all.”
Rightttttt… she retorted,
“We look more like Charlie’s angels!!”
A minute later a sturdy matron in a grey salwar-kameez walked in on the three ‘beauties’ posing like Charlie’s angels and trying to photograph the mirror (without the camera showing).
Though coming back to the point, this loo community is really obvious at work. All the guys smoke and there’s tremendous bonding happening over a shared cigarette. Strangers walk by and ask my male colleagues if they could share a light and then chat like they’ve been friends for years. My cubicle neighbor (who is male and smokes) has the in on the office gossip practically seconds after it happens. When he gleefully accounts something that he’s apparently known for ages and ages and I ask him how he knows, the answer always lies in smoketime conversations. A few of the women smoke but somehow they are never included in this camaraderie.
But I don’t worry. We have our own version of the office grapevine. I’ve managed to get to know most women in the office, across floors and departments simply because we share the bathroom mirror in the mornings. Great friendships are born from that small-but-useful tip over how to get rid of pimples. Intellectual conversations start from a discussion on the best way to hide a hickey (horrors!…giggle giggle). An unexpected ally may be made from that emergency safety-pin passed over the toilet stall wall.
Female-bonding is a good way to start and end the day.
“Why do we trade in the attention of a hundred men for the indifference of one?”
I’ve been pondering this for awhile. I remember reading this in a booklet of quotable quotes by famous women about men. That alone tells me, it’s a dilemma that other women have grappled with.
It is a common notion that men change once they enter a relationship. A wave of attention and affection and solicitousness comes our way from the man, during the initial heady wooing days. As we settle into the comfort (no doubting) of a relationship, the tide starts to pull back. Where the minutest change in our appearance would have been cause for a deluge of compliments, an entire makeover elicits not a grunt. At one point of time, the man is vying for a slot on our busy schedule. Now that our schedule is built around him and his idiosyncrasies, it is no more interesting than last year’s calendar. This isn’t what I’d call intentional malice or cruelty. But it does sting at a profound level when you’re at the receiving end.
Compared to the average man, the average woman has a higher degree of attention coming her way from the opposite sex (sorry but that’s the way nature goes). She decides to trade in all that for one man, whose interest declines eventually. Most women do this and what’s more, do it willingly, joyfully and earnestly. So why do women put up with it?
Are we so desperate for the illusory security of one relationship that we’ll throw in all the promissory notes of flirtation that we had earlier? Are we so masochistic that we can’t fathom, cannot bear the idea of being so universally adored and must settle into the mediocrity of accepting less, much less? Or are we just being realistic and trading in our chips before they all lose value, for something that depreciates but stays our own, nevertheless? It bears thinking about.
When I received a corporate pat-on-the-back (with a financial award), my mother suggested that I spend it on jewelery instead of frittering it away on clothes, books and shoes. Mum still believes in jewelery being a good investment. It took months but I finally agreed. I went diamond-shopping.
It was not the first major purchase I’ve ever made, not even the first time I’ve bought jewellery. On my first job, I saved up to buy my father a new cellphone and my mother, a diamond ring. That was a funny feeling. A memorable feeling, a funny one and one I’ll treasure all my life…the exhilarating thrill that comes from being able to buy something for the people you love, who have provided for you, all your life.
But when I went big-purchase-shopping again, a few years later, it just was different. A different kind of different. Inside my head, despite all the freedom of financial independence and mental release, my liberation has a few gaps in it. Like little stitches still binding me to old ways of being, long after I’ve snipped away the life I want to wear.
Diamonds are usually received as gifts, not bought for oneself. Gifted by a man…a father, a brother, a lover, a husband. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it’s because those sparkly stones carry the monetary value that they were bought for, but also the power of being cherished and indulged by men. For years, diamonds have been financially tangible tokens of men’s allegiance to those women. They continue to be so.
Only, these diamonds don’t represent the men who lavish their affections on me. They remind me of everything that I’ve worked for and achieved. The power to buy a diamond as well as the right to wear one that is truly my own. It’s just odd how long it took me to accept the feeling. To not feel guilty about lavishing it on myself, not feel obligated to spending it on someone else or something more important/intelligent, not wonder if brandishing my economic power made me seem like even more of a man-hating feminist than people usually accuse me of being.
It took me a long time to accept that it was okay to buy a diamond for myself and feel good about it. Newfound power doesn’t come easy; it’s scary. I actually took about a month, after agreeing to actually bring home the diamonds. I browsed online for different brands (and read a great deal about blood-free diamonds). I contemplated the merits of a pendant-and-chain versus a ring. I visited several stores and compared prices. I sketched out designs and pored over them. I considered local ‘known’ stores versus big jewelery brands. And finally I went and picked up a pair of earrings. Tiny diamond chiplings fashioned into three petals, with a thin golden stem wound around them. I did it all on my own.
Then I wore my new earrings to work the next day. For about ten minutes my entire body hummed in excitement, wondering if anyone would say anything. Nobody noticed anything different, no one even tossed the odd compliment my way. But suddenly, I realised, I didn’t care. I knew and that’s all that mattered.
I’ve had the earrings for a couple of years now. I wear them when the outfit and occasion suits them. But sometimes, just because I want a reminder of what I can do for myself.
