At work, I always end up being the only girl in my sub-division or one of the very few in a throng of male colleagues. This is contradictory to my otherwise all girls boarding school-background. In a way this served as a good thing, as I get to experience the aspects of both worlds. I left boarding school with a surge of female empowered estrogen-clad feminist pride spirit, and when I got to know boys it was almost like watching a National Geographic documentary – what are these creatures and why do they like sports so much?
And somewhere along the line, as chick flicks, dating and hormones came into the picture, it has been drilled into us that guys should be approached with caution; there is the whole ‘hide and seek’ element, the ‘does he or doesn’t he’ mind boggling games and stories about some unnamed jerks going around breaking people’s hearts. All these painted guys as scary, sometimes-intimidating robots fuelled by testosterones about 90% of the time. Fascinating stuff.
Eventually, as I got to know them personally whether they are colleagues, friends, people I dated or even family members, I quickly came to the realization… it is not easy being a guy!
Take the story of Male X for example. Male X is somebody I know from work, and one day he told me about his failed attempts of asking a girl out three times to no avail. I cringed when I heard this story. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had mustered all that courage only to be shot down by a girl. Yikes. That must hurt. In fact, if I was him I would probably be traumatized and not ask anyone out for the next decade. Male X, if you’re reading this, I solute you.
And even if you did get to ask a girl out, the raging river of challenges had just begun. Do you know how much it costs to take a girl out on a date? Not to mention that unlike women, men are heavily assessed through their assets too, as much as we like to deny it. I once heard a male friend say about his then-girlfriend, “I used to have a lot of money in ASB. Then it all disappeared and turned into her”. I felt pretty bad for this. As much as I know that guys actually do prefer to pay and pamper, the fact is they still do spend a lot of money and energy into this whole process.
We like to also think that when it doesn’t work out, girls take the hit harder. Perhaps this is a true statement to a certain extent, given that guys seem to have an almost default robotic method to cope with it. They submerge themselves in work or gaming or buddies, and seem to be handling it all like a champ (while the ladies cry buckets in the public restroom). But through experience I have watched some male friends I know getting hurt just as we do, feeling sentimental just like we feel and well, in general, are just humans like the rest of us.
What these observations resulted in is a certainly more cynical agreement towards a lot of so-called notions of what men are, as portrayed through a lot of movies and books you see these days. Since women are the more expressive gender it is normal to see/read/watch more snide conclusions be made about men, when come to think of it, there are so many great guys out there. I was raised by a dedicated Father who once worked 2-3 jobs to support us while he was in studying, and has been loving and loyal to my Mother for 30 years. To then settle with a generic opinion that men are awful and non-sentimental even when we had just gotten hurt by one would not be a fair statement. Sometimes a bit of perspective goes a long way to stop us being spiteful and disheartened over the whole idea of acquainting a decent guy.
There is a friend who reads my blog from time to time, especially this column. He then proceeds to say, “Well you’re a Male-ogist, aren’t you?”
A Male-ogist. This suggests that I know a thing or two when it comes to guys.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Trust me, if I’ve figured out anything, I would gladly share it with everyone. But I haven’t. Even when my Mother keeps telling me that they’re really simple. If they say something, they mean it. There are no weird hidden messages. Yes means yes and no means no. If they’re not asking you out, then that is exactly what it is. My Mother makes it sound simplistic. And who knows? Maybe it really is as easy as that.
But so far I have managed to over analyze, over compensate, hallucinate and self-convince myself when it comes to understanding them. It’s the girl in me. We have a tendency to do that. Take this scenario, for instance. My girlfriends and I are sitting down having dinner. Now in man’s world, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll sit and have dinner, then maybe afterwards you’ll talk about sports and insult each other a little bit, then call it a night. But in a woman’s world, dinner is a top-secret therapy session, where secrets and details are laid out, and each of the women will take turns over analyzing them until the subject is exhausted (which is why I never really watch The View. That’s just us during lunch hour, recorded). I would imagine that if a man is to sit and observe, he would go home quite traumatized. Dinner has now become emotionally draining and psychologically demanding. Nobody would even remember what the salad tasted like.
