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The Neanderthal In The Nice Guy

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.

Hair raising on the tube

I’m practically de-sensitized to the trash overload from the television set. After all..

Got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from…

But every now and then there comes along something that makes me sit up and take notice.

It would have been a normal, frenzied rush-hour day just like another. And a TV schedule of saans-bahu soaps jostling with fudge-eality shows, squeezed in between commercials for insurance policies, shampoos and perfume-smelling detergents. And then it happened.

60% of women call in sick from work on a bad hair day!

…the colourful screen proudly proclaimed to me. Followed by a flood of digi-enhanced, branded-director-signature-style glossy images before you could say SEXIST!!

And the commercial signed off with a serene-faced, funky hair-styled Habib telling you not to worry about your hair anymore.

*Sigh*

I don’t. After all I’m apparantly so stupid that I fall for that and pay for it as well. So now you can come and insult me on my face.

What, me worry? I just think, chronically.

60%…that’s nearly two-thirds of all the working women I know – friends, colleagues, bosses, peers, clients, teachers, doctors, air-hostesses, news readers, nurses, shop assistants, call center workers, hotel staff, salesgirls, women security guards, policewomen….shall I go on? So Habib tells us that more than half of this lot calls in sick when they don’t think their hair looks right.

Well never mind. I’ll just end with asking if a man thinks you are so frivolous, would you let him touch your hair?

Note: I’ve seen this ad aired just once. It would be good to know if anyone else caught it as well.

Manguide 3: Hobbies & Interests

We know where they live. We know what they do for a living. But what do they do that makes their life more than an existance?

I used to wonder at people who had no hobbies or interests at all….I mean, what is that all about???!!! Now I know a new breed of people. The kind who grew up from the ones I mentioned earlier and ‘cultivated’ a few hobbies. I know it is perfectly appropriate to say that a hobby is cultivated but well…that’s just it, isn’t it? As far as I’m concerned, you love doing what you love doing because you love doing it. Simple? Not to a lot of people apparantly. So here’s a sassy ode to my favorite species of lab rats and the things that they claim to enjoy doing! Ha!

The Bibliophile: Okay scream your lungs hoarse, men, before you proceed reading. Yes, tell me that some of you actually do enjoy reading. Fine, now that we have that out of the way, here’s why I don’t believe you. I claim to love reading. I like some authors, some ideologies, some styles of writing and I know why I like them. I think over what I read and I have an opinion. Reading is, I have said before, like sitting inside another person’s head and seeing the world through their eyes. But it doesn’t stop there!!!! I am so sick, sick, sick and tired of men who parrot out things other people have said. Like hello, I know some brilliant people have said some brilliant things but quoting them ad nauseum does not make you appear intelligent, it just reminds me of a tape-recorder. And oh, by the way Peter Drucker, business periodicals and Chicken Soup for the soul don’t count as signs that you are a bibliophile. So for gawdssakes, ladies, before drooling over the ‘intellectual’ find out whether that’s second-hand intelligence that you’re being fed!

The Listener: Likewise actually where music is concerned, as for books. Moreover I want to strangle the person who said ‘If music be the food of love…’ (oh deyaam, was that Shakespeare?). Beware, beware, beware of the specimen that has a song for every one of your moods, women. That’s a man who has been reading ‘How to hook a woman by snooping into her playlist’. Yeah, yeah I’m a cynic. And I’ve just heard too many renditions of ‘Lady in Red’. I have nothing against romantic numbers but its fun to turn around and tell the guy you dig Floyd and Maiden and see what he comes up with then.

