PMS: Three syllables that could rock your world. But what does this word mean? As a man, it is one of those words you never want to use to describe away women’s seemingly irrational behaviour. Unless you want to hear a very loud and shrill rant. Or if you know the women I do, get a prompt kick in the crown jewels. For women, it is the constant irritation of dealing with pop culture and stand-up comedians love affair with PMS jokes.
But is the alternative to making crass oversimplifications, just shutting up? I think not. The fact is, in our increasingly politically correct world, we do not address some things just to pacify, well, the angry women. The women whose eyebrows go up when you mention PMS and tell you “Don’t even think about it!”
Now here’s my problem with that. Society and culture thrives on making certain topics taboo- female sexuality, periods, rape, etc. When you cannot even talk about something openly, it provides a connotation of shame to it. How do you expect women to believe there is no shame in their being women when everything about their bodies is brushed under the carpets as ‘inappropriate’?And it is that culture that tolerates locking up women when they menstruate, treating them as social outcasts and of course dismissing them as professionals. For years, men thought women could not be involved in outdoors activities and professions because of- wait for it- menstruation!
This was fine in the world that was but it cannot be a part of the world the Modern Man seeks to build. In order to deconstruct what he has been raised to believe he needs to understand. So women can continue to be overly sensitive about words like ‘vagina‘ and ‘PMS‘ and god knows what else. But the Modern Man is not a gentleman. He is no knight in shining armour. He has little patience or indulgence for your baggage and who has been oppressing you.
The fact is, the more ‘secretive’ and ‘inappropriate’ any topic is deemed, the more power it has to dominate and repress people. So what we propose is this: rob it of its power by taking away the secretiveness. That is the key to a lot of the issues that come with the conversation on gender. It certainly is the key to this one.
And if you want, I can start. Men don’t hate talking because they think it’s a bore. Men hate talking because most women don’t really want to hear what they have to say. And ignorance breeds bigotry. Or in this case- sexism.
I will end with a quote from South Park by the delightfully offensive Mr. Garrison:
“I’m sorry, Wendy, but I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”
Sure, you can call him a chauvinist pig. But what then? What then indeed.
(Click on thumbnail to see idea-toon on a new page)
I’m reading a book called Rubbish Boyfriends. But hang on, that’s not all that’s responsible for this mood o’ mine. I’ve been talking (and talking and talking) to the following women:
A has been steadily (as opposed to happily) married to a ‘Who says we get it right the first time?’ pedigree-carrier.
B is married to the man described by Barmaid as the ‘Good On Paper Indian Guy’ a.k.a. GOPIG (also M.C.Pig). She’s also momma to a 3-year-old and a useless daughter-in-law in the eyes of the matriarch who stays with them.
C has been hitched for four years and has to show for it the following:
- 3-year-old adorable coochie-boo
- 4 home addresses
- Career chart resembling a diagram of the universe (spotty) rather than a straight graph.
A says she stops short of being murderous at the sight of her husband, especially on certain days of the month. So she’s gotten herself a dog. Dog answers to ‘Gabbar’ (despite fancy names conceived by A, on account of pesky husband getting there first) but Gabbar loves her every day of the month, PMS regardless. Arre O Sambha, ek hi aadmi tha par chodo…they’re all the same!
B, juggling phone on neck-shoulder, scrambling about for change and yelling at the taxiwalla, bemoans being called a bad mother for working till 2 am. Then she adds that papa dearest sleeps in late right through baby’s sports day preparations. Her tired tirade ends with,
So long as he isn’t alcoholic, abusive or cheating on you, assume he’s Mr.Perfect. That’s as good as it is ever going to get.
I want to wail about committment-phobias, male insensitivity and thoughtlessness. I want to talk about my non-conversations about my non-relationship with my non-boyfriend. But I can see she’s not quite in the state for it so I take my woes elsewhere.
C, straight-faced as always listens to me and offers this sage advice,
Remember I used to say I’d never leave Mumbai. Do you know all the places I’ve lived in in the past four years? Do you know where I’m going to be six months from now? I don’t, either.
