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?
It’s hard being a woman. The whole multi-tasking thing is starting to fire on us in a beeg way and I have a sneaky suspicion that men are sniggering at us from behind their hands (or err, gadgets).
For starters there is the image of the modern, intelligent woman. Some slogging, plodding and hard work bring us the degrees and promotions. That ought to be enough to cement the image, right? Wrong! One must be a good conversationalist as well.
Now this being a good conversationalist business is tricky. What does it mean anyway? Be an entertainer? A good listener? A confident talker? A jocular being dropping witticisms with every eyelash flutter? And all of this while ensuring said eyelashes don’t drop into the food, lipstick doesn’t get onto teeth during self-induced laughing bouts and ‘statement jewellery’ doesn’t get entangled in the tablecloth, the waiter’s tie or the door. Flashes of skin must be accidental and with a large majority of us regular women are; only with us they take the form of embarassing wardrobe malfunctions and not the fantastical literary ‘accidental flash of skin’. Difficult indeed, being a woman.
Then there is pressure to be a good date. Yes, make no mistakes, women suffer performance anxiety too. Yes, I know there are enough of men who will turn somersaults on the tops of the incomplete Mumbai metroworks if they think they can ‘win’ the attention of a girl they find hot. But what after that? Even the most aesthetically sensitive man will tire of looking at a showpiece. Therein begins the pressure to be good-looking, well-groomed and smart.
This is particularly difficult for women like me who very reluctantly don the garb of chickdom. Dressing up nicely is about as far as we’re able to go. But after that, the same forceful opinions and loud declarations backfire. Well, they never really get us brownie points and in this case we go from being branded ‘rabid feminists’ to ‘arrogant bitches’. Whatever.
Okay, okay, time out. So how does one set aside all the high drama and clashes and conflicts? Dating must be fun too, right? Let’s see, what are the common points of interest?
Books are out for a large number of people, at least in this city. The ones who do claim to read are mostly doing it for the impression, but that’s for another rant. I set my cynicism aside and dived into a genre I thought sounded promising. Graphic Novels!
“Comics.” I am told curtly, a steely look coming into the hitherto worshipful eyes. From there it only goes downhill as I blab on a bit about Fables and Sandman before being run over by a barrage of Superman, Batman and other superhero trivia. I’m relieved I didn’t mention Spiderman (actually Spiderman Loves Mary Jane); he might have thrown something at me!
How about movies? We already know how that turns out. Television seems to offer a safer ground. Reality TV is what everyone claims to hate but secretly watches, one finger always on the remote, when they’re alone. Chicks lurrve Sex & The City, guys are maniacal about Star Wars (and sometimes FTV, or if they’ll admit it, regional channels after midnight). I am about to throw up my hands on yet another possibility when I quite inadvertently hit upon an answer.
“Sheldon Cooper. Amazing. Hmm.” I say, a dreamy look coming into my eyes. Of course that’s my weakness for condescending geekboys (cue Jupiter Jones).
“Sheldon Cooper. Indeed.” He agrees.
We look at each other over the glasses of rum (another thing we have in common..but more on that another time) and grin. And suddenly I know I’ve accidentally stumbled onto the common ground.
Why is this show so popular? Let’s see. It’s four superbrainy (and nerdy) geekboys who live next door to a dumb blonde. Well, not exactly. Only two of them actually live there, the others just keep lounging around. They sit around tossing phrases like ‘Doppler Effect’ and ‘Vector co-ordinates’ to each other, playing one-upmanship games of job importance and prowess with the ladies and slobber over the girl next door in her tiny shorts, who does *wonder of wonders* smile at them and even joins them for dinner sometimes. I can see why this appeals to the boys.
On the other hand, I don’t think Penny is actually dumb. She isn’t a brainiac like any of the boys but she’s sensible, funny, friendly and nice. Yes, she’s easy on the eyes (tele-symbolised by tiny clothes). But she doesn’t carry a diva attitude even with the salivating boys next door. What’s more, their boasting and intellectual showing-off rarely bothers her and more often than not, she’s the one who really gets what’s going on. A la ‘Boys. Will So Be Boys. Hmph‘. Heh, she’s already got our sympathies. But hang on, she doesn’t need that. That’s one girl surrounded by four guys, all smart, interested in her and willing to do everything from fix up her creaky door hinges to be guinea pigs for her cocktail waitressing. They hit on her (gently, geekboys are nice that way) but they’re nice to her. They even let themselves get roughoused by the bulldog boyfriend who hurt her. Okay, who’s the smart one now? That’s the girl we all want to be!
