Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Moral Dilemma: Being Politically Correct & Not Being A Tease

Some months ago, I received an email from one of my readers. She was a lesbian lady who had come across one of my posts on Gaysi and wanted to tell me that she appreciated my support for the gay community. I wrote back thanking her and telling her how some of my close friends were gay and that it had given me a chance to see the difficulties they faced because of discrimination.

At the end of that conversation, she asked to meet me, adding ‘if you don’t mind having coffee sometime with a dyke’. Of course I didn’t I told her, wouldn’t that be silly after all I had said? Later, she invited me to a party, telling me that there would be mostly gay people at the party. I didn’t manage to make it to that party after all.

We’ve had a few conversations since then, about general topics, the kind that I write about – life, love, friendship, people etc. In the recent past, she had popped up a number of times on my radar, in the form of her thoughts on my posts or just a chat window saying hello. She has also been inviting me to a number of different events and outings in addition to asking me when I’d like to meet for coffee.

I have to say that I haven’t managed to make it to any of the aforementioned events and neither have I made time for the promised coffee. I do have a rather busy social life and when it comes to prioritizing, I almost always place an old friend, a date or solo time over a casual conversation with a stranger.

There has however been one thing nagging at the back of my head for some time now. If it had been a straight girl, I think she would most likely have lost interest in trying to make contact with me by now. If it had been a guy at the other end of this interaction, his persistence would have made me think that he had a crush on me. This actually is the first time I’m making an online connection with a lesbian girl.

I thought back to my friend MJ. I didn’t know she was a lesbian when we first met and neither of us actively pursued the friendship. We just ended up meeting a lot of times, hanging out a lot with friends and by ourselves and had become close when I realised she was gay. By that time though, her major association in my mind was friend and being gay was just one of the many things I knew about her, like her hair colour or her last name.

In this case though, the only real definition I have of this lady is that she is lesbian. And she has been quite keen to meet me. I know that this may be more indicative of her friendliness than a romantic interest in me. And yet, the possibility exists, however remote. I also know that gay people are able to discern other gays and would logically not expect a person to change their sexuality. Then again, one of my lesbian friends did indeed date someone who had hitherto portrayed a ‘straight’ face (pun entirely unintended!), even having had a boyfriend before she met my friend. And also, I myself know that when you like someone a lot, it is quite possible to misread or even read a little too much into their actions.

The dilemma I face is a moral one, not a practical one. Should I meet her and risk sending her a wrong signal that I reciprocate? Or should I refrain and succumb to that archaic belief that gay people are just waiting to pounce on one? Furthermore, considering that we don’t have common friends or interests, am I not willing to meet her only to prove that I’m open-minded about homosexuality? There’s definitely an over-correction in favour of gay people then. After all by my own premise, equal rights means equality and vice versa.

I struggled with all of these for a number of days. Finally, I decided to just come clean and tell her what I thought. I told her that this was what I would think if a guy reader had contacted me and that I could be reading this wrong but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t sending out a wrong message.

She replied,

“Oh god, don’t tell me you got the wrong message!”

and then logged off. Maybe she was offended and I am sorry about that. It was never my intention to insult anyone. But at the end of it, I think I’d rather live with that than run the risk of leading her on.

Note: I mentioned this to MJ who laughed and said, “It’s so amusing to see the hetro community more touchy about gay issues then gays themselves!”

Motherhood – The Great Indian Relationship & The Only One

I was watching ‘Wake Up Sid’ yesterday (ah, the joys of being master of your own time…a Monday afternoon movie with a friend!) when this thought occurred to me. I’ve complained long and hard about the Indian man being a perpetual mama’s boy. I also believe that this ingrained emasculated dependency comes from scores and scores of mothers who bring their boys up in the Mera Raja Beta (my son, the little lord) tradition. And hence I concluded that women have a lot of blame to carry for the inherent insufficiency of men in this society.

But yesterday I suddenly realised something else. The Indian woman is also brought up in a particular way, no matter what kind of family or social strata she comes from. She is groomed, trained and refined to be a mother. Motherhood is the one relationship that we are tutored in, right from an early age and educated by theory and by example. We are taught to mother our siblings, our friends and even our fathers and uncles.

