Episode 26: Who wears the pants?

He says:

What makes for a healthy relationship?

Democracy or dictatorship?

And before you say democracy, you could consider that since there are only two people in a relationship, democracy means anarchy.

Yes, maybe anarchy isn’t really a bad thing. For years, relationships have been run and governed by dictatorship. It’s very unfortunate indeed.

It is very unfortunate that woman has been boss all these years and man was just relegated to the blue-collar jobs: hunting, running around, fetching food and being watch-dog protector of family.

The woman for years has pretended to be the slave when she has actually been running the show: she made sure men fought wars for her, she got the Taj Mahal built, she made sure many men died for the sake of love. And all the while she stayed indoors without any pressures of having to go and fetch bread, butter or newspaper.

Roles were well defined and divorce rates were almost non-existent. The phrase marital discord had not yet been invented.

Today, when man is trying to take control of relationships and the woman is all dressed up for the kill in the corporate world, the home territory is left unguarded, vulnerable to outside threats.

Modern day society has seen divorce rates go up. Suddenly, dysfunctional families find their way into the vocabulary of society and crisis management experts, like lawyers, relationship counsellors and psychiatrists, find that their workload is going along that one-way street called Up.

Clearly, the change in age-old household management conventions and practices has upset the balance between the sexes. In this age of coalition governments, man and woman must sit together and find that line that separates democracy from anarchy.

Duties and responsibilities must be worked out according to strengths and weaknesses of their personalities rather than gender. And, man should be given that opportunity to stay at home and run the show. The wretched women have been doing it too long.

She says:

Political jargon aside, this is about just one issue (and pardon me for using this deplorable phrase) — it’s about who `wears the pants’ in a relationship.

Now the mind of a man sees just black and white, so I suppose it’s just natural for a man to presume that every relationship has one leader and one meek, subjugated dish-washing, dog-walking follower.

And, regardless of what He Says, it’s an established fact that a `man is the master of his house.’ And while the male of the species has always been loopy enough to get cross-eyed and silly with love — remember the morons who waged wars motivated by little besides a nice nose — when it came right down to it, even poor Helen of Troy probably had to keep house, and make sure her dozen maids kept everything tidy so the love of her life could trudge across the kitchen in dirty boots, probably making annoyingly long declarations of passion all the while.

Think buying butter is exhausting? Well, you’re welcome to switch places with the woman who dusts, cooks, washes, cleans and raises your children while you sit in a plush office and ring for your secretary to bring you coffee.

But here’s the catch, all you big-talking, muscle-flexing men. The truth is you’re not really in charge, you never have been.

Because — luckily for us — women are masters of subtle power games. Games you don’t even know you’re involved in, you poor misguided puppet. For women realised long ago that all a man needs is the illusion that he’s in charge.

And that’s easy enough to pull off. A smart woman seats her man at the head of the table, and makes him a cup pf tea. Then, she makes all big decisions herself, and pretends it’s his idea. He’s too busy swaggering to contradict her anyway.

Cook a man a couple of meals, and you can twist them around your little finger. After all, as every intelligent woman knows, men are easier to train than puppies. It’s not democracy. It’s not anarchy. But it works just great. For us.

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)

Episode 25: Dance like a man

She says:

I’m so tempted to sharpen my stilettos.

I recently started learning the salsa. A breathtakingly beautiful dance form set to addictive Latin music, it is great fun to learn, once you get your mambo in place. Except for one thing. It’s a man’s dance.

My bright-eyed chirpy instructor — Salsa Boy — just loves the fact. Every ten minutes, he stops class to bellow, “Girls, follow your man, because… ” And every single man in class (including the ones with two dangerously left feet) stop treading on our toes to proudly holler, “It’s a man’s dance.” Sometimes, they thump their chests too. Which makes it kind of difficult to do the required high speed twirls. There are also exercises to keep us in place. One particularly unflattering one dictates that the women act like rag dolls, while their partners push and pull them across the floor. While, of course, Salsa Boy and co yell, “Because it’s a man’s dance.”

Thump. Thump.

At which my bratty teenage partner smirks, “Follow me. Coz I’m the MAN.”

