I find my friend Nilu a very strange woman. Her behaviour at parties astonishes me. She only mixes around with men and besides a condescending ‘hello’ thrown at a group of ladies, she finds it below her dignity to converse with them.
“All they can talk of is saris, jewellery, children and servants,” she says disdainfully and trots off on her stilettos to the group of men. There, she discusses the latest development in the share market, the advantages of MODVAT or the repercussions of change in the Philippines. I, of course, admire her active interest in the happenings around the country and the world outside. But does it have to be at the expense of decrying what women usually discuss?
What’s wrong in talking about servants and children anyway? In the good old days, the joint family helped women in coping with problems. If one aunt concentrated on papads and pickles, another devoted her time to stocking the pantry; sister-in-law took care of the cooking while another monitored the maidservants.
Today the nuclear family mode lays a tremendous responsibility on a woman’s shoulders. She cannot turn to anyone for advice on how to bring up her children, make condiments that last or discipline the maid. Except learning the hard way, she has no other way to find answers for her day-to-day domestic problems. This is where women can help each other by sharing experiences and swapping ideas.
If we disown our kind and throw in our lot with the other sex, how can we ever get out of the boundaries we’ve drawn around us? Not that we have to restrict our conversation or company. Some women prefer to stick to the same crowded corner in a room and refuse to circulate. They like to be with familiar people and shy away from mixing with others. This is unfortunate.
A party can be a perfect platform for improving oneself in many dimensions. One can get the optimum benefit out of it, by listening to the conversation of different people and then exchanging views and opinions with small groups at a time. This way one is exposed to information on diverse subjects.
Surprisingly, men are also interested in subjects hitherto branded as ‘women’s topics.” They are equally interested in the welfare of their children, price of groceries and intricacies of fashions. Women refuse to mix with men who they think can only talk shop. So, you find a wide gulf in parties, with women sitting with bored expressions on their faces and the men cluttered together, across the room.
The ideal conversation style is when men talk of price of groceries and women exchange their views on mergers and acquisitions.