March 08, 2005

What do women want?

An existential conundrum that has haunted the fairer sex since time immemorial. This question show its obstinate face time and again affecting women on land, on sea and in air. She can be a pilot, she can be a strict mother, she can be a homely wife - it still surfaces every now and then in her mind - what does she really want? I can not claim to have solved the riddle but I state here, some related insights that I have gained in my life based on my interaction with more such confused women.

Lets take three typical women Ms.A, Ms.B, Ms.C, almost stereotypical in the way they interact with the world, each having predefined roles in society - some thrusted on them, some by choice. I give a brief character portrayal and behavioral traits that define these women. I will then proceed to analyze the question stated above in the context of my interaction with these women. I confess I have exaggerated a few of these social interactions below to highlight what I think characterize the turmoil in a woman's head - the answer to something men often ask with a puzzled expression on their faces, scratching their heads, searching for an answer there-"What is she really thinking?".

Ms.A - her life and something like that:
Ms.A, a spirited, emotional girl, deeply attached to the people in her life, not just bordering on but well into the realm of "possessiveness". She recently married a guy picked by her parents, everything happened the traditional "arranged marriage" way. The wedding was an expensive affair - the kind people talk about even many months later and say "The food was delicious". Post honeymoon, we received a number of nice photos from Ms.A and hubby, a long email followed that can be condensed to - "We are so happy.He is perfect, I could not have picked a better guy". At this point, I conclude Ms.A's role, rather abruptly, because I think I can make my point without travelling further into Ms.A's life.

My reactions:
When I heard Ms.A state directly to me that she thought her life was perfect, I was thrown into a state of turmoil. Men and the ignorant should note at this point that women in a group live in a state of delicate balance, maintained mentally based on the information they exchange with each other - a mental see-saw, if you will. After my talk with Ms.A, my mental see-saw became inconceivably unbalanced. Within a week, I had drawn comparisons between her life, her marriage and my life and relationship with k. I further proceeded to feel a mix of anxiety, restlessness and dissatisfaction about my relationship for a period lasting a few weeks. I then proceeded to talk to other close friends of mine questioning the validity of my relationship and finally proceeded to what these events usually lead to - a letting-off-steam, emotional-outpour and finally a stream of tears all directed towards k. k, as he normally is in situations such as these, was clueless. He said all the right things at the wrong time which infuriated me further; I added an additional worry-item to my mental see-saw - my significant other does not even understand me - a high priority, heavy weight item that further unbalanced what little balance existed.

Ms B - What is love?
Ms B, a graceful dancer, excellent singer but belonging to the clingier variety of women. The clingy, needy, whiny variety. Our local community considered Ms.B and boy friend inseparable and felt their names needed to be added to the list of Romeo-Juliet, Heer-Ranjha, Pritviraj Chouhan-Samyukta, you know how that list goes! At various points in my interaction with them I noticed how loving and lovey-dovey-cuddly they were with each other and felt "Ah, here is true love, I have been blind". To add further "poondu" to the rasam (just trying something new instead of fuel to the cliched fire), Ms.B confided in hushed tones to me that she felt she could not live without him or imagine a life without boy friend. She further questioned me if I felt the same about k.

My reactions:
I felt myself getting sucked into the vortex again, plummeting down in my mental roller-coaster. Innumerable questions came pouncing at me, characterized by three emotions - doubt, disappointment and resignation in that particular order. I re-analyzed my relationship and came to the conclusion that what we shared was just a pale shadow of true-love's distant cousin. I proceeded to isolate myself from people and spent many productive (so I thought), enlightening hours wondering why I could not share the perfect relationship that B shared with boy friend. This resulted in me not talking to k for the next two weeks and stating that our relationship is reaching an official closure now. He remained as baffled as ever.

Ms.C - To listen to the wife or not to listen
Ms.C, a friendly, good-natured, smiling girl - someone whose wavelength matched mine (the discerning reader would have realized by now that, that is a rarity in my life, especially where another girl is concerned). To cut a long story short, she married the guy she loved and we were very happy for her. She often told me about how child-like he was and how he would surprise her with expensive, impulsive gifts - yada yada. Recently they even had an extended honeymoon to someplace remote - cruising, candle light dinner - the works.

My reactions:
I would often listen wide-eyed to Ms.C's romantic escapades and wonder "why not me?". When do I get my share of silly, super-expensive watches with my name engraved in gold and the rest of my carefully hand-giftwrapped gifts hidden in potpourri in a room decorated with pink flowers and soft mind wanders, transported to this magical world and then poof, I am back to reality with a thud. At the risk of sounding repititive, lets just say I went through the whole cycle of emotions, yet again. k started looking up self-help books hoping that would help him figure out his life and mine.

The reality phase:
...and then reality dawned. Let me first fill you in on a few other events that took place in our subjects' lives. Ms.A had problems adjusting to married life and in-laws. Ms.B and boy friend broke up. Ms.C revealed to me later on that her child-like hubby does not participate in even small things that she enjoys because he considers them "childish", although they are still happy. I realized none of their lives was perfect. What they portrayed to the world was probably perfect, but their lives? Far from it. I guess, its hard for women to admit that they lead normal, imperfect lives, nothing really that makes them stand out from every other Jane, Cynthia or Bridget. When we get down to the nitty-gritty its always the same story - filled with compromises, negotiations, squabbles, tears and sleeping on the couches but in each of their lives are moments that make the struggle worth it. We can decide to concentrate on the negatives in our life and allow ourselves to be filled with self-doubt or we can dwell in those little nuggets of joy - the days when he gets up early and has a bed-coffee ready for you with just a tad more sugar and a tad less coffee than you would like, when his chivalrous front comes to the forefront and he wraps you in his jacket and gives you a rose, when he smiles at you crying because you are so very bad at cooking and hugs you consolingly, when he whispers "I love you" before he kisses you goodnight - those few moments make the whole relationship worth its while. k, meanwhile carries on, confused that I have been so very nice to him the past few weeks, little does he realize that a storm has come and gone, but it has left back colorful little conches and shells, each having a valuable lesson to learn and if he listens carefully, he will understand a little more about what women want.


BUS said...

i agree with u that nobody's life is perfect tho we want to believe it is the best ...according to me this is true for both men and women...comparison is the essence of living...if a person is not comparing himself to sthg or someone then he/she cannot evaluate their life and say it is perfect/imperfect...

Prabu Karthik said...

Is not life and relationships all too similiar to brushing teeth?
(i am assuming normal teeth)
we brush it first thing every day, then we forget it for the rest of the day.

The day we neglect it for longer than usual, our mouth begins to feel different.

Every damn thing in this life including relationships(i mean all kinds of relationships)has to be managed and maintained like our teeth brushing every morning.

I have never been in a serious relationship and I might get married sooner than I wish but yep I have no illusions how it will be and how it is going to be for the significant other(only i know how much of an eccentric crap that i am.)

yep it has to be maintained and managed.

Illena kashtam dhaan.

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