By Rajneesh Narula
(Another in my occasional essay series) http://meritbbs.unimaas.nl/narula/essays.html
Ever since I started writing this Occasional Essay Series I have offended a wide spectrum of society, so much so that I had considered renaming it, ‘With Malice to One and All’. This is not because I suffer from a deep-seated bitterness towards mankind at large. Life has not treated me badly; I do not harbour resentment towards society.
The purpose of this essay series has been threefold. First, I seek to clarify to myself what my thoughts are on a particular issue. These essays sprang from a need for catharsis, the search for order in a largely chaotic mind. Only secondly do I seek to entertain. If my catharsis puts a smile on your face, this is an added bonus. Indeed, I admit that when my readers derive some fleeting pleasure from my verbage, I am delighted. However, I am also thrilled when my readers are upset, because thirdly, I seek to provoke, although not by being purposely contrary or insulting. I do not seek to take an opposing view for its own sake, but rather to challenge the reader to think of something that might not ordinarily have crossed his or her mind. Most of us are too busy in our goal-oriented society to have the time to pause and give consideration to the meaning of everyday things, and I feel as if I serve a purpose by providing such an opportunity to some of you on occasion. Some of you were on the poetry mailing list that predated the essays. Although poetry allows catharsis, it does not always allow the reader to express his opinion. Poetry has a duty to be aesthetic, and being cryptic is part of its beauty. Poetry use metaphors in spades, and in doing so, makes it accessible to just a few. It is, in a word, elitist and non-participatory. When I write an essay you are free – provided you are able and willing to think – to pause and reflect. Because this is an internet experience, you can even engage in dialogue and rhetoric. If you take another perspective, or your own muse derives from my ramblings, then I can rest easy: my efforts have not been in vain. This is why when I send out a new essay I eagerly await - somewhat like an insomniac child might the night before Christmas, - for your reactions to come in. There is nothing worse than indifference, and I feel especially crushed when an essay goes out and I receive not one brick, nor one compliment. I might as well not have written the essay.
Of course, as a social creature, I would much prefer it if everyone always agreed with me, and everyone chuckled and clucked and cooed over my epiphanies. But I will also admit to finding such a world utterly dull, where very everyone loved everybody else, and agreed with their opinions, a sort of universal mutual admiration society.
I raise this issue here today because my last essay (Ignorance as the ultimate goal) resulted in a few e-mails by female readers who took some offense to my cavalier objectification of women. It was not my objective to do so, as the essay was about men, and how men thought, which happens to primarily about women. Although I often receive negative feedback, this is not the first time that my attitude towards the female of our species has been questioned. I thought to myself that perhaps an apology was in order, or at least a rebuttal.
Such was the beginning of this muse.
The topic of the opposite sex and my understanding of them is a common theme (one might even say leitmotif) running through my essays, but I do not feel that I am unique in this. Indeed, this is a common theme that cuts across humanity, regardless of race, religion and sex (but perhaps not orientation).
When it comes to the matter of women, I am very bipolar. On the one hand, I suspect I am largely ignorant of their true nature, despite the fact that I have only been sentient for some 30 years, and aware of women (in any real sense) for 20 of these. Yet, many of my female friends will not hesitate to tell you that I have absolutely no understanding of the female psyche, and probably never will. I labour in ignorance, but I do not, I think, labour in vain. All said and done, learning about women is learning about oneself. The same can be said for any sub-group within the human species, but I must admit that the study of women is an altogether pleasant way towards further education, and if I must suffer at their hands in my thirst for knowledge, so be it. I am not (as far as I am aware) getting any wiser, but I am not deterred. I think ignorance is bliss, and in this case, may I politely say, hurrah. (Now this is exactly the kind of sentiment that gets me in trouble).
On the other hand, my careful observation and fieldwork has made me feel as though I were very much in touch with my female side. I appreciate, for instance, that all men are scum. I understand the quest for the perfect shoe. Although the concept of the ‘bad hair day’ will continue to elude me, there are days when I suspect that my female side has pretty much taken over, that my ying has subsumed my yang, as it were. These are the days when I sing along with Christina Aguilera, lil’ Kim and Pink, believing for a few minutes that I could completely empathize with them. That I was – for all intents and purposes – for a few minutes at least, ‘one of the girls’.
But the fact of the matter is that I simply do not have the necessary equipment (mentally or physically) to ever be anything but an outsider. I am limited at the very least by my male hormones. No matter how innocent my intentions, dear readers, I must confess that I am obliged by my nature to see my female friends as women as well as friends, rather than simply as friends who happen, in a very Accidental Sort of Way, to be women. I am told that I can be defined as a metrosexual: a heterosexual male who is reasonably comfortable about his sexuality, yet sufficiently in touch with his feminine side so as not to be threatened by it. But I remain a caveman at some level. As Jimmy Carter once confessed in Playboy, I too “have lust in my heart”.
When I write about women, I must write necessarily from my own experience, and as this experience does not include radical surgery or past female lives, they must be based on my point of view as an outsider, albeit a sympathetic one. It is true that I do caricature women, as indeed I have done for men, whales, George Bush, Boris Yeltsin, Ally McBeal, terrorists, Ronaldo, space aliens, bald men, the English, and many, many others. I use extremes to make a point, although I am aware that the truth lies somewhere in-between. I do not seek to be politically correct, just honest. This is a column of personal opinion, not fact, and this is why - I will venture to assert - many of you read these missives.
In the spirit of such honesty, I will not deny that I have a schizophrenic relationship with women. My bipolarity extends to my personal life. My precarious personal relationships and my inability to balance being friends with romantic involvement has often been flagged in my essays, much to the annoyance of those with whom I have been involved. But this is my essay series, and these are my catharsis.
Rajneesh the metrosexual seeks controversy, and challenge: women who can hold up their end of an argument are unbelievably sexy. In general, smart is good; smart with glasses even better. The caveman on the other hand, wants to be in charge with completely different criteria: Drop-dead gorgeous, personality-free, and who may or may not be as intellectually challenging as an ostrich with a lobotomy. The metrosexual and the caveman in me are locked in mortal combat, and I very much resent that both cannot seem to live in harmony, that I cannot be both simultaneously.
I have therefore concluded that I have no reason to feel guilty, nor do I actually need to retract my previously stated opinions. I am not seeking to write a balanced, scientific analysis which examines the evidence, weighs the pros and cons, and comes to an academically defensible conclusion. If others do not have the same perspective, at least, then, this is an opportunity to see the world from the other side. The goal here is to express myself, and my thoughts, even if it means I will not be loved by all. Besides which everyone needs a scapegoat, and for this alone, I will go to heaven, for sure.