Let’s celebrate the men in our lives!


We celebrate womanhood all the time. This Women’s day, let’s celebrate the men in our lives:

Men who may forget to get us gifts, but not to pick us up late at night while we’re at yelling them about it

Men who may not profess their undying love for us, but fret about our well-being in ways words could never do justice

Men who may not sit us down and declare how proud of us they are, but brag about us all around town

Men who, even when they’re kids, sacrifice their little joys just to see us smile

Men who go to wars, juggle careers, work every bit of their fibre, so that they could provide a better life for us. And all this without a shred of complaint!

We love you. We respect you. We may not need you. But, our lives would be nothing without you.
It is true that women are one of the greatest creatures on earth. Just like men!

Happy Women’s day!

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Valentine’s Day UNregistry: what NOT to get your woman on V’day


VD is the one day I shove the feminist in me and openly declare that I need pampering. And gifts are a big part of it. We can all wax eloquent about the joy of gift-giving but we know it’s bupkis when compared to the joy of unwrapping one. Finding a good gift for a woman is easier than finding a graphic scene in an Irving Wallace novel. As much as Men’s health magazine would have you believe, you need not delve deep into our core beliefs to get us one—A pretty, well-fitting dress that none of my friends have. A shiny-but-not-too-tawdry pair of earrings. A relaxing day at the spa followed by a home-cooked meal. Simple joys of life are all what we crave for.

Yet, men over-think it every year. Fights ensue. Insecurities are disengaged from their deep seats. Year-old issues are roused from the dead, ultimately leading to questions of the “where is the relationship going?” nature. In short, no action. Just angry reactions.

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Subtlety is overrated

I know that men are inundated with choice which could paradoxically limit their ability to choose. By flagging some of the options as verboten, I hope to ease the situation:

1. Gift cards

This includes all food coupons, department store cards (Victoria’s secret too), Amazon and iTunes cards. We get it. They’re utility-based gifts, but that’s something you give a long-distance friend when you forget his birthday, not someone you’re having dinner with that night.

2. Teddy bears/ figurines/statuettes of any kind

As much as we need to support our knees when we see one, we don’t want you to give us cuddly things. It just makes us look vulnerable. And we want to be pampered without appearing vulnerable. Same goes for figurines, but in a different way. Anything that could adorn a showcase in the house is best left for the wedding registry.

3. Chocolates

We love chocolates. Any shape. Any form. I am sure many men do too. That’s precisely why we don’t want them. Plus, you could get them at a Walmart.

4. Home appliances 

You might think that an easy-bake oven is the perfect gift for your wife/girlfriend who loves baking. Maybe for Christmas, sure. On VD however, no allusions or even mild winking at gender stereotypes. Even though we’ve all seen that scene from “The father of the bride.”

5. DIY books

Books on how to change a tire or fix the motherboard on the computer might speak to our feminist side, but remember how we decide to dump that side on VD? It’s best to steer clear of any procedural books for the day.

So, yes. The gift should be feminine, not feminist. It should be useful, not utility-based. It should make us feel pretty without being confining or stereotypical. And it shouldn’t look easy. That’s all it takes to make a woman happy.

Or you could just say that you don’t want to exchange gifts this year because spending time with her and seeing her  lovely smile trumps a million gifts. Your take.

The glass ceiling needs to be broken, but how?


I was looking for a binder to stuff my research articles in, when I got the idea for this post. Although this instinctive binder-to-women connection is a hat-tip to Romney—and probably the only thing I’ll remember him for—this topic has so deeply percolated into rhetoric and our daily lives, that it keeps ticking in all of us, on some level, regardless of gender. It evokes responses in magnitude and passion, probably second only to religion.

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Did Rosin alert her sons to their impending end?

I write this at a time when there are studies showing how women are not only on the road to out-earning men, but also, ushering in matriarchy (I think Hanna Rosin took a holiday from logic on that one). The numbers, however aren’t nearly as rosy, with a wage gap range of 18-19 cents per dollar based on weekly earnings to the oft-cited 23 cents based on annual wages. This has spiderwebbed into—of all things—a sense of hair splitting paranoia about discrimination against women.

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I am a feminist, and I believe that women should get equal rights and opportunities, and shouldn’t be discriminated against. And, yes, there are very few things I believe in with a fiery passion than that we should get paid equally for equal work. But, what I don’t believe—and this took some ratiocination to come to terms with—is that it can be forced. It is common opinion that legislating ‘leveling the playing field’ reforms would alleviate the problem. I disagree. Providing equal opportunities for women to compete with men in the market is poles apart from having government mandated policies that force employers to treat women differently in a feeble attempt to compensate for the parochial past. It is in the very nature of affirmative action to subvert free-will and, further drive a wedge between the classes it is meant to homogenize.

