Monday, January 21, 2008

Never Judge A Book By Her Tone Of Voice

When we first moved to India I met a woman who, like me, had left her homeland to come live in India for a while. She was very kind to me but I noticed that when she spoke to Indians she often used a harsher, no nonsense tone of voice. To my ear it sounded mean and bossy. I decided that this woman had been here too long and needed to go back to her country if she could no longer be civil to the people who lived here. I vowed to not let myself become jaded and bitter like she obviously was.

What a difference a year makes. I realize now that she wasn't rude or jaded. Her problem was that she was a woman. Please don't misunderstand me. I recognise that there are sexist attitudes everywhere, and in some ways India is doing better than a lot of places. For instance, in July a woman took over the office of President. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister for 11 years starting in 1966 and for 4 more years starting in 1980. Women are educated and expected to have a career. Of course there are certain groups here that have terrible views and traditions concerning women, but the areas that I frequent have a fairly modern view.

Unless you want something done. When it comes to giving instructions or asking for a service of some kind, you had better be a man. If you are competing with men for the attention of a shop keeper you might as well get comfortable. If you happen to have a man standing next to you while you are making a request they will look to the man for confirmation. Even if that man is your 16 year old son. I find this extremely irritating. Surely if they new anything about my 16 year old son they would realize that he is the last person anyone should take instructions from. At a party earlier this month he allowed some pretty girls to give him a burgundy mohawk. He believes that shoving the entire contents of his bedroom into his closet constitutes cleaning it. He begged for a month for the DVD of Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon Dynamite people! After eating a meal on the couch he believes that sliding the dirty plate under the couch is the right thing to do. Once he opened the freezer door while standing too close and smacked himself in the head with it. Then he came over to where Mr. Smith and I were sitting and, while demonstrating what had just happened, he banged his head on the corner of the wall. Not the brightest bulb in the marquee, if you know what I mean. But apparently he is the authority.

In response to this, my naturally sissy-ish attitude has begun to dissolve. I recently I found myself being rude to the dry cleaner. I was demanding, sarcastic and a tiny bit shrill. I sounded just like the woman I mentioned at the beginning of this post. At first I was a little embarrassed and ashamed. The next day when the clothes that had been promised to us finally arrived...I was downright proud of myself.


SuburbanCorrespondent said... will be interesting to see how quickly you can readjust when you come back home!

The teen boy thing is scary, isn't it? How the heck do they turn into grown-ups?

Jennifer said...


I have a couple that are like your 16 year old. They just aren't that old yet. My 10 year old daughter is the one that I can count on to always say something worth laughing over.

Its funny how you can become someone you never thought you would be when you are in different surroundings. I know that when we move to Honduras, if I want anything to be done, then I am going to have to become the pushy one. Thats the way that it is, and unfortunately I am only that way when I am pregnant. Although having been pregnant for the last 5 years almost non stop, maybe some of that has stuck with me, LOL. I guess we will see when we get to Honduras.

Aunt Carol said...

Oh the story of the 16 yr old brought back memories. I giggled the whole time I read your account of him. Oh, you so have to write a book. Get started, you have half of it written already. If you become a famous writer Mr. Smith can retire when you come "home". PLEASE start that book!

B.E.C.K. said...

Oh, I hear ya! For example, I used to think my mom was "mean" to telemarketers when she hung up on them. Now that I have to deal with telemarketers, I find myself being just as mean. ;^) Good for you for getting your clothes!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog.
I can totally relate to this as well. They think your a complete idiot until you show some muscle (or homones)! Its rediculous!
I can totally relate to the teenage boy thing as well! You and I need to hang out more.

Toni said...

This same chauvanism exists and is thriving in the U.S. I can try and try, resort to anger or tears or obstinancy, and the situation won't be resolved until my husband comes along and says one thing and everyone's jumping right on it. The worst ones that perpetuate this? Women. Go Figure!

Lasky said...

OK, my former proofreading classmate and wife of Schmitty, I wanna see the mohawk!

Jill said...

I love how he hit his head again while demonstrating how he did it the first time.
Our younger son would throw a tantrum, and fall down on the floor screaming, and then get mad at us because he got hurt when he fell.
At least he wasn't blaming you for the dent on his forehead.