Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Woman's Career Is "Just An Option"



Not to panic, people! Sexism is alive and well. Just ask Trump. Or just call on people in my supposedly progressive neighbourhood.

Today, I was told that having a career is "just an option". Would such a statement have been thrown at a man? Absolutely not. Because, apparently, only men can have real jobs. For women, a job is just "an option". 

Deferring to the speaker's age (and possible signs of senility), I didn’t bother to retort. Sometimes it’s just best to let the half-wits think they’ve had the last word. Their words hold so little weight, it takes a whole lot of idiotic words, tacked clumsily together into barely intelligible ludicrous statements, for them to even become quote-worthy, you know?

Just what would these half-wits advise that us working women do with our lives? Marry men with "real jobs" and support them I suppose? In my case, this half-wit would rather have me spending my time looking after the day-to-day running of the apartment building in which we live. Don't get me wrong: I admire anyone who can take care of that AND keep up with a job that has round-the-clock demands. I am simply not cut out for it. I twirl and twirl and twirl, but Wonder Woman I am not.

Say, since my career is "just an option" that I can give up, who is going to pay to put food on my table? Since I’m a woman, clearly I should know my place and sponge off my parents perhaps? Or dip into the piggy bank of my brother, what with his real career and all. Or just depend on some random Mr. Money Bags, eh? Or wait... Jesus! He da man! He'll provide if I pray hard enough.

In this day and age, I am aghast that a woman’s career is still taken so lightly. I speak for both single and married women. 

For instance, single women friends have told me how they’ve been taunted for "having no responsibilities". As if marriage and babies are the only real responsibilities for women. How about running a house on your own? Planning your own life so that you’re never going to have to be financially dependent on somebody else? Single women run their own houses, pay rents and maintenance, commute a couple of hours to work each day, work 10 even 15-hour days, take on mortgages, support their parents, put food on their own dining tables, and so on. Those, dear half-wits, are responsibilities too. 

My married women friends, who "choose to continue working", fare no better. When they drag themselves in through the front door of their houses each evening after an exhausting day at work, what do they get? A nice warm cup of coffee is thrust into the hands of their spouse, while they’re dumped with a nice warm baby with a sopping, soiled diaper that needed to be changed three hours ago. Woohoo! Nothing says "Welcome home" better than squelchy poo!

I’ve heard men at a previous workplace tell us, their women counterparts, that they firmly believe men are the primary breadwinners while women are, by design, meant to be caregivers playing a supporting role. This sentiment voiced by men with shiny engineering degrees and fancy Master’s degrees. It just goes to show that education does nothing. Equality? Pfft! 

With such rampant misogynists around and women who continue to perpetuate the notion of this "career optional" mentality, are things really going to change any time soon? 

My boss, a woman I look up to and admire to the core of my being for doing it all and with such strength and poise, including co-founding the company, was recently asked by a business journalist how she supports her co-founder husband’s career. "Supports"? The fact that she co-founded the place is of no consequence – the natural assumption being that the men did the 'real work'. So a woman in a business is just there for what? Aesthetic purposes? To see that the coffee machines are in working order? To chase up on errant housecleaning staff?

Incidentally, in my apartment building, all maintenance responsibilities are carried out by women. Because, you know, the men have 'real jobs'. Yes, even the ones who’ve retired and vegetate in their houses all day. Ass scratching is a real job, you know. I believe the official designation is Chief Ass-ecutive Officer.

Anyway, what would I really know? After all, society says a working woman shouldn’t be taken seriously. Because a career is just an option. Just like a side of fries with your burger. 

I’m pretty sure this post is going to ruffle a lot of patriarchal feathers and raise some chauvinistic hackles. How dare this woman voice her opinion? How dare she speak out? How dare she place it on the internet for all the world to read? While I eagerly await their hate mail, I have one last thing to say to such indignant dunderheads:

Reading this blog post is just like a woman’s career to you – you know, optional.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thou Shalt Never Say No To Me

(Or The Lost Art of Accepting ‘No’ For An Answer)

My phone beeped. A text message.

“Blah! What plans 2nite?!!!”

“Dinner”, I tapped back.

“Cancel it! We’re meeting XYZ.”

I scowled – you know, my usual 'I smell something really rank and I might have stepped in it' face. This message from someone hardly that familiar to me. I resent being dictated to. Even an "Any chance you could cancel or postpone?" would have been far more polite and I would have reconsidered.