But, the problem we face is impending, and relying purely on the vagaries of the market isn’t going to snap the gap either. So, what do we do?

I think we should begin by examining if active discrimination is a major contributor to this gap—and if so—take measures other than crippling an employer’s choice, to negate it.  There have been studies showing that discrimination does not have as much skin in the game, as touted to be. Rather, this bloated perception of discrimination probably pushes the more logical, facile reasons under the rug. Like sexist stereotyping—for example—which is often wrongly confused with discrimination. While stereotyping is involuntary, and due to years of socialization, discrimination is more actively controlled. That is not to say that we shouldn’t or cannot repair our instinct to stereotype; just that it is a slower process. And, it sure as hell will not vanish at the sight of force. For the discrimination that goes on, we need to take actions by making selection processes gender-neutral wherever amenable. Case in point: I work in the field of biomedical research, wherein a crucial source of income is federally funded grants. Grant application is one process that is perfectly suited for gender-neutral screening, à la the gender-blind music auditions which proved to be quite a game-changer.

Next comes the market forces. One would think that the differences in pay between business schools and liberal arts ought to be market-driven, but some cry the gender bias foul play in this too. Nothing could be further from the truth. The market has been and will always function on the edict of demand and supply. However PC you make it sound, the demand for a degree in liberal arts is insignificant when compared to say, finance. The fallacious attribution to gender bias could simply be because more men have gravitated towards such high paying jobs, as, traditionally they have had to bring in the doubloons. That is not to say that women aren’t driven to the high-paying jobs or men, to the arts, or even that women aren’t equally contributing to the coffers today. It simply means that the market rewards only those who supply what it needs, how it needs, at the lowest possible price. The way the scene is set now favors paying women less than men because women often trade in flexible work hours and perks for the dough. In short, as long as they can afford to pay women lesser, employers are going to pay them exactly so.

There are two ways to shift this equilibrium and it’s entirely in our hands: offer to work for less, so that eventually men are forced to lower their demand to compete with you, or, move the other direction—demand more. We might be turned down a lot more due to the historical market value and the hiring inertia of employers in the face of sexual harassment and pregnancy related liabilities, but it will happen eventually. If enough women aren’t willing to settle, and are of value to the business, only a rookie or a total jackass would lose them to his competitor. I believe there are measures we could take to make this happen. Women are known to take a beating when it comes to negotiating salaries—this could be changed by hiring a neutral negotiator; someone who evens the disadvantage or prejudice on part of the employer. Not only would this ensure women get a better deal, but shall also set the whole equilibrium-shift in motion. Furthermore, women could start companies of their own and make sure they pay men and women equally. Heck, they could even pay women more, to make a point, if they can afford it! It makes much more sense virally promoting such women and their products, than tether them to some mandated sum of money they must get paid.

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We can do it…….without declaring war on men!

This way, once the employers are free to reward ability, at least the ones worth working for wouldn’t make the mistake of losing a valuable employee, and are more likely to accommodate their needs. It is important to remember that people’s notions do not change by coercion; they change when given the freedom to do so.

So, yes, the glass ceiling needs to be broken. But, not by holding a gun up to it.

Photo credits:

Mother inferior?—Wall Street Journal

Tumblr: feminism 

www.stthomasstandard.com

The end of a wordless argument


Image courtesy: bergheimfollies.blogspot.com

I wrote the first part of this story a while ago. Ram and Kausi are having problems in their marriage, which sends Ram in a strangely introspective spiral. This final part is from Ram’s POV, and starts off with a disturbing memory.

I had been flipping channels, finally giving in to Scarlett Johansson’s charms in Match point, when the little one had crept in, her fingers furiously digging her nose.

“You know, amma* is going to leave the house. She said it to the phone”

I remember wrestling with the kick-to-the-crotch missive my daughter delivered and the urge to stop her from making pipes out of her booger. She could be a manipulative puppy dog sometimes, but that was not it. Her cherubic face had a shadow of almost nonchalance. It might as well have been Morse code to her.

The facts, meanwhile, have been adding up like numbers on that building in Union Square. The household has’t exactly been cackling with familial warmth. The kids are either the only ones talking or the only issue being talked about. And now, Kausi has plans to flee. Great!