For all that it could seem to be about a semi sci-fi, fantasy geekboy story, The Big Bang Theory is the battle of the sexes at its finest. Four men and one woman and guess who is winning? That’s enough of ego massage for even the most rabid feminist side of me.
On that note, I’d like to thank the makers for bringing out a spectacular show and also facilitating enough of gender-common conversation for dates and more. It certainly started with a big bang!
I have a new crush. This is Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. Of course I’ve read everything that Wikipedia has to say about him, about the series, about what a breakout character is and what ‘experts’ have surmised about his supposed autistic tendencies.
Now this doesn’t really feel either new or unusual to me. One of my earliest crushes after all, was Jupiter Jones of The Three Investigators. Jupe ‘Baby Fatso’ was a short, stocky know-it-all and strangely devoid of the inadequacies that plague teenage boys. Awesomeness.
I’ve sought to explain this earlier as an Elektra syndrome for men in spectacles. I’ve thought at length about the merit of intelligence as a key point on the list of appealing male attributes. I’ve referred to intellectual stimulation, personal growth and entertainment all in one.
I have even contemplating writing a short story, a romance set in a bookshop. Yes, of course I know it’s a great place to check out books..and umm, their readers.
And now I come upon this site. I actually chanced on an article that talked about why this blog might appeal to women. And then I turned up at the blog itself. To my surprise, relief and mirth, Hot Guys Reading Books is just that. Candid shots of men who are reading. I’m clicking through the archives as I wait for this post to save.
And I’m given to wondering – do I need to explain why I like what I do? Have you ever asked a guy why he prefers blondes? Or within the Indian context, women with long hair? Does anyone seek to understand the various fetishes and quirks that different men find appealing?
I knew a guy who only liked Alpha females. And another one who would never date a woman unless she was Fair n’ Lovely. How about the one that was promptly turned off by women who sat on bikes astride when they were wearing salwar-kameezes? He thought it looked sluttish. Well, there’s no accounting for tastes. And there’s no reason to, I think.
Which is why I’m not going to explain my geekboy obsessions. There’s a world of reading men for me to check up on! (This one I particularly like. It’s funny and smart all in one. Oh okay, I’ll stop thinking and go back to looking!)
This occured to me the very first time I saw ‘The Namesake‘ but laziness and other such things kept me from blogging about it right then. I’ve just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s book. As an aside, it’s a lovely story, the book even better than the already excellent movie.
You know what was the most striking aspect of the story for me? The contrast between the relationships in the two generations.
Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan) meet each other under the scrutiny of their parents eyes. She decides in a few minutes that he is the one for her, because she likes his shoes. Which prompts her to speak confidently in the following conversation,
How will you manage all by yourself in America?
Will he (darted glance at …) not be there with me?
The couple takes off to foreign shores, in those heydays before the the internet, email and affordable ISD. They start a life together based on complete trust in each other, something that is never spoken about but expressed in their everyday actions.
Like any two human beings, they take time to adjust to each other. When Ashima shrinks Ashoke’s sweater in the dryer and he reprimands her for it, she doesn’t protest but goes away to weep by herself. He stops and soothes her by singing a silly song. There is a sweetness, a gentleness in both of them, encapsulated in that sequence, that touches the viewer.
Gogol (Kal Penn) and Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson) on the other hand, are a modern day couple. They date in the privacy of a restaurant and their own apartments. They talk, intellectualise and laugh together. We are taken to their bedroom on the night of their wedding. Right after making love, he asks her how many lovers she has had before.
Their relationship is one that a lot of us could probably relate to. The common backgrounds, the yuppie couple lifestyle they lead, the friends-as-well-as-lovers implications. And yet, for all their conversations, their marriage has started off on trust being questioned and ends with it being betrayed.
Do we really know how to relate to each other anymore? Or have we just had so much of freedom (too much of a good thing) that it makes us sick with paranoia now?
I see the gentleness of Ashima and Ashoke’s love in a lot of couples of that generation and the one before them – our parents and grandparents. People who’ve probably never said ‘I love you’ to each other but are completely happy in each other’s company. And I’ve said ‘I love you’ to a lot of people but at the end of a decade of dating, I don’t know a single person I could stand for more than a few days.
