Monologue of a wife with seven hats

 

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Category: Women Date: 15 Jan 98


‘Still, if we are ambitious, we have to look crisp, like we’ve never seen a baby, much less held it’

 

‘We put on 20, 30, 40 pounds when we are pregnant. Well, of course we do. We crave food, eat for two’

 

Dear Men,

I 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”.

Male 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.

Female 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.

 

I 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.

 

One 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!!

 

The 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.

 

Then 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.

 

After 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.

 

The 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.”

 

Then 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.

 

The 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.

 

Sometimes, the hats pile on top of one another. Picture this:

A 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?

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur