Hell no, I won’t grow!

The next guy who tells me about how some experience gave him personal growth is getting something sharp in his cranium. Seriously, blood’s going to pour out of his temporal artery. You know I mean it when I get mad anatomical with my death threats.

Why? Because it never ends there. Given male competitiveness, it turns into an arms race where each one feels the need to one-up the story. And it goes on and on until someone fabricates a coming of age tale where a plucky kid from Mumbai overcame his odds to win a million dollars on a game show in a country where we don’t count money in millions. All I want is to hang out with my friends and discuss guy-stuff. Just your average volleys of double-entendres and nothing too sensitive or soft; nerdy topics are welcome. Instead I get assaulted with this affirmation of adulthood, which often hides a plea for approval.

Most guys I know are comfortable with the ball-busting group dynamic where we pick on one guy and magnify his every imperfection. It’s immature. It’s caveman. It’s our way of sifting the herd for the weak link. So, that’s not four guys ganging up on one at McDonalds; it’s a test for vulnerabilities that we are better off catching here than in the wild—you know, the bar. But it’s familiar. It’s safe. We have come to expect it, maybe even enjoy it. But if well-enough was left alone, life would have been different. We wouldn’t have war and nuclear weapons, and Windows XP would still be the best operating system. (Okay, that last part is true. Not that I care.)

Once you go Mac…
(hslnews.files.wordpress.com)

Then someone goes ahead disrupts the equilibrium by showing us what a man he now is. Oddly, it’s often the same guy who used to turn a quiet evening of beer-drinking and cricket-chatter to a tequila-shot-drowned, vodka-infused, Jack Daniels chugging pukefest. You won’t believe it dude, when that kid grabbed my finger, I felt something. Yeah, you felt his fist. And then you returned the infant to his parents who will feed him at 3 am and hold his hand through rehab someday because grabbing that finger scarred him for life. But you will call this a paradigm shift and promote yourself from Jack Daniels to single malt to suit your current state of refinement. And we must follow along or cut you off like the gangrene that you are.

Half the time this whole personal growth or character-building bullshit is a band-aid for the most recent slight life has dished out. If so, that’s fine. It happens to everyone. Just don’t talk about it. It’s called rationalization because you do it to yourself. Selling yourself this crapola is hard enough. If you spread it around, daring others to refute it, you might just find out how many friends you really have.

Listening? Or staying awake by imagining you hanging on a meathook? (www.gogaminggiant.com)

I understand that when you watch Don Draper, who always had a mistress within Metrocard radius, walking around all mature-like, it’s understandable to regret the water-balloon fights and the time we faked a Harvard acceptance letter to mess with a friend’s head (He was so excited that he didn’t notice the w in Harward. Yes, I’m going to hell. More on that some other time.) In the animal world, prolonged eye contact means aggression, but among guys it’s just a staring contest to decide who will do a beer run. No one washes a dish after using it. We each fish ours out of the sink come dinnertime. That way, no one can shirk dishwashing. We order takeout because there’s no dishwashing before or after. But does that mean we are immature? I doubt it. We are just beta-testing adolescence at an age when we can appreciate it more.

If you ask me, it’s the hat. Without it, he’s a dumbass doctor on 30 Rock.
(hatsrcool.com)

The way I look at it, maturity is paying your bills and having more friends than enemies. Done and done. Saying I mustn’t say or do some things because I’m not a teenager doesn’t resonate with me. Who draws these lines? When your grandfather was your age, he had two children. Yes, but that’s because there wasn’t much to do back then. Procreation was recreation. Let’s see him being all nice and fatherly in his twenties with a House marathon on HDTV and an FiOS internet connection. Do you know what a high-speed internet connection does to guys? It’s like giving us our own set of breasts—a productivity killer. Let’s face it. Most of us are going to live longer than our grandparents did. Why can’t we do things a little slower then? There’s no empirical evidence that playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault reduces your ability to be a father. Well it kinda does, if the laptop gets really warm.

Keep killing ’em Nazis—That’s your only effect on the gene pool.
(4.bp.blogspot.com)

So I’ve decided to stay immature, by society’s definitions, that is. Every now and then, I’ll wear whatever I can lay my hands on. I’m religious about showering and deodorants, so don’t call the CDC just yet. But if someone walks into a joke, I’m not gonna be the bigger person and let it go. Your ass is gonna get ridiculed. It will make you a better person. Or not. I don’t know. It will make me a happier person. That’s for sure.

Whoever decided that 26 is too old for that’s-what-she-said jokes did not check with me. In fact, all those who feel that way should just admit it right now. Admit it so I can un-friend you and cut you off. Or deal with it in silence. And that includes dick jokes, funny rape jokes (NOTE—I did not say rape threats, and no, they’re not the same.), and every other joke conceivable.

Except the Aristocrats. That shit is nasty.

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The ‘feminine’ side?

