Mr. Chivalry and Ms. Gender Equality

How many of us women expect a guy to open the door for us, pay for dinner, offer to carry the bags or take our puppies for walks? And yet, we also expect to be treated equally and with as much independence as anyone is allowed.

I know, I know guys. It sounds ultra confusing and it just underlines the prehistoric argument that women are fickle and are from a different planet. Bear with me as I give a you peek into our allegedly differently wired brains.

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Patriarchal paradigms took decades to destroy and to this day there are still semblances of that kind of discrimination so forgive us, male species, if we feel apprehensive whenever you selflessly offer us a hand. Like most people, there are days when we feel we have to stand up for ourselves even in the smallest of threatening circumstances- carrying our luggage, opening the door or calling a cab home. I’m sure this also happens when we take care of you too much like bringing you cookies during boys night out or making you wear knitted pink cardigans. Emasculating right? Well, deviating from the take-care-of-us habit makes us feel we can take care of ourselves, we’re our own people- which is true of course. It doesn’t mean we do not appreciate your instinct to help out when you see fit. Accept that there times when we don’t want to be helped.

Then there’s also the argument that different women have different tolerances to chivalry. I, for instance, thank men who offer me a seat during the long commute because I’m usually wearing 5 inch pumps but I don’t believe men should always pay when going on dates. You’re not a credit card. I can’t just charge all of our outings on your wad because I ate and had fun too. Don’t blame the entire female population for your thinning wallet because not every one is after free dinners and your shiny card. And yes, there will be women who will not tolerate any man doing anything for them period. There are also those who are traditional and would demand that you do everything for them.  Those extremes exist and if you land one of those girls, it’s up to you to figure out her individual tolerance. Most of us on the other hand want a perfect balance of independence and gentlemanly encounters. It’s not the confusing, right?

Intent is also an important ingredient when performing acts of chivalry. A gentlemen opens a door for a girl not because he thinks she’s a lesser being, weaker and easily manipulated by men, but because he respects her enough and wishes to show simple acts of admiration by making her life a little easier. You see, intent may not be said but it is felt. Woman or not, a person knows when someone is doing an act good out of good or out of sheer arrogance.

The goal of feminism or gender quality is not to destroy moments of interaction between men and women.

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Empowering ourselves, knowing that we are treated as equals in all media does not reduce our clamor for romance and simple, random acts of admiration. Feminism means listen to us. Understand our needs and make us a part of your decisions. Often the best forms of chivalry respond to that need when used at the right time with the right women.

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I DO

I DO.

3 letters of  2 words that submit a positive response to a question. What does it really mean to say yes especially when saying yes becomes a commitment, a responsibility, a promise?

I DO.

A dream for most

A walk down the aisle for the girl who planned it all

A loving stare from the boy who thought he never had a chance

An end to the perfect movie

A beginning to a happy life

I DO.

3 letters of  2 words that scare me the most.

how I got here (a reblog)

For all the ills I think of marriage, for all the fallacy I think it stands for, there are narratives and stories that touch my heart so deeply I wanna believe in marriage and forever again. This is one of them. It opens your heart to hope.

Love may not be easy. You may  not have it at your first try but if your endure long enough, one will come you way and change your life. 

When I told him I would never marry again, I meant it. We were holding hands in a restaurant in Santa Barbara, Calif., on our first weekend away, and I was hiding my nerves behind the boldness of high heels and a garter belt. I wasn’t trying to bait the hook, or reel in the lifelong bachelor.

Newly single after 20 years, I loved how he admired my long hair and subtle décolletage, how he laughed at my witty banter. I felt like a femme fatale, and I liked it. Nothing serious, nothing permanent. We were there for the fun. There was a gleam in his eyes as he raised his glass in a toast: “To Lady Beautiful.”

Now he looks at me, bald and bedridden, finger swollen around my wedding band, and I can’t help but say I’m sorry.

We had met two decades earlier, when I took his writing seminar in Los Angeles. During the break, he admired my engagement ring. He was cute in a preppy way, but I was not the kind of girl to be “hot for teacher.” He had a policy of inviting students to stay in touch, so I did.

