An old friend of mine posted a hilarious exchange he had with a Sri Lankan doctor. The conversation was about marriage and the doctor’s quest for a ‘nice woman, a teacher-type, with long hair who would wear saris, keep a beautiful house and raise the kids’. My friend being genuinely modern, egalitarian and effortlessly respectful of and chivalrous to women said he found himself going, ‘WTF?’ in his head but refrained from saying it.
Coming from him, I laughed and laughed and laughed.
But the exchange reminds me of how casually these words are bandied about by people, young and old, male and female, who are for all effect, the very thing they say they despise.
I find that sort of deeply entrenched ‘traditionalism’ or machismo far, far more disturbing. Both in that you find it where you least expect it, and that in existing in those who consider themselves truly enlightened, liberal and progressive, it takes on an even more virulent form.
I have been shocked to discover it in women friends and relatives who have otherwise seemed fairly liberal in the way they comment on unusual family situations in surprisingly prescriptive and narrow-minded ways.
And I have been startled to find it in male friends and relatives who go around holding flags and banners for all sorts of causes but in their most intimate relationships display the same sorts of
aggressive, insensitive and bullying behaviour that they say they loathe.
A dear cousin of mine who is incredibly gentle, insightful and kind says some of this ‘just is’ in the genes. He says no matter how much he ‘knows’ it, he finds himself returning mindlessly to ways of behaviour, expression and decision-making vis-a-vis his wife and partner of 20 years that are as he calls it ‘indescribably male’: casually overlooking her opinions, bull-dozing his way through decisions and informing her rather than consulting her on things big and small.
And yet, the problem is not of course with the gender but with the way both men and women seem to agree to entrench themselves in opposite and adversarial positions — and find themselves, before too long, sinking in the mire without recourse to alternative ways of life, living and loving.
On a positive note, I have to say, I have felt very, very, very happy to have met a few young couples here and abroad, who hold a light to a better dynamic in being nearly equally considerate, compassionate and giving with one another. And especially happy to have met and heard about the new-found partner of an old, dear friend who had spent years and years lamenting the absence of a loving companion, and who found at the other end of the world, a wonderful man who seems to still surprise her by being real, loving, deeply kind and right beside her!