That makes me pause and think. So I watch SATC, drink a bottle of wine, laugh with a friend, read Chick Lit, go shopping and write XX Factor instead. Settle for if you want to settle down seems to be the order of the day. While there’s love (for the uncynical ones), sex, children and stability, no one told them about shrinking expectations (and fading dreams), comfort meshed into indifference, dreams replaced by ‘the best way to end the argument once and for all’. They change, they modify, they sigh a bit, wash their faces and carry on. All of them seem to be echoing that men will be men, at the end of it and there’s just this much you can make them care about things outside themselves.
Resignation appears to be every committed woman’s uniform emotion. And inter-twined with the single girl’s need to find someone special is a sense of relief at not having done so yet.
Some pictures of shy, demure, wallflower moi surfaced online. Nope, not paparazzi style ones, just a couple of shots from a tweet-party I went to recently. Result: I got called ‘cute’ by a Twerson (khee khee, tell me I’m funny!). Nobody calls me cute. I’m stopped in my tracks (briefly) and then decide to share my astonishment with the (cute) child with me in the pic,
Me: I got someone calling me ‘cute’ based on that pic at the party!
Asfaq: And you wanna kill ‘em? And that’s a compliment, right?
Me: I just said thank you and smiled sweetly.
Asfaq: How sweet. Do they know you are the fanatic feminist types? And you will go back and blog abt it?
Asfaq: U R GOING TO BLOG ABT IT, ARE’NT U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A little later, a conversation with Rada (yes, yes, I do have some men friends and guess what, they don’t all hope I’ll wake up speech-impaired!!).
Rada: All Best Wishes for a Safe, Happy and Fulfilling 2009. Let 2009 be for you the year of the “knight in shining armour”!
Me: I think I’ll be happy with a common man in a clean outfit so long as he has some understanding of the terms ‘loyalty’ and ‘committment’! Thank you very much!
Rada: You have just defined the modern “knight in shining armour”!
Me: I have to blog this conversation, for posterity.
And finally, in reply to my tweet asking if I should turn into a nice, sweet girl-next-door, says Cynic,
Sweet girl next door? er…personality transplant needed errr..
Gah!! I did try! Hebby noo yurrr, women and other creatures!! Be back on the other side of this day for more pow-wow!
Message from Friend-Man,
I got a tattoo!
I call back and yelp,
After much detailed description (and a few conversational blind alleys regarding location and image and colour), he admits that it’s a temporary one, ending with,
I’d never get a permanant tattoo!
To which I retort,
Yeah. It needs committment. And the willingness to bear pain. Not a man’s strong qualities. It takes a woman to get one!
He pooh-poohs the idea and khee-khees off the call. But I am tempted to call back and tell him that every single tattooed person I know (self included) is female. Yes!
The Kala Ghoda Art Festival this year takes me back to my campus days of festival-hopping. Make the trip for one event, bump into a whole lot of people who on reflection you know just will be there, catch another event completely on impulse and in general have a phlethora of varied experiences that don’t make immediate sense except for the fact that you know you’ll feel their impact for a long time to come.
I attended a..how do you call it…book launch? Not actually since there was more than one book and I think they’ve all been launched. Okay a tete-a-tete with the authors then in the cosy (windy and dewy and brrrrrr..chilly-for-Mumbaikers David Sasson Library). One of the books being talked about was Almost Single by Advaita Kala. I bought it because:
- A friend had gushed over it to me the previous weekend, emphasizing that I would lurrrve the section on getting back at ex-boyfriends. Which makes me hmmm and then hmph. What’s worse than being defined by men? Being defined by ex-boyfriends!!
- I’ve always wanted to own a book autographed by the author
- The title made me wonder if it was about a character (or more) like me whose ‘real’ relationships with men are after breaking up, liberally masala-ed by sarcasm, evil barbs, other people, rebounds, mixed doubles (and triples..oh let’s not go there!) and in general messy links.
- I just liked the author, her replies to the questions and the things she said about the book.
When I took the book up to her to have it signed, I told her what my friend had said about the chapter on revenge on the ex-. She actually giggled and said
Oh god, sometimes I think how juvenile that was!
And I assured her it wasn’t and came away gratified that I had invested in the words of someone who was quite obviously normal and not the I’m-always-cool-I’m-always-in-control-I’m-da-lady type I’ve been coming up against all too often.