Kausi slams her notebook down, her lips pursed tight—which actually means she nailed the killer conclusion for her piece—and gets ready to sleep. You had to live with Kausi to learn these quirks, and how they could throw you off-kilter sometimes. She would be in the midst of a nerve-wrecking tirade about something I did, and the next moment, laughing about some slip-of-the-tongue she had while tearing me the new one. You had to keep up with her train of thought. More like a missile, really.

What could she possibly be missing in her life? Her writing career has never been better. Her dance students were going international. Our kids have her looks, and our brains. I’d like to think that must be making at least half of Cabbagetown envious. It has to be something else. Could it be that I don’t spend enough time with her, and express the hell out of myself, like all those fluff pieces keep spouting? No, It couldn’t be that simple. Who leaves the house for that? What do those hacks know about my marriage? Didn’t they also peddle the “women are more spiritually evolved than men” crap?

Wait! What am I thinking? Talking has never cut it for me, and I am already double-down. I need to dazzle her, sweep her off her feet, and stop thinking in clichés. Jewelry is out. Of all the stereotypes about women, Kausi had to defy the one most amenable to gifts. She has way too many sarees⁑, for my contribution to count. So, it comes down to the thing I hate the most—a vacation. Why do people feel the insufferable need to travel? Well, I guess I could take her to Florida. Yeah right! She’ll probably amp up the alimony and use it to have me killed—once she stuffs her 401K with it—if I took her from Atlanta to Florida. It’ll have to be international; European maybe. Some pretentious sounding place like Venice or Greece.

I could push the tender meeting to next week. The kids could stay at the Raghavans’, their creepy teenage son notwithstanding. Kausi’s students could wait a week to become the next Mallika Sarabhai. Wow! I’ve really outdone myself this time. A weeklong trip in Venice is at least quality time raised to ten. I can’t wait to see Kausi’s almond eyes split wider open with joy, when I surprise her with the tickets tomorrow.

Unless time isn’t the mother lode of my mess. What if it’s one of those global problems, gnawing away at the marriage, going hitherto unnoticed. What if she’s gone past the point of no return? And, just like that, I feel my marriage closing shut on me again, this time, pushing my ten thousand dollar vacation wedge mercilessly out of the way. Kausi stirs beside me; she has never looked more peaceful. Her peace added to my turmoil. She probably found an answer—an answer this peaceful can’t be good news. How am I going to live without her? Who is going to stop me from stepping out in a maroon shirt and grey pants?

But, whatever happens I am keeping the cuter child; she can handle the teenager.

The little one woke me up from my sleep—patchy at best—by doing the trampoline on my belly. The scene before my eyes shoots my morning crankiness in the eye—

Kausi is busy packing. Her stuff. The kids’ stuff. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would she leave without talking? I don’t hit her. I didn’t cheat on her. Heck! I don’t even smoke. I am a loving father. That’s it—

“Where do you think you are going?”

“I am taking the kids to Raghavans’ place. We can talk after that.”

“No! I want to talk right now. You can’t just leave me. Why are you doing this to me? What about the kids? I am not signing any papers.”

The kids look like they saw a unicorn grow fangs. I don’t care.

Kausi gives me a bewildered glance, her first this morning, while dragging the luggage out—“Papers? What papers? Why are your eyes so red? Look I don’t want to—

“You know what! Fine! You want to talk; let’s talk. I am glad you finally discovered you could piece words together. But, you can regale me on the way to the airport. I was sick of not being able to spend time with you; sick of complaining to my friends about you; sick of waiting for your ‘aha!’ moment. So, I booked us a trip to Venice. And, no, you don’t have a choice. I am prepared to kidnap you if it comes to that.” Her eyes shift guiltily towards the kids, but she’s quick enough to resume the bone-piercing look at me—like only a dancer can.

Is it my turn to speak? I venture, nonetheless.

“But, the kid told me-that’s the reason why-Oh! I get it now-I don’t know what to-should I pack my-what time did you say was the flight?”

The kids don’t look away as Kausi envelopes me in a kiss so raucous that I taste blood in my mouth.

I am so glad my tickets are refundable.