I’ve tried pulling rank on him, telling him I’m older and thus wiser, but apparently belonging to the big-headed, big-footed gender makes him King.

Salsa Boy even walks around with a wooden ruler to make sure no woman sneakily tries to call the shots. Yes, I’ve been whacked across my knuckles, but what’s a woman to do?

Sometimes, men just can’t keep up. We’ve made it quite clear that we will not dance to a man’s tunes in the outside world. Why do we still have to do so on the dance floor?

Some quick research reveals it’s not just the Latin Americans who were all about `all hail the male.’ Jive is a man’s dance. So is ballroom dancing. And Wikipedia tells me there’s something called the `Gourd Dance’ performed by some Native American nations, which is “primarily a man’s dance.” (Sounds familiar?) Apparently “women participate by dancing in place behind their male counterparts”

Sheesh!

Clearly, it’s time we storm another bastion. After all, twirls aren’t just for girls.

He says

To the best of my knowledge, barring Kathakali (where men play women too) and the traditional dead body dance (the dance the drunk do on the street during funeral processions in this part of the world, to the native beat of `dandanaka’), most of the other Indian dances have been the bastion of women from the days and nights of Umrao Jaan. I mean, who would today believe that Bharatanatyam was actually something born out of a holy old man called Bharata Muni inspired by Lord Brahma? And the Tandav was supposed to be Lord Shiva’s stress buster. But that was so long ago.

Today, traditional Indian women have completely taken over most dance forms performed on stage. And the modern Indian women have taken over MTV and those Punjabi music videos on `Balle Balle’. One look at Yana Gupta in “Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo” or Aishwarya in “Kajra Re”, and you know who calls the shots in the Indian form: the item girl, of course. Yet, she looks West as far as Latin America, and even pays to learn and follow a man’s footsteps.

I bet she has not heard of techniques like hijacking and backleading that help show off dance skills and steal the lead from the man. (Chuckle, chuckle)

Dance is either ritualistic (social dance) or for concert (performance). Each dance form has an objective. While concert dances such as Kathakali and Yakshagana tell stories, Bharatanatyam interprets stories and presents them in a lucid form, the social dances like Kummi and Koothu are used to express joy or sorrow. Salsa is a social dance that involves one lifting the other. It showcases chemistry between man and woman.

Hence, if you notice most couples who do the salsa, you will find that men are usually heavier and taller than the women.

So it would be unfair to ask the lady to lift you, unless your partner is Karnam Malleswari.

Besides, how many women like someone who follows? Women find leaders attractive, they always go for someone they can look up to. And, as I read somewhere, it’s not about command and obey. It’s about a partnership between two people who are equal but different. Just like bad workers blame the tools, some dancers just blame the rules.

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)

Episode 24: Dating and your date of birth

He says:

Why do you think that it is almost a norm that men date women younger than them? Because unlike men, who mature if at all, do it slow and steady, women mature early and grow up. “The older they get, the more messed up they become,” says a friend.

Most girls have their first relationship much earlier than boys have theirs (that’s again because boys date girls younger than them). So while they start off believing in true love, they get jaded and turn cynical and disillusioned pretty soon, most of them finding it hard to let go of their excess baggage.

Boys learn the ropes; take their own time to figure out how relationships work. Every relationship gives them new strength and encouragement. At the end of the fifth one, they know what lines work and what don’t. At the end of the tenth, they know how to make the girl pay on dates. At the end of the twentieth, they have mastered the art of making the girl dump them, so that they don’t have to bear the burden of guilt and the mantle of being the “bad guy”. Therefore, they travel light. The most they need is a hanky to pick up a wreck.

So women, after five relationships, are sick of mushy lines. After ten, they lose faith. After twenty… come on, how often do you hear girls have 20 relationships?

Due to their differing behaviour and attitudes towards relationships, older guys can only date a younger woman. Because what a guy needs is a believer and not a cynic. Which is why most men roam around with puppy dog looks and women have to contend with being labelled the female of the species.

Woof!

She says:

As much as I hate to burst his bubble, I have simply got to point this out. Women don’t date older men because they are “sick of mushy lines.” When was the last time you saw a nubile 20 something being flaunted on the red carpet by a bespectacled, toothless eighty-year-old, and thought “Ah, she must be tired of mushy lines!”

