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Why I Don’t Enjoy The Company Of Men Anymore

I used to love that I was ‘one of the boys’. I grew up preferring the easy rough-and-tumble ways of guys. I have a feminist father and my gender neutral upbringing wasn’t compatible with the prissy/frocky girls around me. This continued well into college, where after some initial hiccups over boys who flirted with me, I was generally accepted as one of them. Those days, I’m afraid are past now. I find I don’t really enjoy being around men so much anymore.

I think there is one important difference from those times and now. Where I was a tomboy before (for lack of a better word, since I never was a girl in the traditional pink-frills-dainty-doll way), I am a woman now. It was easier to slip unobtrusively into being ‘one of the boys’ when I didn’t look, sound or behave much differently from any of them. But I do now. And curiously enough, I find every conversation I have with men invariably comes down to something that highlights the difference between us. That difference is now an active, glaring part of our company, it’s practically sitting in a chair of its own. Men treat me as as a woman now, not as one of them. As a result, I am finding conversations with men (individuals and in groups), tedious and boring.

Recently, I had lunch with a group of men. A leisure activity ran into a heated argument, which could have been avoided, had the group listened to each other a little more and shouted ideas a little less fervently. The conversation stabilized into talk of toys, girls, superheros and such. I didn’t even make the effort to participate (where once I would have jumped in, eager to prove that I could be one of them too). It gave me a chance to observe and reflect on the group’s dynamics. All the noise and fire only settled once the group had a chance to bond against (even if in the lightest manner possible) the only woman – me. Every one of these men is intelligent, modern and undoubtedly considers his attitudes (especially to women and society), progressive. Yet, they fell into an age-old, juvenile way of being (boys versus girls).

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Later that week, I also came to a decision about one male friend. I’ve decided to release him from my life. I’m past the point where I can be argued, emotionally blackmailed, badgered or promised back into the friendship. I want nothing more to do with this person who while nice, is limited. And his most limiting factor is that his perspective doesn’t stretch beyond his immediate needs and gratification.

I find this true of almost every man I know. Self-centeredness is not just tolerated, it’s actively celebrated in the male child. Empathy, delayed gratification, acceptance of another point of view – these are things pretty alien to most men. Childish behaviour like tantrums, selfishness, the inability to keep promises – these are excused as childlike traits (which is a different thing altogether) when in a man.  And finally, most men I know, seem unable to go beyond patterns learnt in childhood, about bonding with the boys and treating girls differently. I’m not saying that there aren’t men who try to imbibe and practice these things. But even the best, most conscious, self-aware of them fails miserably.

Because of all this, I find that my desire to associate with men, individually or in a group, where I have a choice, diminishing. Being around men (or a man) is like being with a child. You have egos to pander to, bad behaviour to excuse, excessive attention to be paid and no acknowledgement to be expected. You’ve to sit by and watch them do routine things, boost them up with high praise, build them up when they feel let down, keep them from getting into violent responses. Of course this is a generalization but I find one or more of these things coming up true for every single man I interact with, in some manner.

Like I said, I used to love being one of the guys. I’m not anymore, I don’t enjoy it. But it’s still disconcerting to find that you don’t find your comfort zone either comforting or appealing anymore.

* Image courtesy Chris Sharp at FreeDigitalPhotos.

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One Of The Boys

I’ve recently been watching ‘My Boys‘ on Comedy Central, a show about a woman (PJ) who hangs out with a bunch of guys who are her brother, an ex-boyfriend and couple of other male buddies. I like the format, mainly because I relate to PJ’s character. I was her, at least once upon a time. And I was her for so long, I sometimes forget that I’ve changed for the world. The boy and almost all the people who’re close to me today have known me for the past single-digit years. When I let slip that I used to be a tomboy, I get a “Yeah, right!” accompanied by eye-rolling.

Somewhere in the early part of the last decade, I made that transition from tomboy to woman. Or ‘one of the guys’ to ‘a babe’. I’ve often harped that the changes are purely cosmetic; it’s just packaging that has changed and I’m still the same person inside. Or so I thought. I am after all, a result of my attitudes as well as the world’s responses to them.

Curiously enough, I realized that this transition to being ‘not one of the guys’ coincided with another personally important milestone – dating. Literally the minute I stopped being the buddy-girl, I became ‘dateable’. Initially it was as superficial as the kind of clothes I wore. Over the years, it has seeped into the way I walk, sit, laugh and behave. Somewhere along the way, it also shaped the way I think and speak.

Today, I find I have few male friends but I’ve had a large number of boyfriends and admirers. The role of men in general, in my life has changed just as who they see me as, has shifted. I occasionally miss being ‘one of the boys’. In addition to the fuss-free comfort, there is a certain charm in male friendships.

An episode of ‘My boys’ dealt with PJ having to accept that she wasn’t always going to be the most important woman in the guys’ lives. I think that’s the aspect of tomboy friendships that women like me find it really hard to admit to (though PJ did take it like a man).

A girl who is one of the boys still is a girl, even if the guys don’t see her as such. It’s a harder transition to adulthood for such a girl since she’s used to being treated as an equal. When she goes into the universe of love & romantic relationships, suddenly she is not an equal but a complement, a different role to play altogether. I think this is also the reason that a lot of friendships-turned-relationships struggle. Are you similar, playing for the same team? Or are you two different people, with differing agendas, viewpoints and attitudes to sex & commitment? It’s extra bewildering when the person you’re with is someone you’re used to seeing as one of your own side, instead of coming from a different place.

To come back, I spent a lot of time ruing the loss of those friendships as I (and my former buddies) got older. But I realize now, that I had to stop being one of the boys to become a woman. I’d never have been able to experience romantic relationships fully without exploring my feminine side (which necessarily meant letting go of my tomboyish side). And also, I realize that’s been a temporary phase of keeping one aspect of myself on the backburner to bring out another emerging side. I’m now at a place where I’m able to consolidate both sides of me – the woman’s woman as well as the ‘one of the boys’ girl. I’m neither a chick nor a tomboy. It’s a different identity, a different attitude altogether that balances both.

In terms of sheer numbers, I don’t immediately fit into a beer-chugging boys night out any more than I easily slip into a shopping-and-bitching kitty party. But I have a few close guy friends with whom I can lounge about in my pyjamas. And I have a couple of girlfriends I can be chicky with. Last month, I had a late-night conversation with a guy friend about his girl troubles. And through the night, I found I was switching between giving him the woman’s perspective to empathizing in a “Yeah man, that sucks” way. I realized I couldn’t even tell which side was my tomboyish side and which, my chicky side any more.

From one of the boys to chick to woman – that’s a good personal quest to take.

* Image via Entertainment Wallpaper.

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