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April 28, 1997


Men and their mothers

Shobha De

Dominic Xavier's illustration I have never understood why wives and girlfriends get so worked up over other women when the only woman worth taking serious note of in their partner's life is the mother. I have also never understood why this lady makes everybody so nervous. Sensible spouses should not even attempt to compete with their men's mamas. It's a total waste of time and counter-productive too. Befriending the enemy isn't always the answer, but as strategies go, it beats battling with the old bird.

Men love their mothers. Men only love their mothers. Men love their mothers only. That covers most of the ground, I should think.

It's true. The mama-bond is a very special one. Once you accept its existence and decide not to challenge it, you are better off. How can you possibly compete with a creature who has been certified perfect by the man you love? Perfect is perfect, right? If you have problems with that, too bloody bad. Not all men are upfront about the way they feel towards their mommies. Some hide their feelings better than others, some feel apologetic about revealing the depth of their emotion and some make excuses for the way they feel even when nobody has asked.

It's all right. Men are like that when it comes to things that they're sentimental about. Like belts with broken buckles. Or toothbrushes that resemble toilet cleaners. Forced with a choice, they get defensive and possessive. Don't force him to make one. Don't say things like, "It's either her or me. Those awful old things or my love." They're pretty sure in their minds and you end up looking a fool when the decision is taken. It's always 'her' and 'those things' over you. Get it?

Wives should leave men alone to handle their mothers. But they don't. They like to think their husbands want their participation in pampering their mummies. They don't. It's a private affair between a grown man and the woman from whose womb he has entered the world. It's biological bonding that excludes you.

Who are you to him, anyway? A prettyish stranger he cast lustful eyes on years and years ago? What is your real rishta with the guy? Wouldn't the logical question to ask be, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun? Nothing. Is there a blood link? No. An umbilical cord? No. Will he die without you? Absolutely not. Will he die without his mother? Yes. Is she replaceable? No way. And you? Any day. Even if you have borne the man children he claims he loves dearly? Yes. Do you hate him for this? No. You hate his mother.

Well, don't! It isn't her fault she has a milksop for a son. She can't help it if he still makes goo-goo eyes at her or starts sucking his thumb in her awesome presence. Has she asked him to sit at her feet and press them? Is it the mother who insists on spoonfeeding this hulk you're married to each time you visit her home? Isn't it the hulk who regresses to the extent of adopting a baby-voice and going in for childish prattle whenever she's in the vicinity?

Okay, she does treat him like he's a naughty five-year-old, but she's his mother. To whom his childhood meant their best years together -- do you mind? She can still remember how he used to snuggle up to her and fall fast asleep while she lovingly cleaned his nostrils/ears. Or how sweetly he presented his bottom to be washed after doing a big poo-poo at the dining table. These are indelible memories. You only came into the picture after the hulk was toilet-trained. You didn't get the golden chance to wipe his bum. You refuse to take the lint out of his belly-button. You even refuse to trim his ear/nostril hairs. And you dare to talk about love and devotion?


Excerpted from Shobha De's Surviving Men -- The Smart Woman's Guide To Staying On Top, Penguin, 1997, Rs 200, with the publisher's permission.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

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