I wonder if, at some point in the relationship, a woman feels more like a single mother than a girlfriend/wife. I know I certainly do. And I have one of the good ones. He’s not abusive, he doesn’t cheat, he’s not a male chauvinist. And yet, here I am.
I’ve refrained from talking about my relationship, except in very general terms on this blog. It is after all, a source (and showcase) of my work. It doesn’t feel very professional to do that. But then, my profession as a blogger/writer, is to talk about my personal life and what I draw from the events in it.
Here’s me saying, I’m exhausted. I wasn’t prepared for this. I went through my childhood being groomed to be a good wife and even an adarsh daughter-in-law some day. Along the way, education & exposure added their double-edged knives of modern thought and also high expectations of the opposite sex. I signed up to be a modern girlfriend, an equal partner. Nothing was said about the duties of a babysitter/complaint register/personal secretary/housekeeper/nurse.
There is the kind of pressure that’s obvious, that rams at you like a megaton truck, flattening you in its sheer force. That’s what we ‘modern’ types speak out against, the social stigma attached to a woman’s deviation from the norm, the enforced stereotypes and the over harsh punishment to those who stand out.
Then there’s the kind of pressure that the West has labelled passive-aggressiveness. There are only two people in a relationship. If one shies away from issues, it automatically falls to the other person to handle them. If one partner refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue, it still means that the other person has to deal with it, on top of carrying the elephant in the room.
There is more to life and indeed, a relationship, than having a good time. And when it comes to those routine, mundane realities, a relationship is supposed to feel like a team. Chores are nobody’s idea of fun. But lapses in performing them signify a bigger problem than is obvious. There’s the chore itself that has to be performed by the other person, in addition to their own. There’s constantly having to look over one’s shoulder, the niggling back-of-mind concern over whether it gets done. And more often than not, when things are not done when they’re supposed to, they get harder. How is all of this not a problem??
If I have to hear, “I’ve had a hard day at work!” one more time, I swear I’m going to scream. Because my day begins the minute I wake up and doesn’t end till I’m ready to drop dead. Most days, even with that, there are things left undone. I don’t get weekends off from managing the house, monitoring the service staff. There are no sick days off from being the subject of everyone’s scrutiny on my dressing, my life choices, my career, my looks and anything else possible. My family and friends don’t recognize ‘I am tired’ as a valid excuse for not being a daughter & friend. Hell, I can barely get away with that even when I’m flowing blood & the hormones are having a party in my head. I’m a woman and that’s my job. It comes with no perks, no respite, no bonuses and no accolades from anybody at all.
The temptation to chuck career, dreams and everything else that it’s possible to, simply to let up the pressure, is overwhelming. But that’s a lose-lose situation. Quit all these things and I lose the right to a strong opinion, the voice of a ‘Modern Woman’.
There are days when I feel like the only way I can stay sane is to assume that I’m with someone who is less than me. That’s the only way I can justify having to take more responsibility, worry more and do more and still care about someone who is neither touched by the same sense of responsibility nor emphatic to my stress. It’s easiest to believe that I’m dealing with a child.
Imagine that. I’m a single mom without ever having been pregnant.
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Here’s welcoming XX Factor‘s second guest-contributor. He’s as smart as the next man but he’s still perplexed by the complicated world of women. He brings his brand of wry musings, politically (in)correct observations and gender role confusion to this blog as the ‘Armchair Philosopher‘. Over to the chair.
Hello everybody. The unicorn’s here. The phoenix, the Bermuda triangle, the Loch Ness monster. The modern equivalent of a mythical creature no one has seen but everyone seems to talk about- “the Modern Man“.
So who is this creature? What does he look like? Is he human? Or has he been sent to Planet Earth by alien feminists? Is it his mission to spread his subversive propaganda about how a man ought to be, in order to ruin it for male chauvinist pigs all over the world?
Can a Modern Man be comfortable with a dominant woman, a woman who has her own life and friends and does not fit any of the gender roles he has been raised to accept as gospel truths? Can he really? Or does he just train himself to make all the appropriate responses? Or worse still, is the only way he can be modern, by assuming indifference?
The Modern Man is a myth because of the sheer relativity of his existence. A Modern Man has no real features of his own. A Modern Man is simply a man who can complement a Modern Woman . His modernity is defined by his responses to the modernity of the Modern Woman.
