Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I get by with a little help from the friend-zone

The thing about hope, and it’s a sad thing indeed, is that it comes with its share of disappointment. In the case of a conversation I participated in recently, though, the disappointment was almost immediate.

A couple of weeks ago, drunk on more than a few beers and the joy of the upcoming weekend, I got roped into a heart-to-heart with an acquaintance I’d barely spoken to previously. What started as a conversation about movies and music and the soul-crushing hurdles of the corporate life quickly spiraled into a discussion about the “friend-zone”.

You know the friend-zone, right? It’s the idea that (for the most of it) women, considered almost universally as the more irrational half of the species, find themselves constantly chasing men who, for lack of a better phrase, treat them like trash and; as a corollary, reject the men who've spent themselves treating them as they should be treated.

“I’m a decent guy” said the acquaintance, “I don’t have archaic, Khap Panchayat-esque views about how women should behave. I don't think they're responsible for the sexual crimes against them and I’m all for letting women live their lives the way they want. Why, then, do women not see this? Why can’t nice guys finish first?”

Hope and, sequentially, disappointment.

Hope that, at the very least, there is a marked change in what constitutes the right approach to treating women (I apologize for using the words “treating women” repeatedly. I don't mean to put down womankind as a separate group to be dealt with through a blanket attitude. It feels wrong just to type that. It fits in this context, however, so bear with me.)

His statements are mirrors to the changing perception of women’s rights among, at least, the urban educated male population in the country. They are clear signifiers that sensitivity, rationality and a preference for equality are gradually, albeit slowly, becoming traits to be desired. The fact that there is a rising awareness among men that kindness and respect, rather than force and claim, are the way of the future implies that the potential for equality exists, that the possibility of a society completely founded on romance through consent, though dim, is visible on the distant horizon.

On the flipside, and I quote, “Women aren’t machines you put niceness coins into till sex comes out.”

The hope came with the immediate realization that believing in the equality of the sexes was an achievement for the person sitting across the table. In his mind, the ability to even consider allowing women to live life on their own terms made him a catch. The way he saw it, he was one of the nice ones, the ones that were exceptionally rare in a patriarchal world.

The disappointment lay in the fact that equal rights and mutual respect between the sexes wasn’t the natural order of the world for him. In his head, going out of his way to place his faith in the wild and radical ideas of feminism entitled him to a spot higher than men around the world. Secondly, the disappointment lay in the fact that he believed that by virtue of believing in these radical notions made him eligible for a members only buffet (excuse the language, but I’m trying to make a point) of the women of his choice.

What worries me, however, is that he may have been right about the first one, and that he will continue to believe he is right about the second.

I don’t have an ending to this post. Yet. Maybe someday I will find answers to all the questions flooding my mind about this and I’ll make sure I keep you in the know.  Until then, if there is anyone out there who has anything to say about this, please do leave your thoughts out here for the other readers and for me.