Sunday, May 8, 2011

Flexible Friends

January month, one  Tuesday afternoon in Brighton. It was after three p.m. and the sun would be setting in another hour or so. At the bar cum cafe and brasserie called Browns, I was sipping champagne besides a group of middle aged women who were celebrating one of the women's birthday….... 

I had a wholesome and hearty breakfast  at the hotel  so I decided to skip lunch. Though the weather was a little gloomy, it was not too freezing cold to walk around under the elusive winter sun. Back home I would take the car even it is a five minutes walk. It must be the heat and humidity that makes walking far from conducive .

I caught a good rest the previous night. In fact I had  slept right through a stormy night.  After a late breakfast, I decided to take a stroll in the city centre and was eager to catch the sun which had surfaced as  midday was approaching. Along the way I had picked up a beanie from H& M store  and stockings and socks from Primark. Winter wear was not exactly what my wardrobe lacked. After walking around for more than a couple of hours or so, I walked past Browns Bar and Brasserie and the menu board on display caught my attention. Champagne, scones and sandwiches sounded luxurious and irresistible; as a foodie,my appetite was whetted. 

At Browns, after I was given a table next to the window, I sat facing outside so that I could get a good view of  the street and its passersby. After placing my order, I had a quick look around.There was a group of  women who were seated on the table next to me. One lady walked through the entrance in a huff and joined the women who were busy with their chatters. All the seats were then filled up, eight of them.  Outside Browns, there was a group of guys who stood on the paveway in front of  the restaurant. The waiter who took my orders went out to greet those guys who must be his friends and they were about to part ways; there were  hugs and kisses being exchanged amongst the guys before they went separate ways.

The same waiter came back in and a few minutes later, he brought to my table tiers of sandwiches and cakes. The food looked sumptuous. As I took pleasure in sipping my champagne, a different waiter brought a cake to the women’s table and place it in front of one of the ladies and everyone on the table started singing “ Happy Birthday” song to her. The birthday girl beamed with delight being the centre of attention.

My girlfriends and I love to get together and we do get together for birthdays and lunch regularly to catch up with one another’s life. Just like the women in Sex and the City, Mistresses and Desperate Housewives, I have a few close buddies who I  often meet up for coffee or lunch. We help one another to see the wood for the trees and what matters and what matters not. We often share experiences and anecdotes whether in a congratulatory or  self mocking way. 

Men get together for their drinks at the local pubs and watering holes.  I think they exchange banters and jokes and talk about the soccer games and matches and doubt if you would find them ventilating issues or matters which bother them. Women seemingly are more ready to air their grievances with their buddies and they like to offer one another emotional support and show solidarity when they manage to get past the issue of trusting one another.  Somehow men are less open about their inner self and have a tendency to work through their doubts on their own and tackle problems in the manner that it is either white or black. 

Incidentally, during my short taxi ride to the Brighton railway station, I had a candid chat with the woman taxi driver who told me how her husband would micro manage her affairs when his own affairs had been in a mess. She then quipped “That’s why men are from Mars and women are from Venus”. The sentiment expressed by the woman driver is shared amongst many women I know. I could not help thinking that perhaps it is very much a masculine trait to want to lead the pack and as the need to lead is so ingrained that the man starts to dictate his woman around the house instead of respecting her as an individual who should be given the free hand to manage her own affairs.

Perhaps if only men could open up a little more to one another, they might see that it would not be so bad to show their vulnerability and that it is only human to feel sad and frustrated. The older I get, I  find that there would always be unfamiliar terrains and constantly new territories to explore and there are times I find it necessary to re-think and learn about issues that I thought I  had already known or understood. May be  some of these alpha type men will be less hard on themselves  if they can recognise that success may come in different forms and their happiness should not be about achieving a goal or winning a bet or  getting bigger  pay cheque or owning their dream car or their holiday home according to some timeline they had set for themselves.  Most men do not like to show their emotion for fear that they may be viewed as weak beings so they carry on behind the façade they have carefully built to guard their true feelings. Some men harden up their exterior so much so that  they build a fort around themselves and they feel safe to retreat into their realms while the other men  operate on such high tension ropes that those who are close to them would have to thread around them.

Maybe the saying "let your hair down" only applies to women just like the question “if  you can have it all” only seems to resonate with contemporary women who find it difficult to juggle between work and home. While we lament how we wish that men would understand the psyche of the fairer sex, some of us women may not be ready to accept the reversal of roles if women were to become the breadwinners while their husbands get together for their morning coffee breaks when their children are at school. Although it is apparent that most of us women are not asking for gender role change, it may be a refreshing change if some of these men can open up to one another and offer each other some words of comfort  instead of challenging each other with pints of beer and see who has a bigger drinking capacity. Life is not a race . 

Western Road in Brighton

Silwood Street in Brighton

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