Digging my cloven hooves in, I typed back: "No."

My phone beeped again. "Do it."

I didn't bother further.

Every self-help guru out there seems to be spouting wisdom on how not to take ‘no’ for an answer. It’s about high time they shut their little pie holes, you think?

'Leaning in' is one thing. 'Sitting on and pummelling' - or being a pushy, obnoxious ass - is quite another. Unfortunately, that fat line between the two hasn't just been blurred – it’s been Brazilian waxed into oblivion. Yes, it's a sore point.

This brings me to the lost art of the Invitation. An invitation used to be a polite affair – a cheerful "come on over, this is going to be fun" sort of beckoning. It used to be truly inviting. It used to make you want to go, sometimes in an "I’ll grovel and kiss your stinky toes and clamber over your iron-spiked fence, pretty please, do not revoke this invitation" kind of way.

Somewhere along the line, an invitation has been equated with a commandment. It is the 11th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Say No To My Plan Ever, For Whatever Reason." For someone who has quite the reputation for being snarky, I have a surprisingly low tolerance for rudeness and pushiness.

Any time I *gasp* dare to say "no", I'm met with an immediate aggressive "But I've done A, B, C and bought D, E, F" and so forth. When I, oh-so-coldheartedly, stick to my guns, the person usually then resorts to whining and guilt tripping of sorts. "But you did not come for Occasion Z". What's with all the "butting"? That is just irksome.

It’s simple really. If you are issuing an invitation, the expectation is that people can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending. A gentle persuasion when you get a ‘no’ is okay. A spoilt-brat type tantrum is not.

Since when did it become okay to think that your plans must take precedence and override somebody else’s prior appointments?

For everyone out there reading this and thinking about the numerous times you've been pushed over and badgered into ungraciously accepting an ‘invitation’, please take heart. There are a few of us sitting around and smarting about it too.

Now, just dig your heels in as much as you can and say ‘no’ if you want to. And when a spoilt-brat type tantrum is received, simply issue an invitation of your own:

“You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” (Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

This Blog Ain't Dead Yet

Just taking some time out until the world stops spinning and I can safely extricate my head from between my knees. :P

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Other Tongue Blues

I’m always rather stumped when I have to fill out a form which asks me for my “mother tongue”. I have to resist writing “overworked” there. I also reflect fondly back on the boy in school who earnestly wrote “pink”.

Perhaps his confusion is quite reflective of what a handful of us feel. India with its gazillion languages, dialects and sub-dialects is mind-boggling to the unfamiliar ear. We drove the British out, kept their trousers, massacred their language and cried with indignation when they put tomato ketchup in Chicken Tikka Masala and called it their national dish.

And yet, in that melee, there were a few who chose to retain the English language as it was meant to be. A small motley group of people who know English to be their “mother tongue” – Wikipedia numbers this group to be about 225,000.

I’m one. I’m related to about 5 others and friends with a couple more. I don’t know where the rest have hidden themselves. A smart move since times are tough and circumstances are unwelcoming for Anglophones.

It’s equally frustrating to have to explain to an astonished foreigner and a gawping Indian that you've grown up speaking only English, your family communicates only in English (yes, even the grandparents and so on), you think in English and you struggle with vernacular languages because your brain is far slower than Google Translate on Internet Explorer on a dial-up internet connection. Yes, people like us exist. Yes, we’re Indian. Yes, this is our normal. And no, we do not think we’re better than everyone else.

An ex, an Englishman, was awestruck that I spoke as fluently as I did.

“Your vocabulary is even better than mine,” he exclaimed rather patronizingly.

“Why shouldn't it be?” I shot back. “My family is great with language, I went to a good school and I read a whole lot more than you do.”

“Well, yeah,” he acknowledged, “but, you know, you’re Indian.”

When he emailed a friend of his back in the UK telling him about his Indian girlfriend and that she “speaks only English”, the friend replied: “Did you mean she speaks no English?”

Say, how do you tell someone to fuck off in smoke signals? Or should I just tom-tom that on my Indian drum?

While travelling overseas, it’s somewhat insulting to be told I don’t sound like an Indian. Who are these Indians they've heard before? Ranjeet Singh in “Mind Your Language”? Call centre employees?

