Events of recent days have made me think about women and how men, including myself from time to time, have difficulty knowing how to peacefully and harmoniously co-exist with that strange and mysterious phenomenon known as Woman.
My good friend Sumit and his wife Varsha are the proud and happy parents of their first child, a boy.
And as I share from a distance their joy at this marvelous miracle of life, I also consider the tumultuous road ahead of them and the awesome responsibilities inherant with raising a child.
There will be wonderous storehouses of love they will discover inside themselves as they protect such a fragile being so totally dependent upon others for everything.
There will be constant worry over this child, for as long as a parent draws breath, regardless of the maturity and development of this child into adulthood.
There will be moments of pain and frustration as the child develops into an independent thinking-and-feeling being.
It is frustrating knowing that you as a parent can’t always be there to prevent moments when the child will stumble and fall, learning how to live independently and to relate to others.
My wife and I, through circumstances beyond our control, are not blessed with a child in our lives.
My mind sometimes goes down the path of “What if?” and I wonder what we might have been like as parents.
I want to believe that we would have been good parents, but history shows us that good parenting is no guarantee that our offspring will develop into the happy and healthy humans we hope they will be.
If I had become a father of a girl I would worry about how difficult this world is for women:
China has 44 million missing women.
As boy babies are preferred, if the foetus is shown to be female some parents will seek an abortion.
Many baby girls are killed in the first few days or weeks of their life.
If the girl survives babyhood, her birth might never be registered – leading to a life where education, healthcare and even adequate food may be denied her.
More than 12,000 women are killed each year in Russia as a result of domestic violence.
7,000,000 American women suffer from an eating disorder.
2,000,000 girls and women are subjected to female genital mutiliation each year.
Some 120,000 women and girls are trafficked into western Europe every year.
As 2 out of every 3 marriages end in divorce, there are many many single parent women raising their children on their own while working to maintain some sort of a safe and stable environment for them.
Worldwide, many women still labour alongside men but receive lower salaries and fewer chances for advancement as compared to their male counterparts.
Women frequently feel “hunted” as their sexuality can make them targets for unwanted male attention that can range from simple creepiness to actual physical danger.
Yet despite all of this, women never cease to amaze me at their strength of character and dimension of emotional preseverance.
I hope that I would be a good role model for a girl when she searches for her potential life partner.
If I had become the father of a boy I would worry about how to teach him to find inner strength and the ability to express his emotions in a healthy and non-threatening way.
How men and women act and react, feel and express themselves is often so vastly different that over the past few decades books with titles like: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus; Why Women Talk and Men Walk; Why Women Can’t Read Maps and Why Men Can’t Ask for Directions, etc have cropped up in many a Western bookstore.
But by nature of many men coping with their problems solitarily, these books tend to be read more by women than men as many men consider this type of literature as “unmanly”.
So often men have grown up to believe that their masculinity is defined by their might and their sexual prowess and so often fail to realise that, on a planet shared by both genders, behaviour that works in a male environment won’t always succeed in a female environment.
Men so often, we react from our gut (or what hangs below it) rather than our heads (above the shoulders) that in our pursuit of an attractive, personable and intelligent mate we drive away these objects of desire and find ourselves alone and frustrated with ourselves.
Children, in their drive to become self-actualised independent beings, often ignore the lessons their elders try to impart to them and often have to touch the stove to understand why they shouldn’t.
I would hope that had I been blessed with a son that I could teach him the importance and value of thought when seeking the lady of his desire, that “winning her hand” takes more than expression from the heart but as well thoughtfulness from the head.
If only men, in their mad rush to fill the void in their lives through physical and emotional contact with women, would stop and simply consider what it would be like to be on the receiving end of their advances, perhaps then they might begin to understand why women may be wary of them.
Last evening during my shift at Starbucks the lady baristas, chatting away with one another as lady baristas do, surprised me with the comment that they thought I, your humble blogger, was the “last gentleman”.
How does one respond to such a comment?
Perhaps being both the oldest as well as the largest staff member might make them regard me as some sort of an old-fashioned father figure.
I don’t know, for what mind of a man can truly fathom the mind of a woman?
I do know that dealing with members of the opposite gender requires hesitation and thought on my part as it is amazingly easy to be misunderstood.
It is a highwire balancing act between both recognizing and respecting that they are a different gender yet simultaneously pretending that their gender is not a factor when interacting with them.
Finding that middle ground between being strength and support if needed and allowing them the independence to choose to use or reject that strength and support because it might not be needed or desired is a quiet mental playing ground I cautiously move about, occasionally successful.
Take the art of complimenting.
A woman does not need me to compliment her, but on occasion women do acknowledge enjoying compliments, but a compliment needs thoughtfulness or it comes across as a creepy manifestation of a man’s over-obvious desire for physical interaction.
So, for example, if a woman wears something that makes her appear attractive, a simple “I like that dress.” followed by a smile and no further comment is far more welcome to a woman then creepy commentary on her sexiness in the dress unless she is already in an intimate relationship with you.
I guess it boils down to respect.
She is a human being, not a conquest or a piece of flesh.
She is imagination, creativity, passion, compassion, strength, intelligence and beauty both in form and spirit.
If I had ever had a son I hope I could teach him that to win the heart, body and soul of a woman as a companion to his days and nights he needs to be worthy of that woman.
Though he might never quite be able to match all those standards, the thoughtfulness and awareness of how important it is to try and be the best man and companion he can be will go a long way to ensuring that he is a man worthy of a woman’s love and respect.