I write this post for a tag I recently received from blabberblah. I believe IHM set this in motion with her post: My sins against gender stereotypes. We’ve all had stereotyping shoved down our throats. Getting pigeon-holed into whatever is becoming your sex isn’t uncommon. The assumption that certain jobs, skills and interests are meant for a particular gender stinks. As a response, many bloggers are outlining their transgressions of gender barriers.

Before I make my list public, I want to ponder something. A girl having boyish interests is called a tomboy. But people are less charitable to a guy who does something girly. I bet he hears sissy a lot. I don’t need to tell you which one is an acceptable insult. So, female bloggers don’t become the butt of jokes when they congregate to confess an interest in cricket, or declare the number of speeding tickets they’ve received, or know the difference between a carburetor and an accelerator (just an exaggeration!). On the other hand, a guy who confesses to liking chick-flicks or talks about the delicious sambhar he made last night or wears pink is not as well received. This  explains the negative responses from many male bloggers who were tagged. Most of them hid behind, “I can’t think of anything girly that I do.”

Here are some things I do or want to do that can be considered girly:

  1. I like a clean home. That includes a clean kitchen sink that should never be a storehouse for dirty dishes. I have gotten out of my bed at midnight just to vacuum more than once
  2. I like to cook. I like to try out new dishes now and then. (Somehow I have not been able to muster the confidence to invite friends over for a home-cooked meal)
  3. I can hem a pillow cover or the bottom of a trouser. I do take some pride in the fact that the stitches are of equal size and at an equal distance from each other
  4. I have enjoyed playing ‘teacher-teacher’ as a child. I was a bit of a tyrant though
  5. People say that I have very neat handwriting
  6. I don’t make much of an effort to remember roads and don’t have an impeccable sense of direction. I have never hesitated to ask for directions
  7. I almost never let my cellphone run out of power (more and more guys are getting on board with this concept)
  8. I can listen and give emotional counsel to friends. I might make inappropriate jokes as a defense mechanism
  9. In recent times, I have become more sensitive to clothes, sunglasses, spectacle frames and other parts of my appearance that might need enhancement.

Can’t think of any more now. My readers are free to add.

Often called selfishness, individualism gets a bad rap in society. What people don’t understand is that unless one is sure of what one wants and takes steps to get that, one can never be secure enough to do good without it validating their own self-esteem. I have, time and again, championed the cause of individualism and asked people to step out of the molds of religion, caste, language and even nationality. So why not gender? While there are some characteristics found more in men than women, they cannot be used as a tool to pigeon-hole people into pre-styled societal roles.

I am me first. Then a man. Then my parents’ son. Then an Indian. Then a Tamilian…and so on. I urge my readers and fellow bloggers to do what they want to do (as long as they don’t infringe on another person’s exercise of his own rights) and only that. We have only one life. Preset rules of how we should behave belong right where they came from: the past. Sadly, in the past, the people did not have the foundation, the knowledge, the strength and the support to stand alone. We don’t have that excuse.

Here goes: I tag buddy, rambuna, chembelle, swatimala and gradwolf to give some examples of their breaches of the gender barrier.

Sartorial maladies

Let me begin with a confession. I have horrible fashion sense. Now I know many guys out there have this problem, but I’m beyond help. I once wore a red cargo for over a year (not continuously though!) that would put Govinda’s fashion designer to shame. I have always relied on my mother’s & sister’s help (did I say help? I meant total dominion) in this department.

Cut to a scene of me shopping with my aforementioned fashion-nazis. Mom says, “Take these pants and try them out.” I proceed to the trial room like a man about to get the ultimate punishment for a crime he committed.

I hate trying on clothes. I enter that tiny room, which is built to house only those with bodies so perfect that they don’t need to try out anything. As I take my caricatured self into one of these enclosures, I spend most of the time on self-appraisal in the mirror. I check out my teeth, smile, give the evil grin, and frown. Finally I come out with the pants only to see my sister armed with a couple more, giving me a critical look (which suggests unadulterated disapproval) that says, “The only thing worse than those clothes on your body is your body itself!”

Mom beckons, and I obey—she asks me embarrassing questions about the fitting of the pants at various places. I always nod in assent, whether true or false, simply because I’d rather face lifelong discomfort than the ordeal of ramp-walking for my mom and sis.

They argue about the fashionableness of the clothes, sis always suggesting that mom’s taste is too 80’s. This argument ends in one of them admitting that I don’t have what it takes to pull off a crisp look. Salesmen stare.

I get more clothes to try out; some t-shirts this time. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘How can anybody mess up t-shirt fittings?’ Well, that’s because you don’t have hate-handles.

Meanwhile dad is looking for a parking space on Gokhale road.

The thing about memories is that that the average ones keep flitting on and off, the good ones rarely remain clear except the feeling, and really good ones stay fresh (for easy recall when a train journey is long and there are twenty people sharing standing space on my toes); but the really embarrassing ones stick. My attention to detail is poor, but these examples of sartorial ignominy are etched inside my skull.