The Musician: As opposed to the above species that only listens to music, this one actually makes music. Now he may be good or he may not. I’ve known a few and I can tell you most artists, even the amateurs are faintly temperamental. Which is probably part of their allure (oh, ask me!!) On the other hand, do be prepared to become the audience for the anthology of your new boyfriend’s compositions. Not to mention private renditions of their works-in-progress. A song, just like a building can be a masterpiece when complete. But just like the brick-laying and cement-mixing isn’t pretty, the process of finding the correct tune, getting it right on those instruments is fairly nerve-wracking (especially if you have to listen to ever goddamn plink and wrong boom-thump) Another point to note is he’s likely to have some kind of a band, even if they only play in the car park (we don’t have that many garages here!) And no, if you think you like one musician and you’ll love the lot, you’re likely to be disappointed. It was a musician-boyfriend who pointed out the different personality types in a band. He said,

The lead guitarist is probably a charmer, the smooth talker, who gets in with all the babes. He’s the most visible one of course. The drummer is likely to be anti-social, which is why he prefers sitting behind the huge set up making big noise and not being disturbed by the world.

Ah, and what did my boyfriend do? He was the bass guitarist, easy-going and charming enough to be part of the ‘front’ but not so ambitious as to want to upstage the lead. I validate that as well as his observation of the rest of the band. Pick your musician with care.

The Traveller: Now this type is fairly fascinating for his multiple exposure. I’m however crossed by the sneaky suspicion that he views the world by a Marie Antoinette-esque viewpoint, oblivious to the idea that most people wouldn’t choose to live in shanties, dirty roads et al if they had a choice. Besides, you know what someone’s grandma said (mine didn’t, she wouldn’t have approved of dating!)…”Don’t fall in love with a traveller, I’ll tell you why, he’ll take you to the airport and kiss you goodbye.” Well, realistically speaking this is obviously a man who likes a change in scenery ever so often so what does that say about his stability? Debatable I know, but worth thinking about.

The Conoisseur: Oh god, how I hate/loathe/detest/abhor this type! His muse may be wine, fine art or literature. Whatever it is, you can be assured that you won’t be spared without a lesson at every opportunity. And no, don’t think it’ll work out well if you share the taste. The conoisseur is snobbish about his interest and it defines him. He’ll brook no competition and it will perpetually be a game of one-upmanship of who knows better. Blah, who gives a damn…I know I’ve wanted to stuff the grand interest in some extremely uncomfortable places.

The Couch Potato: Ah, the only real hobby that my generation has. It’s called the idiot box, darling, but the idiots sit outside it not inside. Nuff’ said.

The Monitor Maniac: Okay, this is a tad different from Couch Potato. The internet is a smorgasbord of delights after all. Gaming, chat, blogging and let’s not forget…porn. There’s a whole new world in there! So what’re you doing outside it, baby? Perhaps you met online. Chweet. Maybe you should keep it that way instead of trying to take it offline. ‘Never the twain shall meet. So forget about the “Do you think we should meet?” It spells doom for an online relationship in the exact same way that three other little words do on a real-world relationship.

The Gamer: As specifically different from Couch Potato and Monitor Maniac. Some things that should be warning signs. 1. He enjoys speeding, fighting and cussing. 2. He is thrilled by the idea of hitting a few buttons and changing lives. 3. His latest score defines how happy he is. Once again, he’s similar to the Conoisseur in that his interest governs his sense of self-worth and while he may seem to gravitate to you on the grounds of shared interest, he most certainly won’t brook any competition. Well, go battle it out over the joysticks if you like. I’ve thrown the damn lot out of the window with the remote control.

The Artist: Now this type I do like. Also unlike the Gamer/Conoisseur, there’s no such a thing as competition among those who love their art and are confident about it. If you share the interest, you might even learn something from each other. On the other hand, there is the temperament, weirdness and the addictions that build the stereotype. Ah well, roll me another joint baby…

The Sportsman: This one as different from the Gamer since he plays games in the real world, not on a computer/TV screen/mobile phone. I don’t actually know too many of this type, possibly since I gravitate to the more ‘heavy-head’ types. I imagine the guy would be quite pleasant if he played some sort of team sport though there’s the whole thing of his having way too many ‘boys’ nights out’. I’m mortally afraid (like every other woman) of the locker-room talk phenomena as well. But that’s unfair I guess, men gossip as a rule, behind lockers or water-coolers. On the other hand, this type is likely to be closer to the whole virile-brutal-masculine thought than his less ‘active’ counterparts. Well, if you can bear to live in ‘Oog hunt. Oog kill. Oog be number 1.’ land, then he’s the one for you. Besides he’ll come in useful if you’re faced by a gang of hooligans.

