if we are ambitious, we have to look crisp, like we’ve never seen a
baby, much less held it’
put on 20, 30, 40 pounds when we are pregnant. Well, of course we do. We
crave food, eat for two’
know she bounced the car again. I know it was in front of her during rush
hour. Listen, calm down, it’s about time we had that little talk. If she
tells you this, you will call it “nagging”.
definition: a woman who constantly repeats the same thing over and over
again, ad nauseum, just to annoy you while you are trying to relax.
definition: A man who needs reminding to do everything. If you did it the
first time we asked, we wouldn’t have to repeat ourselves. Besides, we
find repeating ourselves endlessly stressful. If we don’t repeat
ourselves, the garbage doesn’t get out, groceries are left unpacked, the
entire month’s salary is spent on one drunken night, you will die of
cancer from smoking, the house will flood, and that little thing you’ve
being eyeing will run rings around you and rob you of house home and
children. In short, we keep it all together for you.
want to give you the inside story of what it is to be a woman in our time.
We wear seven or more hats. We are professional jugglers of hats and
always wear one or more on our heads. Have you seen that big round moon?
They say a woman’s biological make-up is linked to that, and the pull of
the tides. Around this time of the full round moon every month, some of us
get into sudden and uncontrollable rages, tears well up for no apparent
reason, our teeth are clenched, nerves stretched like rubberbands, snap at
those around us.
day we are listless. We have no appetite. We eat nothing and the other, we
are in and out of the fridge like a revolving door, devouring everything
sweet and fattening. Fingers go in the cream cheese, scoop out quivering
masses of guava jam. It is like being possessed by the hormone monster.
That’s only half of it. We bloat, dear husbands - like so many walking
inflatable stomachs, “chests”, faces, arms and legs. Clothes don’t
fit. Flesh overlaps. Indecision gets worse. We stand frozen with a
whirlpool of discarded clothes around us saying “we have nothing to
wear”. IT is the PMS Hat and some of us have it for two weeks out of
four in a month. That’s half our life!!
Mothers and Wives Hat (M&W): In the mornings we have on our M&W
hat, which means feeding you and the children, cleaning slop and muck,
sorting out lunch-kits, and making mental check lists. Pick up for
children, need more bread, arrange baby-sitting for Friday. Again, in the
evening, we spend hours over homework, while shouting: “Don’t be rude,
say please, thank you, sorry.” Separate fighting children, administer
lectures, hugs and tonic. Drive them to extra curricular activities, and
take them to the smelly zoo.
we whip out the Work Hat and become mostly low sometimes middle and rarely
top management office workers. Still, if we are ambitious, we have to look
crisp, like we’ve never seen a baby, much less held it, or dirty dishes
(much less washed them). What’s that over my left shoulder? Dribble?
Never. It’s white out, or chemical from the plant. No, I’m not
pregnant, my stomach just appears to be distending these past nine months.
work, we put on our Home Manager’s Hat. In the grocery, we note the rise
in the price of shrimp and cross it off our checklist. We also cross off
everything else that was not essential and turn vegetarian. We are event
managers for birthday parties and limes. Budget for, decide on, invite,
and clean up after guests. We manage the home accounts, pay rent and
budget for everything from the children’s school books to petrol. This
hat brings on the most furrows on our brows if we are single parents. In
that case, we also sort out rent or mortgage payments, bills, car
problems, insurance, and the damn plumbing. The Mothers and Wives Hat
juggles with the Home Managers Hat a lot.
I Care Hat is in-built. With this we call and visit our parents, take care
of the very old, and very young (who wake us up regularly when we have
just overcome 48 hours of insomnia) and ill in our families, remember
birthdays and anniversaries cheer up fellow manic depressives, visit
abandoned children, and listen to everyone, no matter how boring or
boorish they are, feel sorry for sad, sick, lonely people, keep in touch
with friends. This hat is closely related to the Guilt Will Kill You Hat.
