I have had a startling revelation that will revolutionize the way we look at relationships and well, men!
Everyone knows Bad Boys are bad news. Meh, that’s last century’s news. And yet – or possibly exactly for that reason – we are drawn to them and spend a considerable bit of our prime chasing illusions of acquaintanceship with them. But of course the Bad Boy breaks our heart. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Then we sigh and move on….to another Bad Boy.
The cycle, seemingly fatalistic has one way out – or so we are told. As maturity (or possibly too much heartache) sets in, we shed our illusions of wild, fast, furious, exciting love and pledge our troth to another kind of man altogether. Enter the Good Boy.
From a love-lifetime of having experienced Bad Boys, we automatically conclude that we know his exact opposite completely. NOT TRUE!
The Good Boy is not necessarily Prince Charming, either. He doesn’t get romance and tenderness any more instinctively than the Bad Boy. The Good Boy‘s connection to mama will be elevated to monumental proportions (in that there will be a shrine to mama) while in the case of the Bad Boy, it was only an excuse for his bad behavior.
What’s worse, I’m discovering, there is a price to be paid, a fee if you will, for life’s lessons. So after going through the Bad Boys, you come to the Good Boy expecting to be healed and kissed and made alright.
Instead you come up against a formidable presence that requires your clearing up your messes before you step onto his carpet, so to speak. There’s no sympathy forthcoming (and I’m about to believe this is the version of sulking that Good Boys prefer). It’s time to play hardball (again!) and negotiate.
These aren’t ruthless. Of course not, these are Good Boys after all. But there is negotiation nevertheless. And there’s the overwhelming sense of guilt and foolishness hanging over your own head for your past mistakes. Obviously you’re coming to the table with a weak hand.
I’m thinking the whole thing is a set-up. The Bad Boy is nothing more than marketing spiel to get our defenses dulled and weakened in time for the Good Boy to close in and finalize a deal that’s sweet to him.
GAH!!! Good or bad, a man may never be what he seems.
*This is a sponsored post.
I attended the 18Again launch earlier this week. I had been informed that the product is a vaginal rejuvenation gel and that the brand stands for Women Empowerment. To be quite sure, that connection wasn’t absolutely clear to me then. A lot of thoughts have been swimming around in my head since which is why I’ve taken this time to put up this post. This week has also seen quite a bit of conversations (yes, backlash too) about 18Again and on the #WomenOnTop hashtag they began. Let me talk about what I’ve seen, heard & thought. But first, the commercial that’ll go on air shortly.
I was struck by the tagline of ‘Like a virgin’. Virginity is a notion that’s not friendly to women at all. It’s patriarchal, painful and represses women. It wasn’t until the speakers began talking that I realized it was meant to imply only the sensation of a virgin – a tight, healthy vagina.
The event brought up a few interesting conversations. I spoke to Mahabanoo Kotwal of The Vagina Monologues fame. In keeping with the play’s premise, she talked about how women don’t have a space to even think about this part of their bodies, let alone express fear or concerns about it.
Prof.Dr.R.M.Saraogi was one of the panelists at the launch discussion. He talked about vaginal health concerns that women face, some of which even the more educated & ‘evolved’ of us may not know about. For example I’ve never even heard of urinary incontinence and vaginal flatulence. These conditions exist, causing a great deal of embarrassment for their sufferers – older, menopausal women. But in addition to suffering the conditions themselves, these women also suffer silently and alone. Dr.Saraogi says that some of his patients talk about the strain on their marriages and that it’s often a challenge to identify whether the cause is psychological or physical. Since the woman is unable to articulate something she is embarrassed about, she may fail to get assistance that’s easily and readily available.
The celebrity guest, Celina Jaitly had a similar thought to add to this. Any modern working woman knows a big challenge we face today. It’s not the glass ceiling or bigger issues – it’s clean, sanitary toilets. Yeast infections abound on toilet seat rims and are the most common way women get infected. Any woman who has to use a public toilet in an office, a set or a mall is vulnerable to these. If we can have calcium supplements, vitamin tablets & nutrition-enhanced foods, shouldn’t we have our choice of vagina-specific health products too?