Started the book this evening and it is very promising. I’m tickled and heartened by such lines as
Not too many women in India are over twenty-nine and single, with jobs, not careers which means the ‘she’s-really-career-focussed’ stuff doesn’t stick either.
This is what I love about girlfriends. Unlike with guys, when you have to enact a whole screenplay before you broach a topic, with girls you can just read others’ minds.
Ach, I’m also forced to concede that it’s been a long time since a guy has been a friend; it’s been only girlfriends and girlfriends as far as my recent mind’s eye can see. Where was I when they were handing out little envelopes to kids telling them that yes good, that was your biology chapter and here’s where you learn that these differences will influence even your so-called platonic relationships like friendship?! Gah, maybe I’m just so sexy that men can’t help going for me even if I’m their old buddy. At least my ego-armour still works.
Speaking of which I’m almost gladder to be called ‘sexy’ than ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’. Sexy is honest, sexy is direct, sexy says “I just wanna sleep with you” which I believe is what the other complimentary adjectives say as well, when a man is saying them to a woman, only they’re a lot more subtle (I call it underhanded!).
I’m also whining (while at it, may as well get in some more. Bigby did say “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”) after reading Bitchfest which I picked up last week, breaking my no-books-till-I-finish-the-ones-I-own resolution and causing my mother to arch an eyebrow and inquire,
Aren’t you feminist enough? Without reading books to influence your thinking as well? I just think you are too extreme.
I was in an uncharacteristically good mood (Feminist books seem to do that to me) and I replied,
It is good to go into the depth of something and examine it from all angles to keep your mind open and keep from being bigoted.
Ever heard of ‘apne hi pair pe kulhadi marna‘? The self-help guides tell you not to read beauty magazines since they make you feel inadequate. Someone should have told me the same about powerful books. Now I’m afraid I’m not feminist enough. I have too much angst and not enough anger. I still manage to like men (shuffling feet). Male-bashing tirades aside, I actually do *shudder shudder* smile at men. I’ve been known to *gasp* even talk to them like they’re real human beings. And okay, okay, under duress, I confess, I’ve even done the occasional simpering. Beat me.
Younger men. Now why are there suddenly so many of them? Silly question – because the older ones are either married or I’ve already dated them. Not terribly younger mind you, not enough for the difference to show, well not to anyone but moi I suppose. It’s like wearing a different kind of lingerie than your usual type. Or perhaps to cut down the raunch quotient, it’s like using a different brand of shampoo. Mostly no one even notices and if you even tell anyone, they’re wondering “What’s the big..hey?” But you know…because it feels different, looks different and well…just is different. Oh bother, I’m too old for change. And the more I say that, the more dramatic and volatile life gets.
Oh! Men who need us, need need NEEEEED screaming need us all the f#@$ing time! From cradle to tomb it looks like all you are is one gaping mouth waiting to be filled. Time, love, attention, care, sacrifice, devotion, ego-massages, sex, admiration, validation, romance, support, encouragement…..the list just goes on and on and on and on. For gawdssakes, can’t you ever function as an independent human being?? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said
I do not exist for your sake. I’m not here on this planet for the sole purpose of entertaining you or for the supreme honour of serving you.
Seriously, how hard is that to understand? I’m severing the bloody metaphorical umblical cord…whew, no wonder I’d rather be a genderless being than a womanly woman. If being the constant provider of all needs, small and big for a man…is the job description for a woman, I goddamn it…I want to quit!!!!
I’m mighty annoyed with half of the world’s population. Stay OUT of my space for awhile…christ, I need some room to breathe and time to think!
So everyone knows that I’m on a week-long vacation (having sucessfully shouted it out from the rooftops, my blog and down the phone receiver to my less-lucky-and-long-suffering friends). But true to my OCD tendencies I fall back to old habits. Let’s see…
Saturday: I jumped up and down and also moped about having a UK visa stamped on my passport but absolutely no memories of the place (having not ventured out of my conference room at all). Opened my suitcase and started throwing things out in a bid to energize myself to unpack. Then I promptly fell asleep amid the ruins that used to be my bed and was dead to the world for 4 hours. Which of course meant I stayed awake all night, albeit having a long conversation, the kind you remember for a long time to come, as a milestone in a good friendship.
