Thursday, June 26, 2008

You make him do so much work!

“How can you leave him alone at home and have a girl’s night out? He actually helps? You are very fortunate! You ask him do work around the house? Poor thing. He does the dishes? That’s sacrilegious! Why does he have to make tea when we are here? He wakes up at night to change the baby’s diaper? He has started helping such a lot; you are very lucky. Do you thank him enough?"

I have to say, while writing those aforementioned words, my heart was cringing and hands were scratching to smack the creators of such insipid allegations. Basically, what you read above is a gist of all the offensive, irksome, insulting, insensitive, sexist dialogues most women have to bear with when men in their lives help them around the house. Interestingly enough, this display of dismay and horror is done more by women and less by men. I guess, most men are apathetic towards “who’s doing what;” most women struggle to keep an emotional filter between their brain and their mouth. They are too quick to pass judgment based on their trite postulations, archaic mindset, and esoteric thoughts.

Initially, I thought these allegations and stereotypical attitudes are more reflective of our Asian society. I was wrong; it’s prevalent in the western world as well. A snippet of a conversation between my very close friend and her grandma shows how thoughtlessly un-evolved women can be towards their own gender.

My friend: Hi grandma! How are you?
Friend’s grandma: I am good. Where are you? I hear noise.
My friend: I am in midtown; just met up with a few friends for drinks after work.
Friend’s grandma: You are out with your friends, so where is your husband?
My friend: He’s at home. Watching TV or relaxing, I guess.
Friend’s grandma: How can you leave your man alone at home? What will he eat? How will he manage? If you continue doing this, he will leave you for another woman!

I am confused:

  1. Why do women rave about equality when it comes to their own good but assume a sexist role when it comes to other women?
  2. An acquaintance once said to me, “Its okay for him to wash the bathroom but not to do the dishes. He is elder to me and is the man of the house.” I didn’t know that house hold chores have gender roles attached to them. It’s acceptable for a man to buy grocery but to not make tea or chop vegetables?
  3. Its okay for a man to socialize after work but the woman should rush home to accomplish her wifely duties?
  4. When the man and woman come tired after a long day’s work, it’s adequate for the woman to solely serve the family and for the man to get served? Oh, the illusion that slavery is dead!
  5. The lady of the house is expected to be a multi-tasker -- juggle work, home, family, friends etc. while the man has the luxury to bask in pampering?

According to the most recent figures from from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households, average wife does 31 hours of housework a week while the average husband does 14 — a ratio of slightly more than two to one. This ratio is applicable to couples where both the man and the woman work.

I am appalled as this whole issue is bigger than sexism, criticism, equality, favoritism, or multi-tasking; it’s about humanity or lack of it. Men get sympathy and accolades for their minutest efforts; women have to deal with the nonchalant, “It’s your duty to manage all or how can you make him do such a lot of work?” The unfair societal expectations from a woman are synonymous with undue compromise.

I believe there are no fixed recipes of what’s right and what’s wrong. Why comment when you don’t know the entire story? What works for one couple, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. In today’s times, with both the man and the woman working such stressful jobs how is it fair that the man has the flexibility to choose his amount and kind of contribution but a woman has to do it all?

More until next time.


Copyright © 06.26.2008

“I see when men love women. They give them but a little of their lives. But women when they love give everything.” - Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 20, 2008

Do I have a tattoo on my forehead that reads, “Feel free to ‘fess?”

One of my dear college buddies said to me the other day, “You know a lot of weird people—like mythological characters who I thought exist only in books or TV shows.” Sure, I indeed know a lot of people who might not necessarily fit the expected, societal stereotype of gentility. Whether they qualify for the outlandish category, is a matter of personal conviction. I sincerely believe in, “To each, his own.” I feel these so called “bizarre” people end monotony and add flavor and color to life. They own a ubiquitous zing of their own. Their style, voice, opinion, persona is unique if not contagious. They make for beguiling company and fascinating conversations.

What I do find baffling, is running into people out of nowhere on New York streets, and them opening up their Pandora’s Box to me—all too fervently. I can bet lots of you have been in that awkward position where “declaration of guilt or emotions,” by random people has made you awfully uncomfortable. Not responding can be misconstrued as being apathetic and impolite; and acknowledging it gives you discomfort and nightmares.

Listening to your friend vent or confide is one thing; hearing an acquaintance ramble about their personal life especially, is disconcerting, to say the least. I have heard about Freudian theories, breakups, makeup, romantic escapades to sordid tales of changed gender preferences. The last one had fumes coming out of my ears. My heart begged for mercy, but I was given cockamamie reasons for the “grand heart to heart.”