It’s not too difficult to figure out why he’s going out with her. As an accessory, she makes a much better impact than his walking stick, for starters. And, I suppose — for a while at least — she’ll make him feel young again. Until the punishing schedule of dragging his arthritic limbs onto the dance floor every other day begins to get to him. And his therapist.

On her part, it’s probably interesting to date an older man.

He will take her to an exotic restaurant, and order champagne. While a boy her age will take her to greasy dive and order Coke, which he will probably try to spurt out of his nose for entertainment. An older man will impress her by talking about world politics, while the Boy will attempt to do the same by arm wrestling with the waiter. And, yes, the older will deal with excess baggage much more gracefully, making peace with ex-girl friends and wives. While the Boy will seriously consider throwing rotten eggs at an ex-girlfriend’s car, to `get even’.

Maybe, one day, the older man will discover he can’t keep up and needs to be tucked up with his hot water bottle around the same time she gets started clubbing. And she’ll realise she can’t be seen with a man who dances like the Bee Gees, and thinks the salsa is some kind of condiment.

Or maybe not.

Fortunately there are no absolutes in life. Younger women will date older men. Older women will date younger men. People who are exactly the same age will fall madly in love with each other.

In the end, after all, age is just a number.

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)

Episode 23: Where have all the cowboys gone?

She says:

Where have all the cowboys gone?

The `macho’ man seems to be slowly becoming extinct, as cities get overrun with over-hyped, overdressed metrosexuals. (A clotheshorse wrapped around a dandy fused with a narcissist: Wordspy.) There’s no point blaming David Beckham, the man with painted nails and ponytails. The fact is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the men from the girls.

I was at a pub with a big gang of friends watching football recently and, in between goals, two guys intensely discussed hair straightening, swapping tips on techniques and stylists. Men strut in and out of beauty parlours, getting pedicures and facials done. They colour, perm, straighten, twist and tease their hair, probably pouting prettily in front of the mirror all the while. At gyms, they narcissistically work on every part of their body, toning here and shaping there. Muddy sports are out, unless they’re being watched on a flat screen television, accompanied by butter-free popcorn and low fat white wine.

And don’t even get me started on their diet. Chocolate chip cookies are a fate worse than cellulose. I actually know a man who called for the chef and made him list out ingredients in a low fat milkshake, adding up the calories till he went white and so weak that he had to be revived with a spray of Evian from his `man bag.’

I even have a friend who follows fashion with such a passion he actually made his cousin go back inside and get out of her platform sandals because he was horrified at the thought of being seen with a woman wearing last season’s shoes.

And talking of fashion, what’s with them masquerading about in all our colours? Pinks, bright greens and aquamarine. Whatever happened to the time when men didn’t even know what `aquamarine’ meant? What next? Pink lace-trimmed folders at the office? Leave granted by the office for bad hair days? Having to knock out women who whistle at your boyfriend?

From the looks of it, soon country crooner Paula Cole won’t be the only one singing, “Where is my John Wayne? Where is my Marlboro man? Where is my lonely ranger? Where is my happy ending?”

He says:

Maybe women hang out with gay men because they feel safe. Maybe that’s why they believe that cowboys do not exist. But wait, going by Brokeback Mountain, maybe even the cowboys were never straight.

Cowboy: A hired man, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of his duties on horseback. (Dictionary.com)

Firstly, we do not live in the western United States. Our cowboys have always worn pink and yellow. Ask the cows about a certain Mr. Ramarajan.

The Marlboro man found himself dead and left behind a valuable lesson: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Man, being the more intelligent of the species, decided that smoking did not make him macho.

Macho: Used of men; markedly masculine in appearance or manner.

(Dictionary.com)

Men have not started getting silicon implants (transvestites excluded), but maybe they are grooming themselves a little more seriously. But then, so have women. Just because they did it first does not mean that they can patent the hairless body as `feminine.’

Because, going by the same logic, many women are tomboys. They wear shirts and pants, some of them smoke, drink beer and some, even womanise.

