There are some questions that always pop up when a group of young girls gets together. Who is your kind of man? What qualities do you look for in a guy? How would you like your future husband to be?
The answers are often as hackneyed as the questions. The words ‘tall, dark and handsome’ have been known to be uttered. As have ‘sensitive and caring’. A sense of humour is always touted as a desirable quality. And everyone wants a well-educated, even ambitious man though only a few will admit to looking out for a rich one.
I guess all of us start out with a mental checklist against which we judge any potential mates. It is another matter that this checklist is the first thing to go out of the window when true love strikes. Then, it doesn’t matter if he stands a couple of inches shorter than you or how deep his pockets are. It doesn’t matter if his jokes are unfunny and he doesn’t have a hint of a six pack. And it certainly doesn’t matter that he doesn’t look like one of those pin-ups you idolised throughout your teenage years.
Once you’ve fallen in love, even the most unsuitable of creatures begins to look like your ideal man. And no matter what he is or how he is, he magically metamorphoses into your kind of man.
But then, that’s love for you. It has the knack of turning the world on its head. It has a way of making everything you once believed in seem futile and foolish. As the song goes: "I stand alone without beliefs; the only truth I know is you."
Perhaps that is why I have never wanted to define – not even in my head – who my kind of man would be. At some subliminal level I guess I always believed that when I met him, I would know.
But women – ah, now we’re talking. I’ve always been very clear in my head about who my kind of woman is. (And just so we’re clear, by that I mean the kind of woman I could be friends with; not one whom I dream of having babies with.)
It all began – as things tend to do – in school. It didn’t take me long to realise that I wasn’t really cut out for sport and rough-housing of any kind. So hanging out with sporty, tomboy types was out of the question. Instead, all potential friends had to pass what I called the ‘Do you read Enid Blyton?’ test and only those who had read everything from The Secret Seven to The Famous Five and the Malory Towers series were in with a chance.
As I grew older, this test was further refined. Anyone who dissed Georgette Heyer as just another romance writer was off my radar in less time than it took to say Beau Brummel. Later still, all those who regarded Ayn Rand as the Fountainhead of all wisdom got short shrift. And more recently, Dominick Dunne has become my litmus test for People Like Us (or, more accurately, People Whom I Like).
But books are just the beginning. The tests of incipient friendship extend far beyond them. Take bread, for instance. No, I mean that. Take bread. Go on, take it. Break off a morsel, slather on some butter, or dip it in olive oil, and plop it into your mouth. Um, delicious, isn’t it?
What? You don’t eat bread? Or carbs of any kind, except on the weekend? Oh well, it was nice knowing you, but this kind of abstention spells goodbye in my book.
In fact, truth be told, food can be a minefield littered with the corpses of would-be friends. You want to share a salad? A salad? Seriously? You can’t even commit to an entire portion of lettuce leaves and rocket finished off with a touch of balsamico? Sorry, but that’s a deal-breaker for me. (Now, sharing a dessert – a nice, gooey, chocolaty concoction – that I can totally get on board with.)
Okay, you got me. I like a woman who enjoys her high-calorie treats, who doesn’t shy away from a bite of pasta or a slice of pizza. I like a woman who has an appetite and is not afraid to feed it. Though it can get a tad annoying if she stays startlingly thin at the end of all that face-stuffing.
And then, there are those women whom I know I would simply never get along with in a million years even if they shared my reading lists and my love for a perfectly crisp French fry. These are just some of the categories that come to mind:
1. The kind of women who wear high heels on long-haul flights. You see them at airports all the time,
teetering on laughably high stilettos, mincing along on shoes that look more like torture instruments. These are the women who would puncture the evacuation slide if the plane ever had to make an emergency landing. You want to steer clear of them.
2. Women who are rude to waiters. Though, to be fair, this one applies to men as well.
3. Women who treat their domestic staff badly. It doesn’t matter how beautifully you behave in company if you go back and terrorise your house help. If you can’t treat the people who clean and cook for you and look after your children for good measure with respect (if not love) then what hope is there for the rest of us?
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
From HT Brunch, May 6
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