Disclaimer: No women were harmed while writing this story
Women don't understand men. Yes, you read that right. We’ve been pretty much hearing it the other way round since we were born – that we babies, we boys, we guys, we men just didn’t figure you babes, you girls, you chicks, you women. So if we want to play the record the other way round for a moment, just deal with it and if possible try and enjoy the music. But don’t get us wrong, this article is not written by a couple of misogynists to be read by a whole bunch of the same breed. We love you ladies. But as Cruise old boy sort of said in Jerry Maguire, Help us help you…in trying to understand us better.
We out-populate you on this planet, yet how many times have we heard you talking in your circle of friends and asking: “Where are all the good guys??” And you didn’t restrict this little puzzle to your conversation: you took it to your magazines, your books, your TV soaps, your movies, you took this question everywhere…till we were left wondering, “Where are we??”
In her book, Love in a Headscarf, author Shelina Zarah Janmohamed gets it spot on. The book chronicles the journey of a young, independent Muslim woman based in London in search of the ONE. Sample the chain of thought of the protagonist and her friends: Women are amazing; where are all the decent men; maybe we are the wrong kind of women; oh my god, we are never going to get married; the perfect man is out there just waiting for us (sigh!). Change the scene and setting to New York, New Delhi or Ulan Bator, we find the dialogue between fine young women pretty much takes the above course.
All we would like to tell you lovely ladies is that please, please, please dispel these apprehensions. And while you are at it, please also dispel the belief that there are no good men left (all the good men were taken by other women, other men, or just turned into vampires). To answer your million-dollar question, ladies, ‘We are right here.’
Time to put some myths to the test
Women think: “My man should be tall, dark, handsome, charming, intelligent, yada yada...”
We figure: Confine your list to the grocery (leave us out of it!)
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess, who, like many beautiful women in generations to follow, had a ‘list’ of the qualities she sought in her man. Did she finally find her man? Well, in a way...she found her men. Five, to be precise. Her name, if you are wondering, was Draupadi. As writer Devdutt Pattanaik writes in his book Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata: In her past life, Draupadi had invoked Shiva and asked for a husband who was honest, a husband who was strong, a husband who was skilled, a husband who was handsome and a husband who was knowledgeable. Shiva had said, “You will get all five men that you want for no single man, except God, can have all such quantities.”
Times changed, men changed, women changed, and so did the ‘list’ – it got longer and more demanding. When the author of Of Love And Politics Tuhin Sinha tried to live up to the list, he says jokingly that he only “ended up being on many a hit-list!” and now the only list that matters to him anymore is the ‘Bestsellers’ list.
Advaita Kala, the writer of Almost Single and the soon-to-be-released film Anjaana Anjaani, however, feels that most women don’t have a list and “it’s more like ‘impulse buying’ hence all the worries! We chance upon something we like, and wonder, if this just might fit.” But is drawing up the list practical? “Women and practical! You must be kidding,” quips Sinha.
No, but seriously, we’d like to hear it from a lady. “Absolutely not! It’s a silly thing to do and sets them up for a fall. They should keep in mind that nobody’s perfect – and particularly not men,” says Rupa Gulab, the author of Girl Alone.
Women think: “OMG, he’s hitting on me!”
We figure: If we approach you at a bar, don’t immediately call security. Hear us out first.
We admit upfront, that sometimes we really don’t have very smart things to say when we approach single ladies wherever and yes, there also might be occasions when calling security is not completely unjustified, for as media professional Ashoka Varshini recalled, the last time she was approached by a man was because “he wanted me to pay his bill. I told him to f*** off!”
She did right. But how do the ladies figure men are hitting on them and not just making conversation and getting to know them? “Flirting is like body odour and everyone has a unique way of doing it”, says editor and author Shinie Antony. “Flirting is for sending out feelers. I’d say when a man continuously focuses on your looks, he is definitely hitting on you. He will say something like, ‘What do you do apart from looking very (long pause), very attractive?’ It is a fulltime job, dude!”
But then there are apples and there are oranges…as there are men who are gentlemen and there are men who are not. Sinha is clear that were he to approach a girl at a bar it would be “to know her, of course, unless she has other plans.” And sometimes, he feels that “women hallucinate molestation”, even when a man so much as approaches them at a bar!