One evening, in my quest to digest the copious amounts of food I ate for lunch, I decided to do my let’s –walk- 30 –blocks- and -then -catch -the –subway-home-in-order-to- burn- those- darn- calories. As I was striding down New York streets, I had the fortune of running into a social contact. In less than eight minutes, this person revealed that their better half, in one of those “not-to-self” moments, realized that their life and preferences had been shrouded in mystery. So, believe it or not, this partner declared their changed preferences to my social contact: from heterosexual to homosexual. This acquaintance’s story was sadly but truly, like a Bollywood movie. The changed scenario led to my acquaintance being homeless for some time. Again, if it was a friend, without bat of an eyelid, I would have offered to host them at my apartment for sometime; with an acquaintance, I couldn’t expand my horizon of words to beyond, “I am sorry to hear that or I can’t believe he did that.” I genuinely felt sorry, but couldn’t determine my “what’s appropriate” boundary.

This other time, I almost choked on my meal when this borderline comrade revealed that she was gay. I am not homophobic or judgmental about someone’s personal life. In fact, I couldn’t care less. I was just startled by the messenger of the news, who assumed we were pals, and it was perfectly fine dining etiquette to divulge the information when they did. Response to that revelation was a Herculean task. I kept wondering, “Should I say good for you or you go girl” or just imperturbably pretend that it was the corn that had caused me discomfort?

I can’t help but scrutinize the occurrence of these incidents. I am beginning to wonder if there is a tattoo on my forehead, visible only to meshuga that reads, “I am a confession box, my child. Bear your heart to me.” Folks who know me can testify that I am a maladroit person when it comes to agony aunt tales. Why can’t acquaintances fight the urge to share superfluous stories with me? Maybe it’s an inchoate idea, but I wonder if I have a certain je ne sais quoi that encourages people to confess.

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.20.2008

“Why was I born with such contemporaries?” - Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shush it; I don’t want to talk….…..

People who know me well must be wondering, “Sure. Now that is some statement. For a person who can never keep her mouth shut that is quite an announcement.” Well, all you guys second-guessing my proclamation and jumping to conclusion, the title of the post is dedicated to that one aspect of my personality that abhors the sound of words. My close friends call me a social butterfly but there are those rare moments – granted they are far & few in between, when I yearn to be a monk. My heart echoes just one emotion: Silence is bliss.

Those moments when I loathe the homo sapien interaction: The fitness freak element in my personality refuses to be au fait with parleys. I’d like to think that I am reasonably amiable; but, while partaking in my exercise regime, I loathe the cacophony produced by human buzz. I am not emulous but obsessively committed to my workout sessions. It is my time and space, and I do not appreciate anyone encroaching upon it. I can’t help being hoity-toity; unintentionally, I morph into an anti-social element as soon as the adrenaline starts flowing and oxygen starts pumping--just pop in my iPod and get some groovy music going. For those defined moments, I feel like Jane Fonda. Alas, if only it was that simple.

Random people seek out a friend, guide, and philosopher in me: So, every single vacation that we take, I swear, I have an unwarranted episode of “people interaction” that displeases me to no extent—of course, while I am exercising. There could be gazillions of people in the swimming pool or the fitness area or the hiking trails, yet, Homo sapiens find a reason to converse with me WHILE I am in my aerobic mode. To be candid, my “fitness look” is cold and uncongenial. Then, why?

Just my Luck: No, I am not talking about the Lindsay Lohan movie but literally “my luck” or lack of it when it comes to finding harmony while I am exercising. Last year, during one of our vacations, I was in the pool, burning calories and building an appetite for a second round of “clam chowder” and “fried shrimp”. Two kids decided to wade through the water, break my stroke, and ask me an asinine question. They wanted to know if I was a boy—in their defense, I had the head gear on. My inner desire was to smack them (maybe shoo them); not because they thought I was a man but because they broke my swim. Seriously, I was timing the laps.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, two little boys in the pool of the hotel where we were staying at in Maine decided to befriend me. I tried ignoring their “let’s chat approach,” initially, but it became a tad bit embarrassing when they started throwing a fit; they wanted me to join them for dinner. I was startled, flattered, mortified, and of course, a tiny bit aggravated---by their surprising apparition. All this emotional uproar happened while I was getting my work out for the day.