Ten years later, the phone rang in the kitchen where I was making dinner while my daughters played underfoot. I wiped my hands on my sweat pants, and picked up my crying 4-year-old to comfort while I answered.

He had received the invitation to the book party for my first novel and was calling to congratulate me. Despite thousands of students, he went out of his way to call. Surprised, I shifted my daughter to the other hip, smoothed a loose hair toward my ponytail and hung up the phone smiling.

Another decade and a difficult divorce later, I climbed out of bed and studied my bedraggled reflection in the mirror. After years of being an exhausted work-at-home mom, it was time to take better care of myself, to control my destiny, to set a good example for my daughters. I needed a new project, one that would reclaim my maiden name.

When I sat down to begin writing, I dug out my faded notes from his class, now adorned with crayon marks and coffee stains. These notes had guided every book I had ever sold. I owed this man a thank you.

I wrote an e-mail offering to buy him a coffee. Then I hesitated. I had just begun to date, so naturally I wondered if he was single. I envisioned three kids and a house in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. This was networking, I told myself. What did I have to lose? I hit “send.”

The next day, he e-mailed back: “I’ll buy the coffee.”

We met at the Coffee Bean in Santa Monica, where he waited in shorts and flip-flops. His hair was gray, but he wore the same preppy glasses, had the same dimples. I was surprised he wasn’t more businesslike. Then again, I wore a dress.

He didn’t remember me. He didn’t recall our long-ago class or phoning to congratulate me years later. He admitted that he clicked on the link to my Web site and saw my picture.

Our coffee lasted three hours.

“Would you like to have dinner?” he asked as we walked to the door. “We don’t have to call it a date. We could just eat at the same time.”

I was confused. “Why wouldn’t we call it a date?”

“Most people don’t like dating,” he said.

“I love dating,” I said.

“You’re new.”

We began to date. Every Friday he drove to the valley to take me out to dinner. After a long week, I loved dressing up and dining out. I loved having my girls pick out my earrings, then answer the door to a man bearing flowers. Sure, they were teenagers, eager to get rid of me on a Friday night, but they also saw how a woman should be treated. And they saw that I was a woman worthy of respect.

Soon, we added Saturday nights at his house. After shuttling the girls to their activities, I primped for hours, shedding my valley mom skin with each mile through Topanga Canyon to Santa Monica. Once the ocean was in view, my transformation was more than physical. By the time I arrived at his house, I had done everything possible to make myself beautiful, to feel beautiful. And he was a worthy audience, appreciating every detail.

All I had to do was breathe.

A few months later, I stood at the back of the bookstore where he presented his new book. Several attractive and sophisticated women turned their heads to look at me. Old girlfriends, I guessed. I was more impressed than jealous. One came over and pointed at my name in the acknowledgments — risky business for him to include me, I had thought, since we were only dating.

“Are you the new girlfriend?” she asked.

I hesitated. We were certainly exclusive. He had just bought me a bathrobe for his house. Yet, there was something wicked and wonderful about being The Girlfriend. It meant he wanted me. It meant we were having fun.

His entire family showed up while I was on a book tour in Denver. I was about to read a sex scene when I realized this would be their first impression of me.

So what? I thought. I was just a girlfriend. I could do what I pleased.

Four years passed. I splurged on lipstick and lingerie and continued to play the part of femme fatale.

On our next vacation, he told the hotel clerk it was our anniversary, so they upgraded our room and served us Champagne. I began to wonder if we would ever have a wedding anniversary. Now, when he called me Lady Beautiful, I felt cheap.

There was no logical reason for us to marry. I had no interest in having more children and he was fine without. I could get my own apartment; I still wanted to set a good example for my daughters. If I was going to be single, why not keep my options open? I loved him. But if I couldn’t reel him in, it was time to cut bait.

It took weeks for me to get the courage to confront him. He listened patiently, then began to laugh. “Never getting married were your terms,” he said, “not mine.” Later, he showed me a yellowed newspaper article he had clipped after our first romantic weekend in Santa Barbara. It was entitled, “How to Buy an Engagement Ring.”