I’ve barely posted through the month of November. What with one thing or another with the domain problems and having to move back to good ol’ free WordPress, things got pushed aside. But the XX Factor Facebook page has been active, sure enough. And for those of you who didn’t catch the updates as they happened, here are the highlights once again:
- I was surprised at how accurate these felt even in the Indian context. Human relationships are universal, I suppose. 20 things couples should do before they move in together and another 20 they should not do after moving in together (via TheFrisky)
- What I want to know is – what qualifies as ‘new’? 10 basic rules for a new relationship (via YourTango)
- Of special interest to me since I made the first move with Mr.Everyday and I did at least two of the things on this list. 10 subtle ways to make the first move. (via TheFrisky)
- Flirting styles by the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 (via Lemondrop)
- 7 tips for dressing curves that are a must-read for the Indian-woman-sized figure. (via AllWomanStalk)
- A tricky question indeed: “Am I wrong for hooking up with my friend’s ex-?” (via TheFrisky)
- Pool Noodle girlfriend & other gross things guys do. Eww, dirty boys! (via TheFrisky)
- Much of this, common sense. But we all need reminding of THAT sometimes, don’t we?: How to fall in love with Mr.Good Enough. (via YourTango)
- We’ve read these a hundred times before. We know them off the tops of our heads. We rarely disagree with each other on these, no matter what our differences. But still ‘men’s mistakes’ always get us off…laughing!: The 10 stupidest mistakes men make with women. (via TheFrisky)
- An Indian (?) guy reading an Indian (?) author. HOT! (via HotGuysReadingBooks)
- 12 techno-relationship rules to live by. (via TheDailyBeast)
- A whole list of things that made me go ‘Awwww’ and which would make my boyfriend cringe if I ever actually mentioned them!: What do men really find romantic? (via ThirdAge)
- The best way to be with a funny woman. (via DoubleViking)
- 4 secrets every woman should know. (via TheRealCougarWoman)
- How to buy lingerie for a woman. (via ModernMan)
- 8 Harry Potter tools we want for our relationships. (via YourTango)
- The Dance Of The Pot – How did we ever turn into such a patriarchal, chauvinistic society? (via Devdutt)
- I was baffled by an invite I received recently which asked for ‘Smart Casual attire’. Read about setting a dress cold for your party. (via ManofTheHouse)
- Feminism turned on its *ahem* occasionally biased head. (viaWords&Pictures)
I really have been a listmaniac this month, haven’t I? I’m still waiting to hear what you think of my picks! Love? Hate? Snooze?
A colleague of mine from the Paris office came to visit and stayed in Mumbai for three months. We became friends and I was delighted to meet her again a year later. In conversation about the country she said she had fallen in love with, she suddenly remarked,
There are a lot of gay men in India!
I was surprised. We debated briefly on whether this could be possible. I mean, since human beings are fundamentally the same worldover, barring superficial differences of physical appearances, can something as deep-rooted as sexual orientation vary by region?
The debate petered off when it fell into the abyss of ‘Why does a person turn out to be homosexual? Heredity? Environment? A deviant childhood experience?’ Neither of us had enough information to make a call on that, and true to our analytical roles, we let it drop with a unanimous judgement of ‘Data insufficient’.
But I went back to her original assumption later and discovered that it boiled down to a laughably simple point. She said she kept noticing men all over the place with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders. At my confusion, she clarified,
In Europe, only gay men do that. Straight men never put their arms around each other that way.
It took me awhile to get over my surprise at that to tell her that it was common practice in India among men, straight or not and no one thought twice about it.
It was a telling point. Cultures vary and etiquettes differ. On one hand, the West is a lot opener about displays of affection between opposite sexes. So kissing, hugging and dancing are all regarded as normal where these would raise a few stares in most parts of this country. On the other hand, behavior between people of the same sex is rigidly demarcated in a way that it doesn’t even occur to Indians to think about.
After the above conversation, I’ve been studying how we behave with people of the same sex. There is a fair degree of physical contact between men, with the arm-around-shoulders being the most common one. A man riding pillion on a bike and scooter is at ease holding the rider by his waist or shoulders. Older brothers, fathers and authority figures express their role of ‘benevolent benefactor’ by the arm on the middle back of their protege. Friends will massage each others backs in a gesture that would seem quite erotic if they had been from opposite sexes.
Women with women are even freer. There is plenty of hugging and kissing in the more Westernized factions. And in the others, there is a lot of touching, of holding hands, of squeezing up next to, of putting heads on the other’s shoulder or lap. I’ve done it myself without thinking about it, for years on the end.
In fact the one interesting thing that came to light recently was when I realized that two women would not mind sharing a bed but a lot of men would be uncomfortable doing so. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this since the same two men would be perfectly fine with sharing their personal effects and talking about deeply intimate things that women would shy away from.
Body language is as nuanced and subjective as any of the verbal ones; possibly more since it is the one language that speaks only the absolute truth. This may be why the loose-limbed gesture that popular media often patronizes comes across as juvenile to real gay people. It could be why we occasionally blunder on the gay/straight perception divide and why ‘gaydar’ isn’t down to a precise science. And it may also point to the fact that sexuality isn’t a binary defined world (one or the other) but as fluid as our moods and passions.