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GIRL TALK 

Girl Talk

There’s nothing like girl talk between former tomboys.

It’s dreams and drama
and nostalgia and world dominion
and yearning and alliance and fireworks
all in one.

Be a girl.
At least once in your life.

If you liked this, please follow my microfiction/micropoetry at https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

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A Professional Woman

A fortnight ago, a friend and I parted ways. He came to me, looking for comforting, for sympathy. I gave him instead, honesty. Words were exchanged and the friendship is now a thing of the past. The thing is, I never offered comfort or sympathy, only outright, unvarnished honesty. We’ve spoken of it. He’s pointed it out as my character trait; I haven’t denied it. Yet, he expected it of me. Because I’m a woman.

Last week another friend and I had an argument, one that’s been brewing like dark clouds for awhile. The storm finally broke when he said,

“Women are more considerate than men.”

I replied.

“No, they are not.”

He insisted. It made me as angry as if he had told me my place was in the kitchen. I argued that he wasn’t a woman, I was. He replied with that perfect blend of dismissive condescension and polite acid,

“You…are a different specimen.”

I was angry then, but I am not, now. Both these men have been raised to believe that men are bad people and women and kind, gentle, long-suffering victims. They’ve each tried, very hard, to not be that personification of their gender. They are polite, courteous and nice – to women who are gentle, kind and nice. They play a part and they play it well, especially around women who play their parts in the same play. How are they to react to a woman who refuses to say her lines on cue?

A Professional Woman

*Image (without text) via stockimages on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being a woman is a job, it would seem. It requires conformity to certain customs, delivery of some expected things and a certain kind of etiquette. It is not enough to have a uterus that bleeds every month. That’s only the graduate degree. To truly be a woman, one must perform in relationships, outward presentation and inside one’s head. I’m quite terrible at it and I get told so, often. I’m too flashy (modesty befits a lady), too opinionated (women are supposed to be peacemakers, not troublemakers), too outspoken (yes, this is a thing, haven’t you heard of diplomacy? Learn some.)

D minus on the job of being a woman.

I’ve grown up hearing versions of this my whole life. I was a tomboy through school and college, a fact that people who know me now find hard to believe. My style and my vanity are recent acquisitions, like grown-up shoes that I started wearing well into my 20s. Life has just been easier for me, that way. But these, like apparel, are superficial and come off easily. Who I am under that, hasn’t changed. I don’t want to be treated a certain way, because I am a woman. Because, the price to be paid is that I have to behave a certain way for being a woman. What’s wrong, I’ve been asked, in being nice or considerate? Nothing at all. Except, I’d like to do it because I’m me, rather than because I’m a woman. And by the same token, I would like people to be nice or considerate to me, because I’m me, rather than because I’m a woman. And I would like to reserve the right to sympathy for those I believe deserve it, rather than having to distribute it for free ‘because I’m a woman‘.

Men like the two I’ve spoken of, come back with the refrain of not being nice or considerate to women like me, because as I lay it out, ‘they don’t want to be’. Fair enough, I say. Except, is their consideration and their politeness subject to a cold formula of adherence to a certain behaviour? If you are only nice to people who follow rules that you uphold, then you’re not really being nice, you’re being transactional. People pay you with their conformity for your good treatment of them. How is that different from a bribe or protection money?

I would like to be respected for my actions and my ideas, not for my body plumbing. As commonsensical as this thought sounds to me, it comes across as rebellious, disrespectful and needlessly selfish (all names I’ve been called). And because there is more of people who think this than there is me (I’m only one), I find myself having to compromise. I don a pretty outfit, I smile at my camera and post the picture online and I dimple my thanks when people show me how much they Like me, for that smile. I’m learning to be a Professional Woman.

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.

Crush

My 14-year old cousin thinks the Indian Idol, Abhijeet Sawant ‘has nice eyes’. She has his album carefully tucked away between her best clothes. And she thinks the contestants of Fame Gurukul are soooo lucky because one of them got to sing a duet with him.

Ah….it is beginning! My kid sister is having her very first crush. She asks me “What’s that?” and sets me off on a trail of memories.

I don’t even remember my first crush. It was that long ago (and that many ago!) Was it that young executive on my dad’s team who pulled me onto the dance floor during the office party? Or was it the prankster of the gang, two classes ahead of me? Maybe it was that cute, new instructor who taught us about computers in school. Or perhaps it was one of the class studs, who threw a vague grin in my general direction once in a way.

It is an odd experience to meet someone you’ve had a crush on, some years later. Especially those hormone-laden, angsty, “Oh my god, he’s looking at me, I could die” ones. I met one of the aforementioned men at a wedding and he’s turned out pretty distinguished and intellectual….one of the few crushes I’m not mortified to admit to! On the other hand, there’s the fat, balding ‘looks like a soon-to-be-grandpa’ who is what remains after an over-indulged adolescence in booze and partying. And there was the guy who gaped and said, “Don’t we know each other? You were so-and-so’s friend, aren’t you?”….No, buster, I was the one who was too tomboyish for you to spare a glance…hehe, revenge is sweet.

When my vanity comes to the surface is when I whole-heartedly enjoy being a woman. When a guy who wouldn’t have given me a single look (let alone a second one), in my younger days, stops dead in his tracks and gapes….I know there is divine justice.

But I digress….that is the here and today. I wonder how anyone could think that ‘Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play’. Au contraire, today it seems like a simplistic pastime…yesterday was where the agony, the dreams, the hoping and yearning and fantasy lived.

Maybe because I was such a bookworm as a kid, several of my crushes were fictitious. Somehow I don’t find that funny at all. I spent so much time among my books, they seemed much more real and tangible than the world around me. One of my favorite male characters was Jupiter Jones, the leader of The Three Investigators series. To date, I think that idea colours my preferences….so many of the men I’ve been drawn to have been stocky, intelligent, logical and obsessed with being taken seriously (which is an apt description of JJ).

Of course there have been all those numerous film stars, music icons, models…..I’m rather pained when I watch their interviews and see the big gap that lies between a pretty face and an intelligent mind. My first reaction is “What was I thinking?” But well…I just wasn’t thinking, was I? A crush is meant to be enjoyed, not taken seriously.

Keep it simple and keep him at a distance and don’t give yourself time to discover that he’s just another idiot of a man. Love may be a four-letter word for me but I think I’ll have crushes for the rest of my life.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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