And even after all this, we’ll still end up having no clue what men are all about. Why do they say things and do another? Why don’t they call? How on earth could you tell if a guy is being nice because he’s being nice, or he’s being nice because he likes you? What does that text message mean? Why don’t they like to share feelings? Feelings feelings feelings. In a woman’s world everything revolves around feelings. When men don’t work the same way we get confused. And then we’ll keep talking about it all over. And over. And over again.
I look at older women, like my Mother, and realize that her approach to this subject is quite mellow. I don’t think she understands it completely either, but I think with age, we will soon understand that some things are just not meant to be understood. Maybe that’s the whole wonderful mystery of it. I don’t know. Ask me again when I’m forty and writing a book on this.
One fine boring day at the office, when my friends and I were mindlessly talking about mindless things, a slightly older, married colleague came to join our conversation, with a question on his mind. “Why do some women worship their fathers so much?”
Fathers. This is the first man who would ever matter to us. This is the first man who would be solely responsible for the way we would value the rest of the male species for the rest of our lives. I can only speak from my point of view, and of my own Father. My Father and I have a relationship that is not like the one in movies, where it is all idealistic. There are things we disagree about. Sometimes we argue, sometimes we have a good time, but now when I try to recall all of those many, many arguments (most of which happened when I was a teenager, of course), they all seem hilarious to me.
My Father is not one who is vocal about his affection. He doesn’t send us cheesy text messages, he doesn’t make touchy speeches about his love, but he showed it through the subtle things that he does, which I have only now realized as I had gotten older. He never missed a recital, a stage performance, or a prize giving ceremony. Sometimes he forgets our birthdays, but he remembers the littlest details about us, like the position we liked to sleep in when we were babies, and our friends in primary school. These days, everytime I came back home to visit my parents, my Father would wash my car and check the engine. When he comes around my house he would fix things and mop the floor. We were a normal middle-class family, but growing up, my Father never made us feel inadequate. Although we lived in a small town not even recognizable in Google map, he never taught me to be a woman with a compressed mind.
It’s becoming more clear to me too that whatever you’ve become, you owe some of the credits to your Father. My Father used to take us for roadtrips to the most boring of places, but when I recall them today, all I remember is the sheer excitement of a kid being taken to see things, even if it’s just another town in the same state. Because of that, traveling has now become one of the essential keys to my happiness as an adult. My Father has also never exemplified that money is a make or break for a good life, and to that I am thankful – these days I am the least fazed by it.
Of course, I am by no means trying to worship my Father. He is after all, just a human. He has his flaws and imperfections, and although when I was little it seemed that he had the ability to shield me from everything, now, as a grown up, I saw that my Father is just like me, too, only older. There are some things in this world he can no longer save me from, and there are some problems in this life he can no longer fix for me. But that does not make him any less heroic to my eyes. Great fathers make the best of men.
As a child my father was very strict about my relationships with boys. This caused me to never have any real friends who were boys. At the age of thirteen, much to his relief, I enrolled in an all girls’ boarding school. That pretty much marked the end of all common interaction with boys for me. Once I graduated high school and entered college, I discovered them – grown up boys, much taller than how I remembered them to be, thinks that everything can be a joke and much smarter in general.
During class assignments I had difficulty working with them. I didn’t understand their work ethics and their different attitude towards life. They seemed a lot more ambitious, they loved competing and they don’t really get emotional at all. My lack of understanding on how they function would later on transpire into my dating history – they didn’t work out very well or for that matter, lasted very long. As years go by I tried to educate myself about them. I started befriending more guy friends, and through that it helped me a little in understanding how they operate. I even went as far as reading books on them, with most of the reads telling me the same thing – that men are simple, and we shouldn’t compare our female complexities with how they are as human beings.