Think about it. We watch our mums manage the entire gamut of activities concering something as basic as clothing for the men. Shopping, washing, drying, ironing, darning, sewing, discarding and replenishment. They even construct the ‘look’ for the men in the family.

Growing up in a liberal family as I did, I was still taught to make beds and clean when I was about 9 and cook when I was 13. I was also taught to watch for the moods of daddy (and grandfather on those native vacations) and be mindful of them. I wasn’t discriminated against or restricted in any way. But in addition to my education in maths, science, social etiquette and life skills, I was also taught to accommodate and take care of men. This was also down to the fact that I may not always be appreciated for my good work, since ‘it didn’t occur to them’ or ‘he’s busy right now’ and such other things. I was resentful of this for awhile but in hindsight I realize it was a sturdy survival kit for the hard knocks of disappointment and indifference that would inevitably come in life.

Contrast that with a boy who is praised for every achievement, fawned over for doing things as per normal and most importantly soothed and pacified when faced with disappointment or difficulty. No wonder he ends up a la Sid in the movie, bewildered and clueless when faced with rejection or failure.

I was particularly struck by one scene in the movie where Sid goes to live with his slightly older friend Aisha for awhile after walking out of his house in a huff. At the end of the first day, she comes home from work to find the neat little flat that she works hard to maintain, all in a mess. With no little irritation, she nevertheless gets to cleaning it herself. And then on learning that Sid hasn’t eaten all day because he doesn’t know cooking, she cooks for him as well.

I understand that doing nice things for each other and being supportive are an integral part of every relationship. But it just seems to me like as Indian women, we are brainwashed into doing too much. The movie may have intended to be about the coming of age of a young man, the maturity of a different relationship. But I found myself thinking, that all Sid did was to substitute one mother figure for another. As for Aisha, even while she worked hard to establish herself as a modern, independent woman, all she ended up doing was being a surrogate wife/mother character to yet another man. Her independence and value as a human being was finally expressed only by her satisfactory fulfilment of one task – taking care of a little boy.

I’m coming to think that we don’t really know any other way to treat men. Motherhood is the only relationship we understand. So beyond the frivolity of socialising, we end up being surrogate mothers for our men, even ones that we are not romantically involved with.

I don’t mean to sound condescending to men; indeed I find myself guilty of this kind of behaviour. When I was in a relationship with a Delhi guy who was in Mumbai to study, I remember being astonished at how little he knew, how handicapped he was by his lack of basic survival skills or even social etiquette. I’d organise meals for him, manage the maid (in conjunction with the girlfriends of the other guys who shared his flat), wake him up for interviews and lectures, figure out his clothes and even pack for him on his visits home.

I also remember an official trip I took to another country, with a colleague. He sat next to me at work and we were pretty pally. As we checked in and waited for the departure announcement, he handed over an assortment of papers and said,

You take care of these. You know how to. I’ll just make a mess of it!

I grumbled of course but I realised he’d just end up misplacing his passport or converting his money into wrong currency. So I arranged his papers by the dates he’d need them, filed the rest away carefully and put them away. Then I organised his money into different sets, told him how much to convert, how much to retain and in the end took over some part of it so he wouldn’t misplace it. At the end of the week, I also had a detailed account of what he had spent and what he would need to convert back. Considering he was an MBA, who had lived away from home for over 6 years, I really think he should have learnt to do all this. But by his own admission, girlfriends had always taken care of such things for him. In retrospect I wonder what would have happened if I had just left him to flounder.

I’ve spent enough of time raving about the inadequacy of men but I wonder now whether I’m part of the other half that actually facilitates this. We’re both mass products of a great social machinery that churns out only one relationship between a man and a woman – motherhood. We seem to be unable to treat men as equal human beings with their own minds so we end up either mollycoddling them or being fearful of them; either way it is a relationship of bullying or resentful servitude. Instead of kicking men for not being able to do things that they weren’t anyway trained for anyway, I’m wondering how do we break out of this behaviour? Is it possible for women to learn new ways to treat a man? And do so without being disgusted of men or giving up on them?

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