Yes, what is wrong with keeping track of fashion? Maybe once upon a time, denims, hats and biker beards used to be fashionable, now it’s all about whatever makes you look good. Which also determines what men eat.

That’s exactly what her problem is: Men look so good these days that she has too much competition to snag him over. Add jealousy to that insecurity and you find a woman wishing for a man who is his simple basic self. You get Paula Cole.

Besides, if hairy men in faded jeans and duller chappals are what you are looking for, maybe you should get out of the `effeminate’ circuit and check out the boys at the bus stop. The good old macho man is still alive if you care to look beyond Page 3-types. He still burps, scratches, smells, smokes, drinks and does all those disgusting macho things you hate about him.

Think again. You’re safer with wuss company. What are you complaining about?

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)

Episode 22: Why she won’t introduce her friends

He says:

Noticed how women you date don’t always introduce you to their friends? Certainly, not in the first few weeks. More so when the friends are pretty.

It’s a strange divide-and-rule policy born out of insecurity. Having common friends means her friends will always get two versions of any incident — her version and the truth (Your version, dummy). So why would she want to put herself in a spot?

When she is still dating you, she will have to answer questions like: “What did you guys do?” “Can he drop me home?” “Why don’t you bring him along to the party?” and of course, then they have to deal with comments about you: “Oh, he’s so cute.” “He does the sweetest things. Wish my boyfriend did that for me.” “He smells so good.”

The first thing you need to know about women is that they are jealous of each other. Haven’t you seen how they check out what other women are wearing at the party or even if it’s just the coffee shop. Though they might shower each other with compliments, both women know what the other is really thinking. If that applies for clothes, you could imagine how much more they would be jealous about boyfriends. They are paranoid about the friend stealing the boyfriend, a possibility born only by the death of trust in the relationship.

Besides, if at all she stops dating you, then she has to explain and blame it on you. It is rather difficult to paint you as the bad guy if the friend also knows you well.

And imagine the possibility of her friend continuing to be friends with you.

Given the already established premise that women are jealous creatures, it will cause her immense pain and heartburn if you start dating the friend.

Not only will that be her worst nightmare come true, it will also mean she loses her friend and that might endanger friendships within their circle.

Men have no such qualms. They know there are 1.3 trillion fish in the ocean. They are just looking for one. On their plate.

P.S: Sorry Nemo.

She says:

Sit down. Think carefully. Remember Standard II Geography? What did your textbooks say? Somewhere in the fog of French fries and football, this might emerge: `The earth revolves around the sun.’ NOT you.

When will men realise that everything is not about them?

If a girlfriend doesn’t introduce you to her friends it’s not because she stares at the mirror in anguish every morning, wondering which one you’ll pick over her. No woman’s going to date a man with a mind like a fish, anyway. (Sorry Nemo.)

Because if you’re going to change your mind every time you take a turn around the pond, you’re better off dating your computer. Maybe you can find a virtual girl, who’ll change her hair colour every week and introduce you to all her virtual friends.

Women don’t skip introductions because they’re insecure. Yes. Of course we check out other women in the room and their arm candy, but that’s more out of curiosity than anything else. While stealing a friend’s boyfriend might not be too difficult (following the `Men are like sheep’ theory) it’s really bad manners. And it also smacks of desperation. Besides, who wants to be seen as the wicked vamp (usually plagued with a bad stylist and hideously bright lipstick) anyway?

And trust me, women definitely don’t keep their boyfriends hidden because they’re afraid their friends will inflate their nostrils, sniff the air like Dobermans and collapse in a pool of mush cooing “Ooh. He smells so good!” After which, I suppose you men presume, they’ll fall upon you with cries of joy like a pack of wolves.

The truth is, maybe you weren’t introduced because she was too busy to get her friends together to meet you. Or maybe she’s ashamed of you. (Still walking about with lunch on your tie?). Or maybe you’re just the flavour of the month, and she doesn’t want to bother with an introduction that’ll be longer than your relationship.

But more likely than not, it’s probably because she wants to get to know you better before she lets you into her circle of trust. And that’s reasonable enough, isn’t it?

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)

Episode 21: Looks like the topic wont go away

She says:

I was recently knocking back cappuccinos and biscotti with a couple of male friends when the subject of ‘who’s hot and who’s not’ came up — as it inevitably does in any male-dominated conversation lasting more than five minutes.