Urvashi Gulia, who has been signed on for her debut novel by Penguin, however admits being surprised. “In most cases I’d be tempted to believe he wants to check out the colour of my pants, but then some men surprise you by simply paying a compliment, having a small chat and that’s it. I guess I’d say its more a person thing.” That’s what we’ll like to say too.
Women think: “Men are commitment phobic”
We figure: Ever heard of The Runaway Bride?
We simply loved Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. She didn’t exactly vindicate men from the allegation of being commitment phobics, but told us an important thing – that it works both ways.
Adman Prahlad Kakkar feels there is nothing surprising that a man would find it difficult to commit to just one. “Look at nature, the alpha male never sticks to one, he has to prove that he is the best genetic specimen of his territory and therefore his progeny will have the greatest chance of survival. It’s built into his DNA. The human alpha male is the same,” Kakkar said.
But even as we sort of (read ‘maybe’) commit to being commitment phobics, we aren’t really trying to pin the same tag on all womankind. There’s probably truth in what Gulab has to say: “Suppose I turn that around and say that men aren’t commitment-phobic. It’s more a case of women being commitment-philes. And we can blame that squarely on God. Men are just not in a hurry to get married because they don’t have a biological time bomb ticking furiously. Even the oldest male geriatric in the Guinness book of world records can still have babies, while most women shut shop by the time they hit the forties.”
Women think: “I’m beautiful, smart, sexy and out of this world – I am God's finest creation! But I’m still single!”
We figure: You’re amazing, we agree...but so are we.
Eve, we have no doubt, was a temptation and one of God’s finest creations. But do remember, she was carved out of Adam’s rib. But then like all creators, the lord’s craft we figure, got sharper the second time around.
Papa CJ, a stand up comedian says: “I KNOW that women are God’s finest creations. If I thought it were men I’d be gay!” But not all men agree. Rishi Seth, a marketing professional based in Delhi, will probably have difficult time selling himself to the fairer sex after what he has to say: “Anything with a complex mind, that has terrible mood swings, and leaks five days every month can hardly lay claim to being God’s finest creation.”
But seriously, while we would be foolish and blind if we thought you ladies were anything short of fabulous, we figure we aren’t a bad bargain either. “We are what women are not: the optimum combination of brain, brawn, unconventional good looks, sensitivity, right sensibility and least boring!” says Sinha. Now, that’s being modest.
Women think: “We’re just best friends!”
We figure: Look beyond the friend
“I’ll be there for you….”
Rings a bell? That’s the theme song from the sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S, where a bunch of girls and guys are friends and often much more. While we understand that hunting close to home is not always the best idea, let’s just say, at least in this case, it’s familiar terrain.
“Friendship is the basis of a good relationship and women figure out pretty quickly if a guy is the guy or he is the ‘other guy’, says Kala. “Too often, some guys are always parked in ‘other guy’ space and that can be frustrating. But you know, friendship is not the worst outcome to an interaction and chances are it will last longer.”
But who exactly is the ‘other guy’? Educate us, please. “Boyfriends and best friends who happen to be male are two separate things”, says Gulia, “The former is who you crib about to the latter, with the added benefit of getting a gender-specific perspective. In a male pal, you seek unconditional support, in a boyfriend you seek to sort out his baggage. One is bonding, the other bondage.”
And while we're still trying to work that out, here’s what Twinkle Bhattacharya, a chocolate-maker from Pune has to say: “Once slotted into a ‘friend’ category, it gets difficult to imagine them kissing our ear lobes! It goes beyond trust. Besides, he’d already know me inside out. The unravelling of a person in love makes the journey that bit more special.”
While we are all for friendship, we sometimes do not want the ‘buddy’ tag, when our heart shifts gears. “I demand that all personality development courses should include a module for guys on how NOT to be slotted into the ‘he’s just a friend’ category”, says Ajit Khanna, a final year student. Maybe then we would get to kiss those ear lobes.
Women think: “All men think with their *****”
We figure: We got YOU on our minds, not just sex
The key to understanding this complex issue that has plagued womankind for centuries lies in the last three words you just read. It’s not just sex. Which means that it is, at least partly, sex. “Apart from sex, I think men have long religious pilgrimages on their mind,” says Antony. Gulab adds “That’s not a fair thing to say – they also have beer on their minds.”