It’s no easier back home. My dad often tells of the times he and his brother were mockingly called “East India Company” for conversing fluently in English. My other ex - the loser Ducky - and his family tried to enforce their mother tongue on me and then rolled over and played the damaged victims when I dared voice my protest (yes, in English). A friend was told by a stranger to “Go back to England” when she got into a fender bender and tried to sort the matter out in English rather than the local language.

Anglophones are always given a really hard time. If you speak in English, they'll accuse you of being supercilious. If you try to speak a vernacular, they’ll mimic and mock your “anglicised accent”. If you shut up entirely, the men will call you shy and the women will label you snooty.

You can’t apply for several English-based teaching/writing jobs abroad because being Indian means you’re automatically not a “native speaker of English”. Even China’s “White is Right” policy means it prefers English teachers who are blond-haired, blue-eyed Westerners, particularly Americans, with pitiable grammar. We can’t seem to catch a break and it’s only getting worse.

There’s this sudden upsurge in enforcing the local language of the state on everybody. Our Prime Minister insists he will speak only Hindi while our state Chief Minister insists he will not look at any official documentation unless it is in Kannada. How they will ever work together is beyond me. But then, they’re politicians. Politicians don’t make anything work. They’re fluent in Stupidity.

There’s this ad on television currently which has a bunch of people lowering flags with English alphabets on them and raising flags with various alphabets in vernacular languages on them. Wouldn't it just be simpler to put in additional flagpoles instead and let the little English alphabets be? It’s sad. It’s very representative of what is happening in the country today.

We brag about our all-encompassing culture and yet curb one language for the sake of the other. We boast of a Constitution that grants citizens the freedom of speech but impose language restrictions on that speech. Hypocrisy is an unofficial language here and we're freakishly fluent in it.

We need to stop thinking of English as a foreign language. It may not be as old as some of our other Indian languages. But it still has considerable historical significance and has even evolved to include several words of Indian origin. English isn't foreign anymore. It was planted along with tea and coffee by the British. Yet we rant against this "foreign language", abhorring it over steaming cups of "chai" and "kaapi" and hailing our PM's humble origins as a "chai wallah".

That's something our pro-Hindi PM and mother-tongue enforcing politicians should think about as they slip into their trousers, don their foreign sunglasses and scoot off in their Morris-inspired cars to lecture people on language.

I’m all for preserving ancient languages and all that, but when you shove your mother tongue down my throat, I gag. In English.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Words Unspoken

"In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid." Luckily, I can blog them.

I’d like to think that I have the gift of the gab. I certainly hope to God I do because I haven’t much else. (I have whined about this before. *Click*) To put it mildly: When talent was being distributed, I completely missed the memo and was most likely doing something pointless like foraging for goji berries.

Therefore, to bolster some semblance of self-worth, I tell myself I possess a glib tongue. Of course, this is a pretty useless thing to possess and has, on occasion upon joyous occasion, utterly failed me. I was afflicted by social paralysis. It is possible that my heightened sense of diplomacy and love for keeping the peace overrides what I ought to have said in response to certain obnoxious individuals I have had the misfortune to encounter.

So, without further ado, I present my shortlist of unfounded accusations hurled at me by half-wits and the responses I wish I’d mustered enough courage to actually give:

"You're shallow."

Na-ah! I’m not shallow. On a scale of bottle cap to Indian Ocean, I’d rank around the depth of a hospital bed pan. I’d say that's pretty good considering the amount of poop I to have to put up with.

"People hesitate to approach you."

Hell, yeah, if they’re selling weed or their grandsons, sometimes their weed-smoking grandsons. People may hesitate to approach me but they sure as hell have no problems in reproaching me. Isn't that a good thing…for them?

"You hate our parties."

That’s because you use the term "party" loosely. What you should aptly be calling it is a "coma inducing night of Bingo/Tambola with a crowd of septuagenarians". Then I wouldn't hate your parties. I'd simply avoid them. Oh, wait. I did!

"There’s no such thing as a 50-50 relationship. It’s 60-40 at best. Women must compromise 200%." 

Ooh, look who finally woke up! Rip Van Winkle. You've been asleep the last couple of centuries. Not to worry, you didn't miss much. Just a couple of tiny, insignificant things like the atom bomb, a vaccine for small pox and, oh, yeah, WOMEN'S LIB.

"Your blog has no journalistic excellence."

That’s why it's a blog, not The Wall Street Journal. Duh.

"You suck."

Yeah, you’re right. Glad we can agree on something.

Okay, so that last one I might have actually said. And it isn't even clever. Sigh. Yep, I suck.