And therein lies the greatest problem of all. The Modern Man does not know who he is because the very reference point of his existence, the bedrock of his existentialism is the Modern Woman herself. But the Modern Woman does not know who she is either!
Stuck between Superwoman complexes and conflicted between her instincts and her principles, the Modern Woman is a mess. The Modern Man grows up with the naive principle that we are all equal. But when he lives with the Modern Woman, he realizes there is nothing equal about how she is treated. Landlords and electricians address him but ignore her. Waiters at restaurants offer you the bill even when she pays. And let’s not even get started on the great Indian family.
So what do you do when you see that the equality of gender you took for granted was a lie? What do you feel? Guilt and shame for being a man in a world that beats down someone for having a vagina? But when you believe something your whole life, it is never easy to accept it as a lie. So you try and convince the Modern Woman of the ‘equality’ she is blind to. Convince her it’s all in her head. And we all know how well that goes.
This post might seem like a rant of questions but that is the life of a Modern Man. So many questions. And anyone who says they have all the answers is lying. Till then, we shall all chase that elusive unicorn. And till I figure it out, I’ll still open the door for her. I will still carry her bags and buy her chocolates. Because I like how she smiles. That is the only thing I can really be certain about. Everything else is just questions.
The boy and I were sampling the Southern delights of Matunga the other day. I was all aflame with excitement at the opportunity to show off some traditional Tamilian fare to the boy.
After an earlier visit to the famed Madras Cafe, this time we made our way to the other famous eating joint around the corner – Ramakrishna hotel.
The restaurant isn’t even remotely fancy or ‘nice’. It’s grimy & dingy. But the food, I remembered from childhood visits, was good. When the waiter finally came up, I summoned up my best Tamizh (continuing to show off to boy, of course) to order up a storm of special delights that a non-Tamilian would not be expected to know of. To my utter dismay, the waiter practically shrugged and wandered off even as I was talking.
This continued for the better part of 10 minutes and the only way our order went through was when the boy placed it (in Hindi). To add insult to injury, when my plate finally arrived, the waiter put it down in front of the boy, even though I’d clearly shouted at least five times about wanting that dish and even asked the waiter about its various accompaniments.
We finished up what was put on the table in record time, most of our appetite drained by this gross inhospitality. When the bill arrived (placed in front of the boy, of course), I meaningfully extracted the money from my wallet and dropped it on the table & sauntered out. Cheap thrill but a small victory, that. I think he got the significance of that and perhaps he’ll be nice to the next woman who places an order, if he thinks she’ll be the one tipping him. That woman, though, won’t be me.
No daily service provider seems to think that a woman’s job needs to be taken seriously. Ergo, random reschedules, blatant lies & the worst of all – gentle dismissal of any complaints. This includes maidservants, fridge repair technicians, electricians, gas mechanics and anyone else you might be able to think of. I’ve been jerked around by an electrician with a genteel,
“I’m at a friend’s place now. Yeah, yeah, I’ll call you.”
This man’s turned up 2 days later, then claimed that ‘the lady just got confused and didn’t understand what it was all about.’
As with every other facet of chauvinism, this one is fully supported by the ladies too. The maid turns up half an hour late, then laughs it off saying that she thought I didn’t have anywhere to go, despite being categorically told that I had a meeting that morning. Oddly, enough the same woman speaks with pride of her children going to a good school and what careers they’re going to have. The senior citizen neighbors want to know what I’ve cooked and where I’m going. Funny, these questions really wouldn’t be asked if I were a guy. And why assume that I’m going to cook, just because I’m female?
This is the passive-aggressive side of the male chauvinism of this country. The words don’t say ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’ but the actions try to nudge you right back into that role. The men in all these cases will not meet my eyes and in most cases, don’t appear to even hear what I’m saying. It’s like because they don’t like the fact that I exist (with my obvious ‘modern woman‘ outlook), they pretend I don’t.
There is a growing sentiment among the educated men in this country, against what they think of as ‘rabid feminism’. Sure, I want to be moderate too and believe that the genders are equal and that it all comes down to individual attitudes & values. But pray tell me, how am I supposed to be be dignified when the world doesn’t even want to acknowledge that I exist? This passive-aggressive stance more than anything else is what pushes a normal, sane woman towards excessive aggression, anger & angst.
The next service provider to give me attitude is going to have it coming to him, right between his legs and sucks to anybody who thinks that it’s hitting below the belt.
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