I am often confused with a misogynist. It is as much a tragedy as my frequent association with being a misanthrope. I love women too much to ever hate them and I have immense faith in mankind (not human beings) to despise them. But fairness rules and my role of a paladin brings me brickbats. All in good cheer!
A recent trip with friends (mostly acquaintances) convinced me that women find it extremely convenient when guys fawn over them and will receive every act of subservient yielding, with gusto though quick to proudly claim that they don’t ever seek favours from men. I am fortunate in being allowed the escape of a not-so-mute observer and thinker and hence am rarely called upon to perform the job of a lackey or to bestow condescending favours. The women in the group were delighted to have doors opened for them (innocuous) and bills picked (cheap) and luggage hauled (dainty) and errands run (too important) by the boys that I found the whole thing decreasingly obnoxious and increasingly amusing. The girls actually had the boys fetch their shoes from the shoe rack outside the temple. The boys had no sense of self-respect and were more than happy to be at the beck-and-call of their ladies. The ladies, without bothering to wonder whether they were taking advantage of the “niceness” of the boys, enjoyed their well-served existence. I imagined reversing roles: If girls were ordered around and tossed off when the job was done and made to run errands and taken “advantage” of because the guy knew that she had a crush on him, how would the “forward” thinking world look at it? They would call the men chauvinists, brutes, old-fashioned, conservative and few other things depending on their mood and mettle of their tongue. But these girls are just called cute (though amongst themselves some are bitches and some are desperate or more, again depending on the pH level of the tongue).
One thing that I never understand is the notion of footing bills. I pay when a woman accompanies me (tragedy lies in the fact that I even pay when some guys accompany me) and if I don’t then I am cheap. If the girl was not earning a living or something like that, one might even consider that as a passable case (but then how do you explain the ready money available to her when she has to buy things for herself like trinkets to hang from her ear or that mobile which rings in so many tunes?). I find it immensely pointless that women who earn their income believe that they should never foot the bill. If the assumption is that their mere presence has paid for their share of the evening’s expenses I can’t laugh enough. I have rarely been with a girl who leaned over, slapped my hand off and took the bill (one girl was from West Bengal, the other lives in Bombay and one potentially solid girl now resides in Mysore). I always wondered whether they never felt cheap walking out of a restaurant without even offering to go dutch.
Pampering a girl is different. I think it is merely a special case of pampering someone you like (love is a convoluted topic). I pamper my nephew, my kid (I call her that because her parents call her my kid), my dear friends, a few wonderful women whom I have met (and they are genuinely few enough to count on one hand) and most children. My lovely friend who has been with me since we were 11 and 9 respectively, and who now is a father to lovely little girl, is someone I love to pamper. Pampering in these cases is not a stereotype and is hence, treated differently.
A dear friend of mine said, “Come on, E. Guys enjoy doing these things for girls. It is one of the small pleasures of life.” I think he meant “small pleasure of the Mating Game”. I had written a long article (and I am accused of never writing anything short!) about the Mating Game when I was in school. It is lost (because I wrote on loose sheets of paper) though you surely don’t need an article to bring to light what is commonly available to an interested pair of eyes. I accommodate the Mating Game as an inevitable ritual performed at various levels (from Casanova to Seth Ganshyam Das of Tijoriwali Gali in Allahabad whose Mating Game starts and ends in a burp) but when it becomes a stereotype, graduating into a sense of etiquette and hardening as a norm of social life, then, my dear friend, it becomes annoying to my senses. I have lent my jacket to a girl (and I still have a picture of her) though I cogitate that I would have done the same for a frail framed guy, too. I have done things which clearly fell into the bucket of the MG (btw, that is not what M.G. Road in Bangalore, stands for) so the issue is not about the MG. It is about what groups of people are “expected” to do.
Recently, on a trip, I noticed how women (on the train) assume that they will be treated specially. They assume that someone will surely help them load their luggage or give them their chosen seat. A woman had actually occupied my seat and when I arrived told me to take the other one elsewhere because she wanted to sit with her family. Of course, if I don’t mind. Point is, isn’t it decency to stay in your seat and then ask instead of occupying first and then offering an option to me!? Even in queues (and once at a petrol station) women seem to assume that it is ok to rush ahead. A friend once told me “Come on, E. Try standing throughout the day on high heels and waiting in a queue!” What? Women were born with high heels? So if I wore riding boots with 3 inch heels, I will be allowed to the front of a queue?
There is no questioning that women are not often built for physically strenuous jobs and have to juggle (often, though not always) multiple roles and responsibilities. But these are individual choices. As much as a child cannot be delivered without the due gestation period so required is the necessary physical, mental and psychological abilities for a job. Dagny Taggart didn’t use her womanhood to get the job done. It was sheer ability. I simply adore women who can do a job the way it should be done without acting cute and batting eyelashes. It is, hence, an individual’s choice. If work in the quarry is not your cup of tea then don’t go there. To join the quarry and insist that women should be given greater privileges and shorter work hours and lesser loads to lift is ridiculous. So be it with a job as a scientist in a lab. I will not give you the culture in my petri-dish just because you are 6 months pregnant (what is growing in the dish is at least my effort). If you can’t juggle many things, choose. There are tonnes of women who give up a family for the sake of a career and conversely. There are men who also care for the family and buy the grocery and take out the garbage while putting the baby to sleep. Does the woman of the house get up to give him the only chair in the room?
So a woman likes to have doors opened for them and seats on buses offered to them but will not tolerate a man saying, “They are weak humans.” They want men to be chivalrous while they cry sore about women’s lib.
A woman will love to have her dinner paid for, and her movie tickets bought but will hate it if she were told that she needed his money or was dependent on his money.
A woman enjoys receiving gifts and baubles and surprises but will not accept that she can’t even think of getting her guy some nice gift as a surprise. After all, “What can you get a guy? They are so boring!”
A woman likes to quote the traditional role of the male as protector and provider till he has expectations of her; then she quickly chants the virtue of the modern liberated man who doesn’t hold old-fashioned notions of roles based on sex or creed. Equality is, then, something that makes sense only when it is in favour of one person.
Men are not to be pitied as long as they enjoy being fools. It is when women assume that men are there for doing their work or earning for their entertainment or free for their whims that the otherwise simple acts in a relationship appear vulgar. So be it when men make similar assumptions of women (though most men don’t think that their wives earn for their entertainment, some think that their wife is entertainment!). At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is about a sense of Rightness. When there is respect for the other person, when there is a genuine affection for the other person, when there is respect for oneself, when one truly cares about the relationship and the various facets to it, there is action borne out of a genuine goodness and Rightness which doesn’t crumble to petty convenient exploitation or, as a girl aptly said, “timepass”. It would be such a delight to be with a woman who would take me out to dinner, too. Or help me pack my luggage or let a guy sleep on her shoulder or lap (has to be some other guy because I can never do that!). Or bought me a bottle of ink because I have just exhausted mine.