When we have this hat on, we feel guilty not doing any of the above, and
agonise until you warn us: “Guilt will kill you.”
there is the Exercise Hat. This is a painful hat to wear, since it spawns
many hopes and aspirations one day to look like Naomi Campbell or even to
look like her mother. It means many painful battles with the enemy:
delicious fattening food. It’s so hard being a woman. We put on 20, 30,
40 pounds when we are pregnant. Well, of course we do. We crave food, eat
for two, and it’s dangerous to leap about with a baby in your womb.
After we’ve had the baby, we are biologically required to get
immediately depressed. You know what that means. Eating and lying down and
filling the flab with fat. After that, if we are courageous, we head out
to the gym where if we survive the fat test, we may work out. A word about
fat here. Men naturally have a lower fat percentage in their bodies. They
didn’t eat lettuce or salads to get there. Its biological! Its unfair!
Even if they have a paunch it doesn’t matter to women if they’ve got
charm or power or are good husband material. But the same standards
don’t apply to us. As, like some nice guy with a paunch told me the
other day, “Every man likes to look at slim sexy women.” This means we
are in competition with teenagers and anorexic models
in magazines who feel like we have an eating disorder, not them. We
have an odd relationship with exercise. It makes us eat. A month in the
gym can be ruined in a day. If just look at a piece of chocolate cake, fat
globules bubble and froth, cellulite swells. If we starve, an irritating
body reflex which stores fat kicks in. You have no idea how hard we have
to work to keep our weight “normal”, ie before children and before 30.
So, next time, think twice before you insult us by looking at thin women
or making reference to the fat which is biological. Besides, most of us
are too busy wearing hats to ever find time to exercise. Perhaps, if you
wore one of our hats occasionally, we would find time to go to the gym.
thing about these hats is that we rarely get to wear our favourite one.
This is called the World Is My Oyster Hat. When we wear this hat, we are
16 or 18, or 22 or 32, whatever age we were when we had no other hats than
this one. In order to wear this hat, we have to wear the Home Manager hat
a lot. It means finding baby-sitters, saving money. With this hat on, we
party all night and sleep all day, flirt outrageously, go shopping for
silk dresses at ten am on Monday morning, fly away somewhere with
girlfriends and laugh at all the men we know, watch football just for the
bums, spend all day at the Institute de Beauté on a top-to-toe, stay in
pyjamas all day, call up China and talk to a friend for an hour, take off
for six months on a Sabbatical in a colony covered in pine trees and roses
to write or paint, begin jazz dancing classes, become a medical student at
40, fly to London to see a play you read about, travel around the world in
a year, find a grand passion, or wear no hats for a week at all. The WIMO
hat overlaps with the Dreamer Hat, in case you hadn’t noticed.
the hats pile on top of one another. Picture this:
woman is bloated irritable and weepy (PMS hat) and finishing off work on
an important presentation (W hat) when the three-year-old child decides
she is going naked to school, and screams if she tries to put clothes on,
(M&W hat) and the six-year-old spills milk all over his uniform, and
her presentation while the husband shouts for coffee. The phone rings and
it’s the boss to whom the wife says “no that’s not screaming,
that’s the radio” and “yes the presentation is ready” and she will
be early at work, when the phone rings again. It’s her sister whose car
has broken down on the highway and would she get her because there are all
kinds of creepy characters waiting to leap on her and the car, (IC hat).
The wife says “OK, I’ll get you,” changes her mind. No, get a taxi
and take your chances with the car, (GWKY hat) and goes upstairs cleans up
the milk on her presentation, squeezes into a suit, drops the children to
school (HM hat) dashes to work and turning the volume up on “It’s my
life” tells herself (Dreamer hat) that one day, just like the ad on TV,
she will be thin and somebody will give her flowers for no reason while
she stops her sports car in her Armani suit to get a bottle of Perrier (WIMO
hat). She is singing so hard, in between putting her lipstick on, that she
hits the car in front of her. Now do you understand?