We were married overlooking the ocean in Malibu. He wanted a real wedding so his parents could be there. I teased that he wanted them to know he would have someone to care for him in old age. His Ivy League friends flew out to see the notorious bachelor’s demise with their own eyes. He asked me to wear a real wedding dress so he could show off his beautiful bride.

Days before our second anniversary, I learned I had breast cancer. Within months, I lost my hair, my eyelashes, everything that made me beautiful.

On Valentine’s Day, we sat in front of the fire until I could smell plastic burn on the back of my wig. I couldn’t taste the chocolate or drink the wine, but he seemed happy, eating shrimp and being together. He called me Lady Beautiful, but I thought he was just humoring me. It made me feel worse.

Soon there were fewer good days. My fingers were numb, my nails purple, and my eyes too teary to see. I couldn’t keep up the charade, didn’t want to. After my high heels were exiled to the back of my closet, he helped me stumble around the neighborhood in slippers. He sat with me through chemo until I shooed him away.

I didn’t want him to see me like that, helpless and weak. The chemo fog descended and I couldn’t get my words right or my thoughts clear. I felt stupid. I felt ugly. Most of all, I felt guilty.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “This is not what you signed up for.”

“That may be true,” he said. “But neither did you.”

Now we sit in bed watching TV every night. My favorite fashion show is on and he turns to me. “This is the perfect date,” he says.

I laugh, thinking he is teasing as he rubs my aching legs. But when I look at his face, he is smiling, his attention already back on the screen.

And I realize that he was the one who did the bait and switch. He made me believe that he responded to my strength and beauty, so I felt strong and beautiful. Maybe this was never the romance I imagined. Maybe I was the shallow one. He saw more. As we sit in bed and watch the beautiful women, I am not jealous. He still thinks I am one of them.

All I have to do is breathe.

when cheaters cheat

I’m 21- turning 22 and people don’t expect me to flinch or react or hurt when this topic comes up but what else can I say except infidelity resurfaced issues I thought I already dealt with.

No matter how liberated or open any society is, cheating is never negotiable. You cannot come up to someone and grope her then act all normal as if that was supposed to happen, as if it was 2nd nature. He had a choice and he chose to cheat. It’s the worst form of betrayal because you don’t only break your promise to your wife, you knowingly involve someone else and persuade her to join you. It’s never fair to anybody.

Although I do not have the strength (much like you do) to talk about what went on in my life for me to abhor this of all possible mistakes anyone could commit, know that I’m thankful I got to read your blog. I admire you and for what it’s worth, you made me feel less fearful of making the same mistakes as those infidels. Thank you. (Her entry resonated with me so I decided to reblog it as a reminder that I am not alone in my worries. With it is my comment on her page.)

Hypersensationalism

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for awhile. Of course I mean absolutely no offense and I know there are plenty of genuine family men out there who wouldn’t dream of straying. I’m sure there are also single men with morals and standards (call me)…I just haven’t met heaps of either lately.

*****

Being single can be hard. It was hard last year, being the new mum in a small school community, from the next (also small) town. Single mums are the furthest thing from a rarity here, and despite what that says about the socio-economic structure, I’m enjoying it. When I lived ‘up the hill’ it was a rarity. I was a rarity. I was naïve enough to think it wouldn’t matter, because it wouldn’t matter to me.

I shouldn’t feel like I have to defend myself but I do. So here’s the disclaimer. I know that fairly often

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Love is without guarantees

Love is without guarantees.

They say that love is one of the many endeavors of man which isn’t calculated or rationalized. It’s more than a feeling; it’s an iniative fuelled by human will. Because it isn’t with reason that we love, we cannot justify why we have it or why we’ve lost it. It simply happens and when it does we say that it was never guaranteed to work or last anyway.

But then I ask, “What guarantee are you looking for anyway?”  

The security that he will not find another

A vow that you will live in eternal bliss

A promise that you’ll wake up everyday knowing it will never end

If that is what you believe guarantees in love are then you are right, there are none.