Why people fancy the “exercise maniac” in me: It’s not that I am approached by outlanders at random everywhere I go. These unpleasant interactions are limited to my “fitness time”. While exercising, do I radiate some incomprehensible weird energy that strangers find alluring? Why do they misconstrue my glacial indifference for a friendly banter? In fact, why do I loathe socializing while exercising and treasure it at other times? Hmmm. I continue my journey to seek answers to my esoteric rants -- as I write….

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.13.2008

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Soi-disant -- A part of me has died; who is to blame?

I love my family: This includes folks on both on my husband's side and my side. I love staying in touch with them, visiting them, or just merely talking about them. Like most other people, I am mostly nuts about my family but there are times, I think they are nuts.:-) In a nutshell, like every other family, we are a sweet, crazy bunch. In fact, in one of my super-compassionate cum vulnerable moments (perhaps while watching a movie based on the Italian mafia), I said to my husband, “I am very Italian; I adore my family and I love to cook.” It's a running joke between him and me as he said that like Italians, Indians too love their family and food. Oops! My bad; I was searching for that common genealogy between one of my all time favorite historical characters, Julius Caesar and myself.

Behind that humorous facade, let me reveal the true “me”. This “me” represents an overwhelming number of Asian Indian immigrants residing in the US and a reflection into our emotions and why we are the way we are. It’s not a defense strategy but a candid tour through our hearts and souls.

That one common comment: Several of my friends have mentioned that at least one person from their family has said this line to them: “You have changed after moving to the US.” The allegation is directed towards the over-developed realistic side that deals with every situation in the same way: “It is what it is” OR “You got to do what you got to do.” It pinches the first time someone says it but is it really a stretch from the truth?

It's not like family and friends don't mean anything to us anymore; if anything, you just value and treasure them all the more. As a wise person once said, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Unfortunately, this country coerces you to become prosaic. That is quite an anti-thesis to the Indian culture.

The day I realized that a part of me was dead: A few years ago, one of my very dear friends in India was cribbing to me (over the phone) about her maid not showing up for two days at a stretch. My response was: “So? Life is unmanageable because for 2 days out of 365, you have to get off your butt and do something around the house? C’mon it is what it is.”

Had it been the times when I still lived in the physical lap of luxury in India (read as – the fairytale land where someone irons your clothes, cleans your house, and cooks for you), my attitude probably would have been benevolent towards my friend; however, today I have minimal patience for bickering and whining. It is what it is. I said to my friend, “Either you can mope about this help not showing up, wallow in self-pity and ruin everyone’s happiness at home or get real and prioritize what you’d like to do in the help’s absence and make a day out of it.”

Note to self: I felt the transition in myself where the word “sympathy” became synonymous ONLY with disastrous situations; help not showing up, didn’t qualify in that category. To me, my friend’s complaints sounded gratuitous and trivial in the grand scheme of life.

Self revelation: A lot of my friends and I are cognizant of this change in our personalities. It’s not premeditated but America does that to you. The country’s glorified persona has a dubious shade that no one ever speaks of. The over-glamorized lifestyles played in Hollywood movies don’t help either. America is called the “Land of Opportunities” or “Land of the Free” but no one tells you that it takes time, diligence, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, and a part of your shriveled heart to survive. Sadly, the hardships and challenges that you face as a new immigrant in America, kills that part of your heart that let's you empathize. Whether it’s the test of getting used to a new country, culture, currency, uncertain existence, lifestyle, or the agony of finding & keeping a job, legal status or what have you, at the age of thirty, you think like a sixty year old. There are times you await coup de grace.

Inexorable Truth: I know people who have been unable to attend a sibling’s wedding or a family member’s funeral in India because of circumstances. Can you imagine the hurt this powerlessness causes? Sure, it’s easy for people to say, “If they wanted to, they would have come.” Believe me, if one could, one would. Sure Bollywood movies and soaps on Indian TV portray NRIs (esp the ones living in the US) as cold-hearted, selfish, obnoxious fascists who can’t think beyond themselves. Au contraire. Very early on in life, you stop sharing what you are going through with people back home. The whole attitude is “What’s the point? Everyone is so far away. Why cause them agony?”

Family Malady: America does morph you into an over mature, pragmatic, lucid human as you lose the ability to think with your heart. An affliction in the past few days and my friend’s concern for me made me realize that I haven’t shed a tear yet; on the inside, I am choked up about this death in the family, but somewhere I know, I don’t have the right to let my heart rule over my head as there are people emotionally dependent on me. I do not have the liberty to grieve for this inexorable loss. I have mastered the art of thinking and feeling pragmatically with my head because “it is what it is” and c'est la vie.

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.05.2008

“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them” – Oscar Wilde