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Of short skirts and double standards
Four o'clock in the afternoon, and I was busy figuring out how to handle a particularly generous stripper. Since you are probably imagining an eventful Amsterdam trek, I feel obliged to bring delusion crashing down and explain that I was playing Police Quest V. Ma yelled, and 19-year-old me tore self reluctantly away from R-rated computer game, and listlessly walked out into the living room.
Opening words to introductions can be badly worded and often inappropriate, misleading or even plain embarrassing. But I personally fail to imagine a situation wherein the words 'This is Sasha' do not automatically bear glad, long-legged tidings. Aged Neighbour Lady, someone who so far elicited smiles based solely on her Apple Crumble, evidently had a niece, visiting from the US. Trying my best not to let ecstasy manifest itself in pitch of voice, I coughed, grinned and proffered invitation to my room.
I distinctly remember The Pretenders coming from the speakers as Sasha, one of those tall girls with a penchant for teensy skirts, plopped into the beanbag in front of me and, in a Connecticut accent, started talking about India. Too distracted to pay attention, I manfully beamed at her and nodded head rhythmically. Inside my head entire what-if scenarios were being elaborately plotted: I had never been involved with anyone living close to home; too complicated. And this lass was in the same building... But rules are meant to be bent, right? Right? Oh, hang on, she's asking me something.
So I'm telling her about college in India and stuff on those lines, avoiding those stammer-worthy eyes. I throw in the odd exaggerated boast, and she sounds interested. I ask her what she studies, leaning forward interestedly. She tells me what 'school' she's in, and I listen keenly -- heck, the Yanks call freakin' universities schools, for God's sake. But I'm still unclear about what exactly she's majoring in. I query. As Mr Wodehouse once wrote, it's dashed difficult to reel when in a sitting position, but in extreme circumstances, the protagonist whirls to the occasion. Ergo, I reeled.
The words 'Ninth Grade' echoing relentlessly in my ears, I'm frantically trying to (optimistically) map Sasha's age in my head. I can't seem to tally over 14-15, and I'm terrified. Also, shocked. She's deceitfully tall, graceful and (see how I can't use the word hot anymore?) so precociously pretty, it's unfair (What do they have in the water out there? And, can it be distilled?). But I digress. She's obviously out of bounds, and I'm immediately wracked with guilt for even considering it. Ouch.
Things, however, change. It's been many a year, and Saturday night I dined with a damsel far younger to me than Sasha was at that time. Except now it's wholly legit, and not just because it's legal. But introducing a relative kid to Merlot isn't the same, is it? Not quite sharing perverted mindset with Nabakov's articulate creep, we aren't seeking much younger lovers. It's the older ones who we want -- at least until we're significantly older ourselves.
It's so universal it's ridiculous, especially with women. They all want older partners, and hence are easily impressed by virtual nothingness. A college girl is awed, by default. The very mention of some commonplace 'grown-up' banality -- the 10-to-six job, tax returns, getting the car serviced -- makes them swoon. You've instantly inherited Mature spurs, and you don't even have to play cool to get some. Heck, even boring works. They're just glad a man-not-a-boy is paying attention and occasionally taking them seriously. 'Isn't that, like, just neato?'
But we aren't really, are we? Taking them seriously isn't part of the agenda at all. Most men hanging with considerably younger girls treat them as, at best, a pleasant diversion. We don't expect them to hold forth in terms of a coherent life belief, but hey, it works if they can set the dancefloor alight and bring back your college lifestyle, yes?
Young men go through the exact same motions, leaping eagerly through hoops to impress stunning older women. Merrily sharing a Mrs Robinson complex, we are besotted by the idea of attractive women easily predating us by, say, a couple of decades. So the power-exec living on her own in a seafacing flat does exactly what we'd do with a college girl: astonishes us with her erudition, salary and job title, and we, lured by all that poured into a fine package, don't even try to resist. We see the bait for what it is, and gleefully gullible, we bite.
And here is where the double standard comes in. The older woman treats the younger man situation with a disarming amount of candour. From her side, the matter begins as a convenient fling, and occasionally grows into a steamy affair, but the norm is always crystal clear: this is not serious. Rarely, older women actually get into serious relationships with their cradlesnatching trophies, but they always start off unashamedly flip. And we guys are perfectly cool with that.
Men, on the other hand, just aren't allowed the luxury of defiant honesty. Even if our situation exactly mirrors that of the senior chick, we have no recourse but to pretend we're sincere and interested. The result is that while the former can concentrate on the naughty bits, we're entitled to tons of conversation, hand-holding and dispensing of advice. Our self-indulgent fling has to be disguised as a full-fledged relationship (complete with gift-buying) while the older women can treat their pageboys with casual, complete disdain.
It's bloody unfair. And if you don't agree, try getting away with the term Girltoy.
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Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
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