Why do men worry constantly about the number of ‘good-looking’ women they know, counting and recounting them on their fingers and toes, as if some woman-famine is on its way? And this is regardless of whether they are married, dating, single or desperate.

If you tell a guy that a female friend is coming to town, he will react like a puppy at mealtime: his eyes brighten, ears perk up and an idiotic dreamy expression takes over his face. “So, what does she look like? Pretty?”

That’s always the first question. It’s quite incredible actually, you could be talking to a Siberian Eskimo and telling him your new dog sled trainer is on her way, and he’d mutter through frostbitten lips, “Is she pretty?” Or maybe you tell your hippie friend that you found a new artists who paints scarves, and he’ll say, “Dude, is she, like, a looker?”

Your friend could be a NASA scientist, or an uber-cool tribal artist. She could be a fascinating writer/ stand-up comedian/ hypnotist/ scuba diver, but if her braces aren’t off, or her nose is one inch past regulation point, none of the guys really want to meet her. Because, let’s face it, almost all men are ‘looksist.’ (i.e. A condition where you discriminate between people on the basis of how they look.)

They want to date conventionally beautiful women, so that other men envy them. They also want to hang out with good looking women, so — well — other men envy them.

So, when I ignored the question, and just said “she’s really nice,” both of them immediately guffawed, “so she looks like the backyard of a bus, huh?” And that’s another man thing. You either have to be pretty, or nice. You can never be both, if you’re female.

Women, on the other hand, don’t really look for good lookers. Yes, they’re probably fussy about the men they date, but when it comes to male friends, women don’t care how they look as long as they’re fun to be with. In fact they prefer low-maintenance rugged men. After all, who wants to share their hair gel and lip salve all the time?

He says:

Right at the beginning of the series, in the second episode, I had said: “Would you like to be seen kissing someone toad ugly? Yes? My number is….”

It’s been over 36 weeks, my phone hasn’t rung yet.

I had also said that men find most women hot, whether they are dark (Halle Berry), not all that well-toned (Shakeela), not conventionally beautiful (Mallika Sherawat), short (Rani Mukherjee) and even if they are not skimpily clad (Nandita Das) and their definitions of what’s hot are pretty broad and all-accommodating.

Now think about all the words women say while describing the prototypes they want to meet: “Perfect Gentleman,” “Tall, Dark, Handsome,” “Prince Charming,” “Mr.Right”.

Gentleman = Some guy who’s nice to them, plays with pups, wears a Raymonds suit, picks them up, opens doors, takes them for expensive dinners, opens doors and even pays. Very simple needs.

Tall, Dark, Handsome = Women don’t go for looks indeed. Tall, Dark, Handsome is the description of his inner beauty, Shallow Hal style, no?

Prince Charming = Yes, royalty is incidental. And charm too. That’s why Snow White didn’t pick one of the seven dwarfs to fall in love with and just waited for someone appropriate to show up to kiss her.

Mr.Right = Who could be some guy-next-door who’s just flunked another paper and stalks the girl he loves, right? He’s the guy who is always right when she’s wrong, of course.

Yes, there are also those simple women who settle for the regular, intelligent, witty guy with a sense of humour. Such men are so common-place after all.

Now, if you are a woman, put yourself into his shoes.

Are you going to hope meeting someone new with a big shopping list and checkboxes that go: Pretty, Witty, Intelligent, Sense of Humour, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Princess Fiona?

No you don’t.

You simply decide that most women are hot at some level or the other or at least assume so, because it makes you happy to believe you are going to meet someone pleasant, irrespective of whether you ever get to date them or not.

Men being the simple guys they are, just ask the same simple question before meeting any girl also because he wants to know what one girl thinks of the other.

Irrespective of her answer, he would anyway go ahead and make his moves if she gives him enough attention.

If she’s not his types, he’ll just wait for the next friend to arrive.

Men, live in hope, but on Planet Earth. Women live in Wonderland and in trashy romance novels.
Also, why invent a new word when you can simply say men are lookers? He he!

Sho-Buzz

August 2006
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