But here’s the thing. As I grew older, I got to know more of them. At work, during social events, as well as observing the male figures in my family. And I found out that really, they’re not that simple after all. There is no one manual that fits all of them. I forgot that they too, are people just like the rest of us women. Yes, maybe a lot less emotional, but still people like us. They have a range of personalities, some game enough to approach anyone, and some much more introvert. Some have been hurt rather badly in the past that they have walls, some love girls too much that they cant just have one. Some have horrible pasts, some have family commitments, some are nice and some are douche bags.
Sometimes my girlfriends and I would get together and we end up discussing relationships. After a few are married, some are engaged and the rest still figuring things out, it later dawned on us that maybe, just maybe, we are brainwashed too expect too much. We put men on a pedestal and expect them to be everything. We expect them to be brave and not have insecurities. We expect them to be knights in shining armors who has it all figured out. We expect them to rescue us. It would’ve been a lot easier if in the beginning, we thought of them as people like us too. With uglier footwear, of course.
I went for brunch with a girlfriend and three other guy friends. We ended up comparing the differences between the male and female species when it comes to handling breakups.
Female: Be sad, talk about the problem to another girl, and then another girl, and another, and another, until the whole entire female kingdom would’ve heard about it. Lunch hours will be an intimate discussion ‘The View’ style. Talk about the subject to its death. All girls will take your side and hate they guy. In fact, if they can, they would like to put him on a stake and burn him, or maybe drag him around the city by a horse. Because somehow, the whole female species can feel the rage for him.
Male: Be sad, play with video game for hours. If work is available, will bury life in work. Then go out with a group of guy friends, but never talk about the girl or the problem. Then maybe will seek a close male friend and tell him the story, but not in detail and definitely NOT while crying. If the subject isn’t even brought up, then none of the other male friends are allowed to bring up the subject. Then play more video games or sports because hell, that’s how problems are solved.
I was cleaning my room last weekend, and came upon a stash of old books. One of them is 'He's Just Not That Into You'. I remembered the day my girlfriend and I bought it, right after we saw its movie adaptation. Somebody told us that the book is ten times better than the movie itself.
There is an excerpt in the book that particularly stepped out of the book, grabbed the book, and slapped me right across my face. It said;
"If he doesn't give a crap, it's because he really, really doesn't give a crap."
Or something like that. Dude, I can't memorize every single word!
I suddenly recalled an event when my friend was seeing a guy, but they were not officially dating, but she thought he really liked her, but she wasn't too sure, especially when he called her only once every three days. "Oh, you know, he's probably just busy. I'm sure he really likes you." I said to her.
I wish I can go back to that time and douse myself on fire. What fiction!
Lesson: We should stop reading things 'between the lines'. What lines?
My guy friend at the office and I were talking about the new intern who had just started working in our floor. "Have you met her yet?" I asked him. "Nope," he answered.
The intern was a girl in her twenties, and she appeared to be a bit snobbish. So I proceeded to tell this guy friend of mine about my first conversation with the girl, which happened in the female restroom.
"I've only talked to her once," I told him. "I was in the female restroom and in came the intern. She didn't even say hi to me. All she did was fix her scarf at the mirror, and hey, she could have at least pretended to be interested in making friends..." I stopped talking because by now, I had realised that this guy friend of mine seemed to be drifting off and not listening to a word I was saying.
"Oi," I said to him. "Are you listening to me?"
He snapped back to reality. "Oh, sorry," he said apologetically. "All I heard was 'you', 'intern' and 'female restroom'. And then my mind kind of drifted off someplace else."
Lesson: Apparently boys have evolved into developing skills of listening to only what they wanted to hear. Clever trick, I must say.
I don't know anything about boys/guys/men. Neither do I pretend that I do. The only information I have is that they like sports/blown up cars/blown up cars with hot chicks/people punching other people/dirty jokes. Hmm that's probably not enough (maybe that's why none of my relationships ever lasted that long).
This page is dedicated to attempt to at least figure them out a little, based on my life observations. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, maybe not. Maybe one day I'll be able to sit on a patio and give advice to other people. Or maybe I'll still be scratching my head.