To come back to the virginity bit of the campaign – aren’t we keeping vaginas trapped by repressive notions of that word? Sexual pleasure is only one of the functions of the vagina. It is also part of a complex biological system that undergoes several changes over the course of a woman’s life. These changes impact the woman in more ways and in more places than just in her panties. Depression, hot flushes, giddiness, nausea, fluctuating libido, digestive disorders, urinary infections – the vagina could be the source of any of these. As empowered women, we need to be able to first acknowledge these issues, secondly be able to articulate our needs and finally receive support for them. Our vaginas definitely deserve it.
I’m neither recommending nor disparaging the product 18Again. But I’m saying I’m happy that I’m being given an option to at least think about it. I deserve good health and everything that goes towards making it so, including a choice of products. If I were to consider using this product, I’d check with my gynecologist. Now how many women have one? If you don’t, please get one immediately – it’s the most fundamental step in empowering yourself: good health.
The 18Again gel promises vaginal health and protection from infections in addition to tightening. Personally, these are the features that I find even more interesting since there hasn’t been a product that addresses the need for good vaginal health. I can’t comment on the efficacy of the product but the fact that one exists forces us to recognize a need for it. And that I believe, is definitely empowering to women.
Here are some other views:
PMS: Three syllables that could rock your world. But what does this word mean? As a man, it is one of those words you never want to use to describe away women’s seemingly irrational behaviour. Unless you want to hear a very loud and shrill rant. Or if you know the women I do, get a prompt kick in the crown jewels. For women, it is the constant irritation of dealing with pop culture and stand-up comedians love affair with PMS jokes.
But is the alternative to making crass oversimplifications, just shutting up? I think not. The fact is, in our increasingly politically correct world, we do not address some things just to pacify, well, the angry women. The women whose eyebrows go up when you mention PMS and tell you “Don’t even think about it!”
Now here’s my problem with that. Society and culture thrives on making certain topics taboo- female sexuality, periods, rape, etc. When you cannot even talk about something openly, it provides a connotation of shame to it. How do you expect women to believe there is no shame in their being women when everything about their bodies is brushed under the carpets as ‘inappropriate’?And it is that culture that tolerates locking up women when they menstruate, treating them as social outcasts and of course dismissing them as professionals. For years, men thought women could not be involved in outdoors activities and professions because of- wait for it- menstruation!
This was fine in the world that was but it cannot be a part of the world the Modern Man seeks to build. In order to deconstruct what he has been raised to believe he needs to understand. So women can continue to be overly sensitive about words like ‘vagina‘ and ‘PMS‘ and god knows what else. But the Modern Man is not a gentleman. He is no knight in shining armour. He has little patience or indulgence for your baggage and who has been oppressing you.
The fact is, the more ‘secretive’ and ‘inappropriate’ any topic is deemed, the more power it has to dominate and repress people. So what we propose is this: rob it of its power by taking away the secretiveness. That is the key to a lot of the issues that come with the conversation on gender. It certainly is the key to this one.
And if you want, I can start. Men don’t hate talking because they think it’s a bore. Men hate talking because most women don’t really want to hear what they have to say. And ignorance breeds bigotry. Or in this case- sexism.
I will end with a quote from South Park by the delightfully offensive Mr. Garrison:
“I’m sorry, Wendy, but I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”
Sure, you can call him a chauvinist pig. But what then? What then indeed.
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.
“Why do we trade in the attention of a hundred men for the indifference of one?”
I’ve been pondering this for awhile. I remember reading this in a booklet of quotable quotes by famous women about men. That alone tells me, it’s a dilemma that other women have grappled with.
It is a common notion that men change once they enter a relationship. A wave of attention and affection and solicitousness comes our way from the man, during the initial heady wooing days. As we settle into the comfort (no doubting) of a relationship, the tide starts to pull back. Where the minutest change in our appearance would have been cause for a deluge of compliments, an entire makeover elicits not a grunt. At one point of time, the man is vying for a slot on our busy schedule. Now that our schedule is built around him and his idiosyncrasies, it is no more interesting than last year’s calendar. This isn’t what I’d call intentional malice or cruelty. But it does sting at a profound level when you’re at the receiving end.
