Wake up, sister


Wake up, sister

With enough research on man-woman friction and even bromance to keep us in reading material for life, it’s the same-sex interplay between women that seems a comparatively grey area, a twilight zone, literally a no man’s land.

A war cry from this girl-girl battlefield that psychologists relate with a wink: when a stunner walks into a room, men watch her and so do women. Corroborated by the common phenomenon of young girls being checked out by guys whose wives then turn around and repeat the same once-over but with baleful, dismissive eyes, as if to say, don’t take him seriously, he will look at anything.

Between women often springs up a hierarchy based purely on age. Which cuts through all other superiorities, like weight, designation and wealth. It’s the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, about who wears skinny jeans better.

Aging is uncertain terrain, appreciated only by unpronounceable wines. The vast majority, across genders, finds birthday cake inedible. For women — whether they rely a little, a lot or not at all on looks — the lines on their face, the aches in their joint, calcium deficiency, brittle bones, bat wings, shaky teeth and the general snub by various vital organs begin to feel horribly mortal.

The younger woman is suddenly the enemy. Tensions run high between female employees and their female boss, between women colleagues... Scenarios muddle up if male co-workers or seniors are thrown in just as in homesteads of yore mothers-in-law bristled when their sedate senior-citizen husbands were suddenly animated by the young bride’s silly antics. The more respectful the younger set, the more it sets on edge older teeth. Or dentures. ‘Guess my age,’ they say playfully, but life is hell if you get it right.

For the working woman, there’s not just acceptance, there’s applause. A corporate go-getter, a travelling saleswoman, bringing in fat pay-checks to house-husbands, hiring wombs and freezing eggs are now the norm. The sepia portrait of a veiled face on a haveli wall is replaced by the perky butt on those sneaker posters. So, where have all the materfamilias gone? Is there no insider matronly type around anymore to sum up feminism so far? Where does the mature woman take her wisdom but bring it back into existing folk-fold, to caution the juvenile Eve. Hausfrau to hellcat, they must muse on their travels, navigations, negotiations, how it was for them, how they got here.

In place of the traditional sourpuss matriarch is the new-age designer diva with blonde bangs and tattoos, 18 till she dies. Her revenge is not only in the teen tracks she wears to work, but the blank looks she accords new trainees, leaving them to predator male seniors or mediocre mentoring.

It is true the older woman is upwardly mobile and juggling too many priorities to be bothered by a slip of a girl newly in her radar. The boss is not PMS-ing, she is pissed off because someone — a he/she — slipped up. Making an ally simply for sisterhood sake is Utopian talk, but a little empathy either way can only have this story end well. Else, in domino effect, down we all go.

Men may historically be termed foe, but women suspect other women of selling out, pandering to the patriarchal system, of using femininity to get ahead, of playing with their hair during crucial meetings. An innate distrust that stems from an instinctive and even hormonal understanding of each other.

Of course, some characteristics are a pain, whatever the vintage: lisping, pouting, getting wasted, too much cosmetic surgery, sucking up to sugar daddies and all the ‘I don’t eat this’ and ‘I don’t eat that’. But cut the young some slack; they may be annoyingly bright-eyed and bushy tailed but they’ll get there in the end, won’t they, asking everyone they meet, ‘Go on, how old do I look?’

Ordinarily, the same woman occupies the ‘younger’ and ‘older’ slots in the course of a single day; coffee with Ms A who glows maniacally with fresh-faced dewy youth, and tea with Ms B, bedridden after a hip-replacement surgery. All-round mercy is best. Pay it forward, the compliment of listening to the gauche gawky stammering members of your own sex. Philosophise, theorise, personalise. Be an Indra Nooyi or Sheryl Sandberg and tell it like it is.

Let’s stay in touch with our inner pinafore-wearing, pigtailed cherubic daddy’s little girl by all means, but now and then, take on the ageists. Sit back and enjoy the summer of whatever year it is right now. Live and let live; kill the old cliché about woman being woman’s biggest enemy.

Perhaps one cannot be patience personified at all times to own species or play big sister round the clock, but look at the alternative — to have male scientists point fingers and go: Women!

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