( * : Mother; ⁑ : Indian garment)

Flapping Fashion


Do you know what ‘maidenhead’ meant in the Tudor era? Or that hanging, drawing, and quartering was not a method to make a quarter pounder? If you do, you are probably a Netflix junkie or—like me—a Netflix junkie. No, seriously, like Adriana croons in ‘Midnight in Paris’, the past has always had a great charisma for me. I enjoy watching period films and reading about their lives: what they thought, how they spoke, what they wore. Save for this irresistible curiosity, you couldn’t have paid me to watch the ‘porn’ucopia that is ‘The Tudors’. Well, maybe if you offered truckloads. But then again, why would you?

Don’t read me wrong. I am not a romantic. I don’t fancy living without internet and antibiotics, and after watching Breaking Bad, without having meth as a career option. But, if there is one thing about the ‘golden age’ that grabs me by the eyes after King Henry VIII’s colorfully decadent life, it’s the fashion of those times. It’s fascinating how the social and political climate—mutating at an accelerating pace then—subtly manipulated the way people dressed. I am not a big fan of the corsets and the ass-enhancing bustles of the 1500-1800s; sun-repellent-dress induced rickets was probably a major cause of death then. I am talking about the fashion that came right after the docile ‘Gibson Girl’, and permeated more like a lifestyle, and revolutionized the ethos of feminine style. I am talking about the snazzy, bold, impossible to miss ‘Flapper’.

Zelda Fitzgerald—”The First American Flapper”
Scott used to call her the ‘golden girl’. This was way before she drove him to death!

A flapper was a mid-teen girl in the 1920s. What she did as a flapper has multiple interpretations though: some believed she was a frivolous, self-indulgent young girl flitting away like the proverbial butterfly; some called her a young prostitute with her open galoshes making the onomatopoeic flapping sound. Some even thought she was an older woman simply being curious and open to experimentation. Frivolous or not, young or old, her flamboyant personality was hard to ignore. What made her special was not only an impeccable sense of style—their time saw the first little black dress—but also what it signified. The flapper lifestyle sprouted hot on the heels of the first world war, as an act of decrying feminine stereotypes. With the men away at war, women had begun to step out of the Küche and enter the workforce.  Also, the war wiped out a significant proportion of young men—men who were either of marriageable age or who were already married. This left scores of young women without partners and left to fend for their own. Could there have been a better time to rebel?

So it began: women dated, flirted, indulged in alcohol (it was the time of prohibition), smoked and danced Jazz. The flapper was the human equivalent of a one-shoulder dress—something about its asymmetry makes you take a second look. She was the textbook non-conformist (did I just use an epigram?), very much like an Alexander Mc Queen of the 1920s: flouting norms, making bizarre look fashionable.

Do you want to have some more carnal knowledge of me?

It was no coincidence that the flapper reign dovetailed perfectly with the first wave of the then nascent feminist movement, spawning a rebirth of clothing styles, as with any cultural upheaval. Women fiddled with different cuts and silhouettes—silhouettes that were comfortable, and cuts that did not shackle them literally or figuratively. They stepped out of their asphyxiating corsets, and chopped off their Goldilocks tresses. Hems rose; waistlines dropped. Sleeves became entirely optional. For the first time in history, they exposed their legs, which, coming at the tail of the gargantuan-gowns-and-flounces era, was a whirlwind of a change. It was a trend not only embraced by the elite—the ‘torchbearers of fashion’—but also by a huge chunk of the 99%.

What was striking, even contradictory about the flapper was the watering down of the feminine, voluptuous look of the Victorian times—tubular, flowing outlines, flatter chests for the garçon look—juxtaposed with the flamboyant makeup and flirtatious behavior clearly meant to attract male attention. However sexually dissonant this style was, it seemed to work for the men. The flapper was new, strong, confident, sexually assertive teetering on the edge of racy—basically, every man’s fantasy.

I know I could ramble on vacuously about cuts, drapes and silhouettes and probably get away with it. But, that wouldn’t be very rewarding to your patience thus far, would it? So I pause right here and give you my absolute favorite picks from the flapper wardrobe:

1. THE DRESS

Marion Cotillard brings her Flapper A game, headband and all. Très magnifique!

2. THE CLOCHE HAT

These adorable hats could double up as protruding ear correctors

3. THE MARY JANE

Flappers sure knew how to ace the sexy-librarian look with these lovelies

As a dewy-eyed enthusiast of all things fashion, I find it hard to imagine that the almost viral presence of the flapper lifestyle lost its zing by the turn of the decade. While I am an optimist, and truly believe that the world is only getting better to live in, I won’t deny naively wondering sometimes: Had the essence of flapper-feminism stayed on, would we still be bickering about shaving our legs for men?

