There are situations in life when you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself.
Scenes of disaster, like a car crash or a fire, find people gawking and staring, knowing they should either help or stop staring but the impulse to simply look is irresistible.
A man is walking with his wife and another woman walks by wearing something that fires the imagination.
He knows he shouldn’t stare, but yet he does.
The same impolite attention also applies to the media coverage that was given to the sex change operation of US Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner to Caitlin Jenner last month.
I noticed all of this Jenner hullabaloo, but mostly ignored it until events of the past few days made me think about Ms. Jenner’s situation and the challenges that lie ahead for her.
One can not help but think about sexuality and gender when issues like trans-gender and sex change operations become topics of discussion.
“Basic” questions like:
“What IS a man?”
“What IS a woman?”
“What is male / female?”
“Are there differences?”
“Should there be?”
As followers of my blog know, I am a man of three professions: teacher, Starbucks barrista and ambitious wordsmith.
I have been with Starbucks for eight months.
Normally I work in the St. Gallen Hauptbahnhof (Grand Central Station), but there have been rare occasions when I am needed at the Starbucks in the Marktplatz.
What makes working at Marktplatz interesting is that it has been, for at least two or more years, an exclusively female establishment, with a manageress and a team of lady barristas.
There is something about being the only rooster in a henhouse that gets one to noticing male / female differences even more starkly than previously and gets one to thinking about just how unique each gender is.
We are truly as different as cats and dogs or Mars and Venus.
One might even suggest that we are prisoners of our own genders.
These differences are biological of course, but as well psychological.
I wonder how Ms. Jenner will be perceived by others in future.
Will her past as a man cause her difficulty as a woman?
Will she be accepted as a woman because this gender is the choice she made rather than having been born female?
Will she think and act like a woman naturally or will this be a process she has to learn?
I think about the women I have worked with over the past two days: Jackie, the store manager; Yuan, Valentina, Angelita and Eva.
I think about the women I normally work with at the train station: Nathalie, Katy, Katja, Corinne, Pamela, the two Vanessas, Julia, Sonam.
I think of all the women who have shaped my life to this day: my wife Ute, former girlfriends, gal pals, former co-workers, former students, former colleagues, female relatives – mother figures, sisters, nieces, aunts, a long list of women who I have encountered throughout this past half-century.
I cannot and would not imagine my life being as blessed as it is if it were not for women fortunately sharing this planet with my gender.
For 50 years I have studied women, and like most men I remain dazed and confused.
The Marktplatz Henhouse is filled with extremely hard-working, extremely efficient, extremely professional and competent women barristas.
It is truly a great experience watching them perform their duties as diligently and flawlessly as they do.
But it is in their little conversational asides and careless remarks that bring home the uniqueness of femininity.
It has often astonished me how women so often downplay their competence and their abilities, yet remain so creative, so dynamic, so capable of doing so many things simultaneously, that I constantly find myself staring in awestruck wonder at them.
In yesterday’s Facebook postings, I found myself discussing some very feminine “quirks” that continue to mystify me:
Take fingernails for example…
I must confess fingernails are one of those things about women I have never understood.
What is the point?
Colouring your nails is simply disguising over a physical attribute most people have.
Growing your fingernails long is great if you hope to catch a passing gazelle with your claws as it lopes by.
Most fingernails are not that effective against a violent attack.
I understand that women enjoy all the fuss that goes into feeling attractive for themselves, but are they really so insecure as to not realise that they are beautiful without all these additives?
I would never suggest that a woman doesn’t have the right to do as she wants with her own body.
I am simply saying that as far as I am concerned, most women needn’t bother.
They are beautiful just because they exist.
Then there is the issue of make-up.
Do women honestly believe they are fooling anyone with their masks of mascara, eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick, lipgloss and Heaven knows whatever else goes on a woman’s face?
Are they really so insecure as to not realise that they are beautiful without all these additives?
Are women afraid of being invisible if attention is not drawn to their unique physical identity?
Women constantly tell me that they do all this primping and preening not for men but for themselves.
But is this really the case?
When women draw attention to their sexuality, are they not seeking to get men’s attention?
For once a man is captivated by a woman, doesn`t she then effectively control that man’s world?
I remember someone once said to me that men evolve, but women constantly re-invent themselves.
Do women do this re-invention strictly for pleasure?
Or is there purpose behind it all?
If one ever stumbles across a “woman’s” magazine, one begins to suspect the latter.
Let’s look at lipstick for the moment.
Have women considered the similarity between the shape of their mouth and the labial entrance to the Pavilion of Pleasure?
Ancient Egyptian women, the first documented users of lipstick, certainly did.
Let’s look at high heels, especially stilettoes.
Certainly the walk required for wearing them straightens a woman’s back and draws attention to her posterior and calves in a very pleasant manner, but many a medical practitioner will quote studies that show how these heels damage both a woman’s back as well as her feet.
To be fair, there are male accoutrements that are equally baffling.
How often are men adjusting and readjusting themselves due to the constrainment of trousers?
In ancient times, men wore garments that allowed a Free Willy.
Take men’s bicycles and the long bar between the seat and the handlebars.
Exactly what is the purpose of this bar?
A resting place, a balance beam, for his “Mr. Happy”?
And as any man will be quick to affirm, the pain of a blow to the Johnson area is no laughing matter, so when a man has to suddenly brake on his bicycle and his genitalia make solid contact with said metal bar…Enuff said.
If the fictional character of Spock ever visited Earth of 2015, I wonder if he would say:
“Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here.”