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.
He’s brash, extroverted and friendly. He’s smart and he knows it. He is loud and unapologetic about it. He’s a finance guy. And he’s my Office Spouse. Well, he used to be. Since he’s changed jobs, I’m find myself in a state of singlehood at work as well. Work is good, work is well but I miss my buddy.
He christened me his Office Spouse without so much as a ‘May I?’ but it was done with so much of gregarious charm I saw no reason to deny it. Mercifully there was none of that nasty nudge-nudge sort of gossip…well nothing that ever got to me anyway. He silenced everyone with a booming declaration of,
An Office Spouse is someone at work who you talk to and crib to. Sometimes you can’t stand them but you miss them on their off-days and you wonder how you’d get through the workplace madness without them!
Cho chweet, no? That’s almost better than any of the romantic fluff that’s come my way. And before you wonder, he’s married – happily so. His wife (then girlfriend) was introduced to me with …(what else?) loud-voiced,
This is your counterpart at office! The woman who fights with me at work!
We looked at each other, shrugged and burst into laughter and I knew my Office Spouse was great at picking his women – in his personal life and professional life.
So what is this deal with the Office Spouse? My Office Spouse was someone I’d have been friends with, if I’d met him at a party or a friend’s place or school or college too. We didn’t really work together so we didn’t have that much of work-related stuff to discuss. But since we worked for the same company, in the same office, we could share those insider jokes. After a marathon 3-hour negotiation on the phone, I was the one he steamrolled into a coffee break. On an annoying day or in a boring meeting, he was the pal across the table, I’d roll my eyes at, when the powers-that-be weren’t looking.
As work eats into our lives more and more each day…in terms of the hours we spend at office as well as mindspace we give to it, our professional worlds increasingly get to be as big as, if not bigger than, our personal spaces. And in a world of madness, it’s always good to have someone to navigate it with, right?
*Sigh* I do miss my Office Spouse. I was the first to know about his upcoming promotion, his transfer and then later, his move. I haven’t had a chance to tell him about all the things that have been happening in my professional life. And the next chance I get to speak to him, I’m probably gonna holler…
Yo, buddy, whats up in the sticks? Are you managing to survive without me? It just got to be too much without you to nag so I shifted too!
I created the image above. Doesn’t it look sketchy? And odd…since such signs are usually black-on-yellow and not green-and-black-on-blue? Moreover, the lady is wearing spiky heels and wielding a shovel. Oh well, that’s why I’m saying….Caution ahead, Women at work! I’m going to be a hypocrite and talk about women at work all the while playing a detached genderless entity. I try to be objective. I do try.
When I first heard the murmurs about women, I hmph-ed and clubbed it in the same genre as the nasty barbs about women drivers, wives and mothers-in-law. I decided and pronounced that men just couldn’t handle the fact that women were showing their equality and even superiority in the working world.
I think differently now. I’ve had male bosses as well as female bosses, colleagues, peers and clients of either sex. In some ways women are good to work with. I find they are a lot more focussed and driven than men….comparatively speaking. There is that ‘let’s cut the crap and get down to the brass tacks’ attitude which is what had me partnering women all through college on our projects.We did very well on all those projects as opposed to the ‘pretty good’ and ‘somewhat less that fantastic’ stuff that I suspect fell in those categories primarily due to the fooling around, chit-chat and unncessariy niceties that men brought into the equation. On the other hand, I’ve seen some pretty violent…how shall we put it….clashes?….over work with women. Power struggles were what they were and they remained unresolved since we were all evenly balanced.
I know I have been mighty intolerable to work with. Who’s got the time for niceties…I have a job to do here…has been my attitude for a good while now. I’m learning. A lot of us are. Sweet words and a nice smile can get work done so much faster.
Now cut to the real world where I have to work with a lot of men and a lot of women. It is a fact, I hate it…but it is a fact that women use their ‘wiles’ to have their way. There is nothing more nauseating than a bimbo fluttering their eyelashes at your boyfriend…..unless it is a female worker who smiles at you brightly and then cuts you to shreds in a meeting. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can tear my soul apart.
It is sarcasm, saccarine-flavoured arsenic at its best. I was once recruited by a sweet looking pretty lady who assured me that the work would be great and suggested that we treat each other as ‘friends’. Yeah right…..I’m still walking around with the arrows sticking out of my back. The lady had incredibly good aim.
Which brings me to something a male friend observed recently. He said that most people were ruthless and vile when they were beginning their careers and working their way up. Men however, tended to lose that as they progressed and reached a certain stage in their own minds. Women on the other hand, tended to hold on to grudges as well as swell in arrogance as they began to shine.
Is that true? Yes, I think it is. I see it in myself. In the short few years that I’ve been working, I know I treat some people differently. I know I have stored away little memories of people who did not treat me the way I wanted to be treated and have been meticulously ticking them off my list of ‘paybacks’. I haven’t played dirty politics…..yet. My method is to do better…that’s reward enough. But my friend’s comments made me think….am I persevering because I want to do well, because I like what I do, because it makes me feel good? Or am I doing it to get back at other people, to show someone up, to feel good by making them feel bad. That’s sick.
I have to rationalize my behaviour and that of my gender. Even today, a women is required to try harder, be better and bear a lot more than a man in order to succed. This includes opposition from the family, harassment by male colleagues, gender biases at work (yes, they do exist), social pressures and all kinds of other things. Somewhere we become hardened. Yes, it does take sheer grit to ignore the sniggering, sleazy whispers as well as that nagging nuisance called PMS all while trying to write a report in peace. Yes, well…are we entitled to some sympathy?
All I can think is that we’ve had such things as recognition, fame and success for such a very short while, we behave like the nouveau riche…flaunting it, throwing it into other people’s faces, using it to run over others. Bad bad bad still….damn, we need to grow up.
Incidently I took another look at the picture above and it occurs to me that its me in that pic…digging my own grave with this post. Eee….time to pull out the claws again…I retract from my objective identity and back to being a woman. You have been warned.