11 August 2010 and 17 September 2014
Girls play with dolls and then move on with their lives. Boys play ball and then play doll with their wives.
It occurred to me when I was taking the highway and a few words flung at me harshly several years before by an angry boyfriend came back to mind “Of course, for you women it is either my way or the highway”.
There had actually been no argument, no reason for the word flinging other than me trying to explain to him that it was not the appropriate time for me to travel anywhere as I was passing my exams. The lad had then made it a point to travel with a couple of friends including a female friend with whom he took many pictures and he made it a point on his return to show anyone passing by the photographs all the while trying to make me jealous. Upon finding he was unsuccessful, things then became pretty mean and tasteless and ultimately we had to break up because too much meanness had spoilt the initial good feelings.
The recollection of that incident and the insistence of the men who were trying to date me – some of whom I actually dated – on trying to bend my will to meet their requirements or mold me to a satisfactory image as per their standards made me smile. There were also other recollections of a more somber nature. I remembered not without a dark foreboding the number of women who had come to me for moral or financial support, many of whom had been verbally, psychologically and sometimes physically abused by their husbands. Countless tales of husbands finding the food too tasteless, too salty or not having the food warm, or having issues with the wife spending too much money, looking too insistently – as per their often wrong impression – at any man happening to pass by during that day. Any and every reason seemed a good enough reason for an argument, a showering of abuse or sometimes a beating. I remembered the number of couples I had sat down with for dinner and how the husbands had boasted about their wife being “trained” or “refined” by them thereby acquiring poise, a sense of style, an understanding of being demure. One even boasted about his wife being a good girl in public and capable of putting to shame a prostitute when in bed.
Beyond the tasteless aspects of those claims, I was bemused at the common denominator, the silver thread that ran across all those recounts and which clearly indicated that these men seemed to be doing what girls did once upon a time to their dolls “sit Sally. Drink your tea properly. Now, now, be a good girl; that’s not the right way to drink tea”, “what shall we wear today: the green jacket or the brown pullover? I am sure you will like the green one better”, “No you don’t know what is best for you, let me dress you up or you’ll get cold [while it was burning hot outside]”
It struck me then that somehow, maybe this was the reason such things happened. Deprived of the possibility of playing dolls during their childhood and of having that sense of getting to be an all powerful being who could determine the life of another – the closest concept to being God – men wanted to be able to satisfy that sensation with the only other being within their reach who would accept such a game. Who better of course than “the weaker sex” omitting the mother who would be unfit for such a role and the sisters, often quickly removed from their sphere, leaving only the girlfriends and subsequently the wives?
Now don’t get me wrong and go calling me a feminist, a male-hater and all those silly things that one would be attempted to bring forth as a claim to invalidate the reality of such matters. Those who know me really know I am a far cry from being a male-hater although I could come across as more of a feminist as I do have a sense of my own independence.
I recognize that many men do not suffer from this syndrome and are fine with giving liberty to their partners to be themselves rather than a molded version of their mothers or their ideal archetype. I also have no problem with being in a couple myself and have no issues with couples where both are in a balanced relationship and the wife/lady does not mind having her husband/partner decide on most matters for her. What I have a problem with is men systematically demeaning their significant other and abusing them, thereby causing them physical or emotional trauma.
Pondering on all the incidents I had observed over the past twenty or so years and on all the misfortunes I had seen play before my eyes or heard from friends and sometimes people who were close to strangers, I thought that there was so much in common between so many of them that it might be helpful for some to read and know about them. This way, women (or men) could compare their own situation to what they had read and determine whether the “small mistreatment” they were undergoing was worth it, whether that “small smack” on the face was an isolated incident, whether it made sense to continue in the circumstances they were living to believe that everything would be alright as long as they listened and obeyed, whether it was really them the problem or whether it was something else.
I decided to write about all those stories and in a twist of wry humour chose to call this series “Doll tales”. From this week onward, I will attempt to write one” Doll tale” although some might take me more time when they actually have more ramifications. Feel free to share with me your “Doll tale” either through comments or you can ask for an email if you wish to share your experience more privately.
Coming up next: The painter and his muse (doll tale 1)