Saturday, February 14, 2009

What NOT to do this Valentine's Day

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.
- Niels Bohr

I consider myself an expert in matters of the heart. I have given loads of people advice in all kinds of different situations. It’s another matter that most of them never actually used my advice, so there is no way of knowing how effective it is. But, I have surely made all the mistakes that can be made (and some more) in this not-so-narrow field. I will not bore you with the common amateur mistakes. Here is an example of me going overboard with the ‘being different’ mantra. I bet you never thought of this way to court a girl’s attentions.

A few Valentine’s days back, I sent a mail to a friend I had a crush on and wanted to impress after an evening walk with her.


As we were talking the other evening, you mentioned how guys are essentially the ‘same’; in the sense that ALL of them view girls as sex objects. When I heard it, I had trouble accepting it. So, I decided to ask some of my friends.

ALL guys accepted, without any sense of shame, that when they looked at a girl, they did ‘a quick overview of her physical characteristics’. But all of them decried it being characterised as ‘objectifying’, the common refrain being that it is a ‘natural instinct’. So, I guess you were right. Guys do ‘objectify’ girls in some sense of the term. There was none - including those who have never watched any kind of pornography - who said he looked for the girl’s personality before the appearance. All our ‘reasons’ for this behaviour can be easily seen as superficial justifications.

But is this behaviour so unacceptably profane?

Is there no difference between how a common lewd man in the bus stop stares unabashedly or passes comments, and how decent (if I might use the word, for the lack of any other adjective) guys who just size up a member of the opposite sex in a quick, if not furtive, glance? If you actually feel that even the glance is obscene, we all feel you have got it all wrong. Being the fairer sex, it is quite natural for you to be gauged on your ‘fairness’. Arguing with this logic leaves no common meeting point.

All of us have outspoken contempt for the vulgar looks or snide comments that you have to endure, day in and out. If you can trust me on this, none of the guys I know of does it or even defends those engaging in it. But, to paint all men as vulgar is to miss the fine line separating us from them. It indeed appears as if most men do it. But, that perception is purely because extreme behaviour always gets noticed. How would you feel if we characterised all girls as superficial and supercilious? It is a common perception here in the hostel. But we understand it cannot be a generalisation.

How is viewing girls as purely sex objects any different from your prejudice against all men? Both thoughts stem from the complete non-comprehension of the other gender’s psyche. If we can try and comprehend the problems you face, I think it is not difficult for your Machiavellian intellect to understand our just aspersions for being quashed between a vulgar majority of male chauvinists and the feminist ideologue.

Please, not all of us are like that. All of my friends agreed that though ‘checking out’ precedes anything else, it is a prelude for us, not at all THE most important aspect. It is true, even if you do not believe it. We are not as narrow-minded as that.

Not the typical Valentine’s Day mail, I know. But keeping in mind the efforts of Saint Valentine, I think it is essential for both guys and prejudiced and disgruntled girls to discuss such issues together, rather than in their respective bastions. Be it the boy’s hostel or Gargi College.

I was so proud of my effort, that I sat back and admired it for a few minutes before pressing the send button. I imagined how guys all over the world will applaud the sentiment expressed in such an eloquent fashion. I was sure the girl in question will be struck by my clarity of thought and quality of expression.

Needless to say, the two of us never got together.