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April 28, 1997


Mothers love to wait up for their sons...

Shobha De

Dominic Xavier's illustration Don't fool yourself, woman. True love involves -- yup -- sacrifice and a willingness to get your hands dirty. You fail miserably in that department. Yes, you do. Remember how you reacted to his snot-filled hankies -- the undisguised disgust on your face? Or the rude way in which you held your nose when he removed his shoes and waved smelly socks in your face? His mother would never do that. Never. Nor would she refuse to wake up from deep sleep and fix him an omelette at two in the morning after he's come lurching back from a drinking binge with the 'boys'. Mothers love to wait up for their sons.

And you? Not only do you fall asleep, you do something far worse -- you keep the television on. And the bathroom light too. And that's not all. You deliberately forget to keep his pyjamas neatly folded on the bed. Plus, the covers aren't turned down on his side.

A man walks in wearily somewhat blearily into his bedroom after a long, long day, seeking comfort and iced water. He's willing to settle for a Bloody Mary and an omelette. What does he find? A woman in a crumpled nightie fast asleep with the lights and television on. Is that fair? Should she not be sitting by the door with the cocktail in her hand and a smile on her face? What do you mean, that's unreasonable? Nothing is unreasonable -- that's the least a breadwinner expects. Food and basic amenities. He's paying for them, damnit.

Now take the man's mother. Would she squint back at him and ask a stupid question like, "What time is it?" knowing full well she'll receive a wonky answer? Would she throw dirty looks in the drunk's direction and go right back to sleep? Would she yell, "Stop making so much noise in the loo -- you'll wake up the neighbourhood," thereby adding to the din? Would she refuse, yes, refuse, to go to the kitchen and heat up dinner for the fifth time in one night, saying, "Nobody eats tandoori chicken at three in the morning in this house."? Never! Mothers understand perfectly that men have to be men. They cannot be stopped from or reprimanded for enjoying themselves from time to time.

You may not think much of men who knock back half-a-dozen whiskies on an empty stomach. It may not be your idea of enjoyment. So what? Who's asking you in the first place? Huh?? Who?? Does his mother ever so much as mention booze in his presence? Utter that awful word called 'alcohol'? Does her expression alter even one teensie-weensie bit when her son rolls in reeling? Of course not. She smiles indulgently, shoos all the servants away, scowls in your general direction and asks brightly, "Hungry? No problem. I'll quickly make some aloo parathas for you. Won't take a minute. Don't worry."

Someday you'll be saying exactly the same thing to your bounder of a son. It's not just part of our mental make-up to behave thus as mothers, it's the movies that insist we do. Whether it was Nirupama Roy in the old days or Raakhee at present, all screen mums die for the opportunity of making aloo parathas for the drunken louts they call sons. Movie mothers hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil when it comes to male offspring. These unworthy men may be murderers and/or rapists -- but mama knows best. They've turned that way because of society -- sorry -- society. But because they've grown into great big hulking heroes on energy-giving, pure, unadulterated mother's milk, there beats a heart of gold under that hairy chest.

Now... if you're the materialistic kind who is after gold but not the heart, mama-dear will know soon enough. And, then, she'll pass it on to sonny-boy. Remember -- men and their mothers have no secrets between them. She knows every single aspect of your life together. Every. You think she doesn't know your menstrual cycle or that the two of you prefer the straight, old-fashioned missionary position? Ha! Do you really believe she is unaware of your predilections and kinks? Wrong again. She probably even knows that you like waxing over shaving and that you don't floss on a regular basis. Why do you think the two of them exchange meaningful looks so frequently? What about all those sotto-voce phone calls between the two of them while you're showering? Or those cryptic, coded messages at the dinner table that nobody else is supposed to intercept or understand? You think he's ever going to tell you what he discusses with his mother? Forget it. Try confronting him and he'll deny it all. Lie through his teeth. Plus, call her up to report that you'd 'accused' him of conspiring against you with his own sweet, gentle mother.


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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