Like every good Mumbaiker, I would spend about an hour and half commuting to work each morning. Once I got in, I’d perch on my chair, waiting for my colleague to arrive. She’d walk in about 10 minutes later, switch on her computer, rearrange her desk and give me a little nod in the direction of the door. And we’d get up in unison and leave.
I’ve heard about this from several amused (and puzzled) men. We call it ‘The Loo Community’. The question is,
Why do women go to the loo in groups?
I suspect the real question is,
“What on earth do they do in there???!!!”
It is a good question.
So what do we do when we ‘go’ in groups? Well….we talk. We giggle. We compare notes on men (boss, colleague, client, boyfriend, husband, friend). The sneaky suspicion men have, that women are having a good laugh at their expense in the loo, is correct. The washroom is a great place for female bonding. After all, that really is the only place the men can’t interrupt our thoughts or conversations. (Down with the unisex!!)
Frantic damage control can be administered and strategies discussed. Ever heard of the following? If it’s familiar, you’re probably female.
“I got an oil stain on my dress!!!”
“Here….use some talcum powder on it! It’s great for matting away all kinds of oils – facial or vegetable!”
And there are questions of earth-shattering importance which need privacy and seclusion to be dissected and pondered over. Such as…
“What if he calls here and wants to talk?”
“Say “Oops, I hear my boss calling!” and hang up!”
Sample the following titbits from real lootime conversations:
I tried some crunches yesterday & got a cramp. I hate these damn tyres!
Hee hee…bet he loves those love-handles though!
Yes well, and we play the fool sometimes too. One time we went out for a drink, the women went to the washroom together (of course!). There we discussed who was drinking what, who was sloshed, who could be lulled into saying something interesting in the present state of drunkeness. We giggled over some of the things the men were saying. Then we looked at the mirror together and appraised ourselves. One of them said
“Security guard is a bloody letcher…did you notice?”
I put in,
“Bully for him, there’s a bevy of beauties passing by after all.”
Rightttttt… she retorted,
“We look more like Charlie’s angels!!”
A minute later a sturdy matron in a grey salwar-kameez walked in on the three ‘beauties’ posing like Charlie’s angels and trying to photograph the mirror (without the camera showing).
Though coming back to the point, this loo community is really obvious at work. All the guys smoke and there’s tremendous bonding happening over a shared cigarette. Strangers walk by and ask my male colleagues if they could share a light and then chat like they’ve been friends for years. My cubicle neighbor (who is male and smokes) has the in on the office gossip practically seconds after it happens. When he gleefully accounts something that he’s apparently known for ages and ages and I ask him how he knows, the answer always lies in smoketime conversations. A few of the women smoke but somehow they are never included in this camaraderie.
But I don’t worry. We have our own version of the office grapevine. I’ve managed to get to know most women in the office, across floors and departments simply because we share the bathroom mirror in the mornings. Great friendships are born from that small-but-useful tip over how to get rid of pimples. Intellectual conversations start from a discussion on the best way to hide a hickey (horrors!…giggle giggle). An unexpected ally may be made from that emergency safety-pin passed over the toilet stall wall.
Female-bonding is a good way to start and end the day.
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.
“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!”