Things always happen to me at social dinners. This time around, it all started off with a simple soul asking me an undemanding question:
“What do you do for a living?”
To which I replied, “I work for my wife.”
The reaction was nothing less than astonishing and the emotions that were brought forth by this singularly uninteresting reply were, to say the least, mind-boggling.
Other than a few blanched female faces and sharp intakes of breath (not the types induced by the flu), a gentleman in front of me (of the more macho variety) seemed to go limp in more ways than one, a couple of male species on my left gagged on their whiskey and the middle aged man on my right actually moved away on the pretense of swatting a fly.
Before this singular incident, I was never fully aware of this particularly intriguing variety of male behavior although, in all honesty, I must admit that I have felt that something akin did exist all along.
However, it did set off a train of methodical thoughts within me and I soon I coined a special term for this remarkable male mannerism: The E-Male Syndrome (an acronym for the Essential Male Syndrome).
To tee off, I would first like provide my short description of the E-Male Syndrome:
“An unprovoked, selfish, self induced and egocentric male empathy that induces the delusion that every male has the gold and also therefore makes the golden rules.”
This syndrome clearly explains some very strange male behavior that you may have chanced upon – the superior attitude, the refusal to step down from anything, the rejection of the phrase “early retirement”, the “know all” look that throws an opinion at everything. The list is endless.
As a corollary of the main theorem, we need to look at the first interesting scenario that may call for some discussion is:
What would have happened if the roles were reversed in the above situation? What would have been the reactions if my wife had been asked the question and she had said that she worked for me?
I dare predict that there would have been hardly any effect.
No mascara laden eyes would have fluttered, no machos would have fainted and no grey eyebrows would have been raised. In fact whiskey glasses would have been refilled and raised to toast the splendorous fact that nothing has changed since Adam and that the male species still rules supreme. Sometimes, in those rare philosophical moments, especially when the breakfast has gone cold, I have often speculated as to why the male needs to be in the forefront of things. I would readily understand the need for them to front the battle lines where their inherent physical strength would be an asset. But does the male seriously consider himself to be intellectually superior as well? Or is it the fact that they have never been told otherwise?
Of course, there is also the distinct possibility that years of unnecessary male dominance has pushed most members of the female species into being a sort of second class citizen. And that is nothing short of being a very sad state of affairs given that many of the male genus that I have come across can hardly boast of any achievement other than being born a male (if being born a male is any achievement at all).
At work, scores of men would be reporting to women and yet, they would be seen dead rather than acknowledge the professional skills of their partners. However, as you may have often noted, the fashion of the day is to make politically correct statements pertaining to the equality of males and females. Although, strangely enough, the treatment meted out to sons and daughters at home are vastly dissimilar.
Coming back to the issue under discussion, the second set of questions that should emerge out of this is:
Why do men have the social phobia about the declaration of retirement at an early age? Why is it that they need to pretend to be always doing something professionally?
If you keep a sharp eye out, you will see this particularly interesting male class everywhere. They refuse to admit that they do not do much anymore – at least professionally. The reasons for someone to be out of the workforce, as one knows, can be varied. Some men do take early voluntary retirement; others step down from active work and decide to help in the partners’ business while some having been retrenched cannot find work. Socially, however, this topic seems to be taboo. Rather than tread on this forbidden territory, men come up with a variety of statements about their current state. Here are some regular ones
The most popular one: “I am trying to get into the construction game”
Followed by: “Looking for a business… maybe a franchise“
And the perennial: “Just trading full-time in shares….”
And the most clichéd Indian one: “Want to do some business in India…”
If one of the above is true for every male who is winding down, then I suspect that the economy of Australia may have a growth rate bordering around the three figure mark in the every near future.
As for me, I am often plagued with this foreboding that the macho “hey – I am always active” image of the male will ultimately spell the death of their dominance – both physically and mentally; because the intellectual dominance of the male has always been a myth that is as believable as the persistent flying pig. Sometimes I am prone to admit that it’s a pity that we haven’t had a prophet for a while now and a crying shame that the prominent ones from the past have all been males. Because, given that “normal” humans cannot do much about this issue, a female messiah type would have, I am sure, sorted out the E-Syndrome.
Given the current state of affairs, I am personally yearning to hear a loud, clear and resonant male voice distinctly saying (over the noise of clinking wine and whiskey glasses) “Guys… guess what? I have retired from active work!” That would be music to my ears. In fact, it would gospel music to my ears.
Mind you, I am not in the least implying that I do not hear such proclamations. The sad fact is that they come very few and far in between and even when uttered, it is always a very mellow undertone accompanied by furtive looks over the shoulder.
Now here’s the third (extremely interesting) question that would encourage a fair amount of conjecture:
“Are males to be blamed solely for developing and infecting the world with the E-Syndrome?”
The definite answer is a monosyllabic one: “NO.”
Males are not the only ones to be blamed for this syndrome. Given that other than them, there is only another gender left, it is a matter of simple logic to say that females must also take part of the blame for allowing this E-Syndrome to flourish.
Not long ago, I bumped into a couple after quite a few years, at a dinner. During the course of the evening, my “bump” into them would turn out to be more of a thud and jolt. As the evening progressed, I got around to chatting with the man and as with most male discussions that have nothing much in common, I chanced to ask “So what are you up to these days?”
The man stared at me for a few seconds and I could see him sizing me up.
“Ah! I have retired from work now,” he said with a disarming smile.
I would have indeed disarmed, if not for his wife. She nearly stood up, almost spilt her glass of the expensive drop, raised one stern eyebrow and said “Come on dear, you HAVE NOT retired. Tell him how much time you spend on the new construction project and the hours it takes you manage all your investments in shares!”
The man’s eyes seem to cloud over for an instant. But then he recovered very quickly (possibly borne out of years of practice) and then went on to enumerate his most current activities in a very hushed tone (the type of tone often used by covert CIA agents when they confer with their counterparts). The rest of my evening was then lost listening to good man’s current business adventures.
And now to the great unanswered question:
“Does the E-Male Syndrome exist at home?”
Undoubtedly so. The E-Male Syndrome extends and spills over from the professional arena well into the home front. Although, the male of the next generation is turning a new leaf in this area, the rest are still basking in the make belief glory at home; that they “wear the pants” at home. I think someone needs to tell the armchair male that the days of the glory of the trouser are long past and lest he is careful, an intelligent child (within the house) may soon scream “Look! The emperor has no clothes!”
Often, when I chance upon a sneering, E-Male infected species, I console myself with that profound quote from Jilly Cooper:
“The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness, can be trained to do most things.”
This training needs to come from society as well as from those who pride upon climbing the meaningless rungs of the social ladder. However, the vaccine must come from within.