Picture credits:

en.wikipedia.org

polyvore

costumesupercenter.com

imgfave.com

justjared.com

Flickr.com (@McArt)

ebsqart.com

heels.com

kylet.myweb.uga.edu

 

Four things I would do if I were cheated on!


I like to plan things—down to the shreds. It gives me a feeling of faux-security, a vicarious control over my future. You don’t get a second shot most times. I have my proposal all planned—I decided to go with the shrieking and jumping up and down bit, followed by a twinkling tear to go with the diamond. I recently perfected the move I would use to handle the bum making lewd gestures, if he were to come within arm’s distance. And my Nobel acceptance speech has been ready for ages, save the few tweaks I make every time I read William Zinsser (His ‘On writing well’ is a delightful read).

It’s just something I do. Regardless of how unlikely the event is. Which brings me to the topic of my post: what would I do If I were cheated on? This one probably belongs to the hall of fame of unlikely events, but is certainly possible. And, yeah, now would be the best time to call me a twisted, paranoid lunatic for planning my boyfriend proposing to me and cheating on me in the same breath. But, this is a brain child of not only my neuroses; it’s mainly my compulsive watching of Mad men. There have been legends about men philandering, but nothing quite like the spectrum of skirts Don Draper has gotten himself into, scared the living hell out of me.

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My wife walked in on my fivesome! (via google images)

I don’t pretend to imagine what one endures when they gain knowledge of this horrible fact. Even constructing a scenario gives me the chills as I see myself doing things that would need Bobby Donnell to keep my ass out of jail. But, whatcha gonna do? The topic is such that it shoves the vilest of human emotions bubbling to the surface. A relationship hinges on mostly intangible attributes, the most valuable of them being trust. When some jerk stamps all over this already intangible mess, there is very little legal respite you’ve got. I checked it out. Adultery as a crime has no teeth unless you live in Michigan or are willing to settle for $10 in Maryland.

As much as I picture unleashing my feral side at the thought of adultery, I know I am not capable of violence. But, I am no saint either; no turning the other cheek for me. The least I can do is be prepared. So, here I am, shrugging off a thousand sanctimonious voices advising me that life cannot be planned, to present my cheat-sheet—a bite-sized guide for the future me reminding how to get a good deal out of the whole adultery business.

1. Make a kick-ass pre-nup

This should keep most men in their pants, when done the right way. Granted that this is a preventive measure, but what the hell, I am allowed to cheat in semantics. Invest in a good lawyer and make an air-tight prenup agreement; chances are if he’s ready to sign it, you wouldn’t need it at all. If not, you can sleep peacefully knowing you can make him pay through his teeth whenever you want.

2. Leave him

Stop reading what Prudence from Slate magazine has to say. Don’t bother what your shrink has to offer more than a couch to cry out the initial weepies.  Just dump him alright. It’s just not worth the rigmarole of forgiving and starting over. No matter how evocative his pleas of undying love for you, tell him he can shove it up an orifice of his choice. You don’t give second chances; not in this department.

3. Shop! Shop! Shop!

As much as you feel like listening to Adele, shrouding yourself in an introspective bubble, break out of it. Take a shower. Let him do the “what went wrong?” song and dance. You—soak in a spa massage, get those Zooey Deschanel bangs you thought you were too old for. Or that red silk Valentino number you wishfully gave up tiramisu for. The phrase ‘nothing to lose’ never had more meaning.

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Douches come in all sizes and shapes (via google images)

4. Learn to identify a douche

You can’t always thwart infidelity, but you can learn to weed out the riffraff early on. For example, if your guy has a friend who needs relationship help three nights a week, he’s probably screwing you over (with a guy/girl? don’t ask). If he is okay with you having ‘headaches’ every other day, yet wakes up looking like a million bucks, he’s probably getting some on the side. Also, if his face takes up as much space in the media as the state of Florida, there’s a good chance he’s the power-driven, alpha-male prototypic philanderer we all hear of. Nothing condones infidelity, but if you approach a tiger like you would, your garden variety cat, then this cheat-sheet is of no use for you!

PS: This post is just a light-hearted take on an emotionally catastrophic event; I do not mean to trivialize it. 

PS1: I am not a rationally closed off femi-nazi who thinks infidelity is a male turf; women cheat too (the relative numbers are irrelevant here). I am sure men go through hell when it happens. So, I give you the stage. Take potshots. Make your craigslist sugar daddy jokes. I’ll root for you.