Really? Pray, tell us what was on your mind then “I had marriage on my mind the last time I approached a man,” Antony quips. We beg to differ. We have been maligned by a few bad Tigers. All men are not the same and do not need therapy for sex addiction. Papa CJ supports us whole-heartedly: “Number one, nobody is that talented on the golf course. Two, every man does not have a billion dollars in the bank. And three, some men know how to not get caught.”
But believe us, when we look at you we think…is she smart and does she have a sense of humour? (will she find me funny?), is she dolled up? (Is she high maintenance?), is she nice? (Is she hot?) and if she is, does she have a twin? (two is company, three is a party!) So what else do we have on our minds apart from sex, we asked Papa CJ: “I’m sorry I didn’t understand the question.”
Women think: “He loves cricket, not me!”
We figure: Come on, girl, be a sport!
For this segment, we actually had a survey a few months back, that pretty much put us in the dock. It revealed that most men would prefer watching a cricket match over a hot date. So we aren’t going to fight this. But what we’re hoping is that you ladies will show some understanding and not think we are snubbing you. “I don't feel snubbed. I just feel like buying another TV for myself!” says Gulab.
“If cricketer eye candy quotient went up – like that of soccer players, there would be far fewer complaints,” says Kala. Alright, we’ll pass on the request to BCCI. But, do women really hold a banner against sports? “Are you kidding me, you should have seen the girls in front of the TV when Imran Khan used to play!” says Kakkar.
So that’s it for now. Here’s saying goodbye ladies, though we really hope it’s a hello.
Your mom’s wisdom v/s my papa’s preaching
Don’t put all your money on one horse, keep your options open
Don’t settle for the first man who shows interest in you
Let your mind rule and not your heart, dear girl
Never marry a mama’s boy and never share a kitchen with the mom-in-law
Make sure that you have the keys to his house and everything in his world
Don’t treat women like horses, they are a different type of animal
Remember that your first love is always special
If you don’t have a heart, you got nothing
Son, if you don’t respect your mother, you will never be able to respect your woman
You wear the pants in the house. Your woman will look more elegant in a skirt
Would you like us better if we were vampires?
Why he rocks: The Twilight dude is 104 years old but still features in the fantasies of 16-year-old females. How? He doesn’t look it.
Why he sucks: His idea of dinner is raw deer. On good days, it’s mountain lion.
Why he rocks: He is a tall, blue-eyed, blond hunk and he’s looking for True Blood (TV series).
Why he sucks: Because he has the nerve to ask the leading lady to suck out a bullet from his chest, the despo!
Why he rocks: The big daddy of all fanged creatures shares his castle in Transylvannia with three beautiful female vampires and is good to fight 20 men at a time.
Why he sucks: He doesn’t!
Search for Write Luv
For author Shelina Zahra Janmohamed the search for love was a long but fruitful journey
Your book, Love in a Headscarf, chronicles the journey of a young independent Muslim woman in search of love. Is it the same for women all over the world?
The challenges are remarkably similar, as much of the journey for self-discovery and love is determined by social, demographic, cultural and family traditions.
What are the typical worries of modern, independent women when it comes to love and marriage?
I think we worry about finding someone who can appreciate us for all that we are, who will respect our opinions, and who will let us be exactly who we are, and let us flourish as independent self-determining women. But who also understands that this doesn’t mean we reject family, community or men.
According to you what are the major cribs women have against men?
It may surprise you to know that I’m actually quite pro-men: I’m married to one myself! I don’t think it helps the dialogue between men and women to berate men, or criticise them. We don’t talk openly enough in society about what both men and women experience in relationships and what their expectations are.
What are the reasons behind these cribs?
I think where the heart of the issues lies is that men and women are coming into relationships with quite different expectations, and are not communicating properly about what they are both hoping for, and how the relationship will work.
Do you think chick-lit reflects the emotions and longings of modern independent women?
Sometimes we just need to escape from the challenges of life into a sweeter, funnier world, where worries are resolved, and men and women find their place! Both love and humour are universal themes.