Compared to the average man, the average woman has a higher degree of attention coming her way from the opposite sex (sorry but that’s the way nature goes). She decides to trade in all that for one man, whose interest declines eventually. Most women do this and what’s more, do it willingly, joyfully and earnestly. So why do women put up with it?
Are we so desperate for the illusory security of one relationship that we’ll throw in all the promissory notes of flirtation that we had earlier? Are we so masochistic that we can’t fathom, cannot bear the idea of being so universally adored and must settle into the mediocrity of accepting less, much less? Or are we just being realistic and trading in our chips before they all lose value, for something that depreciates but stays our own, nevertheless? It bears thinking about.
When I received a corporate pat-on-the-back (with a financial award), my mother suggested that I spend it on jewelery instead of frittering it away on clothes, books and shoes. Mum still believes in jewelery being a good investment. It took months but I finally agreed. I went diamond-shopping.
It was not the first major purchase I’ve ever made, not even the first time I’ve bought jewellery. On my first job, I saved up to buy my father a new cellphone and my mother, a diamond ring. That was a funny feeling. A memorable feeling, a funny one and one I’ll treasure all my life…the exhilarating thrill that comes from being able to buy something for the people you love, who have provided for you, all your life.
But when I went big-purchase-shopping again, a few years later, it just was different. A different kind of different. Inside my head, despite all the freedom of financial independence and mental release, my liberation has a few gaps in it. Like little stitches still binding me to old ways of being, long after I’ve snipped away the life I want to wear.
Diamonds are usually received as gifts, not bought for oneself. Gifted by a man…a father, a brother, a lover, a husband. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it’s because those sparkly stones carry the monetary value that they were bought for, but also the power of being cherished and indulged by men. For years, diamonds have been financially tangible tokens of men’s allegiance to those women. They continue to be so.
Only, these diamonds don’t represent the men who lavish their affections on me. They remind me of everything that I’ve worked for and achieved. The power to buy a diamond as well as the right to wear one that is truly my own. It’s just odd how long it took me to accept the feeling. To not feel guilty about lavishing it on myself, not feel obligated to spending it on someone else or something more important/intelligent, not wonder if brandishing my economic power made me seem like even more of a man-hating feminist than people usually accuse me of being.
It took me a long time to accept that it was okay to buy a diamond for myself and feel good about it. Newfound power doesn’t come easy; it’s scary. I actually took about a month, after agreeing to actually bring home the diamonds. I browsed online for different brands (and read a great deal about blood-free diamonds). I contemplated the merits of a pendant-and-chain versus a ring. I visited several stores and compared prices. I sketched out designs and pored over them. I considered local ‘known’ stores versus big jewelery brands. And finally I went and picked up a pair of earrings. Tiny diamond chiplings fashioned into three petals, with a thin golden stem wound around them. I did it all on my own.
Then I wore my new earrings to work the next day. For about ten minutes my entire body hummed in excitement, wondering if anyone would say anything. Nobody noticed anything different, no one even tossed the odd compliment my way. But suddenly, I realised, I didn’t care. I knew and that’s all that mattered.
I’ve had the earrings for a couple of years now. I wear them when the outfit and occasion suits them. But sometimes, just because I want a reminder of what I can do for myself.
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?
A colleague of mine from the Paris office came to visit and stayed in Mumbai for three months. We became friends and I was delighted to meet her again a year later. In conversation about the country she said she had fallen in love with, she suddenly remarked,
There are a lot of gay men in India!
I was surprised. We debated briefly on whether this could be possible. I mean, since human beings are fundamentally the same worldover, barring superficial differences of physical appearances, can something as deep-rooted as sexual orientation vary by region?
The debate petered off when it fell into the abyss of ‘Why does a person turn out to be homosexual? Heredity? Environment? A deviant childhood experience?’ Neither of us had enough information to make a call on that, and true to our analytical roles, we let it drop with a unanimous judgement of ‘Data insufficient’.
But I went back to her original assumption later and discovered that it boiled down to a laughably simple point. She said she kept noticing men all over the place with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders. At my confusion, she clarified,
In Europe, only gay men do that. Straight men never put their arms around each other that way.
