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Monday, May 23, 2022
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Sexes

Open Door Policy

"The second time we went out," she said, "I offered to split the check at the end of the meal. He declined, which was a good thing. Otherwise I wouldn't have gone out with him again." Let me repeat after Dr. Freud, what is it that women want?

Open Door Policy
Open Door Policy
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

I heard someone say once that humanity can be divided into two groups: those who like to divide humanity into two groups and those who don't. Perhaps so, but the second group needs to be further subdivided to accommodate those who divide humanity into three or more groups.

Take the fact for instance that roughly speaking, people fall into two broad categories: male and female. But the eagle eyed will notice that they may be further subdivided into those for and against opening doors for others or having doors opened for them.

This was brought home to me the other day as I sat chatting with my friends - let us call them Paul and Ann - at the dinner table. We had just dispatched a healthy California dinner in which tofu and wine had played prominent roles. Ann was talking about the man she was dating.

"The second time we went out," she said, "I offered to split the check at the end of the meal. He declined, which was a good thing. Otherwise I wouldn't have gone out with him again."

Plain speaking is always refreshing, even shocking as in this instance. In a world filled with people who waffle and equivocate, such candor must be prized above rubies. Of course, Paul and I groaned but only because it was expected.

"So you laid a trap to see if he would fall into it ?" Paul demanded. "Why offer to pay if you didn't mean it ?"

"Not at all" Ann was unruffled "I fully intended to pay if he had accepted my offer. But his acceptance would have told me he was not the man for me."

"Why is that ?" I wanted to know.

"Because men should pay for women. It shows they care for the woman." Ann said helping herself to a piece of burfi.

"So you wanted him to brush off your offer ?" Paul asked.

"I wouldn't quite put it like that but, in effect, yes."

"You know Ann, in this country, some women can get very upset at such behaviour from men. It makes them suspect they are being treated like an object." Paul began. "I was going into a post office once. I held the door open for three old ladies so they could enter. They were very pleased and commented on how refreshing and unusual it was to find such courtesy in a man nowadays. But the next day I did the same for a colleague, a woman I had known for a long time. And she gave me such a tongue-lashing I could hardly believe my ears."

Ann made a face and after a while the conversation moved to other things.

But there you have it. Between Paul, me, Ann and this alleged colleague of his we seem to have all the categories exhausted so far as genders and door opening sympathies are concerned.

(Allow me a digression here for a second and express my admiration for the male with not only the courtesy - or chivalry, if you prefer - to spring to doors a step ahead of whatever female is unfortunate enough to be in his company but - and this is the crucial skill I lack and envy those who have it - the dexterity and what may be called the motor farsightedness to invariably be on the correct side to hold the door open without blocking it with his body. Believe me it is easier said than done, a feat of footwork and hand-eye coordination that would put a Wimbledon champion to shame.)

Coming back to the topic at hand, let me repeat after Dr. Freud, what is it that women want? To open doors or not to open doors ? Is it nobler to show that one cares a la Ann or to avoid seeming patronisation as the good colleague demanded? Now I know what you are going to say. That women are individuals, no two alike. Different women may want to be treated differently just as men can be Republicans and Democrats, gay or straight, leg-men or ... well never mind.

But notice how rarely a man will break a relationship off just because his political sympathies were misconstrued unlike an Ann who would dump a man for not paying or a 'colleague' who would do the same if he tried to brush off her offer to pay in a misguided fit of patriarchal patronisation.

The American workplace has - under threats of lawsuits - become such an antiseptic place that the only safe assumption for a man is that his female colleagues are similar to Paul's colleague. Despite this, the sexual drive in some men is so strong that they are forced to emulate the male praying mantis - taking their life in hand to win favour from the unfair sex.

Here's my own take on this: Try and make a guess - based on such random observations as the length of the heels and the colour of the lipstick - whether a given female person falls in category A or B and tailor your behaviour accordingly. Occasionally, even frequently, you will be wrong and bring upon yourself the cold shoulder or the dressing down. If that happens, move on, after raising a mental middle finger.


The author has been advised to write under a pseudonym by those of his well-meaning women friends who worry that some of their sisters might take umbrage at being depicted in such an unfavourable light.

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