I don’t remember any man ever having treated me with as much trust and gentleness as Ashoke treats Ashima. And I also have never trusted any man so unquestioningly.
Maybe we’re just a generation of too many questions and not enough trust.
* I read this book on my flight back from the South trip. And on the cover was written, ‘The greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home.’ I stay hopeful.
My new literary obsession is Chick Lit. Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes keep me in chocolate-box mood while Meera Syal and Advaita Kala add the desi tadka. Why, even fellow-blogger/’I-know-this-girl-friend-acquaintance’ Compulsive Confessor flashes her characteristic grin at me from my bedside bookstack.
I found this rather interesting piece on the internet, describing Chick Lit:
Now, I know I’m doing an about-face, especially after such rabid commmentary. I’m coming to this acceptance with much prior reluctance. I still have trouble accepting the term ‘chick’ to describe me or any woman I know. It’s degrading. However, I’m willing to lay down my shackles and admit that I’ve been reading (and enjoying) the genre called Chick Lit.
Chick Lit is the new Romance Novel. And it isn’t. As a genre it certainly is finding as much favour and spawning as many writers (and books) as the ubiquitous M&Bs. On the other hand, one may argue that romantic fiction was a genre built on common women’s fantasies while Chick Lit inter-twines what we consider our ideal life along with the proverbial gang-cribbing that each of us indulges in with our galpals over men, weight loss problems, career concerns and PMS.
Chick Lit, as most of the definitions state, is usually about twenty-something women, career-minded or not, married or not, successful or not. One thing they all are, is discontent with their lot. The careerwoman struggles with loneliness and jerky boyfriends, the beauty queen is slapped around and paraded as a sex toy/trophy partner and the housewife is wistful about missed opportunities. The Chick Lit heroine is Superwoman who survives on a steady dose of galpal advice, gay friends, alcohol-and-career swings and roller-coaster relationships. Friends are family, chocolate is the manna for all evils and the root of all evils can be summed up into one word – MEN.
Bosses, colleagues, friends, lovers, ex-boyfriends, flings, husbands of friends, partner’s buddies, friends’ partners, gardeners, milkmen, grumpy old men, uncles, teachers, fathers, cheery grocers, lecherous neighbors….men in every possible shape, size and relationship are examined back and forth. It is the Chick Lit’ter’s favorite hobby – Men.
If the Indian versions are different, it is only in that they’re usually set in Mumbai/Delhi instead of London/New York. The protagonists gorge on chicken tikkas and grab their capuccinos from Barista instead of M&S or Starbucks. Their mothers want to see them ‘well-settled’ instead of ‘settled down’. The men are just as committment-phobic, the careers just as unsatisfying, their bosses are just as demanding, their married neighbors consider them just as flighty and sluttish and their credit card bills are equally long.
Why do I like the genre so much? Simple. Because it is about me. That’s my life, my friends, my mistakes and my victories that are getting written about. Every page brings a, “Don’t I know it!”, an “Aha! You got ‘im there, girl!” and a “Bullshit, I heard the same thing from my second boyfriend when he was cheating on me.” It’s almost like having a new set of friends with every book.
You might even say it’s the modern, literary woman’s Soap Opera in a book format. If the women of yore wanted fantasy to keep them entertained, at least this I can say for my generation – we’re thriving on reality…or some warped version of it. Who needs a perfect fairytale when our own messed-up, vodka-spiked, overstressed lives are so much more interesting?
Chick Lit is empowering in a very strange way. It tells me that other women are having a hell of it too. That having a zero social life at twenty, in favour of slogging away at work was not a mistake. That getting married at twenty-three would not have spelt ‘happily ever after’ either. That my smug married, whiz-in-the-kitchen housewife friend acts superior to me but also thinks I’m living the glamourous, carefree life she only reads about in magazines.
It tells me that it’s okay to not feel diva-like at all times, to nurse worries over weight gain and cellulite. That it’s even okay to worry more about these than a missed deadline. That bad temper, unreasonableness and pukey-head-feeling are permissible once a month.
Chick Lit tells me life isn’t perfect (yes, I know someone said that long ago but catch me listening?). I mean look at the titles – The Undomestic Goddess, Life isn’t all Hahaheehee, Shopaholic, Almost Single. It also tells me that each of us is figuring out a new way of perfect. And who knows? Maybe Perfect will be the way I do it – My perfect!
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.