Sunday: Twenty phonecalls, a much-ahead planned meeting and a wake-up call later, I still managed to be late for a movie. But had hajaar fun anyway. And came home to rip open a DVD of Sex and the City Season 1. This by the way is my gift to myself, as a treat for being in London and missing it.
Monday: Yoga. Blogged. Blogged. Blogged. SATC. Yakked. Yakked. Yakked. SATC. Did not sleep at all.
Tuesday: Slept half of the day and woke up feeling bloody guilty. So I turned out my cupboards. Also tried to clean up the mess on bed after Saturday’s aborted unpacking attempt.
And now I discover that I have:
- Too many clothes
- A stash of shawls that never get used
- A micro-mini skirt that I have neither a matching pair of shorts for, nor the guts to wear by themselves
- Several skirts…more than trousers, actually (!) And I always thought I was a leggings-sort of gal.
- An office wardrobe that looks more like stuff you’d wear to a picnic, a movie, a party or bed.
- An office wardrobe with the mandatory grey, blue, white stuff..that just hasn’t been used in a long time.
- A summer wardrobe big enough that I don’t need to do any shopping.
- A pink umbrella (!)
- Stockings, a beret, a hat, a sash and several scarves I don’t remember buying but have seen in the past three spring-cleaning attempts.
- A pajama set I’ve never used, my college tee-shirt, a slinky lingerie set I remember buying and forgetting about.
- A tube of sunscreen gel…imagine that!
- Two extra tubes of each of my favorite liquid lipcolour shades. In original packing, including the plastic seal around.
- A bowl full of lipsticks of different brands in varying shades of Dusty Rose, Warm Toast, Cinnamon Kiss (translation for men: pinkish-brown)
- One shelf full of bags, none really appropriate for whatever situation I’m going to find myself in..but all have-to-haves!
Hmph. And to think I pride myself on being neat, organised and efficient with resources. I never thought I’d be a shop-a-holic. Now my cupboards look so neat I don’t want to take any clothes out of them, for fear of messing up the careful arrangements.
On the other hand though, I have some strange habits. When I was a kid and received pocket money, I would tuck away a few coins, a note or two here and there…between shirts, inside a necklace case, behind a book. And then forget about it. It was such a thrill discovering it years later. That’s something I haven’t gotten over. I’m still thrilled to discover a 10-rupee note in my pocket even if my wallet has twenty times that amount.
So likewise, spring-cleaning can be like a treasure hunt in much the same manner…discovering something that you knew about long ago and forgot after that. It’s also, however, heart-wrenching. I hate discarding things….just as you get used to things, they’ve worn out or something….*sob*. In fact, while I’m in the mood for confessions, I think I took up fabric painting as a way to hang onto my old clothes. I’d just paint on them and wear them again so my family couldn’t bug me to discard stuff from my bulging closets. All went well till a classmate hooted, “For gawdssakes buy new clothes!” Hmph, no one appreciates recycling unless as a fashion statement. With a heavy heart, I learnt to let go of my prized painted possessions as well.
Ah well, the odd things you discover about yourself. Continuing this thread (albeit on a cheerier note) I didn’t feel bad about relegating to the ‘to-discard’ pile this time. So while I’m in this mood, out go the too-tight blouse that P once gave me, the satin suit I wore on my 16th birthday and never have worn since then, the frayed jeans, the numerous chudidaars and dupattas long divorced from their kurtas and having waited long enough for a new partner.
The one thing that hasn’t made it to the discard pile in over 10 years is a tee-shirt with a picture of a sunflower right in the center and the words
He loves me!
He loves me not!
scrawled at the edges of each petal. It’s a ratty looking thing now but I used to consider it my lucky tee…….for some strange reason I always got asked out by a new guy (often the latest crush) each time I wore it. It isn’t even THAT spectacular looking! But well, some things just are lucky I suppose…..and I’m allowed my bit of silly superstition. I wonder if I need it now though, since my problem seems to be too many men rather than not enough…but well, I’ll hang onto it for a dry spell anyway.
And now I must go and rearrange my shoe cupboard and catalogue my bookshelf. For some reason I’m having more fun on this vacation than I imagine I’d have had touring France (as originally planned). Okay, so I’m a confirmed boring girl-geek.