The Gastronome: I never know what to say to this type. I’m after all, someone who thinks that food is fuel to the body-machine and nothing more. Also, the typical Indian man who loves food is scandalised by the thought of a woman who doesn’t enjoy cooking and horrors, admits to it as well! Whatever on earth can be so interesting about eating? I’m flummoxed. But well, this man is probably the easiest to hook with the age-old wisdom of the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach. Hmm, just watch it with the oily snacks though, you don’t want that adage to refer to cholestrol and have him blame you for his deteriorating health.

The Chef: Yes, this type I am absolutely floored by. When a woman can go out and do things that men have been doing for years, what’s better than a man who comes in and does what we’ve been doing for years? A man who likes cooking is a big, big, big turn-on. Besides this is one interest he can’t fib about. :-)

Have fun with the boys….just check in on how they’re having their fun!

Manolos And Sindoor

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My latest obsession is Sex and the City. For the past few days I’ve been wrapped up in the love lives of Carrie, Samatha, Miranda and Charlotte, dazzled by the wardrobes and their lifestyles, amused by their incessant man-izing (!) and thoughtful over the dilemmas they face. Okay, I know I know, I’ve taken the late train, but hell I’m driving it!!! I’ve been watching the early seasons of the show back-to-back. Desperate Housewives (still on air I think) didn’t do the same thing for me. The other program I liked so much was Ally McBeal.

Do these two have something in common? ally.jpgOh, apart from the fact that they feature sucessful, rather neurotic, ‘with it’ urban women? Errrm, it’s the same life. The same story. So Ally sees dancing babies in then midst of a courtroom drama on human interest issues in New York(?) while Carrie and her friends explore and demonstrate the vagaries of Manhatten’s delights. Ummm…and I battle Mumbai’s crowds, enjoy its movies and pubs and obsess over my men. Oh and I also enjoy Sapna Bhavnani’s column where she shows us a glimpse of the mayhem within our own heads.

So why do we identify so well with these women and their lives? And why not with the protagonists (and victims) of the K-serial brigade? We turn up our noses at their over-the-top antics, their crazy plotlines and their melodrama. But of course, getting sloshed on Cosmopolitans the night before a photo-shoot, maxing a credit card on shoes and running after dancing babies is very rational.

Their fashion sense is disastrous!!! Think plate-sized rings, think snake-shaped bindis, garish sarees and pantomime make-up. We think they’re too painted up! It’s Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and let’s not forget Manolos only for us, dahling.manram.JPG

Their value systems are oh-so-archaic and warped!! kyonki.gifThey make it sound like the only way a woman can be strong is by being bitchy and venomous!!! Ah yes, it is very progressive to obsess over the ticking biological clock , go into depression over a good-looking man’s committment-phobia, benchmark ourselves by the bedroom standards of ‘how-many-notches-on-the-bestpost’ philosophy and live with erectile dysfunction, cheating and abuse just for the magical ‘MARRIED’ tag.

Now before I get branded a woman-hater as well (the anti-feminists are up in arms already!!!), please go back and read the first paragraph of this post. I, like most other women in this set, watch and enjoy these shows. I echo these sentiments. But I have to wonder, what makes me so different from the ‘typical Indian bahu’ who supposedly watches the K-serials with the same fervour that I devour SATC? Is my mania with lingerie and perfume that different from her obsession for jewellery and silk? Are my television idols any less insecure, confused or noble than hers are?

I’m blessed with all the insecurities of my gender and I relate to women who live these out on-screen, in lives that look like mine. And they do the same. But I’d turn my nose up at their taste and they’d probably right me off as trash (brown trash since I’m Indian?). We’re all as hypocritical and shallow as each other. Or no, that’s not fashionable. They’re cynical but I’m just jaded, dahling….pass me another cocktail.

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