As for me, I find love provides a different guarantee, one which is more personal- more for the self than for the partner or your relationship with him. Love warrants humanity, that moment of absolute vulnerability you are willing to take to be with another. It assures you of an experience that transforms you or at the very least, reveals to you your deeper, more unguarded self.

When you are in the a happier stages of a relationship, one depicted in romcoms and chick flicks, you realize you can be happy and that you deserve it. Even when you lose him, you continue to find happiness for yourself because you’ve discovered how uplifting and empowering it is.

In the darker pre and post break up stages, you feel pain and learn to deal with it. It does not matter how, through beer, parties, writing, painting, eating or ranting, as long as you acquire that resilience we all need to get ahead in life.

You’ve won, not that it ever was a competition.

Love may not last. It may not be entirely of bliss or with one guy but it comes with a guarantee. You will learn and you will grow and you will have at least loved. Isn’t that takeaway enough?

here’s to GAY RIGHTS

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Ad by Stonewall, a gay rights campaign group

I am not shy nor reluctant about my stand on gay rights. I believe that respect is due to this sector as they pursue and demand for the rights they so rightfully deserve.

Most critics would say that destruction of traditional morals start when we accept changes that do not agree with the norm. I do think, however, that we, as rational human beings, should be capable of assessing which of these beliefs are worth keeping and which are fossilized errors worth reviewing. Once, women were accorded with much lesser rights than men. This fosters the then accepted patriarchal idealism. Men are better. Men rule. Men are important therefore we women have no say in matters that are as important as men. We can’t vote, have political inclinations, be sexually satisfied or be powerful in the workplace as these offend the rights and in my opinion the ego  of pre-gender equality men.

Gay rights are human rights.

Today, we support feminism and its consequences like affirmative action in the workplace and shared responsibilities at home. Society accepts that although men and women have different niches and functions in the society, they are to be considered equal and therefore, awarded the same rights and ability to pursue them. The errors of the past were corrected by a more progressive and open-minded community of individuals who are not afraid of deviating from a set of accepted norms to find better ways of looking at things, ones which are fairer and more respectful of our shared humanity.

The same principle applies to offering the same level of respect for the orientation of our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. Beliefs and traditions are time-bound and should continue to progress as the humanity that abides by it also progresses. Although I do not wish to offend the traditional moral institutions and lobbyist groups which believe in eternal damnation for this sector, I hope that you recognize that the respect you require of us in terms of honoring tradition is the same respect required of you for the change in society that supports gay rights.

We have seen the effects of bullying gays into becoming something else, not respecting them and stripping them of their rights to be with their partners. It’s never going to get better. The mudslinging and hate will continue unless the we decide that it ends now, unless we promise to foster respect despite our opposing beliefs. We can agree to disagree, refuse each others belief without the hate and obvious disregard for the other’s dignity.

Some people are gay.Get over it. 

As for the population of this world who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and everything in between, hang in there. Change comes with opposing views, thesis and anti thesis. Sooner than later, more people will realize that you guys, like women, also deserve to be treated respectfully, equally and humanely. Until that time, know that you have at least one supporter right here who promises to press on and support you.

my kind of courage

“When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.

Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?

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I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

 chris

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day.tumblr_m0hjk20Tux1qh3mln
She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. . She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mommy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it’s time to carry mom out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.

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But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind…I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. tumblr_m2rpppm1JT1rrjl3io1_500The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed -dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push through with the divorce.— At least, in the eyes of our son—- I’m a loving husband….

***

It’s not like me to be reposting stories on marriage or love or relationships. Not that I’ve been in one horrible, horrendous nightmare of a relationship, I’m just not the type who falls at the mercy of romance. I love being an independent (in the words of my good friend, Cody), resilient woman who doesn’t scurry over a guy or the promise of falling in love.

If there’s one thing I envy about people who are capable of giving selfless love towards their partner, it’s their capability to be vulnerable regardless of the fear of getting hurt. To me, that is the best form of courage. It does not intimidate or overpower but it accepts and envelopes you. I’m not sure I’ll ever be capable of that but if 1 day I am, I hope he will be too.