It took me awhile to get over my surprise at that to tell her that it was common practice in India among men, straight or not and no one thought twice about it.
It was a telling point. Cultures vary and etiquettes differ. On one hand, the West is a lot opener about displays of affection between opposite sexes. So kissing, hugging and dancing are all regarded as normal where these would raise a few stares in most parts of this country. On the other hand, behavior between people of the same sex is rigidly demarcated in a way that it doesn’t even occur to Indians to think about.
After the above conversation, I’ve been studying how we behave with people of the same sex. There is a fair degree of physical contact between men, with the arm-around-shoulders being the most common one. A man riding pillion on a bike and scooter is at ease holding the rider by his waist or shoulders. Older brothers, fathers and authority figures express their role of ‘benevolent benefactor’ by the arm on the middle back of their protege. Friends will massage each others backs in a gesture that would seem quite erotic if they had been from opposite sexes.
Women with women are even freer. There is plenty of hugging and kissing in the more Westernized factions. And in the others, there is a lot of touching, of holding hands, of squeezing up next to, of putting heads on the other’s shoulder or lap. I’ve done it myself without thinking about it, for years on the end.
In fact the one interesting thing that came to light recently was when I realized that two women would not mind sharing a bed but a lot of men would be uncomfortable doing so. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this since the same two men would be perfectly fine with sharing their personal effects and talking about deeply intimate things that women would shy away from.
Body language is as nuanced and subjective as any of the verbal ones; possibly more since it is the one language that speaks only the absolute truth. This may be why the loose-limbed gesture that popular media often patronizes comes across as juvenile to real gay people. It could be why we occasionally blunder on the gay/straight perception divide and why ‘gaydar’ isn’t down to a precise science. And it may also point to the fact that sexuality isn’t a binary defined world (one or the other) but as fluid as our moods and passions.
A conversation with a wise girlfriend you’re seeing after awhile can be food for thought. As you exchange titbits of information about news and the then and the now, there’s realization and growing up that happens in those very moments.
I mentioned a name, quite unconsciously with reference to something else. She picked it up and probed. So I told her some. And she told me what she knew, coming from a different source, a different angle. As we put the two together, her story and mine, we created an idea, based on the framework of the person we discussed.
There are of course the men who never got used to the fact that women got a vote, the right to their own bodies, education and careers as well. But there’s a different sort of man around now. This one has had ample time to get used to it. Maybe he had a strong mother. Perhaps he grew up with an ambitious sister. Or maybe he was just sharp that way and found himself the company of women like that.
That means he’s had the time to not just understand and appreciate their motives but also see their Achilles heel, hidden as it may be. The women of today are just as human as the ones that came before them. And hence, we have our own brand of insecurities and fears.
The thing is, my wise friend said,
A guy who sees that insecurity and tries to exploit it to his advantage.
Don’t we know him? We all do, we’ve encountered him at various points of time. In the case we discussed, there was a girl who my friend described as ‘not conventionally good-looking’. The guy in question knows this and seems to be using this over her as a control game. The reason this clicked was that I know when he tried a similar strategy but with a different tactic. He used age instead of looks.
Now the guy in question is of barely any, if at all, consequence to me. The reason this stayed with me is because it brought me back to my own experience of an abusive relationship all those years ago. It’s been very difficult for me to answer questions like why I stayed with him and what hold he had over me.
The answer is of course that he knew my fears and took advantage of them. No one is so strong that they have no fears. And nobody is so guarded in a relationship that keep all their secrets. But those secrets can turn into ammunition in the wrong hands.
Strangely enough our conversation earlier in the evening revolved around fairness creams. I was trying to explain why the idea of having worked with them at some point of time in my career is something I carry with heavy guilt. She admitted that she had used fairness creams for a good while herself. Then she said,
Strange as it may sound, my moment of reckoning came when I read about the Aishwarya Rai-Salman Khan relationship. To know that a woman like could get battered was to realize that it had nothing to do with looks whatsoever. And that’s when I stopped needing those creams.
Hmm, interesting. So we have our fearful secrets and we have even more furtive ways of getting over them. Those close to us can turn traitor. While those on a completely different world from us, can be our salvation.